Free Speech Apocalypse, the new film from the prolific and always provocative Douglas Wilson, highlights the pandemic assault on free speech – and more importantly, free thought – in America. From college campuses to the press, Free Speech Apocalypse puts a magnifying glass on the ridiculousness of what Wilson calls ‘the totalitolerance brigade.’
As I review Free Speech Apocalypse, let me give an important disclaimer that I’m hardly impartial. I appreciate Douglas Wilson. I appreciate almost everything about Douglas Wilson. I appreciate that every time Wilson says something it makes somebody, somewhere, angry. I appreciate that Wilson has made a significant impact in his mountain community and from the wilderness of Idaho has had an impact that transcends his geographical isolation. I appreciate that Wilson is almost unanimously hated by survivor bloggers and feminists everywhere. Finally, I appreciate Wilson’s cunning wit and cutting tongue. In so many ways, there will never be another Douglas Wilson.
Now I feel it’s obligatory to say something about execrating Federal Vision or “general equity theonomy” (also known as not theonomy) or patriarchy or that one time Wilson defended Mark Driscoll or post-millennialism or [insert complaint here]. Instead, let me just point out the obvious truism that polarizing people are…polarizing. But whether or not I agree with Wilson all the time, and I most certainly do not, I can’t help but appreciate him.
First, a warning that is compulsory. The movie has language. It has bad language. Picture in your head an angry mob of entitled suburban kids with no sense of critical thinking skills and having nothing particularly intelligent to say. Now picture them saying something. Yeah. It’s going to be profane. There’s nothing else for stupid people to scream. That being said, it’s usually background noise in the documentary. Think of it like the mob’s soundtrack. And this may surprise some, considering my characteristically (and mischaracteristically) puritanical ways, but I’m 100% for that language being left in the film. It doesn’t advocate profanity. Leaving the profanity in demonstrates the ridiculousness of it all. The viewer is left with the accurate perception that what Wilson was up against was a potty-mouthed horde of insolent children and mindless drones who needed their mouths washed out with soap. Just as the sounds and images in a documentary on the holocaust doesn’t promote public nudity and violence, but demonstrates the wickedness of antisemitism, the language used by mob demonstrates that when the collective public brain is drained all that’s left is vulgarness.
However, there’s one instance – it seemed to me, and I’ve no desire to rewind – that a rap soundtrack within the documentary dropped a pretty strong word at one point. What was the point of that? I can’t blame that on the drove of drones. Maybe it made the film more artsy? More hard-core? I wish the profanity was left to the tolerance zombies. When I show this film to our young people in a few weeks – and I will show it to them – it will take some editing to get around.
The film spends a substantial amount of time filming Douglas Wilson. That makes sense, considering it’s his movie. Another podcaster and apologist reviewed the film negatively, in part, for that reason. But this podcaster and polemicist (yours truly) recognizes that a film by Douglas Wilson is going to have a lot of Douglas Wilson. And frankly, I enjoyed it for that reason. I’m not going to watch Parts Unknown and complain there’s a lot of Anthony Bourdain, if you get my drift. The strong one-liners came from Douglas Wilson. The deep thoughts came from Douglas Wilson. The comedic relief came from Douglas Wilson. Do you know why? It was Douglas Wilson’s documentary. So there’s that.
Wilson’s dry humor is evident throughout the film. He made a comment about the rhyming nature of the taunts and rants against him by the Indiana University student mob. I don’t know why it was funny, but given Wilson’s ability to drop well-timed words, the glint in his eye told me it was an inside joke with himself regarding the sophomoric demonstration. They were but toddlers in his eyes, shouting playground barbs. Chuckles weren’t the point of the documentary, but there were a few.
It was surreal to watch the ornery old sage be so meek and mild in the face of such angriness. Wilson deserves more than a few brownie points for keeping his cool demeanor. The only reason the totalitolerance mob didn’t get out of hand was because Douglas Wilson was in charge of that room, and not the mob. Filmed against the backdrop of the Indiana University debacle, in which rational thought was shouted down by inane drivel, provided a quality metaphor for the documentary’s subject matter. Like Wilson, the viewer gets the point, we should just keep our head down and keep speaking.
The documentary also followed the stories of a few who had been the victims of tolerance intolerance. It was enlightening to see the real-life consequences of a captured, fascist educational system poured out on society. Chiefly, we can see in Free Speech Apocalypse the oppressive and onerous silencing of thought. And that’s what stood out to me the most…not just the silencing of words, but the silencing of thoughts.
Perhaps the most edifying discussion of the documentary was a short clip on the topic of victimhood as a means of taking power. The angry, petulant mob who plainly bullied Douglas Wilson (as much as one can bully someone who won’t let themselves be bullied) painted themselves with “wounds.” The bullies dressed up as victims in order to be bullies. A book could be written on that topic, if it hasn’t already. Christians (and conservatives) should be aware of that strategy simply not fall for it. It’s been used for 60 years or so, so you would think we would catch on.
Rather than complain, as others have, about the film’s length, I thought it was just right. Maybe not everybody gets the point as easily as others. I had no problem keeping my attention on the documentary and highly recommend it to others.
[Contributed by JD Hall]