I grew up in a hippie community in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of my favorite artists were protest singers like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. I read Noam Chomsky when I was a teenager and loved his attacks on the Vietnam War and support for civil liberties.
Who would have ever thought that the primary proponents of censorship and government tyranny in 2022 would be Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Noam Chomsky?
It is important to understand that the protest movements of the 1960s and early 1970s were not just about free sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and Vietnam.
At its heart the protest movement of that era was about personal liberty. The foundational event was the early 1960s free speech movement, which began at UC Berkeley. Yes, this movement was influenced by various leftist groups, but it gained public support because most people recognized that UC Berkeley was preventing free political expression. And most Americans support free political expression.
The burgeoning free speech movement then grew into peaceful demonstrations in favor of civil rights for African-Americans and opposition to the Vietnam War. Notice that most of the causes here are on the side of personal liberty: liberty for oppressed African-Americans during the civil rights era, and liberty for the people of Vietnam to make their own choices (good or bad) about their own government, and liberty for young Americans not to be forced to into the military draft.
Neil Young is famous for, among other things, protest songs on the side of these movements. So is Joni Mitchell. Noam Chomsky was one of the primary intellectuals of that time in favor of civil rights and against the war. Back before COVID Chomsky famously wrote things like this:
“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.“
What does Chomsky think of the unvaccinated in 2022? They should “remove themselves from the community” and getting food should be “their problem.”
Notably, Chomsky has never spoken out against the widespread censorship taking place in social media today, censorship that is abetted by the government and the most powerful groups in society. Meanwhile, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have called for their music to be removed from Spotify because they say Joe Rogan should not have the freedom to interview other people who dare to say things with which Neil Young and Joni Mitchell disagree.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Noam Chomsky of 1970 would be absolutely ashamed of what they have become in their old age. Neil Young for example once recorded an entire album called “Freedom” and wrote a litany of anti-war songs attacking the establishment from the 1960s all the way up to the W. Bush era. Back then, he was suspicious of everything coming out of Washington DC — now he seems to embrace and parrot everything the establishment has to say. He has never spoken out against the cruel forced masking of children, the school closures, the forced lockdowns and mandates and the government’s attempts to force everybody to inject an unknown cocktail of medicine.
Before COVID, Joni Mitchell would say things like:
“Freedom to me is the luxury of being able to follow the path of the heart. I think that’s the only way that you maintain the magic in your life, that you keep your child alive. Freedom is necessary for me in order to create and if I cannot create I don’t feel alive.”
Meanwhile, she, like Young, has never spoken out during the pandemic for the freedom of other people to keep their businesses open, or the freedom of children to go to school, or the freedom of people to choose, if they wish, not to be vaccinated. She now wants to limit Joe Rogan’s freedom to speak out as he would wish, to follow his own heart, to maintain the magic in his life. Ironic, isn’t it?
What could explain this bizarre behavior? To his credit, Young has tried to defend his actions, and he has pointed out that he should have the freedom to take his songs off Spotify if he wants. Yes, nobody disagrees with that. But Young fails to realize that what he is really doing is trying to silence somebody else who disagrees with him. Would Neil Young insist that a radio station that plays his songs only play songs that he agrees with ideologically? This is in effect what he is doing. Back in the old days, Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd could write songs insulting each other (which they did), and everybody would celebrate the spectacle and listen to the songs. Now, one side does its best to prevent the other side from being heard at all. Can Neil Young see how wrong this is?
Even the Washington Post allowed a column that tried to help Neil Young understand that it is important that people who disagree with each other actually have conversations. People from the 1960s and 1970s used to say things all the time like, “I disagree with you, but I will fight for your right to say it.” Now, people on the left mostly want people they disagree with to shut up, and they want to use the power of government and the establishment to force people they disagree with to shut up.
What is going on? Glenn Greenwald, a leftist who actually does believe in free speech, has pointed out that censorship has become the new religion of the establishment left. I would say it is more like a cult than a religion, but in any case Greenwald is correct.
I think it is safe to say that the Trump presidency and COVID have broken the minds of a large number of people, mostly leftists but also many supposed conservatives like Mitt Romney. They never could accept that Trump actually won the 2016 election, and when COVID came along they saw the pandemic as a useful tool for getting rid of Trump. But then they began to internalize and perhaps even believe the media hype about a virus that is actually not that dangerous for most people. Yes, if you are in your 70s, 80s and 90s, SARS-Cov2 is dangerous for you, but many other things are also dangerous for people in that age category. But somehow the virus became the excuse for every deranged fear and every desire to hate “other people” who did not accept the narrative.
So on one side we have people like Joe Rogan, who is unvaccinated for COVID and likes talking to people with other viewpoints even if they are politically incorrect, and on the other side we have an establishment group that worships the vaccine and masks as if they were sacraments for a cult and is not interested in speaking to anybody who disagrees with them. One side wants to be left alone and have the freedom to speak with whomever they want, and the other side wants compulsion, control, mandates and lockdowns. One, the Joe Rogan group, is anti-establishment, and the other, the Young/Mitchell/Chomsky group, desperately defends the establishment.
Now, let’s go back to the free speech movement of the early 1960s and the civil rights and anti-war protests of the late 1960s. Which side would the hippies of that era be on today? Yes, you guessed it, the exact opposite side of Young/Mitchell/Chomsky. It really is an upside-down world.