I feel compelled to set aside my trademark modesty in order to review Silenced, a new documentary in which I briefly appear. To get the most important thing out of the way, I rate my performance 10 MILOs out of 10.
Silenced was crowdfunded by producer and Twitter celebrity Mike Cernovich and director Loren Feldman to document the state of free speech in America. The timing couldn’t be better, as we’ve just witnessed Twitter attempting to purge the alt-right and various libertarian and conservative personalities from its platform as revenge for Donald Trump’s victory.
Several of the people who appear in Silenced were targeted in the purge, including Pax Dickinson and the pseudonymous Ricky Vaughn.
Silenced is a different type of documentary to Cassie Jaye’s The Red Pill, which I also examined recently. Jay’s movie told a specific story: her exploration and eventual sympathy with the men’s rights movement. Silenced takes a different approach, relying on its interview subjects to make the case for free speech.
Silence is, appropriately enough, one of the devices used effectively in Silenced. The film catches your attention when the title is displayed with the sound cut. Throughout almost the entire film, you will not hear interview questions or dialogue between the filmmakers and their subjects. There is no narration beyond a few title cards.
Silenced feels jaunty and current. For the first few minutes, as it jumps between speakers explaining what free speech means to them, I was concerned the lack of structure would persist, but it introduces a subtle form of narrative in which free speech is explained in different contexts: science, art and journalism.
The second device Silenced uses with some effectiveness is juxtaposition of different people talking about the same subject from different points of view. The most striking example is Alan Dershowitz juxtaposed with infamous white nationalist hacker Andrew “weev” Auernheimer.
Some of the themes brought up in Silenced will be familiar to regular readers of this column, such as the fact that nice, inoffensive speech doesn’t need protecting, or that censoring one side of the political divide will inevitably result in censoring the other side.
Dershowitz points out the problem with censoring hate speech, which is that the definition of hate speech can be expanded to cover virtually anything. He also has my favorite line in the film: “The First Amendment presupposes chutzpah.”
Even if you have been an active warrior for free speech on social media and during the heated election cycle, this film will still please you. For some it will be hearing people speak who you’ve typically read about in articles or social media posts.
For others it will be experiencing opinions on free speech from some of the leading thinkers on the subject today. Silenced does a good job of including many speakers, instead of concentrating on a few. And nice lighting in the scene with me in a hotel room really shows off my hair.
Technically, the film is sufficient for its purpose. Almost all the interviews are static, tight shots, which do a good job showing expression and even at times emotion.
My biggest complaint is with the graphics, a staple of documentary films these days, which feel clunky. In most cases these take the form of a tablet or cell phone used to show headlines or streaming video, but I found them distracting. While I preferred the tight interview shots of Silenced to The Red Pill, the latter uses graphics much more effectively.
Several of the speakers, including Pax Dickinson, Anthony Cumia and Scott Adams share specific examples of how they were silenced. I would have liked to have seen more of these, and I know some of the other interview subjects have these experiences.
A wide range of viewpoints and experiences are represented in Silenced. My personal favorite is artist Bosch Fawstin, who won Pamela Geller’s “Draw Muhammed” contest. This guy is amazing! Where are all the artists like him hiding?
The art world has become such a coddled, politically-correct nanny state that the pro-Trump art exhibit I took part in was huge, international news. Bosch shows the courage that art needs, and points out “everyone who loves the truth loves free speech and freedom.”
There are several topics not covered that I would like to see. There are black voices in the film, including Trump fan Desmond Handy, but the tremendous pressure to be silent placed on minority conservatives isn’t discussed to any great degree.
I’d also like to hear from more liberals. Elissa Shevinsky, who has tweeted that she has to “protect herself from Trump emotionally” is interviewed, but at least at the time of filming was in favor of free speech. Why not have a liberal argue why free speech on campus is a bad thing?
I hear from enough of them myself, I could have referred some of the less screechy and smelly ones to the filmmakers.
Another viewpoint I expected to see was liberals who have fallen from grace — at least in the court of mainstream, politically-correct opinion, following public support of free speech. Dave Rubin springs to mind.
Censorship is not just a conservative experience, even on today’s Internet — it happens to anyone with the temerity to disagree with the regressive left.
Mike Cernovich’s film will leave you with the understanding that there are a great many people from all walks of life dedicated to defending freedom of speech. I was left wondering how these individuals fight, and what techniques viewers can take away.
Scott Adams points out his advice to normal people is “keep your head down.” That may be the answer today, but not in the long term. And it doesn’t seem very courageous.
Silenced is important, because it could not be and was not made except through crowdfunding and the superhuman will of the director, who is one of the more impressive people I’ve met in my travels.
You can keep an eye on the website for more information about the release schedule for Silenced. Make an effort to see it.
Editor’s note: MILO knows Mike Cernovich personally. Cernovich has donated to the Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant. MILO also knows director Loren Feldman personally and was the subject of a short film made by Feldman in 2015.