On writing and fear

No, this is not about Stephen King. Though I do wish it were. I like those sorts of posts. No, this is a about a think-piece on the state of our literary/journalistic expression in a time of when free thought is threatened. Should writers be afraid to express what they truly think? There’s plenty to agree and disagree with here and around around this piece, but more importantly: lots of think about. Lots of Hitchens talk in here, for those of you feint enough of heart to be triggered by his douchier self.

At a moment when democracy is under siege around the world, these scenes from our literary life sound pretty trivial. But if writers are afraid of the sound of their own voice, then honest, clear, original work is not going to flourish, and without it, the politicians and tech moguls and TV demagogues have less to worry about. It doesn’t matter if you hold impeccable views, or which side of the political divide you’re on: Fear breeds self-censorship, and self-censorship is more insidious than the state-imposed kind, because it’s a surer way of killing the impulse to think, which requires an unfettered mind. A writer can still write while hiding from the thought police. But a writer who carries the thought police around in his head, who always feels compelled to ask: Can I say this? Do I have a right? Is my terminology correct? Will my allies get angry? Will it help my enemies? Could it get me ratioed on Twitter?—that writer’s words will soon become lifeless. A writer who’s afraid to tell people what they don’t want to hear has chosen the wrong trade.

One thought on “On writing and fear

  1. “The fear is more subtle and, in a way, more crippling. It’s the fear of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism.” Yes, especially the latter. Good article.

    Like

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