Conspiracy of silence (expression)

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A conspiracy of silence, or culture of silence, describes the behavior of a group of people of some size, as large as an entire national group or profession or as small as a group of colleagues, that by unspoken consensus does not mention, discuss, or acknowledge a given subject. The practice may be motivated by positive interest in group solidarity or by such negative impulses as fear of political repercussion or social ostracism. It differs from avoiding a taboo subject in that the term is applied to more limited social and political contexts rather than to an entire culture. As a descriptor, conspiracy of silence implies dishonesty, sometimes cowardice, sometimes privileging loyalty to one social group over another. As a social practice, it is rather more extensive than the use of euphemisms to avoid addressing a topic directly.

Some instances of such a practice are sufficiently well-known or enduring to become known by their own specific terms, including Code of silence for the refusal of law enforcement officers to speak out against crimes committed by fellow officers and omertà, cultural code of organized crime in Sicily.


Examples of the use of the term vary widely and include:

See also


  1. "State of Public Feeling among the Hungarian People". New York Times. 8 March 1854. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  2. "Stirring London's People". New York Times. 10 July 1885. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  3. "Wider Drive Urged on Social Disease". New York Times. 16 January 1936. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  4. Divini Redemptoris, Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Atheistic Communism, § 18: "A third powerful factor in the diffusion of Communism is the conspiracy of silence on the part of a large section of the non-Catholic press of the world." Accessed 17 July 2014.
  5. "The code of silence is cracked in Charlestown". Boston Globe. October 29, 1993. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  6. Gates, Anita (December 3, 2004). "Sex, Conspiracy and Suicide: Just Another Day at Church". New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  7. Baker, Peter (March 19, 2013). "Iraq War's 10th Anniversary Is Barely Noted in Washington". New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  8. Weiner, Eric (July 14, 1990). "Drunken Flying Persists Despite Treatment Effort". New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2014.
  9. "Professor Publishes Book Concerning the Media and Baseball Desegregation". The College Today. The College of Charleston. April 23, 2012. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
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