Inverse Censorship

We recognize displacement when we place physical objects in water. When it comes to dialogue, however, we are oblivious to displacement, even though we are vigilant against “censorship,” a term which now means any removal of content that isn’t purely illegal/immoral (racism, child porn, stolen information).

However, if the opposite of censorship is universal tolerance, we must consider that this opposite includes a type of censorship we cannot recognize because instead of acting directly on its object, it acts by intensifying everything but its object. This behavior is analogous to, if you want to make sure your friend does not get noticed for her flattering dress, complimenting every other dress in the room.

Most commonly, inverse censorship — a suitable name for displacement of dialogue — occurs when focus on unimportant information consumes the time, focus or resources for discussion of important information. Just as surely as censorship removes discussion, inverse censorship covers it up or hides it behind meaningless info-gunk, effectively destroying topics that the inverse censors want quieted.

When we consider every opinion to be valid, we empower those who wish to drown out important ideas. When a debate over the color of trashcans used in the conference rooms can be vociferously presented, and when “useful idiots” exist who will take interest and loudly debate it, other issues suffocate in a lack of time for discussion.

If you wonder why committees are useless, one reason is that the if one member insists on debating a minor issue to death, everyone else on the committee switches off brains and the meeting never moves to discuss the big issues. Our news media unintentionally uses inverse censorship on its front page stories, drowning out more complex policy reports with a flood of celebrity news, lolcats and public figure drama.

You’ll find inverse censorship of a more deliberate sort. If you want to sabotage a group, but don’t want to do so actively as it could expose you to risk, the best method is to join the group and be an enthusiastic support. Once inside, misdirect conversation and resources toward the trivial instead of the important. That way, when the group fails, you’re not to blame — you tried — but the group fails nonetheless, which was your real goal.

We as stone age brains are only now barely awakening to the vast possibilities that indirect attacks — asymmetric memetic warfare — offer up. Inverse censorship represents an indirect strategy that has been successful for centuries, mainly because few people can articulate what it is, so it is not recognized as a failing like a known logical fallacy, or direct action such as censorship.

As long as we insist on the impossible mathematics that states that every one opinion is as valid as all the others, and therefore the group must pause and wait for each person to speak no matter how illogical their statements, we run the risk of being constantly crippled by inverse censorship. Any passive aggressive person can destroy a group, or any insane special interest lobby can sink national politics.

Clearly we would be better off without inverse censorship, but for us to do away with it, we must first get over our fear of two taboos. The first is the fear of censorship, which exists in every forum because some things (child porn, racism, stolen information) will always be necessarily taboo. The second is the taboo on placing some speakers or topics above others on the grounds that they are more insightful or more important.

Again and again, our pretense of equality sabotages us because by making every person imporptant, we allow any person to sidetrack discussion toward the trivial, and then we spam ourselves with the pointless. Like alcoholics, we ignore our real addiction, and instead blame the sticking door or broken car for our failures in life. Perhaps this article in some small way will turn the tide, like a pointed comment before sleep interrupts oblivious dreams.






2 responses to “Inverse Censorship”

  1. Dave

    While it’s true that this is a real phenomenon, you underestimate general awareness of it. People have been aware of this pretty much ever since it’s happened, and have devised various ways to deal with it.

    Our current society is not an exception. We have many ways to deal with it, such as committee hierarchies/chairs, filibuster-busting votes, meeting agendas in the first place, etc.

    If it seems to you that we don’t deal with it enough, that may be because you don’t recognize the importance of the other end of the spectrum, the prevention of silencing unconventional ideas. That is important too; we need a chair to direct meetings to the important points, but we can’t have this chair silencing all alternative viewpoints either.

    The ballance shifts back and forth, like any other sort of ballance. If you think you could make it better, then try it. But it’s disengenous to say that no one recognizes the issue.

  2. Warhammer666

    “When we consider every opinion to be valid, we empower those who wish to drown out important ideas.”

    To even begin to overcome this, people would have to understand the difference between an opinion and a fact. There are some who still think that the Sun revolves around the Earth, and would argue (well, shout, more likely) to the death that it is their right to hold this so-called opinion, despite all evidence. But staring at the noon-day sun and swearing that it is midnight out and the sky as black as pitch is not an opinion – it’s delusional. Or blindness. Either one is bad.

Leave a Reply