We live in a time of personal timorousness and collective mercilessness.
There might seem to be a contradiction between being fearful and fearless, between weighing every word you say and attacking others with abandon. But as more and more topics become too risky to discuss outside of the prevailing orthodoxies, it makes sense to constantly self-censor, feeling unbound only when part of a denunciatory pack.
Institutions that are supposed to be guardians of free expression—academia and journalism in particular—are becoming enforcers of conformity. Campuses have bureaucracies that routinely undermine free speech and due process. Now, these practices are breaching the ivy wall. They are coming to a high school or corporate HR office near you.
The cultural rules around hot button issues are ever-expanding. It’s as if a daily script went out describing what’s acceptable, and those who flub a line—or don’t even know a script exists—are rarely given the benefit of the doubt, no matter how benign their intent. Naturally, people are deciding the best course is to shut up. It makes sense to be part of the silenced majority when the price you pay for an errant tweet or remark can be the end of your livelihood.