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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]

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717 Responses to Sacred Principles As Exhaustible Resources

  1. pkolding says:

    Free speech was assigned as a constitutional right precisely because its lack produced consequences harmful to the public good. Thus, arguments that rely on the consequences of the exercise of free speech – as this article outlines – and put forward the idea that the public good may be threatened by the casual exercise of free speech, deny the very reasoning that free speech should exist at all.

    A far sounder approach to take if one is concerned with the consequences of free speech and wish to limit speech as a remedy, is to punish those who advocate and act to restrict free speech. The argument that my right to free speech allows me to advocate its abandonment is internally contradictory. For those who advocate such a thing already have the power to restrict their speech within the rules of free speech. What they are actually advocating is a restriction not on their own speech, but everyone else’s.

  2. Kevin C. says:

    From Heat Street: “Students: Free Speech is for Bigots, College Must Apologize for Hosting ‘Fascist’ Heather Mac Donald“.

    A group of students at Pomona College in California has published an open letter urging the outgoing college president to retract his commitment to free speech as a way to “discover truth” because “objectivity” is a white supremacist myth.

    “Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions,” the letter read. “It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry.”

    The students also demand that the college “takes action” — including expulsion from the college — against the staff of the student newspaper for perpetuating “hate speech, anti-Blackness, and intimidation toward students of marginalized backgrounds.”

  3. unemicamino says:

    In my experience, this is not how things work. At the University of Toronto, attempts to restrict speech actually galvanized people, especially left-leaning people, to support free speech.

    Remember that the blockers of speech are the far left types, types who won’t get convinced by centrists (on this issue) ever. Letting them be censorious doesn’t accomplish anything.

  4. userfriendlyyy says:

    You want to stick up for leftists getting shut down on anti free speech grounds…. here is a case… Of course it was by other leftists this time.
    https://shadowproof.com/2017/03/22/small-groups-people-shut-controversial-speakers-campuses/
    And my response then

    There is nothing more hypocritical than the left refusing to hear people. It is quite litteraly reactionary to shut people up because you don’t want to hear what they have to say. Not only is it wrong headed to try and tell other people what they can and cannot listen to it is impossible to accomplish and even stupider to try. Who exactly benefits from Milo not being able to speak at some college? I can’t think of a single person except for Milo, who gets tons of press exposing him to new people all while getting to paint college protesters as intolerant babies who need safe spaces. There is absolutely nothing that could make the public have a more negative view of protests in general than to have this be the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word.

    By all means go ahead and protest idiots like him when he comes to speak to show solidarity with whoever he is trying to bully, but the second you go from ‘I disagree with what you are saying’ to ‘you can’t say anything’ you might as well just shoot yourself in the foot and hand them the megaphone.

  5. embrodski says:

    A friend who wishes to remain anonymous asked me to pass this along:

    “The Inside Higher Ed article was misleading. I agree with the general sentiment, but if free speech becomes the next family values it’s not going to be because of Harvard inviting Charles Murray. The Jordan Peterson talk went extremely well. I think Harvard Open Campus stands a good chance of reducing polarization instead of increasing it.

    I’m a silent board member of that Harvard group

    I wouldn’t have joined if I thought the result would be to increase polarization– I really think that a lot of the posturing and puffery would just crumble if their peers who thought differently stood up for themselves.

    The issue at Harvard is not fierce debate. It’s that everyone assumes that radicals occupy the moral high ground. People who disagree either feel morally inferior or know to keep their mouths shut.”

  6. Blue Tribe Dissident says:

    By the way, here’s Jordan B. Peterson talking about Milo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3gC2OJkx_A (approx. 90 seconds)

  7. MB says:

    Sorry, but this is completely stupid. For more than 100 years, avant-garde artists and left-wing activists have been doing all they could to shock and outrage the public (“épater le bourgeois”), from Duchamp’s Fountain, Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, etc. — and on the other hand one has the infamous Berkeley Free Speech Movement, who invited actual extremists to speak on campus, or the ACLU, who supported extremists’ right to march. Not to mention the more recent culture wars of the 80’s, which are still to some extent being fought today. In many of these cases, provocation for its own sake was the whole point, as admitted by the initiators. They used the freedoms of liberal society against it, with the goal of bringing it down (by sapping the bourgeois values that held it up) and getting themselves into power.
    Would the author agree that there was no good point to the ACLU’s support of that Spokane (?) march? That the actual goal in that case was not honest dialogue, but stirring controversy, shocking and outraging the public, keeping the bogeyman alive, and tarnishing Mid-Western Americans by association?
    Now that the Left has consolidated its control over universities, the art world, etc., some more perspicacious left-wing people have realized that “free speech” and “free expression” can also be used against them. Unsurprisingly, they find it unfair and unacceptable. “Free speech” was only a tactic, to popularize some controversial left-wing ideas up until the 00’s (e.g. see Ward Churchill), not a goal in itself, so now it is time to get rid of it. This is not just a reaction to the “provocations” of the Right: the more left-wing a place is, the more complete the left-wing dominance is, the fewer right-wing and the more left-wing provocations there are, the less free speech there is. Eliminating free speech is currently a goal of the Left, now that it has outlived its usefulness.
    There is an easy counter-argument: rights that are not exerted are gradually lost. For example: there are many “public” spaces in New York buildings, which the public doesn’t know about, so they cannot go there, even though they have the “right” to. After 9/11, there was a big unofficial offensive against the right to take pictures in public places (with security guards and the police threatening photographers and confiscating cameras), so this right is much weaker nowadays. Currently, there is a struggle for the right to film police in the exercise of their function; who knows if it will survive or not?
    What makes it special is that the struggle for “free speech” is taking place at elite institutions. It’s not like the petty criminals and drug addicts who usually interact with police. If Berkeley and Harvard students do not retain the right to invite controversial speakers, who will? Nobody, because they will be made an example of, and this is exactly what left-wing ideologues want. See 1984, where the proles retained some freedom, because nobody cared, but Party members had to carefully watch their thoughts.
    I can’t believe that the author, who seems intelligent, has not thought this through. Probably he sincerely believes that left-wing provocations are good, sophisticated, ironical, etc., while right-wing provocations are bad, dangerous, pointless, un-amusing, etc..

  8. antidem says:

    I’m not the world’s biggest proponent of free speech – lots of ideas are too destructive to be allowed out of the closet – but at least, unlike many people, I understand the principle. Look, the principle of freedom of speech (and its legal manifestations, like the First Amendment) exists ONLY to protect controversial and unpopular ideas, because uncontroversial and popular ideas don’t need to be protected. To complain that those principles will lose support if they’re used to defend controversial and unpopular ideas misses the point so fucking massively that only an overschooled, liberal “clever silly” like Scott Alexander could have come up with a thought like it.

  9. Rudbek says:

    I unconvinced that a commons is a good analogy for free speech. Isn’t the iconic “I disagree with you but will defend your right to say it” scenario the Nazi march? I recall the ACLU defending the right of neo-Nazis and KKK groups to march in public spaces in the 80’s. I think the act of defending the rights of groups abhorred by 99% of the populace strengthened rather than weakened the commitment to free speech.

  10. Gazeboist says:

    Well said, but I think you missed an important argument in your favor – Harvard is neither Middlebury nor Berkeley, and people at Harvard should know better than to bring in an external conflict.

  11. Tricky says:

    Q: Is it true that there is freedom of speech in the Soviet Union, just like in the USA?

    A: In principle, yes. In the USA, you can stand in front of the White House in Washington, DC, and yell, “Down with Reagan!”, and you will not be punished. Equally, you can also stand in Red Square in Moscow and yell, “Down with Reagan!”, and you will not be punished.

  12. Dinwar says:

    I think what you’ve demonstrated is that free speech (freedom of expression, more generally) is NOT a sacred principle. It’s not even a principle.

    Defenders of freedom of expression have always had to be offensive. No one ever attacks freedom of expression directly; they always try to paint the ideas they object to (or the people discussing them) as offensive. And no one wants to defend the offensive. Knowing this wedge strategy, defenders of free speech have always tried to keep offensive expression from being banned. Unfortunately, that means that they often get painted as supporting the offensive idea.

    There’s a long history of defenders of free expression being intentionally offensive, as a way to re-calibrate normal. They go so far in one direction that it shifts the cultural concept of what is acceptable in that direction, however slightly. And unfortunately, in an increasingly partisan world where everyone is in increasingly insulated bubbles, we need this now more than ever.

    If something is abandoned due to partisanship, it’s not a principle, it’s a hobby. (I forget who’s quote I butchered there…) And your statements make it clear that freedom of expression isn’t a principle, sacred or otherwise.

  13. grreat says:

    I disagree with the principle that free speech is a common, that free speech is a limited resource. A real podium may be a limited resource, but in today’s age the ability to get information from any source you care about on the internet has enlarged the podium exponentially to where the commons is about infinite. So what’s right or wrong about having provocative speakers fill seats at real life podiums? Your ears may be a limited resource but that is your resource, to do with what you want, not the commons.

  14. Blue Tribe Dissident says:

    Look, SSC is the pinnacle of the internet, but this is the worst post of SSC evar. I guess what I mean by that is that I disagree with it but I don’t feel like it gives me a lot to chew on with regard to that disagreement. I realise I haven’t actually said anything useful yet, so I’ll try to stir myself from torpor to make a couple points.

    First a minor point. It doesn’t make sense to group Charles Murray and Jordan B. Peterson as a type (and I say that as someone who likes both of them). It’s true that both are “controversial”. Murray is someone who most people dislike or disagree with (to the extent that they know who he is). Peterson is someone who (I’m taking his word about the responses he’s gotten from the public) most people like and/or agree with (to the extent that they know who he is). The fact that Murray is controversial is unsurprising, but the fact that Peterson is controversial is much stranger.

    More substantially, I understand the point that someone who is deliberately obnoxious in public and justifies themselves in terms of “free speech” is wasting the common good of free speech. But that’s not what Charles Murray does. No one who wants to invite Charles Murray to something actually believes he is the most offensive person. They could try, I don’t know, the makers of A Serbian Film instead. But, on the other hand, I guess the proof is in the pudding: Murray probably gets a much more ferocious reaction than any shock artist would. But that reveals “most offensive” as a fact about the people who react to Murray rather than about Murray himself. I mean, if I keep spitting at your shoes and making lewd comments about your mother, but then I want to say it’s up to you whether you feel offended, I’m being ridiculous. But if I’m Charles Murray, then, heck yes, if you’re offended, that’s your deal.

    So, in that context, no, inviting Charles Murray to speak is not for no reason. It’s to make a point. It’s choosing a spot to stand and fight instead of continuing to fight skirmishes against guerrillas.

  15. JoeCool says:

    This is an interesting post in light of the high value Scott normally assigns to epistemological/rhetorical honesty/purity. Presumably if one wants to 100 percent honest, they should argue for why free speech is a good thing in the most extreme situations, so that they can really say their argument supports free speech, he seems right that this intellectually honest argument would turn the masses off to free speech more than they are already turned off to free speech.

    It seems like his objection is purely on the grounds that its a bad tactic to promote free speech, that we should highlight instances were the left get squelched instead so that the left will like free speech. The thing is if we judge rhetorical arguments by their ability to persuade the masses its gg for anything approaching even handed intellectually balanced and epistemological honest arguments.

    Maybe we should operate under two sets of rhetorical rules, one being for interacting with good faith learned people with different viewpoints and one for interacting with the masses.

  16. eqdw says:

    I generally agree with this line of reasoning and it has put useful words to some thoughts I’ve been having. A few comments for thought though:

    1)

    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”,

    STEELMAN: it is my understanding that when organizers do something like this, they are attempting to leverage the latter idea in order to empower the former. That is, they’re hoping to stir up a controversy, because that gives them publicity. They’re then hoping that the controversy attracts a ton of eyeballs, some of whom say “huh… sounds interesting”. And then they, in turn, say “hey I should have the right to hear these ideas” and they end up supporting free speech.

    I believe this is a bad strategy, largely for the reasons that you have put forward. But it’s important to appreciate that people are not doing this for bad faith (in their minds, anyway) reasons.

    2)

    “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”,

    Just between you and me, like I said above, I agree that this happens frequently, and I agree that it is bad. I’m uneasy with imputing motives like this, though. It’s hard to accept an argument of the form “this exact thing that you did, it’s good if and only if you have good motivations for doing it”. We can never read someone else’s mind, so putting too much stock into lines of reasoning like this is not the greatest idea.

    That said, again, between you and me, I really really wish groups would stop doing this.

  17. eugyppius says:

    Late to the party, and probably this point has already been made, but I’m a prof at a snooty selective school with some inside knowledge of student organizations exactly like the ones our host is referring to. I don’t think any of this has a lot to do with free speech and I think both sides in these debates are varying shades of disingenuous.

    The student groups into social justice agitation (call them SJAs) and the student groups into free speech or conservative agitation (call them FSAs) enjoy a symbiotic relationship with one another. This has been the state of things for a long time, but the latest edition of the playbook dates to ca. 5 years ago. This was about when identity politics, nth-wave feminism, and the social justice agenda came roaring back to prominence after a long period of hibernation and marginalization. The reasons for this sudden resurgence have something to do with generational turnover (the last big social justice push on campuses happened in the 1990s, and we’re dealing with the students/children of those activities) and the impotence/frustration of more overtly economic activism as demonstrated by OWS ca. 2011/12.

    Anyway, campus authorities hit the economic agitators hard but they have ceded battle after battle to the SJAs. So the threshold for triggering an SJA protest/action has gotten lower and lower as the radicals have run out of stuff to complain about. The FSAs have therefore sensed an opportunity. New organizations have been conjured from almost nothing (often they are well-funded by conservative donors, etc, on the sly), and old groups have come back to life. They achieve relevance by inviting potentially controversial speakers to campus in the name of “free speech.” They hope, truly hope, that these speakers will trigger SJA protests and therefore marginalize or discredit the SJA position. If the SJAs all sit at home then it’s a failure because, really and truly, the FSAs don’t care that much about what Charles Murray has to say. Likewise, the SJAs, increasingly starved of injustices to protest about as the campus administration has demonstrated a shocking compliance to all of their demands, depends upon the FSAs to stir up controversy so that they can demonstrate the prevalence of racist/sexist/ableist/whateverist attitudes in our society and their continuing relevance for addressing these ills.

    Only, because these are students new to these tactics, they often screw up. Ideally the FSAs will invite speakers who are perfect edge cases–slightly conservative, slightly objectionable, but perfectly within the realms of mainstream discourse. With luck the SJAs will nevertheless be provoked into a self-discrediting protest. Similarly, the SJAs would ideally hold their fire until they found themselves up against a speaker who was truly unlikely to garner much sympathy in the broader world. Alas, the FSAs often invite genuinely controversial speakers that a lot of people are fine with deplatforming, and the SJAs are increasingly likely to protest even their own shadow.

    Anyway. I don’t see that this game of checkers (chess would be too exalted a term for it) has much potential to sour very many people on the notion of free speech. This elusive free speech is well suppressed on the campuses of private institutions like my own, and has been since the 1990s by a) codes of student conduct and similar documents, and b) an increasingly politicized professoriate (mainly in area studies fields) and administration (all those title IX coordinators). It seems to me that the agitation also cuts both ways. The FSAs certainly hurt the case for free speech when they fuck up and invite some odious person that nobody wants around, but the SJAs provoke corresponding reactions in the opposite direction, as many neutral student organizations and even administrators are driven by increasingly unhinged SJA rhetoric to come out and defend supposed free-speech principles on occasion.

    As long as this is confined to the SJA/FSA checkers game, then, I really think it’s a wash. Also too, note that schools could end this shit tomorrow by getting rid of student activity/event funding, because all of these speakers are invited to campus by student groups, and now a whole industry of a) crazy SJA activist speakers and b) edge case kind of maybe conservative potentially objectionable but not really problematic speakers have been conjured into existence by this game. You mentioned Milo: he’s on the outs now for sure but his stock was long in decline because he abandoned his edge-case positions and went full-on troll, which is actually not great for those playing the FSA side of the board. Even Charles Murray is too far out there. Jordan Peterson seems to be an aspiring FSA speaker with a better knowledge of these dynamics, though, so maybe he’ll have a nice speaking career.

    • Blue Tribe Dissident says:

      really and truly, the FSAs don’t care that much about what Charles Murray has to say.

      But they do care about his right to say it. And that is what’s at stake in practice.

      • Matt M says:

        Heh, truly an inversion of the classic “I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

        College campus is more like “I have no idea what it is you plan on saying, but I will fight to the death to prevent you from saying it”

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          You know, sharpen up the language just a bit and pair it with the right photo/cartoon, and that could easily go very viral!

      • eugyppius says:

        Maybe some of them do? I’d say discrediting political opponents on the left is a deeper priority for a lot of these groups. Moral certainty and something like self-righteous sincerity are the province of the social justice agitators, which is probably why they’re such bad news.

  18. Squirrel of Doom says:

    Perhaps I am too deep inside a bubble, but the way I see it the left is the singular threat to free speech in 2017 US. It might in theory be good PR to fight others, but if they’re not threatening free speech, that seems very pointless and artificial.

    I’d love to defend some liberal being silenced, but I haven’t heard of any. What are the top 3 examples of that happening the last 12 months?

    I can agree that Milo is a troll who is only in it to provoke, and you should pick better free speech champions.

    But Charles Murray is to me an ideal such champion. He is very controversial, but that is entirely based on lies about his actual work and actual opinions. Free speech is exactly the right tool for letting that kind of person explain and defend themselves.

    • 1soru1 says:

      I’d love to defend some liberal being silenced, but I haven’t heard of any.

      If you had, the silencing wouldn’t have been very effective, would it?

      Just as the left, loosely defined, runs universities, the right is culturally dominant in small businesses, law enforcement and immigration. So it’s there you need to look, and there you find things like leftists like Adam Habib and Tarek Saab being denied visas, whistle-blowers like Morris Davis being sacked, legal advice like this:

      http://www.workplacefairness.org/retaliation-political-activity#7

      I run a blog where I post a lot of my political views. Can my employer fire me if they find out about it?
      Unless your employment contract says otherwise, the answer is yes. If you want to continue your blog, you should post anonymously to be safe and make sure to eliminate any possible way the blog can be traced back to you.

      Perhaps the best example is this case:

      http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2016/02/01/397079.htm

      The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the firings of sheriff’s deputies who declined to donate to their boss’s political campaign

  19. Optimization Process says:

    This is, a little bit, a reframing/application of Ethnic Tension and Meaningless Arguments: by drawing a connection between X and Y, you mix together how people feel about them, so some of their affect from X spills onto Y (and vice versa). So when you connect “Charles Murray” to “free speech,” people who love “free speech” but hate “Charles Murray” will end up slightly more lukewarm about both. It pulls the two ideas closer together in emotion-space. (And likewise, drawing an adversarial connection between “Science” and “Trump” will push the two ideas apart.)

    Hypothesis: this happened to Hitler. I acknowledge that Hitler is the Official Worst Person, and I wouldn’t, like, vote for him, but I don’t attach the same visceral negative affect to him that I do to my political outgroups. I suspect that decades of being compared to every presidential candidate and every major policy decision, each comparison pulling him closer (in emotion-space) to some point in the cluster of “normal political things,” has put him firmly inside the cluster — so, sure, everybody will acknowledge that he’s the Official Worst Person, but for any given person, there are “normal political things” that they feel more strongly about.

  20. fwiffo says:

    Your general point strikes me as valid, but the examples of Charles Murray and Jordan Peterson do not fit your general point. These are not extremists. Murray especially is a public intellectual who is no further to the right than Ta-Nehisi Coates is to the left. I disagree with about 85% of what Murray says, but it is a sad sign of the situation on our campuses today that the invitation of someone like Murray is perceived as deliberately antagonistic. These guys are not Milo.

    Free speech may be a commons, but people like Murray and Peterson are exactly the types of people we should be invoking free speech to defend. Disallowing students to hear these perspectives is a central aspect is surely a contributor to the current level of polarization.

  21. VolumeWarrior says:

    First, the “depletion” argument assumes that society is somewhat tolerant of the 1st Nazi, and less tolerant of subsequent Nazi speakers to the point where we ban the 734th Nazi speaker and lose free speech all together. But history’s pattern is the opposite – that once we allowed the 1st Nazi to speak it established a (legal and social) rule that free speech protects Nazis. The ONLY people nowadays to whom free speech norms are ambiguous is social justice hustlers, and it is only “ambiguous” because they get paid in outrage currency.

    Second, you can’t really reduce the amount of offensive speech in society. SJWs always find something else to be offended about. They get offended at Peter Singer. They got offended at Tracer’s booty. There’s nothing they won’t find offensive in the long term, so why bother trying to stem the bleeding? This is a problem that must be confronted head on, not kicked down the road.

    Giving more platforms to offensive speakers establishes offensive speech as very common and normal. If a Nazi were going to speak at Harvard twice a week, protesters would get a lot of press coverage at first, but then after a while no one cares because it’s the same story over and over again. I.e. it depletes the value of outrage currency.

    And outrage currency is indeed losing value very quickly as society realizes that colleges are just full of whiny kids triggered over bathrooms, fat shaming, and ableism because they’re depressed, obese, and lazy. Propped up only by their ability to get elected into some pointless student government and mewl loud enough to get attention from fuddy-duddy school administrators.

    Everybody knows what’s going on. It’s not part of the explicit national dialogue, but the real adults are aware. The problem is correcting itself.

  22. Björn says:

    I think what one should note is that the USA is really extreme in it’s understanding of free speech. More or less only direct calls for violence are banned and everything else falls under free speech. A classic example are the signs of the Westboro Baptist Church, who range from stupidly offensive (“Soldiers die God laughs”) to extremely anti-gay (“God hates fags” etc.), and who count as free speech.

    Now Westboro Baptist Church protests are ultimately pointless, as they do not have any power to change anything in the USA, they’re 100% offensive, but have no meaningful political agenda. But there are ways how one can seriously promote racism and violence against people without technically promoting violence against people. Holocaust denial for example is not about arguing against a scientific fact, it is about saying that murdering millions of people is OK. Holocaust denial falls under free speech in the USA. Even more bluntly, dehumanizing groups of people also falls under free speech in the USA, as the “God hates fags”-sign shows.

    In most other western countries (actually I think in all other than the USA), the right of free speech is not seen so extremely universal. It can be limited by the right of other people to be free from harassment, which is why other western countries have laws against speech that promotes hate against groups of people or promotes limiting the universal human rights against some people. And those laws look at the intend of the speech, not what is technically said.

    I think in recent years, alt right people like Milo Yiannopolous have learned to use the extreme amount of freedom of expression described above much more effectively, by saying lots of dehumanizing things against any minority there is like the Westboro Baptist Church, but with good PR-strategies and a radical agenda as well. And people who are against the dehumanization of minorities can’t do much against it, as any way of answering those alt right people gives them more attention, which is just what they want, while ignoring them still leaves you with speakers touring the country that are very efficient in dehumanization.

    This leads to liberal people becoming sceptical of free speech (as there is an actual problem with it in the USA). Now combine this with the generalizing way how social justice people do activism, and you get the denouncement of “freeze peach”. The sensible way to handle the problems discribed above would probably be an amendment that says like “Free speech is limited by the right of other people to be free from harassment”, but that looks not very likely, given the importance of free speach in the USA. So I kind of can understand social justice people who start being against free speech in general, even though that is wrong.

    • gbdub says:

      We have laws against harassment. We just don’t think harassment includes “publicly stating an opinion at an event organized for the purpose”.

  23. jbradfield says:

    I’d like to add a little color around this debate over “campus free speech.”

    When I was in college about 20 years ago I was a conservative activist and I brought several right-wing speakers to campus.

    Here’s what I can tell you: Conservative speaking events are not about promoting debate, they’re about antagonizing the left, baiting them into overreaction and then crying “free speech” in appeals to donors.

    I know. That’s exactly what we did.

    Furthermore, it was not some independent effort, this was part of a well-coordinated conservative activism and fundraising machine – at that time it was mostly supported by well-endowed conservative non-profits, specifically the Leadership Institute and the Collegiate Network.

    Think about this: if we really wanted to have a conversation about a controversial topic, why not just have a debate or a panel discussion?

    In most of these “free speech” episodes it’s just one right wing guy (often with a book to sell) given a platform to pontificate (and maybe take a few superficial questions from the audience). There’s a few reasons for this. First, debates and panel discussions just aren’t as lucrative; the honorarium has to be split, or you get fewer book sales since you have less time on the platform. And yes, honorariums are at stake here; either paid out by the university or finances by private right-wing donors.

    I think you’re beginning to see that there’s a little more at work here than “poor persecuted conservative scholars being shouted down.”

    And let’s think about that word, “scholar” – more often than not the speakers are not scholars in the traditional sense. They’re either right-wing media celebrities (part of whose monetizable brand is “controversy”) or they’re think tank denizens. The problem with a lot of think tank “scholars” is that they don’t do peer-review research – they mostly just pontificate on policy to people who already agree with them.

    So I’m hoping you’re starting to see that there’s a lot more at work behind the scenes than it first appears. Much of this “free speech on campus” debate is baloney.

    However, I do think leftist groupthink is a legitimate problem on campuses, I just don’t think hosting the Milos and Murrays of the world going to solve it. Nor do I think conservatives can really do anything about leftist groupthink – leftist have to work on that themselves!

    Here’s one thought: if you’re a progressive really try and challenge your beliefs – and use the other sides best arguments. Search out the most politically incorrect facts you can think of and really dig into them.

    That is seriously the best way to make yourself a better thinker for your cause. You may even learn something new, so be careful.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I think you’re beginning to see that there’s a little more at work here than “poor persecuted conservative scholars being shouted down.”

      Yes and no.

      I have no doubt that the reactions are purposely engendered. But that’s the point. Peterson and to a lesser extent Murray have important things to say. Even Milo brings a welcome pushback to the overreaches of feminism. If they can’t say these things without being attacked, then that’s a problem. If left-wing activists can be baited into overreach, that’s a sign that they are capable of overreaching to the detriment of all.

      And no, debates and panel discussions don’t really cut it. For starters, the far left these days isn’t very interested in debating and will tell you so flat-out. A panel discussion sounds OK, but I’d rather hear a PhD’s thoughts on the subject than some random students’. And again, I have to wonder if the far left would find it equally acceptable.

      The bottom line is, it’s not acceptable to try and shut down an event because you don’t like the speaker. If this reaction can be forcefully triggered, then that means the reaction could’ve been naturally triggered, and indeed often will be in other contexts, i.e. political correctness, accusations of racism, and so forth.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @jbradfield:

      Can you provide something more in the way of substantiation that these events are intended to be maximally antagonistic, and are more about fund-raising than ideas?

      • gbdub says:

        I have no doubt some of them are, and there may even be a subset of conservative groups for which this is their major raison d’etre but asserting that all or even most of them are is a bit much to take on faith and I’d echo your request.

        And in any case “hold a high-visibility/controversial event to get people talking and fund our more common and boring stuff” seems like common behavior across the political spectrum.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yeah, and I think PETA are assholes who don’t deserve the time of day.

          But I also have a bias that this is much more mainstream (in near history) and centrally coordinated on the right.

  24. divalent says:

    I think you have damage mostly going the wrong way. When you make “Charles Murray” an example “odious” person whose rights you are choosing to publicly defend to make a statement about the principle of free speech, you more likely damaging Murray’s reputation than hurting the cause of free speech. I don’t think many are fooled into thinking the KKK or Nazi are more respectable just because the ACLU defends their right to speak, because their odiousness is part of the equation. But there is a danger that the reputation of a lesser known person (to the general public) chosen to occupy that role is at risk.

    (And I am well aware that arriving to this post 2 days and 350 comments late, that someone probably made the same somewhere above.)

  25. simoj says:

    I think the ostentatious pride that the ACLU and its supporters took in defending the Nazi march in Skokie, IL is a point against this model. But I guess you could say it is a case of outgroup vs. fargroup?

  26. johnmcg says:

    It seems Charles Murray has been turned into a dog whistle.

    In that thread, I noted that once something is publicly identified as a kind of dog whistle, then those who persist in using that term are signaling, at a minimum, that they are willing to endure being accused of breaking the norms. Someone who goes out of his way to use the word “niggardly” may not be a racist, but is willing to invite accusations of racism, and people who actually are racists will be attracted to him as one who’s willing stand up to the PC crowd.

    In this way, I think the Harvard students are doing a disservice to Murray. It’s perhaps true that it is the SJW’s who turned “inviting Charles Murray to speak” into a synonym for “daring SJW’s to riot” but this seems to be a further escalation on that path. If I were Murray, I would not be inclined to accept invitations that were framed as audacious demonstrations of free speech.

  27. averageradical says:

    It seems that a less extreme solution is for the students to invite equally controversial speakers from the other sides. Maybe all on the same weekend. Make it an event about free speech. That builds the commons.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It seems that a less extreme solution is for the students to invite equally controversial speakers from the other sides.

      They can’t. There literally aren’t any. You can’t find a leftist who is THAT controversial at Harvard.

      • averageradical says:

        Fair point, although I suspect digging deep enough might find some socialist anarchists, stalinists, North Korean apologists, Palestinian extremists, etc. (they might need to be flown in). In any case, I don’t think they need to be equally controversial, but at least they should invite the most controversial speakers from all other sides and make it a weekend event. That changes the optics and builds the free speech commons.

        • Matt M says:

          Didn’t Ahmedenijad once speak at Yale? And was treated generally with respect and decency?

          Edit: If I’m remembering correctly, someone asked him about gay rights in Iran, and his response was “There are no homosexuals in Iran” and everybody just laughed at him. Ha ha, funny guy. Compare this to how Milo gets treated…

          • averageradical says:

            Good, so if that’s true and this event is held with all sides, and the most extreme lefties are treated with ironic respect, maybe the other sides will see that’s better than violence, etc. But that’s just some idealism. The deeper point is that inviting all the other sides avoids charges of one-sidedness and builds the commons.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ahmedenijad is a “most extreme lefty” now?

            Tell me another one.

          • Matt M says:

            He may not be the left’s ingroup.

            But he’s not their outgroup either.

            In any case, that’s not my point here. Just that finding a non-right wing speaker who is considered “too extreme” for college campuses is, in fact, a virtual impossibility.

      • herbert herberson says:

        How about Rania Khalek?

      • gbdub says:

        FIRE maintains an excellent “disinvitation database” going back to 2000 that lists whether the disinvitation attempt came from the left or right. While there are twice as many attempts from the left as from the right, there are still ~100 “from the right” attempts (in some cases the same person has multiple disinvites).

        So there’s some good options on there. Still, most of the “from the right” disinvites are for positions on abortion, Palestine, and immigration, so yeah, probably would not be controversial at Harvard. But still worth including in a future event I’d say.

        Cecile Richards and Cornel West maybe, to pick a couple recent names?

    • gbdub says:

      And if they really wanted to be sneaky they could find some real wackos from the left that make Murray look even more rational in comparison (but no need to do that).

      I do worry that there may not be an equivalent well populated list of banned speakers from the left. Who would you propose?

    • Walter says:

      I dunno. Scott did an article about how being pro and anti system can’t be equally controversial.

      Like, the Fifty Stalins guy and the Zero Stalins guy get treated differently.

      • averageradical says:

        That makes sense, so I accept that there won’t ever be an event where the same number of people are offended the same amount on all sides, but my deeper points are: 1) Scott is partly right that the Harvard idea is one-sided and drains the commons, and 2) The fix to one-sidedness is to bring in all sides and this builds the commons.

  28. Swami says:

    I too disagree with Scott,

    The better tactic of the right is to invite the most reasonable people possible who upset the SJWs. Murray for example. This will provoke outrage and polarize and politicize the issue. But the benefit is that it escalates the issue out of the campus, where it has already festered like a cancer, and takes it into the broader population where people will be horrified that anti-free speech is now associated with the left. This will move the population to the right and lead to institutions which specifically oppose anti free speech. If the left identifies itself as the party against free speech, then the left is going to self destruct as a large scale political success in the US. Thus the left will be forced to amend itself and publicly reject the anti free speech element.

    The worst thing the right could do is NOT politicize this issue. If instead they continue to avoid making waves, then the current cancer within campuses will continue to grow until some time in the future when the country will no longer believe in free speech. At which point the anti liberal forces win.

    The best action is to define this as a left/right issue before the anti liberal movement within the left becomes dominant.

    • Kevin C. says:

      “If the left identifies itself as the party against free speech, then the left is going to self destruct as a large scale political success in the US.”

      Why? The data I’ve seen shows that support for traditional American-style free speech isn’t all that strong (see Razib Khan here and here for some), and has mostly been driven top-down (particularly via the courts’ interpretation of the first amendment) and from the Left. Why wouldn’t the left abandoning free speech drive society to shift away from supporting free speech (as the left has similarly driven other social and cultural changes)?

      “The worst thing the right could do is NOT politicize this issue. If instead they continue to avoid making waves, then the current cancer within campuses will continue to grow until some time in the future when the country will no longer believe in free speech. At which point the anti liberal forces win.”

      Or we follow your strategy, and support for free speech becomes another marker of “deplorableness”, which all good, right-thinking people shun lest they be cast into the Outer Darkness with the rest of the untouchables. I can’t find where online I saw it (I think Twitter or Tumblr somewhere), but I’ve already seen someone making the argument that saying free speech is under attack or that protections for speech are lacking is “hate speech”, because the only speech getting suppressed is hate speech, and only “haters” are being silenced, and otherwise speech remains perfectly free, so claiming that current protections for speech are any way insufficient is to argue for the misuse of free speech to cover “hate speech”, and speech that promotes the toleration of “hate speech” is itself “hate speech”.

      If the right does politicize the issue, then the “current cancer within campuses” becomes another way of sticking it to those hateful racist rednecks; something to which the masses will increasingly assent lest they be cast forever from polite society, and, driven by this mechanism, will “continue to grow until some time in the future when the country will no longer believe in free speech. At which point the anti liberal forces win.”

      This is a fight that cannot be won.

      (edit: fixed links)

      • Swami says:

        Your links didn’t work.

        I think your arguments are all plausible. In the end it comes down to three words “compared to what”.

        On the current course, the extremist left will infiltrate institutions with their brainwashing until it is no longer extreme. At which point they win and society loses.

        By politicizing the issue, it will increase the tribal defense of free speech on the right, and increase the extremity of absurdity on the left. The middle, which probably includes most of us reading this blog and which determines elections will then decide the issue.

        I say elevate the issue before it is too late and you say (if I am reading you right) that the fight is already lost. I am not ready to concede.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “By politicizing the issue, it will increase the tribal defense of free speech on the right”

          So what? In the long run, the right always loses.

          “and increase the extremity of absurdity on the left.”

          Again, so what? The left’s “extremity of absurdity” hasn’t stopped them so far; credo quia absurdum.

          “The middle, which probably includes most of us reading this blog”

          Um, do I need to point out how very unrepresentative the readership is, and how “middle-to-moderate-right” Middle American is pretty much the least represented group according to the surveys? And what I see, further, is that the increasing polarization across my entire lifetime has massively eroded the middle, so that we’re pretty much two existentially-hostile tribes stuck sharing a territory in a cold war which cannot and will not end until one side has been wiped from the earth.

          “I say elevate the issue before it is too late”. It’s far past too late; the fight was lost centuries ago.

          And, let me raise again the question of evidentiary threshold; what would convince you that the fight is already lost, and that there is no hope?

        • howardtreesong says:

          I’m a conservative libertarian and fairly hard over on this free speech issue. I’d have let Achmedinejad speak at Columbia; by the same token, I went to see Milo Yiannopolous live when he was on tour near where I live. The one place where I have some significant common ground with my left-leaning friends is on this issue. We can disagree about immigration, taxes, the intellectual merits of socialism, or whatever other hot-button issue exists that day, but most of my lefty friends are absolutely with me on the free-speech issue. I actually think that it’s more of a crossover than one might otherwise think.

          Obviously, my thoughts here are purely anecdotal.

          • Deiseach says:

            What I find troubling is not the protests as such; I have no problem with people turning up to protest something if they have reasonable arguments and make good points.

            It’s the whole “punch a nazi” business, where screaming, yelling, chasing after people, etc. are the acceptable tactics. Don’t make a case about why the speaker is wrong, simply declare they’re wrong and use disruption to wreck the event. And it’s the increasing use of violence – and when a group turns into a mob (as happens when everyone is running on adrenaline and excitement) things go much further than intended and people get hurt – that worries me.

            Some day somebody may get badly hurt when a mob of nazi-punchers get hold of them, or turn over their car, or chase them into traffic. It’s not free speech that we’re trying to defend then, it’s the right to personal safety and not to be harmed.

          • howardtreesong says:

            I wholly agree, and I find protestors who are willing to break windows and assault speakers to be much closer in behavior to Nazis than many of the ones they target. I’m not aware of anything about either Murray or Yiannopolous even mildly suggesting either one is authoritarian. I don’t know anything about what methods Spencer advocates to move society towards his awful white nationalist model, so he may be a different kettle of fish.

  29. MartMart says:

    Perhaps I’m late to the party, but I wonder how this relates to dog whistles. The original meaning of dog whistles was that when witches talk about the importance of free speech (or state rights, or whatever) they really mean they are talking about witchcraft, and other pro-witch parties know they are talking about witch craft, and this is all code.
    However, there is an alternative explanation that witches are talking about free speech because they really care about free speech in so far that it helps them with witchcraft, and pro witch parties know that free speech is necessary for witchcraft, and so care deeply about that issue as well. Mind you deeply does not mean universally.

  30. scriptifaber says:

    I don’t agree – Free Speech is not an exhaustible resource. Free Speech is a norm, and the problem is that there is no way to punish defectors from the social contract online.

    I think Free Speech’s troubles started out earlier, before the polarization, when the Internet was created. The Internet allows anyone to comment and reach vast audiences, and this creates a lot of noise. In the past, Free Speech was acceptable because you lived in a community where you could respond to cranks with social cues (shun them, etc) and had outlets to enforce conformity. The Internet largely lacks this mechanism, making it hard to punish ne’er-do-wells and so the public has largely gotten fed up with Free Speech.

    I think the best sort of analogy would be that someone invented the two-way radio before the FCC existed to enforce communication standards. As a result, the spectrum is flooded with noise. I’m hopeful that a technological solution (spam filters) will eventually catch up to content online, and inane or outright wrong content will vanish. Otherwise, we’ll need a regulatory solution, as Free Speech will eventually be decided to be too much of a burden on society, cease to exist.

    • Matt M says:

      Free Speech is a norm

      It may have been once but it clearly is not now. Do not confuse your desired state of affairs from the actual state of affairs.

  31. roystgnr says:

    The nice thing about defending scoundrels is that it leaves you free to admit that you defend scoundrels. This, to anyone who meets Aristotle’s “able to entertain a thought without accepting it” criterion, means you aren’t marking yourself as a scoundrel. I admit that the fraction of the population meeting this criterion is lower than I would like.

    As soon as you decide, instead, that the line is “I will defend some questionable speech but not the real scoundrels”, then what happens instead? Every time you have to take a stand about that line, it now hurts you or it hurts free speech or (most likely!) it hurts both simultaneously. People who see you failing to defend someone they thought was a non-scoundrel now have a powerful incentive to constrict their definition of free speech, lest they find themselves defending the breach alone. People who see you trying to defend someone they think is a scoundrel now know that, by their definition, you are a scoundrel too, to be treated accordingly. And because people disagree on the definition of “scoundrel”, these aren’t even mutually exclusive failure modes.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I agree with much of what you say but I feel that something that has been lost on Scott (and several others in these comments) is that some things are worth standing in the breach for, even alone. Leadership means being out in front.

  32. xXxanonxXx says:

    I don’t see Milo as burning the commons for no reason. I see Milo as correctly pointing out that the commons haven’t been publicly accessible for some time now, and are actually controlled by fairly exclusive club. All that club had to do to prove him wrong was give him access to the commons for one day without rioting, starting fires, and screaming that the flamboyant gay man with the microphone is a threat roughly comparable to ISIS. They were incapable of doing that, and even my wife (who absolutely loathes Milo) was forced to admit that maybe he had a point after all.

    I am confused by this post, because freedom of speech is exactly one of the asymmetrical weapons Scott advocates for. The only way it could deplete would be if we insisted on some straw man version of the concept nobody actually wants, if you were forced to listen to every speech Milo gave, for example. In the real world you don’t have to listen to any of them. In the real world even if you do listen to one of them there are campus-provided safe spaces with coloring books and playdoh you can retire to should the trauma of hearing an anti-feminist joke proves too much to handle.

    • MartMart says:

      I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t follow Milo too closely, but I’m pretty sure he was only met with riots some (as opposed to all) of the time. Which means that he was getting access to the commons, but if his argument was that access to commons is tightly controlled then he structured it in such a way that he could keep drawing from the commons until his access was exhausted and then claim that it was tightly controlled the whole time.

      • gbdub says:

        What do you consider the correct number of riots at major and respected universities over Milo? I’d say it’s zero, or close enough that flagging even one riot as a problem and an attempt to control access isn’t out of line.

        • MartMart says:

          Agreed, the correct number of riots is zero. But the existence of a single riot doesn’t support the argument that there is no free speech, unless you take the definition that freedom can only exist if it is completely unrestricted.

          Suppose I live in a society with cast system that denies it exists. I am a member of the untouchable cast, and every time I say a single world, religious police shows up and beats the crap out of me (I’m mixing my history a bit). I could then claim this demonstrates that there is an cast of people who are not allowed to speak, and at the very least I am a member of it.

          On the other extreme, suppose I can shout at people for a very long time, annoy everyone for a century, and only then does someone show up and punches me in the face. Yes, it was wrong of him to punch me. But the punch doesn’t demonstrate anything about secret conspiracies to keep me silent. It just shows that at least one person doesn’t know how to handle being annoyed.

          So Milo was and is free to say all sorts of things. Some people reacted poorly to what he was saying. They were wrong to do so. Unless their reaction is near universal, it does not prove that freedom of speech doesn’t cover the sort of things he likes to say. It just proves that people don’t like jerks, and some people have poor impulse control.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            And what if what annoys everyone is intrinsically tied to you being a member of that cast? What if you don’t get punched once every century, but several times in the space of a year? What if there are no repercussions for your assailants? What if there’s a group that laughs hysterically every time it happens and says it’s justified because you meet their subjective standard for annoying? It’s not that they have anything against the cast in particular, they promise. It’s just that everyone of that particular cast, or anyone that they suspect might be sympathetic to that cast, is really annoying and probably deserves to get punched. It’s just a coincidence that all the people who are annoying belong to the same cast!

            If that happened, and I think it’s a far closer analogy to our real world situation, I would agree when you came up to me, still bleeding from the lip, and claimed that you and your people were being silenced.

          • howardtreesong says:

            Okay, I’m bordering on off-topic here, but some of the campus limits on free speech seem to be close to your untouchable caste hypothetical:

            http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/04/12/u-of-texas-student-commits-suicide-after-botched-title-ix-kangaroo-court-investigation/

            A University of Texas student was accused of calling a gay man a faggot. The student in question was investigated, appears to have been deprived of any reasonable due process, and then punished in some way that the Breitbart link above doesn’t explain. The student then committed suicide.

        • gbdub says:

          Is Milo really arguing that “there is no free speech” or is he arguing (to the extent that Milo argues) that “I am being actively opposed by people who want to suppress my speech, and if you don’t support me they’ll come for you next”? The latter is much more defensible.

          Your position sounds an awful lot like “you shouldn’t complain about attempts to censor you unless you are successfully censored” but once you’re fully censored, you can’t talk at all – so aren’t the first attempts to censor exactly what ought to be pushed back against while you can?

          • MartMart says:

            I think my position is closer to “don’t mistake peoples displeasure with your opinion with censorship”
            Suppose I really like blueberry bagels, and go on and on and on and on about how awesome blueberry bagels are. Suppose also that you are not on the same page about bagels, and also not the nicest person around (apologies in advance, I’m not trying to say anything about you, or bagels) and so you start loudly talking over me, or interrupting me, or something similar because a. you are tired of hearing about bagels and b. you want to talk about something else.
            How much credibility do I have if I start claiming that I am being censored? Can you counter it by claiming that I was in fact censoring you by not allowing the conversation to go anywhere else?
            If you start asking our mutual friends to not invite me to outings, so as to limit bagel talk, is it censorship?
            The thing about riots that is clearly wrong is the whole destruction of property and violence and the like. There is no defending that. But absent violence, you end up with a number of people exercising their freedom of speech to petition the owner of the microphone to dis-invite a person they dislike.
            Admittingly, that is getting awfully close to the whole idea that only the gov’t can violate the 1st amnd. and basically no personal action is censorship.
            There is something wrong in a situation where 20 people shout at the top of their lungs in order to prevent the 21st from being heard, but I don’t think it’s a freedom of speech issue.

          • gbdub says:

            Throwing a riot to prevent your event from happening at all, or talking over a person precisely to prevent them from being heard, is a lot closer to censorship than to simply being displeased with your opinion. Even petitioning for a disinvite fits the censorship mold – how exactly do you think censors figure out what to censor (see the FCC)?

            I’m objecting to the idea that, because Milo can speak somewhere he shouldn’t complain about attempts to censor him elsewhere.

          • MartMart says:

            Suppose you invite me over for dinner, and I start acting extremely rudely. You put up with it for a while, then ask me leave. Have I been censored? Is my freedom of speech infringed upon?

            Suppose you were willing to put up with my behavior, but your spouse was not (I’m making the assumption that you are head of household because it is convenient). Your spouse then asked you to ask me to leave. Isn’t that very similar to the petitioning case above?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Suppose you invite me over for dinner, and I start acting extremely rudely. You put up with it for a while, then ask me leave.

            Your roof, your rules… your mortgage payments. Good luck finding a replacement for all that public funding, kiddies!

          • howardtreesong says:

            As a purely legal matter, the difference between a dinner party and a campus disinvitation is that the latter is at least arguably state action — either because the university itself is a state entity or because a private university takes federal funding and gets coerced into Title IX policies by the federal government.

            I don’t think the dinner-party ejection is censorship. I also think that kind of social dynamic is quite rare, and as a matter of personal politesse, it is quite difficult to order a guest out of one’s home for articulating a contrary view of blueberry bagels, no matter how rudely.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ummmm, aren’t you guys conceding the point by immediately falling back to “public funding therefore fist amendment protection applies”? I thought one of the main points under dispute was whether free speech was a society wide right or moral good, not just a question of government action.

            Again, I tend to view various points in a moral system to be in tension with each other, so I can concede that both the right to self-determination and the right to speech exist, but are in tension with each other and one may win out over the other depending on the exact circumstances.

            I actually tend to view deontology and utilitarianism in this respect as well. We tend to actually have and use both value systems, which prevents either one from being hijacked. But that’s probably a conversation for another thread.

      • J Mann says:

        An alternative theory is that there is a percentage chance that any statement that offends PC will be met with riots or shoutdowns or campaigns to fire or whatever, and that that chance is enough to stifle campus debate.

        It’s not that everyone who says “Hey, I think dressing up as other cultures for Halloween is defensible as subversive play” will be hounded out of their job for expressing their opinion – it’s enough that there’s a chance that will happen to you.

        In this model, Yiannopolis is a lightning rod, and his function is to demonstrate that there’s a risk of lightning. It’s definitely true that he’s not always struck by lightning, and that’s some relevant data as to the extent of the risk.

        • MartMart says:

          Do we really need a lightning rod to demonstrate that if you say very offensive things people are likely to be offended, and if you reach a large enough audience some of the offended will likely respond poorly?

          This seems a rather round about way to twist trolls into public servants.

        • Matt M says:

          There was a Milo speech at a university a couple miles away from my house. I’m generally aligned enough with his ideas that I would legitimately consider attending as a supporter interested in hearing him speak live.

          I’ll admit, the thought of “Am I interested enough in this to risk a minor chance of getting beaten up or pepper sprayed or even surrounded by a mob chanting at me that I’m a horrible Nazi?” did cross my mind.

          I ended up not going, although not for that reason specifically (the event sold out before I made up my mind… I heard the room was not full, and in the past leftists at universities have been known to buy tickets to these events and then protest instead of going, solely to prevent supporters from being able to attend)

  33. meh says:

    So what is your proposed solution to student groups that want to invite controversial speakers?

    • Murphy says:

      I don’t think it’s saying they shouldn’t invite controversial speakers, merely that they shouldn’t invite controversial speakers for the sake of them being controversial speakers and nothing else.

      • gbdub says:

        So what if they do? “We believe all ideas, even controversial ones, deserve a platform, so we’re creating a platform of last resort for controversial speakers” is entirely consistent with actually supporting and promoting free speech.

        Now I admit there’s a fine but important line between “we’re inviting controversial speakers because they are controversial” and “we’re inviting controversial speakers because we want to offend people we don’t like”, but if Scott recognizes that distinction it doesn’t come through very well in this post.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If they invite a controversial speaker not for the explicit reason of being controversial, you’ll have the “reasonability” objection: “Why did you have to invite THAT speaker? They’re off-putting to my interest group; Why can’t you invite one of the more acceptable speakers on that topic, who aren’t so offensive, and be more inclusive for everyone?”

  34. tmk says:

    I though just the same when I saw this news. To a lot of people, this says that controversial speakers on universities are only there as a provocation, for the sole purpose of upsetting others. That will make them more sympathetic blocking it.

  35. Jordan D. says:

    It seems to me that Scott’s describing the situation correctly, but proposing a solution that is unlikely to work under realistic circumstances.

    First, this feels a little like the complaint Scott reasonably objected to in What’s Wrong With The World. If I were a Republican, I would not support Milo Yiannopolos.* But I’m not the God-Emperor of Republica; if Milo goes to a school and is a big jerk, my choices are either to sit there silently and fume as my opponents use that to beat me with or to call out my opponents on their own bad behavior. If I could get all the most reasonable Republicans to unite in casting him out, maybe I could get somewhere…** but if you break ranks to expel a noxious ally, that’s just another opening for the enemy to shoot you, so rarely does it happen. So when Milo gets no-platformed illegally, I follow my incentives and bring up free speech precisely because I didn’t support Milo anyway.

    Second, I want to argue with the people asking “what if free speech is more like a muscle that needs to be exercised?”, but they have a point. Look at a reversed situation- police conduct. In the past couple of years there has been a massive surge in both support and opposition for police actions, largely for the reason Scott brings up in “The Toxoplasma Of Rage“. More and more, the left opposes law enforcement for perceived overreach and unjust violence, while the right supports stronger protections for police and stronger crackdowns. So this looks like a zero-sum game, right?

    Except the previous stances of the parties were more like “Right – Strongly unquestioningly supports police” and “Left – Only mostly unquestioningly supports police”. If you happen to believe that law enforcement was behaving badly before, having one party for and one party against is a huge net gain. Putting myself back into Republica, if I believe that there’s widespread informal no-platforming at universities and that the freedom of speech is withering on the vine, it’s better for everyone for me to align it with my party and at least get it a constituency.

    (This is what makes following people like Ken White of Popehat fame or many of the Volokh bloggers so entertaining. Since they regularly condemn the left on campus speech and the right on “War On Police” issues, you can watch the same people show up and praise their critical insights and then lambast them as shills of the other side- sometimes in the span of a few hours.)

    So I don’t think Scott’s solution is realistic, but I’m also not convinced we need a solution. The worm turns, and these issues rotate through the political spectrum. McCarthyism and the Vietnam War protest crackdowns turn to campus infighting. Southern landowners protesting federal marshals integrating schools becomes Northern urbanites protesting ICE raids on sanctuary cities. People adopt sacred tenants that can never be broken and then drop them in a consequentialist manner. I have no reason to believe that freedom of speech is going anywhere, or that the same parties will hold the same positions in twenty years.

    An important element of this, it seems to me, is the third branch of government. In ten years, it may be that the Democratic Party will be officially pushing for hate speech laws, or the Republican Party might want to do away with habeus corpus. One or the other gets enough power in government and tries to swoop in and make sweeping changes before popular opinion shifts away from them again- but unless you can swing a Constitutional amendment, the judiciary is always biased against whichever side wants to make the largest changes. Since it’s a durable institution that only slowly absorbs members from whichever side is in power, the system resists being jerked back and forth too quickly. Hell, one of the biggest reasons few people on the right were concerned by Trump’s repeated insistence that he’d ‘open up’ the libel laws is that he’d probably need to be President for decades to swing that, if he could even find qualified judicial candidates to go along with him.

    So I guess that my solution to hyperpartisanship destroying the sacred values that protect civilization as we know it is to trust in bureaucratic inertia. But I think that this has mostly worked so far.

    *I substitute him for Charles Murray because I don’t have an opinion on Murray.
    **The time-honored workaround, of course, is to wait until something even remotely scandalous happens and denounce him for that instead.

  36. J Mann says:

    Put me down for the “disagrees with Scott” side.

    1) Murray is pretty good for a targeted free speech trolling by campus groups. He’s inconsiderate enough that he offends people, but when you take any individual part of his overall case, it’s within the scientific mainstream. NAMBLA would be a much harder sell.

    2) If you think campus speech, mainstream media discourse, etc. are under a campaign of soft censorship where people never hear one side of the argument because most speakers are afraid of controversy, then there’s some value to forcing the question.

    When you say “isn’t it a shame that the Christakasises were hounded out of a job because one of them expressed an opinion,” you get a lot of “OK, that was a shame, but it’s really rare that PC goes too far – almost all of the time, it’s just about treating all people with dignity.”

    The free speech case is that PC repression isn’t rare, it’s common. It’s just rare that we see it, because most of the time, people are smart enough to keep their heads down, and in most of the remaining cases, the PC side gets away with saying “Well, sure, Erika Christakis got confronted, but she’s a Nazi, so fuck her. Are you saying you’re pro-Nazi?”*

    Calling Taylor to Middlebury was a win for free speech, because it energized the moderate middle (somewhat) to confront an emerging culture that says the fact that you are upset to hear someone’s opinions is enough reason to keep them off campus.

    3) There’s an “I am Spartacus” effect – if the result of each attempt to try to silence Murray is to invite him to three more speaking events, then ideally, rational actors might stop trying to silence him, and in the worst case, they won’t actually be rewarded for their conduct.

    If you think what happened to Murray is unfair, maybe you take a stand. How about instead of comparing him to NAMBLA, we say that someone wants to invite Salman Rushdie to speak in 1990 order to protest the fatwah against him. Do we still need to worry that we’ll be tainting free speech with association with guy who has offended a lot of people, or is it OK just to say we don’t want to reward attempts to shut down someone for what they have to say?

    * Note: the Christakis affair occurred before the Left started using “Nazi” where they would have used “fascist” or “racist,” so the quote is hypothetical, not literal. Also, I don’t think she’s a Nazi.

  37. gbdub says:

    While this post isn’t quite an endorsement of the heckler’s veto (or worse, the no-platformers veto), its advice, if followed, would have roughly the same impact, so I’m disappointed to see it from Scott.

    Charles Murray isn’t Kim Jong Un. He’s not NAMBLA. He’s not even Milo. If you’re pattern matching him to even close to the same category, something is badly broken and ought to be pushed back against.

    You don’t have to agree with Murray to invite him – you just have to agree that he’s serious enough and has ideas interesting enough (for good or ill) to engage with. The argument isn’t “Charles Murray is great” or even “pissing off snowflakes is great”, but “no platforming is wrong (especially the violent sort that Murray had to deal with)”.

    Another commenter mentioned it above – a disinvited speakers conference is a lot like a banned books show, and valuable for the same reason. “Disinvited” is an important element – by and large, people got invited in the first place because someone felt they had something interesting to say, and only disinvited because a small minority of the potential audience threw a fit.

    “Small minority” matters too, if we’re talking about a commons. This small minority are themselves attempting to weaponize offense and hijack the language of victimhood to justify their bad, often violent behavior. They’ve rejected making rational arguments in favor of smashing things, because their arguments weren’t working and because smashing things is more fun. That deserves pushback, even occasional provocation to shine a light on it, I think. The vast majority of people who disagree with Murray will just ignore him, and that’s the healthy response that ought to be encouraged, by normalizing him showing up, talking, and moving on.

    And I do think you need to consider the flip side of this commons argument: what are the Murray-punchers doing to the commons of peaceful protest and debate? If we’re going to debate controversial ideas, and I believe we must if we’re serious about this whole “science and rationality” thing, then Murray is exactly the sort of controversial figure we ought to encourage. He’s at least making an effort to be scholarly, serious, and respectful. Now maybe he’s wrong, maybe his studies are flawed (hardly unique in social science if so), maybe you think he failed in those efforts.

    But he’s still someone you can engage in the right kind of debate. If you treat him like Hitler, what’s the incentive to be serious and scholarly? Maybe I’ll just be as offensive as possible, if you’re going to treat me like that anyway I might as well deserve it… and then you get Milo. And Trump. You’re creating a world where the only people willing to talk outside the increasingly narrow mainstream are the people who don’t give a damn about being as nasty as they can, and that seems much worse than having to tolerate controversial but serious people having a platform.

    Scott, at one point you wrote about the danger of pushing people at the fringes of respectability over the edge of the Overton window into the “black hole” of true extremism. Your advice here seems to encourage people to do exactly that. All to avoid offending a small group of people who abuse “getting offended” to get their way when the they haven’t earned it.

    • Matt M says:

      Charles Murray isn’t Kim Jong Un. He’s not NAMBLA. He’s not even Milo. If you’re pattern matching him to even close to the same category, something is badly broken and ought to be pushed back against.

      This is your opinion.

      I’m willing to bet that a very significant percentage of Harvard students disagree with your assessment. And these students have stumbled upon an important truth, it doesn’t matter if Charles Murray actually is like Milo or not, nor does it matter if Milo actually is like Kim Jong-Un or not. All that matters is that you react to them as if they were. You do so loudly and you do so enough times that culturally, people who aren’t taking the time to actually read Charles Murray’s books (or Milo’s articles, and this is about 99.9% of the population) take your word for it.

      That said, I agree with Scott. By framing this entire exercise as “We are inviting controversial speakers solely to piss you off,” it’s actually the right who is now implicitly endorsing the “Charles Murray is the same as Milo” reasoning. This is very VERY poor strategy on their part. To do this right, they would have to find a speaker worse than Milo (many of Milo’s talks are actually quite tame). They should invite the Grand Wizard of the KKK or someone like that.

      • Randy M says:

        Strange how the principle of offense doesn’t seem to be diminished so easily.

      • gbdub says:

        If you read the Inside Higher Ed article, it’s pretty clear that the Harvard Open Campus Initiative isn’t framing this as “we’re doing this to piss you off” at all. That is entirely an invention of Scott’s unless he’s getting it somewhere else he didn’t link.

        Rather, they picked Murray, and explicitly decided against Milo, precisely because they do care about the content and not just the piss-you-off factor.

  38. brenner says:

    FYI Scott, in the first paragraph you typo’d “Peterson” as “Petersen”

  39. rahien.din says:

    I see your point but : come on. I’m a blue-triber / neo-prudentist, and this essay has made me more sympathetic to Milo.

    If sacred principles are exhaustible resources, that means their “quantity” or “potency” is inversely proportional to their utilization – like a knife that dulls with use. For instance, you seem to think a fairly recent red-tribe free speech campaign has dangerously eroded the value of free speech. This would imply an apparent need to preserve or protect these principles. Perhaps one wishes them not to be eroded into nothingness, or one thinks we must hoard these principles for a time when they can be used for something important. Either way, to characterize sacred principles as a commons is essentially to declare them too important for the outgroup to use.

    That is more virulent than “freeze peach.”

    If [conservatives] 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.
    [because that’s what you meant?]

    If people actually care about free speech, the number one thing they can do right now is exercise the right to free speech. IE, rather than a knife that dulls with use, a sacred principle is a beast that can be trained. The AI of society? Feed the thing more data and let it improve itself.

    By your description, conservatives are apparently doing this, and liberals, apparently, are not. I would say that the current red-tribe strategy is a good one : give the pulpit to a mix of righty gadflies and well-spoken conservatives under the banner of freedom of expression. Then, in order for blue-tribers to object to any given speaker, they are forced to choose between rejecting a sacred cow (free speech) so to disqualify all conservatives, or, to actually address each speaker on their own merits.

    How about that. I’m in favor.

    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.

    Ugh. Encoded in your description are the ideas that 1. conservative ideas are naturally unpopular and weird, and 2. conservative endorsement of a concept is identical to tarnish. Which makes me rethink the characterization of “family values.” Rather than conservatives besmirching family values by their association, maybe liberals said “Ick, conservatives,” and abandoned the concept altogether.

  40. Patrick Merchant says:

    I think Scott might be overthinking this somewhat.

    Jordan Peterson has some interesting but controversial ideas. He’s had some difficulty finding platforms for expressing them lately, on account of protestors. I don’t think the people offering him a platform are thinking “let’s defend free speech by hosting some randomly selected super controversial dude,” they’re thinking “we disagree with this guy, but he’s basically reasonable and deserves a platform.”

    Plus, since there will always be people using free speech as a medium for expressing unpopular (and sometimes terrible) ideas, it’s probably unavoidable that some people will associate it with their outgroup. It exists to protect controversial ideas – if it can’t survive being associated with them, isn’t it doomed?

  41. akarlin says:

    Charles Murray is a total softie.

    I nominate Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer to test the limits of free speech. Now that would make for some fun fireworks on campus.

  42. Tibor says:

    Has anybody (by and large) other than classical liberals/libertarians ever cared about the free speech per se? It seems to me people only support it insofar as it serves their agenda but very few people really value it. It is something that you are told you should value because it is this high ideal, but both the right and the left are quick to abandon it when it goes against them. In the US, before something like the 00s, free speech was more annoying for the right wing than the left, not it seems to be the other way around. 70s college students might have been pro-free speech not so much because they actually supported free speech as some kind of a higher principle, but because talking about radically leftist ideas was unpopular, nowadays it is sort of the other way around, so the right wing suddenly discovers free speech.

    The people who actually care about free speech first, even if they don’t like Charles Murray, will probably welcome it for the same reasons that the organizers decided that it was a good idea to welcome him. The people who don’t, won’t value free speech less for that because they never actually cared about it in the first place. I don’t think you can sway them by making sure they hear about it when free speech protects them. From their perspective, it is useful in those 5% (completely made up number, feel free to change it) cases and annoying in the remaining 95%, hence it is a net loss. Once they’re not “in power” any more, it becomes a useful tool again, so they suddenly start supporting free speech. What I’m saying is that I don’t think you can convince someone that a principle is good by showing him that it helps him 5% of the time when he already knows that it otherwise helps “the bad guys”.

    The way you might be able to convince someone is by showing that letting the “bad guys” talk might be good sometimes, because they can for example point out problems in your arguments. But that essentially first requires abandoning the manichean mentality of many partisans (especially college students I would say). It is true, that if you want to convince a fundamentalist theist that he might reconsider his views and maybe realize that not all unbelievers are pure evil, then bringing in Richard Dawkins who will call him an idiot is probably not the best way to do it. So similarly in this case, if someone is on the extreme left and believes that everyone other than the extreme left is pure evil, you might start with someone who is not close to the polar opposite of his view to make him realize than maybe it is not so simple.

    As for free speech I think that people like Milo Yiannopoulos serve the role of a litmus test for the acceptance of free speech. If someone who is basically a troll is allowed to talk freely without obstructions, you know that there is a reasonable amount of free speech acceptance in the society (or academia). If not, you should start worrying. If it goes further and serious people with unpopular opinions are not allowed to talk than you should worry a lot.

    What I am trying to figure out is whether the situation at the US campuses is really getting worse or if it is just the internet which makes you more aware of things. I remember watching this talk Milton Friedman had at a university somewhere in the 70s. The audience (at least the people in the discussion) was incredibly hostile, with little attempt to understand what he was saying. On the other hand, if nowadays it is a problem to talk at all, even with fairly uncontroversial things, like apparently with this example, then it is really even more extreme.

    I think this is a bit better in Europe, although also not perfect. Particularly in Germany, it seems to me that the unfortunate national socialist past still affects the public discourse a lot in that something that might be vaguely painted as resembling the nazis is automatically completely off for any “respectable people” and the left often likes to paint all opponents with those brown colours. It also means that if someone does have reasonable objections, he will actually attract a lot of actual nazis, making it even easier to say “I told you he was one of them!”. If I compare it to the neighbouring Austria or the Czech republic, then I see Germany as lacking in the acceptance of free speech. But it still seems quite far from the intolerance at US universities, at least as far as one can accurately judge it from reading about it on the internet.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yes I agree that free speech is not truly a terminal value for many. At least in the US, pretty much everyone has to indicate a belief in free speech because it is the very very politically correct thing to do. But that doesn’t mean that folks really care about it too much in their bones.

      To me free speech is as much a selfish thing as a belief in good policy. I don’t care nearly so much in being able to express my beliefs as I care about hearing what others think. I am terrified that when people are scared to give their own thoughts, that the public marketplace of ideas will decay and no new ideas will appear. How will I grow intellectually if I never hear anything new?

      But I think few people have concerns like this. Probably this is somewhat common in SSC, but not in the general populace. I hope that doesn’t mean that free speech is ultimately doomed. But that may be the case.

  43. DrBeat says:

    Absolutely not.

    The malice and hunger of the popular are limitless, they will never ever ever exhibit restraint. Campus activists are instantiations of popularity, so they have a limitless hunger to punish the unpopular and to annihilate utility. They don’t do things in order to accomplish a constructive goal, they do things in order to punish people for the crime of being able to be punished by them.

    Saying you should hold back your free speech for when it really counts in the face of blue tribe opposition is exactly as stupid as democratic lawmakers saying they should hold back their ability to block laws for when it really counts in the face of republican opposition. It never works. It never, ever works even the slightest bit. No matter how often they held back and urged restraint to “save up” for when a cause really warranted it, when they finally take action all of their “saving up” counted for nothing, their opponents acted as though they had never saved anything up, and their ability to take action was destroyed as soon as they used it. It doesn’t work. It will never, ever, ever, ever work. All is lost.

  44. Greatgutter says:

    Registered specifically to disagree with this (but only because I usually find so little to disagree with).
    While several commenters already pointed out already that the model of free speech as a commons isn’t necessarily the right one (eg. free speech may be antifragile, rock-paper-scissors strategies), but even using a commons model the conclusion doesn’t seem to follow.

    The important question is: if free speech is a resource, where does it come from? Scott addresses this by saying: ‘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.’ This strikes me as unconvincing: I don’t know of any evidence that philosophy makes people more charitable (and some evidence that it doesn’t) and ‘situations where free speech protects them’ is merely drawing on the common pool, which implies the dominant commons strategy of drawing on the resource an not contributing. In other words, this is a (repeated) prisoner’s dilemma.

    If we define contributing to the common resource as being tolerant of other people’s speech when it is inconvenient, the progressives’ protesting people is a form of non-cooperation. What would potentially induce leftists to cooperate? Going by both the theoretical and empirical literature on the commons (eg. Ostrom 1990), a stable multi-period tit-for-tat strategy, typically exemplified in an institutionalised form of punishment. Let’s assume progressives don’t want to abandon the norm altogether – they just want to have it applied to others and not themselves (ie. rightists should be tolerant, leftists not). If leftists choose not to cooperate, it’s because any expected punishment (eg. disapproval from their peers) is less than the expected benefit (eg. not allowing contrary views).

    It seems to me that inviting speakers whom progressives consider beyond the pale diminishes the benefit by showing demonstrations to be ineffective. Inviting speakers who are additionally quite reasonable people (and both Murray and Peterson fit the bill nicely IMHO) has the potential to increase expected punishment (eg. disapproval from moderates and liberals who otherwise wouldn’t have cared).

    As for the idea that, if push came to shove, liberals might side with progressives making this issue a partisan one and abandoning the institution of free speech altogether, it strikes me as unlikely:
    – on the national/government level: most people are relatively conservative, especially compared to the academia average, which means undermining free speech would be much more dangerous to liberals and leftists; it’s true groups don’t always behave in a way that is optimal for them, but if things started moving in an anti-free speech direction, liberals would probably notice something’s gone wrong and switch. At most, the meaning of free speech would be redefined – just like ‘family values’ has been redefined – it’s not that liberals don’t believe in family values, rather ‘family values’ is now understood to be a codeword for ‘socially conservative values’. Semantic remapping is far from a nightmare scenario.
    – on the academic level: more likely, since leftist ingroup signalling has become so prevalent – with no-platforming being just a virulent strain. But still, I think the major reason why that is the case is that conservatives are less numerous and more likely to stay quiet. There’s a bit of research showing that historically, religious tolerance has been more prevalent in more religiously heterogeneous societies (eg. Koyama, Johnson 2013; see also: history of Islam); in other words, elites tolerate differing beliefs because they have to, not because they want to. I think the academic situation is analogous in that, as with nations, exit is relatively costly (dropping out or moving to another college). To the extent that conservatives proselytise and make themselves visible (by eg. inviting speakers on campus), they encourage a dialectical widening of the Overton window, even if they don’t constitute the academic elite themselves.
    In short: in costly-exit situations where extermination is not feasible, I think we can expect rights are won by loudly fighting for them, not by looking non-threatening to the elite.

  45. JackForscythe says:

    I think your comment might make sense for unpopular people besides Jordan Peterson, but Jordan Peterson’s main issue these days is free speech. So, it’s a strange argument you would be making if you were to claim the following:

    We must keep Jordan Peterson from speaking his free speech advocacy, otherwise we might be giving free speech a bad name.

  46. carrot291 says:

    Charles Murray and Jordan Peterson are worth drawing from the commons to defend. Milo, not so much, and your point here applies to him very nicely, but not the other two.

    The way things are going, the left is going to generate more negative associations with the things they want, simply because they are much more hostile and intolerant. Decentralized media is exposing the political reality.

  47. Murphy says:

    I’m not sure this model is entirely correct….

    There’s more that one way rights or Sacred Principles can be eroded.

    I remember a story someone posted on a forum about their school library. Their librarian was holding a “banned books” exhibition. Basically putting out a few displays with the most often-censored books in america.

    Books like Huckleberry Finn, And Tango Makes Three and that one Where’s Waldo book.

    The response from the principle and indeed many of the parents was horrified spluttering about “why would you have an exhibition of BANNED books?!?!”

    Because one of the ways that rights can be eroded is by people just passively accepting that “there are limits on free speech” and just sort of assuming that they ban things that people are getting offended about.

    When ireland brought in blasphemy laws Atheist Ireland responded with a long list of quotations insulting as many religions as possible with the intention of getting charged or if not charged keeping the Overton window in a place where it’s still publicly acceptable to insult religions.

    Sometimes…. sometimes when people start trying to wall off basic rights the way to address the problem is to fit the most blatant, loud and obnoxious example to the front of your battering ram and just run at the wall screaming that if it gets through then everyone can fuck off relating to all those more trivial things that you’ve found yourself fighting endless wars of attrition over.

    If you water yourself down, if you avoid controversy for the sake of controversy, if you compromise regularly then a very likely outcome is that the overton window moves and even if the law never changes you lose your rights.

    You implicitly assume it’s a zero sum game but often when people are doing things like this it can very much be positive sum. Drawing from a commons but because the commons faces more than 1 existential threat.

  48. 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 start holding third parties over a barrel to try to get your way or to leverage what power you do have you start getting into the realm of fucking with other peoples freedom of speech.

          Do you count it as violence if you super double swear that you won’t commit any violence but you will make sure your million twitter followers know that Speakers Corner Hotel are evil for allowing Dr Satan to speak at their premises and “absolutely shouldn’t under any circumstances get firebombed by some of my less mentally stable followers”

          None of this was the case for Livingstone.

    • DavidS says:

      Livingstone was disciplined for bringing the party into disrepute. Does anyone think political parties shouldn’t be able to suspend or expel on that basis?

      People want him expelled for a mix of reasons
      – They think he’s been found to have been antisemitic
      – They just think he is antisemitic
      – they’re labour people who think that given concerns around antisemitism the party should take a clear hard line
      – they don’t like labour and are just making hay.

      Logically I can see the case for suspension based on to charge. Trouble is that its the worst of both worlds. Lots of people will get to impression that the party decided he WAS antisemic but didnt really think that was a big deal.

      Its an odd case because if what he said was buried in a work of history then doubt anyone would have cared. The issue is that ptovocave comments about Jews/Israel to the media had become one of his favourite things. I think its mostly just contrariness but it looks fairly awful.

      • DavidS says:

        PS also ken is an ally of Labour leader Jeremy corbyn, and the party is in a civil war over whether he’s the person who’s brought the soul of labour back or a useless idiot. So for awhile arguments over ken have sometimes been proxy wars over corbyn. Though corbyn and his allies have now started to condemn ken so that might go away.

  49. 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.

  50. 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?

  51. 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”.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. Nuño says:

    Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.

  56. 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.

  57. 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?

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.”

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

  75. 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?

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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.

  79. 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.

  80. 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.”

  81. 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?

  82. 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?

  83. 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.

  84. 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.

  85. 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.

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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.

  89. 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?

  90. 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.)

  91. 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.

  92. 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

  93. 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.

  94. 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”)

  95. 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.)

  96. 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.

  97. 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/

  98. 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.

  99. 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.

  100. 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?

  101. 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:
      https://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:
        https://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.

  102. 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.

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. 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