Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s call for a Digital Bill of Rights is a critical first step towards rebuilding a civil society in which each person has a voice. As DeSantis describes it, “Floridians have the right to: Private conversations without surveillance by Big Tech, participate online without unfair censorship, see internet search engines manipulation, control personal data, [and] protect children from online harms.”
If more governors and other leaders followed suit, they would not only help defeat the tyranny of censorship. They could also help lessen the loneliness of many Americans. By opening the door to more real conversation, we allow for a revival of the social trust upon which civil society depends.
There should be little doubt that America’s nosedive into social distrust over the past several decades has fueled our loneliness epidemic. It’ll only get worse if we allow Big Tech and government to continue gagging our voices and policing our thoughts. When people aren’t free to share their thoughts with others, they are far less able to develop relationships.
Intentionally or not, the enforcement of political correctness atomizes people. The resulting isolation creates a vacuum for terror and social control. Americans must develop an awareness of this connection. It’s obvious from the history of totalitarian systems in which saying anything politically incorrect could land you in a Soviet gulag or put you at the mercy of Mao’s brutal Red Guard mobs. These are just two examples of many such recurring tragedies in human history.
Furthermore, our loneliness epidemic both results from and contributes to the practice of self-censorship. Too often we self-silence in order to avoid social rejection for saying something that might be politically incorrect. This is a trap. Power elites use this fear of ostracism to enforce their narratives. They know instinctively that the human need to be accepted – coupled with the natural terror of social rejection – is a powerful driver of conformity. So they habitually use demonizing labels to extort your compliance. Smears like “bigot,” “fascist,” “racist,” “anti-vaxxer,” and “conspiracy theorist” are just a few meant to scare you into shutting up or lying about what you really believe.
Succumbing to that fear and complying takes a serious toll on personal relationships. The stakes are high because reflexive obedience to the gag orders of government censors can poison your relationships with your children, your spouses, other family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and more. This happened recently in America as our government–along with Big Pharma, Big Media, and Big Tech–enforced the narratives of the brutal Covid mandates in a way that sowed hostilities among friends and family.
So the dirty little secret is that the relief we may hope for when we comply is not lasting. Habitual conformity with enforced narratives actually places us all into a greater state of isolation. That’s because a habit of self-censorship creates a vacuum into which top-down censorship and destructive agendas can rush. This process manufactures public opinion by creating only an illusion of what people believe.
Consider where decades of compliance with political correctness have taken us. We now see utterly absurd headlines telling us that natural immunity is a “dangerous theory” being spread by “anti-vaxxers.” The groundwork has been laid for censorship 3.0 – the idea of “pre-bunking” our conversations before they even happen. There are also now designs for global censorship of our conversations in the form of a disinformation index promoted by the U.S. State Department. And, of course, there is the un-American proposal for a federally mandated “disinformation governance board,” which would ironically guarantee disinformation by our own leaders in perpetuity. The list goes on. All for our own good, our “safety.”
The truth is that government-sanctioned political censorship and surveillance has never made a population safe. Such programs only serve to cultivate hostilities on every level. They cultivate betrayals of friends and neighbors, promoting snitch culture.
Human beings simply cannot maintain happy and healthy relationships in a society ruled by power elites who dictate what they may and may not say. Period. And the logic is simple. If we cannot speak freely to one another, we cannot sustain personal relationships. If we are always terrified of the consequences of thinking out loud, we cannot really get to know anyone. If everyone has to shut up and obey, we cannot sustain a civil society. We all end up marched into a form of virtual solitary confinement.
So let’s appreciate how our First Amendment protects our private lives. And let’s bolster it with a digital bill of rights. Without the ability to freely express our thoughts and beliefs, we can’t establish relationships at all. This isolation puts us on a dark trajectory towards an era of serfdom and mental slavery.
And let’s hope we’ll see more bold leaders in more states beyond Florida adopting a digital bill of rights. As for the rest of us: Let’s not be hostages to political correctness. Pave the way back to freedom by speaking your mind openly and often. It’s the only way out.
Even one voice speaking openly in a private conversation can make a huge difference, creating countless butterfly effects that ripple outward towards larger society in a cascade of openness as more and more become emboldened and less lonely. If you don’t believe one voice can make a difference, then ask yourself why it is so important to totalitarians that every single voice must be squashed. So, damn the torpedoes of censorship and smear words like “fascist” and “bigot.” Full speed ahead to recover freedom and the blessings of a civil society.
Stella Morabito is the author of The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer. She is a senior contributor to The Federalist where she has written extensively on the social fallout of propaganda and group think.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.