Tony Judt exmines self-censhorship in his lecture “Disturbing the Peace: Intellectuals and Universities in an Illiberal Age”.

Self-censorship is:

  1. (the lighter act of) not saying what you know to be true for fear of being unpopular, derided (eg of moon is round)
  2. (the more serious) camouflaging the truth from yourself though the use of cliches (we protect our troops, we love freedom) prophylactic self-censorship – you say something utterly redundant and meaningless (because it goes without saying in the place you find yourself) which is safe to say and it forestalls anyone from accusing you of thinking its opposite. Slogans like this are the principle means of the ritual communication within the system of power – see Vaclav Havel ‘The Power of the Powerless’.
  3. I’ll be polite if you are polite – I won’t offend your identity if you don’t offend mine ( despite the hate speech of the radio phone-in)