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Echoes of 1984: Ardern's Call for Free Speech Restraints

From Inspiration to Advocacy for Censorship: Ardern's Recent Call for Free Speech Restraints is Looking More and More Like 1984, not 2024, ish

Once hailed as an inspiring figure in politics, Jacinda Ardern's journey has taken a disconcerting turn. As someone who once admired her, I couldn't help but notice a change in her approach during the COVID-19 crisis, a shift towards fear-driven decision-making. It is through this lens that we must examine her recent endeavors on the international stage, as she continues to champion the cause of censorship, evoking eerie echoes of George Orwell's "1984."

Though no longer at the helm of New Zealand's government, Ardern found herself back in the global spotlight at the United Nations, advocating for international censorship. Her stance on free speech has taken a drastic turn, positioning her as one of the foremost anti-free speech figures globally. Alarming as it may be, her calls for suppressing free expression are not falling on deaf ears. She garners support from political and academic establishments, cementing her status as a formidable advocate for censorship.

In her latest assault on free speech, Ardern has gone so far as to label it a virtual weapon of war, reminiscent of the "Newspeak" employed by the ruling party in Orwell's dystopian world. She insists that the world should unite in combating free speech as part of a broader war against "misinformation" and "disinformation," a strategy strikingly similar to the Party's control of language and thought in "1984." Astonishingly, her views have found resonance not only among authoritarian regimes but also within the ranks of government and academia, mirroring the manipulation of information in the novel.

Ardern contends that free speech must not hinder critical battles, such as the fight against climate change, drawing parallels to the suppression of dissenting voices in Orwell's oppressive regime. She argues that winning the war on climate change necessitates unquestioning belief in the narrative put forth by authorities, much like the totalitarian regime's insistence on blind loyalty to the Party's propaganda. Her solution? Silence those who hold dissenting viewpoints, echoing the chilling concept of "thoughtcrime" in Orwell's world.

While some of us perceive Ardern's views as an assault on the fundamental right to free expression, prestigious institutions like Harvard have embraced her. Ardern was granted not one but two fellowships, with the Ivy League university lauding her for "strong and empathetic political leadership," a phrase reminiscent of the euphemistic language employed in "1984." Harvard even enlisted her to help "improve content standards and platform accountability for extremist content online," mirroring the Party's manipulation of information and control over media in the novel.

It is not my intent to dispute Ardern's inclusion as a Harvard fellow. She is a former world leader spearheading a movement against free speech—a perspective that students should examine critically, akin to the character Winston Smith's struggle for individuality in "1984." However, Harvard's endorsement of her views without acknowledging her stance against free speech principles is concerning. Equally worrisome is the lack of balance, with few fellows at the institution advocating for free speech as a fundamental human right, reminiscent of the suppression of dissenting voices in Orwell's dystopia. Harvard, which ranks lowest on recent free speech surveys, has inadvertently become a haven for anti-free speech advocates and academics, mirroring the stifling atmosphere depicted in "1984."

On today's campuses, free speech is often regarded as harmful rather than a defining right, echoing the suppression of individuality in Orwell's world. Instead of celebrating it as a cornerstone of democracy, it's seen as an existential threat, mirroring the oppressive regime's control over thought and expression in "1984."

What chills me to the bone is hearing Ardern, who once championed free speech, now rallying nations worldwide to curtail it severely to safeguard their policies and priorities, akin to the Party's manipulation of information in "1984." She has transformed from an empathetic leader into a symbol of censorship and intolerance, evoking the authoritarian regime depicted in Orwell's chilling masterpiece. Today, she serves as a de facto global ambassador for speech regulation and criminalization—an unforeseen and troubling evolution that challenges the very principles we hold dear, mirroring the erosion of freedom and individuality in "1984."


Sally Joe


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