NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

Sacred Principles As Exhaustible Resources

From Inside Higher Ed: a group of Harvard students is going to raise awareness of free speech by inviting controversial speakers like Charles Murray and Jordan Petersen to their school.

I strongly believe that if somebody wants to hear Charles Murray or Jordan Peterson speak, then they should have that right. But I’m not sure these students have thought things through very carefully.

Suppose that some very generally beloved person like the Dalai Lama endorsed some very unpopular person like Kim Jong-Un. On the one hand, insofar as we respect the Dalai Lama, we might be willing to be a little more tolerant of Kim Jong Un. On the other hand, insofar as we hate Kim Jong-Un, we might be a little less tolerant of the Dalai Lama.

In the same way, every time we invoke free speech to justify some unpopular idea, the unpopular idea becomes a little more tolerated, and free speech becomes a little less popular.

The more often people hear about free speech being used to defend NAMBLA, the less that anti-paedophiles are going to like free speech. The more often people hear about free speech being used to defend the KKK, the less anti-racists are going to like free speech. The more often people hear about free speech being used to defend radical Islamist mosques, the less anti-Muslims are going to like free speech, and so on.

The extremely predictable consequences of anti-political-correctness activists marching under the banner of free speech are that a large part of the social justice movement now thinks of free speech itself as the enemy, that Twitter personalities make mocking references to “freeze peach”, that increasing numbers of people say the First Amendment “goes too far”. Meanwhile, pundits have perfected the argument that since the First Amendment only applies to the government it’s great and praiseworthy for everyone else to restrict speech as much as they want, leaving a pro-free-speech side whose arguments too often come down to “well, it’s in the First Amendment, so you’ve got to respect us” kind of flat-footed.

I think of respect for free speech as a commons. Every time some group invokes free speech to say something controversial, they’re drawing from the commons – which is fine, that’s what the commons is there for. Presumably the commons self-replenishes at some slow rate as people learn philosophy or get into situations where free speech protects them and their allies.

But if you draw from the commons too quickly, then the commons disappears. When trolls say the most outrageous things possible, then retreat to “oh, but free speech”, they’re burning the commons for no reason, to the detriment of everybody else who needs it.

(this is how I feel about everything Milo Yiannopoulos has ever done or said.)

If Charles Murray sincerely believes what he says, thinks it’s important, and thinks that saying it makes the world a better place, then he is exactly the sort of person whom free speech exists to defend. And if someone in a college reads The Bell Curve, likes it, and wants to learn more, then free speech exists to defend them too. But if your thought process is “Who’s the most offensive person I can think of? Charles Murray? Okay, let’s invite him to give a big talk, put up flyers everywhere, and when people get angry we’ll just say FREE SPEECH”, I worry that you are drawing from the commons for no reason. And that sometime later, when people need to use the commons for things they actually believe, there won’t be any left. People will have gotten so reflexively hostile to the idea of “free speech” that they’ll reject even the barest amount of tolerance for even slightly divergent views.

This is even more pressing in the context of growing partisanship and tribalism. Because the debate centers on mostly-leftist areas like universities, conservatives are turning free speech into a conservative principle. This is a disaster, because something being a conservative principle pretty automatically means that liberals will be tempted to conspicuously desecrate it. If people actually care about free speech, the number one thing they can do right now is very loudly invoke it every time a liberal is silenced. We should be having giant free speech parades supporting everyone who’s punished for supporting Palestine, just to make sure liberals don’t get the impression that free speech is a weapon pointed at them.

The nightmare scenario is that “free speech” goes the way of “family values” – a seemingly uncontroversial concept gets so tarnished by its association with unpopular/conservative ideas that it becomes impossible to mention or invoke in polite company without outing yourself as some kind of far-right weirdo. Right now I think we’re on that path.

And this is a more general principle: associating X with Y won’t just make supporters of X like Y more, it will also make opponents of Y hate X. I even sort of worry about this in terms of things like the Scientists’ March Against Trump. The hope is that people who like Science will stop liking Trump. But the other possibility is that people who like Trump will stop liking Science.

If principles are stronger than partisanship, then invoking principles is a great idea to rally people to your cause. If partisanship has grown stronger than principles, then even an incontrovertible proof that a certain principle supports your own tribe is going to turn out to be a gigantic booby prize. It won’t make the other side reconsider what errors have led them to contradict such hallowed ideals. It’s just going make half the population start hating the sacred principles necessary for society to function.

[EDIT: Please read this post very carefully if you believe I am attacking Charles Murray, or if you believe I am saying we should refuse to use free speech to defend sufficiently unpopular views. I’m not intending to say either of those things and I would disagree with both.]

[EDIT 2: Further clarifications]

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

717 Responses to Sacred Principles As Exhaustible Resources

  1. TheWackademic says:

    When group A has a legitimate grievance with group B, how does one highlight that grievance without antagonizing members or supporters of group B?

    E.g., Trump’s budget cuts are jeopardizing the scientific enterprise in the United States. How does one highlight that true fact without turning Trump supporters, who probably like having things like antibiotics and airplanes, against scientists?

    • cassander says:

      Maybe wait a few years, then look at the budgets for science, and when they are almost all above where they are today, not call increasing funding for science slightly slower than the baseline “jeopardizing the scientific enterprise in the United States”?

      Basically, you know, don’t massively overreact because it’s Trump?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Anyone know what the overall funding plan for science is? My understanding was that Trump administrations plan was in effect a 10% funding cut (by eliminating all payments for “incidental expenses” such as heating the buildings in which scientists work, and which currently are about 10% of NSF payments). Apparently I was wrong?

        • cassander says:

          I haven’t seen a detailed plan. But discretionary spending usually grows at 2-3% per year, so even if there was a 10% nominal dollar cut in one year, odds are that in 4 years, we’ll be back above where we are today. And while a 10% nominal cut is enormous by the standards of the US budget, I’d hardly say that a 10% cut to a couple agencies is “jeopardizing the scientific enterprise in the United States”, especially if it’s coming out of perks.

        • berk says:

          Best I found in 5 minutes:
          http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-sources-and-uses-of-us-science-funding
          The data seems so come from reliable (gov) sources, even if it is only through 2010.
          Generally spending is increasing (in real terms), and at a high since the 70’s as a % of GDP (equivalent to the 60’s) . Industry seems to be a much bigger contributor than public sources, and among public sources more comes from defense allocations than anywhere else. The NSF’s FY 2016 request to congress was for ~ 7.7 billion (https://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2016/); the request was a 5.2% increase from the previous year; inflation in 2015 was ~1%, ~2% in 2016, if I am not mistaken. Total industry spend in 2010 was 247.4 billion (based on the above link).

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          20% cut to NIH (you know the health guys).

          • berk says:

            Yes, 18% to NIH, ~5 billion, bringing their budget back to where it was in 1999 (in 2016 $).

            I think overall health R&D spending is somewhere between 100-200 billion nationally.

          • valiance says:

            We spend more on cosmetics annually in the US (36 billion in sales in 2010, estimated 65 billion in revenue in 2016) than we do on the NIH (33 billion budget for 2017).

            So that’s ~$103 per American per year for the NIH. Doesn’t sound like a lot to me.

            http://www.cosmeticsdesign.com/Market-Trends/US-cosmetics-and-toiletries-sales-outgrow-recession-levels
            https://www.statista.com/statistics/243742/revenue-of-the-cosmetic-industry-in-the-us/
            https://officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            berk: Yes, but we don’t live in 1999. Why are we reducing R&D budget? Why are we raising the military budget? What’s the general plan here?

            valiance: why cosmetics? What does federal spending have to do with consumer spending? What are you even doing with this comparison?

            I don’t really understand what you folks are doing here — I can compare one number to another number to make it seem like a lot or not a lot, but what sort of fed. spending discussion is this? Do you even understand first order effects of these types of cuts? Do you know what the NIH _does_?

            Unbelievable.

            You have to remember, the budget guy basically listened through Trump’s speeches and consulted his faithful tea leaf reading contingent to come up with this budget proposal.

          • berk says:

            I’m not sure what cosmetics spending or military spending has to do with anything either (other than implying some kind of value judgement/signaling morality).

            However, it seems quite relevant to view NIH spending as a part of overall health R&D spending in the country both private and tax-funded, in order to “understand first-order effects.”

      • alexsloat says:

        It’s like you don’t even want to understand politics. You massively overreact because it’s Trump, and then in 2028 when someone else is running, you massively overreact to them and say things like “You’re jeopardizing science in the US, when even Donald Trump increased the science budget – you’re worse than he was!”. After all, credibility for tomorrow’s battle is way less important than winning today’s.

        It’s like how there is exactly one context in which right-thinking people are currently allowed to say positive things about Trump, and that’s when the concept Mike Pence becoming President is mentioned. Or how the easiest way to get someone who was arguing that Bush was literally Hitler a decade ago to praise him today is to draw a parallel to Trump. This is an entirely predictable outcome of the political process – you can virtually set your watch to it.

        • cassander says:

          I think you’re assuming more calculation than exists. In my experience, the emotions people feel about politics are almost always sincere. The people who are overreacting to trump aren’t doing it to stir outrage, they’re sincerely concerned. Their concern has little basis in reality, and as you say, the game will repeat for the next republican president, but it’s sincere, not strategy.

          • alexsloat says:

            One leads to the other. Members feel sincerely irritated at their political opponents, and leaders and strategists fan the flames of that sincere feeling to exploit it for donations, volunteers, and votes.

            (FYI, this is not a theory – I’ve been involved in politics long enough to have several prominent people explain to my face exactly how, why, and when one should turn opponents into bogeymen in order to rile up supporters. The bit about using old bogeymen to trash the new ones isn’t quite so explicit a strategy, but it always works out that way, so I feel safe calling it a corollary.)

          • albertborrow says:

            To clarify, you mean that prominent party leaders shape the current thread of outrage so that the current opponent is always the worst one yet. Am I correct?

          • alexsloat says:

            Yes. “This is the most important election of our lifetimes” is something I have heard in literally every election I’ve paid even a small amount of attention to. It’s an absolute constant in politics, like lying and banging interns. Outrage about the past or future doesn’t serve the needs of the present campaign, so partisans don’t bother with it other than as feed stock.

          • Nick says:

            To be fair, “This is the most important election of your lifetime” could be true of several elections in a row, if something you value is in a more dire position each time. For instance, if your top concern is climate change, and if that’s only getting more urgent with each election, then each election is more important than the last, until that’s addressed. I’m not going to speculate though on whether or how much this is true at the object level.

          • Matt M says:

            It could be, but it’s statistically unlikely. And if you hear it literally 100% of the time, not accompanied by a consistent case for it, it seems reasonable to conclude it’s hysterical propaganda.

          • Nick says:

            I agree that there’s propaganda about this aimed every which way—some I encountered during the election were climate change, religious freedom, anti-discrimination, political correctness, the fate of the Supreme Court…. And yeah, seeing it aimed every which way, whether inconsistent or not, I doubt any is giving me a very fair or accurate account of things. But if I agree that e.g. climate change is our top priority, and that the election will have an impact on that one way or another, it’s hard not to agree with the conclusion. And lots of people do have something they think is our top priority, and do think the election will have an impact, therefore etc. So it seems to me that “This is the most important election of my life” is a pretty reasonable conclusion, even if statistics suggests most of us must be wrong.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If the government has gotten more powerful/important every cycle, then every election could indeed be the most important.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            …the emotions people feel about politics are almost always sincere.

            Further evidence for a proposition I first heard here:

            You don’t have political opinions: political opinions have you.

        • pocketjacks1 says:

          People were having heart palpitations over how far-right Gingrich was, but he was a statesman compared to neocon Christian Right Bush, who was in turn a humanitarian compared to plutocrat Romney who loved self-deportation and firing people, who is a humanitarian statesman compared to the Hitler Trump. Assuming the additive principle applies to palpitations I really worry for their health.

          But of course the same applies for the other side. During the Obama years, some conservatives had grudging fond memories of Clinton, as if there was either an ounce of political difference between the two, or if it weren’t exactly people like them who concocted conspiracy theories accusing a sitting president of murder back in the 90’s. And now, I’m hearing some begrudging praise of Obama’s handling of Syria in alt-right circles enraged over Trump’s recent attacks on it. I look forward to when secret Muslim Obama is remembered as a bastion of sanity and moderation.

          I opposed Trump but I immensely prefer him to most of the rest of the GOP, and yes I would prefer President Trump over President Pence any day of the week. I would actually like an America where Trumpism is the dominant strain of right-wing thought. At least then there would be a philosophical agreement on protecting the weak from the powerful, we just disagree on who the weak and the powerful are. That’s a debate I would find worth having, unlike the debate on whether the weak should even be protected in the first place.

          And at the time, I think I realized that the 2012 election would be one of the least important elections of our lifetimes, though I spent half my free time on FiveThirtyEight in the weeks before the election all the same.

      • curiouskiwicat says:

        If people were reacting this way just because Trump was implementing minor cuts to science across the board, I would think it’s an over-reaction, but that’s not the worst problem.
        A more serious concern is that Trump is implementing major cuts to areas of science he’s politically opposed to (like the 100% cut to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy stream and the 52% cut to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). When politicians threaten to cut funding to areas of science that aren’t coming up with the findings that are politically convenient to them – that’s a form of science censorship and it is the serious concern.
        I’m not saying that Trump is the first or the worst at this (I can’t think of historical examples, but I am sure there’s lots), but I am saying that if you want to assess the real impact of the current cuts on science, you need to think about their use as a method to censor politically inconvenient science, and consider how much damage that does to science as a broad project. How much do we want scientists to be saying “well, I could research x as it appears to be a really concerning problem, but the government wants to ignore it so I should probably steer clear because if my research gets traction, the government will just cut funding”?

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I agree, and I think it’s even worse then that, because the govenrment right now isn’t just deciding to not fund new scientific research, but it seems to be actively defeating and erasing data and citations that already existed for political reasons, as well as putting restrictions on the abilities of govenrment scientists to publish their data. When scientists spend years in the Arctic doing painstaking research and then it’s thrown away for political reasons, I think that really is an attack on science, as well as being a really tragic waste of vital resources.

          One research writing about her experiences with this (I don’t know if this is just her anecdotal experience or if it is more widespread, so probably take it with a grain of salt):

          https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/28/arctic-researcher-donald-trump-deleting-my-citations

        • cassander says:

          Not paying for things isn’t censorship. Charles Murray probably hasn’t gotten a government grant in a long time, that doesn’t mean he’s being censored. If the US government was the only source of climate science in the world, I might be concerned, but it isn’t. Cutting things that are politically unpopular isn’t nefarious, it’s how democracy is supposed to work.

    • quanta413 says:

      As someone in science who thinks Trump is basically the worst outcome we could have had for president, the least of my problems with him is that there might be cuts to the federal research budget. Funding has been increasing in inflation adjusted terms over the span of decades even though there are fluctuations downward here and there. I expect this trend to continue in the long term with no influence due to marches for science in either direction regardless of whatever minor funding setbacks occur in the short term.

      • Yosarian2 says:

        Eh. I think it’s a really important issue. I think we are incredibly close to seeing major breakthroughs in a number of areas now, including cancer and other major diseases, and also are starting to see some real research being done in areas like anti-aging medicine. Cuts to medical research usually hits the “more controversial/ less guaranteed to work” stuff first, which in this case is exactally the stuff we need to be funding; delaying that stuff for just a couple of years may cost millions of lives.

        Plus, on the more practical/ political level, the more people on the left shout right now about the need for science and medical research, the more likely they are to pressure their own politicians for more of that next time Democrats are in power. Just the act of making something “an important issue” changes the politics around it, often for the better.

    • John Nerst says:

      When group A has a legitimate grievance with group B, how does one highlight that grievance without antagonizing members or supporters of group B?

      I’m interested in the general case here. For group A to have legitimate greivance with group B, both group A and group B needs to be cohesive in the sense that they have a structure for making collective decisions and therefore an idenfiable locus of control. Such groups include corporations, countries or political organizations, but not plain “people categories”.

      Group A needs to be cohesive for someone to be able to speak for its members, and group B needs to be cohesive for someone to be responsible for its actions. It’s obviously resonable to say “I have a grievance against United Airlines” but not “I have a grievance against tall people”. Problems arise in the middle, when groups are largely self-selected but without a locus of control* (groups like gamers, conservatives, feminists or muslims). Then it feels ok to treat them as singular agents even though they aren’t, with predictable results (weakmanning, ethnic tension, team-motte-and-bailey etc.).

      While you can certainly dislike certain ideas or behaviors common in certain groups, I don’t think its at all possible to have a legitimate grievance against a non-cohesive group of people. A legitimate grievance must be against an agent: either a single person or a group of people structured to work like an agent. So, often the best choice when you think you have a legitimate grievance is to not highlight it (because it’s not legitimate) and instead reformulate into something that is.

      In the specific case: don’t make it about Trump or Trump supporters, but about specific actions: “cutting the science budget is a bad decision because of $reason1, $reason2 and $reason3.”

      *This is a problem with any such groups (including groups like metal fans, linux users, environmentalists, furries or rationalists): when joining them you get a small share of group social capital (and right to speak for the group) but also a small share of group social debt (and responsibility for group actions). This is the deal whether we like it or not, and we often try to get the benefits and avoid the costs. When you declare yourself part of a group you raise the social capital of that group (unless you’re so despised your allegiance is of negative worth) and by extension everyone else in it. That makes you somewhat responsible for them. Sadly there is no option to withdraw (forgo your share of group power in exchange for not being held responsible) without leaving the group (so, it becomes common to resist labeling yourself).

      • Ankur says:

        I like the idea that blaming non-agent groups is a category error. It comports well with the idea (something I picked up from Peterson) that collective guilt is a fatal error that at its most dangerous is used to punish the out-group (Stalinism at its extreme). In more recent times this turns up in the forms of collective guilt for historical atrocities (colonialism, etc).

        You’re right then, that you can’t have grievances against diffused groups, only grievances measured in terms of their own disutility.

        • John Nerst says:

          You’re right then, that you can’t have grievances against diffused groups, only grievances measured in terms of their own disutility.

          Right, you can dislike what members of a group think or do and therefore dislike the concept that represents the group, which is the typical case in reality. But we don’t have a grievance as such – that requires that you have been wronged by the agent in question, and you can’t be wronged by a concept (although some would probably disagree with that).

          I’m not sure what “in terms of their own disutility” means in this context.

    • using spokespeople with a tack record of neutrality, or even being on the side of that’s causing the problem.

      • alexsloat says:

        Which our esteemed host is particularly good at, IMO. He’s brought me a lot closer to a fair bit of social justice theory, because when even someone who self-describes as “massively triggered by social justice” talks about how a couple of the ideas are actually good, you know they’re worth a closer inspection.

  2. losethedebate says:

    As usual, insightful almost to the point where I think, “can anyone possibly be this insightful?” In the interest of discussion I would like to have something I could disagree with in this article, but I’m having trouble finding anything, despite the fact that your conclusion makes me very uncomfortable.

    • cactus head says:

      Yeah. Damn, I wish I had that insight.

    • abc says:

      Really this strikes me as a textbook case of Scott being mindkilled. Frankly, I always find it fascinating how often tactical advise to one’s enemies winds up boiling down “do nothing and surrender”.

      • alexsloat says:

        That doesn’t seem like what this is at all. It’s about tactics, not surrender. There’s a reason that I usually defend the free speech of people like Milo in the context of “The right to be a jerk is one of the most fundamental rights we have, because there’s always somebody who thinks you’re the jerk”, and not in a way that makes them think that arguing for free speech is just a fancy way of talking about how nice it is to be allowed to act like a fool.

        • abc says:

          It’s about tactics, not surrender.

          Specifically, it’s about trying to get the other side to surrender by calling it a “tactical withdrawal”.

          • alexsloat says:

            Certainly, some do use it that way. I meant what I said, though(though to be fair, I consider Milo to be the douchebag part of my own side, not the other side, so perhaps that makes my advice more honest?)

      • psmith says:

        often tactical advise to one’s enemies winds up boiling down “do nothing and surrender”.

        That pretty much covers it, I reckon.

        Scott has done this elsewhere too. I don’t blame him for it, hell, I’ve probably done it myself (my side has certainly done it), but it doesn’t convince anyone.

    • alwhite says:

      @losethedebate

      Try thinking about the audience of the piece. Who is the intended recipient? Who is he actually talking to?

      Scott opens with a discussion about some Harvard students intentionally being provocative and it seems like the rest of his argument is aimed at them as a means of convincing people like that, that maybe they aren’t serving their best interests in the long term.

      I am not a person who would be intentionally provocative, like the Harvard students. To me, this piece is more of a “Yeah, duh. Don’t be at troll.” Are you more similar to me or the Harvard students? If you are more similar to the Harvard students, does this argument change your mind?

      If we aren’t the intended the audience there’s a danger that this is just a part of our echo chamber. We’re the choir to whom Scott is preaching.

    • AlphaCeph says:

      This comment exemplifies what is wrong with using WordPress comments for SSC. Someone was lucky or un-busy enough to get the #2 comment slot, and they use it to post a piece of fan-mail for Scott.

      With a voting system, there is no way this would be in the number 2 spot. Furthermore, with a voting system, this comment could sit at the bottom, be satisfying to the person who wrote it, and also not waste 5000 people’s time.

      EDIT: When I read a post like this, I want to see a commenting system that meritocratically promotes the best possible counters to what Scott posted. How much confidence should I have in the posts at SSC if there is no incentive for the best commenters to respond with the best criticisms (because if they do they get buried in fan mail?). How would Yvain have risen to promenance on Less Wrong if his comments and posts had been buried in Eliezer fan-mail?

      • alexsloat says:

        Vote-based systems get a decent amount of fan mail at the top, don’t kid yourself. You just need to be mildly amusing about it.

        • AlphaCeph says:

          I just went to Less Wrong and looked at Yvain’s most recent post other than the surveys and linkposts. It is this:

          http://lesswrong.com/lw/jjd/rationalists_are_less_credulous_but_better_at/

          Sorting by “Best” the top comments are

          Kaj_Sotala 24 points
          I like this post, but this conclusion seems too strong. …

          then

          23 points Mitchell_Porter
          If we distinguish between …

          then

          20 points SaidAchmiz
          Yvain, could you give a real-life example …

          then

          15 points Vivificient
          Your conclusion is possible. But I’ll admit I find it hard to believe that …

          There isn’t a comment there that just says “Wow Yvain, you’re amazing, I sure wish I was as amazing as you but I guess I’ll have to make do with sycophantic blog comments…” – every single comment is trying to make some kind of point or contribute to the discussion.

          I did a little more digging, and found this as the next most recent substantive article from Yvain: http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/#comments

          It has 1742 comments(!), and there are indeed some praise comments there. In fact the top one when you sort by “Top” is praise, but (a) that post is one where Scott really hit it out of the park and (b) the person at least went to the effort of registering a domain to get that top spot!

          54 points joshkaufman
          I just registered http://worstargumentintheworld.com – it redirects to this post … Great piece of work, Yvain …

          Perhaps the insight here is that when a Yvain article on LW is on a score of 157 and the top comment *on LW* is praise, that’s some actual evidence that it’s unusually good. When all the top comments on LW are pushing back against it… well that’s somewhat normal.

          • alexsloat says:

            I was thinking more of Reddit than LW – LW is unusual in that an article and its critics will commonly both be upvoted by the same people.

            Now, to be fair, LW is probably closer to SSC than /r/askreddit is. But let’s try /r/slatestarcodex. Scott doesn’t make many top-level posts of opinion there(since they all go here), but the “Still Crying Wolf” post is the #1 post of all time on that sub, so we’ll use it. Sorting by Best, we get:

            #1: “Thank you for this”(at substantial length)

            #2: (broad agreement, but not phrased as praise)

            #3: “That was a really, really cathartic read.”(at some length)

            #4: Reference to a previous essay of Scott’s.

            #5: “I am tortured by the fact that the friends who need to see this are the ones I know I shouldn’t show it to.” (with some moderately-critical commentary, to be fair)

            #6: Meta-level response to a common argument being made against the post

            #7: “Thanks, this was a great read.”

            #8: “I absolutely agree with most of this.”(again, with moderate criticism)

            #9: Related commentary, generally in agreement with the post.

            #10: Moderately critical discussion of a minor point in the post.

            So of the top 10 replies, none were seriously opposed to the original post of Scott’s, 5/10 included explicit praise, and 9/10 were broadly in agreement. And this is still a SSC-based crowd making most of these votes. Praising the popular is a good way to get a good response.

      • Marie says:

        It and its thread (particularly alwhite’s comment, pushing losethedebate to examine possible reasons why they might like the post but feel discomfort) wasted less of my time and provided more interest than yet another rendition of “I vehemently disagree with this post, NO SURRENDER, also, Murray is mild and scholarly and not Milo.” The fact that it elicited alwhite’s comment, which is among the most distinctive and helpful-to-me comments in this thread, inclines me to rate its value higher than “fanmail that should be banished to the unseen bottom of the thread.”

        I’d be fine with it appearing lower due to some randomize-the-order mechanism, but I don’t exactly trust a voting mechanism to consistently, properly, helpfully penalize comments for being useless/fanmail-ish, vs. for just not agreeing with the SSC commentariat consensus.

        • AlphaCeph says:

          If it’s good and it’s at the top but the ordering is determined by time, then presumably that’s nothing more than a coincidence. Unless you think all comments are good?

  3. Some Troll's Serious Discussion Alt says:

    Is popularity the key factor here? Democracy resembles, but is not exactly a popularity contest. Anti-conservatism might be popular right now, but right now it also seems remarkably bad at winning anything anywhere. They have six state governments to their name and, after spending 8 years getting blocked on all kinds of things have only managed to stump Trump once, when their backs were to the wall on Obamacare. Trump hardly seems like a paragon of competence either. How would they be fairing against someone who could tell a blister from a filibuster?

    So let it become a conservative principle. Conservatives are, apparently, ready and able to do things to advance their principles. Let the toothless “The United States was Founded on the Principle of Freedom of Speech(and That’s Terrible!)” articles flow. They are free to say that, after all.

  4. ItsGiusto says:

    I agree with this argument to a certain degree, but I also think you leave a few points out.

    For one thing, I think that this polarization is partly what the group of Harvard students organizing the events may be after, insomuch as it affects the other side. Having public speakers who are controversial, but not too controversial, and certainly not hateful, like Jordan Person, will bring out the crazy protestors on the left. Then everyone who was there just to see a slightly right-of-center speaker will see those protestors making a big deal over almost nothing. Nothing rallies people to your side like the thought of, “Who knows, they could come down on me and people who share my opinion next if they’re going after this guy!”

    In addition, what you said about ideas being supported by conservatives being necessarily unpopular with liberals may have been true in the past, but things are changing, and a lot of people want that change to come. People who are slightly right of very-liberal people have been getting pissed at those very-liberal people for a while, and it seems to me that these days more and more people are willing to discard their labels if it means finding sensible people who really do believe in things like free speech. The argument of “the other side supports X, so I have to support the opposite,” has been breaking down more and more, or at least been operating on a finer level, as people are more willing to redraw the political map and redefine who’s on what side, and who their opponents really are.

    • ignition says:

      Yeah, the article seems to suggest that the hard left was seriously okay with general-case free speech until Milo started making an ass of himself in public and so on. I doubt that’s true.

    • Tekhno says:

      @ignition

      Repressive Tolerance (which argues that free speech for the right is just repressive tolerance, and that free speech is only liberating tolerance in the context of a utopian society) was written in 65, and had a major influence on the campus radical wing of the New Left, so these ideas have been around for some time.

      There seems to have been a sudden sea change after 2010 where their influence seems much stronger, but that may simply be because in 1965, the professors were against the campus radicals, whereas in 2017, so many of them are on the radicals side/are former student radicals themselves. The effect is that the curriculum itself includes courses based on the radical ideas of the 60s and 70s, and that professors will join black bloc protests of speakers at their own University.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        My impression is that the recent intensification of political correctness dates to the Obama Re-election campaign of 2012, but I could be wrong about it.

        • John Nerst says:

          If popularity of the phrase “check your privilege” is any indication Google Trends suggests you’re right – it starts to grow in mid 2012 and is steady from mid 2013 and on. Exceptions are big spikes in may and november 2014 that I don’t know exactly what they are about (and I don’t particularly feel like researching it).

        • Gazeboist says:

          I encountered what I believe became this particular wing of the US internet left around 2007-8, in the waning days of Bush and heading into Obama’s first term. It may have taken longer to spread, though. (or I might just have the time wrong)

          I’m thinking of the group of people that took over Fred Clark’s old blog when he moved to Patheos; they seem emblematic of these sorts of problems.

    • John Nerst says:

      Having public speakers who are controversial, but not too controversial, and certainly not hateful, like Jordan Person, will bring out the crazy protestors on the left. Then everyone who was there just to see a slightly right-of-center speaker will see those protestors making a big deal over almost nothing.

      Seems similar to the toxoplasma effect.

      • ItsGiusto says:

        Yes, definitely. I feel like these people may be using toxoplasma/Moloch to their advantage. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to think so – I believe that we all do this to some degree whenever we say, “it’s about the principle of the thing,” or “I’m trying to make a point”

  5. haljohnsonbooks says:

    I have written, at some length, about the trend for partisanship to squash principles. I’m not sure the shift has been 100% negative, but overall I’ll raise a glass and shed a tear for good old principle; he had his moments. Anyway, here is a long essay on this very topic: https://haljohnsonbooks.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/the-age-of-demographics/

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve been thinking for a while that there’s a limit to how many sacred values you can have because they will conflict with each other.

    • Eponymous says:

      The usual human approach there is just to not notice the conflicts.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I sort of look at that as a feature not a bug.

      I tend to view various principles as setting up a system that has tension between them. I view this is working to prevent the clearly bad outcomes that can come from following a simple principle to closely. Something like “Would you lie to save a family from Hitler?” being the favorite example of this.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        yes, a lot of people tend to ignore all manner of edge cases

        my personal approach is simply to acknowledge them as the limits of principles. It works…all right. But I’m conscientious, at least morally, so who knows.

      • Tekhno says:

        That’s how I view it too. Of course, by mechanical analogy, just as it’s possible to hold things together using tension (bows, suspension bridges), it’s possible to have too much tension and cause the whole structure to explode.

        The Western system can handle some degree of conflict between, say, freedom of speech/expression, and property rights, because these concepts are quite open ended and conflicts can be managed case by case through the legal system. An example of dysfunctional conflict would be a flat principle that is overly explicit versus its negative counterpart (“You MUST eat pizza with pineapple slices” Vs “You must NOT eat pizza with pineapple slices”), but thankfully nobody is going about enshrining any such principle.

    • Svejk says:

      Biological regulatory networks can be modeled as complex graphs of optimization processes that are sometimes in tension. They can grow quite large, and their failure modes can sometimes resemble runaway expression of a particular principle.

    • wintermute92 says:

      In a funny sense I understand this as the definition of a sacred value.

      You get one, maybe two things for which you say “yes, I will accept all kinds of horrible consequences and bizarre alliances to preserve this value”. If you start reaching for more than that people can hand you moral problems that you can’t possibly resolve.

      An interesting example: Cú Chulainn, old Irish hero, was subject to several geasa (bindings, or values which were literally sacred). A personal one prohibited him from eating dog meat. A universal one demanded the honoring of hospitality, including taking offered meals. So when someone offered him a meal of dog, the bind was inescapable. He lost his spiritual power, and was killed in his next battle.

  7. Briefling says:

    Is free speech like a muscle? If so then using it may strengthen rather than deplete it.

    • publius76 says:

      +1

    • Antistotle says:

      To carry your analogy further, there problems associated with excessive exercise, both in the chronic case, and in the acute case (for the acute case see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhabdomyolysis)

      A significant part of the problem right now is that the Left has killed liberalism and is wearing it’s skin while demanding it’s respect. Meanwhile certain tenants of liberalism have infused contemporary conservatism.

      Also marching for something is pretty stupid, so when people want to “March for Science”, I automatically bin them as twits. If every single one of those marchers wrote a blog post, wrote a letter to the editor or posted on facebook about why their project *really* mattered, and it was really better that the money came from the government rather than Soros/Bezos/Elon Musk/Etc. they would have a much better impact.

      But no, let’s have a MARCH so we can feel better about DOING SOMETHING and when that something fails to do anything we can blame TRUMP supporters, because Hillary was such a paragon of integrity, honesty, and American values.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Does anyone know whether marching is actually less effective than posting on facebook? My impression was that it tends to deepen and extend political networks in a way that arguing with your friends doesn’t. Not sure how you’d even measure this though, which casts doubt on my impression!

        • ignition says:

          Even if you’re just going to type words on the internet, Facebook might be a pretty bad choice. A lot of people seem to take social/political opinions posted there less seriously because it’s saturated with self-conscious personal image management.

          Last one to change their profile picture back hates the troops.

          • Richard Kennaway says:

            [Facebook activity]’s saturated with self-conscious personal image management.

            And everything else that people do in public isn’t?

        • keranih says:

          Does anyone know whether marching is actually less effective than posting on facebook?

          I think you’re right to question what one means by “effective” here. I could argue that some verbal “people people” would be more likely to engage with the other side in a way that widens their understanding of the issue at a march, while visual introverts would be more likely to engage on-line.

          I am not sure which echo chamber would be the most sound-fast, though.

        • Antistotle says:

          Marches don’t make arguments, they are essentially a logical phallacy–argumentum ad populum. And it’s something that happens about 15 times a day in any major city.

          Note that I didn’t just say *post* on facebook, I said, well, you can read it.

          A facebook post that says “Trump is a doody-head for cutting SCIENCE” is just as pointless as marching.

          A facebook post that is 10 or 15 paragraphs long that says “this is what we are studying, this is why it SHOULD be studied–why it looks stupid but really isn’t and this is why we need the government to fund it because $INDUSTRY won’t/can’t/shouldn’t.

          Conservatives are skeptical about Government Science and the grant process because we’ve seen the CDC spend millions on gun control research (bad research too), we’ve read about the government spending (IIRC) 800k of the stimulus money studying how to get more *Africans* (not African-Americans) to use condoms and etc.

          A lot of people who don’t have liberal arts degrees not only don’t care about the how bacteria communicate, then don’t understand why *anyone else* does. And they certainly don’t understand why it costs a million dollars a year to study it.

          A march doesn’t do any of these things.

          But if Bonnie Bassler makes a (relatively short) post explaining how studying the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid’s bioluminescence can lead to more effective treatments for bacterial infections, and why this is important, and 19,999 OTHER scientists do the same across various social and news media. Call Rush Limbaugh and be articulate and open. Call Sean Han…never mind, Hannity’s a dick. Call Michael Savage (the ‘conservative’ talk show host, not the gay sex advise columnist) and talk about flowers.

          *Sell* us on what you do, and why we should give you the money we earn.

          https://www.ted.com/talks/bonnie_bassler_on_how_bacteria_communicate?language=en

          • quarint says:

            Marches don’t make arguments, they are essentially a logical phallacy–argumentum ad populum.

            So is voting.

          • PedroS says:

            @quarint

            Marches don’t make arguments, they are essentially a logical phallacy–argumentum ad populum.

            So is voting.

            Voting has been chosen/adopted/etc. as the way to assign power, not as a way to settle logical/normative arguments. With all its many flaws, voting at least allows every one to have a (diffuse) share on the decision-making process on more or less level terms. Marches, however, select for vocal power blocs, congeniallity of the marcher’s stated aims re: the culture bias of reporting media (e.g. how often is the coverage of “Marches for life” on the Roe v. Wade anniversary proportional to its attendance, when compared to other “culture-war-adjacent” left-of-center protests) and the identity of the political tribe yielding the power which is being protested.

            As a way to change minds, marches are IMO irrelevant. As Milton Friedman said “Anyone you can persuade in one argument isn’t worth persuading–someone else will persuade him back the other way in the next argument.” Likewise for marches, which (again IMO) are little more than primate power displays. Specifically re: the March for Science: do the organizers REALLY believe that a thin-skinned president who seems to relish power-posturing above most other considerations will change his budget proposal because of a protest ? Even if he were to decide to do it to curtail some loss of political capital, the protest date is so distant from any election where that political capital might be needed that its effects on his calculation should rationally be nil.

          • Voting happens every four years.. is everyone supposed to sit on their hands in the meantime? And politicians do take notice of popular outcry, because it is a sign of what might happen in the next election.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Voting has been chosen/adopted/etc. as the way to assign power, not as a way to settle logical/normative arguments.

            Will someone please tell the Trump voters?

            Marches don’t make arguments, they are essentially a logical phallacy–argumentum ad populum.

            “Argument from authority” is technically a type of fallacy, and yet in many, many, many — possibly most — arguments, arguments from authority are the correct way to proceed. Experts know more than non-experts, and trusting an expert is usually better than trying to reason from first principles.

            Similarly, “argumentum ad populum” is a valid form of argument if the point you’re trying to make is “lots of people care about this thing.” Marches are a good way to make this point.

          • PedroS says:

            @wysinwygymmv

            Similarly, “argumentum ad populum” is a valid form of argument if the point you’re trying to make is “lots of people care about this thing.”
            Marches are a good way to make this point.

            My point is that marches are not a good way to determine whether any given point has MORE support than the opposite one, since (unlike voting) the incentives for marching/protesting are radically different for those who are on opposite sides of the political power divide: the tribe who holds power has no incentive to march (since they have the power, and marching in this instance does not provide a benefit but has organization/time/etc. costs), whereas those who have no power DO have something to gain by marching (by increasing, albeit temporarily, their political voice).

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            Voting happens every four years.. is everyone supposed to sit on their hands in the meantime?

            No: the ability to discuss political ideas is important and free speech is paramount. Those four years (or two, considering the congressional/senate election schedules) are (IMO) the time for groundwork, coalition building, policy proposals, etc. It is also the time for opposition by the elected representatives. That is what they were elected for: to fight political fights on behalf of the population, and to free “ordinary people” from the emotional toil that continuous political fighting takes.

            In a direct democracy, counting supporters has to be done at all times, which takes lots of time and energy and eventually saps time/energy away from all other non-political purposes. In a representative democracy that task is delegated to a few people, freeing the rest of the populace for other endeavours. I do not claim that this arrangement is perfect, but that is in fact the arrangement in most current liberal democracies. If one wants to change that, then IMO one should admit that elections are a waste of time and that every policy proposal should be voted INDIVIDUALLY by everyone. I do not at all believe that such an arrangment would be more conducive to responsive government: on the contrary, demagogy would be even more rampant.

          • PedroS says:

            @Antistotle

            But if Bonnie Bassler makes a (relatively short) post explaining how studying the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid’s bioluminescence can lead to more effective treatments for bacterial infections, and why this is important, and 19,999 OTHER scientists do the same across various social and news media. […]

            *Sell* us on what you do, and why we should give you the money we earn.

            I fear this would fall prey to the same problems that every online content producer faces: most scientific projects are so specific or niche-focussed that a honest presentation of the importance of that research would be met by (at most) shrugs or blank stares by all but a handful of people. Actually, NO research project under a few tens of million dollars can be neatly summarized as: ” I want to search this important question of obvious importance, that everybody can understand, and that can be neatly achieved if you just give me this amount of money”

          • Aapje says:

            @PedroS

            It’s also far easier for some groups (students, jobless, people with flexible work hours) to turn up to a protest than other groups (9-5 workers, small store owners, the elderly). So you get a very biased self-selection of the population (not that elections are without self-selection bias, but far less so).

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @PedroS:

            My point is that marches are not a good way to determine whether any given point has MORE support than the opposite one, since (unlike voting) the incentives for marching/protesting are radically different for those who are on opposite sides of the political power divide: the tribe who holds power has no incentive to march (since they have the power, and marching in this instance does not provide a benefit but has organization/time/etc. costs), whereas those who have no power DO have something to gain by marching (by increasing, albeit temporarily, their political voice).

            1. Groups A and !A are both completely free to organize marches. If group A organizes a march and group !A does not, then it seems fair to say that group A feels more strongly about the issue than group !A. It’s not all about numbers. If one groups strongly favors a principle and another group on the whole prefers the opposite principle but without much enthusiasm, then it’s not clear that the second group should prevail just by virtue of size.
            2. Sometimes, an issue is important but not all people realize it is important. It may make sense to march to make it clear that some large group of people does find the issue important, which might prompt some other people to ask, “gee, why do they think that issue is so important?”
            3. Your model of political alignment and engagement is not very robust. You seem to assume that there are two monolithic groups of shared interests and that one is “in power” at any given time and therefore has its interests favored while the one “out of power” doesn’t. In the real world, a hell of a lot of people disagree with the policies of the party for which they vote and try to move it in a different direction — in part by marching because their favored issue isn’t always up for a vote. Here’s an example: a lot of democratic party voters wanted Medicaid for all, but the party center wanted Obamacare instead. You can’t get Medicaid for all by voting Democrat because voting Democrat just gets you Obamacare. You have to make the case for Medicaid for all outside the ballot box. (I don’t care how you feel about this specific issue, I’m just giving it as an example.)

            So no, marches aren’t a good mechanism for determining which answer is favored by a majority on a particular question. This is a good thing, because we already have a mechanism for that: it’s called “voting”. But no one claimed that this is what marches were for in the first place, so I still don’t think your objection to marches in general is well-founded.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Marches don’t make arguments, they are essentially a logical phallacy–argumentum ad populum.

            Was this pun intended?

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I think marching is incredibly effective, for a number of reasons:

          1. If a million people come out and march in favor of or against something, that sends a very strong signal to politicians that a lot of people really care about that issue, and that it will likely effect their votes. It sends a much stronger signal then, say, posting something online or signing a petition; you may sign a petition or post on facebook about hundreds of issues, but very few people will “march” on more then one or two issue a year, which strongly signals that if you want to win those people’s votes you need to pay attention to those issues.

          2. Big marches get a lot of media coverage, which in term helps shape public opinion and bring more attention.

          3. The combination of #1 and #2 has another effect, it helps raise the topic you are talking about to the status of being “A Major Political Issue”. The government makes decisions on tens of thousands of questions all the time, many of them really important ones. Most of them go mostly unnoticed by the public, and are decided quietly by bureaucrats or politicians or politicians working with lobbyists or experts in a regulatory agency or something like that. Just a relative handful become considered “Major Political Issues”, at which point they are treated very differently. Politicians are expected to take a stand on most or all of the “Major Political Issues”, either for or against, and if they don’t they will likely be asked about them. Newspapers and news channels talk a lot more about things once they become a “Major Political Issue”; a politician voting for or against a “Major Political Issue” is suddenly a newsworthy event. Ect. It changes the whole dynamic around how that issue unfolds.

          4. If you can create the illusion that “everyone” or “everyone important” or maybe “everyone high-status” is strongly in favor of something, then most other people will tend to start to support it, unless they have a reason not to. (For this one posting on social media probably helps as well, but huge marches and protests that are covered in the news still have a bigger impact on people’s perceptions, I think.)

          5. Marches sometimes help create political organizations around the issue, as people who organize marches and go to marches and even just people looking for other like-minded people willing to carpool to a march with get to know each other and start working together on their issue in more local and long-term ways.

      • Tibor says:

        In one of his novels (I think it is Immortality, but I am not 100% sure), Milan Kundera characterizes the left wing as an “endless march”. I always found that remarkably fitting.

        I always found public demonstrations somehow distasteful…although I do acknowledge that there are times and places when they make sense or when they can even make a lot of difference. Maybe I find them distasteful since I usually think there are better and more constructive things one could do. In cases like Tianamen or various anti-communist protests in the former eastern block they make a lot more sense (and in Europe they were all pretty much all crushed only because of Soviet involvement and once the Soviet empire grew weak enough, they succeeded). On the other hand even in an oppressive regime, I think these things only make sense when they have a non-negligible chance of success. Otherwise it only leads to more oppression and serves no real purpose other than that the organizers can pat themselves on the back.

        • Salem says:

          He uses that description repeatedly in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” It may also appear in “Immortality” – not sure. I agree it’s a fantastic analogy.

          He also stated that the march was exhausting itself and thinning out. Not so sure about that one.

      • tmk says:

        > the Left has killed liberalism and is wearing it’s skin while demanding it’s respect.

        This is the kind of post that makes a bad discussion climate.

    • esrogs says:

      Previously on SSC:

      Robin is choosing to treat rationality as a limited resource that must be budgeted, though he doesn’t explain why.

      A commenter on his blog, Silent Cal, asks him: how do you know rationality isn’t more like weightlifting? The more weights you lift, the stronger you get. If you want to become strong, it’s a good idea to “blow” your weightlifting “budget” on as many useless tasks as possible, as often as possible.

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/09/constant-vigilance/

      • wintermute92 says:

        This was my first thought also.

        There is an effort here to justify the claim, though. It’s partly by hypothetical (how would you feel about the Dali Llama?) and partly by historical example (how popular are ‘family values’?) Robin, I think, offered less.

        It’s a distinction made in a lot of other contexts, too. I’ve hard people distinguish between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ power similarly: some forms of authority (like expert knowledge) grow with use as people get used to obeying and getting good results, while others (like personal respect) decline with use as people feel that you’re abusing them for gain.

    • Mr Mind says:

      Exactly.

      Scott is adopting one (depletion) of the many possible models (linear increase, U response, etc) without giving a single reason to support it.

    • This strikes me as a potential succinct form of what I’d have wanted to post, which is that if you show people “see, it’s not so bad when you let people you thought were nasty talk”, you are in fact helping free speech.

      It seemed like the missing third alternative in Scott’s narrative, at least for the case he’s citing.

      I still think he has a point for the general case, though – that it’s possibly to harm free speech by invoking it – but I don’t think anyone concerned about free speech would indeed pick “the most offensive person”. Murray is not by any stretch of the imagination that person – he’s not going to stand there slinging slurs and hate, he’s going to talk about data as he sees it. They’re not inviting vocal members of a terrorist organisation.

      Basically, it has a potential to be much like exposure therapy and we shouldn’t discount that. It’s worth being careful about it, but I’d not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater here. (Though one should consider that I might be misunderstanding Scott and he’s not taking as strong a position as I thought he was. That’s entirely possible.)

      • Gazeboist says:

        As is often said in the context of trigger warning debates:

        Exposure therapy is hard, and pretty much demands a willing subject. We should be careful importing it into other contexts, especially to unwilling subjects.

        You are right, though, that the idea is important and should be kept in mind.

        • Matt M says:

          Allowing a controversial speaker on campus does not, in any way, compel anyone to listen to them. Murray will be speaking, most likely, at a ticketed event, after hours. This is not “exposure therapy” by any relevant definition. They aren’t demanding he be the commencement speaker or anything like that.

  8. publiusvarinius says:

    The extremely predictable consequences of anti-political-correctness activists marching under the banner of free speech are that a large part of the social justice movement now thinks of free speech itself as the enemy

    Scott, I think your causation is backwards because you underestimate the age of this particular trope.

    The political correctness philosophy posited that if the discussion of certain ideas or viewpoints offends certain groups, the expression of these ideas or viewpoints should not be permitted. The majority of the PC crowd has been working against the First Amendment for at least two decades, e.g. see the long discussion in Anderson (1992!).

    The more often people hear about free speech being used to defend NAMBLA, the less that anti-paedophiles are going to like free speech.

    I don’t think this is true. What’s more, I don’t think your anecdotes make a strong case for your thesis. One could look at various historical situations: free speech was the most important talking point in the 1960s campus revolts, but that did not decrease support for the First Amendment among republicans. Why?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Right, there was a huge surge in political correctness in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

      But there was a lot of violence and threats of violence against scientists in the 1970s as well: Arthur Jensen had to have police escort on the Berkeley campus for publishing a meta-analysis of IQ in the Harvard Education Review, Hans Eysenck was beaten up at the London School of Education in 1973, and Edward O. Wilson had a pitcher of ice water poured on his head at a scientific meeting in the mid-1970s.

      • Antistotle says:

        Pitcher of *water*? OMG.

        Well, he could have been threatened with a poker.

        • ignition says:

          It’s okay to discourage bad ideas by physically harassing professional researchers at their jobs as long as it doesn’t cross a certain line? No drawing blood and you’re good?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            In February 1978 George Barlow and James Silverberg of the Sociobiology Study Group organized a two-day symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C. The proceedings included approximately twenty speakers, and included both advocates and critics alike. Speakers included such scientists as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, E. O. Wilson, and David Barash. The talks were later published into the book Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture? by Westview Press (1980).
            The symposium is perhaps best remembered for an unfortunate incident involving a group of protesters from the International Committee Against Racism. Just before Wilson gave his talk, members of INCAR chanted “Racist Wilson you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!” having taken over the microphone.[2][3] A couple of members then rushed the stage and poured a pitcher of ice water over Wilson’s head.[2] The symposium’s moderator Alexander Alland took the microphone and apologized to Wilson; Stephen Jay Gould condemned the attack as only posturing, and thus an inappropriate way to attack sociobiology (quoting Lenin regarding violence as best used not for posturing, but for real action). Wilson, still wet, gave his speech and received a prolonged standing ovation. Wilson, however, recalled that after the attack “No one asked them to leave the premises, no police were called, and no action was taken against them later” despite that an opportunity existed to do so.[3]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So
            ciobiology_Study_Group

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Settle down. It’s not like Wilson got misgendered.

          • Antistotle says:

            I was referring to the “Wittgenstein’s Poker” incident which happened a LOT further back than the 70s.

            And also that getting water poured on one is really not all that much worse than being called a doody-head. Well, unless it’s being done by Navy Seals, and they’re pouring the water on a t-shirt over your face and asking you REALLY unpleasant questions at the same time (boys WILL be boys after all).

          • Chalid says:

            Not saying it’s ok, but if you are listing incidents of “violence” in a ten year period and your list of three includes a pitcher of water, then you’ve gone a long way toward convincing me that there wasn’t very much violence.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      One could look at various historical situations: free speech was the most important talking point in the 1960s campus revolts, but that did not decrease support for the First Amendment among republicans. Why?

      I actually think censorship was supported by many conservatives during that time period; remember, the Hay’s Code that restricted profanity or sexual content in movies was still enforced up until 1968. And it was just in the 1950’s that the McCarthy “blacklists” destroyed the careers of a lot of people on the left because they had said something vaguely pro-communist decades earlier.

      If anything, a lot of the pro-free speech demands of the 60’s were in direct response to a status quo where the opposite had been true.

      • Salem says:

        But the Hays Code and Hollywood blacklist weren’t First Amendment violations.

        • 1soru1 says:

          On the basis that film studios aren’t the government? Doesn’t that argument apply equally to pretty much anything a student protester does or could do?

        • Nornagest says:

          The Hays Code, like the later Comics Code and most other self-regulatory content codes, was adopted largely to preempt government censorship. It was not a First Amendment violation, but it would have looked very different if First Amendment violations (by our standards, at least; a then-current Supreme Court decision had stripped free speech protections from the movies at the time) were not on the table.

  9. Wokehold says:

    Hmm. I understand the logic of this, but I’m not sure I agree…half thinking out loud:

    – If conservatives have determined that provocation might be the best . I thought Milo was opportunistic and mean and shallow – but somebody tell me with a straight face he didn’t break the free-speech-on-campus question right the hell open in a way that simply wouldn’t have been opened up otherwise. I’m aware this is somewhat of the old PETA vs. Vegan Outreach method, but it’s pretty clear which side is working better right now.

    – Peterson discusses controversial issues, but whenever I listen to him []. Not as strong on Murray, but my point is, it’s kind of impossible to avoid the “associate speech with controversial people” element if you’re defending free speech. It’s possibly unique in this respect – the type of speech needing defense is rarely the type that wouldn’t “damage the brand” if associated with free speech. Free speech was probably harmed with conservatives when it was the rallying cry for Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks when the country was very much in the other mood; same for gay magazines, or any handful of wacky radicals in the 60s. And yet here we are. So how the hell do you avoid it and still stand up for your speech principles at all?

    I might have too much faith in free speech’s fluidity, but it seems like even my most left-leaning friends who would dismiss the right-wing’s concerns will still fall back on the very basic speech arguments when it’s about Trump’s flag burning or libel laws. I’ll also note that before he rode off into the sunset, Fredrik DeBoer was the type of liberal to keep an eye out for Steven Salatias and other situations like the one you describe.

    – Finally, while you can play pass the buck all day over these issues, it really does seem to me like the college progressives started this and are now facing a deserved uprising. Twitter pomo types were saying “freeze peach” and generally crapping on the idea of conservatives being involved in polite conversation – and actively trying to step on dissenters – often citing literature which has been created in exactly these kind of ideological insular communities for the purposes of removing dissenters from the discussion. I say all of this as a Hillary-voter/Bernie-primary-voter, but it’s toxic insanity. This is true even if the backlash can get very bad.

    So, I can’t really blame conservatives for coming to these conclusions; I’m not convinced you can avoid the situation you’re describing while defending any kind of controversial speech, and maybe free speech is ; and as someone who still mostly leans left, my side kinda needs this right now.

    • Zorgon says:

      I wouldn’t say it was “insanity” so much as it’s the natural response when internal competitiveness (in terms of “purity battles” etc) becomes more important to members than external competition (in terms of competing memeplexes).

    • Yosarian2 says:

      I thought Milo was opportunistic and mean and shallow – but somebody tell me with a straight face he didn’t break the free-speech-on-campus question right the hell open in a way that simply wouldn’t have been opened up otherwise.

      I don’t know. There are a lot of people who say things that are “offensive” or “taboo” or “against the common norms” who would have been a better choice. Milo, by doing things like deliberately calling out and insulting specific individuals at the colleges he was speaking at just because those individuals were transgender, quite possibly crossed the line from “free speech we need to protect” over to “harassment of individuals that probably should not be allowed”.

      If anything, I think he just highlighted the argument for why there should be certain exceptions to free speech which probably is not what you want to bring attention to if you’re a free speech advocate.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        If we’re talking about the same students, then I don’t think it’s defensible to say Milo went after them “just because those individuals were transgender”. In both cases the students had already outed themselves (not just in their private lives, but on the news), and were saying society should be forced to change because some female students were still not okay with having someone with a penis in the locker room with them while they undressed. Milo thought that was ridiculous (I agree) and that in a sane world you need to be able to ridicule the ridiculous (again I agree).

        Some of the jokes were mean-spirited, but not exceeding anything I’ve seen on The Daily Show a hundred times before.

        • Yosarian2 says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, and I may very well be because I’m only hearing about this secondhand, but didn’t he hold up a photograph of a transgender student who went to that university and then go on to mock that person based on their appearance call her a (Edit: word removed, is on site blacklist) who was “failing” at being transgender because “he would still bang her”?

          You’re right that mock individuals and sometimes individuals based on their appearance on The Daily Show, but I think that it’s a little different if you’re talking about a public figure in political office vs a college student who has just been politically outspoken. Going to a college campus and holding up a picture of an individual student who goes to that college just to mock them for being tansgendered and for their appearance really seems like it might cross the line between “free speech” and “harassment”.

          If you’re the one up on stage and you have a significant number of political supporters in the audience, and you go after one specific student that some of your supporters in the audience might see in class or walk past every day…i think that’s getting very dodgy. If nothing else, when Milo does stuff like that, isn’t he the one who is now using intimidation and public shaming to try to silence people he disagrees with and trying to stop them from speaking?

          Edit: Ironically, I think my comment failed to appear because, in quoting Milo, one of the words he used is on the blacklist for this site. Which I find kind of amusing, considering the context. Removing that word now, let me see if that changes it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Going to a college campus and holding up a picture of an individual student who goes to that college just to mock them for being tansgendered and for their appearance really seems like it might cross the line between “free speech” and “harassment”.

            The individual did not go to that college any more. And that doesn’t come anywhere near “harassment”, it only seems so because that word has been used so loosely. Not every instance of acting like an asshole is harassment; it tends to get shoved under such because the anti-free-speech group knows that “harassment” is often taken as an exception to free speech.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            The individual did not go to that college any more

            Interesting, I did not know that.

            Still, how is it acceptable for Milo to use public shaming and personal attacks like that to try to silence someone he disagrees with, but not ok for protesters to stand around with signs outside where he’s talking and protest against him?

            (Obviously rioting and destroying property is explicit Not Ok, but that’s a different discussion)

            Overall, I think Milo is just not a good “test case” here. The first reaction I heard from a lot of people was “Oh, the alt-right only only sends people like Milo and Spencer to college campuses is to try to incite a riot to get more attention”, which probably isn’t the reaction you want if you want to encourage people to defend free speech.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s perfectly OK for protestors to stand around with signs and object to Milo. And while mocking a transgender activist over her appearance is an asshole move, I don’t think it was intended to silence her; it was just a way for Milo to make his point. And of course to draw attention to Milo himself, because he loves that.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            Yes, we’re talking about the same incident, and your recollection matches mine. The Daily Show did frequently mock the appearance (and other things) of those who couldn’t be described as major political figures. If any of those people had turned out to be a member of a group deemed vulnerable, and The Daily Show weren’t such a critical darling of the left, I’ve no doubt outrage would have ensued.

            I keep picking out Jon Stewart for a reason, as I see Milo as more of a comedian than a journalist (Stewart is so much better, but it’s a quantitative difference not a qualitative one).

            At the risk of trying to guess people’s true motives, I’d say much of the rage against him has to do with my own tribe finding out some of our own sacred cows are easy targets for satire and not liking it one bit.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            At the risk of trying to guess people’s true motives, I’d say much of the rage against him has to do with my own tribe finding out some of our own sacred cows are easy targets for satire and not liking it one bit.

            I think it’s fear. Personally, when I see a well known figure with a significant base of support single out a single LGBT person in that manner and attack them in that way, my brain immedeatly pattern-matches that to events in the past which frequently led to violent attacks against the person.

            That might not have been Milo’s intent. Perhaps he wasn’t thinking in those terms, and legally speaking he certanly did not do anything that would be considered inciting violence or anything illegal like that. But considering the very high frequency of violence against Trans people in our society today, seeing one of them get singled out in front of a large crowd like that (many of whom were alt-right supporters of Milo) is going to make people freak the hell out. Which may be exactally the reaction Milo was going for, he’s always thrived on creating controversy.

            It might not be rational in this case, but I think the reaction people had was totally predictable. And I don’t think he would have gotten that reaction if he had just done offensive “satire” towards, say, trans people in general; the threat that is implied when singling out one person in specific (and even holding up their picture for crying out loud) is one that people are going to react to very strongly.

            To give a counterexample from the other side of the ideological fence, if a 1970’s anti-Vietmen war protester was standing in front of a large crowd, holding up a picture of a specific soldier, calling that soldier by name, in a town where people who him, and specifically called that soldier a “baby-killer”, I would have the exact same reaction. If you are on stage and have a following like that, you DO NOT single out random individuals in the area like that as “out-group” targets of your group’s hatred, it’s an extremly dangerous thing to do.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I’m not dismissing the idea that there are vulnerable classes of people we should be extra nice to, and that trans people are an example of such a class (doing what Milo did to one of my friends, who for all the world just want to be left alone, would be beyond the pale). What I’m saying is that the picture Milo used was a screen capture from a news report that the student had decided to do because they believed it was bigoted for college girls to not want to get undressed in the locker room while there’s a penis-having, for-all-the-world-looking-like-a-guy-in-makeup person right there with them (I don’t want to get into an ontological debate over trans people, so just consider that descriptive). Asking that people not be allowed to mock you personally when you are trying to enact rules that will affect their lives detrimentally (I’m taking the other girls’ word for it that this was detrimental to them) is asking too much. Asking that people not use a public newscast you did mock you? That’s asking far, far too much and leads me down the same avenues of thought as Scott when he wondered if these ideas of social justice might not be about justice at all, but rather political weapons.

          • howardtreesong says:

            @Yosarian

            Here’s Milo’s quote from a day afterwards:

            “Now, this young person — sometimes they think, sometimes they say I’m mean, sometimes they say it’s too much. Sometimes they say you’re too vindictive, it’s too cruel. But the point of doing this, is that, you know, they invoke the government, they use the government to get a variety of things through that ordinary, normal people would not permit. And then this person, Justine or Adelaide, or whatever he calls himself this week —

            [audience laughter]

            It’s Christmas, I don’t care anymore!

            Adelaide, good lord, went to the press and said I had used violent words as though violent words were a thing. What the fuck is a violent word? If you can’t take a joke, how are you going to deal with having your dick cut off?”

            Milo’s treatment of this was indeed mean, and because he seemed to know exactly what he was doing, also cruel. And I think he’s wrong at the limiting case, in which words that directly incite violence do mean that “violent words [are] a thing.” But he’s more broadly correct that words that are just mean or cruel and no more are not violent, and that a very definite distinction between words on the one hand and violence on the other exists. And that distinction is worth keeping in mind.

            FWIW, you (Yosarian) at least mildly suggest that Milo and Spencer are intellectual fellow-travelers. I don’t think that’s at all correct, although that was a narrative the left touted for a while.

          • Matt M says:

            And I think he’s wrong at the limiting case, in which words that directly incite violence do mean that “violent words [are] a thing.”

            One of my favorite observations relating to this was something like: “SJWs say it’s appropriate to stop Milo because his speeches are the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. So in order to stop him, they pull fire alarms in crowded theaters.”

          • howardtreesong says:

            In fairness to Milo, I don’t think he was trying to silence anyone. He has a fair track record of giving his opponents every chance to speak their minds and articulate their positions. Clearly Milo thought the (presurgery) transgender student was wrong to invoke Title IX to gain access to a women’s locker room, but he was entirely willing to debate the issue. His mockery and his cruelty are not admirable, in my view. But they were often effective to publicize his view that much of what goes on in the SJW universe is purely ridiculous. In this specific instance, part of the debate was SJW criticism of the phrase “man up.” I can see his point.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ Yosarian2:

            Going to a college campus and holding up a picture of an individual student who goes to that college

            The phrase “holding up a picture” is misleading in that there was no “holding up” of pictures in Milo’s talk. It was a powerpoint-style talk, so when Milo discussed the ex-student and that person’s campaign, Milo had included a photo in his slide deck as a visual aid, just as he had included pictures of everyone else discussed in the talk. So one might say Milo “used” a picture or “presented” a picture or “included” one, but he didn’t “hold one up”. This might seem like a nitpick, but “holding up” strongly implies something much weirder and more specific to that student than what was actually done.

            You know how when Colbert discusses political figures, a photo of that person shows up over Colbert’s shoulder? That’s what happened here. In context, if Milo were going to mention any specific person it actually would have been a bit weird not to have shown a photo.

            The whole talk is here; the part with the trans student starts around 49 minutes in but is just a couple minutes out of a 2 hour speech – you might want to try watching the whole speech rather than assuming your sources are accurately describing it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Glen,

            This strikes me a meaningless distinction, Yosarian’s reasoning would hold regardless of whether the picture was digital or physical.

          • Matt M says:

            The issue isn’t the medium or even the presentation. The issue is whether the person in question is a legitimate target.

            Milo’s critics present the case as “he targeted some random trans student in the school and started mocking them because he’s a jerk.” His defenders point out that said student had taken an active and public role in a highly visible and contentious political issue, thus making xerself essentially a “public figure” and therefore a legitimate target of criticism.

            This is the major point of contention.

          • howardtreesong says:

            I just watched that sequence in its entirety. Milo’s main point was to rail about a transgender student (born male) using Title IX to gain access to a women’s locker room. That’s not an unreasonable point. In so doing, Milo expressly acknowledged that putting up a picture and calling out an individual was mean. He put up a photo of the individual and suggested that (s)he was failing as a transgender because (s)he still looked like a man. His direct quote: “that’s a man in a dress.” From the photo, that’s indisputably true. Milo saying he’d still bang her was, I think, intended to articulate that the individual was a good-looking man — also true. I don’t see the sequence as threatening, but I’m interesting seeing if others who watch it find it to be so.

            @hlyn, Yosarian: please watch that portion of the video. Does it appear as though that crowd was threatening of the transgender student, or amused by Milo’s take on it, or both, or something else?

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I agree it shouldn’t matter whether one holds up a picture or displays it on a screen. That said, what does matter (and I mentioned this above) is the fact the picture was a screenshot of a a program the student had willingly appeared in. Milo was mocking a news story and using a picture of that same news story. This is wrong???

            People who say it is are in effect saying that once you achieve some sort of protected status you can join the political fight, but nobody is allowed to fight back. You can mock, but you cannot be mocked. You can make proclamations, but your opponents cannot retort. If someone is told that’s how polite society operates and they decide to burn down polite society, I don’t blame them one bit.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            This strikes me a meaningless distinction, Yosarian’s reasoning would hold regardless of whether the picture was digital or physical.

            Well…maybe? I had a couple problems with it. One issue is that having a powerpoint slide in a presentation is at the very least a noncentral example of “holding up a photograph”. (For me the central example that comes to mind for “holding up a photograph” is an angry protestor marching with a paperboard sign – this wasn’t that.)

            The larger issue is that saying Milo “held up a photograph” makes it obvious the person decrying this act hasn’t seen it and thus lacks the ability to personally judge nuance or context. That the photo was in powerpoint, that it was a news photo, that it was one of dozens of slides shown, that Milo was primarily criticizing the student’s actions and was doing so in passing while making some other point entirely (trying to entertainingly make use of words banned by the “just words” program of the university’s Inclusive Excellence Center)…is all context that might help someone grok how offensive the act might or might not be, if they’d seen the video.

            (The IEC discussion starts around minute 40; the student is mentioned at the tail end of that section around minute 49.)

          • Kevin C. says:

            @xXxanonxXx

            You can mock, but you cannot be mocked. You can make proclamations, but your opponents cannot retort.

            Quod licet iovi non licet bovi. This is how status and hierarchy work: the higher may strike against the lower in ways the lower cannot strike the higher. A samurai could cut down a rude peasant, but a rude peasant couldn’t cut down a rude samurai. Look at the origin of the term “pecking order”. The real difference between actual “punching up” and “punching down” is that the former is severely punished when it is done. If you can get away with the “punching”, or even more, be praised for it, you’re really punching down.

  10. Luke Perrin says:

    One man’s modus ponens is another mans modus tollens.

  11. johnmcg says:

    On the one hand, I agree, in that people shouldn’t go out of their way to yoke controversial (or downright offensive causes) to important principles. And those who are entrusted with privileges coming from them have a responsibility to be good stewards of them. If you use Freedom of the Press to publish revenge porn, you’re doing damage to Freedom of the Press.

    On the other hand, I think the mechanism you describe has started operating at lightning speed recently, and it’s probably worth figuring out why and trying to fix it.

    Religious freedom went from being a bedrock principle to scare-quoted eye-roll enducing concept in, essentially, two or three controversies — the birth control mandate and the Indiana law. Perphaps proponents were wrong to invoke the principle in this case.

    Still,we do seem awfully quick to jettison these principles when they don’t align with our desired results.

    One response would be to cool off a bit in pressing claims on those principles, as Scott suggested.

    Another would be to “heighten the contradictions” and shine a harsh light on what’s happening so those unaware can be aware and start doing something about it.

    I’m not sure what the most prudent course is.

    • ignition says:

      Religious freedom went from being a bedrock principle to scare-quoted eye-roll enducing concept in, essentially, two or three controversies — the birth control mandate and the Indiana law. Perphaps proponents were wrong to invoke the principle in this case.

      I don’t think standard-issue American Christians trip the “religious freedom” mental alarm for the rest of the U.S.
      Religious freedom is for protecting weird adorable foreign beliefs.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      I don’t think that people on the left are “jettisoning” the principle of freedom of religion. They are more then willing to defend it when, for example, the preception is that the govenrment is discriminating against Muslims.

      It’s more a matter of rolling their eyes at people who try to use “freedom of religion” to restrict the freedom of people who do not agree with the dominant religion on certain points (which could be gay people, trans people, people who want to use certain forms of birth control the dominant religion disproves of, ect). (There’s an interesting debate here about the conflict between the “right to refuse to offer a service to people” vs “the right to not be discriminated against by businesses” that reminds me of civil right’s era debates, but let me try to not get too sidetracked). The point is that that really feels like the *opposite* of freedom of religion to a lot of people, which is why they put “freedom of religion” in scare quotes and roll their eyes at it. They’re not disagreeing with the principle, they think it’s being quoted in a situation it does not apply.

      (Maybe that’s true in some of the cases Scott is talking about as well? I’m not sure, when you get into free speech it gets a lot murkier to me.)

    • Tyrrell McAllister says:

      > I’m not sure what the most prudent course is.

      Scott points to a third way: Yes, use the principle to protect yourself. But also work to convince your opponents that the principle protects them, too. Otherwise, your opponents will see the principle as just another weapon in your arsenal to be used against them. Encourage your opponents to see the principle as something that helps them, too.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        But also work to convince your opponents that the principle protects them, too.

        “Before you know it, you too might have to sell a cake/serve pizza to someone whose lifestyle you disapprove of”

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Before you know it, you too might have to sell a cake/serve pizza to someone whose lifestyle you disapprove of”

          Even Goreans have to eat sometimes.

  12. Steve Sailer says:

    By the way, Chinese students at UC San Diego are demanding on the grounds of Diversity Sensitivity that the Dalai Lama be disinvited from giving the commencement address:

    “As Chinese alumni, we are proud to be part of the growing UC community because of its diversity and inclusiveness. When addressing such a diverse community, there is a greater responsibility to spread a message that brings people together, rather than split them apart. During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones. If Tenzin Gyatso expresses his political views under the guise of “spirituality and compassion,” the Chinese segment of this community will feel extremely offended and disrespected during this special occasion.”

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/diversity-means-beijing-must-rule-all-under-heaven/

    • The Nybbler says:

      They try stuff like that a lot, and it never seems to work. The Dalai Lama is Good in the eyes of the arbiters of diversity, so the same complaints which work against others don’t work against him. This must confuse the Chinese government or whoever is running these campaigns.

      • wysinwygymmv says:

        To be fair, it’s hard for a corrupt authoritarian government to look good compared to an elderly be-robed person who mostly talks about love and compassion, and I don’t think you really need to invoke any “arbiters of diversity”* to see why.

        *This seems to posit the existence of a group of people making these decisions in an organized manner, and I think that’s probably not the case but I’m open to evidence to the contrary.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Especially if a large part of the elderly be-robed person’s plea to the corrupt authoritarian government is ‘Can you maybe stop trying to erase my people’s culture by forced assimilation?’. You would need superhuman rhetorical skills to spin the Chinese government as being closer to the values of diversity and inclusiveness in a way that anyone else could find convincing.

  13. Stezinec says:

    even an incontrovertible proof that a certain principle supports your own tribe is going to turn out to be a gigantic booby prize. It won’t make the other side reconsider what errors have led them to contradict such hallowed ideals. It’s just going make half the population start hating the sacred principles necessary for society to function.

    I think what the Harvard students are doing is flipping the first sentence on its head: they’re conveying that their tribe supports the principle of free speech, not that free speech supports their tribe.

    And I wonder on that score: what if it’s actually the case that one tribe supports sacred principles more than another? Obviously we don’t want naked partisanship, but can’t tribal dynamics be used for good in some cases, if it’s in pursuit of promoting these higher principles?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I think Scott’s point still tends to apply. If the Red Tribe lays claim to free speech, then Blue Tribe members will distance themselves from it to avoid giving Red signals, and we’re back to depleting the commons.

      I guess you could argue that the Red Tribe will increase its support of Free Speech more than the Blue Tribe will decrease, but given that Free Speech used to be a pretty uncontroverisal issue, I find it hard to believe that you can improve things by making it unpalatable to half the US.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        the only problem with this analysis is that the Blue Tribe has and had already started distancing themselves from it – and that there is a center tribe. If the Blue Tribe is already distancing themselves, I’d rather deplete the commons to weaponize the center tribe, to the point where the Blue Tribe tries to re-take the commons. Free Speech is a strong commons, such that this is a good idea.

        • mupetblast says:

          Right. The bluest corner of the blue tribe was already denouncing fellow members long before someone like Milo came along. See the treatment of Ayann Hirsi Ali, who almost anyone would have guessed would be a member of the blue tribe in good standing (black, female, victim of religious patriarchy). She’s been no-platformed as well, along with Germaine Greer and other both explicit and theoretical (if you will) lefties.

          As one Twitter user put it months ago, the bleeding edge of the left has been “defining people into fascism and then complaining that they’re there.”

          • Kevin C. says:

            the bleeding edge of the left has been “defining people into fascism and then complaining that they’re there.”

            Well, given that the purpose of “defining people into fascism” is to make them flee the label into conformity with those doing that defining, why shouldn’t they complain? Why shouldn’t one complain when some portion of your flock keep on sinning despite all your “repent, sinner!” sermons?

      • Mary says:

        Making it? Is there any evidence that their finding it unpalatable did not long precede this?

        • Ninety-Three says:

          More unpalatable if you like. Regardless of your frame of reference, it diminishes support.

  14. konshtok says:

    Free speech is not an Exhaustible Resource
    Free speech is a Social Norm
    If you don’t maintain a norm by punishing violators the norm dies

    do you like free speech?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Right.

      What we need are discussions of how to support free speech effectively, such as by enforcing laws against rioting or threatening violence while masked that many states passed long ago to crack down on the KKK.

    • onyomi says:

      +1

      Free speech is different from other sacred values in that its association with objectionable ideas is inherent, not incidental. People who react to hearing something they don’t like by subtracting from their “free speech fund” fundamentally don’t get free speech (example: there are Youtube communists whose opinions horrify and disgust me; in reaction I think “I am horrified to learn there are people with these opinions,” but never “Youtube should shut these accounts”).

      The danger to free speech isn’t that people will think “free speech: boo!” but that the idea of free speech will be narrowed and narrowed until it’s equivalent to free action: “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” becomes “your right to speak ends at my feelings.” This is why I still think Milo has been helpful, overall: by offering a performative rebuttal to that idea.*

      Uninviting a controversial speaker people wanted to listen to or keeping one’s mouth shut for fear of incurring SJW wrath doesn’t amount to keeping one’s powder dry. It amounts to ceding ground. It makes it easier to uninvite the next guy and harder to speak up next time, not the reverse.

      Allowing a platform for controversial ideas is the only way to express support for free speech. For better or worse, Harvard is still influential. Harvard students publicly expressing support for a social norm strengthens it, not weakens it.

      *if he goes wrong anywhere (other than talking about pedophilia) I’d say it’s in his occasional use of personal insults; while they aren’t the same as physical attacks, I think they go against the spirit of free debate free speech is meant to protect; if there’s any example of burning the free speech commons, I’d say it’s using free speech for ad hominem, rather than to express controversial ideas; it lends credence to the idea that “free speech” is really just a cover for personal insults and not a value needed to insure free and open exchange of ideas.

      • gemmaem says:

        Ooh, I like that footnote of yours. Yiannopoulos bothers me because he so often seems to want to use free speech to hurt people, either as an end in itself or as a way to draw a reaction out of people who don’t like seeing individuals hurt.

        Admittedly, Yiannopoulos is reacting to a set of arguments on the left that boil down to “your speech hurts me, therefore you [good version] shouldn’t say it, morally speaking / [bad version] shouldn’t be allowed to say it, as a matter of policy.” One could argue that Yiannopoulos is trying to strengthen the position of those who inadvertently hurt others’ feelings by trying to highlight that even deliberately hurting people’s feelings should be allowed.

        I disagree, though. Open academic debate is much easier to defend in situations where someone is using it to advance a sincere argument, and any hurt caused is incidental, rather than being the whole point of the exercise. There are so many good arguments in favor of listening to people you disagree with that just don’t apply when the person you disagree with is going out of their way to deliberately hurt you as much as possible.

        • mupetblast says:

          “Open academic debate…”

          Free speech on campus doesn’t simply involve academic debate. It involves monologues, musical performances, poetry slams, etc. The foul and toxic equivalent of Milo on the left – say, Jello Biafra, Margaret Cho or Sandra Bernhard – have been the beneficiaries of robust and strongly-defended free speech norms. It only became a problematic “thing” when the right started doing it too, on their own terms.

      • mupetblast says:

        + 1 (making it what now, 2?)

      • Gazeboist says:

        There’s a distinct difference between uninviting someone and not inviting someone, just as there’s a difference between not signing a contract and breaking the same. Scott is suggesting the latter course*, but a lot of people seem to be arguing against the former.

        * Though presumably not in every case. My personal rule of thumb would be to invite a controversial expert when their expertise, rather than their controversy, is topical; the Harvard case, at least as Scott presents it, is one of the latter. Milo is a poor advocate for free speech because he is not an expert but a controversy generator.

    • Jaskologist says:

      That says what I wanted to much better. Scott hasn’t properly considered the case that the left has already abandoned free speech as a principle, and how that should be responded to. You know how we always harp on Brendan Eich? That all boiled down to complaining “the left has abandoned free speech.”

      If Harvard students were trying to use free speech as toxoplasmosis, they would invite Milo. Peterson is a kindly old man; the worst you can say about him is that he’s a bit of a kook. This is calculated to win over the center and marginalize the SJW left.

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, by inviting serious academics, they are clearly defending the “freedom to express controversial ideas is a necessary component of academic inquiry” value, not the free speech absolutist “free speech includes the freedom to be intentionally and personally insulting” value Milo represents.

        While I am personally a free speech absolutist (which principle’s most valiant defenders have long been the Westboro Baptist Church), I also think ad hominem goes against the values of academic inquiry; universities can make a good case that they don’t have any responsibility to defend an absolute free speech zone for its own sake; it’s much harder (and, I think, incorrect) for them to claim that freedom to express controversial ideas isn’t an important part of the search for truth.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I wrote a longer response to Scott’s post before reading through the comments. I should have written this.

    • wysinwygymmv says:

      If you don’t maintain a norm by punishing violators the norm dies

      “Why are leftists so mean about racism and sexism?”

      You know how we always harp on Brendan Eich? That all boiled down to complaining “the left has abandoned free speech.”

      Well, you know…if you don’t maintain a norm by punishing violators then the norm dies.

      (Also, the whole left is responsible for that now? Can SSC pick whether or not guilt by association is a good thing and stick with that answer?)

      Here we have an example of something mentioned above: two norms that are in tension trading off against each other tolerance for gays vs. free speech. There’s a lot of similar tradeoffs — the relevant one with Murray at least is race.

      So when you invite Murray to give a talk as a free speech promotional stunt, you’re putting anti-racism and free speech in tension. People who favor free speech over anti-racism will favor it and people who favor anti-racism over free speech will be against it.

      You’re not doing anything to convince the people who favor anti-racism over free speech that they are wrong about their preference of social norms. You’re just splitting them apart from the group that favors free speech a little bit more than anti-racism.

      That’s good tactics if the free speech people outnumber the anti-racism people. Otherwise, I’m not sure it’s so tactically sound.

      As for what’s actually right or wrong, there is no unfalsifiable bedrock of fact on which to base moral claims so it’s irrelevant assuming it’s even a coherent concept in the first place. If you want to convince people that free speech is more important than anti-racism, then you have to make a case for that by appealing to values that the person already holds and experiences they’ve already encountered. Getting moralistic doesn’t get you anywhere (it’s counterproductive since it will just make the people you need to convince say “No, you!”).

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Well, you know…if you don’t maintain a norm by punishing violators then the norm dies.

        Since when has “It’s forbidden to make a private donation to a mainstream political campaign” been a norm in America?

        • wysinwygymmv says:

          The norm in question is “opposition to inclusion of homosexuals as full members of society.” According to the theory I quoted, violators of this norm must be punished else the norm dies.

          People in favor of inclusion of homosexuals as full members of society are interested in maintaining that norm, so they punish violators instead of letting the norm die. Some people might feel more strongly about this norm than about Brendan Eich’s right to free speech, in which case it’s clear which side they’ll take.

          I’m not the one who came up with the “violators of the norm must be punished else the norm dies” theory, so you may be arguing with the wrong person.

          I’m not personally taking a side, I’m trying to explain people’s behavior to other people who seem mystified by it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This is an excellent point.

            I also think there is thing where people conflate two different things.

            Suppose Alex exercises their right to free-speech to promote, say, a racist view of the world. Bob attempts prevent anyone from hearing Alex. Carol organizes a counter-speech in a different location wherein she condemns Alex’s views and Alex’s world-view.

            Bob and Carol are not engaging in equivalent actions.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Free speech is an incredibly long established norm, with a long tradition and broad consensus support on both sides.

            Homosexual marriage was obviously not a settled societal norm in the society where people were 100% legally allowed to donate to causes against it and a lot of people did, and otherwise opposed it becoming law (which correlates with but is not cultural/social, which is the sphere of norms).

            They no more accept that Eich is a sinner for opposing gay marriage than that we’re all sinners for not bowing before the lord allah and his prophet mohammed, and thus that osama bin laden was merely “MAINTAINING” (your wording) a norm in deciding to punish america for its apostasy.

            This is exactly the kind of well-poisoning sophism that really does fuck up the commons. Most people can’t disentangle it, or at least not without significant effort. But they do KNOW you’re fucking with them, that you’re taking advantage of their lack of mental nimbleness.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Homosexual marriage was obviously not a settled societal norm in the society where people were 100% legally allowed to donate to causes against it and a lot of people did, and otherwise opposed it becoming law (which correlates with but is not cultural/social, which is the sphere of norms).

            Plus, Proposition 8 ended up passing. It’s not at all clear how exactly Eich was meant to be violating a norm if >50% of the voters agreed with him.

          • Nornagest says:

            Free speech is an incredibly long established norm […] Homosexual marriage was obviously not a settled societal norm in the society where people were 100% legally allowed to donate to causes against it and a lot of people did

            If I was being a smartass, I’d say that people are allowed to donate to causes opposed to free speech, and that a lot of people do.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @Nornagest

            thanks for the stress test.

            If you were pulling me up on that point, I might say something like.. I don’t know if there even are any institutions where being anti free speech is 1. the primary/only purpose 2. not only openly but so in an explicit upfront manner with little or no obfuscation.

            And that If they are then they are not getting donations and casual social promotion to the same extent anti gay marriage ones was, and certainly not with the same openness/directness.

            The “100% legal” part was probably a little superfluous, but I’d at least read up on my law textbooks before I started rabble rousing against the first amendment. Is “treason” still on the books?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know if there even are any institutions where being anti free speech is 1. the primary/only purpose 2. not only openly but so in an explicit upfront manner with little or no obfuscation.

            Anti-obscenity groups are probably the most straightforward example; no, they don’t identify themselves as anti-free speech, but e.g. pro-choice activists don’t call themselves anti-life either. Activism against hate speech is only slightly less so, but tends to come packaged with other types of activism, which dilutes it.

            Treason is still on the books in the US, but it’s rarely used. The last case (and only in the post-WWII era) that I’m aware of is that of Adam Yahiye Gadahn; that’s an indictment, though, not a conviction.

      • IrishDude says:

        So when you invite Murray to give a talk as a free speech promotional stunt, you’re putting anti-racism and free speech in tension.

        How do you define racism?

        • wysinwygymmv says:

          Google’s dictionary definition is fine:

          prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

          To preempt your objection, I’m not stating that Murray’s views are racist, nor that Murray is a racist, nor that anyone who believes Murray’s research to be valid is racist. I am only pointing out that for people who are already racist, Murray’s work gives them a certain amount of ammunition. Hence “tension” rather than “contradiction”.

          I think it should be uncontroversial that the case that whites are higher IQ than blacks would buttress the claim that the white race is superior. Based on historical evidence, I think it would also be used as a justification for prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism against blacks.

          People who are more worried about free speech will be like “OK, a little prejudice against blacks is worth the cost of maintaining free speech.” People who are more worried about prejudice against black people will be like “OK, a few restrictions on free speech is worth preventing prejudice against blacks.” I’m not personally taking a side, just pointing out that if you’re going to appeal to someone’s values, they have to actually share the relevant values to the relevant degrees or your attempt will backfire.

          • IrishDude says:

            I think it should be uncontroversial that the case that whites are higher IQ than blacks would buttress the claim that the white race is superior.

            Superior in what way? If a white racist believes that a higher IQ makes one morally (?) superior to those with lower IQs, they’ve set themselves up to be morally inferior to the multitude of blacks that are smarter than them.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Superior in what way? If a white racist believes that a higher IQ makes one morally (?) superior to those with lower IQs, they’ve set themselves up to be morally inferior to the multitude of blacks that are smarter than them.

            I don’t know, dude, I’m not an out-and-out racist. I can’t claim to understand how they think.

            But as a matter of simple historical empirical fact, the uncorroborated presumption that whites were smarter than blacks was used as justification for slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, redlining, segregation, and more. How do you suppose scientific evidence that whites are smarter than blacks would be used?

            Do you think there’s not even a single white person who might be convinced of their racial superiority? Do you not think there are thousands of people who quietly believe that they are racially superior who would find vindication in Murray’s results?

            And do you think such people would hesitate to use Murray’s findings to make their case for white supremacy?

            And yes, I understand the difference between intellectual equality and moral equality. But does everyone understand it? Does everyone agree with it? It seems implausible to me based on my experience with unsophisticated casually racist people (I’m white trash so I know a fair number a fair number of these, including relatives). So I think the result would definitely be an increase in racism against blacks if Murray’s results were to find widespread recognition and acceptance in our society.

            This is not a moral judgment on my part, just an appraisal of what I believe to be facts.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @wysinwygymmv

            But as a matter of simple historical empirical fact, the uncorroborated presumption that whites were smarter than blacks was used as justification for slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, redlining, segregation, and more. How do you suppose scientific evidence that whites are smarter than blacks would be used?

            Semi-relevant, but definitely interesting: there is a good argument to be made that theories of racial superiority arose from colonialism, slavery, etc, rather than the other way around. “Hey, looks like we can fuck these people over and take their land/take their stuff/force them into chains, so let’s do that” creates a need for justification. People are very good at coming up with reasons why their victims deserve it.

          • IrishDude says:

            @dndnsrn

            there is a good argument to be made that theories of racial superiority arose from colonialism, slavery, etc, rather than the other way around.

            Yeah, I listened to an interesting EconTalk podcast with Mike Munger that talks about this. The discussion was based on a a paper Munger cowrote for the journal Social Philosophy and Policy called “Reconstructing Racism: Transforming Racial Hierarchy from Necessary Evil into Positive Good.” American slavery happened first, then to keep the institution going they developed justifications about why they’re actually doing a good thing.

            An excerpt from the podcast:
            “So, the way we defined it in this paper was that racism became a substitute justification for slavery. And the reason was, the original justification for slavery, which was the Roman one of wasn’t good enough. And so Southerners cast about and found basically an alternative, which was the Greek justification for slavery. And let me just say very briefly what those two are.

            The one justification for slavery, and it was pretty common in Rome, was that if you lost a battle and were captured, then you might either be killed or kept as a slave. And there is a mutually beneficial exchange, if you will, in the sense that you’ve already lost. So, me saying, ‘I tell you what: I won’t kill you if you will agree to act as my slave for the rest of your life. And I may free you; I may not; but that’s up to me.’ And you say, ‘Killed/be a slave: I’m going to go with the slave thing.’ But, it meant that some slaves were very excellent. And in Roman society some slaves occupied very high positions, positions of respect. It’s just that they made this promise. It was an economic institution. And that was the way that slavery had existed in Africa: if you lost a battle, then you would be captured by the other side. It was almost like indentured servitude: you could work it off. Well, that didn’t work in the American South because they wanted to maintain slaves, to be able to identify slaves and to have a justification that would allow them to enslave the children–which the old Roman justification would never have allowed. You are not going to be a slave if you are born to a slave, because you didn’t lose in battle: you would have been free.

            So, the Southerners needed a different way, so they were looking for the Aristotelian notion of slavery, which is that slaves are people who are either morally inferior or lack the judgment to make independent choices. They are like children or like horses. That means that you actually have a positive-good justification for enslaving them: if I have a thoroughbred horse or a fancy dog, it would be cruel of me to set it loose to let it run around, because it’s not capable of taking care of itself. I have obligations to take care of it. My ownership actually gives me obligations. And what’s interesting and what this paper is about is how Southerners worked that out between about 1815 and 1835, and started to understand the implications for how they had to change the economic institutions of slavery to match this new ideology that they were creating.”

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t this just a universal, though?

            We know that there is significant correlation between intelligence and unemployment. Yet it’s very common to see people rationalize that the outcomes are just by blaming the unemployed for being lazy.

          • IrishDude says:

            How do you suppose scientific evidence that whites are smarter than blacks would be used?

            The evidence is median IQ is higher for Whites than Blacks, but also higher for Asians than Whites. So, any White person using median IQs for a group as evidence of their moral superiority as a group has to admit their moral inferiority to Asians. For those who don’t like that conclusion, they have to discard median IQs as evidence of moral superiority of groups.

            Do you think there’s not even a single white person who might be convinced of their racial superiority?

            It’s possible there’s a non-racist white person that sees IQ data and becomes racist, but I think it very unlikely. It’s more likely that existing racists use Murray as a citation to justify their already existing racial hatred. But it’s not like before IQ data was analyzed racists thought blacks and whites were moral and intellectual equals.

            And do you think such people would hesitate to use Murray’s findings to make their case for white supremacy?

            Sure. But racists will cling to anything to justify their beliefs, including something like a Census Bureau report that shows blacks having lower incomes than whites (see page 5). I’d think it wrong for any anti-racist group that wanted to suppress the Census Bureau’s publication of the income data.

            So I think the result would definitely be an increase in racism against blacks if Murray’s results were to find widespread recognition and acceptance in our society.

            Would you like to venture a guess at the magnitude of the increase?

            Also, do you think protesters blocking Murray speaking will be successful at preventing the widespread dissemination of IQ group differences? It seems to me we live in an age where information can’t be suppressed any more, so blocking one speaker from a talk here or there is unlikely to be productive at preventing information entering the public, and that blocking the talks may lead to press coverage that actually increase the likelihood that people seek out the views of the blocked speaker.

            You haven’t stated your position yet, so would you like to state whether you think Murray should speak at Harvard or be prevented from doing so?

          • IrishDude says:

            We know that there is significant correlation between intelligence and unemployment. Yet it’s very common to see people rationalize that the outcomes are just by blaming the unemployed for being lazy.

            I can’t speak for others, but I blame unemployment on labor regulations, including minimum wage, and welfare programs that disincentivize work.

            I’m not sure what you mean by people thinking unemployment is just for people with lower IQs, as usually I see people preferring the unemployed get a job.

          • Aapje says:

            @IrishDude

            It seems to me we live in an age where information can’t be suppressed any more, so blocking one speaker from a talk here or there is unlikely to be productive at preventing information entering the public, and that blocking the talks may lead to press coverage that actually increase the likelihood that people seek out the views of the blocked speaker

            I would argue that if smart people mind kill themselves to be unwilling to discuss these controversial topics reasonably, you will get a lack of push back against these ideas. You already see that the obvious bias in much of the media is making many people disregard it. So at that point, you get parallel societies with their own truths, with each society having stupid beliefs that they won’t get solid push back against.

            I’m not sure what you mean by people thinking unemployment is just for people with lower IQs, as usually I see people preferring the unemployed get a job.

            My point was that they believe a convenient falsehood (these people had equal chances to me but chose to be lazy) over the truth (many of these people have far less chances than me due to the bad luck of being born with low IQ).

            The same denial that IQ is meaningful and correlates with outcomes, which is one strategy that people use to disarm HBD, ironically also creates beliefs that justify harmful treatment of the poor. It seems to me that trying to prevent harm by lying to people tends to often result in these lies causing other kinds of harm.

            PS. Your solutions completely fail to address the issue that low IQ people can produce less and less economic value, so removing the minimum wage, labor regulations and welfare just puts them on a path towards a low-grade life.

          • Marie says:

            So, any White person using median IQs for a group as evidence of their moral superiority as a group has to admit their moral inferiority to Asians.

            What happens is they go, “The genetic link to IQ is a huge part of why we’re better and more successful than blacks. But we’re also still obviously better than Asians (look at how many awesome things European culture invented!), so just like we’ve proved smartness is genetic, there must also be a genetic component to things like ambition and independence and drive and originality that we haven’t identified yet, and the white combination of all these genetic traits is the best.” The first time I heard this stated explicity, by an old boss of mine, it admittedly threw me for a loop, because I had always thought that higher Asian IQ would put a damper on attempts to use it to prove white superiority.

          • IrishDude says:

            It seems to me that trying to prevent harm by lying to people tends to often result in these lies causing other kinds of harm.

            Got ya and I agree. Lying can have unintended consequences that may be worse than the harm the lie was trying to avoid.

            Your solutions completely fail to address the issue that low IQ people can produce less and less economic value, so removing the minimum wage, labor regulations and welfare just puts them on a path towards a low-grade life.

            Unemployment and low wages are two different problems, and the post I responded to raised the first issue. If low IQ people produce little economic value, then setting wage floors above their productivity locks them out of the labor market completely. The problem then isn’t little income, it’s no income.

            I’m not sure how you define a low-grade life, but living on the dole instead of engaging in productive work with the potential to move up seems low-grade in some sense of that term.

            My point was that they believe a convenient falsehood (these people had equal chances to me but chose to be lazy) over the truth (many of these people have far less chances than me due to the bad luck of being born with low IQ).

            Well, I think lots of factors play into people’s incomes. IQ is one, but work ethic is another. You agree that some people have strong work ethics and some don’t, right? Would it then be surprising if, other things equal, those with weak work ethics were lower on the income scale?

            Speaking for myself, I earn less income than I would if I had a stronger work ethic. For one, I don’t take on a second job that could earn me additional income, and stop at my 40 hour work week. Also, I’ve been offered management positions with significant increases in pay and declined them, first because I’m not interested in the nature of the work and second because it would be harder to satisfy my preference to surf the internet significant portions of the day while working (i.e., laziness and a preference for leisure over work).

          • IrishDude says:

            What happens is they go, “The genetic link to IQ is a huge part of why we’re better and more successful than blacks. But we’re also still obviously better than Asians (look at how many awesome things European culture invented!), so just like we’ve proved smartness is genetic, there must also be a genetic component to things like ambition and independence and drive and originality that we haven’t identified yet, and the white combination of all these genetic traits is the best.”

            I’d point to Asians dominating Silicon Valley, obtaining PhDs, starting businesses, etc. They have higher incomes than Whites so it looks like as a group they’re doing well on ambition, independence, drive, and originality. And I’d note that them doing better, as a group average, still doesn’t make them morally superior to any other group.

            Also, I’d note individuals differ wildly within a group and a 5 minute conversation will tell you more about a person than any physical trait they have. Ultimately, I’d try to talk about things like how morals are about how we treat one another rather than how smart people are.

          • Anonymous says:

            What happens is they go, “The genetic link to IQ is a huge part of why we’re better and more successful than blacks. But we’re also still obviously better than Asians (look at how many awesome things European culture invented!), so just like we’ve proved smartness is genetic, there must also be a genetic component to things like ambition and independence and drive and originality that we haven’t identified yet, and the white combination of all these genetic traits is the best.”

            With Asians, it may have been just bad luck. I mean, given an example, they can obviously catch up to westerners very quickly. In many ways, the Japanese, for instance, have a substantially better society now than we do, and the developed parts of China are hardly backwards, not to mention South Korea (this is who you meant by ‘Asians’, right?). Whereas Africans tend to backslide from colonial times into savagery.

    • Tibor says:

      I agree with you but I think Scott’s argument is basically similar to what I said about gay pride marches here – that I think that if you goal is to make the opponents more welcome to gays and transsexuals then you want to make them look “normal”, something the opponents can relate to and say “umm, maybe these gays are actually not just a group of sick weirdos who like to wear extravagant latex costumes in public”. Similarly, if a radical left-winger thinks everyone who is not a radical left-winger is evil incarnate, it helps showing him someone who is not thaaat far from him, but just a bit, so as to soften his views of the “fascists” (which is the name for everyone who does not completely agree with him on everything).

      But while I agree with Scott on that, I think it is generally orthogonal to the issue of free speech. What he proposes might make people more open to opposing views, at least so that they adapt less manichean views. But if what you care about is free speech – i.e. the ability to freely express opinions in public, then “anything goes” should be your modus operandi and even giving a platform to people like Yanoupollis (I hope I spelled it right this time) makes sense because your position that even people who might be little more than trolls should have the right to free speech. Otherwise you’re admitting that some speech is not “respectable” enough and then someone has to judge which speech has enough content for being allowed which is already very far from actual free speech.

      Maybe from this prespective the LGBT marches also make sense even if what they do is basically the same as what the Greek guy with the hard to spell name does – essentially it sets a barrier against those who would like to curtail certain things. It is not that trolling or wearing latex costumes on a float are really important but if those are tolerated then you know that things you actually care about will be as well.

  15. TomA says:

    Who arbitrates when someone should be banned from speaking because it may overdraw from the commons? How do we assure that these censors will always be fair and balanced in their judgements? I do not see a how this methodology can be realistically implemented, and the very act of ostracizing those with whom you strongly disagree is likely to further polarize each side. If we don’t exchange words, then eventually we may be exchanging blows.

    • brentdax says:

      I don’t think Scott is talking about anyone banning speech; he’s talking about people making individual, voluntary decisions more responsibly.

      If your grocery budget is $225, nobody will ban you from spending all of it to buy one ounce of caviar, but you should probably voluntarily choose foods that will be more cost-effective. Similarly, nobody will ban you from “spending” free speech profligately, but you should probably voluntarily choose to conserve it.

      • thenoblepie says:

        That is the most charitable and sensible reading I have seen in the comments so far. Thank you.

        I still disagree though, mainly because I’m in the “free speech is something to train, not something to conserve” camp.

  16. Trofim_Lysenko says:

    This is actually something that I’ve thought about in the context of arguments about propriety, decency, and social responsibility that get made as a critique of unpopular speech (Brad made a related comment about people simply learning to keep some things to themselves a few open threads back).

    On the one hand, I think you’re absolutely right, and that most of us are not zealously committed to absolutist positions on, say, free speech, gun rights, etc etc.

    On the other hand, I come closer than most and my knee jerk intuition response to that is “hypocrites and unprincipled louts, the LOT of them!”. Yeah, that’s an unreasonable response, but allowing this point too MUCH influence skews things right back to:

    “You’re free to say whatever you want, as long as you don’t”.

    Honestly, if someone can be convinced to become truly anti free speech, Scott?

    I think I’d rather see them convinced of that. I’d rather have them unambiguously sneering at and denouncing the concept. It makes it clear where we stand.

    • hlynkacg says:

      It makes it clear where we stand.

      …and where the barricades need to be built. An enemy at the gate is preferable to a traitor in your midst.

    • Brad says:

      I’m on record as a) supporting the government focused version of free speech and b) claiming that the cultural version is both new and largely driven by ulterior motives (i.e. designed to score points in ongoing object level disputes).

      For which I receive abuse such as this:
      http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/30/links-317-relinkquishment/#comment-482190

      That apparently none of the usual suspects who go around talking about niceness, community, and civilization thought worthy of commenting on and Scott apparently didn’t think was worthy of moderation.

      So it follows that I’m rather ill inclined to comment further on the subject here. But for this particular discussion it serves too well an illustration to let the opportunity go past.

      Because what we have here is exactly the dynamic in question — a norm of unlimited social tolerance for speech no matter how nasty, despicable, and anti-social is not actually speech promoting. Yes, the worst people can speak without fear of consequences in the presence of such a norm, but most other people aren’t going to want to participate — as speakers or listeners — in such a forum.

      I can understand wanting the chans to exist, but I think insisting that everywhere be the chans is a very terrible idea.

      Having read about a quarter the comments on this post so far, there are a lot higher proportion of terrible comments as compared to say — “The Case Of The Suffocating Woman”. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

      • Salem says:

        I don’t know. I remember that at the time, and I thought it was harsh and inappropriate, and I considered reporting it.

        But I didn’t report it, because, with all due respect, you were behaving like a [redacted]. You were the first to personalise matters, and you did so repeatedly and extremely rudely. If you repeatedly accuse your interlocutors of arguing in bad faith and hidden motives, you don’t get the right to complain when they tell you to f— right off.

        Yeah, suntzuanime overreacted, but if you’re so concerned about “niceness, community and civilisation,” maybe you should listen to Michael Jackson.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Agreed. I was going to report that one, but then I looked at what it was responding to, and it looked like a case of “You asked for it, you got it”. If you’re going to complain about someone’s “bloodless” phrasing, you hardly have cause to complain when they come back with a rather more heated turn of phrase.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Hold on a second here.

            Part of suntzuanime’s schtick is going back and forth between being an offensive jerk (who apparently make some people laugh because he is sticking it to the other side) and an actual debater. You can’t really accuse Brad of starting it when suntzu has a history like that.

      • howardtreesong says:

        Charles Murray speaking at Harvard is not even remotely like the chans. Nor, for that matter, is Milo Yiannopolous — even though he is admittedly a little closer.

        • mupetblast says:

          Right. Murray and Peterson are erudite and well-mannered. Milo is not. (Although he is more eloquent than your typical shit-disturber.)

          • howardtreesong says:

            +1 to whoever it was that likened Milo to a comedian. I think that’s the right characterization of him. He’s more than a bit trollish in that he says stuff that I don’t think he truly means, but he often does so in a self-mocking or disarming way, designed to get a laugh as much as anything else.

        • Brad says:

          Charles Murray speaking at Harvard is not even remotely like the chans.

          You aren’t engaging with my point. If you argue that Charles Murray is on one side of the line, then you agree there’s a line.

          • howardtreesong says:

            Brad: “Because what we have here is exactly the dynamic in question — a norm of unlimited social tolerance for speech no matter how nasty, despicable, and anti-social is not actually speech promoting. Yes, the worst people can speak without fear of consequences in the presence of such a norm, but most other people aren’t going to want to participate — as speakers or listeners — in such a forum.”

            This appears to be your point. I do not think the premise is correct. As a practical matter, the norm in question isn’t social tolerance for all speech, no matter how despicable. The issues in question do not involve support for the Holocaust or, say, cannibalism, and it seems to me that the norm in question is whether mildly controversial conservative speech should be encouraged at our educational institutions — not insisting that the chans can or should be everywhere.

            I understand the merits of taking the argument to the limiting case, but those limiting cases don’t come close to describing reality here. So I suppose you’re correct that most people wouldn’t want to participate in a chan-level panel discussion about supporting cannibalism, but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant here.

            Put a little differently, I don’t know if there’s a line. I can see arguments on either side of that question. But if there is one, it’s so far out that it doesn’t matter.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Suntzu has long had some sort of anti-ban armor. I for one am glad that we have someone with Court Jester privileges who can gleefully jump over the “niceness, community, and civilization” line when people are inching riiiiight up to it and provoking others to cross further.

      • Brad says:

        Having read about a quarter the comments on this post so far, there are a lot higher proportion of terrible comments as compared to say — “The Case Of The Suffocating Woman”. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

        I’ve now read all the comments. One of the worst set I’ve seen since the anonymi were banned, though Guided by the Beauty was pretty bad too — but that was in no small part thanks to neo-jim.

        Again, I don’t think this is just random. Free speech* is becoming a culture war issue because it is being cynically adopted as a weapon by people that have bound up their identity in hating some or all of the left. This may seem clever to some that are doing it, but it is quite transparent to the rest of us.

        As someone who strongly supports the traditional American version of free speech, I think this is quite unfortunate. I expect we will see collateral damage from people that don’t distinguish between the two. As it is the traditional version is and was hardly universally acclaimed — just look at citizens united or the perpetually introduced flag burning amendment. Or the discussion around burquas.

        *Or more accurately a new and radical version that insists that everyone act as if he were bound by the First Amendment

        • howardtreesong says:

          Brad: “Again, I don’t think this is just random. Free speech* is becoming a culture war issue because it is being cynically adopted as a weapon by people that have bound up their identity in hating some or all of the left. This may seem clever to some that are doing it, but it is quite transparent to the rest of us.”

          It seems rather cynical to me that you ascribe particular subjective motivations to those with whom you disagree about politics. Anecdotally: I don’t hate the left, although I think they’re largely misguided. But I think the denial of speech rights — both in the context Scott posted about as well as others (such as the LA Times refusing as a matter of blanket policy to publish anything that is skeptical about climate change) — is corrosive to what our society ought to look like. I believe I hold this argument in good faith, as do many of my conservative colleagues and friends.

          • Brad says:

            It seems rather cynical to me that you ascribe particular subjective motivations to those with whom you disagree about politics.

            Have you read all or most of the comments to this post? Many posters aren’t even trying to hide it.

            But I think the denial of speech rights — both in the context Scott posted about as well as others (such as the LA Times refusing as a matter of blanket policy to publish anything that is skeptical about climate change) — is corrosive to what our society ought to look like. I believe I hold this argument in good faith, as do many of my conservative colleagues and friends.

            Do you ever champion free speech “rights”* where doing so has you opposing a conservative organization (a church perhaps) in a dispute with a someone on the left?

            *Sorry for the scare quotes, but I don’t accept your framing. These are private organizations.

          • howardtreesong says:

            And yes, Brad, to your question about whether or not I personally champion free speech rights where doing so has me opposing a conservative organization.

            You’re painting motivations with far too broad a brush.

          • Brad says:

            Read what I wrote again.

            I said that (a radical version of) free speech is being cynically adopted as a weapon by people that hate the left. That doesn’t imply the converse that all supporters are cynical left haters.

            I fully acknowledge that there are genuine believers in both traditional American free speech principles and the version that reaches into civil society on both the political left and right.

          • howardtreesong says:

            First, suntzu’s post was annoying and ridiculous, so I agree with you there.

            And yes, I get that the editorial policy of the Los Angeles Times isn’t exactly state action. What do you think would happen, however, if the Times explicitly articulated a policy that they wouldn’t publish letters to the editor written by anyone that is black?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What do you think would happen, however, if the Times explicitly articulated a policy that they wouldn’t publish letters to the editor written by anyone that is black?

            On what grounds?

          • howardtreesong says:

            I hadn’t considered that question. I suppose I didn’t imagine that the Times articulated any specific ground, but instead just established such a rule.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Why does it need grounds? It’s a private entity and can do what it wants. At least according to the legal interpretation being contested.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Because if you can’t state the grounds, you aren’t creating an analogous situation.

            IOW, the differing reaction to the two scenarios is based on the grounds for the policy, and whether it is accepted as valid.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            And yes, I get that the editorial policy of the Los Angeles Times isn’t exactly state action. What do you think would happen, however, if the Times explicitly articulated a policy that they wouldn’t publish letters to the editor written by anyone that is black?

            It would be within their free speech rights to do that. Part of what freedom of speech/ freedom of the press means is the right to NOT be forced to say something you don’t want to say. For a newspaper, that means they don’t have to publish anything they don’t want to publish.

            And it would be within my and your free speech right to organize a boycott of the newspaper and convince advertisers to stop supporting it in response. That’s also free speech.

            *Note that they probably could not have a policy of not *hiring* black writers or columnists, legally speaking. But I can’t think of any law that prevents them from not publishing letters.

          • howardtreesong says:

            @Yosarian: I don’t think that’s what would happen at all. I rather suspect we’d see some DOJ civil rights investigation of the Times and its policies, whether or not there is any actual justification for it.

            I agree that your post accurately describes what should happen, rather than what would.

      • Gazeboist says:

        To Brad:

        There is space between “everyone must be bound be the first amendment” and “only the government is bound to respect free speech.”

        To Brad’s opponents:

        There is space between “anyone can decide to ostracize whoever they like for their speech” and “we must increase the number of speakers that leftists dislike in order to show those leftists that they can’t stop us.”

        —-

        The whole idea of Niceness, Community, and Civilization is that we should calmly let other people do their thing unless they are currently, actively preventing others from doing theirs. The appropriate response to violence (metaphorical or otherwise) is the prevention of future violence. If that doesn’t involve directly punishing the perpetrators, suck it up. If people are advocating stupid things, argue with them. Demonstrate the wrongness of their view. It’s not hard, if you don’t get distracted by the instinct to punish. Seriously, the entire problem with free speech on the left is that their ability to argue has been overwhelmed by the instinct to punish. Don’t fall into the same trap.

        Remember the number one rule of dealing with trolls and flamers: DON’T FEED.

        • Brad says:

          To Brad:

          There is space between “everyone must be bound be the first amendment” and “only the government is bound to respect free speech.”

          Okay, there’s space there. But I disagree that we as society should be somewhere in that space.

          In my opinion free speech is only about the government. Some value laden organizations are bound to principles that somewhat overlap — like universities and the principle of free inquiry — but they aren’t one in the same and I think conflating them is unhelpful. Individuals and organizations generally are not bound to anything similar. It is perfectly ethical to make personal and economic decisions based on other people’s speech and to encourage others (including most organizations) to do likewise.

          It might be unethical at the object level to react negatively to speech that is actually good, but there’s nothing intrinsically unethical about firing someone for what he said or or encouraging companies you do business with to do so.

          Which is not to say that we ought never have forgiveness or forgetfulness. Nor to say that it isn’t sometimes wise or even ethical to let things slide. But rather to disagree with the opposite view that there is some intrinsic and universally applicable ethical principle in play.

          Furthermore, besides just being my opinion, I don’t think what I’m saying is contrary to the broad American view of free speech, liberalism more generally, enlightenment values or so on. I believe my position is the traditional one and the view that everyone is ethically bound to *at very least* not encourage / pressure others to take a negative action towards someone because of something he said is an innovation that bears a strong burden of persuasion. Quoting Rousseau or similar to the contrary is I believe taking them out of context.

          • Nornagest says:

            Individuals and organizations generally are not bound to anything similar. It is perfectly ethical to make personal and economic decisions based on other people’s speech and to encourage others (including most organizations) to do likewise.

            Okay, so what makes free speech a good idea when we apply it to the government and not when applied to your neighbor that just called you an [insert applicable racial slur]?

            The obvious answer is the potential for coercion and abuse of power. But there’s nothing magical about the government that makes it the only source of coercion or the only locus of power; they have people with guns, or at least more people with bigger guns and more license to use them, but there are other ways to coerce people than by pointing guns at them. It follows that we should be concerned about violations of the principle of free speech by an actor in proportion to that actor’s leverage over you, and maybe also to the degree of prior consent you gave regarding your speech (if you signed up for a job as a Pepsi spokesman, you knew damn well what you were getting into, and your boss firing you for praising Coke would probably be justified).

            The government has a lot of leverage. Your neighbor doesn’t have very much. A Twitter mob is somewhere in between.

          • Brad says:

            A spouse has enormous de facto power over her spouse and his day to day happiness but no one (?) thinks it is illegitimate for a spouse to negatively react to speech. Ditto for something like the three guys you go bowling with every Wednesday for the last four years. Or what about a parent and a college age child?

            I don’t think these fall under the Pepsi spokesman example but maybe you’d argue they do?

          • Nornagest says:

            I wasn’t trying to get at raw ability to affect day-to-day happiness with my comment about leverage, so much as the asymmetry of the relationship. You can tell the government that it’s an intolerable Orwellian monstrosity, but you can’t send the Thought Police after it. Similarly, a mob of angry college students can get your lecture canceled over security concerns, but you can’t get a mob canceled.

            You probably don’t have a lot of leverage over your spouse in this sense (you’re both adults, probably of similar socioeconomic status). Insofar as you do (say, if you’re the sole breadwinner), I do think it’s incumbent on you not to misuse it, and to restrain yourself proportionally to it. That still might not amount to a hard free-speech rule, but then again you probably don’t have the kind of power over your spouse that your government does over you. Ditto for a college-age child.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t know. I guess I see governments as different in kind, not degree, from a big company much less an amorphous and mostly uncoordinated group of people on twitter.

          • pocketjacks1 says:

            Well, I am left-liberal. One in the mold of Freddie deBoer and Scott Alexander in being pretty anti-SJW, but a left-liberal nonetheless (and it’s hearing so many opinions like Brad’s that drove me into this corner in the first place). I’m going to speak out on behalf of freedom of speech from a left-liberal perspective.

            It might be unethical at the object level to react negatively to speech that is actually good, but there’s nothing intrinsically unethical about firing someone for what he said or or encouraging companies you do business with to do so.

            That there are so-called liberals out there saying things like the bolded here, horrifies me.

            First of all, the European Court of Human Rights disagrees with you. They apparently think there is a human right to right to political activity and speech outside of working hours that employers can’t retaliate against.

            Furthermore, while it is true that there are no US federal laws protecting free speech for workers in their off hours, some states do, and those states are, New York, California, and DC (directly) and Colorado and North Dakota (indirectly, by protecting “lawful conduct outside of work”).

            That the single most Democratically-voting electoral college bloc and the two biggest D+30 states in the union were the ones that thought of the direct version, is almost certainly no coincidence. And unlike the odd notion put forward here by you that free speech threads get heated and this is proof that expansive notions of free speech are bad somehow, this one is likely to be quite meaningful. It is, first, proof that the idea that true free speech requires protection from private power generally, and from employer retaliation specifically, has roots in our political tradition. Second, it has particularly firm roots in the leftist half of that tradition specifically.

            (Also, that doubling down now and defending the right of corporations and employers to fire employees for thoughtcrime requires you to stand against organizations such as “workplacefairness.org” and the “Employment Discrimination Report”, should be your first clue. Not to mention that fighting for the right to political activity outside of work hours is a common thing for unions to fight for. It is further proof that the modern SJW left has truly lost its way, and that it isn’t just Trump supporters imagining this.)

            Contrary to the argument that the notion that free speech is a civic virtue and doesn’t only apply to the government is somehow new, it is the sudden leftist belief in “only the government” free speech that is newfound, and scrounged up ad hoc for convenience’s sake. True left-liberalism has always been based on opposition to concentrations and hierarchies of power, including private power. Democratic government is often granted a broad latitude of power precisely to protect us regular people from such private concentrations of power. “Only the government”, and the idea that everyone else, from a homeless person to an employee to a mom-and-pop to a mob to a large corporation, is just turtles “private individuals” all the way down, is a fundamentally right-wing libertarian idea. I doubt that liberals of past generations would have ever looked favorably upon employers firing employees over political speech in the off hours, much less cheerlead it and think up novel rhetorical defenses of it. They would have thought of it in terms of blacklisting, which is today a political pejorative term that both sides run away from for a reason. No, it was only when the specter of regular people having the wrong! opinions on identity politics (because it’s always identity politics; I can’t remember the last time a conservative got fired for being too much of an inflation hawk) that so-called progressives suddenly got in bed with ideas antithetical to philosophical leftism. Time was, this would be a cause to re-examine our approach to identity politics. Now, it’s cause to cheerlead corporate power against employees, gloat about the tenuous nature of at-will employment (as if such legal norms, uniquely harsh in America compared to other developed nations, aren’t precisely the problem), and punish people for their private sex lives.

            In other words, modern day anti-free speech progressives are only guilty of the equal and opposite hypocrisy that they accuse libertarians of on this issue. And I’m not sure either why the “but I’m being object-level here! I disavow the meta!” excuse should work for you but not for them.

          • pocketjacks1 says:

            A spouse has enormous de facto power over her spouse and his day to day happiness but no one (?) thinks it is illegitimate for a spouse to negatively react to speech. Ditto for something like the three guys you go bowling with every Wednesday for the last four years. Or what about a parent and a college age child?

            The notion that firing an employee is a mere “negative reaction” is completely outside our philosophical tradition, much less the leftmost half of it. Hence why all Western governments have some legal restrictions and protocols on firing employees – and these tend to be stricter the more liberal the government – but none on spouses and bowling teams “negatively reacting” to you.

          • Brad says:

            The same European Court of Human Rights that doesn’t even protect free speech as against the government? That allows travesties like the burka ban? Speaking of which, what’s your take on Citizens United pocketjacks1?

          • Nornagest says:

            I guess I see governments as different in kind, not degree…

            Then let’s go back to my initial question in this thread: what makes a government different? We didn’t evolve with governments; it’s highly unlikely that we have neurology dedicated to them. There’s nothing ontologically basic about them; there is not a Platonic form out there shaped like the American flag; they’re just a bunch of people organized in a certain way. So there must be something about the mode of organization that makes them so. What is it, and how does free speech affect it?

            The classical poli-sci answer is “monopoly on the legitimate use of force”, but I don’t think that cuts it here, for reasons I’ve already discussed.

          • Brad says:

            I think monopoly on the use of force is relevant. Penal punishment is different from anything a private actor can (legally) do to you. Also relevant is the involuntary nature of the relationship. You may not have any voluntary relationship with the twits on twitter but you do with the college or employer or customers that are the actual agent that choose to react to your speech either of their own accord or at the behest of third parties.

            And I guess I don’t see your asymmetry argument as particularly compelling. Both because one can certainly counter-attack in some circumstances (consider that in donglegate both people ended up getting fired) and just because in general I’m don’t see how any asymmetry that does exist leads to the kind of ethical obligation you are positing.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think monopoly on the use of force is relevant. Penal punishment is different from anything a private actor can (legally) do to you.

            On top of what I’ve already said, that monopoly only matters insofar as it’s actually enforced. In the cases of e.g. Spencer or the Berkeley riots, the use of force is illegal and therefore technically illegitimate, but here we are anyway.

            And when it comes down to it, I’d probably rather get punched in the face than have someone credibly try to get me fired, which is something that the government doesn’t have even a nominal monopoly on (and which I have no reasonable prospect of retaliation to). Like I said, there are lots of ways to coerce people; force is just the most straightforward one.

            Also relevant is the involuntary nature of the relationship…

            That’s where the Pepsi example came in. Generally, entering into a private relationship with some entity implies speaking and acting appropriately to that relationship in its context, and I’m fine with that as long as both parties are going into it with their eyes fairly open. I’m less fine with surprises, or with one party later trying to parley that relationship into restrictions on speech or behavior outside of it. This too seems to apply equally to governmental and non-governmental actors — with the caveat that a lot more of what government does is involuntary.

          • Brad says:

            But when you talk about being punched in the face, we are back at the wife and bowling buddy examples. Asymmetry is out the door. You’d probably prefer to be fired than to have your wife leave you.

            The principle in question seems tough to nail down with precision.

          • Nornagest says:

            But when you talk about being punched in the face, we are back at the wife and bowling buddy examples. Asymmetry is out the door.

            Sure, getting punched per se is objectionable more because of the disproportionality of the response than the asymmetry of the relationship. But if you’re dealing with mob violence, as in the Spencer case, there’s an obvious asymmetry there even if only one person actually decks you. Compare getting a beer bottle thrown at you by some anonymous person in an unfriendly crowd, vs. the same bottle coming from a single unruly drunk: the action is the same, but the implied threat is much greater.

            I’m sure you can think of some other examples over the last few weeks.

          • Brad says:

            I’m afraid I find your theory unconvincing. It seems like a specifically tailored set of rules designed to forbid participating in mobs which is then used as a simile for what happens on twitter.

            It is unethical for a drunk guy to throw a bottle at you, it is unethical for an anonymous member of a mob to throw a bottle at you. I’m not seeing where asymmetry comes into play. It reads to me like you are trying to use the emotional valiance of imagining being surrounded by a violent mob to do all the work.

            If it is okay for one person to tweet at coca cola that it ought not hire Milo, I don’t see how it is supposed to be any different from an ethical standpoint if 10,000 people do.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The asymmetry comes from the fact that the mob is not an individual it is a collective unit. Most people feel that there is qualitative difference between collective violence and individual violence. This is why the instigating incident of the Ferguson Unrest gets framed as a racial or policing issue, rather than simple case of two guys getting in a fight and one of them getting shot.

            The latter is a normal everyday thing, the former is a national crisis.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m afraid I find your theory unconvincing. It seems like a specifically tailored set of rules designed to forbid participating in mobs which is then used as a simile for what happens on twitter.

            The mob is just an example, though lately a salient one. You could as easily be facing a corporation, or a home-owners’ association, or the Boy Scouts. The important part is that you’re up against social or institutional power — the thing that makes governments, writ small.

            But since you brought it up, I do think you’re wielding social power when participating in collective action that you don’t wield when acting alone. This implies a responsibility proportional to that power.

          • pocketjacks1 says:

            @Brad,

            This was a pretty famous story a while back:

            Lynne Gobbell was fired because her boss didn’t like the bumper sticker on her car.

            During the 2004 presidential election, Gobbell put a “Kerry for President” sticker on her bumper. When her boss saw it, he said Gobbell could “either work for John Kerry or work for me.” Gobbell refused to take the sticker off her car and was immediately fired.

            Gobbell fell into the black hole of human rights in the United States. The United States invented human rights. People in many countries can only dream about the freedoms we enjoy. In America, you can criticize any government official you want, including the president, even in rude or profane terms, without fear of punishment. Do the same thing in China, Russia, Iran, Kenya, or Guatemala, and you could wind up in prison or worse.

            But Lynne Gobbell’s freedom, and yours, disappears every morning when you go to work. The United States Constitution applies to the government, not to corporations. A private business, large or small, can legally ignore your freedom of speech. Where your employer is concerned, you have no such right.

            Freedom of speech isn’t the only right that disappears in the world of work. Privacy disappears too…

            I’ve bolded every time the words “right”, “freedom”, or “freedom of speech” were invoked in just the few opening paragraphs of the article. This, I think, represents how liberalism naturally talks and thinks about this issue, based upon its views of free speech and power relations in society.

            If there was any hiding behind the “object level” here, it was certainly so buried as to be undetectable. Nothing in that article suggested that it would be okay if the same were done to Bush supporters. The language used is arguing for universal meta principles.

            You have it backwards. A progressive defense of employers firing employees over their political opinions expressed in the off hours, and pretending that it’s compatible with free speech, is the new and ahistorical phenomenon. Indeed, while searching, I had to wade past articles expressing horror that employee free speech isn’t protected in the workplace. Being a mere moderate liberal, I find the latter to be completely reasonable, but that just goes to show how much more radical is the notion that political speech in the off hours shouldn’t be protected. And all the progressive shrinking back to the most minimalist interpretation of free speech and pretending not to know what a general right to privacy means (to bring it back to that Gor comment thread, which I followed but didn’t comment on) is really unconvincing. It’s plainly obvious that there are no principles at work here, not even the incorrect principle that all free speech issues should be decided at the object level (since liberals ourselves did not follow that in the past or elsewhere), only the ad hoc abandoning of long-held principles because the latest heresy of identity politics social justice must be maximally punished. It is this that many of us even on the left find distasteful. What is it about identity politics specifically that makes liberals turn illiberal?

            Consider the other principles liberalism has to abandon to crudely justify its desired censorship:

            It seems like a specifically tailored set of rules designed to forbid participating in mobs which is then used as a simile for what happens on twitter.

            The idea that all economic relationships are fully “voluntary” (especially the one between an employer and an employee) and thus those in subservient economic arrangements must accept everything that comes with it or are only allowed to vote with their feet, is very self-evidently anti-liberal. No worker “chose” to have employers control their speech when they are off work.

            With the idea that ten thousand minor offenses are not ethically different to a single one, out goes modern progressive notions of harassment, the Bechdel test, and the “drip, drip” theory of microaggressions, among others. If a particular action is not worth taking action against, then neither must be enduring a dozen of them per day. If one movie starring a straight white guy is not a problem, then neither can be a million.

            With the idea that asymmetry arguments aren’t “compelling”, out goes any conception of the relevance of power, without which left wing thought quickly becomes incoherent. The belief that any X-ism is prejudice “plus power” is obviously out, but even beliefs more amenable to moderates are no longer safe. Indeed, it’s hard to see how any sort of worker or consumer protections, anti-discrimination legislation, or any sort of government help to disadvantaged groups can ever pass ethical muster without at some point appealing to asymmetries; the only thing we’d be left with are the most facially neutral laws that forbid the rich as well as the poor from sleeping under bridges and stealing bread to survive.

            Progressives trying to talk tough on at-will employment when it comes to firing conservatives for their private opinions really come across as awkward and ill-fitting, like a Disney channel star trying to reinvent himself into tough guy roles. If there’s any consolation to everyone else, it’s that internal liberal backlash against this sort of thing was immediate, if obviously insufficient in the eyes of those who suffer from this.

            Finally, the topic is of you, from the looks of it a typical progressive, defending employer’s prerogative to fire employees for their political opinions expressed in the off hours. If you are unwilling or too embarrassed to defend that, that in itself should be taken to be the outcome of this debate. If you are willing to defend it, defend it. As juicy as that other topic is, I’m not going to go along with a sidetrack where it’s obvious that that’s the only part of the post that you will respond to, hoping to bury the embarrassing part of the discussion in the resulting stack of replies.

            @Nornagest,

            what makes a government different? We didn’t evolve with governments; it’s highly unlikely that we have neurology dedicated to them. There’s nothing ontologically basic about them; there is not a Platonic form out there shaped like the American flag; they’re just a bunch of people organized in a certain way. So there must be something about the mode of organization that makes them so.

            I agree with this. The way I phrase it is, I do not believe in Government Juju, that queer effervescence that makes government ontologically different from other organizations. A lot of problems, real and imagined, of government, are simply the general problems of Sufficiently Large and Powerful organizations, and it’s unclear that, in the absence of government, if a private organization were to grow just as large and powerful, that it would be any different.

            There is no private organization nearly as powerful as government, but that, as a general rule, is not an argument against the size of government in itself, though in specific cases substituting public power to private may be the better option. The existence of the government limits the size of private organizations, either directly through mandates and anti-trust laws, or indirectly by crowding out the market for services we need Sufficiently Large and Powerful organizations for in the first place. Get rid of government and private organizations will rise up and take over that vacated space.

            But I do have a question. Do you ever apply your insight to other areas? I recognize your handle from the Thing of Things blog, where the most regular commenters seemed to lean right of center, though since I mainly focused on anti-SJWism there that made them friendly to me. I must confess I don’t remember where you placed on that spectrum specifically. Do you ever apply it against the Right? Honest question, that’s not meant to be leading in any way.

          • Nornagest says:

            But I do have a question. Do you ever apply your insight to other areas? I recognize your handle from the Thing of Things blog, where the most regular commenters seemed to lean right of center, though since I mainly focused on anti-SJWism there that made them friendly to me. I must confess I don’t remember where you placed on that spectrum specifically. Do you ever apply it against the Right? Honest question, that’s not meant to be leading in any way.

            Oh wow, I haven’t posted on Thing of Things in ages.

            I’ve been called both left-leaning and right-leaning in these comments before, but I think of my own politics as basically pragmatic. I find some parts of libertarian thought attractive, especially the emphasis on polycentric power structure, but full-blown libertarianism is too totalizing and doctrinaire for me. I’ve grown more respectful of tradition as an organizing principle over the last couple years, as I think a lot of people have. On the other hand, the argument I gave above is pretty much just liberal, so take that as you will.

            I’ve crossed swords with the Right before, but not much lately. I think that’s probably because rightist ideology as such is further from my experience now; in the middle Bush years, when neoconservatism was in full system-building mode, that was something I could sink my teeth into. Trumpism is… dumber, scarier to some people, maybe more dangerous depending on your assumptions, but less ideological, more reactionary. You can prove it wrong on cases, but you can’t really engage with it.

          • Brad says:

            @pocketjacks1
            You are barking up the tree. At great length.

            I may be one the few regular posters around here that doesn’t hold irrational hate and resentment for “modern progressives”, but that doesn’t mean I am one. I never talk about microagressions, Bechdel tests, or prejudice plus power. I also don’t have the hostility towards capitalism that you appear to have.

            Of course we all have our idiosyncrasies, but the categories that are closest to me are things like Third Way or New Democrat.

            And yes, it says something that I’m what passes for left around here. I’d be very happy if you stuck around and argued your economic left views (the anti-SJW stuff is more than covered).

        • pocketjacks1 says:

          Wrong thread stack

      • Spookykou says:

        government focused version of free speech

        I am not familiar with this, does it mean free speech should be protected when it is used to criticize the government, or that the government/government officials should have free speech?

        • Randy M says:

          He means only that government should not abridge free speech, and the idea of free speech is not necessarily a terminal value in other contexts.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

            So it should be totally legit for private entities (e.g. corporate boards) to bar minorities and/or women from voting, right? Anyone who complains just needs to be patiently explained that equal voting rights only applies to government elections, and is in no way an principle we should also support in private life.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            Isn’t that how it actually works? Presumably a corporate board could make its own rules preventing women and minorities from voting, but it’s such a clear public image disaster with no obvious gain (going to be >70% white men voting anyway) that no one does it out of practical considerations.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @wysinwygymmv

            Could be. I think it would probably run afoul of nondiscrimination rules.

            What I was trying to suggest is that, if there was any consistency to the constitution-is-only-for-the-guvmint types, we would get people loudly proclaiming that such discrimination is okay because it’s a private corporation. Since that’s what happens when people complain about companies engaging in censorship.

            It was never a perfect analogy but I thought it worked okay enough ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gobbobobble:
            Completely private organizations can be as a racist as they want to be.

            That’s why Augusta National can decide whether they want to have blacks or women as members and the government can’t force them.

            The KKK still exists. They aren’t illegal. They don’t have to admit black people, or Jewish people, or anyone else.

            When we get into things like public accommodations, that’s where you start to see the right to be as bigoted as you want being infringed.

          • howardtreesong says:

            I think that issue is much broader than your post suggests: it applies to any business with public access — for example, a bakery that refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

            http://aclu-co.org/court-rules-bakery-illegally-discriminated-against-gay-couple/

            As you suggest, the doctrine started with public accommodations.

          • Brad says:

            I think two separate things are being conflated. The First Amendment only applies to state action. That doesn’t, and I never claimed, that this fact leads directly to there’s no private free speech norm we are ethically bound to respect.

            It would be perfectly consistent for the first amendment to apply to state action and for there to be a parallel ethical requirement binding on individuals. I just happen to think there isn’t.

            Translating to the fourteenth amendment the same reasoning applies. The fourteenth amendment legally forbids state governments to discriminate based on race but it doesn’t say anything one way or the other about whether it is ethical for private individuals or organizations to discriminate based on race.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Brad

            Ok, points for consistency. Shame there are a bunch of raving idiots out there who respond to people who do believe there is such an ethical obligation with “oh shut up already, the first amendment only applies to the government [ergo there is no such obligation]”. Apologies for pattern-matching you as one of them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @howardtreesong:
            If the really wanted to be able to discriminate against gay couples, they could turn themselves into a private organization not open to the general public. Membership in the organization would be required in order to get a cake.

            I believe even very pro-forma executions of this pass muster. Every place that serves alcohol but not food in most southern states, for instance, is technically a “members only” establishment to get around certainly laws meant to prohibit bars (and only allow restaurants). (I think, anyway).

            When you say you are open to the general public, you have to actually be open to the public.

            I’m not saying that the issues don’t get complex. Edge cases and new precedents are always hard. But the principle is still there.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        What makes government suppression of speech illegitimate is the coordinated deployment of superior coercive power.

        Government is not the only way in which to amass, coordinate, and deploy superior coercive power.

        Therefore “argument gets counter-argument, not bullet” Or “the solution to bad speech is more speech” is a principle that only has value or meaning if we hold ourselves to the standard.

        I am not suggesting as you seem to be saying below that I believe that the first amendment is legally binding upon private organizations and individuals.

        I AM stating that in my view, someone who takes the stance you have is not terribly credible as “strong supporter of the traditional American free speech”.

        As you yourself have been known to say “By their fruits shall ye know them”.

        For my part, I’m a military veteran who defended the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to conduct their disruptive and truly disgusting protests at military funerals so long as they did so on public property.

        • Brad says:

          I disagree that you are stating the traditional version of American free speech. I’ve argued repeatedly that it is a new and radical innovation.

          I also think that the view you are expounding here is deeply incompatible with any kind of libertarian philosophy more generally. The entire libertarian project would fall apart if every organization that was capable of amassing coercive power was subject to the “rights as against” analysis. In particular, it is completely incompatible with the notion of at will employment and the concept of laissez faire more generally.

          This may not be a problem for you (I don’t remember) but many of your follow proponents of this radical version of free speech do claim to be libertarian.

          Edit?

          For my part, I’m a military veteran who defended the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to conduct their disruptive and truly disgusting protests at military funerals so long as they did so on public property.

          They certainly had the legal right to do so. I agree 100% with the Supreme Court on that issue. However, I wouldn’t hire Phelps Chartered Law Firm on any case where I needed a lawyer and I see nothing wrong with a secondary boycott of say Coca-Cola if they decided to hire PCLF to represent the company in some litigation.

          • nyccine says:

            I disagree that you are stating the traditional version of American free speech. I’ve argued repeatedly that it is a new and radical innovation.

            You’ve made the claim, but you’ve not made any serious argument in its defense.

            The belief that freedom of speech is an ethos beyond merely handcuffing the actions of the state is much older than America – John Milton comes to mind – and well known by the colonists. That the First Amendment did not extend to private action is not an endorsement of the heckler’s veto; rather, it is an acknowledgement that granting the state any such power to “protect” the individual’s speech from other private actors would effectively nullify the restrictions imposed by the Amendment in the first place.

        • lvlln says:

          What makes government suppression of speech illegitimate is the coordinated deployment of superior coercive power.

          Government is not the only way in which to amass, coordinate, and deploy superior coercive power.

          This is such an obvious point that it boggles my mind that people who have thought about free speech for more than 10 seconds keep conflating free speech is limited to the 1st amendment.

          At the most basic level, having the freedom to do something means being able to do it without fearing others punishing you for doing it. The government is one extremely powerful and potentially violent being that can punish you for things you do, but it is by no means the only one. If you think punishing others for what they say is just A-OK as long as it’s not done by the government, you can’t honestly claim to support free speech. At best, you can honestly claim to support the 1st Amendment.

          This isn’t a radical or new idea. It’s an immediately obvious and inevitable conclusion one draws from the meaning of “freedom of speech.” This is the basic liberal understanding of “free speech.”

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Regarding your point about my principles being incompatible with doctrinaire libertarianism (establishment libertarianism?), this is probably true. I’ve certainly drifted away from calling myself libertarian, though I’m hesitant to call myself conservative either since that just means “Republican” to most people in the US and I’ve voted Libertarian or Reform party more often than I’ve voted GOP.

          That said, it’s only incompatible with at-will employment if you believe that at-will employment should include the ability to fire someone because they’re gay/jewish/black/female, too. If you’d like a recent example, I’ll go on record as saying that I actually am against the firing of Manveer Heir from Bioware to the extent that it was based on his social media output rather than his conduct to other employees in the workplace (AFAIK there is no evidence of his conduct in the workplace proper, so I lean towards it being based on his social media output and more specifically the complaints about it).

          I’m not an anarcho-capitalist, and am actually fine with some market interventions. I’d probably be an anarchist of -some- flavor due to my distrust of ANY organized grouping’s (whether that’s a corporation, a government, homeowner’s association, a church, a gang, or 100 people in a room) ability to wield coercive power against a smaller group or an individual, except that the best solution I’ve ever been able to come up with is to ensure that we remain skeptical of all such groupings and attempt to divide them and direct them against each other, separating their spheres of control.

          Try to abolish them completely and you’ll just ensure that you have no ability to control or constrain the structures and groups that will inevitably arise to replace them because humans are by and large not a species of atomistic individualists. Call it separation of powers on a societal scale, perhaps, though that’s not really an accurate description.

          Anyway, my own political values are somewhat off topic though I’m happy to discuss and/or defend them in the OT or the next one if you really care.

          I believe I understand your argument about the shift in the first amendment, and I think that to some extent it’s true…in the same sense that the sea change that extended American conception of “all men are created equal” to blacks on a cultural level (something that took over a century longer than the purely legal assertion, and we still argue about as an ongoing process) was a “new and radical innovation”.

          To be honest, it’s an interesting appeal to see you make, since my perception of you is as a fairly left-liberal type without much in the way of regard for tradition, American or otherwise. Though to be fair it’s entirely possible that I have a bit of prejudice there, and unfairly tar left-liberals/progressives with the “transnationalism/postnationalism/cosmopolitanism” brush even when it’s not accurate.

          • Brad says:

            To your last point, I think you are somewhat underselling how big a deal the part I consider myself a strong supporter of. What we might call first amendment values to distinguish it from what y’all consider free speech values is pretty much unique to the United States. Other countries have some vaguely similar rules but in practice none other that I’m aware comes even close to our absolutism on the subject. Even within the United States we are really looking at something that only started developing over the last hundred years and is overwhelmingly a product of the last fifty years.

            It is something I fully support, I’m extremely proud of my country for being so far ahead on it, and I think it will end up being one of the more lasting contributions of American political thought to world history. I think our legislative design, for example, is pretty crappy and I wouldn’t recommend another country emulate it, but first amendment values is something I think every country should have and I look down on e.g. the french for not accepting its importance.

            In terms of your sea change, maybe it will end up being that way, but I think it is too early to tell. When would you date the start of it from? Given that, like I said, modern first amendment doctrine only really got going at the end of the Warren Court.

            I keep on looking for this conservative free speech movement’s Skokie moment and keep not finding it. And this idea that I’m not finding it because so-called SJWs are the only ones in the entire country punishing people for their speech is just laughable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            It is something I fully support, I’m extremely proud of my country for being so far ahead on it, and I think it will end up being one of the more lasting contributions of American political thought to world history.

            I suggest this should be your lead next time you get into this. Then amplify why it is such a big deal.

            Only then do you compare it to a social norm of “free speech”. I think you are more likely to get converts that way.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Well, I think it’s true that there are still a LOT of people on the right who are not consistent in applying the idea. Mind you think that’s true across the political spectrum, with the left increasing devaluing free speech over the past few decades as the right rediscovers that maybe it’s a good idea.

            And I identify the inflection point as sometime in the early to mid 90s around the time that the public debate over “PC” got popular again, but I can’t get more specific than that. Whether that’s due to being out of power and seeing the increasing shift in pop culture and commercialized speech dominance I couldn’t say.

          • Brad says:

            I appreciate the back and forth. Given the timing you are positing, may I suggest that some of our disagreement as to terminology may be the result of an age related inferential gap?

            To someone that was already a political aware person in mid-90s calling something that got going at that time “new” and what existed for several decades before that “traditional” seems pretty reasonable.

            By the same token, maybe someone in their 80s would object to my calling something that got going in the mid-60s “traditional”.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’m not sure if you’re saying you’re older than me, or younger. I’m only 35 (36 in a few months), and although I was pretty precocious (I don’t have a clear memory of it but I’m told I gave a presentation on glasnost and why Gorbachev was a big deal when I was 8-9 for school), I was only 12-14 in the early 90s when the first big PC wave hit.

            That said, I remember it pretty clearly partly BECAUSE there was criticism and pushback even then. It was enough of a phenomenon to spawn movies, if not particularly good ones. I certainly wasn’t aware of commentary like The Closing Of The American Mind (1987).

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Brad

            what existed for several decades before that “traditional” seems pretty reasonable.

            It’s not properly “traditional” without at least a century behind it. (And multiple centuries is preferable.)

          • Brad says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            Older, though apparently not as much older as I had thought. My point remains though that I don’t think your push back as to my claim to be a “strong supporter of the traditional American free speech” is reasonable even if I accept your emerging transformation thesis if the transformation only dates back to the mid 90s.

            @Kevin C.
            Thanks for sharing.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Somewhere in the gap between Brad’s first paragraph and Brad’s second paragraph, we non-government actors apparently acquired some moral obligations in regard to the ways we can respond to other people’s speech.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        I’m on record as a) supporting the government focused version of free speech and b) claiming that the cultural version is both new and largely driven by ulterior motives (i.e. designed to score points in ongoing object level disputes).

        For which I receive abuse such as this:
        http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/30/links-317-relinkquishment/#comment-482190

        Well… you were arguing that it’s necessary to punish thoughtcrime.

        Before you get angry with me, I’m aware that you disagree with the characterization. Specifically, you said the situation being discussed was different because “they aren’t administering lie detector tests or truth serums.”

        But others pointed out 1984 wasn’t like that either, and you never responded to requests to draw a distinction between the real world situation and what you would consider thoughtcrime.

        • Brad says:

          I stopped posting in that thread after all the other participants declined to say anything about suntzuanime’s comment. It was of course their right not to do so, but it made me not want to engage with any of them further.

          Also, if you are martinw you ought to say so.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I’m not, and I should add I was impressed when you spotted Nabil ad Dajjal as a sock in the other thread, less so now that it seems you just throw that out there.

            But anyway if you do feel like engaging now, what do you see as the distinction?

          • Brad says:

            I read 1984 probably two decades ago or more. Is this accurate as to what happens in the book:

            But as soon as you, for example, wrote out your subversive thoughts in a private diary, they’d nab you.

            ?

            If so, I think these are the relevant responses:

            This isn’t a stolen and leaked sex tape. It’s not a stolen diary. It is linking a forum pseudonym to a particular real world person. You can’t just lump up and refer interchangeably to everything you consider bad. Theft is theft, it isn’t murder, it isn’t arson, it isn’t rape.

            Forums are a broadcast medium. They are inherently public. The opposite of personal. If his computer had been hacked and his electronic diary leaked then your point of “why is with a computer any different” would be relevant.

            Strongly disagree. No one is being punished for their thoughts. And there’s no question here of criminal prosecution. This is hyperbole.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I haven’t read it in a long while either, but I had in mind the fact all of society is encouraged to monitor one another, essentially look for any cues that when followed up on might reveal the existence of thoughtcrime, and report said suspicions to the authority. That idea is no less horrifying to me if said authority does not happen to be the actual government.

          • Brad says:

            Does it make a difference to you if an organization encourages and solicits reporting versus reacting to reports it receives unsolicited?

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            It doesn’t matter to me if there’s a page in the employee handbook outlining their duty to seek out thoughtcrime or if there’s just a general culture that brings about the behavior of reporting (the organization then just dutifully reacting to these “unsolicited” reports). It all adds up to 1984.

          • martinw says:

            I had already stopped posting in that thread by the time of suntzuanime’s comment, because I’d had my say and felt that we were starting to go in circles.

            I agree that suntzuanime’s post was over the top; on the other hand, given your standpoint in that discussion it would be ironic for you to complain about that. In fact I got the impression that was their point: “you don’t think political opponents owe each other basic respect, and you complain about my language being ‘bloodless’? alright then, I’ll tell you what I really think, let’s see how you like that.”

            And no, I am not xXxanonxXx.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That was the impression that I got as well. It also highlights something that seems to be a common failure mode/blind-spot of people raised in reasonably affluent and insulated environments. They perceive the insulated environment as normal and thus fail to realize that détente goes both ways.

      • BBA says:

        In my view it’s a sliding scale. Large institutions should generally respect the rights of individuals, individuals have no moral obligations towards other individuals’ rights, and smaller institutions are somewhere in between.

        This doesn’t translate clearly into One Big Principle For Everything In The World, but it is my idea, which belongs to me and is mine.

  17. Anon. says:

    As Mencken wrote, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” It has worked well for a long time (and actually seems to be getting better, nobody would dream of banning James Joyce today), I don’t think we’re close to a point where things are going to change.

    just to make sure liberals don’t get the impression that free speech is a weapon pointed at them.

    Well…it kinda is. The point of constitutions in general is to restrict what can be done. Liberals want to do things that the constitution prevents, of course it’s a weapon pointed at them.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      As Mencken wrote, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels.”

      But Charles Murray is the opposite of a scoundrel. I know a lot of people and he is of a finer character than the vast majority.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      nobody would dream of banning James Joyce today

      Yeah, instead they ban Thomas Jefferson and H. P. Lovecraft.

    • Spookykou says:

      That Mencken quote is normally my go to on free speech.

      Also, I want to say it was hlynkacg, but I am not sure, who once made a comment about how people who have no experience with mobs don’t understand why it is important to maintain social norms against mob justice. I wonder how much that relates to this current situation, how often do the most vocal proponents of no platforming have cause to fear being silenced?

  18. Steve Sailer says:

    “If Charles Murray sincerely believes what he says, thinks it’s important, and thinks that saying it makes the world a better place, then he is exactly the sort of person whom free speech exists to defend. And if someone in a college reads The Bell Curve, likes it, and wants to learn more, then free speech exists to defend them too. But if your thought process is “Who’s the most offensive person I can think of? Charles Murray?”

    If Charles Murray is the most offensive person you can think of …

    • johnmcg says:

      That is an interesting point — the stand-in for “most offensive person we can think of to invite” is an academic who wrote a book with controversial (and, yes, to some, offensive) conclusions in it 15 years ago, and has since moved on to other areas of study.

      That alone, is a sign that it might be time to pull the alarm bell.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Right.

        The reason there is so much violence against Murray being allowed to speak is because everybody is worried that The Bell Curve is right.

        It’s not like the world has turned out all that different from what Herrnstein and Murray forecast 23 years ago. I reviewed their predictions for accuracy on the 20th anniversary of TBC’s publication:

        http://takimag.com/article/a_new_caste_society_steve_sailer/print#axzz4dvs5Codn

        • vV_Vv says:

          The reason there is so much violence against Murray being allowed to speak is because everybody is worried that The Bell Curve is right.

          Nobody is afraid of allowing to speak people who are easily shown to be wrong. Creationists, for instance, are not denied a platform. In fact, the establishment likes to make a spectacle of them by publicily debating them.

          When the establishment tries to shut down some intellectual opinion then it is social evidence that this opinion may be actually correct, or at least not trivial to refute.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Or you could cherry pick the other way and say that laws against Holocaust denial show that people want to ban free speech when it’s so obviously wrong there’s no point in debating it.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Then why aren’t there laws against, say, flat earth apologetics?

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Then why aren’t there laws against, say, flat earth apologetics?

            Well, comparing with the Holocaust denial example, it seems likely that it’s because flat earth apologetics don’t provide convenient political cover for oppressing some group of people?

            Does scientific racism provide convenient political cover for oppressing some group of people? (No, it’s not necessarily used that way, but it certainly can be and has been in the past.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @wysinwygymmv: The Powers will always suppress opinions they fear are true or at least hard to refute.
            It’s a peculiarity of progressive governments to ban opinions that could be used to support oppressing ethnic minorities.
            Giving unchecked use of a tool that Power qua Power is known to use selfishly and deceptively to progressive governments out of empathy for ethnic minorities is to weaponize empathy.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @Le Maistre Chat:

            My comments are descriptive, not prescriptive. Someone asked “why do people get upset about Holocaust denial and not flat earth?” Regardless of my personal views on free speech, the answer is that one of these positions is associated with political oppression and one is not.

          • mupetblast says:

            These campus disinivitations have less to do with “free speech” than they do defending one’s (lefty) turf form trespassers (there’s a high level of other-orientedness – strange to what-skin-is-it-off-my-back American mindsets, but we’re seeing this change before our eyes – that is disturbed by the mere knowledge that someone on campus is doing something anathema).

            Anyone who wants to hear what Milo or Murray or Peterson has to say is free to read their articles and peruse YouTube and watch cable news to their heart’s content. This renders the related Millian-style talking point of “How do I know how to refute so-called bad ideas unless we’re free to hear them?” or “Third parties have a right to hear and decide for themselves” mostly moot.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @mupetblast

            there’s a high level of other-orientedness – strange to what-skin-is-it-off-my-back American mindsets, but we’re seeing this change before our eyes – that is disturbed by the mere knowledge that someone on campus is doing something anathema

            But not so strange to America as a whole, since there’s always been such a substrain in this country, often in association with Albion’s Seed‘s “puritans” (recall Mencken’s “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”); see, for example, the “temperance movement”/Prohibition, and the accompanying (and more successful) movements against lotteries, prostitution, polygamy, etc. (see chapter 6, “A Culture War and Its Aftermath” of Stuntz’s The Collapse of American Criminal Justice).

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Also, the reason Murray likes to give speeches on college campuses is because it’s pretty much impossible to listen to him talk for more than 5 minutes without realizing than you’ve been lied to about what horrible person he is. Murray and Pinker are the two big intellectuals I’ve met who have the most impressive personal affects of wisdom and cognitive precision.

      • Urstoff says:

        The SLPC told me that he was a White Nationalist, though!

      • BBA says:

        What does it say about me that the most offensive person that I can think of is Steve Sailer?

        Aside from that I shouldn’t have read or posted in this thread, of course.

        • quanta413 says:

          That either your answer is cute or that you think you live in a very, very nice world compared to the rest of us.

        • Protagoras says:

          It probably doesn’t say much about you, except perhaps that you are less worried than you should be about the danger of this degenerating into a contest for people to try to list who they think of as the most offensive (which seems like a really bad idea to me).

    • Leonard says:

      Seriously. This suggests that the Harvard students have a strategy that I am not sure Scott has considered, namely: invite “controversial” people who are minimally offensive to normal people. This presents the illiberal left with a conundrum: either they riot anyway in support of their anti-free-speech beliefs, or they don’t. In the first case they are revealed as extremists and presumably the vast majority distance themselves from illiberal leftism. In the second case, you’ve widened the window of toleration, and you iterate.

      • Kevin C. says:

        In the first case they are revealed as extremists and presumably the vast majority distance themselves from illiberal leftism.

        I’d like to present a partial rejoinder to your presumption here, and present a third alternative of sorts. In particular, what comes to mind is what I’ve read on the dynamics of “honor cultures”, and specifically of the tendency to disproportionate reactions to minor slights, whether Southern gentlemen duelling over points of honor or gangbangers retaliating for being “dissed“. It comes down to reputation maintenance, (over)reacting to the smallest things so as to cement in the minds of others that one is a BAMF, one not to be crossed.

        So the question becomes, when people see the “illiberal leftists” behave as “extremists”, attacking the most “minimally offensive” dissent, how many conclude “those people are extremists who will target almost anybody, I should start opposing them more”, and how many will conclude “those people are extremists who will target almost anybody, I don’t want them coming after me, so I better keep my mouth shut if I disagree with them”?

        • hlynkacg says:

          how many will conclude “those people are extremists who will target almost anybody, I don’t want them coming after me, so I better keep my mouth shut if I disagree with them”?

          Who cares? They have no effect on the balance of the equation, and have no desire to do so. They matter only in so far as they provide cover, concealment, and a pool to recruit from.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Leonard’s argument was that if the “illiberal left” riot “in support of their anti-free-speech beliefs”, this will weaken them by causing the “vast majority” to distance themselves from such “extremism”. I’m saying this may instead be a winning strategy, strengthening the “illiberal left” by causing the “vast majority” to fall in line with whatever they’re pushing at the moment so as not to be the next one the metaphorical 500-pound gorrilla picks up and throws against the wall.

          • hlynkacg says:

            …and I’m saying that it doesn’t matter if “the vast majority” fall in line. What matters is the ratio of rioters to those willing to fight against them.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Yes. That is the important ratio. Kevin C is arguing that that ratio may increase (due to a shrinking denominator) rather than decrease (due to a shrinking numerator, as Leonard suggests). The relative rate of change here is extremely important.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Don’t feel bad, I’m sure someone will invite you to a college eventually.

  19. HeelBearCub says:

    I feel like this article is relevant.

    Religious freedom for me, but not for thee, if you will.

    I also think that, usually you have to stick up for principle when its not popular, otherwise its not a very good principle. But it’s usually better to do this for targets which are seen to be fair game, but have a sympathetic look to them. You have to get the general populace on your side. Rosa Parks is canonical.

    So I’m not sure Scott quite has it right here.

    • johnmcg says:

      It’s possible that response is more like, “No religious freedom for me? Well, no religious freedom for thee, either!”

      • Jaskologist says:

        At this point any invocation of “religious freedom” by the left looks like a weapon. You can’t appeal to me with a “neutral” principle that you’ve demonstrated I will never be able to defend myself with.

        The days of James Dobson defending the rights of Native Americans to get high may not quite be gone, but you can bet he’s not going to exert himself to get more mosques built.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          This is typical of SSC.

          The article is about two different elements of the right fighting about what the principle of religious freedom actually means.

          One wants to actually uphold the principle.

          • nyccine says:

            This is typical of you.

            The article falsely implies that their is a fight because one side wants to be principled, the other doesn’t (boo other tribe).

            As Jaskologist correctly notes, that’s not the reason there’s a fight. There’s a fight because we’ve been shown that *our* of “freedom of religion” will never, NEVER, be honored by the left, and that “upholding the principle” is nothing more than a sucker’s bet.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @nyccine:

            In what sense has your freedom of religion not been honored by “the left”?

            Also, are you sure it’s the whole left you’re talking about? How are we feeling about guilt by association these days?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @nyccine:

            The article falsely implies that their is a fight because one side wants to be principled, the other doesn’t (boo other tribe).

            What sides are we talking about? There is what amounts to a coda on the article which talks about why conservative adherents of the Islamic faith are currently supporting and counting themselves among progressives, simply because that is where they receive a modicum of support for their right to remain Islamic in America.

            But right before that it talks about how this support undermines their beliefs on things like homosexuality.

            This article is about an internecine struggle on the right and doesn’t really compare that to the left at all.

          • nyccine says:

            @wysinwygymmv

            Exactly what Jaskologist was referring to. The Supreme Court, in Employment Division v. Smith (and a couple of other cases that escape me), overturned the long-standing doctrine that the government had to subject religious impact of laws to strict scrutiny, and instead said that so long as the law was facially neutral, it didn’t matter. Seeing where this was going, the religious right joined arms with the left, got the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed, and everyone held hands and sang kumbaya, religious rights will be protected.

            Then, when the government began turning its eye towards religious practices of the right (as opposed to Native Americans), the left suddenly forgot how important it was to protect religious freedom; no, facially neutral laws that have substantial impact on one’s religious beliefs were deemed ok now, and actively encouraged the SC to strike down RFRA, as it applied to the Feds (it was already struck down as applied against the States), because employer-provided abortifacients are a right, but apparently the Free Exercise clause is just gibberish now, so broad is the Establishment clause read.

            Also, are you sure it’s the whole left you’re talking about? How are we feeling about guilt by association these days?

            On this issue? Pretty damn confident. The actions of the left, collectively, speak for themselves.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @nyccine:

            If you want to convince people that you’re reasonable and worth listening to, and therefore have any chance of changing people’s minds, you might want to look out for nonsense like this:

            On this issue? Pretty damn confident. The actions of the left, collectively, speak for themselves.

            I’m pretty much writing you off as a worthwhile party for discussions based on this. Food for thought.

          • nyccine says:

            @wysinwygymmv
            If I’d seen you behave in any fashion that indicates you view “reasonable discussion” as anything other than “agrees with me on most everything, especially what matters, and doesn’t push back too hard on that which doesn’t” then your criticism of me would have teeth.

    • quanta413 says:

      Interesting article. Thanks. Depressing to think about how much U.S. politics was affected by the September 11th attacks. Unfortunate that people have low interest in defending a right when they think they don’t need it. First they came for the…

      On the broader point, I think for most people, Jordan Peterson would be relatively inoffensive (read: unknown, points of view mostly acceptable) and maybe even sympathetic. On the other hand, I think groups are sometimes well served by having a more aggressive counterpart. Like MLK and the SCLC compared to Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. The aggressive counterpart makes the more peaceful group seem less threatening in comparison and can get the authorities to rush to deal with someone they think is less threatening before things really go south.

      On an unrelated note, the student group explicitly decided against Milo because Milo is obviously the opposite of sympathetic. I think this shows they aren’t going for the maximum outrage strategy to defend free speech.

      They also said they will invite more left wing speakers although to be honest, I am having a really hard time coming up with leftists who aren’t welcome on campus and would thus make any point related to free speech unless they have somehow failed to toe the ever wiggling party line. You mostly just have to invite leftists to signal that you aren’t a right wing group. Salaita managed to piss of some Jewish donors by being mean on twitter, but I’m having trouble thinking of other examples… tatchell got into a minor spat with a campus group once? Some people who I think could be good to invite if your goal was outrage (Assata Shakur) are fugitives.

      • allspoilersallthetime says:

        I don’t know how the situation is in the States, but in the UK it would be very easy to find left-wing speakers who aren’t welcome on campus, and whose opinions would be relatively inoffensive and even sympathetic. The SJWs here routinely no-platform those who are accused of being Islamophobes, SWERFs, and TERFs (against sex-work or transgenderism, respectively). Notable examples include:

        – famous 2nd-wave feminist Germaine Greer
        – socialist Maryam Namazie
        – Nick Lowles, anti-racism activist
        – working-class lesbian feminist Julie Bindell (this one is especially funny because the Student Union at Manchester University banned Bindel from debating feminism and censorship. After an outcry they also ban her intended opponent: Milo Yiannopoulos).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You need someone who pisses off the the right, not merely a left apostate.

          • allspoilersallthetime says:

            quanta413 didn’t specify that – in fact they mentioned ‘Tatchell’ as a possible example, who might well also fit into your category of left apostate.

            Fwiw, I don’t think any of these people are ‘apostates’. They’re all standard lefties – seems to me that the SJWs are the apostates, having given up on actual politics, both theoretical and actual, in favour of navel-gazing and performative outrage.

            But either way, I can’t give you an example of someone who’s been no-platformed or protested at a university by the right. i was under the impression that there aren’t enough rightwingers in any university to get together even a half-sized mob.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Donna Hylton is sufficient to convince me that Free Speech isn’t worth the effort.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        Norman Finkelstein might be a good bet. He doesn’t inspire the same level of student outrage but does get the “You can’t say that because I find it offensive” argument.

      • howardtreesong says:

        I wonder how many of those that say Milo isn’t sympathetic have actually seen him. I’ll concede that he isn’t particularly deep and is at times mean, but he’s also quite amusing, pretty quick, and often disarming. He’s often loose on subjects that really do demand some verbal precision, but I must say in his defense that he has routinely told hostile audiences “Look, I don’t want you necessarily to believe what I’m telling you. What I do want is that you think critically and figure out what’s right for yourselves and not be in any way afraid to talk about and debate it, regardless of the subject.” Paraphrasing, obviously.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree you should stand up for a principle even when it’s not popular. I just don’t think you should generate maximally unpopular cases just to force yourself to stand up for principle on them.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        But do you actually think Peterson and Murray are maximally unpopular cases? And if you do, why?

        • Gazeboist says:

          Murray, at least, is empirically a sufficiently unpopular case as to (speaking loosely) provoke riots when invited for reasons other than the controversy he inspires. I think a much better point can be made out of Scott’s comment by deleting the word “maximally”.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        To the extent that Murray is already a shibboleth, I basically agree.

        But I think categorizing this approach as choosing people who are maximally unpopular is incorrect.

        The ideal person would be relatively unknown and run counter to a particular sterotype. An Amish matriarch who also publishes on theology and is clearly a very decent and telegenic individual who clearly loves all God’s children. Something like that.

  20. Steve Sailer says:

    “This is even more pressing in the context of growing partisanship and tribalism. Because the debate centers on mostly-leftist areas like universities, conservatives are turning free speech into a conservative principle. This is a disaster, because something being a conservative principle pretty automatically means that being against it is the quickest way to become popular. If people actually care about free speech, the number one thing they can do right now is very loudly shout about it every time a liberal is silenced.”

    Which is when?

    Here’s the reception Bernie Sanders got at the Falwell’s Liberty University:

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/video-bernie-sanders-at-jerry-falwells-liberty-university/

  21. The Nybbler says:

    A commons is one analogy. But another for free speech is one of a bounded field, one in which the boundaries are constantly being encroached upon. In that case, it’s just the opposite — if you stay safely in the middle of your field, you soon find you have no space at all. Only by policing the boundaries and keeping them from being pushed in do you keep it.

    This only demonstrates the problem of arguing by analogy.

    But while Milo is good in my analogy and bad in yours, neither Jordan Peterson nor Charles Murray are controversial for controversy’s sake. I would say that if your commons cannot support them, _it’s already depleted_, and you better bring in fertilizer (whether mere manure or “the blood of patriots and tyrants”) by the truckload to get it back into shape.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Or the highbrow Heather Mac Donald, who was shouted down at UCLA and Claremont last week, and a professor’s wife was physically assaulted.

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      . . . neither Jordan Peterson nor Charles Murray are controversial for controversy’s sake. I would say that if your commons cannot support them, _it’s already depleted_, and you better bring in fertilizer (whether mere manure or “the blood of patriots and tyrants”) by the truckload to get it back into shape.

      Best comment in the thread.

    • James Miller says:

      Given academic political correctness and the idea that Charles Murray is mostly (if unfairly) known for, I would say that if the academic left could support the right of Murray to speak on campus it could support the right to speak of nearly anyone.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      They’re not controversy for controversy’s sake except in the case of the link I put in the top of the post, which is the case I’m talking about.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        If that’s your stance and justification for the post, then the post does a poor job expressing it; by this logic, anyone they could’ve invited would then be “controversy for controversy’s sake” and therefore a bad idea. Even if that person weren’t controversial, it would still be at best a neutral idea, because it didn’t have any motive except controversy.

    • Gazeboist says:

      A commons may be bounded. We must police the boundaries, but we must also make sure that, in doing so, we don’t burn down the commons.

  22. spN44p8 says:

    I think it is actually a reasonable tactic. A word that gets used a lot by people on the left these days to justify extreme tactics is “normalization”: The idea that they have to make a huge scene so that everyone will know this speech is not normal. If Charles Murray and Jordan Peterson are invited to places over and over again, and protesters can’t stop it, then the protests will be seen as ineffective, and people will become apathetic about those people being allowed to speak, and people less controversial by extension. This would ultimately expand the ability of students to bring controversial speakers on campus.

    Also, you treat Murray and Peterson as if they are just provocateurs with no real message. They are perfectly reasonable people to speak on a college campus, as they have both done serious academic research (more so Murray). To treat the stigma against them as something legitimate would make the university a more closed-minded place, and further increase the accurate perception of many departments as being institutions of left wing political advocacy. If we want people to trust universities, that perception, and the reality that creates it need to diminish.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Obviously, Murray is a giant of contemporary social sciences.

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      Peterson has been involved in research which has found that, using factor analysis, the Big 5 divide into 2 facets each. Why is this important? Because the Big 5 on their own seem to predict some really weird things.

      For example, low Conscientiousness tends to predict less religiosity, as well as either liberal or libertarian politics. But there are all sorts of hard working, successful liberals, particularly in places like Silicon Valley. Turns out that Conscientiousness splits into Industriousness and Orderliness, and only low Orderliness predicts less religiosity, as well as liberal/libertarian politics. Irreligious people, as well as libertarians and liberals, are just as hard working as anybody (there are no political or religious correlates of Industriousness), but they are not as orderly. This seems to be mediated at least in part by disgust sensitivity. Orderliness does tend to predict some successful life outcomes, like lower divorce rates, over and above Conscientiousness.

      It also used to be thought that Agreeableness had no political correlates. But Agreeableness splits into Politeness and Compassion. Politeness tends to predict conservatism and Compassion predicts left liberalism, and the two come out as a wash in the larger factor.

      So, this finer grained personality model seems to predict things much better than the original Big 5.

      —-

      Second, Peterson and one of his grad students seem to have solved the “left wing purity” problem that has bedeviled analyses of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Turns out only a small subset of those on the left are really driving this. The PC Authoritarians (SJWs proper) have a personality profile like this: low to medium Openness, high Orderliness (especially high disgust sensitivity, normally a predictor of social conservatism), high Neuroticism (particular sensitivity to negative emotion), high Agreeableness, low IQ. In this they are very similar to right wing extremists, except that they score very high on Agreeableness, while right wing extremists tend to score really low on Agreeableness. (PC Authoritarians also tend to be much more religious than most people on the left.)

      Then, regular liberals tend to respond to the extreme expressions of distress by the PC Authoritarians, either by rationalizing PC Authoritarian demands, or remaining silent, lest they be seen as lacking in compassion.

      (Ordinary left liberals tend to be high Openness, low Orderliness, high Compassion. Libertarians tend to be like left liberals, except higher in IQ and lower in Compassion. So, I guess you get to libertarianism either from being really smart or from being a selfish bastard, or, preferably, both. BTW, our host here doesn’t seem like a selfish bastard, so his libertarian leanings probably come from being really smart. He does have some left liberal sympathies.)

  23. cassander says:

    You’re leaving out the important schelling point factor of sacred principles. They give people clear bright lines to rally around, and, by definition, they don’t move a lot. So sure, today, people on one side of some debate think less of speech, but defending the principle make a whole lot of other people think “yeah he’s a dick, but what can you do, free speech is sacred.” Then next week, the reverse happens. The using up of the sacred value can only happen, I think, if a certain sort of obnoxiousness launches a sustained assault (e.g. no one defends the use of certain racial slurs with “free speech”)

  24. ashlael says:

    I have a theory that there’s a rock-paper-scissors effect on different modes of argumentation. It goes debate-shame-defy.

    If you want debate your point of view calmly and reasonably, you get beaten by someone who refuses to engage with you as an equal and instead takes your opinion and presents it in the worst possible light and howls shame upon you.

    That strategy however is then beaten by the Milo Yoannopoulus/Donald Trump strategy of simply refusing to feel shame. Another example might be the “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” chant. “Yeah we’re gay/right-wing/whatever, what are you going to do about it?” appears to me to be a successful counter to shame tactics. It tells other people who disagree with the shamers that they have nothing to fear by ignoring them.

    What defeats that simple defiant approach is debate. Going into the detail and asking difficult questions makes the defiant look intellectually shallow and like they are raging against a machine that isn’t there.

    • Furslid says:

      Interesting. What happens when both sides make the same move?

      Debate vs Debate: Ideal situation. The best ideas win. However it’s really slow, and large numbers of people remain convinced by each side. A 60-40 split moving to a 70-30 as the minority dies out (gay rights) doesn’t seem appealing. So there is a strong temptation for the winning side to switch tactics because they can shame more effectively.

      Shame vs Shame: Nasty conflict. Huge polarization, and democratic when weighted by strength of opinion. Always tempting for the losing side to defy, because they are losing.

      Defy vs Defy: Polarized camps. Neither side engages with the other side. Very few people switch sides because there is little association between camps and arguments aren’t being made. Everyone is proud to be doing the right thing. Both sides may feel persecuted, but neither side does much persecution. The members that care about advancing their opinions are tempted to debate.

      • John Nerst says:

        Exchanges like this is why I come here, +2.

        To bring in a topic from above: this sort of framing works when the “camps” or sides in a conflict are cohesive enough for a player-vs-player model to describe the situation accurately. But what happens when each side has many separate actors, each with a different idea of what tactic the other side (and your own) is using (because they come across different representatives of both their own and the other side), and who’s winning? There’ll likely be chaotic strategy-switching all the time, as information flows in complex patterns within and between sides.

        The rock-paper-scissors model might just make it possible to analyze by computer simulation, much like iterated prisoners dilemma games with many agents.

        • Gazeboist says:

          Debate vs Debate remains very unstable, though, which I think is the problem.

          • Peffern says:

            I think all of the mirror matches are unstable, since one side will always tend towards using the more effective tactic. I think most of the time it ends up at debate/shame or at shame/defy.

    • wysinwygymmv says:

      Great observation, thanks for sharing it.

  25. Steve Sailer says:

    In reality, the violence by masked vigilantes at Middlebury trying to beat up Murray, and putting a woman professor in the hospital, did not, on the whole, fire up moderate liberals to be even more outraged. Instead it encouraged many of them to speak out in favor of free speech and against violence.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      True, but that’s because the reaction was especially disproportionate. And that’s the point: you should always be trying to provoke a disproportionate reaction, because it shows that your opponents are irrational. A simple protest for Murray wouldn’t have meant much.

      With that said, I think Scott has chosen his particular examples poorly; the principle holds, however.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Maybe it’s worth consider the implications of Scott choosing his example of Charles Murray so poorly?

        • AnonYEmous says:

          He is a combination of airy-fairy far left and trying to pretend like he’s not pretty far right via virtue signalling

          note that one of these values may be zero percent

          I was going to say that I don’t care about this, but on further reflection it’s worth exposing. Still, to me it’s kind of beside the point, insofar as the tactical argument is much more interesting, widely applicable, and under-considered.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Imputing motives like this is similar to undermining free speech. It makes it more difficult to have honest, open discussions.

            Please stop it. You get to say what your motives are. Speculating about others’ motives is rude. Stating it as fact is even worse.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            what i said was

            “he either believes what he’s saying or he’s saying it for an ulterior reason”

            and it’s important that people note this

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            That’s a paraphrase of what you said. What you actually said is this:

            He is a combination of airy-fairy far left and trying to pretend like he’s not pretty far right via virtue signalling

            I perceived “airy-fairy far left” as imputing motives for why SA might believe what he says. Honestly, I don’t really know what “airy-fairy far left” is supposed to mean. Maybe the problem is that you need to be more careful with your pejoratives. Maybe just try not to use them at all.

            I think it could be instructive to compare this to something that happened on an earlier thread — a bunch of right-ish people objected to someone using the phrase “love affair with the rich”, some of whom were quite strong in their objection. I tend to think “love affair with the rich” is no more unreasonable than “airy-fairy far left” (actually I believe it’s much more reasonable), so calibrate your fairness detectors accordingly.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I perceived “airy-fairy far left” as imputing motives for why SA might believe what he says.

            Then maybe I should’ve been more specific; I was attempting to pin his point on the political spectrum.

            so calibrate your fairness detectors accordingly.

            those people weren’t me; I have no problem with noting that there are people for whom “love affair with the rich” is an excellent descriptor. The people who I’m thinking of will agree with it and argue in favor of it being the right way to be.

    • luispedro says:

      Libertarians like to harp that you shouldn’t make a law unless you are willing to shoot people who disobey it. This is the sort of thing that turns people off libertarianism, but it does point to something true.

      I think many people will say Charles Murray should not be allowed to speak, but become very uncomfortable at the violence necessary to enforce it. Many people want stop illegal immigration, but become very uncomfortable with the violence of deportation. Many people want abortion to be illegal, but do not want to put women in jail for abortion. Many people support a health care mandate, but would be horrified at the police taking away a single mother for failing to get herself insured. Many people supported segregation in the South, but were horrified at the police beating up African-Americans who didn’t comply…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure that’s true. The people who were always in favor of free speech stayed in favor. What scared me was that a lot of people also said “Sure, this is fine, sometimes violence is good”, which wasn’t an opinion I’d ever seen expressed before. This is also how I feel about punching Richard Spencer. Sure, the ACLU types were against it. What was scary was that it brought “punching people with sufficiently bad ideas is okay” arguments into the mainstream.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “Sure, this is fine, sometimes violence is good”, which wasn’t an opinion I’d ever seen expressed before.

        I know (I think? I am suddenly unsure of this) you aren’t neuro-typical, but you really shouldn’t be surprised when a basic facet of human nature rears it’s head.

        Many/most fantastical stories, the basic heroes journey, involve solving a moral problem using violence. These stories are extremely satisfying. I’m not sure there is a more repeated basic story, the idea that good literally is triumphant in combat with evil.

        I mean, one of the most popular memes that went around was Captain America punching Hitler.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          eh

          my take is that the spencer punch showed a deep erosion of the line between violence and nonviolence. humans have always felt that violence is acceptable in response to violence and it’s obvious why; they are occasionally accepting of violence in response to very clearly expressed later threats of violence. But now we see unclear threats which may never come to pass and / or certain opinions being treated as violence and thus being returned in kind. That’s worrying.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How worried were you when protesters inside Trump rallies got punched? When they audience cheered for it? When Trump announced that in the old days people like that would be taken out on stretchers?

            I think you overestimate human nature.

          • The Nybbler says:

            One protester in one Trump rally was punched. He was arrested. He was charged with assault. He pleaded no-contest and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year of probation. That’s one person violating a norm, not accomplishing anything for himself or his side by doing so, and being punished for it. Not really very worrisome at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:
            Do you think the punch of Spencer represented a deep erosion of the line between violence and non-violence?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do you think the punch of Spencer represented a deep erosion of the line between violence and non-violence?

            No. Arguably a shallow erosion, since the puncher was not punished. But that seems to be because he escaped rather than was deliberately let go, which mitigates the erosion.

            The defense of the punch demonstrates that erosion has taken place, however.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The defense of the punch demonstrates that erosion has taken place, however.

            And this would apply equally to the Trump rallies… which you were, if I am understanding you correctly, not concerned about.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And this would apply equally to the Trump rallies… which you were, if I am understanding you correctly, not concerned about.

            Who is defending the guy who sucker-punched the protestor? (and by “defending” I mean “saying what he did was right”, not “providing legal defense for”) Trump’s “maybe he should have been roughed up” was worrisome, but it was a about a protestor who got thrown out by security, not one who actually got punched.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The protester was actually roughed up.

            But you are being far too cute, anyway.

            When someone says “I’m not saying, I’m just saying” it’s fairly disingenuous to claim that the first half of the sentence contains the real meaning.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HBC

            I saw the tape of the protestor getting thrown out. He wasn’t “roughed up” in any matter inconsistent with his refusing to leave a place he was trespassing in. He certainly got better treatment than that guy on the United flight.

            And yes, Trump was saying he should have been roughed up and that’s somewhat worrisome.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And what about all of the other times Trump said things like “in the old days they’d be carried out on a stretcher” and “I wish I could punch them in the face”, followed by “knock the crap out of them, I’ll pay for your legal fees”?

            Like I said, you are being too cute when you try and claim Trump made only reference to settling things via violence.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            sorry, let’s say rather:

            i don’t really care about the spencer punch. What was worrisome was seeing a lot of people online try to justify it. Maybe you see that to a lesser extent at discussions about Trump rally violence and then you’re worried; i didn’t so I wasn’t.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Trump has said a number of things which are worrisome. The main mitigating factor is that the man’s a blowhard; he’s not setting any norms that way, not even among his own supporters. Nobody knocked the crap out of the next guy who threw tomatoes. Which gets to the other mitigating factor; sometimes he’s referring to answering violence with violence, not speech with violence. But not always, and I agree that’s a problem.

            Much bigger than either Trump’s remarks or Spencer getting punched in the face are the black bloc and violent student protestors acting with impunity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            A dude in a bar shot and killed people he thought were Muslims, saying “Get out of my country”.

            Sure, he gets caught and punished. Fat lot of good that does.

            You aren’t being principled here. You are finding hairs and splitting them. The violent rhetoric should stop, and the violent acts, but don’t act like it’s some unique problem of the left.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Fat lot of good that does.

            Yes, it does because, enforcing norms makes them stronger.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The police enforced the norm that people who murder people get arrested.

            That norm already existed, and is already about as strong as it can be for a murder in front of a bunch random witnesses.

            It didn’t stop that murder.

          • Anonymous says:

            The police enforced the norm that people who murder people get arrested.

            That norm already existed, and is already about as strong as it can be for a murder in front of a bunch random witnesses.

            It didn’t stop that murder.

            Proximity + diversity = war.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HBC,
            Preventing that particular killing is not the point. Someone who’d shoot two people on such thin “provocation” would probably have shot someone regardless of what Trump or anyone else said, just as the folks who’ll riot over Yiannopoulos or Murray will find an excuse to riot regardless of how much we cater to them. Crazy people gonna be crazy.

            The question is how much crazy are we willing to tolerate before we throw someone over the garden wall? The norm against shooting individual people is still being enforced, the norm against mob violence, not so much.

        • nyccine says:

          I mean, one of the most popular memes that went around was Captain America punching Hitler.

          Hilariously forgetting that, much like the ACLU, Cap defended a neo-nazi’s right to speak

  26. phil says:

    Charles Murray is not a troll, he has a history of being impressively right http://takimag.com/article/a_new_caste_society_steve_sailer/

    A society that’s not interested in being right is dumber for it

    Free speech that can’t even be bothered to cover people who have a history of being right, is toothless, to the point of begging the question -‘ what are we even bothering to protect?’

    • Antistotle says:

      There are a whole list of things that Science can’t touch because if the answer is wrong then the witch scientist gets burned. Especially if he’s wearing the wrong shirt (I imagine she can get away with wearing the wrong shirt because of patriarchy or something).

      If you do Science and determine that homosexuality is inherent in some fashion (either genetic, gestational or whatever) then you’re pilloried because then it’s a “defect” that can be treated. If you prove that it’s significantly a *choice*, then you get the electric chair because if it’s a *choice* then certain people are going to argue that you *should* be able to discriminate on that basis (and if it’s a choice then what basis *can* you discriminate on?).

      It wasn’t conservatives harassing Judith Curry.

      • publiusvarinius says:

        If you prove that it’s significantly a *choice*, then you get the electric chair because if it’s a *choice* then certain people are going to argue that you *should* be able to discriminate on that basis

        I have yet to hear this particular complaint. It sounds really weak. After all, religious discrimination is already forbidden, even though religion is a choice (w/ high probability).

        The complaints I’ve heard sound more similar to the following:

        If homosexuality is genetic,then it can be treated. If homosexuality is a matter of choice, then it can be treated by praying the gay away. We don’t want people treating homosexuality, so it must be neither genetic nor a matter of choice. Woe unto you, scientist, because you disagree.

        • wysinwygymmv says:

          In general, if establishing a principle as fact provides a pretext for oppressing some group, people are often opposed to establishing that principle as a fact.

          It seems like a lot of people are getting confused about this, but it seems obvious to me. If blacks are lower IQ than whites, then this fact will be used to undermine the political power of blacks. The solution is not to talk about the fact that blacks are lower IQ than whites.

          You can’t make a principle like “blacks are lower IQ than white” a commonly-known fact without that fact heavily coloring the way people perceive and act towards blacks. A lot of people don’t want that fact to color how people perceive and act towards blacks. If it is actually true that blacks are on average lower IQ than whites, then the only way to prevent the differential treatment is to prevent the fact from becoming widely known.

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t the better solution to people incorrectly judging individuals based on group-based differences, to teach them not to do that, rather than hide the truth from them?

            The truth does cause things to happen in the real world that people may want to change. If they don’t know the truth, they may be incapable of achieving their values.

            For example, if black people have lower IQs on average, then no anti-discrimination effort is going to result in equal outcomes. On the other hand, inter-ethnic marriage may then work.

          • gbdub says:

            If you try to bury the facts, you’re going to misdiagnose the problems and waste time, effort, and credibility on useless solutions.

            It’s like a doctor giving a patient aspirin instead of chemo because it’s uncomfortable to admit the patient has cancer.

            Consider college affirmative action, which tries to ignore the inconvenient truth that a lot of affirmative action admits really are unprepared to succeed in an elite college (often through no fault of their own, but unprepared is unprepared) and as a result are more likely to fail out. Any real solution would need to start earlier than senior year of high school, but that’s hard, and painful to admit.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If it is actually true that blacks are on average lower IQ than whites, then the only way to prevent the differential treatment is to prevent the fact from becoming widely known.

            That turns out not to be possible. To use a slightly less controversial claim, how about “blacks are on average faster sprinters than whites”? If this is true, we’ll see blacks winning a disproportionate number of sprints, and we’ll know something is up. If we try to correct this through various handicapping measures, the presence of the handicapping measures will themselves give away the game.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @Aapje:

            Isn’t the better solution to people incorrectly judging individuals based on group-based differences, to teach them not to do that, rather than hide the truth from them?

            Perhaps in a perfect world. We don’t live in one of those.

            We live in a world where for several centuries the presumption of blacks being less intelligent was used as a pretext for political oppression (which is an incredibly mild term for most of what went on). You can try to prevent this truth from being used that way by teaching people about the differences between intellectual and moral equality yada yada but your efforts won’t be 100% successful. On net, popularizing the fact that blacks have lower IQ than whites on average will cause more anti-black discrimination. People who are more opposed to discrimination than they are aligned with scientific truth will pick their sides accordingly.

            The truth does cause things to happen in the real world that people may want to change. If they don’t know the truth, they may be incapable of achieving their values.

            The problem here is there’s something that people don’t want to change: the presumption of blacks as intellectual and moral equals to whites. The truth makes this presumption harder to maintain.

            @gbdub:

            If you try to bury the facts, you’re going to misdiagnose the problems and waste time, effort, and credibility on useless solutions.

            It’s like a doctor giving a patient aspirin instead of chemo because it’s uncomfortable to admit the patient has cancer.

            I think that this is not a good analogy for trying to understand this situation. I think it loses the important context of this issue:

            For hundreds of years, whites’ presumed mental superiority was used as a pretext for oppressing blacks. The solution was a compromise whereby we decided to assume whites and blacks are actually equal. This compromise isn’t just to prevent a doctor from having to experience social awkwardness — it’s to prevent lynchings, political disenfranchisement, red-lining, and a host of other demonstrable real ills.

            If you don’t understand the scale of what’s being lost along with the compromise, then you can’t possibly understand why people get so emotional over Murray’s dry-as-dust academic work. If you try to bury these facts, you’re going to misdiagnose the problems (in this case, opposition to Murray’s work) and waste time, effort, and credibility on useless solutions.

            Note that I’m not making a moral case against Murray’s work. I’m describing why (I believe) people find it so offensive.

            @The Nybbler:

            That turns out not to be possible. To use a slightly less controversial claim, how about “blacks are on average faster sprinters than whites”? If this is true, we’ll see blacks winning a disproportionate number of sprints, and we’ll know something is up. If we try to correct this through various handicapping measures, the presence of the handicapping measures will themselves give away the game.

            Was sprinting speed ever used as a pretext for political oppression? If not, it doesn’t really seem relevant to me.

            PS this may be related to why this is less controversial than the intelligence question

          • Aapje says:

            @wysinwygymmv

            I agree that right now, proper research into HBD is way too far out of the Overton window. I agree that it is the one of the last things that can be accepted, not the first. There are other topics that are way closer to what SJ people and the mainstream already tend to believe and which they can be convinced about*. I don’t even disagree that popularizing it may more harmful than helpful at this moment.

            For me, the resistance to entertaining the idea that it may be right (which I am not claiming is the case, but I think research on the topic should be allowed) is an example of the SJ corruption of parts of science, where terminal values dictate desired outcomes which dictates how research is performed. As such, facts are shaped around beliefs, rather than beliefs around facts.

            Outside of SSC, I would never use argue about HBD.

            However, it’s incredibly stupid to think that when genes are proven to influence intelligence and when there are proven genetic differences between ethnic groups that almost everyone accepts as fact (like sensitivity to diseases or athletic skills), all ethnic groups necessarily have exactly the same average IQ.

            So it seems to me that non-mind killed people of high intelligence ought to be able to at least realize that it may be somewhat true and reason about the consequences of it being true.

            But if your argument is that almost all people, even those of high intelligence, are mind killed on this topic, then I won’t tar and feather you.

            * And I think it is likely that accepting heterodox beliefs on other topics allow us to make choices that result in far more major gains.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @Aapje:

            For me, the resistance to entertaining the idea that it may be right (which I am not claiming is the case, but I think research on the topic should be allowed) is an example of the SJ corruption of parts of science, where terminal values dictate desired outcomes which dictates how research is performed. As such, facts are shaped around beliefs, rather than beliefs around facts.

            I don’t think it’s a “corruption” of anything. It’s a straight-up conflict of values: if you accept the premise that widespread social acceptance of Murray’s research as valid would find expression in racism and justifications thereof, then you are forced to choose whether the principles of scientific truth and free inquiry are more important or the principles of moral equality and non-discrimination are more important.

            To describe favoring the latter as “corruption of science” is begging the question of which values are more important. There is no fact of the matter over which values are more important, though it does strike me that there’s probably more downside from racism than upside from acknowledging this particular scientific finding.

            However, it’s incredibly stupid to think that when genes are proven to influence intelligence and when there are proven genetic differences between ethnic groups that almost everyone accepts as fact (like sensitivity to diseases or athletic skills), all ethnic groups necessarily have exactly the same average IQ.

            No one’s claiming all ethnic groups have exactly the same average IQ. HBD really shot themselves in the foot here by making such a good case that IQ is a good proxy for intelligence in general. The compromise is not about IQ specifically but intelligence in general — if blacks can be expected on average to be as intelligent as whites in all the relevant ways, then there’s no problem. But then if you offer scientific evidence that IQ is the same thing as intelligence and white people have higher average IQ, then the compromise can no longer be maintained.

            But if your argument is that almost all people, even those of high intelligence, are mind killed on this topic, then I won’t tar and feather you.

            I think “mind-killed” is an unfairly prejudicial term. It seems like to you free inquiry is more important than anti-racism. For someone else who thinks free inquiry is important but treating other races as moral equals is more important, it seems to me like they are entirely justified in rejecting Murray’s research since it undermines a really important value for them.

            Personally, I’m trying not to take a side. I’m just trying to emphasize to all of you that if you put people in a position where they have to choose between two values, they will choose the value that’s more important to them, and you can’t make them change their mind by appealing to the value they’ve already rejected.

          • Aapje says:

            @wysinwygymmv

            Denying the truth is different from just a preference for an outcome. It fundamentally makes you unable to achieve your desired outcome, because you are unwilling to accurately assess cause and effect. So at that point you cannot predict the actual effects of interventions.

            If I prefer to park my car with the nose to the building and you prefer to park your car with the nose away from the building, then I can agree that your strategy of driving a little past a gap and backing into it is going to achieve your goal, even if your desired outcome is not one that I would choose.

            If you think that you can park with your nose away from the building by driving forwards through the building into the parking spot behind that building, you are going to make a mess of things and not achieve your goal.

            And if I own that building, you just became my enemy, even though I don’t care in which direction you park your own car. I do care about not becoming collateral damage of irrational behavior.

          • snikolenko says:

            There is something that has always bugged me about this reasoning (I’m not American so perhaps I haven’t internalized something important).

            People are pretty good at estimating IQs. If you meet a person and speak to him/her for a minute, you’ll have a far better estimate of their IQ than race would ever tell you in any case. I’ve never even met Barack Obama or Martin Luther King but they obviously have/had very high intelligence, etc.

            So what’s going on about this “differential treatment” if for any actual black or white person you meet you have your own estimate almost immediately anyway? Why don’t I treat white people whom I perceive to be of lower IQ than myself as morally worthless but will suddenly do the same for black people for no other reason than the same lower IQ?

            By reading SSC, I estimate that the vast majority of commenters here are in the 115+ IQ range. Do you all go around snubbing everybody else just because they have a 4/5 chance of having lower IQ than yourself? This is, btw, a much higher effect than race could have by any count.

            I think there is something else going on here; my null hypothesis would be that many white people just don’t like black people (for all sorts of “obvious outgroup” reasons), and IQ is just an excuse, in which case it doesn’t matter whether to hide it, there will always be an excuse if one wants to look for it.

            Notice that the other notorious example everybody knows (Godwin was right, yeah) didn’t proceed along the lines of “Jews have lower IQ” or “Jews are weaker than Aryans”, but rather along the lines of actually relevant bad things the Jews supposedly did: conspiracies, profiteering, drinking blood of Christian babies, you name it — but not just having lower IQ or muscle mass, it likely wouldn’t be enough.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is the third comment to this effect I’ve seen here, even though I specifically said in the post that Charles Murray qua Charles Murray was fine, it was only inviting him specifically to stir up controversy that bothered me.

      • mupetblast says:

        What is the effective difference anymore, on a college campus, between stirring up controversy and defending free speech norms?

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          Maybe they should have a plausible reason to invite Charles Murray specifically, that isn’t just about defending free speech. Something like a conference on a topic Charles Murray is an expert (but not *the* expert) and invite other people as well, people with different levels of controversial-ness.

          • mupetblast says:

            The fact that he was recently and famously shut down makes him kind of an obvious choice.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Wasn’t that what started the whole controversy in the first place?

        • Gazeboist says:

          If free speech is locally under attack, and you bring in relevant speakers to counter that attack, you are defending free speech norms. If free speech is under attack somewhere else, and you bring in someone controversial to set up a local iteration, you are stirring up controversy.

          (To defend free speech non-locally, continue to maintain readiness to defend it locally while also providing support for people better positioned to defend it where it is actually under attack.)

          • Jiro says:

            What’s “local”? One university is socially local to another university, since it’s immersed in the same culture, even if the physical distance between them is large.

  27. AnonYEmous says:

    Scott correctly articulated something important: PR tactics. Namely, you should invite campus speakers who are incorrectly libeled and thus deserve to be heard so they can correct this libel, which demonstrates the importance of free speech. If instead you bring someone to speak who’s been correctly libeled and thus shunned, then it begins to look to the average observer like censorship is a good idea.

    This is, of course, a tactical discussion. I’m not saying censorship is good. Others probably will, or they will think it more strongly than they did before.

    On the other hand…the people he names are pretty mild. Milo has been on a mean streak as of late, but go back half a year and listen to one of his campus speeches; they’re often pretty milquetoast, and I say that not because I’m desensitized to this stuff (I am) but because it seems objectively true to me. I can provide links if people want. Peterson…seems to be a really nice guy who has a semi-arbitrary problem with pronouns. He’s also got a lot of whacky ideas, but most of those whacky ideas aren’t even offensive, to be frank. And apparently Murray is a nice guy, though I personally wouldn’t bring him on. That might be a good example.

    Oh, and by the by:

    just to make sure liberals don’t get the impression that free speech is a weapon pointed at them.

    I take your point about Palestine (Palestine can go “” itself but that’s another story). But free speech is always a weapon the disempowered use to point at the powerful.

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      Peterson…seems to be a really nice guy who has a semi-arbitrary problem with pronouns.

      His criticism of multiple pronouns is as follows, and does not seem to be arbitrary at all:

      1. The first issue is that, under the letter of the law, the use of these pronouns is likely mandatory in some circumstances, and thus compelled speech, which is a substantially more intrusive than merely prohibited speech.
      2. The second issue with all the multitude of gender identities (and their attendant pronouns) is that identities are not purely expressions of self, but a set of social expectations that are useful for dealing with other people, and therefore have to be negotiated with other people. Having a multitude of individually customized gender identities wholly defeats the purpose of gender identities.

      Both points seem totally reasonable.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I think the second issue is kind of silly, at least insofar as “he” and “she” are discussed; words like “xie” don’t make any sense, personally. Issue the first is entirely fair. And Peterson tends to get a bit dramatic about these things, though he may well be right to be.

        • BlueyD says:

          From what I’ve seen, Peterson uses “he” for a transgender man and “she” for a transgender woman, as is accepted. It’s the “xie” and “zhe” pronouns he mostly dislikes, with an ambiguous stance on “they”.

          The worst that could honestly be said about Peterson is that he falls into hyperbole quickly and that not everything he says is well supported, but I don’t think he’s worse than the average psychology professor on that last point.

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      Milo is no more offensive than your average stand up comedian. And his jokes frequently land.

      • ignition says:

        Thank you. I will now refer to him as “popular stand-up comedian Milo Yiannoupolous”.

      • seladore says:

        I dunno if this is fair. I think a comedian who singled out a particular transgender audience member for ridicule and abuse (which included holding up a picture of said person), would count as a little more offensive than ‘average’.

        • manwhoisthursday says:

          Despite media reports that portrayed it that way, it wasn’t some random person. They were an activist.

    • mupetblast says:

      David Friedman once outlined the difference between “wimps and boors” in the attitudes surrounding free speech. Scott hasn’t a scintilla of boorishness, so a robust defense of free speech in the cases where it’s most needed – in defense of scoundrels – might be almost constitutionally impossible.

      Yes, I saw Scott’s edit on the post, but the fact that so many of us got the wrong impression at first suggests a fundamentally “wimpy” orientation. (Wimp doesn’t sound particularly charitable, I know, but then neither does boor.)

  28. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    I’m suspicious since I don’t see this dynamic working for any other sacred principles. Religious Freedom is a sacred value in the US, but it has been deployed for decades by the left without making it unattractive to the right. Equality Before the Law is a sacred value in the US, but the civil rights movement didn’t make white southerners come out in favor of capricious law enforcement. Family Values doesn’t count since it was not a sacred value; it was always a euphemism for specific values (you can tell it’s a euphemism since the literal meaning would be filial piety or something like that) which were widely considered silly.

    • ignition says:

      You could have worse translations for “family values” than “filial piety”.

      I do think it’s odd that the mid-century right did not pivot to an anti-speech stance like the modern left’s when they stood to lose greatly by not doing so.

      • Schmendrick says:

        Earlier iterations of the right did do this – McCarthyism, etc. The 90’s cultural conservative right didn’t adopt similar tactics with regard to gay marriage/abortion/whatever because a) McCarthyism poisoned the well, and/or b) Buckleyite fusionism drank the “American Dream,” “American Exceptionalism,” etc. koolaid so deeply that free speech and other “clasically liberal” ideas got baked into the conservative soul, making Putinesque “anticonversion” laws or policies to even be thinkable.

        • ignition says:

          Thanks for pointing that out, I wasn’t thinking far enough back. McCarthyism poisoning the well seems pretty likely considering “McCarthyism” is still a political slur on roughly the same level as “Orwellian”.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          They may also have looked at what an impressive acreage of cultural high ground their enemies held, and decided that being left alone was the most they could ever hope for.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Exactly, they saw it was a fight they could not win, against an enemy they could not hope to beat. The mistake was believing that they could hope for “being left alone”, rather than realizing their unstoppable foe will destroy them (or us, I should say).

    • Enkidum says:

      the civil rights movement didn’t make white southerners come out in favor of capricious law enforcement

      You and I must have read very different history books.

      • quanta413 says:

        Is it still capricious if your laws actually spell out that blacks are an official underclass with less rights?

        Extremely immoral law enforcement sure. But it was all spelled out and horrifyingly consistent. They even had to run over companies who just want to make more money. Money grubbing capitalist railroads were not racist enough by the government standards of the time. In Plessy v. Ferguson the train company allied with the black community in trying to challenge the law that required segregation of train cars.

        I think consistent bad law can be worse than capricious bad law.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Disagree strongly, good law becomes bad law when enforced capriciously, and bad laws become worse because they are allowed to persist.

          Laws should be enforced consistently or not at all.

    • tmk says:

      > Religious Freedom […] has been deployed for decades by the left without making it unattractive to the right.

      Trump? Muslims?

  29. Eponymous says:

    The extremely predictable consequences of anti-political-correctness activists marching under the banner of free speech are that a large part of the social justice movement now thinks of free speech itself as the enemy, that Twitter personalities make mocking references to “freeze peach”, that increasing numbers of people say the First Amendment “goes too far”.

    But that’s exactly the point. That’s like the Dalai Lama praising Kim Jung Un. Maybe if people see SJW twitter trolls say “free smeech” enough times, people will start questioning whether they should be going along with those people in the first place.

    I agree that it’s a dangerous game. We can distinguish two cases.

    The first are people who are just using “free speech” as a weapon for other purposes. They prompt a reaction and then yell “free speech!” as a way to punch liberals. Maybe they do it out of spite, or because punching liberals is their whole schtick (i.e. Milo), or maybe because they’re on the red team, and they’re seizing political advantage for themselves so they can have power or cut taxes. Whatever the case, I agree that this is bad.

    But the second are people who consider free speech a terribly important foundational principle of our society, and perceive it to be under threat (and yes, very much more from one side of the political spectrum). They believe that there is still a core respect for free speech in society, and that by highlighting the extent to which a certain segment of the left is violating this principle, they can shame them into stopping.

    This is the completely standard activist/protester tactic of prompting an overreaction that you can then point to to highlight the problem. Of course this relies on their being a sufficient population that will recognize it as an overreaction, and then support you in correcting the situation. I certainly hope this is so.

    And if Charles Murray becomes the face of this instead of Milo, I will be extremely grateful.

    • ignition says:

      I totally agree with this. The most visible free speech offense-baiting seems designed to get a few people extremely angry without seeming totally unacceptable to the middle. It focuses on breaking specifically far-left taboos a lot for that reason.

    • Antistotle says:

      Or maybe they do it because *they* have been punched so many times by people claiming “free speech” that they’ve just decided to hit back.

      Now, consider that, and consider what happens when the portion of the population that contributes the most to the military, police etc. decides that after decades of the Left getting away with burning and looting stuff when they get upset decide to “punch back” that way too.

  30. cmurdock says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever really vehemently disagreed with an SSC post. Speech protection is like anti-lynching laws: its main purpose is to defend against people “everybody” thinks doesn’t deserve its protection (no mob ever lynched someone they didn’t all think had it coming). If you withhold its protection from people the repugnant don’t think deserve protecting– either because you agree with the repugnant or because you have some idea that not doing so will damage your brand in the minds of the repugnant– either way, you’re letting them dictate terms and thus abandoning the point of the law/principle/whatever. There’s a reason we don’t let murderers decide when murder is illegal.

    • Eponymous says:

      Scott’s not arguing for not defending Milo’s right to free speech. He’s saying that it’s bad tactics to make Milo the face of the free speech issue.

      • Jiro says:

        The problem is that only controversial targets are the victims of free speech restrictions in the first place. Something like discriminating against blacks will affect a lot of targets who are completely inoffensive–free speech doesn’t work that way.

        Furthermore, the fact that Charles Murray is considered so offensive that he’ll hurt the free speech movement is not natural. He’s considered offensive because the left has demonized him, and one of the ways the left demonizes him is by not allowing him to have free speech in the first place. This ends up becoming circular: He’s denied free speech, which helps the left paint him as evil, and now because he’s widely considered evil, it’s just good tactics to not defend his free speech.

        (Also, just like when Scott said that supporting Trump is bad for Trump supporters because it encourages social justice, I think this pattern-matches to a common case of motivated reasoning. Asserting that one’s opponents should, for their own good, do something that on a straightforward level seems to harm them and help you, is very often motivated reasoning (or concern trolling if done on purpose)).

        • nyccine says:

          The problem is that only controversial targets are the victims of free speech restrictions in the first place. Something like discriminating against blacks will affect a lot of targets who are completely inoffensive–free speech doesn’t work that way.

          This is exactly the point Scott misses. In cases of free speech, there *cannot* be PR-friendly cases, by the very nature of the concept.

          The only circumstance in which it even makes sense to think of “sympathetic” free speech cases is one in which society has effectively abandoned the value.

  31. ksvanhorn says:

    Scott, this is one of the very few times that something you’ve posted has caused my opinion of you to drop. Thugs use violence to prevent someone from speaking, and your solution is to give in to the thugs? I’m not speaking metaphorically here — people who use violence to prevent others from speaking are criminals who have no place in civilized society. One of the really disturbing things about the happenings at Berkeley and Middlebury is that nobody was arrested. The criminals got off scot-free. The situation is reminding me of the way Clodius used his mobs to intimidate his opponents in the twilight years of the Roman Republic — or, more recently, the Nazis used their mobs of brown-shirts.

    Furthermore… Charles Murray is your idea of a way, far out there speaker who only a free-speech absolutist would defend? Seriously? Yet you can’t think of a single left-wing speaker who might fit that description?

    • AnonYEmous says:

      He’s discussing tactics, not principles.

      And he has a tough time choosing acceptable speakers. If I ran an organization, Scott would be in charge of how we determine who to invite, but not the actual invitations.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        He’s discussing what people ought not do so as not to harm the commons for others: that’s a moral argument.

        Amoral nash equilibrium=defect every time and have fun doing it

    • Alraune says:

      One of the really disturbing things about the happenings at Berkeley and Middlebury is that nobody was arrested.

      The mayor of Berkeley should’ve been forced to resign in disgrace and it is absolutely shameful that, as far as I can tell, nobody even attempted to make him.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “as far as I can tell, nobody even attempted to make him.”

        Well, honestly, who is there out there in any position to make such an attempt?

    • James Miller says:

      The city of Berkeley showed itself unfit to host a world-class university. As I have suggested, move the University to Garland, Texas.

    • Gazeboist says:

      Harvard is in Cambridge, relatively distant from Middlebury and literally a continent away from Berkeley. Scott is not suggesting “giving into the thugs”, he’s suggesting not giving them a reason to show up in a place where they are not.

      To the extent that “the thugs” are already present at Harvard, they should be fought *there* on issues located *there*, rather than bringing in extra problems from hundreds of miles away. American Muslims are not harmed by a French burqa ban; they are harmed by local people preventing them from building mosques.

  32. keranih says:

    Well, if the left-ward lot is mocking “freeze peach”, it’s only fair, as my lot has been mocking “whirled peas” for generations.

    The nightmare scenario is that “free speech” goes the way of “family values” to the point where a seemingly uncontroversial concept gets so tarnished by its association with unpopular/conservative ideas that it becomes impossible to mention or invoke in polite company without outing yourself as some kind of far-right weirdo. Right now I think we are on that path.

    If one’s polite company rejects waving the flag, owning a firearm, or supporting free expression on the grounds that this is something icky that conservatives do, honey, I got nothing for you. This is falling squarely on irrational tribal identity, and eschewing logical sober consideration of the issue, and I can’t help you.

    Yes, I get it that different groups have different shiboleths, and that something that sounds entirely reasonable to one group can sound crazy offensive to another, but for crying out loud, we’re beyond preferences and differences of opinion, this is about “we ain’t them, and aint never gonna.”

    If your identity rests on rejecting free expression…well. You know, it used to be that one could say that the Southern identity rested on a racial hierarchy, which the members of that group clung to long past the point where it was a winning play. But eventually – and despite the better efforts of the North, who wanted to demonize being Southern instead of demonizing being racist bigots(*) – the South by and large got past that.

    Maybe it’s time for a new sort of sit-in.

    (*)Insert whatever identity vs action comparison you like – “being Muslim:blowing up civilians” “being Black:mugging people” “being liberal:mocking rednecks” “being a man:raping women” and so forth.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      If your identity rests on rejecting free expression…well.

      Seconded. If that’s really the point we’ve reached, then I’m sorry but it’s time to send the National Guard in to open the schoolhouse doors.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Thirded.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        Also agreed. There is a point, when you are surrounded by baying blood-maddened hordes, in which you must say, e.g., “Sorry, Muslims, too many of you have committed too many high-profile murders and it’s become bad tactics for liberalism to support you.”, as a tactical consideration to save as many as you can from the hordes.

        That point is not having a bunch of friends who go “Wait, you support frozen peaches? Ew.” That’s when, if you think that your Sacred Value is actually sacred, you fight for it, even if it’s against the aforementioned friends.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “it’s time to send the National Guard in to open the schoolhouse doors.”

        Except this is highly unlikely to happen, and would end the career of any “Fascist” who tries.

  33. vV_Vv says:

    There is a time to escalate and there is a time to de-escalate.

    Free speech has been eroded over the years by the constant attacks of the authoritatians.

    What you are suggesting is that free speech supporters should bow down and beg the authoritatians that they let keep them a bit of free speech this time as long as it is not used to say anything really controversial. Wrong strategy.

    This is not the time to beg the enemy for mercy, this is the time to fight back. Yiannopoulos is too offensive? Fine, then we’ll have Peterson. Peterson is too offensive? Then what about Murray? Murray is also too offensive? Then we’ll put the whole /pol/ and /r/TheRedPill on a stage. If you don’t like what they have to say you can either behave like a civilized person and write refutations of their arguments, or you can riot, make a fool of yourself, lose popular support, and eventually lose the elections and get tear gassed by the police the next time you try to shut down something.

    The authoritarians are the ones who consistently play “Defect” in the iterated prisoner dilemma of politics. How do you respond to a defector? By keeping to cooperate in the hope that eventually they’ll sponteneously start to cooperate back? Nope. You defect against them.

    The extremely predictable consequences of anti-political-correctness activists marching under the banner of free speech are that a large part of the social justice movement now thinks of free speech itself as the enemy, that Twitter personalities make mocking references to “freeze peach”, that increasing numbers of people say the First Amendment “goes too far”. Meanwhile, pundits have perfected the argument that since the First Amendment only applies to the government it’s great and praiseworthy for everyone else to restrict speech as much as they want, leaving a pro-free-speech side whose arguments too often come down to “well, it’s in the First Amendment, so you’ve got to respect us” kind of flat-footed.

    Sucks to be them.

    Seriously Scott, why are you trying to seek appeasement with these people? They are the kind of people who would have already sent you to a gulag for your political incorrect writings like “Untitled” if they had such power. The correct strategy is to make sure that they will never wield such power by helping us to push them onto their path towards irrelevance, where they are already headed.

    The nightmare scenario is that “free speech” goes the way of “family values” to the point where a seemingly uncontroversial concept gets so tarnished by its association with unpopular/conservative ideas that it becomes impossible to mention or invoke in polite company without outing yourself as some kind of far-right weirdo. Right now I think we are on that path.

    You have it backwards. Right now the far-left looks much more weird than the far-right. Look at what is happening all over the Western world. Parties that until a few years ago were considered fringe extreme right-wing are now serious contenders in the elections. The left, by calling everyone and everything they disagree with “racist”, “sexist”, “Nazi”, managed to make racism, sexism and Nazism cool again. We’ve already passed peak SJW, now the right, in particular the far-right, is the new hip and trendy counter-culture.

    This is worrying. I’d prefer the pendulum not to swing back and forth with increasing momentum until the system explodes. I would like it to stabilize around some equilibrium point of sanity and then move slowly, gently, powered by intellect and evidence instead of rage and fear. Which is why I think it is so important to support free speech and the other classical liberal values. They are the dampener on the pendulum, preventing whoever is cool and hip and powerful at any moment from exerting large, emotion-driven, social interventions that either quash the opposition or provoke an even larger and more violent backlash.

    But classical liberal values have to be fought for. When the pendulum hits you hard in the face, then you have to push it back into the face of the guy on the other side. Then, when both of you have your faces sore, you can agree to cooperate to slow it down.

    • Kevin C. says:

      “Wrong strategy.”

      If you’re standing unarmed while surrounded by five men with machine guns telling you to “bow down and beg”, then bowing down and begging is the right strategy.

      “this is the time to fight back.”

      “Fighting back” is only right and timely if it has a reasonable shot of success, rather than likely serving only to get you squashed like a bug by the juggernaut.

      “lose popular support, and eventually lose the elections”

      As if elections really matter on these issues. Look at recent results for how much power the “merely elected government” has versus the “real government” (the courts vs. Trump, the “intelligence community” vs. Trump). Republicans win the White House, Congressional majorities, and the majority of state governments, and accomplish… what, exactly? The courts, the bureaucracies, and the Deep State keep things going in the same general direction as always.

      “get tear gassed by the police the next time you try to shut down something”

      You mean like the way the Berkeley Police tear-gas rioters? The people who deliver the police their marching orders aren’t going to do that.

      “Seriously Scott, why are you trying to seek appeasement with these people?”

      Because he mostly agrees with their goals, if not their tactics? Because they’re his ‘tribe’? Because given his social circles and career choices, they have the power to seriously wreck his life? Because they’re near the center of the “Universal Culture”, an unstoppable force slowly conquering the world? Take your pick.

      • hlynkacg says:

        If you’re standing unarmed while surrounded by five men with machine guns telling you to “bow down and beg”, then bowing down and begging is the right strategy.

        No, the right strategy is to die with your thumbs plunged into the eye-sockets of the closest machine-gunner so that there will be only four men for the one who comes after you

        …and how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

        – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Hlynkacg – “No, the right strategy is to die with your thumbs plunged into the eye-sockets of the closest machine-gunner so that there will be only four men for the one who comes after you”

          And who knows? If they’re surrounding you, they might hit each other when they open fire.

        • Kevin C. says:

          No, the right strategy is to die with your thumbs plunged into the eye-sockets of the closest machine-gunner so that there will be only four men for the one who comes after you

          Except by the time “the one who comes after you”, they’ll have recruited two more. I’m talking a scenario where one is truly, absolutely outgunned and outmatched, where resistance really is futile, and the only, only choices one has are obedience or death. In that situation, what is the right strategy?

          • Robert Liguori says:

            In the case where you’re not sure they’re going to shoot you anyway, the right answer is to obey until their backs are turned, wait until one of them is alone, beat them over the head with a rock, and take their gun.

            In the case where they are, presumably they’re going to run out of prospective machine-gunner recruits if their pitch is “Wanna go bully some outgroupers? You’ve only got maybe a 20% chance of getting your eyes put out!” over an extended period of time.

            Now, if the population numbers are such that there are 20 of them willing to personally suffer and die for the chance to kill you for every one of your group, then yes, you are proper fucked, but that situation is thankfully very rare.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Robert Liguori

            In the case where you’re not sure they’re going to shoot you anyway, the right answer is to obey until their backs are turned, wait until one of them is alone, beat them over the head with a rock, and take their gun.

            And what would be the equivalent of that if we take this as analogous to our current situation?

            “yes, you are proper fucked, but that situation is thankfully very rare.”

            Not rare enough, since it is clearly the situation me and mine are in. We are indeed “proper fucked”, as you put it, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. They are unbeatable. How do I know they’re unbeatable? Because no-one, nowhere, has ever provided a counterexample; nobody has ever put forth a plan for winning against them that isn’t built on delusional false hope and pixie dust, and isn’t obviously doomed to utter, laughable failure. Not. A. One.

          • Nornagest says:

            Serious question: where are you going with this? You keep talking about surrender, but I don’t exactly see you reading Gloria Steinem and trying to overcome your white privilege. What are you actually recommending, operationally?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            I don’t exactly see you reading Gloria Steinem and trying to overcome your white privilege.

            Because I’m lousy at lying and pretending to believe something I don’t (I have an actual psychiatric diagnosis of Asperger’s, amongst other things).

            Where am I going? What am I recommending? What I’m recommending is that you recognize that all schemes, plans, strategies or ideas for pushing back against the Leftward march are completely futile and absolutely will not succeed, and are mostly thus a waste of effort and resources which invite backlashes that only make our end come sooner and our remaining days more painful. Recognize that nothing we do will really matter in the long run, and that we will have neither biological nor ideological descendants. Realize that all we value and consider good will lose, and that Evil shall triumph absolutely forever. That you live out whatever bit of life they allow you as well and enjoyably as you can while knowing it is all for naught.

            In short, what I recommend, what I really want from others, is perhaps best summed up by three words from a famous Italian poet: “lasciate ogni speranza“. Abandon all hope. That’s what I’m going for, that your hopes are all false. Stop hoping, and despair, despair, despair!

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, I’ve abandoned all hope. Now what?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            Okay, I’ve abandoned all hope. Now what?

            Have you really, though? Have you truly cast it aside? Do you really feel, deep in your heart, the utter crushing despair?

            If so, then go live the life proper to a member of a defeated people. Embracing the absence of purposeful action in both word and deed, abandoning any talk of “fighting back”, of being “left alone”, or even of surviving. Meek and devoid of futile defiance, scraping out whatever meager pleasures one is allowed while whiling away the pointless hours until death. Native American reservations might be a good place to start looking for examples. You can also start working to persuade others to stop pursuing futile ideas of “fighting back” that will see those meager pleasures taken away, and embrace despair as well.

          • Matt M says:

            In short, what I recommend, what I really want from others, is perhaps best summed up by three words from a famous Italian poet: “lasciate ogni speranza“. Abandon all hope. That’s what I’m going for, that your hopes are all false. Stop hoping, and despair, despair, despair!

            I feel like this is what someone would post if they were trying to come up with an exaggerated parody of your posts. But you do it yourself. No fair.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            That’s what I’m going for, that your hopes are all false. Stop hoping, and despair, despair, despair!

            I feel like Bill Murray in What About Bob, wondering if this is some sort of radical reverse psychology therapy. Having met someone not just more pessimistic and gloomy than myself, but wildly more pessimistic and gloomy, I’m feeling almost cheerful. You’re a genius, doc!

          • vV_Vv says:

            In short, what I recommend, what I really want from others, is perhaps best summed up by three words from a famous Italian poet: “lasciate ogni speranza“. Abandon all hope.

            And right after this famous verse, he goes on to describe the Vestibule of Hell, where the Uncommitted, those who in life took no sides, reside on the shores of the Acheron:

            “These miscreants, who never were alive,
            Were naked, and were stung exceedingly
            By gadflies and by hornets that were there.

            These did their faces irrigate with blood,
            Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet
            By the disgusting worms was gathered up.”

            Where would you be in Dante’s Inferno?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Where would you be in Dante’s Inferno?

            It’s hard to be sure. Owing to space limitations, Hell is nested only four circles deep.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @vV_Vv

            Entombed in the burning walls of Dis in the sixth circle (Heresy) with the rest of those “who have denied the existence of God and the soul after death.” (Though I once came close to “tree in the seventh circle.”)

      • vV_Vv says:

        If you’re standing unarmed while surrounded by five men with machine guns telling you to “bow down and beg”, then bowing down and begging is the right strategy.

        If you expect that the five men with machine guns are going to shot you anyway, then this is not the right strategy. Similarly, being a Jew in Nazi-occupied territory and cooperating with the Nazi to organize your own trip to the oven was definitely not the right strategy.

        The authoritarians have only as much power as we give them.

        Look at recent results for how much power the “merely elected government” has versus the “real government” (the courts vs. Trump, the “intelligence community” vs. Trump).

        Rome was not built in a day.

        You mean like the way the Berkeley Police tear-gas rioters?

        Berkeley Police depends on the local government, which is still SJW. The culture war is a war of attrition. Don’t expect epic decisive victories. Putting a non-(much-)establishment, politically incorrect candidate in the White House was a victory, but the war is not over.

        Because he mostly agrees with their goals, if not their tactics?

        Their real goals are creating a totalitarian and authoritarian society with them at the top of the pyramid, ruling us peasants with the iron fist and possibly eventually driving us to extinction. Pretending to care about minorities/women/gays/trans/whatever are their tactics.

        Does Scott agrees with their real goals? I don’t think so.

        Because given his social circles and career choices, they have the power to seriously wreck his life?

        I don’t say he should put himself with his name and his face on the frontline. In fact, I can’t call him out on this because he already exposed himself to the Eye of Sauron much more than I did. But in this post he is giving very bad strategic advice. I have to disagree with it.

        Because they’re near the center of the “Universal Culture”, an unstoppable force slowly conquering the world?

        You mean “right side of history”? Unstoppable forces are so until they are stopped and defeated.

        The communists also thought they were on the right side of history. Where are they now?

        • Kevin C. says:

          “Rome was not built in a day.”

          I’d find that more comforting if there were one shred of real evidence that we were “building Rome”, rather than simply being defeated less quickly than usual.

          “The culture war is a war of attrition.”

          Yes, and we’re the ones being attritted here, not them.

          “Putting a non-(much-)establishment, politically incorrect candidate in the White House was a victory”

          If by “victory”, you mean a slight slowdown in the inevitable leftward march, then yes. But that’s it. As Porter at Kakistocracy put it:

          Well American nationalism enjoyed a good two-month run, but all things eventually return to dust. Did you think the good times would just go on forever? Maybe if you’re the CEO of a military supply vendor, they will. For the rest of us it looks like bombs are back on the menu boys.

          The wall’s not going to be funded, and thus not built. And so on. We’re still going to end up in the same place as if the election had gone the other way, just delayed a few years or so later than it would have arrived under Clinton. Slowing by tiny bits our slide to extinction is the absolute best we can achieve, and that’s all this “victory” is.

          “Unstoppable forces are so until they are stopped and defeated.”

          This is a contradiction; if a force was “stopped and defeated”, then by definition it was never unstoppable. If a force is truly unstoppable, then it cannot be stopped.

          “The communists also thought they were on the right side of history. Where are they now?”

          First, just because the communists were wrong in believing themselves to be “on the right side of history”, doesn’t mean the Anglo-American SJ left are automatically wrong in believing that they are “on the right side of history”. Particularly when they were the ones to defeat the communists. And as for where the communists are now, how about getting their mass-murders minimized and excused? Having portraits of their murderous leaders on college professors’ walls and students’ t-shirts? Getting stories written about how they would have succeeded if only they had better computers? Having people say we should try their ideas again because they’d work if only the right people were in charge this time?

          • vV_Vv says:

            I’d find that more comforting if there were one shred of real evidence that we were “building Rome”, rather than simply being defeated less quickly than usual.

            With this attitude, you have certainly been defeated already.

            The wall’s not going to be funded, and thus not built.

            If it is not built by the next elections then those who blocked it will have some splaining to do. And if they can’t find a good excuse, they will not be elected again, and will be replaced by somebody more populist-right than them.

            This is a contradiction; if a force was “stopped and defeated”, then by definition it was never unstoppable. If a force is truly unstoppable, then it cannot be stopped.

            Checkmate Atheists!!!

            Anglo-American SJ left are automatically wrong in believing that they are “on the right side of history”. Particularly when they were the ones to defeat the communists.

            LoL, the SJWs defeated the Communists? What are you talking about?

            The SJWs are the grandchildren of the Communists, their ideology directly derives from the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School.

            Like Communism, their ideology, if implemented as policy, can only result in a dystopia which is eventually unsustainable and self-destructive, but this does not mean that it can’t cause any serious harm before imploding. Which is why the SJWs must be stopped.

            And they can be stopped because their ideology is based on lies, inconsistencies and appeals to emotion. The more you oppose them, the more they overreact and make a fool of themselves, after all they can’t respond with logic or facts since these are not on their side. The more they make a fool of themselves the more they lose public support, and therefore elections. As long as they never reach the power to drag us all to the gulag, we can still beat them. And we are beating them already.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @vV_Vv

            And if they can’t find a good excuse, they will not be elected again, and will be replaced by somebody more populist-right than them.

            This is dependent on multiple things: there being a plausible candidate more “populist-right” than Trump et al., on said candidate being able to secure the nomination despite whatever rule changes the Republican Party institutes in the next 4 or so years to prevent another Trump, weathering the Mainstream Media onslaught as deftly or more as Trump, and going up against a Democrat who almost certainly will have fewer negatives than Hillary (and the “party see-saw effect”).

            And even then, so what? Because whatever “more populist-right” candidate gets elected — if they get elected — will be no more able to build the wall than Trump. Because it’s not that Trump and his people won’t do it, it’s that they can’t. It’s that the permanent, unelected government (Moldbug’s “Cathedral”) is more powerful than the presidency. It doesn’t matter how “populist-right” the person elected is, the outcomes are the same.

            “cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School”

            First, I’d point you to this discussion thread in OT73.25. Second, let me say “read more Moldbug”. The SJW’s are the direct present-day heirs of Anglo-American Puritanism, the “state church of Massachusetts” conquering first America, then the world, with HYP still their main seminaries. WWII was the Anglo-American post-Puritan Left teaming up with the Russian Marxist Left, and the Cold War was the former slowly beating the latter.

            but this does not mean that it can’t cause any serious harm before imploding.

            Since you seem to have missed this, I agree; I think the implosion will take all of civilization with it. I just think that this implosion is inevitable, because nothing else can stop them.

            The more they make a fool of themselves the more they lose public support, and therefore elections.

            “Public support” doesn’t matter, because elections do not matter.

            And we are beating them already.

            No, we’re really not.

          • Kevin C. says:

            See also here.

  34. blacktrance says:

    A more fun strategy would be to invite random offensive speakers – even better if they debate each other. Islamists vs North Korea apologists, coming to a university near you.

    • James Miller says:

      They would just discuss the evils of capitalism and America. Remember, academic feminists and Islamists are political allies.

      • Furslid says:

        Ok. Islamists vs Objectivists. North Korea apologists vs Conservative Catholics. Westboro Baptist Church vs NAMBLA.

        I’d love to see any of these debates, even if they found common ground. Especially if they found common ground.

      • wysinwygymmv says:

        Yeah, just like Charles Murray and Jim the child molestor are political allies because they’re both in favor of free speech.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          James Miller says: […]

          […]Jim the child molestor[…]

          That had goddamn better be a coincidence.

        • Anonymous says:

          Is this some hypothetical Jim, or the Jim everyone likes to crap on around here?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “Jim the child molestor” is just edifying as hell no matter who it’s aimed at.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sure, but I don’t think it’s even tenuously applicable to the Jim we all know and love. I mean, if you called him “Jim the wife-beater”, “Jim the slavery-enthusiast” or “Jim the racist”, that would have at least some basis in what he publicly says.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      I actually love the idea of offensive wackos debating each other. I’d pay good money to see that.

  35. antimule says:

    Maybe to buttress you point Steve Dutch, conservative retired professor, thinks that the concept of free speech should be expanded to private internet sites (probably because he tends to get banned):

    http://stevedutch.blogspot.rs/2017/01/time-to-call-bs-on-private-censorship.html

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      He has a point in the sense that I’ve never thought the legal principle of free speech meshed terribly well with libertarianism. If all (or nearly all) property is private, the fact that the government won’t come and lock you up for saying certain things might be less relevant free speech-wise than whether or not any of the individuals or organisations which own property (and especially media/platforms) permit you to talk.

      • This is a point that Karl Marx made all the way back in the 1840s in his article “On the Jewish Question,” pointing out that the much-heralded among liberals at the time *political emancipation* of the Jews (or any other group) did not necessarily entail any real substantive, practical emancipation for anyone so long as civil society was dominated by private property.

        In other words, there is a huge difference between having the freedom from government interference to say or do something, vs. having the practical ability to do it without fear of being blacklisted from jobs or otherwise harmed economically. In other words, the only true political freedom could only be obtained once everyone was unconditionally economically secure.

      • Brad says:

        That proves far too much. If the libertarians took up that argument what would they say to the people that claim the companies ought not to be able to fire people at all except for cause and with procedural due process protections?

  36. James Miller says:

    If (1) what you say is true, and (2) many blue tribe people like free speech, and (3) having a value of free speech strengthens a community, then won’t this process strengthen the red tribe?

  37. Schmendrick says:

    The problem is not that free speech is becoming less popular. In fact, if your pro-free speech argument is popular, you’re doing it wrong and missing the point to boot. Even in a magical tolerance-utopia where all new ideas are welcomed into the discussion, steel-manned, and accepted insofar as they do not directly and immediately harm others for some Platonic and objective definition of “harm,” bad and unpopular ideas still would have to be protected just on the off-chance everyone somehow got ergot poisoning or took bad LSD and made a mistake in their evaluations. Free speech only exists to protect the unpopular; any actually popular person, thing, or idea is by definition not in need of free speech protection.

    While some free speech is better than none, the problem isn’t that the unpopularity of some ideas is dragging the popularity of free speech down. Rather, the problem is that society’s overton window is shrinking, which is negatively impacting both the ability of iconoclastic thinkers to talk about their ideas, and the credibility of the principle of free speech. Free speech itself is a kind of intergenerational safeguard against this; by loading “free speech” with legal weight and cultural warm-fuzzies during tolerant, open, and confident times, we set up a meta-concept which can help mitigate the damage done to society’s ability to grow and adapt during xenophobic, closed, and neurotic eras. During those times, it’s only natural that particularly zealous crusaders would try to turn free speech into “freeze peach,” because the concept is fighting a cultural trend which they like. As Scott rightly notes, this meta-concept is only so powerful, and will often bow and crack under strain. We remember these periods in hushed tones: the red scares. McCarthyism. The Alien and Sedition Acts.

    But the way you defend and reinforce tolerance, steel-manning, and free speech isn’t to ingratiate the howling mob by bowing to some of their demands. Give an inch, and they’ll take a mile. After all, they know they’re on the side of the angels. Similarly, directly attacking them is often counterproductive. This isn’t a war, where you can actually kill and destroy the opponent; this is all about conversation and conversion. While people like Milo are occasionally useful as shock-troops or lightning rods when they’re arguing for free speech (though their polarizing nature can also be a major negative), the much more productive route is to cultivate our own garden, make ourselves living demonstrations of the principles we’d like to see in the world, and invite all people of good will to join us. As Scott has also rightly noted, “If you’re nice, you can join our cuddle pile!” (or, in this case, “have interesting and intellectually-challenging conversations!”) is a way better slogan than “Death and Pain!” (or “rigid ideological conformity, with deviation punished by ritual shaming and defenestration from the realms of the righteous”).

    This is why I really like groups like the one at Harvard. Fora for controversial opinions are valuable in themselves, completely devoid of the object-level merits of the ideas advocated. These arenas keep debating skills sharp, expose those who participate to ideas and concepts that the zealots only ever get caricatures of, and can be amazing incubators for unlikely friendships, connections, thoughts, and community. That’s whats going to grow the next great renaissance of tolerance and dialog; casual, non-ideological, ordinary people seeing “hey, those people look like they’re having a good time/seem nice/are smart/seem interesting.”

  38. victa20 says:

    “We should be having giant free speech parades supporting everyone who’s punished for supporting Palestine”

    Well this sounds like a good idea, until we consider what usually happens with parades now: leaders are chosen, and if they aren’t properly oppressed, e.g., Bill Nye the White Guy, then chaos ensues. Perhaps the only solution here would be to have have a horrible person (e.g., Richard Spencer) run it, so that we can show how much we all are committed to free speech?

    ““Who’s the most offensive person I can think of? Charles Murray? Okay”

    This is a great point. Perhaps liberal/conservative groups on campuses should be more frequently co-sponsoring events, and coming up with guests that they would like have speak/debate with, etc.

    “Who’s the most offensive..”

    -Also, I’m curious of anyone here would agree with me that this is the M.O. of a show like Rubin Report now, where he went from inviting sane people (though his lack of insight/questioning was obvious immediately), to bringing on whoever he felt would “trigger” the left most, get him views, etc. And when individuals bring his apologetics up to him, “Hey, I’m just about free speech and hearing other views,” which a) doesn’t nearly describe his behavior, and b) does what Scott says, in that IMHO it is increasing the appearance that free speech is more of an right/alt-right issue.

    I’m a little under the weather, so I apologize if this is a bit incoherent. I have more thoughts, but LMK what you think.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I wonder if there would be much traction in universities for them to make some sort of ‘I promise not to engage in any conduct that is aimed at preventing controversial speakers from being heard’ (as opposed to protesting their views in a way that does not prevent their speech from going ahead) as part of the matriculation contract that is explicitly flagged up to people before they sign … and possibly also having a policy of ‘if any student group invites a guest speaker, the rest of the student body (i.e. everyone not a member of the group that invited the speaker) can nominate and vote for an opposing speaker to be invited and for a portion of the event to be dedicated to a discussion between the two’.

      • victa20 says:

        There might have to be some sort of disciplinary rule associated with behavior on campus, e.g., blocking doors/heckler’s veto. That’s a good idea to get a vote for an opposing speaker, though I don’t think it necessarily should be the case that groups should be able to always get a counter speaker; perhaps just ensuring that joint-group debates happen or something.

  39. keranih says:

    If people actually care about free speech, the number one thing they can do right now is very loudly shout about it every time a liberal is silenced. We should be having giant free speech parades supporting everyone who’s punished for supporting Palestine, just to make sure liberals don’t get the impression that free speech is a weapon pointed at them.

    …I actually see a fairly wide commentary on random left-ward sorts getting banned for being insufficiently left, or being left in the wrong sort of way. Granted, it’s more along the vein of “ha ha, dummy, you thought the mob was on YOUR side – well, that will learn ya!” sort of unhelpfulness. And I really question how much Scott knows about people, if he really thinks that right-ward frost-nectarine types protesting in support of, oh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is going to move the needle at all.

    I would also be interested in a list of people who have been banned from speaking because they support Palestinian liberation in and of itself. I am not entirely sure where the line should go for speaking in support of terrorism by Palestinians or killing Jews.

  40. Polymath says:

    This post is extremely unfair to Murray, because it leaves the impression that there is something reprehensible about him personally or about his beliefs. If you actually believe that, please state clearly what you believe to be reprehensible about him personally or about his beliefs, so I have something to try to rebut. As it is, you have left a stinky cloud of insinuation around him without being specific enough to allow anyone to defend him. That’s beneath you, Scott.

    • wysinwygymmv says:

      It’s not that Murray’s beliefs or personal character are reprehensible, but that a lot of people believe that if his research was more widely seen and believed it would have bad effects on society since it undermines a key compromise that is keeping peace between different ethnic groups in the US.

  41. dvr says:

    Scott, I think you are misinterpreting what’s actually going on here. If the students had really asked themselves, “Who’s the most offensive person I can think of, lets invite them!”, they would not choose Charles Murray and Jordan Petersen. It would be Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor (or worse).

    It’s very telling that the student said he considered inviting Milo, but decided not to because, essentially, Milo is too mean. This tells me that the students are not inviting the most offensive speakers possible and burning down the free speech commons. Instead, the group seems to be inviting the most reasonable possible speakers who can reliably generate violent pushback, with the intention of deepening the divide between the moderate left and the far-left anti-free-speech crowd.

    This seems like a very sound strategy, and more likely to build up free speech as a principle than tear it down, although I’m not sure the student group is doing this deliberately.

    • victa20 says:

      Perhaps it is more accurate to say the guess the kids are asking, “Who is going to cause the most offense about something that shouldn’t be found so offensive?”?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The article has a highly misleading byline about “inviting the most controversial speakers possible”, it seems like Scott is arguing against that instead of the actual strategy.

  42. mnarayan01 says:

    If people actually care about free speech, the number one thing they can do right now is very loudly shout about it every time a liberal is silenced. We should be having giant free speech parades supporting everyone who’s punished for supporting Palestine, just to make sure liberals don’t get the impression that free speech is a weapon pointed at them.

    Even more effective: Start censoring liberals more so they feel the need for the protection offered by free speech. In fact, that seems to be the end of the road you appear to be headed down; what happens if/when we manage to stop people from censuring Palestine-activists?

  43. Nevertaken says:

    Remember when candidate Trump suggested that as president he would suppress disssent by ‘opening up the libel laws’? SJWs who disparage free speech seem to have forgotten or missed that.
    I suspect they would be reminded before they got too far along in any project to undermine free speech as a principle. And I also suspect that would be the end of their enthusiasm for the marginalization of free speech.

  44. Nyx says:

    In today’s partisan world, associating anything with one “side” is going to irredeemably taint it to the other 50%. This cuts both left and right. Climate change used to be bipartisan, but now it’s become intractably associated with the left and the right think it’s a chinese hoax. But it’s not clear what’s to be done; if climate change is a left issue, that’s because it naturally coheres with fundamental leftist principles better than with rightist principles, and so in aggregate leftists are always going to push harder on climate change and thus claim it as their own.

    • cassander says:

      climate change was only bipartisan in the sense that both sides were against doing anything about it.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        After Kyoto is too late. The first time I heard a politician being concerned about global warming was a speech by Margaret Thatcher in ~1985 and she was very keen on doing something about it.

        I’m not sure how the left managed to grab that narrative, but I would be quite interested in finding out if someone got links.

      • Wander says:

        I don’t know, the early history of ecofascist movements is a pretty interesting read.

  45. av says:

    I disagree quite strongly with this post.

    There is no reason at all to suppose that such stereotyping would happen on its own without an external agent reinforcing their own narrative via story selection, since the only thing these social pariahs have in common is the use of free speech, not what they say with it. Dead Kennedys and GWAR both fell afoul of various anti-free speech efforts, but I’ll be damned if Jello was a Scumdog and I’ll be doubly-damned if anyone would have thought so.

    We defend questionable souls (for various definitions of “questionable”) with an appeal to free speech principles, but speech as a principle needs defending from the people that would only show you a particular kind of questionable.

  46. newt0311 says:

    You’re making the rather unsupported (and in my opinion unsupportable) assumption that people arrive at their opinions ex nihilo and then society takes some sort of average of these opinions and that’s how “strong” a principle is or whatever.

    Rather, to me it seems like what happens is that the dominant group (usually a small minority) picks principles that would be beneficial to it and then uses its dominant position to push those principles. The rest of the population is uncoordinated and just goes along with it. When the dominant group screws up and stops pushing principles favorable to it (and fighting principles unfavorable to it) it rarely lasts as the dominant group for long.

    Example: liberals/progressives/socialists loved free speech when it helped them form viable political parties against then autocratic governments. Now that they control most institutions, not so much. Even now, free speech is most strongly opposed for conservative speakers and in forums that liberals dominate (like universities).

    Another example: for centuries, the Catholic church was dominant in England. Then Henry VIII came along. Initially he was all for the Catholic church… until he wasn’t and decided to replace it with the Anglican church. What’s surprising here is that he succeeded. Did people generally just decide (in lockstep with him) that the Catholic church had pushed one too many silly ideas? Or was he the dominant entity who pushed views favorable to himself and then enforce them with his command of the government?

    • AnonYEmous says:

      while I freely acknowledge that certain groups adopt principles based on the power inherent within them, you seem to think only the dominant groups adopt convenient principles. I’d say it’s the opposite – the weak groups adopt inconvenient principles until they are strong. Oh, and some amount of people are just principled, but usually not that many.

      • newt0311 says:

        My point wasn’t about what principles groups adopt for themselves but rather which principles become dominant in society.

        Scott’s argument implicitly assumes that people decide on principles themselves (and devalue principles that are being used to support causes they don’t like) and then the popular (-ish) principles become dominant in society. I.e. if enough people like free-speech for whatever reason then free-speech will be respected and we won’t have problems like speakers getting shouted down at universities. If enough people don’t like free-speech (perhaps because it is used to publicize offensive opinions) then more speakers will have their events black-balled.

        My claim is that people’s opinions have little to do with how much free-speech (or pretty much any other principle) is respected. Rather respect comes from how hard dominant groups push certain principles. In fact, most people’s opinions of principles are merely a reflection of how hard the dominant group is pushing any given principle. The dominant groups are rather fragmented and obscured in our society but they are there. For example, there is a reason that every single police assault on a minority gets huge press even though statistically minority-on-minority crime is a much bigger problem.

        In light of this, Scott’s advice is silly. It doesn’t matter who this group invites to campus and how offensive these speakers are. Rather what matters is that the dominant group backs free-speech. In any given university, the dominant group would probably be some combination of high-level administrators and tenured faculty. For universities as a whole, the tone is probably set by the major funding sources and the most-respected universities. When disruptive audience members are removed by campus security, violent protestors are immediately expelled and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the school newspaper writes glowing articles about the courage of the school in inviting the latest controversial speaker (because the admins in charge of the newspaper hired a sympathetic editor): that’s not just how you know that free-speech is respected, that’s how you get free speech to be respected.

        Everybody respects power… and little else.

    • Salem says:

      Elizabeth I founded the Church of England.

  47. qn1 says:

    I mean, I don’t know how this stuff will work out in aggregate, but for me personally, being a blue triber, hearing/reading Jordan Peterson & Charles Murray (& even Milo) made me more supportive of free speech. I was somewhat sympathetic to the “free speech isn’t actually under deep threat; people yelling about it are just wanting an excuse to say mean stuff” thing until I heard/read these guys.

    Both of these guys seem honest to me & they say worthwhile things; and they seem to be under some threat of their speech being taken away, which makes more supportive of free speech as a principle (I honestly don’t know how how to react to their speech situations, somewhere between “yeah wow some of these activist types are assholes” to “this indicates that the Left is antithetical to all things good”).

    I assume a lot of people will be going through similar things and come to be more supportive of free speech as a result of recent CW stuff, but I guess we’ll see.

    Also, there’s the whole Right is the New Left possibility, where the conservative principles become cooler/more popular.

  48. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I don’t think Charles Murray is “as offensive as you can possibly get.” In fact, they explicitly did not invite Milo. Murray is an accomplished academic, and his work is well within the Overton Window. If anything, I think highlighting the fact that reasonable people are being driven out of universities is a beneficial thing.

  49. hnau says:

    A lot of what you’ve said makes sense, but I worry that you don’t really get the point of “sacred principles”.

    For normal beliefs, or non-sacred principles, the phenomenon you describe is exactly what should happen! A rational Bayesian updater must looks at free speech being used to promote Badness and increases the correlation between Badness and free speech. Yes, a lot of what’s happening today is due to people being biased in their understanding of Badness. And yes, you can somewhat hack around this with the “social contract” mantra. But at the end of the day, most people’s incentives point away from freedom of speech. It really is a tragedy of the commons, which implies that refraining from using the resource is not a viable strategy unless we can force the entire society to behave this way.

    Which brings me to the “sacred” part. The name should make it obvious that an actual “sacred principle” can’t come from the social contract or anything like it. It’s an absolute. If not following a sacred principle is a viable option, you’re doing it wrong. The idea has to reach fixation by other means (not by cost-benefit analysis) and become so fundamental to the entire society that to violate it is to leave.

    Religion is, historically, the primary source of principles of this kind. “Civic religion” is a clever hack that enables societies with multiple religions to keep some sacred principles in common. America has seen first the one, then the other enter a steep decline. The ensuing polarization and decay of civility is an entirely predictable consequence of this. (G. K. Chesterton had some excellent things to say on the subject.) If you want to actually fix this tragedy of the commons, that’s where you’ll have to look.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Wholly endorsed.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Religion is, historically, the primary source of principles of this kind. “Civic religion” is a clever hack that enables societies with multiple religions to keep some sacred principles in common. America has seen first the one, then the other enter a steep decline.

      Relevant: Rod Dreher on Emma Green’s interview with sociologist Phil Gorski.

      I have not read Gorski’s book, let me stipulate, but I am skeptical of his hypothesis of a vast, silent, disengaged minority. First, it doesn’t matter that they’re in the majority if they won’t speak up and act out in defense of their centrist views. Second, “civil religion” is parasitic on real religion. You can have a plausible (from a sociological and political point of view) civil religion only when an actual religion is believed by enough people. That is, folks might not go to church much, but they share a basic Judeo-Christian framework for understanding the world and constructing society, including legislating. But when that fades away, as it has done and continues to do, what binding power can civil religion possibly have?

      It’s like this: if we have a vital center, then where are these centrists at colleges when the left tries to no-platform speakers? Where were the centrists on that day in the quad at HarvardYale when Nicholas Christakis was shouted at and abused by the leftist mob? They don’t say or do anything. No civil religion is strong enough to counter the real American religion: worship of the sacred Self.

      Edit: let me also add Peter Berkowitz’s review of Gorski’s book, “The Illusory Quest for a Vital American Center:

      The quest for the “vital center” of American politics is admirable. It is also a quixotic endeavor, and one vulnerable to slipping into just another form of partisanship. Proceeding from a sound conviction—that underlying the contentious wrangling of day-to-day politics are deeper, unifying commitments—it goes astray by encouraging its adepts to identify their partisan preferences with the sturdy foundations of the American constitutional tradition, and to dismiss those who think differently as knaves, fools, or thugs.

      For Philip Gorski, as for Arthur Schlesinger, America’s vital center leans, and ought to lean, decidedly left. In the quest to bridge the partisan divide, they exacerbate it. Instead of the illusory quest for a vital center, Americans of all convictions would be better served by striving to conserve the nation’s constitutional order, which rests on the classically liberal belief that human beings are by nature free and equal, secures through limited government the rights shared equally by all, and depends on a citizenry educated in virtues nourished by both religious tradition and classical political philosophy.

  50. thenoblepie says:

    When I was in high school, there was a bully who found an excuse to punch me in the guts almost every day (to be fair, I was an obnoxious kid that was probably very easy to dislike).

    I never hit back. You see, I was afraid that if I did, he would get mad and really give me a beating.

    This went on for years, until one day, I got a really big stick into my hands and beat him viciously until several of my classmates intervened. He didn’t touch me again.

    As others have already pointed out, I think that while your sentiment is noble, it gets the causality wrong. The Harvard students are reacting to attempts to narrow the Overton window as much as possible and to squelch dissent wherever feasible. I do think that this is just the natural effect of any one ideology becoming culturally dominant, but that is a discussion for another day. The point is, getting a big stick and hitting back might or might not be the right approach, but to say that you shouldn’t hit your bully because he might retaliate neglects the crucial fact that he is already using any excuse to hit you anyway.

    • hlynkacg says:

      neglects the crucial fact that he is already using any excuse to hit you anyway.

      Bingo

      …and tearing down the sacred principles necessary for our society to function (lest people come to hate them) neglects the crucial fact that the tearing down is the precise outcome we are trying to prevent, never mind the “necessary for our society to function” bit.

  51. Wander says:

    This is a disaster, because something being a conservative principle pretty automatically means that being against it is the quickest way to become popular.

    The worst thing that ever happened to climate change was being politicised. Now people take sides based on tribal values, regardless of any actual debate they think is going on.

  52. ksvanhorn says:

    “the number one thing they can do right now is very loudly shout about it every time a liberal is silenced.”

    Which happens approximately never. I don’t know of a single case in my lifetime when a liberal speaker at an American university was prevented from speaking by violent protestors.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The Zionist right has had some success in having pro-Palestinian voices undermined.

    • Fluffy Buffalo says:

      Define “liberal”.
      Plenty of actual liberals have been the target of protests – by progressives.
      For example, most of the ire of the Atheism+ movement was not directed at actual far-right figures – they chose to pile their hate on Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris instead.
      Even Dan Savage (a gay sex-and-relationships columnist who is definitely NOT a conservative) has been given the SJW treatment .
      But that’s not what Scott meant… and I don’t remember many “regressive left” speakers getting uninvited.

  53. dansimonicouldbewrong says:

    Campus leftists don’t oppose free speech these days because they’re horrified to see the right abusing it–far more leftists, and far fewer rightists, show up on campuses to speak now than, say, fifty years ago, when “free speech” was the rallying cry of the left. Campus leftists oppose freedom of speech (among other freedoms) today for the same reason that any faction ever opposes freedom: because they see themselves as holding all the power, and thus able to eliminate freedoms on their own terms, at great cost to their opponents, and no cost to themselves.

    This isn’t something new or unique to leftism–powerful groups all over the world generally see much less value in freedom than powerless ones do. McCarthy and his allies, to take one random example, were confident enough in their power that they felt safe undermining freedom of political expression in America without jeopardizing their ability to express their own right-wing views. And I have no doubt that if American universities today were as dominated by rightists as they actually are by leftists, then conservatives would be enthusiastically trying to suppress radical leftist speech, and liberals would be screaming in response about the dangers to everyone’s free speech rights.

  54. sclmlw says:

    A book I recently read shared an anecdote of a man who graduated high school in a left-leaning community, and college at an Ivy-league university (I forget which one). Until he went to Harvard Law, he said he’d never had an intellectual conversation with a conservative, and had assumed that the only way a person could be conservative was if they were ignorant of the facts, or too dumb for solid reason.

    His experience at Harvard helped him understand that he could disagree with conservatives, without considering them imbecilic cretins. He continued to believe in liberal principles, but exposure to critical thinkers with whom he disagreed promoted greater tolerance and understanding for him.

    One pedagogical problem on university campuses is that conservative voices are often undervalued, and in the case of outside speakers they’re often shouted down or uninvited. This may be good for conservatives, who learn to defend their principles for 4+ years and learn every aspect of the arguments of the opposing side. This is bad for liberals, who will receive little – if any – serious exposure to contrary thinking. This may partially explain why for decades college-age young adults have tended to lean more to the left, but then gradually drift right as they get older. The best remedy to this may not be to invite polemic speakers to campus, but that doesn’t mean that to hear arguments from the opposing side, with which you may strenuously disagree, necessarily engenders hatred of freedom of speech.

    In my experience, gaining a greater understanding of those I disagree with – especially when I continue to disagree more strongly after hearing from them – has had the opposite effect on my esteem for free speech. Perhaps that’s not generally applicable to the population as a whole, but then Harvard isn’t exactly representative of the US population either.

  55. ThirteenthLetter says:

    To be sure, smart PR always helps when you’re trying to gain your civil rights. Rosa Parks wasn’t just some random nobody on a bus; she was a carefully selected part of a sophisticated media strategy. But the takeaway from that is not “let’s not cause trouble by sitting in the front of the bus, because civil rights for blacks is an exhaustible resource,” it’s “fight smart.”

  56. martinw says:

    What worries me most about things like that Scientist’s March Against Trump is that the scientists themselves may forget that they are supposed to be objective seekers of facts, rather than explicitly aligned with a political cause.

    Scientists are people, you can’t forbid them to have political opinions. But it would be nice if among research scientists there was a strong ethos (another sacred value, if you will) of “check your politics at the door when you enter the laboratory”. The impression I get is that especially in the social sciences, this is not currently always the case, to put it mildly.

    And if that is not the case, then why shouldn’t conservatives become anti-Science, or at least anti-social-science, if they good reasons to suspect that such science is often more of a propaganda tool for their opponents than an objective search for truth?

    • gbdub says:

      The bandwagoning of various left-wing causes onto the March for Science is exactly why I’ve stayed out of it. If it were just a march in favor of increased funding for NASA and NIH etc. I’d be onboard.

      If Scott really wants an example of hijacking sacred values for partisan ends, that’s probably a better one than inviting Charles Murray to give a talk. (See also the Women’s March, which was totally cool with “Palestine is a women’s rights issue!” But not so much with “hey, a lot of women are pro-life”.)

      • wysinwygymmv says:

        It seems to me that “pro-life” is in tension with “women’s rights” (in particular right to birth control and access to abortion) in a way that support for residents of Palestine is not. Am I missing something?

        (Bearing in mind that support for residents of Palestine is not ipso facto support for ideologies that are commonly adhered to by some of those people.)

        • gbdub says:

          While pro-choicers certainly feel that way, pro-lifers would tend not to believe they are in tension with women’s rights, because no one, women or otherwise, has a right to murder. But I didn’t mean to start an abortion debate. Point is, it’s an active controversy even among women, a fact that I don’t think the march organizers handled well. But whatever, at least it’s plausibly a women’s issue, so bad example.

          But Palestine isn’t, and a “women’s march” probably shouldn’t take a position on it at all. At best it dilutes the message and at worst it actively alienates supporters of your core cause. And that’s really my broader point, the march (and the march for science) were potentially opportunities to build a consensus on issues that have supporters across all parties, but instead became actively partisan by allowing bandwagoning but only from one side.

        • Evan Þ says:

          It seems to me that “pro-life” is in tension with “women’s rights” (in particular right to birth control and access to abortion)

          >50% of aborted babies are female.

          Bearing in mind that support for residents of Palestine is not ipso facto support for ideologies that are commonly adhered to by some of those people.

          On the other hand, it’s a very consistent position to say “Palestine should not have self-government because they’ll use it to oppress women.”

          • Salem says:

            Worldwide, it’s more than that, because of differential selection.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            >50% of aborted babies are female.

            Is “begging the question” the only allowed tactic for pro-life arguments?

            Do you think this will convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with you?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Hey, at the moment, I’m not trying to argue against abortion so much as to show why my side considers our position to be very much consistent with women’s rights. If you want an abortion debate, sure, but maybe in another thread?

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Hey, at the moment, I’m not trying to argue against abortion so much as to show why my side considers our position to be very much consistent with women’s rights. If you want an abortion debate, sure, but maybe in another thread?

            I’m not really interested, thanks. I’m talking about the popular perception of the sociological phenomenon indexically labeled “women’s rights”, not debating the actual object-level content of the concept of women’s rights.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’m not really interested, thanks.

            Sure, no problem.

            I’m talking about the popular perception of the sociological phenomenon indexically labeled “women’s rights”, not debating the actual object-level content of the concept of women’s rights.

            I think that could also be the problem with the actual March: the organizers wanted it to be a march in favor of the sociological phenomenon, while some people actually wanted it to be in favor of the object-level content.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          It seems to me that “pro-life” is in tension with “women’s rights” (in particular right to birth control and access to abortion)

          Killing your own offspring isn’t a “right”.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Is “begging the question” the only allowed tactic for pro-life arguments?

            Do you think this will convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with you?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s no more “begging the question” than your assertion that “access to abortion” is a woman’s right. Quod gratis asseritur gratis negatur.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            It’s no more “begging the question” than your assertion that “access to abortion” is a woman’s right. Quod gratis asseritur gratis negatur.

            I didn’t claim it was a right as part of a moral argument. I merely stated the incontrovertible fact that the right to abortion is almost always included under the rubrics of “women’s rights” and that it’s therefore unsurprising that pro-life advocates would be excluded from a “women’s rights” event.

            There’s a difference between me claiming that access to abortion is a women’s right and me claiming that access to abortion is popularly perceived as a women’s right within the contexts where the phrase “women’s rights” gets used a lot.

            Rights are figments. There is no fact of the matter when it comes to what is or isn’t a right.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            It’s no more “begging the question” than your assertion that “access to abortion” is a woman’s right. Quod gratis asseritur gratis negatur.

            Come on; wysinwygymmv even put the expressions in inverted commas, acknowledging that these are ongoing disputes. Of course abortion isn’t a “right” in any magical cosmic sense, but then neither is free speech, equality before the law, or anything else. Rights are heuristics that societies settle on once they have become significantly persuaded of their usefulness, generally only after much struggle in the attempt to assert them. You may think that there shouldn’t be a right to abortion, but it is down to your side to decisively win that argument against those who are trying to assert such a right.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There’s a difference between me claiming that access to abortion is a women’s right and me claiming that access to abortion is popularly perceived as a women’s right within the contexts where the phrase “women’s rights” gets used a lot.

            That’s not a distinction you made in the post I was responding to. If you now want to introduce such a distinction that’s fine, but don’t try and pretend you said something you didn’t.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @The Original Mr. X:

            I know what I said and didn’t say and the intention behind it. You’re the one making up hidden meanings for my words.

            As @Winter Shaker points out, my use of scare quotes makes your reading implausible. And, of course, I have privileged access to my own intentions in writing it, so I think it’s reasonable for me to have the last word on the meanings of my own statements. If you think I’m “pretending” anything, the burden of proof is on you.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not talking about your own intentions, I’m talking about the actual words you wrote, which is all I and anyone who isn’t you has to go on.

            As @Winter Shaker points out, my use of scare quotes makes your reading implausible.

            It wasn’t obvious that those were scare quotes, as opposed to actual quotes.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            It wasn’t obvious that those were scare quotes, as opposed to actual quotes.

            That doesn’t even make sense. You’re being ridiculous.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That doesn’t even make sense. You’re being ridiculous.

            Given that you were replying to a post which mentioned both the terms “pro-life” and “women’s rights”, it was hardly unreasonable to assume that you were quoting the post when using quotation marks. Perhaps you should try dialling the belligerence down a couple of notches.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Given that you were replying to a post which mentioned both the terms “pro-life” and “women’s rights”, it was hardly unreasonable to assume that you were quoting the post when using quotation marks.

            If you believed I was quoting the post, then it seems to me it would make more sense that I was talking about “women’s rights” as understood by the person I was quoting rather than my own understanding. But you didn’t seem to interpret it that way.

            Honestly, though, I don’t see how in context you could read my comment as quoting anyone. Only the individual words “pro-life” and “women’s rights” were in quotation marks. If I was quoting, presumably I would have quoted a phrase instead of specific terms.

            Perhaps you should try dialling the belligerence down a couple of notches.

            I haven’t said anything belligerent. You were the one who accused me of supporting the killing of children, which strikes me as the most belligerent part of our exchange.

  57. cassandrus says:

    Another aspect of this is that a number of people have adopted the “brave truth-teller” persona not to tell truth, but because they enjoy taking on the role of martyr. Murray is going to say what ever it takes to rile up orthodox academia, and if what he’s saying now won’t do the trick, he’ll dial it up until it does–the point isn’t to speak truth to power, it’s to be “one-who-speaks-truth-to-power”. It’s toxic, because the more that free speech is invoked primarily as a way for Murray-and-co to pat themselves on the back for their openmindedness, the more free speech will be seen as a purely partisan virtue. The recent Berkeley/Milo kerfluffle is an excellent example—a relatively minor episode got blown up into a major talking point because it gave certain folks a rather pleasing sensation of self-satisfaction to scold those closeminded hippies with (apocryphal) Voltaire quotes.

    That being said, free speech as a principle isn’t worth very much if it’s hostage to the utilitarian political calculus of the moment. Put another way, Scott’s point may be descriptively correct, but it’s prescriptively self-defeating.

    • Murray is going to say what ever it takes to rile up orthodox academia, and if what he’s saying now won’t do the trick, he’ll dial it up until it does

      What is your evidence for this claim?

      • carvenvisage says:

        and for that matter, who cares? ‘speaking truth to power’ is something we want more regardless of whether vanity motivates it. (not commenting on murray here, just the principle espoused)

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Cassandrus opines:

      “Murray is going to say what ever it takes to rile up orthodox academia, and if what he’s saying now won’t do the trick, he’ll dial it up until it does–the point isn’t to speak truth to power, it’s to be “one-who-speaks-truth-to-power”.”

      These kind of bizarre misapprehensions about Charles Murray tend to get undermined by the briefest exposure to Murray in person, which is one reason for all the No Platforming hatred and violence. Taking away Murray’s right to meet with people in person helps dehumanize him, so that people can spread these kind of absurd distortions about him more easily.

      • Anonymous says:

        dehumanize

        Really? Even a heretic, blasphemer, apostate and an enemy – is a human. I’ve never understood how not regarding someone as a peer in good standing takes away one’s humanity.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I think it’s being used in a non-boolean sense here. It’s not that Charles Murray is either a human or not-a-human, it’s that there is a sliding scale between ‘relatable person who I could imagine myself getting along with if they invited me out for a beer, even if I disagreed with some of their beliefs’ and ‘frothing lunatic who must not be afforded one iota of social legitimacy’ – and that an attempt to move someone down that scale, even by a small amount, would be a reasonable use of the word ‘dehumanise’.

    • nestorr says:

      The actual Voltaire quote is “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write” so the one that’s floating around is more paraphrase than apocryphal

      Defending free speech is unfortunately about getting dirty, otherwise you’re not doing it at all.

  58. Fluffy Buffalo says:

    Two points:
    1. You may or may not be on to something in principle, but your example is bad. I don’t know much about Murray (I’ll listen to Sam Harris’ upcoming podcast with him and then form an opinion), but I’ve listened to quite a bit of Jordan Peterson’s talks an lectures over the last weeks, and while I’m not sure if I buy all of his mythology-tied-into-psychology, what he says about politics is not particularly controversial (or at least it shouldn’t be). He gives good, even-handed arguments in favor of free speech and political diversity (in a shifting environment, you need a variety of attitudes and approaches to come up with the best one for each specific situation, and free speech is how you figure out what’s needed); he’s a passionate enemy of totalitarian systems both left and right, and very wary of people who trot out one-sided narratives to tear down the system without a clear plan how to replace it.
    Public debates and lectures are, for the most part, a spectator sport. You don’t want to convince the people on the opposing team. You want to shift the opinions of the undecided audience. And when people hear a smart, passionate guy with lots of good points and think “and THAT’s who the protesters wanted banned?!”, I see that as working more in favor of free speech than against it.

    2. Do you think that tolerance as a value works the same way? When activists demand tolerance for increasingly small groups of increasingly weird people, does it strain the limited tolerance capacity of “regular” people (“Non-binaries?? Otherkin!? That’s enough, the next freak who demands tolerance gets punched in the face!”) or did activist previous work stretch the Overton window far enough to make acceptance easier? (“okay, so it turns out the gays weren’t so bad, I guess tolerating a few more trans people can’t hurt.”)

    • Aapje says:

      you need a variety of attitudes and approaches to come up with the best one for each specific situation

      This is essentially the blue tribe argument for more ethnic and gender diversity, so it ties into what they already see as their terminal values.

      • Fluffy Buffalo says:

        That may be, but the progressive reasoning with respect to group identities seems to swing wildly between “all differences between Group X and everyone else are socially constructed, so any assumptions that a typical member of X actually behaves differently are racist, sexist and totally unacceptable” and “Group X is totally sui generis, and no one else can possibly conceive what it’s like to be X, and to ignore their X-ness is racist, sexist and totally unacceptable”, depending on the situation.
        The first argument would lead you to argue for diversity because if everyone is actually the same, preferring Group Y over Group X is irrational and unfair; the second would support diversity because Group X may actually bring something useful and unique to the table.
        With political positions, the case is more clear-cut. Liberals and conservatives actually have different values and different approaches. Interestingly enough, proponents of diversity always seem to exclude diversity of political opinion – “we need more women, gays, Muslims, and trans people! Conservatives? What? Here at our university? Hell no!”
        [Note: I am not a conservative, but I have become more sympathetic to their values in the last few years.]

    • ashlael says:

      I do believe that constant calls for tolerance have diminished the perceived value of tolerance itself.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I do believe that constant calls for tolerance have diminished the perceived value of tolerance itself.

        Yes, but mostly through changing the meaning of “tolerance”. The sort of thing called tolerance by the “tolerance and diversity” group isn’t tolerance but deference. Not “You (members of the majority group) must put up with us in your society” but “You must modify your society so we fit in, even if that means you don’t”.

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      When activists demand tolerance for increasingly small groups of increasingly weird people, does it strain the limited tolerance capacity of “regular” people (“Non-binaries?? Otherkin!? That’s enough, the next freak who demands tolerance gets punched in the face!”)

      Hmmm. The answer is yes, sadly, and now I think I understand a bit better what Scott was getting at, even if I still fiercely disagree with it.

  59. For the case of free speech, there is an effect in the other direction that you don’t mention. Protecting the free speech of Muslims may push anti-Muslims away from free speech but it pulls Muslims towards free speech, and similarly for your other examples.

  60. hlynkacg says:

    Scott, I do not think it is possible to articulate just how fundamentally and vehemently, I disagree.

    When I first heard about the Harvard student’s I was deeply relieved because it was the first sign I’ve seen since November that academia does not belong wholly to the mob. Those kids are doing a brave thing, putting their necks on the line for principle, and they deserve your praise and support far more than your castigation.

    You would have us tear down the sacred principles necessary for our society to function to appease a bunch of childish anti-social thugs? I can’t let you do that. This is not the time for compromise or half measures. If you’re treating speech as a resource to be rationed and husbanded, it has long since ceased to free.

    As some troll said above Let the toothless “The United States was Founded on the Principle of Freedom of Speech(and That’s Terrible!)” articles flow. They are free to say that, after all. and I will add that those who object are enemies of the Republic, and should feel free to taste the lightning of His terrible swift sword.

    • Kevin C. says:

      “You would have us tear down the sacred principles necessary for our society to function to appease a bunch of childish anti-social thugs?”

      You say “childish anti-social thugs”, I say “avant-garde of our ruling elite”. And it looks too much to me like the “sacred principles” have already been torn down, in that for a large enough portion of our society, they have ceased to be (or never were) “sacred”, which, as hnau pointed out above, requires being a non-negotiable, and absolute. “It has long since ceased to free” indeed. It seems clear that we no longer have enough common “sacred values” or “civic religion” to be a nation anymore, but have long since become hostile tribes sharing a territory and locked into an ultimately existential cold war. The only question is whether the war remains cold, and the more powerful, ascendant tribe extinguishes their enemy (i.e. me and mine) slowly through demographic change and conversions via social and economic pressure and taboo enforcement, or whether it goes “hot”, and the more powerful, ascendant tribe extinguishes their enemy more swiftly and violently.

      “This is not the time for compromise or half measures.”

      You speak as if there are any workable “full measures”. And those hypothetical “The United States was Founded on the Principle of Freedom of Speech(and That’s Terrible!)” articles, and more importantly, the institutions that would publish them, are anything but “toothless”. You seem to miss that those you dub here the “enemies of the Republic” rule “the Republic”, and generally control its major power centers. The only “terrible swift swords” here all belong to them.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        The only “terrible swift swords” here all belong to them.

        *coughs politely, gestures in vague direction of White House*

        Respectfully, I think that both you and Scott are living in bubbles, where the strength of the Blue Tribe feels obviously overwhelming, such that opposing it straight-on is suicide.

        And yet, the vast geographic majority of America, and around half its population, strongly disagrees. There are a lot of people who are in favor of law and order, who strongly oppose protestors of any kind and especially violent, apparently-lawless ones; it is not a sure thing that opposing them strongly and punitively would be unpopular, let alone career-ending.

        My hope is that it doesn’t come to this and we can all find our way back to civic nationalism and shared values. But things are too closely matched between Blue Tribe and Red Tribe, now and for quite some time in the past, for me to fear any kind of Permanent [Blank] Majority.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “*coughs politely, gestures in vague direction of White House*”

          That’s the merely-elected “government”, and there’s a difference between taking office and taking power. Look at Syria, look at how the border wall isn’t going to get funded, look at the courts defeating Trump’s EOs, look at the intelligence community’s actions. Trump is already Growing In Office™. Elections only matter when the Left wins them.

          “And yet, the vast geographic majority of America, and around half its population, strongly disagrees.”

          So what? It’s always the elites that matter; peasants have never made a difference, no matter how numerous, except as the pawns of some rival elite or proto-elite, and never will make a difference. And the shrinking majority you speak of, myself included, are pretty much all powerless peasants. We can disagree with our masters as strongly as we want, and it’s worth bupkis.
          “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” – Thucydides
          “弱肉強食” (Jaku niku kyō shoku, “(the) weak (are) meat, (the) strong eat.”) — Old Chinese and Japanese four-character saying.

          “But things are too closely matched between Blue Tribe and Red Tribe”

          Only because as the Blue tribe moves “bluer”, the Red Tribe shifts bluer as well to make up the ground (that’s part of how Duverger’s Law works). Which side has been winning for half a millenium?

      • hlynkacg says:

        Everything Robert Liguori said plus the observation that for someone who claims to despise this new order, you seem oddly eager to play by it’s rules. That’s a suckers’ game mate.

        Even if their power were truly overwhelming (it isn’t) the whole point of a sacred principle is that some things are worth risking annihilation for.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “you seem oddly eager to play by it’s rules.”

          Well, what would a (workable) example of not playing by “their rules”, exactly?

          some things are worth risking annihilation for.

          You first.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Don’t be intimidated and don’t compromise with sin. A choice made at gunpoint is still a choice.

            You first.

            Way ahead of you mate.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @hlynkacg

            Don’t be intimidated and don’t compromise with sin.

            Again, what does this mean in specific, present-day practice? What actual, literal actions should us on the right be taking right now that constitutes meaninfully “refusing to compromise” and “fighting back”?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Lead a virtuous life.

            How? I’m not the guy to ask. But the upside of being an heir of Western Civilization is that you have access to a whole corpus of literature on the subject spanning millennia. Personally I recommend Montaigne, Smith, Hobbes, Aurelius, (and if you’re willing to stretch the definition of “western” a bit) Solzhenitsyn.

            Figure out what you value, live for it, and pass it on. Be the change you want to see in the world and all that shit. If you are indeed fated to be “the last of the Romans” comport yourself as one. Do you think Belisarius or Patton would of tolerated this sort of defeatist bellyaching? Or do you think they would have told you to man the fuck up?

  61. Aapje says:

    The logical conclusion to Scott’s argument is that you can best make the blue tribe respect free speech by ‘no-platforming’ them, so they learn that free speech can work in their favor. However, it is obviously very bad if the only way to make group A respect the freedoms of group B is by making group B mimic the bad behavior of group A.

    Fortunately, I think that Scott is wrong and that the blue tribe suffers quite strongly from purity spirals created by a fairly small minority (also see the earlier comment that argues that SJWs exploit/abuse the blue tribe tendency to strongly feel empathy with people claiming distress). I think that most people have a breaking point where they are no longer willing to be exploited/abused. So even though people are willing to compromise on expressing their core beliefs, to fit into a community, there is a limit to this. At that point they either leave the community suffering from the purity spiral or express ideas that get them kicked out.

    Purity spirals are by definition unsustainable, as they operate by becoming more and more unreasonable and by excluding more and more people. So as SJWs oppose free speech more and more, they are simultaneously decreasing the number people who silently support them. Eventually, this silent/cowed group gains critical mass and then a trigger sets off a huge backlash. You frequently see these seesaws in history, when people get truly fed up with powerful people with one-sided ideals, who ignore the downsides of their favored policies.

    For example, right now we are seeing a backlash coming against the spiral that allowed more and more tax evasion by multinationals. We see a backlash against extremist multiculturalism*. We see a backlash against extremist free trade. Etc.

    * A professor at a Dutch SJW university recently suggested that white Dutch people should integrate in the big cities, in other words, give up their native culture for migrant culture. Oblivious purity-spiralers like that keep feeding the backlash.

    PS. I call unlimited direction pushing a purity spiral, which is unconventional use of the term, but I think that the similarities with ‘political correctness’ spirals are sufficient.

    • Tyrrell McAllister says:

      > The logical conclusion to Scott’s argument is that you can best make the blue tribe respect free speech by ‘no-platforming’ them […]

      More precisely, you have to try to no-platform them and fail. The principle of free speech has to be seen to protect them successfully. Otherwise, it hasn’t demonstrated any value to them.

      That means that, if you’re the one doing the no-platforming, with the end in mind of bolstering their support of free speech, then you have to “throw the match” — fail to no-platform on purpose while giving the false impression that it was Free Speech that stopped you.

      But it’s essentially impossible to throw the match convincingly on this kind of thing, especially if you’re trying to do it consistently and repeatedly. The attack has to be credible, or Free Speech doesn’t get the credit for stopping the attack.

      Better to do what Scott suggests: Find someone else who’s trying (really trying) to no-platform leftists, and help the leftists to use the principle of free speech to protect themselves.

      • Randy M says:

        More precisely, you have to try to no-platform them and fail. The principle of free speech has to be seen to protect them successfully. Otherwise, it hasn’t demonstrated any value to them.

        Principles can’t protect people. People adhering to principles can protect people. If A adhering to purportedly shared principles protects B despite B not doing so, and A can make no credible commitment to stop adhering to those principles, B has no non-altruistic reason to protect A in a reciprocal manner.

        • Tyrrell McAllister says:

          Yes, reciprocal altruism is hard to set up, but it’s not impossible. Somehow it keeps arising, despite the evident chicken-and-egg problem.

          • Randy M says:

            Probably via both sides adopting tit-for-tat (with forgiveness), rather than unilateral disarmament.

  62. Nuño says:

    Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.

  63. aethelfrith says:

    As a conservative, I’ve got a confession to make: we don’t actually like free speech. I’m not supposed to tell you this, but Scott’s got us figured out so we might as well confess. We’ve hated free speech for decades. We just couldn’t make any headway attacking it: doing so just makes liberals like it and defend it all the more. That’s why we’re defending it. By defending free speech, we make it a conservative value to which liberals are, of course, opposed. And as liberals get more are more anti-free speech, we’ll defend it all the more stridently, aggressively, and incompetently.

    Honestly, we’ve been running the country this way secretly for years. It started with wars. Man, Democrats had just an insatiable appetite for war. World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, you guys never met a war you didn’t like. Opposing them just made you support them all the more. That’s why we became the war party: a couple of disastrously-run, poorly-justified invasions on the far end of the planet later, and Democrats hate little more than warfare. We just have to fire the odd cruise missile at a third world dicatator to keep you going. Our entire platform works this way. Single-payer health care? Secretly for it. You didn’t think anyone actually WANTED Ryancare, did you? Feminism? Been our bag for decades. Ditto gay marriage. We’re entering the final stages of the plan now: we successfully elected an obnoxious, aggressive President who is sure to drum up enormous support for our platform from the opposition, while also being incompetent enough to believably fail to implement his supposed policies. It’s a shame you figured out too late to stop us, but Scott’s right: the secret to politics is to attack your own views, but badly.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Free speech was doomed from the outset. Its impending death in the near future is just because it is unsustainable in the presence of a heavily polarized populace living under one metaphorical roof; only one faction will in practice be supportive of it, the non-dominant one. Free speech, much like the free press, is only sustainable so long as polarization is low. And polarization has a tendency to increase in a system that rewards splitting the population into two factions, as the American republican (small ‘r’, mind you; it’s about as democratic as the Iranian setup) system. You can only have free speech if the content of the speech isn’t too controversial.

    Not that free speech is necessary, mind you. Every state has a state religion (de facto, if not de jure – and a de facto religion, if not a de jure one), and saying certain things will constitute blasphemy and/or heresy. People don’t need the freedom to voice their every opinion to live prosperous, happy, fulfilled lives. One could even argue that free speech is detrimental to the well-being of the nation and the state, if all it visibly produces is dissent and diversity of error.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I’m not a historian by trade, but didn’t we have free speech in America stretching back over much greater times of polarization, like the actual Civil War?

      It sure doesn’t look doomed to me, especially given that the news of the day is this very Harvard group trying to fight for it.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Complicated. The first amendment obviously goes back that far, but remember that the amendments didn’t apply to the states until around the start of the 20th century (when they were incorporated via due process + an anti-KKK law). I’m pretty sure most states had a free speech clause in their constitution somewhere, but there wasn’t a united national body of law, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see local censorship in various forms.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m skeptical if polarization was greater in the Civil War era. It mostly seems to me like a bunch of elites were at odds, not the general citizenry.

  65. registrationisdumb says:

    This post is pretty retarded. Free speech is not some exhaustible resource that works less the more it is invoked.

    It is actually quite the opposite. If you don’t invoke your rights to free speech, people will whittle away at that right until you have nothing left. It is something that has to be constantly defended, or you lose it.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I think the idea is that other people’s willingness to join you in the fight for free speech is an exhaustible resource, and the more that people see free speech being invoked only in defense of those who are outrageously wrong-headed and/or trollish, the less willing they are to stick their neck out for the principle. It’s not an argument for not defending free speech, it’s an argument for defending free speech more strategically by choosing your martyrs wisely – picking to bring to prominence people to whom the undecided middle are most likely to be sympathetic.

      That said, Murray and Peterson may well be better posterboys for free speech than our host thinks, as others have already argued in the comments.

  66. thenoblepie says:

    This piece is receiving a lot of blowback. So maybe we should try and figure out which version of this argument is more convincing to free speech absolutists such as myself.

    I do think we have to face the fact that the people for whom free speech is a terminal value are a tiny minority. So, in the eyes of someone that sees free speech as an instrumental value, what is it actually for? To some degree, it is a peace treaty: I’ll afford you the freedom to speak your mind as long as you’ll do the same for me. In the minds of people who believe themselves to be at the vanguard of the moral Weltgeist, this argument is, of course, not convincing. The other argument is that the quest for knowledge depends on people being able to express unpopular and shocking opinions. And I think it is this argument that is undermined by people being maximally offensive for the sake of being offensive.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I wouldn’t call myself an “absolutist but I nominally subscribe to the “peace treaty” model and I was under the impression that Scott did as well…

      So again we make an agreement. I won’t use the apparatus of government against Protestantism, you don’t use the apparatus of government against Catholicism. The specific American example is the First Amendment and the general case is called “liberalism”, or to be dramatic about it, “civilization 2.0”

      Now he’s expressing a desire to do away with the treaty and it’s hard for me not to read it as an round-about endorsement of open warfare. I don’t get it. How exactly does he imagine this playing out?

      • Robert Liguori says:

        I don’t think Scott’s saying we should do away with the peace treaty. I think he’s saying that the anti-speech crusaders have already done so and we’re already in the Fighting for Civilization phase against them.

        Mind you, I don’t think he intended to say that. To be honest, and with all intent and respect to Scott, I get the distinct impression that Free Speech really isn’t one of his sacred values, and that a world in which Milo and others don’t have that right is not starkly horrifying to him in the same way that a world with no freedom of religion would be.

        And part of this is almost certainly because Milo is, in my own opinion after having read about a dozen of his articles and seen a handful of his videos, a certifiable asshole, and if there’s one thing that we can take away from Scott’s Controversial Canon (Untitled, Romanticizing the Romanceless, etc.) it is that Scott has a very low tolerance for certifiable assholes, especially ones who cloak themselves in the guise of righteousness.

        A world in which we all managed to unilaterally disarm against assholes, in which everyone everywhere agreed “OK, this is a bit much.”, where we all manged to come together against Milo and the campus protestors and Vox Day and Amanda Marcotte and all the other assholes of the world would be a glorious one.

        But I have zero faith that we can get there from here. So instead, I fight for free speech.

        • gbdub says:

          Agreed. I mean, the campus protestors are certifiable assholes too, and Scott seems to be taking the position that appeasing them is the only way to save free speech. What makes those assholes so special?

        • Gazeboist says:

          I don’t think Scott’s saying we should do away with the peace treaty. I think he’s saying that the anti-speech crusaders have already done so and we’re already in the Fighting for Civilization phase against them.

          I don’t think he’s saying either of these things. I think he’s saying “don’t confuse your neighbor and his twin brother, especially when the twin is a murderer”.

  67. Elmore Kindle says:

    For rationalists, no principle is more sacred than “reason from the facts and share your reasoning”. Fortunately, this reasoning process suffices to create a fertile and expanding common political ground, that both farthest-left progressives and farthest-right conservatives can embrace enthusiastically.

    Consider for example the fundamental demographic fact that, in modern societies around the globe, one-third of all women bear two-thirds of all children (data rounded to the nearest small integer).

    So long as women’s rights to reproductive choice are scrupulously respected, such that this healthy (and remarkably strong!) reproductive differential persists, then progressives and conservatives alike need have no apprehension in regard the healthy sustainment of selection effects upon the humanity’s gene-pool.

    Indeed no more compelling explanation is known for the multigenerational global blessing that is the Flynn effect, is there?

    With a view to maximizing female reproductive choice, by social means consonant with conservative libertarian moral principles, we need only reflect that families should not be forced to bear the economic burdens associated to the practices of war and isolationism.

    The following scheme of tax-breaks associated to child-birth would be consonant with rational conservative libertarianism:

    • 5% reduction for every trans-national child
    • 5% reduction for every trans-religious child
    • 5% reduction for every trans-racial child
    • 5% reduction for every trans-class child
    • 5% reduction for every trans-linguistic child

    In this inherently peaceful, economically efficient, happily rational, and politically libertarian world, a family of four children — said children being multi-national, pan-theistic, inter-racial, mixed-class, and multi-lingual — would pay no taxes at all, for the entirely rational reason that such families provide enduring genetic benefits, and inestimable economic benefits, to libertarian societies generically.

    Larger (mixed) families would receive monthly subsidies (as is rationally libertarian of course). After all, from a rational libertarian viewpoint, why should peace-promoting families pay for the immense costs, — the cost in treasure and the cost in heroes blood — of the world’s longstanding addiction to war (and the accompanying addictions to economic waste and cultural isolationism), that can be so happily, naturally, and healthfully remediated?

    Hail, Happy Muse, and touch the tuneful string!
    The benefits conferred by Science I sing. …

    Life is a veil, its paths are dark and rough
    Only because we do not know enough
    When Science has discovered something more
    We shall be happier than we were before.

    ― Hilaire Belloc, Verses

    Three rousing global cheers for the fundamental principles of rational libertarianism — as broadly construed, logically evolved, and passionately embraced — which are so marvelously consonant with the moral tenets and universalizing objectives of progressivism!

    And three cheers too, for the sacred principle of freedom in public discourse, which permits these conservatively libertarian principles to be freely, vigorously, and publicly articulated!

    President Trump, conservatives and progressives stand united — in the United States and around the world — in calling upon you for leadership in sustaining humanity’s most sacred principles … by tearing down humanity’s irrationally hateful and child-harming social walls!

    In particular, the coming tax-reforms will present Donald Trump with a golden opportunity to make rational libertarian history, by catalyzing a world in which peace, prosperity, enterprise, freedom, and sustained hope — and the sacred principle of free public discourse too! — are cherished individually and cultivated organically by the world’s families and their children. Isn’t this opportunity incredibly (and rationally) obvious? 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      Can you dumb that down so a midwit like myself can understand what you’re going on about?

      • Elmore Kindle says:

        Faulkner FTW! 🙂

        “If you got something outside the common run that’s got to be done and cant wait, dont waste your time on the menfolks; they works on what your uncle calls the rules and the cases.

        Get the womens and the children at it; they works on the circumstances.”

        … and …

        “You can’t beat women anyhow and that if you are wise or dislike trouble and uproar you don’t even try to.”

        For saying these things persistently and persuasively, Faulkner’s works figure prominently and perennially on lists of banned books. So much so, that it’s tough to name a political and/or religious ideology that hasn’t sought to silence voices like Faulkner’s!

        We can all be appreciative and grateful too, for modern voices that carry on Faulkner’s free-discourse tradition. Good on `yah, Annie Proulx. 🙂

        Q  What fraction of cis-male self-described “rationalist” SSC readers are heterosexually married of long standing? At a guess, at most half (or even much less)? That would explain plenty! 🙂

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh, I see. You are John Sidles. That explains the confusion.

        • Unsure says:

          Elmore Kindle:

          Q What fraction of cis-male self-described “rationalist” SSC readers are heterosexually married of long standing? At a guess, at most half (or even much less)? That would explain plenty!

          Can you clarify in more detail what you mean by this remark and why you believe it, please? I’m curious what you evidence you have for this claim.

          • Elmore Kindle says:

            As it turns out, the SSC Survey 2017 Results describe a readership that is predominantly cis-male (87%), heterosexual (82%), and unmarried (72%).

            This is an SSC cohort whose more radically libertarian members (and their sympathizers) are depicted in Kevin Drum’s Mother Jones article “Here’s Why Libertarians Are Mostly Men” as follows:

            Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks.

            They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence. …

            Few women share this fantasy. I don’t know why, and I don’t really want to play amateur sociologist and guess.

            The Faulkner quotes above provide one answer, summarized here not as an advocated ideology, but rather as the view depicted in Faulkner’s novels and stores: “men work on the rules and the cases; women work on the circumstances”.

            There is no shortage of SSC commentators (as it seems to me) who persistently reason, like stereotypical Faulkner-males, “from rules and cases”, with the net self-serving effect of justifying hardcore libertarian fantasies that (relatively) few women share.

            To remediate this narrative imbalance, the comment that started this thread deployed — with humorous intent — stereotypically libertarian modes of reasoning in service of proto-feminist cross-cultural narratives.

            The resulting chain of proto-feminist libertarian reasoning turns out to be hilariously strong, doesn’t it?

            Unsurprisingly, there is a huge literary market, which is dominated by female authors and readers, for culturally diffusive stories that broadly celebrate progressive objectives. Why shouldn’t at least some SSC comments address this community’s values and concerns, insofar as feasible, with respect and good humor? 🙂

            More broadly, do human attempts to live entirely rationally have a humorous dimension? Only the most literal-minded (and unromantic) rationalists would say “no”! 🙂

          • Unsure says:

            I’m obviously not going to dispute the SSC Survey. You’ve proven your case on that point. But I have some problems with the rest of what you are saying.

            First, of course, as an argument against libertarian-ism what you are saying is ad hominem. It completely ignores countless actual arguments for libertarianism based on assumptions about their validity.

            Second, there are good reasons to concentrate on rules and cases, even if there are many flawed philosophies that either do not do it properly or are flawed because their rules are flawed.

            The reason I am going to emphasize right now is that without tight rules and cases people have tendencies to be biased and rationalize vague rules towards the outcome they want for emotional reasons. This is particularly vital in ethics, an area in which the incentive to rationalize your selfish desires is greatest of all.

            When a culture is willing not to be scrupulous on rules and cases, you get matter such as the hypocrisy of “All men are created equal” and slavery, or “Men and women are equal” and blatantly unequal gender rules. What is needed is not less scrupulosity, but more.

            I’m guessing you would object that libertarian-ism show that happens anyway. But even ignoring the fact an ad hominem is not a demonstration, the fact that people have often acted against their own desires in the name of principle shows the possibility is there. So does the success of rule-based methodologies such as the scientific method. The alternative is to rely on people learning certain kinds of emotions and instincts, which is so unreliable as to be a fantasy itself.

            Third, although I don’t know for sure I suspect you are engaging in over-generalization of men and women (given you emphasized marriage to a woman). Most women in my family are prime examples of women who think in rules and cases, while men such as G.K. Chesterton show men who clearly refused to be confined by rules and cases.

            Incidentally, G.K Chesterton’s many foolish decisions based on intuition (such as his reasons for opposition to women voting) and lack of empirical data to support his claims are another good argument for rule-based empiricism.

            Fourth, though someone who does not believe in rules and cases would probably disagree there is one reason I find libertarians very sympathetic: The matter of contradiction.

            Broadly speaking: Our society calls people free, yet simultaneously contradicts itself by forbidding people to do things. Large numbers of people are raised with the expectation that they will have something amounting to actual freedom because of the rhetoric, only to have it yanked away from them and being called selfish because society never actually bothers to tell them that it’s only kidding.

            Is it any wonder that people might want society to adopt a code that would be consistent with calling people free, and consistent with what it constantly tells significant portions of the population?

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            @Unsure:

            Libertarians are against red tape, right? Red tape is a form of the “rules and cases” idea — proceduralizing decisions and taking them out of the hands of idiosyncratic individual preferences.

            So yes, “rules and cases” are important and useful, but they have limits.

          • Salem says:

            Libertarians aren’t against “red tape” per se. Bureaucracy serves an important role in managing risk in organisations. You can have too much of it, or too little of it.

            What libertarians are opposed to is decision making by people with no skin in the game, because it results in mismanagement and waste. I run a widget factory, I’ll try and make the whole process as efficient as possible, which will probably involve some bureaucracy. Widget factory owners who bog themselves down in too much red tape will go out of business. But if the government regulates my factory, their incentives to get the balance right aren’t nearly so strong, and (so most economists argue) tend to over-regulation and excess bureaucracy.

            Libertarians aren’t so much opposed to bureaucracy, as pointing to what they see as obviously far too much bureaucracy, and then saying – see that proves the government is no good.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            OK, you’ve expressed the exact same sentiment with slightly different semantics. You win, I guess. Well done.

            What libertarians are opposed to is decision making by people with no skin in the game, because it results in mismanagement and waste.

            The problem always seems to be that there are people with skin in the game who aren’t consulted as part of the decision making. This is the meaning of the term “externalities”.

          • Salem says:

            No, I didn’t say the same thing with different semantics. Libertarianism is about who can do things. They make a sharp distinction between government and private action. A shame you’ve yet to grasp that, but never mind.

            The problem always seems to be that there are people with skin in the game who aren’t consulted as part of the decision making. This is the meaning of the term “externalities”.

            No, that’s not the meaning of the term “externalities,” but you have a point in there somewhere. Not being a libertarian, I’m the wrong person to argue about it with, but so it goes. I wonder why it is that people who try to correct ignorant person’s misconception about an idea get mistaken by that ignorant for a believer in it. This phenomenon needs a name.

            “Jesus was rubbish because he had three heads.”

            “No, Christians believe that God has three parts, but think Jesus had just the ordinary number of heads for a person.”

            “You just restated my idea in different terms! Besides, your religion sucks because St. Paul was really called Saul.”

            “I’m not a Christian, but have fun with your exegesis!”

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            No, I didn’t say the same thing with different semantics. Libertarianism is about who can do things. They make a sharp distinction between government and private action. A shame you’ve yet to grasp that, but never mind.

            I used “red tape” to denote excessive bureaucracy. You used “red tape” to denote any bureaucracy. If you perform the appropriate translation (make my comment say “excessive red tape” instead of merely “red tape”), then they would simply be the same sentiment. A shame you didn’t grasp that, but never mind.

            No, that’s not the meaning of the term “externalities,” but you have a point in there somewhere.

            More semantic games. That’s not the dictionary definition of the term “externalities”, but it is equivalent in meaning.

            (Or rather, the equivalence in meaning is eminently defensible, but you need to argue otherwise because at this point you’re trying to prove I’m ignorant or stupid rather than engaging in serious discussion.)

            I wonder why it is that people who try to correct ignorant person’s misconception about an idea get mistaken by that ignorant for a believer in it. This phenomenon needs a name.

            I think in this case, it comes down to the fact that I’m not nearly as ignorant you claim and you’re not nearly so clever as you believe.

            When you’re not as smart as you think you are and underestimate your interlocutor, and when you then try to correct your interlocutor, it is hard to take it as correction of ignorance (because it is the opposite). Instead, it gets taken as a bad argument in defense of the principle that you are trying to explain. Then, your interlocutor assumes that you are only making a bad argument in support of the principle because you are a partisan.

            At least, that’s how I feel about this situation.

            Is this productive? Shall we continue?

          • Salem says:

            You still don’t grasp the elementary point I was making, that libertarians make a sharp distinction between public and private. If I want to bog down my own widget factory in massive bureaucracy, libertarians will say “Go right ahead.” It’s socialists who are much more likely to say I shouldn’t be allowed to do that, because of the effects on the workers. What libertarians don’t like about red tape is that it’s government imposed.

            If you now want to retreat to tautology – of course libertarians don’t like “excessive” bureaucracy. No-one likes excessive anything. That’s what excessive means – too much.

            I don’t think I’m particularly clever – I’m sure most people on this board are far cleverer than me. But in this case I have the advantage of knowing what I’m talking about, while you are using your intelligence as a weapon against yourself, to retreat into tautologies when someone helpfully corrected you on an ignorant thing you wrote. There is a real phenomenon of libertarians complaining about “red tape,” and it’s not a tautology. You got it badly wrong. That doesn’t (despite what you seem to think) make you stupid, but refusing to concede the point now isn’t a good look.

            As for externalities – your definition is not equivalent in meaning to the dictionary definition, and you know it, or would if you thought about it for five minutes. If my company is deciding whether to fire me, I have skin in the game, I don’t get a say, and my loss of income is not an externality. But you were so desperate to get in some kind of shot at libertarians that you didn’t think about it. And to be honest, it reinforces my view that you don’t understand libertarianism, because “externalities exist” is only the beginning of what’s a difficult argument to make against all but the most simplistic libertarians. Libertarians say things like “The free market incentivises finding ways to internalise externalities. That’s why we have shopping malls,” and “Government regulators have neither the knowledge nor incentives to deal appropriately with externalities,” and “Government is the biggest externality of all.” This is a problem they are well aware of, and have intelligent answers for. Can you really think “externalities” is a knock-down argument against people who won’t stop going on about Ronald f-ing Coase?

            But, partisan that I am, I can write all that and still not be a libertarian. Honestly, I think Elmore Kindle is half-right. It’s got nothing to do with being male (or cis!?) but the unmarried thing is getting there.

    • Murphy says:

      I’m not really seeing the rationalism here. Maximizing reproductive choice by fining people 25% of their income for having children with just one person too similar to themselves or for choosing not to have children?

      You also seem confused about how fast selection effect have make notable changes to a population. the flynn effect seems utterly unrelated to the rest of your post.

      Is this some kind of bizarre mashup of libertarianism and the quiverfulls?

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s John Sidles.

      • Elmore Kindle says:

        When one-third of a population reproduces at ~4X the rate of the remaining two-thirds, isn’t that sufficient for some mighty strong, mighty quick genomic selection effects?

        There’s nothing wrong with saying this, is there?

        • Murphy says:

          you might be surprised how long even quite strong selective forces take to make even straightforward changes.

          To point to a historical example: Even 800 to 1000 years of an endemic ~20-30% mortality disease in a human population was only enough to raise the fraction of the population with complete resistance to less than 2% and partial resistance to ~14%

          Any effect from a weak selection process like you outline would be far smaller and far slower.

          The only thing wrong with saying what you’re saying is that it appears to be factually incorrect.

        • Elmore Kindle says:

          Are there any professionally qualified SSC readers who rate Murphy-style genetic arguments as quantitatively strong (and can cite scientific scientific literature to that effect)?

          Because usually, when an ultra-right übertariat constructs motivated genomic justifications for abhorrent social practices, it’s very difficult for science-minded, logic-minded folks (me at least) to decide whether to cringe, laugh, or weep.

          The question at hand is:

          When one-third of a population reproduces at ~4X the rate of the remaining two-thirds, isn’t that sufficient for some mighty strong, mighty quick genomic selection effects?

          Anyone? … Anyone?  … Something-d-o-o … genomics? … “Voodoo” genomics?

          In view of these complex and personal ethical and practical considerations, perhaps it’s prudent to maximally respect individual choice in reproductive matters — particularly female choice — as the original comment’s proto-feminist libertarianism vigorously advocated (with consciously hilarious proto-libertarian intent), isn’t that reasonable?

    • Gazeboist says:

      This is laughably off topic past the first sentence. Are you John Sidles?

      • Nornagest says:

        Misplaced hyphens, rhetorical questions, Trump’s wall, links to reaction images, esoteric use of language, general /r/iamverysmart vibe? Yep, that’s John Sidles, all right.

        This will be what, ban number six or seven?

  68. Forlorn Hopes says:

    I think what this post overlooks is that the exact same argument applies to the other side. When you riot and burn down your own university buildings in the name of anti-racism, anti-Trump, or social justice you are also burning down your commons. Team Free Speech’s strategy is to provoke Team Social Justice into burning down their commons so that they won’t have the resources they need to censor universities.

    Team Social Justice was winning because it had a huge home field advantage. Universities are already very left. What’s more this advantage had a snow ball effect: When Team SJ won a victory, some students would join the winning team and some pro-Free Speech students would decide to duck their head down.

    The strategy here isn’t to burn the commons for no gains. The strategy is to redefine the battlefield from the university to the general public. After the University of Missouri protests went viral the University’s enrolment plunged and the university is in serious financial trouble. If team Free Speech can, by doing something as innocent as inviting Charles Murray, trigger another viral moment like “I need some muscle over here” and demonstrate that the loss in enrolment is repeatable then censorious social justice warriors could become very very unpopular with university faculty.

    Additionally team social justice has had a free reign to associate concepts like racism with free speech since long before Milo entered the scene. This gave it a huge advantage to recruiting incoming students or pushing free speech fans to keep their heads down. By retaliating and portraying social justice warriors as crazy and laughable team free speech evens the odds of attracting new undecided students to it’s cause. There’s no need for the liberals to convince authoritarians if they can just wait for them to graduate and take over.

  69. Art Vandelay says:

    I think what’s missing from this discussion is any questioning of what exactly “free speech” means. As I understand it, most people on the left are not saying they are against free speech they are questioning whether commitment to free speech involves a ban on opposing someone being given a platform from which to express their views. The argument I’ve seen is “you have a right to free speech but you don’t have a right to a stage to speak from”. I think there are very few people who genuinely believe there is no situation in which someone should face adverse consequences for something they say*.

    I’d be interested to know what people here think about the situation in the UK with Ken Livingstone being suspended from the Labour party. A brief summary for non UK residents:

    About a year ago Ken Livingstone, a figure in the Labour party, claimed that there was co-operation between the Nazis and Zionists in the early years of the Nazi regime (a claim which was broadly correct although he might have fudged the exact details a bit). Much of the controversy seems to have come from the phrase “Hitler was supporting Zionism” which many interpreted as “Hitler was a Zionist” but Livingstone very soon clarified that he meant that they co-operated purely because they had one similar goal (getting Jews out of Germany) and that in Hitler’s case this was motivated by a hatred of Jews, not a belief in the ideal of a Jewish state. He’s been suspended from the party for the last year and was recently suspended for another year. The media and politicians who have commented on the matter have almost exclusively argued it’s an absolute travesty that he wasn’t permanently expelled.

    Interestingly, I don’t recall seeing anyone defending him on the grounds of free speech (although, to be fair I’ve hardly seen anyone defending him at all). But I suspect if this case was being made the counter-argument would be “He should be allowed to say it, but he should not necessarily be given a platform from which to say it”.

    *Disclaimer: I am not arguing that all these college campus protests are justified or reasonable, just that I don’t think that some supposedly sacred principle of free speech is the best argument against them.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      As I understand it, most people on the left are not saying they are against free speech they are questioning whether commitment to free speech involves a ban on opposing someone being given a platform from which to express their views. The argument I’ve seen is “you have a right to free speech but you don’t have a right to a stage to speak from”.

      The normal counter-argument to that, or at least the one I see most often, is that the protesters aren’t denying free speech to the speaker, but to the people who want to give him a platform and are being denied the ability to do so.

      Interestingly, I don’t recall seeing anyone defending him on the grounds of free speech (although, to be fair I’ve hardly seen anyone defending him at all). But I suspect if this case was being made the counter-argument would be “He should be allowed to say it, but he should not necessarily be given a platform from which to say it”.

      The Labour Party doesn’t have to give a platform to people whose words or actions bring it into disrepute (and even if Livingstone’s comments were technically defensible, he should have known how they’d be interpreted, especially since he already has a reputation for making borderline anti-Semitic comments). If some outside group had decided which people the Labour Party could and couldn’t offer a platform to (which would be a closer analogy with groups of protesters deciding which people student societies can and can’t invite as speakers), that would indeed be a threat to freedom of speech and association.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        If some outside group had decided which people the Labour Party could and couldn’t offer a platform to (which would be a closer analogy with groups of protesters deciding which people student societies can and can’t invite as speakers), that would indeed be a threat to freedom of speech and association.

        You’ve defined the groups to suit your argument without providing reasons for dividing them in this way. You see the Labour Party as a single group and the university as being made up of multiple groups. You could alternatively define the university as a single group or the Labour Party as being made up of multiple groups. Which would invalidate the argument as it’s being put forward here.

        But even if we accept your definitions of these groups your point doesn’t hold. The Labour Party had a disciplinary hearing which decided to deny him a platform for another year. Many people outside the party have decided that this isn’t enough and are putting pressure on them to expel him permanently. So yes, people outside the party are trying to decide who the party gives a platform to.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          You’ve defined the groups to suit your argument without providing reasons for dividing them in this way. You see the Labour Party as a single group and the university as being made up of multiple groups. You could alternatively define the university as a single group or the Labour Party as being made up of multiple groups. Which would invalidate the argument as it’s being put forward here.

          Generally in these free speech cases, speakers weren’t invited by “the university”, but by a particular student organisation (College Republicans, or whatever). They’re then opposed by other students who aren’t part of the group doing the inviting. So, no, “defin[ing] the university as a single group” doesn’t accurately capture the dynamics of the situation.

          But even if we accept your definitions of these groups your point doesn’t hold. The Labour Party had a disciplinary hearing which decided to deny him a platform for another year. Many people outside the party have decided that this isn’t enough and are putting pressure on them to expel him permanently. So yes, people outside the party are trying to decide who the party gives a platform to.

          They’re “putting pressure” on the party by writing newspaper articles trying to influence the decision in the direction of greater strictness. There’s a difference between “influencing someone’s decision” and “deciding for someone”.

          • lvlln says:

            Generally in these free speech cases, speakers weren’t invited by “the university”, but by a particular student organisation (College Republicans, or whatever). They’re then opposed by other students who aren’t part of the group doing the inviting. So, no, “defin[ing] the university as a single group” doesn’t accurately capture the dynamics of the situation.

            Indeed. A student group expressing something cannot reasonably be said to be the same as the university itself supporting that something just because it’s done using university resources. That’s one of the whole points of a university having free speech as a principle.

            Plus, universities don’t work by mob rule. If group A of students want to express something but group B of students want to shut down that expression, group B doesn’t get to physically coerce group A into not expressing it and then declare that the University has decided to exercise its free speech by choosing not to express what group A wanted, even if group B is arbitrarily larger than group A.

    • Murphy says:

      1: The UK does not have the same kind of principle of free speech as America.

      2: He was not facing legal consequences nor a violent mob.

      There’s a more important issue of questioning of what exactly “no platforming” means.

      If your university receives public money and another group of students invite a speaker and you, to prevent them from being given the chance to speak, you and your mates go throw rocks, call in bomb threats and generally do whatever you can to make the event too troublesome to host for the entity hosting it, are you “no platforming” them or are you violating their right to free speech?

      Some people take the position that only the government can violate your right to free speech and that someone who, for example, kicks the shit out of anyone who publishes the wrong kind of opinion is not violating your rights.

      The motte seems to be that “no platforming” is just you personally not helping someone have somewhere to speak. The bailey seems to involve making other people so afraid of what you threaten to do that they become unwilling to give people a place to speak whom they otherwise would for fear of consequences inflicted by you.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        2: He was not facing legal consequences nor a violent mob.

        So is you position that it is not a denial of free speech if someone does not face these consequences? I often see people decrying attacks on free speech in situations where students have successfully lobbied for speakers to be disinvited without bringing violence or the force of law into it and I assumed that this was being included here but perhaps I had that wrong.

        If Jordan Peterson gets invited to speak at my university and some students make loads of fuss about how he’s a racist, misogynist transphobe (but don’t make any threats) and the relevant authorities at the university decide to disinvite him you wouldn’t consider this an infringement on his right to free speech?

        • gbdub says:

          More important than his free speech is the free speech of the people denied an opportunity to hear him.

          A small group (hell, even a majority, but in reality it’s a small group) of students shouldn’t get to decide “only ideas we agree with can be discussed here, other ideas are dangerous and speaking them is violence that must be suppressed”.

        • Murphy says:

          If it’s a publicly funded institution and he’d been invited by other students then yes, I would have a problem with that because it would be a state body restricting speech. I think the term is “hecklers veto”.

          As is the case with some of the university cases.

          If it was a private institution then there’s also the issue of you or your fellow campaigners making someone so afraid of what you threaten to do that they become unwilling to give people a place to speak whom they otherwise would for fear of consequences inflicted by you. Either through violence or some other threat. Even if they’re nominally legal. Once you s