Censorship Kills Creativity

My generation loves censorship. Loves it. 1 in 4 of us think it's a good idea for the government to be allowed to limit speech - in direct terms "prevent people" from saying offensive statements (preventing speech works exactly how, again?). They also conflate a pop culture reference with a rape joke, resulting in one month of time off of work.

That isn't the end of it - scientists are crying and apologizing for wearing a shirt or losing their entire professional credibility; professors are leaving their jobs, and college students are going into unprecedented amounts of debt to receive some bizarre form of education that will actually leave them in worse mental shape.

Seriously, what is happening?

Of all the cultural issues and shifts I thought I might see in my lifetime, the loss of the First Amendment wasn't one of them. I began my career in daily newspapers, imagining myself as a hardboiled amateur sleuth pounding the pavement for the truth - if in fact, in reality, I was doing feature stories on the state fair, local events, musicians and interesting people of all kinds (and that one weird time I followed a mosquito abatement truck around at 4am #WestNileVirus #WeDidn'tHaveHashtagsBackThen). But regardless, commitment to the truth and the ability to tell it boldly is at the core of my being. I believe the marketplace of ideas will sort everything out, but we can't know what to sort if certain groups are routinely denied access.

So what has caused this shift? An oversensitivity to the plight of demographics? But why is it necessary to silence some groups in order to empower others? That is the crux of this conversation I can't move beyond. I've had conversations with highly educated people who've said they're okay with taking rights away from some people to give them to others.

Seriously, that isn't how rights work. They aren't transferrable and they certainly aren't a scarce resource. They are for everyone, equally. I know this is a difficult concept, and the absolutism required means defending things you don't like, but as one of the darlings of millennial literature understands, that defense is critical.

Let's think about this beyond adolescence. When you start to create your own work, whether it's through music or coding or anything in-between, you should have the right to have unfettered, uncensored thoughts and expression throughout that process. It will result in a better product, one where inferior iterations were able to be fully explored and then discarded.

Artists and entrepreneurs in other countries aren't as fortunate as we are, and I don't know how much my generation grasps the freedom we have. Artists' work is routinely censored, even in seemingly similar countries like the UK; North Korea only allows the existence of 28 websites; prominent filmmakers and directors criticize their governments while trying to maintain their careers; and overall censorship is on the rise.

I find it quite frankly terrifying my generation lacks the ability to understand that their fight for progress is slipping into tyranny. The ultimate problem with censorship is that it can be difficult to notice it in practice when your ideology aligns with the dominant one. It isn't until you find yourself on the other side of the censor that the full weight of oppression will become evident.

But, this is about work, is it not? LinkedIn is a platform for talking about careers. I firmly believe being in an open and transparent environment is the only way true productivity can flourish. I am so fortunate to work in a place now where being ourselves is not only encouraged, but required. Diversity must go beyond hiring decisions and into the daily practices of a workplace. If anyone is silenced for dissension, it negatively affects the entire organization. In short:

If you are always told what you can't do, you will never know what you can do.