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In any debate, suppression of dissent is when a more powerful opponent tries to silence the other (directly and indirectly) rather than trying to defeat the arguments of the other advocate. When an individual acts or does something that is seen as a threat to a special interest group or other group of individuals, action is usually taken in an earnest and conscientious action intended to stop or penalise the dissenting individual. Opponents are commonly composed of governments, industries, or professions. [1]

Types of suppressionEdit

Types of suppression include:

  1. Direct actions (including various means, techniques, methodologies, procedures, policies, or processes)
  2. Indirect actions
  3. Self-censorship

Direct action tries to silence the dissenter via factors or influences in a forthright manner, often coercive. Indirect action tries to silence the dissenter via intervening factors or influences, but not in a forthright manner. Self-censorship occurs when individuals are concerned about risking their employment status and/or ability to live without threat. It is a social action. Some dissenters fear direct actions taken again them. Self-censorship makes direct and indirect suppression unnecessary. [2]

Areas of suppression Edit

Society and speechEdit

Suppression of dissent is undesirable in society for a variety of fundamental reasons. Freedom of speech is a cardinal rule for a free society. Dissent is absolutely essential to allow all points of view to be given and considered. Censorship plays a central role in the control of speech and other forms of human expression, often by government intervention (through criminalization or other regulation). It is most commonly applied to acts which occur in public circumstances, and most formally involves suppression of ideas by criminalizing or regulating expression. This differs from self-censorship, though. Self-censorship is when an individual censors and/or classifies his/her own speech to avoid offending others, and without authority requiring them to do so. But, especially in some authoritarian countries, the fear of secret police organizations and possible government backlash against individuals may result in an indirect suppression of dissent via self-censorship. Sanitization (removal) and whitewashing (from whitewash) are almost interchangeable terms with censorship that refer to a particular form of censorship via omission, which seeks to "clean up" the portrayal of particular issues and facts which are already known, but which may conflict with the official point of view. In democratic countries, self-censorship is also a possible phenomenon, particularly in times of crisis.

In greater society the typical example of suppression of dissent is when a company fires a whistleblower. Cultural suppression can exhibit facets of dissenting suppression, especially when used as part of social control and the promotion of another more powerful culture over a minority's culture. The devious use of governmental power, political campaign strategy, and resources aimed at suppressing (i.e. reducing) the total vote of opposition candidacies in voter suppression is a typical governmental occurrence of suppression of dissent. Sometimes laws are enacted to suppress dissent, South Africa enacted the Suppression of Communism Act to ban organizations that supported communism (and other activities).


In academia, the peer review process is ocassionaly cited as suppressing dissent against "mainstream'" theories (part of an overall system of suppression of intellectual dissent). Robert Anton Wilson, in "The New Inquisition" (New Falcon Publications, 1991), called this an inquisition of the editors and reviewers of scientific journals, of leading authorities and self-appointed "skeptics", and of corporations and governments that have a vested interest. [3] Some sociologists of science argue that peer review makes the ability to publish susceptible to control by elites and to personal jealousy. Reviewers tend to be especially critical of conclusions that contradict their own views, and lenient towards those that accord with them. At the same time, elite scientists are more likely than less established ones to be sought out as referees, particularly by high-prestige journals or publishers. As a result, it has been argued, ideas that harmonize with the elite's are more likely to see print and to appear in premier journals than are iconoclastic or revolutionary ones, which accords with Thomas Kuhn's well-known observations regarding scientific revolutions.

Generally, science is presented as a "noble search" for truth, in which advancement depends on inquiring about established ideas and concepts.[4] Reportedly, scientists do not see an occasional error as a flaw in science -- they maintain that science is a self-correcting system, and that with substantial evidence, any true investigation into encountered anomalies will result of a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science. But for many dissenters, this is a painful myth.[5] From various experiences, disagreement with the dominant view comes with danger or risk (personally and professionally). Often, a portion of representatives within the prevailing scientific view attack the critic's ideas that go against the dominant ruling theory. Representatives may also attack the critic personally by various methods, including (but not limited to):

  • deleting parts of writing,
  • obstructing publications,
  • forced withdrawal of research grants,
  • denying work in a particular field,
  • ostracization from social circles, and
  • dissemination of rumors.

Conspiracy theoriesEdit

Free energy suppression is a conspiracy theory claiming that certain special interest groups are suppressing alternative views in science. Groups most often implicated in such activity are the oil industry, petroleum national governments and, additionally, automakers. The most common perceived motive is preservation of the economic status quo and sustained increase of fuel prices.


Responses to various acts of suppression against dissent include:

  1. Do not act against the suppression.
  2. Use unofficially recognized or controlled methods.
  3. Use officially recognized or controlled channels.
  4. Put into service relevant legislation, policies, and regulations.
  5. Fetch supporting organisations (such as trade unions).
  6. Prepare and conduct a publicity campaign.

Doing nothing against the acts of suppression oftentimes allows the state of being suppressed (and associated existing errors and fallacies) to continue. Furthermore, doing nothing does not give rise to support for the dissident views. If critics decide to "toe the mark" and "keep out of sight", the critic may be re-accepted by the opponent. This passive agreement without protest means that other dissents are likely to encounter the same difficulties.[6]

GroenLinks demonstration 20041002 CopyrightKaihsuTai

A public demonstration

Use of unofficially and officially recognized or controlled channels has been used as a means of alleviating the state of suppression (and associated existing errors and fallacies), such as protesting, demonstrating, striking, civil disobedience, or other similar actions to attempt to directly enact desired changes themselves. Using formal channels against decisions, using internal procedures, bringing appeals to the appropriate committee or commission, and launching legal actions has also been used to enact desired changes. Proposing legislation, policies, and regulations has been used to help alleviate the situation. If such exist, dissenters have used these to alleviate the situation, also.

See alsoEdit

External articles, references, and further readingEdit

Science and academia
Commentaries, essays, and books
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