The title of this post is comprised of just two very apt words from an article published last August by Sir Roger Scruton, called “The Art of Taking Offence.” And I am very grateful for them.
It was the physicist Fred Hoyle, I believe – or was it George Orwell? – who once said “Words are like harpoons, once they go in, they are very hard to pull out.”
I hope the words “predatory censorship” will stick in the mind of all who reflect deeply on what has happened to what used to be called “free speech” in the West. Below is the key paragraph from Scruton’s article:
“There are now experts in the art of taking offence, indeed whole academic subjects, such as ‘gender studies’ devoted to it. You may not know in advance what offence consists in – politely opening a door for a member of the opposite sex? Thinking of her sex as ‘opposite’? Thinking in terms of ‘sex’ rather than ‘gender’? Using the wrong pronoun? Who knows. We have encountered a new kind of predatory censorship, a desire to take offence that patrols the world for opportunities without knowing in advance what will best supply its venom. As with the puritans of the seventeenth century, the need to humiliate and to punish precedes any concrete sense of why.”
And these are the key phrases:
“a desire to take offence”
“the need to humiliate and punish”
Let us reflect on what these words are telling us about the thought-police in our midst