In the often hilariously insightful TV series Silicon Valley , a horrified tech start-up owner told his Chinese-born and culturally maladaptive programmer to put out his cigarette at the office of a venture capital boss. “Jian Yang, we are not as free as you were, here in America!” In mainland China, and increasingly in Hong Kong, you would likely get into trouble if you publicly challenge the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party or the central government. In Western societies, you can still pretty much say what you like about your political leaders, short of threatening their personal safety. However, on many major and sensitive social issues, from gender norms to race and discrimination, in academia and outside, the attacks on free speech have been relentless, and often sanctioned by the state and powerful regulatory groups and organisations. The mainstream mass media are especially prone to such censorship. The Anglo-American sphere has become a world of safe spaces, trigger warnings and “de-platforming”, where self-censorship and “cancel culture” are two sides of the same coin. In this environment, it’s increasingly difficult to call a spade a spade, without risking serious social penalties. Why is ‘nice’ Canada going after the world-famous Jordan Peterson? In Canada, governing bodies are increasingly willing to impose a single acceptable position or doctrine on members while threatening to excommunicate those who refuse to play ball. Recently, the Canadian Historical Association announced there was only one acceptable interpretation of the term genocide when discussing the country’s treatment of indigenous peoples. When more than 50 scholars wrote an open letter criticising the association’s stance as a threat to academic freedom and free speech, its president launched ad hominem attacks against some of the letter’s signatories. The powers of regulatory, funding and licensing bodies, which are mostly obscure to the public in Canada, have come to light recently as Jordan Peterson, the world-famous psychologist, disclosed he could lose his licence as the College of Psychologists of Ontario was investigating him for more than a dozen complaints unrelated to his clinical practice but which stemmed from controversial public statements he had made. Canadian journalist Terry Glavin was singled out for censure by the Canadian Archaeological Association when he questioned the lack of physical remains unearthed at sites described as “mass graves” at disbanded residential schools once reserved for indigenous children. But, if you belong to certain protected groups, permissiveness can become extraordinary. For months, the Halton District School Board, outside of Toronto, refused to do anything about a transgender teacher who wore humongous prosthetic breasts to school and has only now agreed to introduce a dress code for employees. In 2019, the human rights tribunal in British Columbia accepted the case of a transgender person who was still in possession of “their” (an acceptable gender-neutral pronoun) original natural-born organs. It involved more than a dozen beauty salons that had refused “them” Brazilian waxes. Elon Musk lashes out: inside his war on woke gender pronouns In a new commentary in The New York Times, academic historian Daniel Bessner wrote: “Americans must do everything in their power to avert the end of history.” No, he was not referring to Francis Fukuyama but the potential demise of history as an academic profession from ideological assaults – from both the left and right − as well as funding cuts that deter university students from pursuing the discipline. Among others, Stanford University has launched “the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative” to avoid students being frightened. Such examples of social censure and taboos abound in the US, Britain and Australia. Across Britain, there is a new militancy among librarians, of all people, to “decolonise” their collections, thus rendering many classics, including children’s books, as unacceptable. Hate speech laws in Britain have become so broad that a mother of five from Surrey was arrested in October “for the offence of malicious communications and harassment” – as in being rude on Twitter. The Western obsession with state censorship has made many blind to censorship by society.