The title phrase, drawn from an article on how transgender activists managed to spike some research they didn’t like, is a sharp and worrisome reference to certain areas of academic inquiry, where ideologues have succeeded in shutting down any opinion that conflicts with their ideology, no matter how dispassionate, no matter how well-researched, and no matter how non-confrontational. Put simply, social pressure is keeping people from doing real science on certain topics, simply because those at the top of the grievance hierarchy reject any questioning of their viewpoints.

In fact, these folks will reject even the word “viewpoint,” embracing a dogmatic certainty that what they believe to be the truth is as unassailable as gravity, the dawn, and the wetness of water. Lost on them is the reality that, if they’re right, then they should welcome skeptical science, because they’ll win on rational and factual grounds.

Instead, they shut down inquiry, bullying and intimidating both the inquirers and those that support, fund, or publish their findings.

Simultaneously, their supporters farcically assert that all the latter are anti-science, woefully unaware of what it actually means to be pro-science.

The idea of no-go zones extends well beyond this particular issue, and well beyond academia and rigorous research. There are countless cultural topics where legitimate public debate is virtually impossible, unless you’re willing to be forever scarlet lettered. To discuss any of these topics, you must either be advocating the proper, politically correct, “woke,” and anointed-by-the-progressive-intelligentsia viewpoint (and declare it as “fact”), or hide within an echo chamber where your fellow discussers understand that whatever is said must remain hidden from public view, lest you all be pilloried.

Put simply, the list of things we simply cannot talk about openly and honestly grows longer and longer with every passing day. The cultural/political mine field is getting denser and denser, and picking a path through it is becoming more and more difficult. It’s why the only places I’ve ever seen substantive debate, with a high signal-to-noise ratio, is in closed forums, or in forums that are self-selecting (such as the Wall Street Journal’s comments pages). It’s why anyone who aspires to political office nowadays has to keep his or her social media bland and carefully curated, and why a single poorly chosen word on a no-go topic can end a career.

What has this done to pop culture? It has thoroughly suffused movies, television, and comedy. Many of the greatest movies in history (especially comedies) could absolutely not be made today. Many others are being remade solely, it seems, with social justice and ‘woke’ considerations in mind. I cannot count how often I see some side story or back story in a movie or television series that seems written solely to check off diversity boxes. Recently, actress Kristen Bell took issue with the narrative of Snow White, voicing concerns about the “lack of consent” in the prince kissing the sleeping protagonist. As if being revived by a kiss from a magic coma has any connection to the real world. This is the same sort of mush-head thinking that assumes we can’t witness Elmer Fudd shooting Daffy Duck’s bill off his face without being forever corrupted. Even in such absurdity, if you stand opposed to the “woke” position, you risk your reputation.

What has this done to normal life? We all know that we can’t talk about certain things, we all know that we can’t use certain words in public, we all know we can’t make certain jokes except in closed, well-known company. Some of this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s gone way too far. We have thought police running society, and everyone else cowers in fear of personal ruin. This isn’t healthy for society. It pushes real, substantive discussion of many legitimate areas of disagreement underground or into echo chambers, and all those do is reinforce preconceptions instead of challenging them. It breeds resentment, it hampers harmony, and it impedes social evolution (even as the controllers of the narrative look to accelerate it). It encourages “they’re going to hate men anyway, so why should I bother even listening?” It leads to people defending tit-for-tat retributions, as with the recent case of Senator Nancy Pelosi being harassed in a restaurant.

And, to what end? Does it make society any better? Some will argue that members of oppressed groups are going to feel safer and more comfortable, but a society that evolves openly and naturally in the direction of liberty, as ours has been even without the shoving by the social justice crowd, develops a greater acceptance of those that are “different” than one that has been dragged in that direction. Some will argue that change isn’t coming fast enough, an argument that carries some weight, but there is no utopian finger-snap solution at hand, and the costs and strife created by forced acceleration will linger well after the point where natural evolution would have achieved the same state.

A free society cannot have no-go zones. Not in academia, not in political discourse, not in pop culture, and not in our daily lives. Their growth is a direct contributor to loss of freedom, and we must wake up to that peril before it’s too late.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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