Since about half the commenters in yesterday’s post seem to have misunderstood me as saying something I don’t believe, I guess I had better explain.
(serves me right for writing a mere 1000 word post – how could I fit all the necessary caveats and clarifications?)
First, I am not saying that Jordan Peterson and Charles Murray are bad people who don’t deserve the protection of free speech. I don’t know much about Peterson, and my impression of Murray is positive (he’s the only public figure I know who shares my view that genetic meritocracy is really scary insofar as it means that many people are poor through no fault of their except but bad genes, and who agrees with me that the most ethical response would be a universal basic income). I think both of these people deserve the protection of free speech, and I tried to make that clear throughout the essay.
My qualm wasn’t with the Harvard students’ choice of Murray and Peterson, it was with the process they used to select those choices: invite the most controversial person they can think of. Now for all I know maybe that wasn’t quite their strategy: they did mention rejecting Milo because of his heckling, so there seems to have been some screen for palatability. But insofar as it was even sort of their process, I think the process is wrong no matter what names it spits out. If for some reason they spit out Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi, I would still think it was a dumb process. This wouldn’t mean I think Lincoln and Gandhi are bad people who don’t deserve free speech, it means I think you shouldn’t be trying to maximize controversy and offense, no matter how decent the names you eventually come up with.
One hopes Charles Murray pursues what he thinks is true, and any offense caused is unintentional. But somebody “looking for the most controversial speakers” is pursuing what they think is offensive, and any truth caused is unintentional. Even if they end up with Charles Murray as their speaker, and even if Charles Murray is an okay person on the object-level, they are making a serious meta-level mistake.
[EDIT: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SAY THIS ANY MORE CLEARLY, SO I WILL JUST SAY IT IN ALL CAPS AND HOPE THAT HELPS. I AM NOT AGAINST DEFENDING CHARLES MURRAY AND I DON’T THINK THAT PEOPLE SHOULD AVOID INVITING HIM TO CAMPUS IF THEY’RE INTERESTED IN HIS IDEAS. I TOTALLY SUPPORT MIDDLEBURY INVITING CHARLES MURRAY AND I AM AS UPSET ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED THERE AS YOU ARE. I AM SAYING THAT IF YOU INVITE CHARLES MURRAY TO CAMPUS, IT SHOULD BE BECAUSE YOU ARE INTERESTED IN HIS IDEAS, AND NOT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO INVITE A GENERIC OFFENSIVE PERSON AND HE FITS THE BILL.]
Second, I wasn’t saying we should avoid using free speech to defend people beyond a certain level of badness. Everybody deserves the protections of free speech no matter how bad their opinions. I was saying that we should avoid deliberately seeking out the worst people we can find and turning them into highly public test cases. Publicizing a good case improves public support for free speech; publicizing bad cases drains it.
The NAACP decided to support Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus because they thought she was photogenic and likeable. They’d stayed out of previous similar cases because the people involved didn’t seem likeable enough. Another black lady named Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat, and the NAACP decided not to make a big deal of it because she was a teenager pregnant with a married man’s baby and “looked lower-class”. They thought that people would be more sympathetic to a clean-living middle-class defendant as a test case, so they waited until they found Parks – who was perfect.
And you can say what you want about that – maybe they were a bit Machiavellian, maybe this is to their discredit. But it worked. Thanks to Rosa Parks, everybody – pretty or ugly, rich or poor – has the right to sit where they want on a bus. I feel like the free speech movement is trying the opposite tactic: looking for the most hideous, deformed, universally loathed axe murderer to sit on that bus and become their test case. Not only does that make them more likely to lose their test cases, it makes things harder for everyone else. I understand the temptation, because free speech as a principle is about protecting the unpopular. But this doesn’t mean that the political process of defending free speech needs to be.
I am not saying that free speech is only for attractive popular people. I’m saying that if you are looking for a test case specifically to promote the value of free speech, and you do it by deliberately searching for the ugliest and most hate-able person you can find, you’re doing it wrong.
If your pitch to potential supporters is “our science club was trying to learn about science, and we invited a well-known scientist, and now oh no we’re embroiled in a controversy, please help”, that’s a good test case. If your pitch is “our controversy club was trying to cause controversy, and we invited a well-known controversial person, and now oh no we’re embroiled in a controversy, please help”, that’s a bad test case. Even if you invited the same person both times.
Attempts to “promote free speech” and “raise awareness of free speech” are basically about test cases – done to promote the principle, rather than to use the principle. And if you’re going to do that, you had better do it well.
“Charles Murray pursues what he thinks is true, and any offense caused is unintentional.”
Scott, you’re at your weakest when you’re trying to intuit the mental state and/or motivations of other individuals. I do not believe that a statement like this should be offered in the absence of evidence.
Just for the sake of clarity, which part of that quoted sentence do you think needs evidence to back it up? That Charles Murray pursues what he thinks is true? Any offense caused is unintentional? Or the whole thing?
I mean, we are talking about a guy who burned a cross in high school. It’s not crazy to think that the offense-causing isn’t purely incidental/coincidental.
I disagree but I don’t totally know why you made that reply to my questions.
But now I have another question. Is the fact that teenage Charles Murray burned a cross in high school evidence that his work over his lifetime (and his current motivations) are intentionally offensive?
I really hope we don’t believe things like that because we’re gonna have to start being unhappy with a lot more people that just Charles Murray.
It’s some evidence, yes. Very far from definitive, but if the story is that he just stumbled into finding evidence of racial intellectual inferiority, then carrying out an act of symbolic racism in his youth becomes quite the coincidence.
I’m not very interested in race and IQ and don’t have the knowledge to talk about it all that much, but I don’t think “racial intellectual inferiority” is what Charles Murray claims. Seems like he claims that there are IQ differences between different human populations (by race). If no one would have pointed out the existence of IQ differences by race, I would have just assumed it were the case. Obviously goes for all other heritable traits, so why wouldn’t it be so for IQ?
The Charles Murray wiki page has more info on the cross burning incident in the Notes section here. From that, I can’t form a strong opinion on whether or not there was any racist intent behind it.
*edited to change link text
Once again I lament the lack of inline image tags to properly react to certain comments.
Care to put into words, more explicitly, what you are thinking? I’m here to learn from you.
I think Anonymous Bosch’s point is that “racial intellectual inferiority” is a logical consequence of “IQ differences between different human populations (by race)”.
Which I’d disagree with, because it requires the (reasonable, but arguable) assumptions of “intellect correlates with IQ” and “intellect is a scalar (or can be math’ed into one), not a vector”.
If you posit IQ differences between races, you’ve necessarily posited races with superior and inferior IQs. If IQ is a useful, predictive measure of intellect (which Murray certainly believes), then you’ve posited the existence of races with superior and inferior intellects.
I get why Murray and his defenders feel compelled to engage in the pearl-clutching fan dance of “that’s not an accurate description of my conclusion because I never put all these premises I strenuously argued for in a single tidy syllogism.” But I personally am not compelled to pretend otherwise.
You might disagree with those premises. Murray doesn’t.
Gotcha. I completely agree, both with what you said and with what you said Murray believes.
Why would Murray defenders do that?
I think I’m missing something here. What’s wrong with saying that some groups are better off than others because of things they have no control over? If Murray, or anyone else, truly thinks that that is the truth, then what’s wrong with saying so? Is he proposing policies that would negatively impact those with “inferior” IQs or something?
You just did it like six replies up so… you tell me?
I missed this at first, but pretend I posted a GIF of an Italian chef kissing his fingers.
Is there anyone who denies racial IQ differences? The data on the matter is crystal clear. The question is not whether they exist, but what their source is.
It’s weird to me to describe Murray’s claims as “racial intellectual inferiority” when you can just say “IQ difference between races” instead. The former seems like it carries some hostility and negativity. Is Murray hostile towards people because of this?
I asked before, does Murray think that different races or people with lower IQs should be looked down upon or does he propose policies that are based on race/IQ? And I stated that I do believe that there are IQ differences among races and that IQ is a predictor of intellect. I’m not seeing where this pearl-clutching fan dance is being performed, because if Murray defenders are afraid to make that conclusion, then I’m obviously not a Murray defender.
It’s annoying to have to say this, but my opinion of Murray is that he’s a misogynist who holds some controversial views that he believes to be true. Before I formed that opinion, I thought he was both a misogynist AND a racist. The bits I’ve read about him (wiki page, random articles in mainstream outlets) made me change my mind.
I feel like you’re assuming I’m on a particular side or something and you’re making false pattern matches with your mental model of Murray defenders. My questions are sincere and I’d like to know more than I do.
My mental model of Murray defenders includes frequent use of the “I’m not defending X, but X” tactic.
Another aspect of my mental model: a surprisingly large number of Murray defenders haven’t actually read his work! They know the broad strokes from Wikipedia or whatever and deem it a suitable platform for “actually, blacks ARE genetically dumber” vice signaling. (I’d be lying if I denied getting some schadenfreude from NeverTrump Murray fending off Pepe accounts on Twitter).
But hey, maybe you did decide to revise your estimate of his racism down after reading the Wikipedia section about his cross-burning. Everyone does rationalism in their own way.
In TBC alone, Murray explicitly advocates an end to minority affirmative action, weakening the disparate impact provisions of employment law, and shifting education funds from the disadvantaged to the gifted.
We could move to Losing Ground if you want, since my mental model of Murray defenders is that this argument will now again metamorphose to “actually, these are good.”
You are a strange person. Other people downthread seem like they know a lot more than I do about Murray but you’re up here arguing with me, the guy who is asking questions and admitting he doesn’t know much. And you seem to be getting very worked up over it all.
Well. Almost everyone agrees there is a correlation between race and the way people score on IQ tests, yes. There is of course dispute over whether that actually means there is a difference in intelligence or not.
One important thing to note here is that in statistics it’s possible for A to correlate with B, and B to correlate with C, but for A to not correlate with C at all. So just because “intelligence” seems to correlate with “doing well on IQ tests”, and “doing well on IQ tests” seems to correlate with race, it doesn’t *necessarally* mean that intelligence per se correlates with race.
There is also disagreement about whether race itself can be assumed to be causal, rather than just correlated.
I’m familiar with the IQ data, but I also recently learned that Nigerian and Congolese immigrants do really really well, to the point of surpassing whites in Britain, so I’m not sure anymore.
It could be that IQ stats are bunk, it could be selection effects, or it could be that Africa is so diverse, that it’s not sufficient to talk merely about black and white, because Nigerian igbos could be much smarter than Somalis on average.
Could also be that the info on the Congolese is fake.
No, sorry, I remembered that wrong. Congolese peform poorly, along with Somalians (currently). It’s Ghanaians who are up with the Nigerians.
No, I just mean that in addition to the possibilities you listed, it’s an option that this one study is flawed/fake/wrong with ill intent (or even due to researcher idiocy, like the Samoan coming of age study). I don’t mean to suggest that it actually is, just that there is a possibility that it is.
But don’t these particular African subgroups also have high IQs? So you’d expect that they’d do well.
I think the fellow you are talking to didn’t mean “is Murray proposing policies you think are bad for low-IQ groups?”, but rather “is Murray proposing policies that a) he or b) basically everyone agrees are bad for lower-IQ groups?”
Since the original question was about what would make Murray a bad person for coming to and holding his conclusions (or what would make the conclusions bad themselves), it’s not really convincing to say “it’s bad to hold these views I don’t like because I think they’ll be bad.”
Maybe you’re right about that, but we need to see if either Murray admits outright that his policies are bad for people with low IQ, or if there’s an overwhelming consensus among even people who don’t hate Murray that his policies are harmful.
Remember, we’re asking about someone who came (or could have come) to honest conclusions based on the evidence known to him, and has then advocated for policies that would improve things if he’s right. Giving this as evidence that he or his views are harmful only works if you already think they are.
The original question boils down to “who do you think is harmful?” — everyone will say different views and people are the villains. I think my Q is better, because it catches only those people and views that either a) themselves make no pretense about having it in for certain people, or b) are as close to objectively harmful as we can get (regardless of intention).
I don’t think Murray clearly fits into either of these categories, but I’m no Murray expert.
Very interesting. I was not aware that Murray was a pankster in high school.
Even if this incident was not racially motivated, it does fit a pattern of Murray being deliberately provocative. He was even provocative in his romantic choices later in life. So is it any surprise that this pattern continues? Even some of his recent work on basic income can be viewed through the lens of deliberately provoking some of his libertarian and conservative allies.
This is pretty strong evidence supporting Scott’s point. Murray might be a smart guy, a caring guy, etc, but is it any surprise that a guy who has a life long habit of provoking controversy actually provokes controversy?
And given the fact that he is a provocateur is he really the best poster child for free speech?
People who are not naturally prone to provocation are unlikely to be willing to speak controversial ideas in front of hostile audiences in the first place.
And given the fact that he is a provocateur is he really the best poster child for free speech?
Yes. Because if we allow a consensus to quietly develop that only the ‘nice’ people deserve free speech protection, then we’re going to have a system where the exercise of free speech is selective, and then it won’t be free.
I have people I’d love to ban from opening their beaks in public, but I know this is a bad idea, because everyone has something they hold as “needs to be banned” and I won’t like it when it’s my turn to be banned from speaking in public.
So yes, the deliberate provocateurs (even when you want to dunk their head in the lake) get the benefit of the policy as well as the nice people.
So yes, the deliberate provocateurs (even when you want to dunk their head in the lake) get the benefit of the policy as well as the nice people.
The question at hand was not whether he should get the benefit of the policy, it’s whether he should be the poster child for people trying to safeguard that policy. The implied alternative is “…or should we find someone who believes in race-IQ differences but didn’t burn a cross in high school, and make them the poster child.”
Murray is consistently described by both proponents and detractors as a professional contrarian. I think there’s weak evidence against this and it’s certainly not the sort of thing I would accept as a given.
Is offensive and controversial necessarily synonymous?
In 1980, no.
In 2017, yes.
In every way that would be relevant to my point.
Whether the “necessarily” part is true is the whole point of this debate. You can’t just assert that it is. There is no particular reason why expressing an unpopular or contrarian position ought to be “offensive”. “I am offended” is an accusation of emotional harm – being exposed to a contrary opinion should not “necessarily” trigger emotional harm.
So who adjudicates whether or not the emotional harm is “legitimate”?
If no one, then what is gained by showing that “controversial” and “offensive” are not necessarily synonymous? The right to tell people that they may not have any right to be offended in specific situations but there’s no way to be sure if this is one of those situations?
Are you possibly confusing the words “contrarian” and “controversial”?
Contrarians can be motivated by getting the truth out or by provoking controversy.
I’m aware of the distinctions; contrarians (about anything important) will necessarily provoke controversy, but this needn’t provoke offense.
So in other words, Murray is regarded as someone who consistently argues in favor of the less popular position on controversial topics, and it is not reasonable to know this and not take offense? (Or is the “professional part” [ie, money] particularly relevant?)
My position is that it is possible to be a sincere, polite, and even rigorous gadfly, and these are the sorts of people it is valuable to have around in case the consensus is wrong.
Sure, you can make an argument that offense is necessary and all to the greater good. But that’s distinct from claiming it to be unintentional.
I’m not claiming offense is necessary. I’m claiming disagreement (on important and possible sacred matters) is necessary, and asking if it is equivalent automatically to being offensive in your view, as it isn’t in mine.
Perhaps I’m just being too clever. Better way to phrase my original comment: What do you mean by ‘professional contrarian’?
No, Murray is not a contrarian. He’s a major social science researcher who looks at the data upon important topics and comes up with views driven by the numbers.
To give you a sense of this, here’s an interview I did with Murray 14 years ago over his huge book “Human Accomplishment:”
Murray isn’t a contrarian, he is a social scientist who follows where the data lead. That his findings are considered “controversial” says far more about the validity of the conventional wisdom.
For example, The Bell Curve analyzed the biggest, best database available at the time, the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979, with the Pentagon’s 1980 AFQT application, for 12,686 young people.
You can download the NLSY79 data, with an additional quarter century of tracking, from the government here:
If you come up with different interpretations than Herrnstein & Murray, please publish them.
Didn’t James Heckman do this?
There’s a lot more to the Heckman story than is common knowledge. For example, check out who is the first person thanked in the Acknowledgements in the back of The Bell Curve.
Anyway, years later, Heckman announced he had given up trying to disprove The Bell Curve and had moved on to studying personality, especially conscientousness, as more malleable and thus a better target for social policy.
You can tell that Charles Murray is a Bad Person because Morris Dees says so, and Morris Dees is a Good Person.
I think that Murray, at a minimum, doesn’t give much of a care who he offends. At worst, he might kind of enjoy it.
His actual research seems well within the bounds of science, but he doesn’t try to sugarcoat stuff at all.
Does Murray actually conduct any primary research himself, or does he just attempt to collect and synthesize it in books and white papers?
OK, his actual work.
Perhaps your confidently-expressed opinions on Murray would benefit from you doing a little secondary research on him?
The Bell Curve has a reasonable level of sugarcoating. I haven’t read his more recent stuff.
He didn’t have to throw in that his intuition is that observed racial IQ differences are in large part genetic, although I agree that he included a lot saying that it didn’t matter whether his intuition is true or not.
Full sugarcoating would be “Are the differences genetic? One day genetic analysis will have advanced far enough to answer that question, but so far it hasn’t. But that doesn’t matter because the key question is whether the differences are tractable.”
I was also thinking about his statement about the lack of first rank female philosophers, which seems unnecessary, and his comments in the DeParle article about how hot various women are.
What annoys me about Murray’s defenses of TBC is that they’re mutually inconsistent. When prodded on his sources (particularly the use of Pioneer Fund literature), he says “I cited lots of different sources in the book!” When prodded on his conclusions, he says “the race stuff was only a small portion of the book!”
So you go to that specific part of the book and look up only the citations that might be controversial and you find that it’s basically Lynn, Lynn, Lynn, Jensen, Lynn, Rushton, Lynn…
You haven’t read the book, have you?
Claim 4b: It is likely that some of the intelligence differences among races are caused by genetics.
This was the most controversial argument of The Bell Curve, but before addressing it, it is worth noting how cautious Hernstein and Murray were when forwarding this hypothesis: “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might that mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.” (p. 311).
I have the book in front of me right now. The paragraph of the page you cited is preceded by 40 other pages arguing for genetic influence and against environmental influence. To lamely toss in a CYA of “well, we can’t really know” is to admit that the entire thing was an exercise in privileging the hypothesis, especially when it is followed by 40 more pages of explicit policy prescriptions rooted in their view that genetic influence predominates. They might profess not to know exactly what the genetic-to-environment balance is, but they sure as shit don’t think it’s 1% to 99%.
Murray is not cautious. He is the opposite of cautious. He gleefully celebrates smashing a taboo without once stopping to think about why that taboo exists. Calling this topic the social equivalent of the atom bomb is an enormous understatement. History is littered with mass graves marking the points where people thought they had this racial hierarchy thing all figured out, dwarfing Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It needs to be approached with care, not by a tendentious professional troll assembling a pop science contraption whose most controversial premises are footnoted to a narrow group of authors bankrolled by a pro-eugenics nonprofit and then sitting back and saying “who, me?” when people start assembling those tiny black gears into a fancy racist wristwatch.
The most generous reading of Murray I can muster is that he’s still the immature boy burning crosses for shock value and his own amusement without reflecting too deeply on what it might signify to the people watching.
I’m really bad at arguing my point. I’m inarticulate [see above]. But you are both articulate (not a typo) and professionally bad at arguing yours, which is really frustrating. You are really just making assertions here and some of them sound like “yea, he said that, but I know what he really meant and what his motivations are.” Didn’t an analogous discussion come up with Trump last year?
I was trying to push the conversation towards what the standard of evidence to know a person’s motivation/state of mind is and what should be assumed without evidence, but I failed. But I’m sure that fits your model of what a Murray defender would say. Just like many Murray defenders only have shallow knowledge of his work (and apparently openly admit it, too!). I just don’t get why you have so much fight in you over this particular topic.
And for the record, since another poster contacted me to ask about why I think Murray is a misogynist, I had to admit that I don’t remember why I formed that opinion. Surely this doesn’t help me convince you of my motivations, but I feel a quote from our host below is appropriate here:
You seem like someone who would suppress facts if you thought that doing so would have beneficent social effects.
The black-white IQ gap is stubbornly persistent and it’s reasonable to think that there’s a substantial genetic component at work. In the next ~5 years geneticists should be able to tell us if people like Jensen and Murray are wrong. I doubt they are and your sensitivity to this topic makes me think that your opinion is similar to mine.
I’m someone who enjoys smashing taboos and causing offense. I loved Milo’s college comedy tour and I hope he starts a new one soon. Caring about marginalized people of color had never been a big thing for me, and honestly, it still isn’t, but my views on things like welfare are now the polar opposite of what they were ten years ago when I was still a True Believer in the blank slate.
It seems likely to me that, on average, people of low socioeconomic status were born with low-IQs. Bootstraps aren’t going to help these people, especially in an increasingly automated world. It’s strange, but for some reason I don’t think low-SES people should be sterilized or murdered. I’ve found myself siding with Murray and favoring something like a guaranteed basic income.
My suggestion for approaching this with care would be to say what’s true: you can’t infer anything about an individual based on their race and anyone who goes through life treating people poorly because of their skin color an asshole and is probably someone who isn’t smart enough to understand overlapping bell curves.
WokeMonique: I was specifically thinking about the “it seems highly likely” sentence, which someone used to keeping their head down could have left out. I agree that the book read as a whole is very clear about where the science was at that point.
You’re right that it fairer to say “his intuition that observed racial IQ differences are in some part genetic” rather than “in large part genetic” – I was remembering the quote incorrectly.
So if you were in WWII France, and you knew your neighbors were harboring Jews, and the SS knocked on your door, you wouldn’t suppress facts for the sake of beneficent social effects?
“Oh but that’s different!” Not in any of the salient respects.
That would be great if only people who understood overlapping bell curves possessed social power and were able to affect other people’s lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, here on planet Earth, that is not the case.
Going back to my previous example, this is a little like saying “If the Nazis want to kill all the Jews, then they’re just jerks and we can safely ignore them.” Uh, yeah the Nazis are jerks, but it does not follow that we can ignore them.
I’d make a distinction between lying and suppressing the truth. Of course, I would always lie to save someone from being murdered in front of me, but I believe in objective truth, the democratization of information, and I think people should be like Ferris. You seem a lot like Charles the Blue.
Here on planet Earth, people don’t need geneticists to confirm that race differences in IQ are largely innate in order to discriminate against blacks or any other group. If geneticists do in fact confirm that race differences are largely innate, it would be a good idea to popularize the idea that anyone who uses that information to discriminate against individuals is stupid.
No, we can’t ignore them. We need to punch them in the face because genocide.
If you or Anonymous Bosch think that it’s appropriate to suppress facts about race and IQ because evil racists will start sterilizing and murdering people, I wish you’d just come out and say that. Then I wish you’d tell me what other facts you think should be suppressed in the name of fighting racism and social harmony.
This seems like an unkind reductio ad absurdum, I would assume that Wokemonique just thinks something like ‘The pursuit of truth in [insert domain] is more important than preventing some ambiguous social harms that will result from the truth being known’. However this obviously is not true for all values of ambiguous social harm, especially as they get less ambiguous. HBC has said repeatedly that values trade against each other, truth as a value trades against other values, and I doubt many people here subscribe to the (I forget the name) answer the axe murderer truthfully when they ask where your friend is, moral system. I imagine most people here disagree with you (assuming you hold the position you are arguing for, which is not actually clear to me) on either the relative harm of the particular truths here, or the relative value of the truth, or both.
Edit: I guess I need to refresh this page more often.
On the contrary, wokemonique claims to relish the social harms:
I haven’t read that in a long time, so the comparisons are lost on me. I’m skeptical that you know enough about me to reliably make a valid comparison, though. Given your obsession with true facts, maybe you should withhold judgment instead of making wild guesses.
The distinction you make between lying and suppressing the truth is sheer rationalization. You know what the SS are after and you either decide to be honest with them or dishonest with them according to how much you care about saving lives. Similarly, we can guess use empirical historical evidence to gauge what are the effects of a majority ethnic group having a firm belief that they are mentally superior to a minority ethnic group and then decide whether it’s better to publicize evidence for such a belief or not.
This is simply not a realistic model of human attitudes and how they are affected by new information. If you have someone who is already racist or borderline racist and you expose that person to scientific justification for that racism, it seems most likely to me that the person will become more racist and that their racist behaviors will become more frequent and more overt. If you then try to tell that same person that it’s stupid of them to act that way, they will ignore you.
Realistically, the effect of popularizing the sentiment that blacks have lower average IQ is that all the people out there who already believe it will be like “knew it!”, people on the fence will be like “Oh really? Well now I’m convinced…”, some less sophisticated opponents of racism will find themselves flustered when presented with this and be unable to continue making the case against racism, and of course white power groups have been using Murray’s research in their propaganda for decades already.
OK, I guess you do not do analogies so good. Let me be explicit: there are somewhat racist people who exist now who would be more racist if they were familiar with the IQ arguments. There are non-racists who would become somewhat racist if presented with the same information. There are well-meaning people who are sympathetic to some eugenics arguments who might wind up devising some corollaries. Your arguments ignore the existence of all these people, or at least the effects of their actions on other people (including black people).
The net effect of Murray’s research is plausibly to make society as a whole more racist.
This is too glib and makes me reluctant to discuss this more with you.
I’m not advocating one way or the other, but I am trying to clue some science partisans into the meta-level ethical issues involved.
It’s clear that you highly value scientific research and honesty. (I think you have not worked through a lot of the problems with describing scientific results as truths about the world, but whatever, no time to get into that now.) It’s clear that you value this much more highly than non-discrimination. What does not seem clear to YOU is that not everyone agrees with you on the relative importance of these values. Specifically, it shouldn’t be a surprise if a lot of black people would prefer not to rehash the whole “blacks are mentally inferior” thing, but this time with scientific evidence.
If you want to force people to choose between scientific evidence and non-discrimination, then people who value non-discrimination more will side against you. If you want to win, you better make sure the numbers are on your side.
There’s lots of facts about the world that are completely true, but nonetheless completely ignored for any of various reasons — usually irrelevance to day-to-day concerns. Why you think I should be in command of all of them simultaneously and be able to provide them for you in a comment box…I have no idea.
But the idea that some races are more intelligent than other isn’t exactly new, so it’s not like I’m introducing some weird new concept to the debate. I’m asking you to consider how the IQ research interacts with existing sociological patterns, and suggesting that it may be uglier than you are giving credit for.
Since I’m talking about counterfactuals, I can’t prove anything. I can only ask that you please try to have an open mind and to try to consider ideas that are outside your intellectual comfort zone.
I was establishing the principle that there is no clear, bright line — that, as you describe, whether or not to call attention to a fact about the world should be conditioned on the harm caused by that fact about the world.
Yeah, I don’t have a solid position on either side, but I think most people here are severely underestimating the harm that would be caused by popularizing Murray’s research. I get the sense that people here are really sheltered and don’t personally know very many unsophisticated casual racists. They outnumber us and they’re more amenable to simple, easily digested arguments like “White IQ is higher than black IQ” than complicated, nuanced arguments like “raw intelligence shouldn’t have any impact on the moral worthiness of an individual or how they’re treated.”
I think the “Nazis at the door looking for Jews” is the “ticking time bomb” of justifying lying or withholding information.
Yes, the “Nazis at the door” hypo has actually happened, but it differs form real life implications in some significant ways:
* The hypo is relying on a moral certainty that sharing this information would result in harm coming to the Jews. In this case, the harm is more abstract (“people will become more racist”).
* It also assumes that there is nothing else that can be done to prevent the harmful impact, whereas Murray’s conclusions can be rebutted with more information.
And if you really are morally certain that allowing this bad information to leak out will result in the bad outcome of more racism, I’ll introduce another one — suppressing information leads me to wonder what other information is being suppressed for my own good, and leads me to question science less. Leading to things like climate change denialism, anti-vaxers, etc.
Maybe you need to let the information out, and roll up your sleeves and do the work of countering it.
The harm is more abstract, but also more widespread so it is not clear which would cause more suffering over all (to adopt a consequentialist framing of the issue). It is also not entirely abstract, since we do have historical evidence of the effects of a majority ethnic group deciding they are intellectually superior to a minority ethnic group.
In my hypotheticals, we’re assuming that Murray’s conclusions are sound, and if we rebut them we can only do so with falsehoods.
I’m not assuming nothing can be done to prevent the harmful impact. I’m arguing that based on what I know about causality and human nature, the net effect would be bad.
You say “maybe”, I say “maybe not”. What is involved in countering it and how effective is it? What are the net costs and benefits? I am not arguing for one conclusion or the other — I am arguing that it is worth asking and discussing these questions before making a conclusion one way or the other.
Where are you from? Do you personally know many unsophisticated casual racists? Do you realize how prone pretty much all human beings are to motivated reasoning? Do you realize that most people never bother to ask themselves how they know what they know and grasp at anything that confirms their pre-existing biases?
OK, suppose we accept this paternalistic model where we suppress the truth because people might change their views in an undesirable direction as a result.
How do you keep the truth from getting out anyway? This isn’t like the Jews hiding in your neighbors basement. A significant racial difference in IQ will have downstream effects that are significant and noticeable. If you explain these away as environment or discrimination or whatever, you’re signing yourself up to ameliorate that. And when those ameliorations don’t work (because they’re not aimed at the actual cause), now what?
The possibility that the science on race and IQ could be abused is not outside of my intellectual comfort zone. This is actually something that I’ve thought about a lot. Everyone is racist to some degree, myself included. That’s not something that I’m proud of and I make a conscious effort to treat people that I interact with as individuals, but I’ll admit that I’m perhaps slightly more racist than your average white coastal American.
Like I said in a previous comment, I used to be a True Believer in the blank slate. I genuinely believed that most group differences in outcomes that anyone cares about were primarily driven by environment. Once I realized that the evidence strongly suggests otherwise, my opinions on welfare and education were shattered. I used to believe that groups who were struggling just needed bootstraps and groups that were doing poorly in school just needed better courses, better teachers, and to try harder.
Now I feel like society is, well, kind of failing these people. When it comes to education, we’re obsessed with closing gaps to the detriment of helping all students reach whatever their innate potential is. Our lack of vocational high schools makes me angry. When it comes to welfare, I think we need to recognize that we’re trending toward an economy where even people of above average intelligence are becoming increasingly economically worthless. I think we need something like a guaranteed basic income if we want to help disadvantaged groups and maintain something like a middle class.
My opinion is that social policy can be improved by taking group differences in intelligence into consideration, although I’d agree they should be downplayed. There’s not much reason to mention them if we could collectively stop obsessing over disparate group outcomes.
I don’t think my experience is unique. When people believe that homosexuality is a choice, it’s easier for people to be intolerant of homosexuality. When people realize that gay people were born that way, they tend to become more tolerant. If poor people, on average, are poor because they were born with low-IQs, I would hope that more intelligent people would have more sympathy for them and attempt to adjust social policy accordingly.
Do you think that racism is something that’s unique in some way to white Americans? I do when it comes to black people. Asians and Latinos, on average, hate them with a passion that whites simply lack today. Should we take this into consideration when thinking about immigration in the US?
I meant that you sound like this guy:
Charles the Blue considered the blue ceiling, taken aback. As a professor in a mixed college, Charles had carefully emphasized that Blue and Green viewpoints were equally valid and deserving of tolerance: The sky was a metaphysical construct, and cerulean a color that could be seen in more than one way. Briefly, Charles wondered whether a Green, standing in this place, might not see a green ceiling above; or if perhaps the ceiling would be green at this time tomorrow; but he couldn’t stake the continued survival of civilization on that. This was merely a natural phenomenon of some kind, having nothing to do with moral philosophy or society… but one that might be readily misinterpreted, Charles feared. Charles sighed, and turned to go back into the corridor. Tomorrow he would come back alone and block off the passageway.
Perhaps, but I’m a free speech absolutist and I’d make a similar defense of free speech.
I don’t get this. If the scientific evidence says that group differences in intelligence are largely innate, that does not necessarily have to lead to discrimination.
As someone who works almost exclusively with unsophisticated casual racists, I would agree that I often feel my personal experiences differ from those of most of the people I talk to here. However I imagine that I am on the far end of a spectrum, with college students, white collar professionals, etc, on the other end, so I am not sure what the middle ground/average actually looks like.
To clarify, I enjoy trolling that causes minor annoyance and pokes fun at taboos. Out of respect for Scott and the commenters here, I will refrain from the trolling that comes naturally to me to the best of my ability.
As best I can tell, most ethnic groups, majority or minority, believe they are superior to most other ethnic groups. It doesn’t require beliefs about genetics, which in any case is a pretty new subject.
I haven’t read all the posts in this thread, but people appear to be ignoring what seemed to me to be the point of The Bell Curve, which had nothing to do with race. It was that in a meritocratic society with assortative mating, over time it becomes more and more the case that the people at the top not only believe they are intellectually superior, they are correct to believe it, and that that is a dangerous trend.
Focusing on Murray’s observation about black/white differences seems to me to be a result of what his critics are obsessed about, not what he is or was.
I can’t tell you what’s salient to you, but to any sane or decent person betraying jews to be tortured and killed by nazis is completely different.
Actually, Murray is very sensitive. Being subjected to endless ignorant hate was very depressing to him. He kept up his work not because he enjoys being vilified but because he’s a great scientist.
Also because and old witch had his father’s soul trapped in a lantern.
I liked the Onion a lot more before it started doing this low-rent Jon Stewart schtick.
Oh well. I guess we still have Clickhole.
@Nornagest – McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies is going increasingly Jon Steward as well, but they still have some gems.
You are missing the point, which is that Harvard is the leading institution of American academia. Along with its power and prestige comes responsibility.
A long, accelerating series of shameful incidents on campuses since, say, the 88 Duke professors encouraged the framing of lacrosse players have undermined the reputation of higher education. This can have negative consequences not just on the goals of universities, but even on the institutions’ budgets, as the collapse in enrollment at the U. of Missouri over the last 18 months (7 dorms have been shut down).
The violence at Middlebury against Charles Murray happened to get a particular amount of publicity. It generated a feeling that this ought to be a turning point where people of good will come together to reverse the trend toward the degradation of our universities.
It would be right and fitting for Harvard to step up and take the lead in demonstrating that the most famous university rejects the trend toward thuggery and science denialism. How? The obvious symbolism is by offering Murray a forum at Harvard where Harvard can demonstrate proper respect toward Murray, and thus toward its values, such as Veritas.
Also, Scott, you’re missing the turning of the tide that has begun with the Middlebury shame. Respectable academics are now speaking out against the blackshirt thugs. For example, here is a statement authored by Cornel West and Robert George in response to Middlebury:
Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression
March 14, 2017
The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share.
That’s why all of us should seek respectfully to engage with people who challenge our views. And we should oppose efforts to silence those with whom we disagree—especially on college and university campuses. As John Stuart Mill taught, a recognition of the possibility that we may be in error is a good reason to listen to and honestly consider—and not merely to tolerate grudgingly—points of view that we do not share, and even perspectives that we find shocking or scandalous. What’s more, as Mill noted, even if one happens to be right about this or that disputed matter, seriously and respectfully engaging people who disagree will deepen one’s understanding of the truth and sharpen one’s ability to defend it.
Read the rest at:
I don’t think that evidence is needed to assume that other people are acting in good faith and not deliberately lying. In the absence of evidence against them, we should generally assume that people are being honest and are acting in good faith.
I was hoping my original reply would lead to this point. Unfortunately, it went somewhere else I wasn’t expecting.
I would like to believe that this was just an accident on your part, Fifteen, but I assume a nefarious motive.
Nefarious motive? I can see how some of the things I’ve said can be confusing. I post very infrequently here and have posted maybe 10 times elsewhere in as many years. I’m learning to communicate here. It’s not like a conversation in person, obviously, but it’s also not like an email or text message exchange, which I’m much more familiar with.
@fifteen: I think pdbarnlsey is joking.
But I hope he wasn’t, because that’ll change the unofficial SSC posting guide that I’m working on. Here’s part of the first draft.
-Being honest about your intentions will make people assume you have ulterior motives. Also, don’t state explicitly that you come with an open mind for the same reason.
-Snark and ad hominem are tolerated, but only if you’re clever and aren’t obviously too offensive.
-Don’t use “I,” too much – it puts you in a position of weakness. This will be familiar to anyone who emails their boss with any regularity. It also makes it sound like you have no idea what you’re talking about, even if you do.
-DO write in short declarative statements. It makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t.
-Conversations change direction quickly, just like in-person discussions, but you don’t have anywhere near the same level of control
-Telling people that you’re joking, even when you think it should be obvious that you are, can be helpful. A lot of people in the community don’t pick up on sarcasm easily.
I’ve got a lot more, but I can’t give it all away for free…I’m not sure if now is the time where I’m supposed to say I’m joking. I haven’t really internalized my own guide yet.
You aren’t exactly helping your own case now, are you?
Being honest won’t make people assume that. It just won’t make them assume the opposite either.
Honest people can say they don’t have ulterior motives. Dishonest people can lie and also say they don’t have ulterior motives. And they’re hard to tell apart, and going by what they said doesn’t help tell them apart.
The same goes for open minds. People with open minds say they have open minds. People with closed minds also say that they have open minds. So saying that you have an open mind says nothing.
I lost track in the forest of comments about Charles Murray, but this is a meaningful misquotation, or the piece has been edited. Leaving out the “One hopes,” from the start of the sentence is… not helpful. I assume someone else has said this, but I couldn’t find it.
I understood Scott wasn’t attacking Murray the first time, but:
1. I’ve been reading him for a while now; and
2. Reptile/lawyer brain tends to not jump to those conclusions.
I also think the Murray point is a distraction from the problem. First Amendment issues are just not Rosa Parks in general – People v. Larry Flynt wasn’t Flynt standing up for the First Amendment, it was the First Amendment standing up for him. There aren’t as many Rosa Parks-level shutdowns of commentary, though we seem to seeping that direction. So I think it’s harder than Scott notes to find the Rosa Parks of we-should-stop-them-from-speaking.
Still, “Richard Spencer should not be punched in the face for his words,” is a correct statement of law and (IMO) ethics, but I agree with Scott that’s not the best face of free speech. We ought to vigorously scream when people on the left are shut down; that makes the world better. (I think FIRE does a good job of hitting both sides, and some chapters of the ACLU do too.)
The other argument that I think is workable right now is “Who would use that power?” Do you want to give Trump that power? You trust Trump? (To the right, which has a longer history of being pro-censorship, it’s now more obvious that losing those fights sucks.)
the piece was edited, the quote was accurate at the time of publication.
It’s clear from reading the comments that some readers are not aware of just how egregious was the incident at Middlebury College, which is of course the reason why the Harvard free expression activists have invited Charles Murray to speak at Harvard in September.
From the New York Times:
Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion
ON CAMPUS MARCH 13, 2017
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — There’s nothing like a little violence to focus the mind. I am the Middlebury College professor who ended up with whiplash and a concussion for having the audacity to engage with the ideas of Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Though he is someone with whom I disagree, I welcomed the opportunity to moderate a talk with him on campus on March 2 because several of my students asked me to do so. They know I am a Democrat, but the college courses I teach are nonpartisan. As I wrote on Facebook immediately after the incident, this was a chance to demonstrate publicly a commitment to a free and fair exchange of views in my classroom. But Dr. Murray was drowned out by students who never let him speak, and he and I were attacked and intimidated while trying to leave campus.
In the days after the violence, some have spun this story as one about what’s wrong with elite colleges and universities, our coddled youth or intolerant liberalism. Those analyses are incomplete.
Political life and discourse in the United States is at a boiling point, and nowhere is the reaction to that more heightened than on college campuses. Throughout an ugly campaign and into his presidency, President Trump has demonized Muslims as terrorists and dehumanized many groups of marginalized people. He declared the free press an enemy of the people, replaced deliberation with tweeting, and seems bent on dismantling the separation of powers and 230 years of progress this country has made toward a more perfect union. Much of the free speech he has inspired — or has refused to disavow — is ugly, and has already had ugly real-world consequences. College students have seen this, and have taken note: Speech can become action.
That is the context into which Dr. Murray walked and was so profoundly misunderstood.
From the stage where I sat with Dr. Murray, waiting for students to take their seats, I saw a sea of humanity. Students were chanting, “Who is the enemy? White supremacy,” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay: Charles Murray, go away!” Others were yelling obscenities at Dr. Murray or one another. What alarmed me most, however, was what I saw in the eyes of the crowd. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. They couldn’t look at me directly, because if they had, they would have seen another human being.
The protesters succeeded in shutting down the lecture. We were forced to move to another site and broadcast our discussion via live stream, while activists who had figured out where we were banged on the windows and set off fire alarms. Afterward, as Dr. Murray and I left the building with Bill Burger, Middlebury’s vice president for communications, a mob charged us.
Most of the hatred was focused on Dr. Murray, but when I took his right arm to shield him and to make sure we stayed together, the crowd turned on me. Someone pulled my hair, while others were shoving me. I feared for my life. Once we got into the car, protesters climbed on it, hitting the windows and rocking the vehicle whenever we stopped to avoid harming them. I am still wearing a neck brace, and spent a week in a dark room to recover from a concussion caused by the whiplash.
Read the rest there:
The best way to promote open discussion would be to invite Charles Murray and Alison Stanger to come and debate each other at Harvard to show American academia that is how grown-ups behave.
What makes you think they care?
Because there has been a lot of thoughtful discussion since the violence at Middlebury. A lot of respectable liberals are ashamed of what happened there.
I may be totally wrong, but I’m sensing a turning point.
My best guess of what should be done to make this a turning point away from thuggishness on campus is for Harvard, as the most prestigious institution, to take the lead. But they shouldn’t just invite Charles Murray, they should invite Alison Stanger as well to reproduce at Harvard what they would have said at Middlebury.
The SJWs may get all the press but the good old-fashioned ACLU liberals are still very much with us. (I come from a family full of them.)
Are they willing to fight the SJWs to protect free speech? Because that’s what it’s going to take.
Sorry to keep piling on, but here’s a piece in today’s New York Times that underlines my point that _Charles Murray_ is exactly the person to invite to speak:
Charles Murray’s ‘Provocative’ Talk
By WENDY M. WILLIAMS and STEPHEN J. CECI APRIL 15, 2017
The talk that the political scientist Charles Murray attempted to deliver last month at Middlebury College in Vermont must have been quite provocative — perhaps even offensive or an instance of hate speech. How else to explain the vehement opposition to it?
Before Mr. Murray’s arrival on campus, an open letter to the college from several hundred alumni protested that his scholarly opinions were “deceptive statistics masking unfounded bigotry.” And when it came time for Mr. Murray to give his speech, which was based on his 2012 book, “Coming Apart,” an analysis of the predicament of the white working class in the United States, he was shouted down by student and faculty protesters. In chants they accused him of being a racist and a white supremacist. Some of the protesters became unruly and physically violent, forcing Mr. Murray to flee.
Mr. Murray ended up giving a version of his talk later that day, via livestream, from another room. How extreme were his views?
We have our own opinion, but as social scientists we hoped to get a more objective answer. So we transcribed Mr. Murray’s speech and — without indicating who wrote it — sent it to a group of 70 college professors (women and men, of different ranks, at different universities). We asked them to rate the material on a scale from 1 to 9, ranging from very liberal to very conservative, with 5 defined as “middle of the road.” We also offered them a chance to explain why they gave the material the score they did.
American college professors are overwhelmingly liberal. Still, the 57 professors who responded to our request gave Mr. Murray’s talk an average score of 5.05, or “middle of the road.” Some professors said that they judged the speech to be liberal or left-leaning because it addressed issues like poverty and incarceration, or because it discussed social change in terms of economic forces rather than morality. Others suggested that they detected a hint of discontent with the fact that Donald Trump was elected president. No one raised concerns that the material was contentious, dangerous or otherwise worthy of censure.
Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci are professors of human development at Cornell.
You can read the whole thing there:
Don’t free speech test cases basically have to be about unpopular speech? If you go with someone popular, no one will try to silence them and you won’t have a test case, and if you go with someone controversial, the test case will be about the object-level controversy instead of meta-level free speech (arguably this is true of Charles Murray).
Yes, but there are different levels of unpopular and different levels of controversial. There are people who can advocate controversial positions with a level of intellectual rigor and those who can’t.
If Murray and Peterson aren’t those people, nobody is. The higher “levels of intellectual rigor” are basically academic papers that cause full-on MEGO in lay audiences and doom their content to impotent obscurity if they can’t be translated into the vernacular by the likes of Murray and Peterson.
If M&P are
banneddetermined to be tactically unwise to offer any platform, then as soon as they have vanished into the memory hole, the full-blown outrage they used to inspire will shift to the next-least-popular opinion or expression, until there’s nothing left. If you won’t defend the decision to invite Murray and Peterson, then in the long run you won’t defend anything or anyone.
Actually, it looks like the Open Campus Initiative is already succeeding at encouraging more civilized behavior on campus.
Here’s the Harvard Crimson report on Jordan Peterson’s Harvard speech this week:
The Open Campus Initiative, a recently formed student group seeking to “test” Harvard’s commitment to free speech, invited Peterson to Harvard. Their first two invited speakers, Peterson and political scientist Charles A. Murray ’65, are both far right academics known for their controversial views on race and gender.
Some students criticized the group for inviting these speakers, arguing that it gave a platform to hate speech.
The event was organized with assistance from the Office of Student Life. Associate Dean of Students David R. Friedrich and Assistant Dean of Student Life Alexander R. Miller were present at the event, in addition to multiple Harvard University Police officers.
Protesters all remained silent throughout the event, which Open Campus Initiative president Conor Healy ’19 praised.
“I was really pleasantly surprised there were no disruptions. And I thought we did a good job challenging [Peterson],” Healy said.
It’s difficult to say if this represents a change. Middlebury is well-known as the school that rich kids go to when they aren’t serious enough academically to attend a better school. As a result, you may be comparing behaviors by two of groups of people with very different motivations.
Harvard has been the center of pro-free speech activism by faculty and students since Middlebury.
Harvard students were challenged by the Open Campus Initiative and by the Open Letter penned by Cornel West and Robert George to behave themselves. Protestors not only avoided dressing up in blackshirts and masks and beating faculty, they protested silently so Dr. Peterson could be heard by those who wanted to hear what he had to say.
In contrast, Heather Mac Donald and her audiences were abused last week at UCLA and, especially, Claremont.
Obviously, these are a tiny number of data points, but so far the evidence suggests that Scott has gotten it backwards. In reality, pro-free speech activism at Harvard has been, perhaps not surprisingly, good for free speech at Harvard.
Steve, at least give Princeton the credit for Princeton professors Robert George and Cornel West?
(Also, Princeton’s role as “the conservative Ivy,” or at least “the not-as-leftist Ivy” remains intact. The identity politics left’s only real win was getting Wilson college renamed, where conservatives didn’t exactly like Woodrow Wilson either, and even then it was a tough fight and only a half-win–the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy kept its name. And no doubt Robert George continues to teach classes in civil liberties and constitutional law from the Scalia/Thomas/Gorsuch school of jurisprudence).
There’s this continued implicit assumption in this thread that free speech is primarily about defending rigorous “debaters” operating in good faith. No, it protects jagoff performers too – musical acts with political opinions thrown in e.g. – plenty of whom show up on college campuses.
I’m not even talking about popularity of the speaker right now, I’m talking about popularity of the inviter.
I would much rather have to defend “These people who wanted to learn more about society invited Charles Murray” than “these people who wanted to cause a shitstorm invited Charles Murray”.
“these people who wanted to cause a shitstorm invited Charles Murray”
If the only reason a group invite Speaker Q is because there will be a guaranteed riot, that’s a crappy reason and it isn’t defending free speech.
Do we know the only reason the Harvard students have is because they want to provoke a riot? More cogently, do we know anyone who could be invited to speak about anything who wouldn’t cause a riot? Because by now I think there is a small but vocal beyond their numbers section who will protest anyone, no matter who, since there is not going to be any person who ticks all the boxes and has a spotless stainless record of always holding the right beliefs and phrasing them in the non-offensive way (I’m seeing, for instance, a mini-row on Tumblr between young LGBT types who say “queer is a slur, you should never use it” and are very condemnatory about it, and the previous generation who are adamant that when they were coming up, they were and are queer and if you don’t like it, you can lump it. Imagine that on a university campus where a respected LGBT activist is on the receiving end of a shitstorm because they used the term “queer” in their writings).
If people’s actual reason for inviting Charles Murray is because they want to learn more about society, then the only way it can be a free-speech test case is by accident. In particular, if someone tries to respond to the invitation with censorship, then the students, per your logic, would be more intellectually honest to say “you shouldn’t censor him because he has much to teach us about society” than to say “you shouldn’t censor him because free speech”.
Actually, maybe there’s no such thing as a good test case for free speech. “Everyone thought this guy was terrible, but he got to speak anyway because free speech, which was good because he turned out to be right” is the outcome that free speech seeks to protect—but it cannot be established to have occurred except in retrospect, after society’s views have changed.
+1 to this and parent comment.
Scott seems to be arguing that one can make something into a free speech “test case” only if you would have invited that person even if you didn’t want a free speech test case. In other words, one can have a good free speech test case only by accident.
The problems are that no one compartmentalizes their thinking this way (there is no realm of context-free contemplation where you can think about whether you’d invite this person behind a veil of ignorance about his or her public reputation or about the contentiousness of an issue) and there is always a practically infinite number of uncontroversial interesting people one could invite to talk about a practically infinite number of interesting but uncontroversial topics.
The practical effect of all the protests is to make people think “why invite so-and-so when there are so many people we could invite who won’t spark a riot?” or “why talk about race and gender when there are so many other things we could talk about that won’t spark a riot?” But this is precisely the kind of narrowing of acceptable thought-space proponents of free speech want to fight.
The point is that students should be able to invite whomever they want to hear without worrying about whether or not they will cause a violent protest. But that is not the reality right now–not even close. At least one way to take an active meta-stand on this issue is to invite someone interesting and controversial–ideally someone who, if allowed to speak, will prove eloquent and measured, thereby making the hysterics look bad. Murray and Peterson fit the bill, especially since Peterson often talks specifically about the free speech issue.
It may possibly be true that, propaganda-wise, it makes for a better story to latch onto, after the fact, a case where people thought they were just inviting someone to hear what they had to say, and not to take a stand on free speech, only to be surprised that they encountered a bunch of resistance. I guess, maybe? But even if this is better, it doesn’t prove anything about the efficacy of a less passive approach. It could be that both defending people who surprisingly turned out to be controversial and actively courting controversy are effective tactics.
As many stated in the other thread, it feels like Scott is arguing for a kind of passivity–only fight for free speech if they bring the fight to you, but don’t bring the fight to them. The problem is, people have been losing that former battle a lot because the people involved are more interested in going about their regular lives unmolested than striking a blow for free speech, and so usually cave.
Excellent, Ony! You explained it perfectly.
Scott, it feels like you’re saying here that it’s not cool to defend free speech unless someone stumbled into being censored by accident. It seems awfully inconvenient for the would-be defenders to have to wait for someone else to unknowingly get burned before they can take action.
It’s also kind of silly when you’re talking about a well-known controversial figure like Charles Murray – is there anyone, anywhere in the USA, who could plausibly say “Gee, I just wanted to learn more about society, how could I have possibly known inviting Charles Murray would result in protests?” When you’re picking speakers to invite, and one person on your shortlist is sufficiently notorious to be guaranteed a protest, it’s not realistic to think you can or should just ignore that in your decision process. If a student group invites Charles Murray (or someone of similar notoriety) causing a shitstorm might not have been their primary goal, but they are clearly at least comfortable with the possibility.
I was also thinking this in response to Scott’s observation that “free speech should happen by accident”. I wonder if there is an economic incentive structure one could establish to counteract this pressure to invite non-controversial figures. I’m thinking of a charity fund that gives money/some sort of insurance to organizations that invite controversial but topical people (e.g. a business school inviting Martin Shkreli). Too bad GiveWell doesn’t do politics.
He’s not talking about what’s “cool”, he’s talking about what’s effective. He was damned clear about that. Why is everyone having so much trouble with this?
I mean, I don’t agree with his take on tactics, and I don’t agree with the “exhaustible resource” model, but what he’s saying is pretty clear and it’s not too hard to argue directly against it instead of misdirecting to some strawman.
Perhaps you haven’t heard that “cool” has acquired an additional colloquial usage, in which it indicates approval or lack thereof? For example: Hey man,
I support free speech and all, but I’m just saying it’s better if it happens naturally…. what? You’re forcing a test case anyway? Not cool, man! Not cool!
More seriously, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen quite a number of commenters on here that disagreed with effective, even if they didn’t use that particular word. Primarily along the lines of, “if you keep your head down and refrain from deliberately making a fuss about a particular right, you are actually ceding ground on said right, not defending it.”
Wouldn’t it be more fair to say that they invited Charles Murray because they wanted to show that a controversial figure could be invited to speak on campus at Harvard *without* a shitstorm? And don’t you think they’ll be pleased rather than disappointed if Murray’s speech goes off peacefully (as Jordan Peterson’s apparently did)?
What an outstandingly well-reasoned and gracefully expressed essay SSC! this is! (as it seems to me)
It inspires the reflection, moreover, that the objectives of free speech closely resemble the objectives of psychiatric therapies, and similarly, the practices of free speech closely resemble the practices of psychiatric therapies.
In particular, some people benefit from the practices of free speech much more than others, just as some clients benefit from therapies much more than others. A difficult, dangerous, inherently contentious SSC-typical question is, why is this?
Conversely, in psychiatric practice there is a non-negligible (and very difficult) cohort of clients who do all they can do sabotage therapies (both individual and group). Is there a non-negligible social cohort that, for similar reasons, seeks persistently to sabotage the therapeutic aspects of free speech?
Banned for probably being another John Sidles alt. If someone thinks he isn’t, speak up now.
I haven’t been following this John Sidles drama, but looking into it, I find the whole thing somewhat mystifying. (In particular, this comment, which was a response to your original Sidles-banning comment to which you didn’t respond, is…concerning: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/11/25/ot35-boston-comment/#comment-280003 )
Why do you suspect that this is a Sidles account?
his style is pretty much unmistakable. This is his second alt within the last week,
A tragedy. Being smart enough to evade bans, but not smart enough to change things that lead to banning in the first place.
To be fair, you could probably train a bright orangutan to fake up everything you need to register an alt.
OTOH, I imagine Scott can ban by IP address/range. (I don’t know if this is true, mind. It’s just something I’d implement if I were coding a comment section.) Which is definitely above orangutan-level skills to evade.
IP bans are only any good if the perpetrator’s posting from a fixed address, which is uncommon — most ISPs dynamically allocate from a pool, so your address changes every time you reset your modem. Depending on the allocation scheme you might be limited to a small range, though, which can be effectively banned but risks collateral damage.
Is that still true in the days of broadband? As far as I have noticed my IP changes only rarely at home or at work these days.
Still true, yeah, though it’s often possible to get a fixed IP for a small premium. (I think it’s a perk of “business class” for Comcast, or whatever they’re calling it this week.)
Broadband connections tend to stay up much longer than old-school dial-up, though, so IPs are stable for longer periods of time.
Anecdotally, my home (cable) IP has stayed solid for months.
Also AFAIK these things are relatively easy to evade using VPNs, so a sufficiently motivated person with basic level knowledge could get around it easily enough.
If you look at the comments to the first free speech post, the John Sidles style is much more strongly apparent in his posts there.
John Sidles is pretty much our own persistent Time Cube guy. Verbose, articulate, and completely nonsensical.
Verbose, articulate, and completely nonsensical.
Yeah, his comments make me feel like my brain is slipping. I almost understand them, I almost see a point there, but it’s just out of reach.
Sounds like he would make a good test case plaintiff!
Reading his comments is like being sentenced to a low number of chapters of the Book.
His discourses can only be unlocked by reading the entire USMC Commandant’s reading list. Then you will understand.
This particular comment doesn’t seem that nonsensical to me… does that mean it’s already too late, and my mental state has wandered past the socially-imposed bounds of sanity?
(The analogy seems a little weird and not really very obviously appropriate, but not difficult to understand, to me.)
I’d venture a guess that the topic/comment thing was less a bannable offense in itself, and more a test case to see if Sidles could change any of the things that people found obnoxious in his posts.
Clearly, the answer was “no”. That should also explain why people can so easily spot the Sidles style in his many, many sockpuppet accounts.
Sidles was super-annoying without doing anything actually defined as a bannable offense. So Scott gave him an order not to use boldface or topic-comment structures, which he failed to obey, so he got banned.
It’s like nailing Al Capone for tax evasion.
Agreed. Topic-comment structure is a very silly thing to ban for, but it was a defining trait of Sidles’s style (and really no one else’s), and Sidles was tiring and unreadable. I certainly think this falls within the range of Scott’s “don’t bring down the discussion” goal.
Thanks for the thoughts, Nornagest, Anonymous, and wintermute92. These three comments help.
John: Next time you create an alt, pop the question-mark key off your keyboard.
I’m not convinced that “Invite the most offensive person possible” is a bad strategy.
In the Rosa Parks / NAACP case, the public saw a conflict between Rosa Parks and the police exercising their lawful authority. Normal people are naturally sympathetic to the police and to law and order in general, so it was necessary to choose a very sympathetic subject to overcome that bias.
In the current situation, the reaction being faced is not the police making arrests. It is masked anarchists flying black flags smashing windows, burning cars, and beating up innocent bystanders. I think it is very reasonable for the organizers to think that almost any peaceful speaker will be more sympathetic to the general public than violent anarchists, no matter how controversial their views.
With that in mind, it seems a reasonable pro-free-speech strategy to invite as much controversy as possible, to make violent anarchists as visible as possible to the general public and make them the face of the anti-free-speech movement. The more controversial the speaker the more violent and distasteful the protesters will be, and the more the public will sympathize with free speech.
The only limit to this is not bringing in someone whose peaceful speech is more offputting to the public than the Black Bloc.
I think this is why Milo Yiannopolis is so effective for galvanizing the issue:
he’s as offensive as can be with regards to content, so he provokes big reactions from SJWs,
but he doesn’t raise his voice or yell, or really look flustered at all, so when SJWs scream and smash shit and try to shut down the event, the image is peaceful, if irritating, guy vs. absolute fucking chaos.
He’s perfectly optimized to make SJWs lose their shit and alienate the mainstream, without himself alienating that critical mass of mainstream observers
I don’t fully agree, but I think you’re close enough to right that Milo is the perfect, obvious choice if you going for “who’s the ugliest most hate-able person I can find”. It’s Milo’s whole schtick.
The fact that the Harvard OCI explicitly rejected inviting Milo precisely because they felt his only value was in provocation kind of knocks out Scott’s entire thesis, or at least his use of the Harvard OCI events as an example of it.
But neither Murray nor Milo are the most offensive person possible. Inviting an incoherent slur-throwing KKK member seems like a bad strategy to me.
I agree with your post, Scott.
Scott, I think that you might consider that with the process of objecting to the suboptimal practice of having blacks sit at the back of the bus, the NAACP was in fact expecting to make some people outraged, even by picking Rosa Parks.
I think that you might be missing the point that Charles Murray *is* the Rosa Parks of this allegory, and the usual suspects are still frothing at the mouth.
Exactly. There are no people who think there is a link between genes and racial differences who wouldn’t be run out of the universities. If not Charles Murray, then who?
There are eleventy billion biomedical papers discussing racial disparities in genetic markers for various diseases. You’re eliding the Actually Controversial part of Charles Murray’s beliefs.
OK fine. Anyone who says that there might possibly be a chance of some genetic differences in intelligence is going to be run out of universities.
Still though, if I argued against “race is a social construct” by pointing out those genetic markers, I would still get push back at the least.
There are eleventy billion papers about the genetics of intelligence too. I think the concept you’re looking for is “psychological racial differences.”
It seems to me that the genetic markers prove that race is a social construct, given that American racial stereotypes do not match up very well to, say, human Y-chromosome haplogroups.
Murray didn’t just copy the American racial stereotypes, as he distinguished between Ashkenazi Jews and other Jews.
Furthermore, African-Americans are almost exclusively from just a part of Africa (west, west-central and south-west Africa). It’s quite feasible that this region has decent genetic similarity in some ways, just like we see that a small region in Kenya produces a ton of the best distance runners.
The slaves came from a bigger region and you’d expect more diversity the bigger a region you draw from, but it’s still a completely separate region from Europe with almost no genetic mixing at the time. Similarly, there has been very little mixing between Europeans (or Africans) and East-Asians. So it is plausible that the people in these regions developed genetic differences that impact intelligence or whatever other trait.
I’m not an expert, but this does not seem to be the case:
Evaluating Self-declared Ancestry of U.S. Americans with Autosomal, Y-chromosomal and Mitochondrial DNA (jump to figure 2 for a quick summary).
Interestingly, ancestry pattern of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are gender-asymmetric: European men seem to have fooled around a lot with African and Native women
Sorry, but that is badly outdated. It hasn’t been even marginally tenable in mainstream science for about 15 years now.
In general, a whole lot of people have told a whole of lot of things that are 179 degrees opposite of the truth:
e.g., Charles Murray is a Bad Person and Morris Dees is a Good Person
Race Does Not Exist
OK, race exists, but genes don’t match up with traditional American races
Genetic markers cannot “prove” or “disprove” that races are “real” or a “social construct”.
“Races”, as human-made categories, are just a way to classify population genetic data. You can come up with any classication you like, with a number of race going from N = 1 to N = current Earth population to N = every single possible genetic combination computable, and no such classification will be inherently “true” or “false”.
Different classifications will be more or less useful for different tasks, and in fact it seems reasonable to think that there’s no single classification that is good for everything. There’s the classification that is good to study population migration, the classification that is good to study the prevalence of certain genetic disease, the classification that is good for studying IQ tendencies, the classication that brings confort by magically alining with whatever preconceived racial system we imagined, and so on.
The archetype of a social construct is a game. If God erased all records of the rules of chess, chances are none of the rules would ever be recreated. Chess is almost 100% social construct.
If God erased all records of the planets of the Solar System, we could easily re-classify the huge balls of rock and gas orbiting the Sun, and the new classification would meaningfully resemble the one we’re familiar with. At least that’s what common sense tells us: some fringe philosophers, e.g. the so-called social constructivists, disagree.
One could argue as follows:
“Minerals”, as human-made categories, are just a way to classify chemical data. You can come up with any classification you like, with the number of minerals going from N = 1 to N = crystal structures on the Earth to N = every possible chemical configuration, and no such classification will be inherently “true” or “false”.
Even if this was a valid form of reasoning, it would not mean minerals are a social construct! After all, even if we forgot our “rock taxonomy”, granite or sandstone would probably emerge as distinct categories in the new one.
Is race a social construct? That is a meaningful question. If genetic markers mean we’d be likely to independently recreate a given notion of race, then the answer to this question is no.
Back around 2000, it was repeatedly implied by people like Craig Venter and Bill Clinton that the new genomic analysis technology would undermine old conceptions of race.
In the 17 years since, the opposite has largely happened, but an awful lot of people haven’t noticed.
I know it’s just an example, but the planet case is anything but clear cut, as the “demotion” of Pluto has shown.
It was only a demotion in the mind of the public of course — there just wasn’t an “official” definition of what a planet was before the Pluto affair.
But more crucially, several possible definitions were debated. In the end they retained a definition that excluded Pluto by adding the somewhat obtuse criteria of “has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals” which in fact seems to have been tailored specifically to exclude what are now called “dwarf planets” (probably some people weren’t enthusiastic at the idea of solar system with *dozens* of planets).
But there were serious proposed definitions that didn’t include this criteria. I seem to remember someone proposed that even hydrostatic moons should be counted as “planets”.
So the concept of “space body in hydrostatic equilibrium” is probably not a social construct. But that of “planet”? It’s certainly a lot more suspect (I seem to remember many ancient civilizations didn’t even bother with a distinction between stars and planets).
There are eleventy billion biomedical papers
Papers published and referenced only in academic journals don’t count, at least not yet. They also don’t matter in isolation.
Is this special pleading going to lead to a rehabilitated argument that reads: “There are no people who think there is a link between the allele frequency of genes proven through replicated, peer-reviewed research to impact intelligence and our currently favored thresholds for racial differences who wouldn’t be run out of the universities.”
Because I can agree with that and save us considerable time!
The literal reading of Wrong Species’ post is obviously false, and I would prefer he hadn’t phrased it in quite that way. But, clear hyperbole aside, academic freedom and freedom of speech are not satisfied if you can only speak freely behind closed doors among like-minded colleagues in one’s own subfield. Would it be acceptable to you if climatologists were allowed to publish whatever they wish in climatology journals, but anything involving anthropogenic climate change must never be delivered to any broader audience on pain of the Murray/Summers treatment?
I agree, which is why I support allowing him to speak. That doesn’t obligate me to respect his views, nor does it obligate me to give quarter to misguided attempts at rehabilitating or soft-pedaling them to mask their offense. Pretending there is no space between Murray’s views and any discussion of genetic conceptions of race is an example of such.
Free speech should be defended on its own merits. When you “well actually” distasteful views to make them less so, you are actually doing your original argument a disservice.
How many times do I have to say that this isn’t about Charles Murray before you believe it isn’t about Charles Murray?
I have no problem with people focusing resources on Middlebury attacking Charles Murray, because that was a case where people honestly wanted to learn more about his theories, and people attacked him. It was a good test case, partly because of Murray’s personal characteristics, and partly because of the characteristics of the people inviting him (they were truth-seekers trying to educate themselves, exactly like college students should be).
I don’t think the Harvard students inviting Murray is a good test case, because even if Murray still has good personal characteristics, the reason he was invited was because people wanted to cause controversy, and “oh no, our attempt to cause controversy became controversial, please support us” is not as strong a pitch as “oh no, our attempt to learn about social science became controversial”.
Who is a more important social scientist than Charles Murray?
How, exactly, do you view this as a tractable debate? Suppose he names X, where X is any recipient of the Nobel economics prize in the last decade. Where do you proceed from there? What makes “more important” even remotely arguable, let alone relevant to Scott’s point?
I feel like Steve has to be intentionally missing the point here. The point is not “Charles Murray is an unimportant social scientist”, because he’s not getting invited because he’s an important social scientist but because he pisses people off. We know this because they considered inviting Milo who also pisses people off but is not an important scientist of any stripe and generally doesn’t have anything interesting to say at all.
The question for Harvard is: Whose side are you on?
– The great social scientist who has come up with many uncomfortable findings?
– Or the masked vigilante denialists who want to beat him into silence?
Don’t be so black/white, please.
The goal shouldn’t be to have a polarized environment where people either back Murray 100% or oppose him with violence. It should be an environment where people can agree to disagree and allow their opponents to make their best case and combat that case with arguments/debate if they so please.
Look dude, I don’t know what criteria one might use to decide “who is the most important social scientist” (presumably this includes econ., poli.sci., etc.) but I am certain “talking about Steve Sailer’s hobby horse” ain’t it.
You are playing rhetorical games with status. Why?
The question for Harvard is: Whose side are you on?
Oh God, please don’t make this about sides. Else we’re going to end up with everyone believing the likes of “the word ‘virgin’ comes from moon priestesses” nonsense which thank the powers someone else on Tumblr debunked, because I couldn’t muster up the energy to attack yet more nonsense (there is currently a very approved Twitter thread being reblogged about watermelon and chicken and why this is used as a racist trope against black people and I just can’t anymore with half-truths, undigested propaganda, wishful thinking and inventing and passing off counter-myths to the original false myths).
Can we not have it about “this is an important principle which applies to everyone which we are going to act upon and defend”? I do not want this bogging down in a fight between “HBD is true!” “HBD is racist!” (over on the sub-reddit they’re saying ‘who knew there were so many
racistsHBD enthusiasts on SSC?’)
I’m guessing that those opposed to speakers like Murray will be able to construct a, “Whose side are you on?” challenge more likely to appeal to the typical college adminstrator.
Whose side are you on?
A white male academic from outside the university community who made his name advancing a racist theory of intelligence?
Or students of color who regard this university as their home?
The issue that the current historical moment has provided is:
– Does the distinguished social scientist Charles Murray have a right to make a speech on campus?
– Or do masked blackshirts have a right to stop him By Any Means Necessary?
You can’t try to finesse this by inviting, say, David Brooks and then proclaiming victory if no vigilantes interfere.
In reality, the tide is finally turning, and it would be a shame if Scott helped undermine this healthy trend by getting the vapors over Charles Murray, when academics well to the left of him are recognizing that Murray represents the current test case for our institutions of higher learning.
Thus Cornel West and Robert George responded to the Middlebury disgrace by publishing an open letter proclaiming allegiance to Millian principles, which has gotten many signatures.
Since Middlebury, Columbia and NYU have hosted Murray in a civilized fashion, and Murray is scheduled to speak at Harvard in September. Hopefully, that will happen in a civilized manner too, thus putting the prestige of the Harvard example behind the principles enunciated by West and George.
I think the reason they started this movement( or whatever you want to call it), is because when you start basing your invitations on academics, it’s easy enough to say that someone who has an opinion you don’t like shouldn’t be considered a credible speaker. They undermine that objection by saying that they are deliberately courting controversial figures instead of basing it off of established credibility, but in reality they’re still probably supporting people who are at least coherent. It’s just a cover.
I’m not sure how these speeches at US universities work but why does the speaker have to be ‘credible’ and who decides whether he is? How do they actually select the speakers? I suppose given that the students are clients of the university who essentially rent out the campus for quite stupendous fees, it should work on demand – the more demand there is for a speaker the more likely that that speaker will be invited. Also, who pays for those talks? Is it paid directly by the members of the student organizations which invite them or by the university? I can sort of understand that some people are annoyed that their fees are used to invite people they would not want to see invited if it is the latter case. But then the solution is simple – cut the student fees proportionately by the talk budget and require that anyone who wants someone invited cover the costs of that talk himself while allocation physical space for the talk based on demand (or even better by allowing the students to bid for the room-hour with money, after all if I really really want to see someone I should be allowed to pay for that – the university can then for example use the extra money it collects this way to improve the facilities, thus benefiting even those who were outbidded).
Agreed, this in fact appears to be about you trying to rationalize away your cognitive dissonance between wanting to support free speech and wanting to fit in with a social circle that opposes these invitations.
This would seem to be an argument against using test cases at all. If I want to make a point about free speech, I have to use someone whose speech will provoke objections. That’s a pretty big list, but it obviously means I can’t invite Barack Obama or George Stephanopolous or someone equally unlikely to provoke complaints.
Similarly, the NAACP had to put someone on that bus who would be kicked out of the seat. They had an even wider set of choices, but they did have to pick a black person.
This really is the whole point.
It’s been a long time since I read something on a comments page that actually changed an already-formed opinion.
I don’t know if the feedback is useful, but if it is: This seems to have been the right way to write this.
Maybe you’re attacking this from the wrong angle. How should free speech proponents fight back?
I think some of the language used at large re the Middlebury incident and also in this post and comments is misguided.
The issue of Free Speech has to be distinguished from the issue of scholarly investigation. Murray’s rights were not violated at Middlebury as Murray has no right to be heard at Middlebury. If he were being hounded into general silence and giving up his work, that would be different but is not what happened. The failure at Middlebury was a failure of an academic community in carrying out its educative process and training in scholarly professionalism.
This distinction should be kept in mind when considering the phrase “test case.” Middlebury was not an example of some kind of “trial run” for “Free Speech Rights” whose final performance is in a public square. Instead, it was an actual failure by an actual academic community. The violence really did succeed in keeping people in that academic community from engaging with Murray.
If you limit the testing of academic institutions’ reaction to controversy to pure cases of scholarly engagement, when the “test” fails, actual scholarly engagement fails too.
I guess you would prefer to see institutions do some kind of institutional introspection after a failure and commit to doing things right next time. A different approach–the Harvard approach–might be thought of as similar to exposure therapy. And in fact I think this is not entirely analogical. There is fear going on here–maybe not the trembling, physiological aspects but the aspect of fear in which the subject cannot see how to deal with something aside from avoidance. The failure at Middlebury was not an intellectual failure regarding the principle of “free speech,” it was a much more wholistic failure regarding life in a world of controversies and uncertainty. Having a controversial speaker series is very much like exposure therapy if not an actual form of exposure therapy.
For this “exposure therapy” to actually work, it is important for the academic community to really listen to the speakers and engage with them rather doing their avoidance behavior (violent protests, shutting down speeches, etc). In that sense, it is true that simply inviting the most controversial speakers to campus and creating unrest is not helpful.
But that’s not what’s going on in the case of Harvard. Notice that they are not inviting Milo because he heckles. If they just wanted to rile people up, he could do it, but “That’s not really what we’re about.” What they are doing is inviting speakers to whom the academic community at large has previously failed to react appropriately. Their aim is actually to create engagement and model behavior.
The choice of thinkers who have been treated inappropriately in the past by academic institutions is important because what they should not do is invite some deplorable person, engage in finger-pointing and denunciations, and then say, “ah, but we’re going to give them a forum because Free Speech.” That would be pointless and would not be what academia is about. They should invite someone, restrain from finger-pointing, and then development their own thought.
Part of the process of choosing campus speakers and part of professional scholarship should be figuring out who is important to listen to. (Not necessarily who is good to listen to, but who is important.) This is not an easy thing like “people who hold X opinion can be ruled out,” but something students actually need to practice doing. There are probably heuristics like influence, data synthesis, academic degrees to guide people but ultimately it has to be decided based on practice. So having controversial speakers qua controversial speakers to campus can actually have value.
I don’t think that Harvard club is inviting Charles Murray in order to cause controversy. He was invited to support free speech. If his invitation causes controversy, then that’s on his opponents, not on him or the Harvard club.
I think it is similar to someone saying, “you’re just trying to offend me!” It takes two to tango to have something be offensive. If we always take the offended person’s word on it, we incentivize utility monsters who self-modify to where they can’t help but take offense against everything they even trivially don’t like. To get past this, usually the standard would be, “Would a “reasonable person” find this offensive?” Sadly, what passes for a “reasonable person” nowadays is quite skewed.
I think a reasonable person should not find Charles Murray’s work controversial, if by “controversial” we mean it in the most pejorative sense of the word–not as something constructive that fosters debate (what the word ought to mean, in which case yes, Charles Murray’s work is controversial), but as something that is taboo for some transgression of something sacred.
Claudette Colvin refuses to give up her seat, but she was not defended by the NAACP because she was an unmarried teenage mother and that doesn’t make a good figurehead. Nine months later, Rosa Parks was chosen to stage another bus incident for the NAACP to fight over. They picked someone who would cause as little outrage as possible.
So the Rosa Parks example doesn’t really support your argument here, since she represents making choices based on tactics rather than principles in this sort of fight.
Well yes, I believe their point is that Murray represents a choice made based on tactics.
Yes, and the “Claudette Colvin” in this analogy would be Yiannopolos, Murray & Peterson are the tactical choice.
Analogies are difficult. I need help understanding how Scott’s advice to the free-speech advocates at Harvard is not analogous to urging the NAACP to look for a Rosa Parks who would not only attract public sympathy, but could also pass for white.
Ah, this distinction makes sense.
Free speech is a useful resource and should be spent to defend ideas that are being silenced.
The political act of defending free speech is like any other political act, and should be executed with the standard tools, like sympathetic stories and having famous people with positive affect endorse it.
The mistake made is thinking that using it publicly and expensively is the same as defending it, but this is simply a confusion.
I wonder if (unpopular) movements have the option of choosing their heroes, as Scott suggests above.
I don’t think most proponents for religious liberty around same sex marriage would have chosen a middle-aged frumpy overweight white woman whose clothes were likely purchased at the same time and place as light bulbs, with a personal history inviting charges of hypocrisy with a poor case on the merits as their avatar.
But, we were all treated to unflattering pictures of Kim Davis to go along with every story. Compare those to the type of pictures we see accompanying stories about Sally Yates.
So, I’m not sure if free speech proponents have the option of choosing “attractive” poster children, given a hostile media environment. I suspect that if the movement had a Rosa Parks and a Caludette Colvin, our feeds would be filled with stories and unflattering pictures of Colvin.
So, assuming this strategy is prudent, and I am open to Scott’s conclusion that it’s not, I’m not sure they could do better than Murray — he ssems like someone the SJWs would find outrageous, but most others would not after a bit of research.
Given today’s media environment, even if you would choose Rosa Parks, there would be hundreds of articles painting her in the worst possible light, using quotes taken out of context, twisting her words, or publishing complete fabrications. And then, someone would cry “why did these people waste their strategic resources on such horrible person, when they could have chosen someone uncontroversial instead”.
Thirded — this is a very important point.
None of us are saints (except maybe Neil Gorsuch, of course.) Journalists can make anyone look bad, and when the other side controls journalism, any test case you bring forward is going to get enthusiastically smeared in the press. You want the Rosa Parks of free speech? She will not be permitted to exist. Sorry.
To be sure, there’s no need to make it easy for them (so Milo wouldn’t be a great choice of test cases no matter what) but it’s foolish to think there’s any person alive they wouldn’t try to take down.
Very much that. There is anti-value in being very reasonable in such a scenario. The nicest people don’t get reasonable treatment, they just get slandered without them being able to fight back or they are ignored completely.
Anyone who opposes the aims of the popular will, by virtue of that fact and by virtue of that fact alone, become cast as a horrible person bereft of redeeming qualities who is utterly Anathema. Because the people saying this are popular, people will be unable to stop themselves from believing it. It will be widely accepted truth because it is asserted to be so by the popular.
The popular can never, ever be defeated. There is no way out but death. There will be no glorious upheaval, there will be no change. They will devour all.
Speaking tactically, there are trade-offs. You gain the most ground for the principle of free speech by having the most maximally offensive person as the test case, and winning. Of course, the most maximally offensive case is more likely to lose. Offensiveness could be judged on the basis of ideas, or on the basis of the person’s comportment.
Finding the minimally offensive person that will still be contested advances the principle marginally. It may just as well advance the cause of “inoffensive speech is protected, and that particular speech was wrongly placed on the offensive side before. (Analogous to Beyesian conservation of evidence) Or, if you lose with the minimally offensive case, you give up the most ground and do the most damage to the principle.
What will have the most expected pay-off for taking a stand depends on where exactly the overton window is on free speech, and how inept or offensive in their own way one’s opponents are. Perhaps this case was a poor choice, strategically, but I don’t think Scott has shown enough of his work to prove that.
After all, the counter example to Rosa Parks is the ACLU defending Nazis. Pretty sure they considered the optics on that and decided that a win would establish such a wide bounds for free speech as to be worth the risk of unsympathetic examples.
Without rehashing my previous comment, I would just say the perspective in this comment is what I disagree with. The university system should not be a laboratory for the political system. The focus on “winning” a “free speech” “case” regarding scholars speaking at a university is wrong-headed IMO. The goal for an academic talk should not be simple tolerance. For this reason, I disagree that finding the maximally offensive speaker is useful or even purposeful, but I also disagree with Scott that having a controversial speakers series is a mistake.
I was not arguing what the purpose of a university was, but with Scott’s assertion that Free Speech must be protected by only being associated with benign causes and the civil rights analogy.
Eh? No need to apologize for disagreeing in good faith. Clarity is the responsibility of the speaker/commenter, and differences of opinion will not offend [me].
But no “deliberate search for the ugliest and most-hateable person you can find” is going to land on Murray and Petersen. So it’s clear that that’s not what the Harvard students are doing, and continuing to imply that they are is not helpful.
From the Inside Higher Ed article you linked, a quote from the organizer: “Most of the community wants to hear from the people we’re inviting, they want to critique them, ask them hard questions, and they’re willing to be convinced. If they’re not convinced, their perception of the truth can be reinforced by the opposing view”.
He says, Milo is “not really what we’re about”, and also that they intend to invite liberal speakers in the future.
Does that sound like somebody blindly trolling the opposition with “ugly” “hate-able” speech?
Yes, they selected controversial speakers. But their goal does not seem to be to offend, it’s to give a platform to ideas they see value in discussing that were denied a platform elsewhere. How the heck would you support free speech without someone doing that? If their goal was to deliberately generate offense and controversy, they could have very easily found much worse.
Rosa Parks may not have been the most provocative spokesperson possible. But she was still plenty damn provocative, and deliberately so – that was the whole point. The equivalent to your position isn’t picking Rosa Parks over Claudette Colvin, it’s scrapping the whole thing and just having a white person in the front of the bus politely say “gee it would be nice if black folks could sit here too”.
On the one hand, I appreciate that this post limits your position to deliberate trolling type behavior, but on the other I’m almost more bothered now that you’ve doubled down on your assessment of the Harvard event as trolling. Again, I think the “banned books fair” comparison is helpful. Are you also opposed to those?
I think this is the basic nature of my objection to his original post as well. Now that he’s clarified it a bit, I don’t think I seriously disagree with the general principle so much as his choice of using the Harvard students as the concrete example.
That having been said, an argument one could make against the actual principle (an argument which Jordan Peterson himself has made iirc): Sometimes you should deliberately seek out really offensive ideas and give them a platform, if you suspect that those ideas are representative of common but unspoken beliefs in your society.
If the ideas see the light of day, they can be subjected to criticisms and become grounded by the wisdom of the crowd.
If the ideas are never given a platform (or worse, actively censored), then people don’t stop BELIEVING them, they just stop ADMITTING they believe them.
Since there’s no process by which the ideas are brought down to earth, they also gradually lose touch with reality as a consequence. (Plus, of course, there’s always the chance that the idea is true or partially true, which means you might benefit from hearing it).
All of that having been said, I don’t think anyone can seriously accuse Scott of doing anything wrong in this respect. I’d argue that debating something is the best way to give it a platform, since you do both steps (providing a platform/grounding an idea through criticism) in one move. I would have never taken certain ideologies even remotely seriously if I hadn’t seen Scott debate them first – and even though I still don’t subscribe to those viewpoints, I’m more open to learning from them now.
I’m all for free speech, but this just seems like wishful thinking. If we had censorship, it’s a lot easier to stop the spread of ideas. If no one was legally allowed to share a certain opinion, then how is it going to spread? Through shady websites and word of mouth. Those don’t have nearly the exposure that the rest of the media has and won’t reach nearly as many people.
This may have been true 25 years ago, but I think it is becoming rapidly less true every day.
Are you sure about that?
That is evidence, but it’s not terribly strong. If I were a Chinese resident, my response to a random person showing me that photo would be that I have no idea what it is and I am certainly not familiar with any dates or locations related to it.
I thought that too but the way the author worded it made it seem like that probably wasn’t the case. If the students knew about it but were simply too scared to say anything, it probably would have been more obvious that they were hiding something. But yes, a better case be would probably be some anonymous survey of Chinese students in America right after they got here.
China censors the Internet, though, so this is a bad comparison to the West.
Also, Chinese people seem to be way less anti-authoritarian than Westerners.
I don’t get it. So they’re supposed to raise awareness of free speech by inviting… completely uncontroversial speakers whom no-one could possibly object to?
I think part of what Dr. Scott is getting at can probably be condensed into the truism that “If you shout at me I won’t listen”, or “If you piss me off, I’m unlikely to think about your point”, and that if you want people to *GET* it you have to keep the volume down to keep the ears open.
Dr. S isn’t talking about the inputs or the outputs, but about the construction of the process. If your process is designed to yell as loud as you can get away with you’re doing it wrong. If you want to convince people that free speech is valuable then you might not want to arrange to burn the town down around their ears.
If your goal is to discuss and defend free speech then you SHOULD be focusing on that, and not on making your opponents look like dick heads. Especially when they’ve repeatedly shown they are actually really dick heads.
The thing is that if you want to have a discussion about *free speech* that generates a riot Milo is a better pick than either Murray or Peterson, because that is what Milo is focused on. Well, that and promoting the most important person in the world, Milo.
If you want to generate a discussion about free speech that SHOULDN’T start a riot, pick a people who aren’t currently causing riots but who *can* articulate their position. Then when you get crystal nacht 2017 you really can hammer the brownshirts.
AAAAAGH NO I’M NOT SAYING THAT!
Invite Charles Murray because you liked The Bell Curve and you want to learn more about it. Don’t invite him because he seems controversial and offensive.
By my count, over the last third of a century, Murray has published three social science bestsellers — Losing Ground, The Bell Curve (co-written with the great Herrnstein), and Coming Apart — that have been major subjects of debate, plus, my favorite, Human Accomplishment, which was overlooked due to its difficulty and the post Bell Curve backlash.
Murray is in the same league with Pinker, Chomsky, and E.O. Wilson. I’d say his accomplishments outrank, say, Robert Putnam’s or Jared Diamond’s, although they’d be close.
All of these individuals have faced backlashes trying to shut them down to one degree or another. Putnam, for example, self-censored his big study of diversity’s effects on social capital for half a decade.
S.J. Gould’s widow has been helping cultural anthropologists try to get Diamond for about a decade.
Chomsky’s foreign policy writings almost never show up in American mainstream media.
E.O. Wilson was physically attacked at a 1970s scientific conference.
Pinker has probably faced the least trouble, partly because you don’t want to mess with Pinker. Malcolm Gladwell tried to tar Pinker by association with me, and Pinker made Gladwell a national laughing stock.
Is the number of copies of books aimed at and sold to the general public any kind of measure of a scientist?
Has he published anything in the last 20 years reviewed by his peers?
The rewards would be enormous for disproving “The Bell Curve.” But, 23 years later, nobody has managed to claim that prize. I’m sure it will happen Real Soon Now, though.
As judged by one Steve Sailer?
I noticed you didn’t answer the questions …
It’s like calling Matt Ridley a great scientist. Yes he’s technically qualified as a scientist (in zoology) and yes he’s sold a lot of books, but most of them are summaries of other people’s research packaged for a lay audience. That might be good writing, journalism, education, what have you, but it’s not capital-S ~Science~
“The Bell Curve,” for example, features a massive analysis of the first decade of data from the crucial National Longitudinal Study of Youth 79 database.
By the way, we now have another quarter of a century of results from NLSY79, plus data on over 5,000 children of women who participate in NLSY79, so if you want to analyze the data to show where Herrnstein and Murray were wrong, it’s available.
The non sequiturs will continue until morale improves?
Yes, Murray published articles in relatively high impact factor journals up until the late 2000s. He’s at least five times as cited as a random professor from his discipline.
“Is the number of copies of books aimed at and sold to the general public any kind of measure of a scientist?”
Yes. It is not a very good measure of how much that scientist added to the total knowledge of scientists, but it is a measure of how much he added to the total knowledge about science of the general public.
Consider two kinds of intellectuals. One is the person at the cutting edge of the field, advancing knowledge by discovering things nobody knew. The other is the synthesist/popularizer, the person taking what the first group have discovered, putting it together in a form that people not at the cutting edge can understand, and making it available to the general public in a form sufficiently interesting and understandable so that many of them get it.
Sometimes both are the same person–Keynes or Kahneman or Hayek. Sometimes they are different people–Ridley vs Coase. For a lecture to a general audience, the second kind is more useful than the first, although someone who is both is probably the best of all.
The same distinction exists at an intermediate level within a field. I remember hearing Harold Demsetz quip that he should have gotten the Nobel instead of Coase, since he had written many more articles about Coase’s ideas than Coase had.
And it exists within politics and ideology. Bill Buckley somewhere wrote that he was not an original thinker. His job was to take the ideas of people on his side who were and make them generally available.
Steve did you read Clark Glymour’s essay on the Bell Curve? Closely enough to form an opinion? What was it and why?
Phrases like “massive analysis” and “longitudinal study” are not particularly frightening. Lots of people run lots of analyses on lots of data sets. The longitudinal nature of the data and its size have little to do with whether the analysis makes sense.
I think if you say things like “disproving The Bell Curve,” I am not sure we are on the same page about what statistical analysis actually does.
How do you distinguish between an excellent science journalist and a scientist-popularizer? On the basis of credentials and employer?
Here’s a recent discussion of Glymour’s 1990s’ critique:
I appreciated this guy’s detailed take, but I think he took the wrong lesson from Clark’s critique. Namely, he thinks:
“Glymour certainly does not trust the current statistical methods.”
No. Clark absolutely trusts _appropriate_ current methods for determining causality. He just doesn’t trust the causal oversell of psychometric methods (and he’s absolutely correct).
(I am not trying to be Clark’s spokesperson here, or put words in his mouth, but I am pretty sure I broadly understand the CMU position here).
I think this blogger confuses what passes for causal methods in psychometrics for “all current statistical methods.” That’s a pretty crazy conflation.
But that’s the take of whoever that blogger is. What’s your take?
I don’t think I do. The popularizer might be a journalist who understands science or a scientist who understands how to popularize ideas. Why would which he was matter?
…Jared Diamond is a world-class social scientist? I just knew him as a terrible hack popular-science anthropologist. Like, I thought Guns, Germs, and Steel was considered unacceptable not because it’s wrong-think but because it’s factually wrong in all kinds of ways.
Weird, most of the criticism I’ve read seemed to strawman his arguments and made some really reach-y claims of their own. Do you have anything worthwhile to read on the subject?
Cultural anthropologists used to be media darlings back in Margaret Mead’s day, but nobody pays much attention to them anymore. Outsiders like Jared Diamond get more of the attention that once went to cultural anthropologists these days, and thus Diamond makes some cultural anthropologists envious.
Re Jared Diamond:
He wrote a review of some books on saga period Iceland. It was a while back, but, as I remember:
1. He offered as evidence of how badly the system worked a very bloody pirate raid, without mentioning that it occurred after the end of the system he was criticizing, at a point when Iceland was under the rule of the king of Norway.
2. He argued that the non-territorial nature of the system made violence more likely, without mentioning that one of the books he was supposed to be reviewing, by someone who was actually a student of that society, made precisely the opposite claim.
3. His main claim, which may well have been correct, was that Iceland looked a lot like Norway but the ecology was much more fragile, with the result that the Icelanders destroyed it by doing the same things that had worked in Norway. That would have been equally true if Iceland had been under Norwegian rule rather than a semi-stateless society. So it was irrelevant to his central argument, which was an attack on the Icelandic system, a point he never, as best I recall, acknowledged.
One of my tactics for evaluating sources of information is to find some area of overlap between what a source writes about and what I know and judge the source on the basis of that.
My wife’s criticism was that part of his argument depended on the lack of animals in Africa suitable for domestication. Zebras are equids. Apparently they have been taught to pull carts, although not to be ridden–and there is no reason to believe that wouldn’t have been true of the ancestors of the current domestic horses.
@David: Indeed, there seems to be quite a lot of evidence that early domesticated horses weren’t suitable for riding. The prevalence of war chariots as opposed to actual cavalry seems to be one of those. The horses of the time probably did not have the anatomy as well as behaviour suitable to carry humans on their backs. It took generations of breeding to create the horses we know today and even medieval horses were nowhere near as huge as the modern ones. But once the horses were bred to a point where one could ride them into battle, chariots disappeared. You could probably breed zebras in a similar way and possibly you could turn the American lammas into something more like a camel over time (although the differences between camels and lammas in terms of how many changes you’d need seem to be larger than with zebras and horses).
And in Africa you had forest elephants, which were trained and domesticated (it seems they actually employed Indian mahouts even during the Punnic wars but nothing prevented the development of domestication of elephants in Africa) and they hardly make a worse beast of burden than horses do.
I actually thought the livestock/agriculture part of GGS was among the strongest sections.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to say “we domesticated horses, therefore we should be able to domesticate zebras.” Creatures within one species may vary widely but they resemble each other – in appearance and behavior – more than they do more distant relations.
Humans have domesticated several types of large split-hoof ruminants – this doesn’t mean that European tarus cattle react to humans and the environment the same way as Indian zebu cows. Likewise, yaks, water buffalo, gar and bali cattle are all domesticated and have different behavior patterns, while bison and cape buffalo remain not at domesticated.
Llamas are quite domesticated, and are actually more tractable than old world camels. (There are no true wild populations of dromedary camels.) Alpacas are also domesticated – vincuna are the nondomesticated ancestor-cousins.
People have been trying to domesticate zebras for some time, but have not done so. It is certainly possible that a dedicated program along the lines of the Seberian fox could eventually have an effect, but I think the people most set up to do so are focusing on recreating the quagga.
My point isn’t that we know zebras could be domesticated. It’s that his argument depended on our knowing they couldn’t, and we don’t know that. He was (this is by memory of something I read quite a long time ago) offering explanations of why civilization had developed early in some places but not others, and one part of it was that Africa had no species suitable for domestication.
@ David –
I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that we can’t prove a negative (ie we can prove zebras CAN be domesticated, but we can’t prove that they CAN’T) and that’s the basis of your disagreement?
(And yes, that’s the gist of the argument as I understand it, that Africa lacked (easily) domesticated animals, which were essential to shifting to a sedentary lifestyle, and hence to all the things (metallurgy, food excess, large group coordination) that flowed from that.)
It’s possible that this isn’t correct – european cattle domestication may have come from only 80-200 original cattle, which isn’t a lot, so that bunch of europeans might have gotten lucky with a bunch of other wise intractable aurochs. But, on the other hand, there were also the zebu cattle, plus water buffalo, etc, etc…and horses definately were domesticated in several regions, and modern geese are a combination of two (+?) wild species…so this domestication thing was being tried all the time everywhere.
It’s *odd* that it didn’t work in Africa (except with guinea fowl, who are less domesticated than cats.)
I wonder if domestication succeeded in other areas because the ‘approachable’ species in that area didn’t grow up/evolve with humans/savannah apes, and so didn’t have the same level of instinctive avoidance to over come. (See: the hostility of African honey bees vs honey bees from other regions.)
I am saying that we have no reason to believe the negative.
We know that civilization, including the domestication of animals, didn’t happen in location X. There are two possible theories:
1. It didn’t happen because there were no animals suitable to be domesticated in X.
2. It didn’t happen for some other reason. One result of not having a civilization in X was that people didn’t domesticate animals, a process that takes many generations.
We observe that zebras in Africa were not domesticated. That is consistent with both theory 1 and theory 2, so isn’t evidence for theory 1, which is how it is being offered. We have no evidence on whether they would have been domesticated if the project ran as long as the project for domesticating horses ran, and some evidence that they would have been, since zebras have been used (I believe) for pulling things although not for riding, which seems to be what horses were used for early on.
And, of course, zebras are close relatives of horses.
We know that zebras aren’t readily suitable for domestication precisely because they were used to pull carriages.
The fact that these domestication attempts did not lead to domesticated zebras is evidence in favor of the hypothesis, not against it.
Diamond’s premise proved too much. You could start with his premise and just as easily take the most racist possible conclusion. Start with the assumption that African animals are violent and stupid while European animals were less violent and smarter because “environment,” then say that “man is an animal also,” so therefore Africans didn’t develop civilizations like Europeans because…you get the idea.
The entire book is motivated reasoning. The prologue is him talking to a New Guinean who asks why his people have so little and Europeans have so much, so he sets out to tell a just-so story.
No, that zebras can pull carts is evidence they’re not significantly different from the ancestors of modern horses and could have been domesticated over time if anyone had bothered. Domestication is a breeding process, that takes many generations. You put all the animals in a pen, and the ones that are the most temperamental you kill, only allowing the most docile to breed. Over many generations you eliminate the foul temperament from your stock. Ancient Africans never bothered to do this with zebras, but people are doing it now, and in a few hundred years perhaps we will have riding zebras.
That fact that zebras can currently pull carts but not be ridden is not evidence that zebras cannot be domesticated. It’s evidence that they are domesticable, but have not yet been domesticated.
In your opinion, are these people detrimental to free speech / drawing unfairly from the commons? If not, what do you think distinguishes them from the Harvard group, who seem mostly interested in hearing from disinvited academics?
I’m genuinely interested, because Banned Books Week seems like a laudable organization despite their explicit focus on controversial books rather than books on any particular subject – their top 10 includes both the Bible and Fifty Shades, for crying out loud. And I’m having a hard time separating that from the stated goals of the Harvard organizers.
I do feel your frustration– but ultimately, if the statement you’re trying to make is, “I refuse to let your threats and violence determine what I can and cannot do” then, necessarily, you have to invite someone who will make that point clear. And, if we’re to continue as a free and democratic society, then that message needs to be sent. Learning more about Murray’s books from 20-30 years ago is entirely secondary, and could just as easily be done with YouTube videos (or, hey, actually reading the books).
Murray is a great choice. Invite him, let him speak, and then have a detailed and precise debate about the merits of various sources he used, his statistical methods, etc. He’s making an academic argument: meet him with academic counter-arguments. Disagree with his arguments, on the merits, but make it clear that you won’t be intimidated by threats from anyone– perfect. Bonus points for proving that many of the protesters, even the faculty protesters, haven’t done the most basic intellectual “due diligence” of reading his work and making up their own minds– and how that makes them look really awful, and blows their credibility.
As lots of commenters have already said: there are many, Many, MANY more offensive speakers that could have been invited. “Men’s rights” advocates. Sharia law advocates. Neo-Nazis (the real ones). Conspiracy theorists (many choices!) Even Milo! But they’ve stuck with speakers who are making a rigorous, academic argument, which can (potentially) be refuted with rigorous counter-argument. So do that: get out there and refute him, if you can! But even more important, demonstrate with your actions that you won’t give lawless, violent people a veto over your mind and actions.
And whom do you invite if you want to stake out a claim about free speech?
I think all you need is to plausibly make a weak case for “because you liked The Bell Curve and you want to learn more about it”
Inviting as controversial of a figure as you can get away with (Milo), with the intention of soliciting a big emotional response. While defending yourself with reasoned arguments, free speech, and want-to-learn seems by far the superior strategy.
When the fight comes, its easy to win when your right.
Note: this only works if you actually are right (defending something so obviously valuable like free speech).
The interesting corollary to this and the previous article is that if you want to destroy free speech, you simply need to draw on the commons more than is sustainable. That’s an interesting view into people like Milo, Neo Nazis, and the KKK; they claim protection under freedom of speech in order to attempt to destroy it, because they believe that if they can destroy it, they can claim power.
Well, that view takes for granted that Scott’s analogy holds, and that people like Milo etc. share Scott’s perspective.
Of course it takes for granted that the analogy holds. That’s what the word corollary means.
Very well, but you were still wrong. If Scott’s analogy holds that doesn’t grant that Milo etc believe it. In other words, your assertion that “they claim protection under freedom of speech in order to attempt to destroy it, because they believe that if they can destroy it, they can claim power.” is not supported.
There appear to be two ways of interpreting these posts, and I’m having trouble telling which one is intended:
1) The campus organizations shouldn’t be intentionally trying to create test cases for free speech, since it will require them to invite controversial speakers that nobody is particularly interested in listening in and burn goodwill towards free speech advocacy
2) It’s good to create test cases for free speech, but in doing so, the campus organization should make sure that people they select are able to advocate whatever controversial position they hold with impeccable academic rigor, so that they avoid burning goodwill towards free speech advocacy, and maybe also stay away from the super-extra controversial cases just to be safe.
Scott, I think you buried the lede. Murray and Peterson are the most controversial persons the Harvard Students can think of? That’s… almost unbelievably tame. Are you sure these guys were trying to be transgressive?
Everyone to the right of Paul Ryan is basically a nazi as far as university students are concerned. They don’t really see degrees.
That’s a major overgeneralization of university students. The organizer identifies himself as a libertarian, and considered but rejected inviting Milo, so he and his group certainly recognize degrees.
And actually this will probably go off okay at Harvard. In the Inside Higher Ed article, the person organizing a protest against Petersen plans to hand out fliers outside, and have people (silently) hold up little flags when Petersen says something they find objectionable, but otherwise let him speak.
If that’s how it really goes down, it all seems quite reasonable and positive as a counter-example of how controversial people and ideas ought to be handled. Exactly the opposite of commons-destroying: commons-expanding, because they’ll have proved Charles Murray can be handled peacefully, thus expanding the realm of allowable speaking (or at least “allowable words that actually get spoken”), while following Scott’s advice would reduce it.
Note: the Peterson event already happened (Monday night) and apparently went off with some quiet protest but no disruption. See my links in a post below. Good job everyone (sincerely).
Over the last few years, there has been an uptick on campus in violence and intolerance against intellectual dissenters above the usual level of the last half century. In particular, the rise of masked thugs is an ominous turn.
The Middlebury disgrace struck a lot of people who had been keeping their heads down as particularly shameful. It might mark a tipping point away from the slide toward street violence on campus against heretics. Hence, it’s time for responsible people to take a stand around Charles Murray’s right to speak on campus.
This clarification still leaves the main issue that many people had with the previous post: that deliberate provocation of the fanatic “regressive left” is likely the best way to fight them. This can be likened to a civil disobedience campaign, where the whole point is to do something purely because (1) you are (or, rather, should be) entitled to do it, and (2) your unreasonable opposition will act unreasonable in the face of it.
Think of the lunch-counter sit-ins of the 1950s and 1960s, or of Gandhi making salt. He made salt because it was something the British wouldn’t let him do. In order to protest against the intolerant “regressives” who violently chased Murray out of Middlebury or violently forced UC Berkeley to shut down Milo’s talk, we must deliberately invite people who will provoke them – because only then is it an act of defiance. Defy, defy, defy!
When you say, “Somebody “looking for the most controversial speakers” is pursuing what they think is offensive, and any truth caused is unintentional”, I reply that Gandhi was pursuing what he thought would provoke the British – the salt that he made was incidental to his essential act of defiance.
I think this is incomplete: Gandhi made salt because it was something the British wouldn’t let him do, but also because it was something that he could be confident reasonable, fair-minded people thought the British should let him do. The same for sitting at lunch counters: it provoked those who believed black people shouldn’t sit at segregated lunch counters–but there was good reason to believe it would emphatically not provoke the ordinary people reading about the backlash in the papers. Violence, riots, and murder would have been even more provocative to the British/Southern authorities, but would have been no good for a civil disobedience campaign, because they would have also provoked those whose sympathy the campaigns were trying to win.
A good civil disobedience campaign makes your side look reasonable, and the other side unreasonable, disproportionate, and cruel. This means that you need to understand what your audience is likely to find reasonable, proportionate, etc. Since most people don’t like Nazis, people are less likely to think students are being unreasonable if they disrupt a speaking engagement by Rocky Suhayda; even though he’s maximally provocative, he’s not going to win sympathy to your cause.
Most of the debate in the comments seems to me to be over whether Charles Murray and Jordan Peterson are actually the sorts of people who the kind of person that thinks of themselves as fair-minded and reasonable people will object to, which I have no particular opinion on. But I would not be surprised if someone like Milo is not particularly sympathetic to such a person, and if I’m right, inviting Milo would not be a provocation analogous to other civil disobedience campaigns.
As far as I can tell, you didn’t really disagree with what I wrote, so your tone puzzles me.
Gandhi made salt because it was something the British wouldn’t let him do, but also because it was something that he could be confident reasonable, fair-minded people thought the British should let him do.
I mentioned this in my original post: that the defiant action is taken because you are (or, rather, should be) entitled to do it (my criterion (1) for when this kind of protest works). I think this covers what you mentioned. I also think that fair, reasonable people should be okay with there being a talk by Charles Murray (who, as a real, accomplished social scientist who doesn’t hold extreme views is an excellent choice). I even think that fair, reasonable people should not balk at having a Milo talk on campus. Milo may be a provocateur by trade, but nothing he says is sufficient in my eyes to justify, say, what happened at UC Berkeley.
Most of the debate in the comments seems to me to be over whether Charles Murray and Jordan Peterson are actually the sorts of people who the kind of person that thinks of themselves as fair-minded and reasonable people will object to
While most of this discussion seems to center on the character of Charles Murray, Scott’s whole post was to say that the character of Murray wasn’t the point.
Scott said that he opposed in principle this idea of deliberately choosing a controversial speaker (and you would only do that in order to try to provoke a reaction, i.e. because that’s precisely what the other side will react to). I am responding to point out that this exact idea was employed by Gandhi and during the sit-ins. I feel that defiance against unreasonableness is in itself a worthy goal (if that defiance is expressed by a non-horrid action – see point (1) above) and tactically sound; whereas Scott seems to think that defiance alone is not a good justification and not tactically sound.
With regards to “good justification”, to each his own (though I think my case is clearly stronger); with regards to “tactically sound”, I think the case is clearly overwhelmingly in favor of it working.
So the test then is “would a reasonable person find these speakers objectionable?” I can understand average, non-political people getting uncomfortable about Murray’s topics, as most people are not comfortable talking about race. Peterson, however, is almost entirely inoffensive. He sounds like Kermit the Frog and talks about how Pinocchio is a nice story for understanding how individuals grow up and make moral decisions.
I don’t think anyone should protest Murray, but I can at least understand why they would. But if your campus is rioting against Peterson, and you have a culture defending the rioting, your culture has serious, serious problems, and making everyone aware of them is the only way to start fixing them.
The difference with the Rosa Parks case is that they were trying to gain something they did not have before. We have free speech. What you’re suggesting is that even after Parks won, Claudette Colvin should not sit at the front of the bus, because we need to defend the right of sitting anywhere on the bus. It’s absurd, and tantamount to giving up the right of sitting anywhere on the bus.
Do we really have free speech though? Don’t you think if we had free speech, things like this and this wouldn’t happen? If we had free speech, wouldn’t Milo be able to speak at an event hosted at UC Berkeley (note that Milo was booked by a student group, not by UC Berkeley itself, but UC Berkeley asserted the authority to shut it down anyway)? You can’t even fall back on the idea that UC Berkeley is a private university – it operates officially as an arm of the California government!
Universities are not obligated to invite every single person outside the mainstream. Not even government ones. That’s why trying to decide whether we have free speech based on the composition of invited speakers doesn’t really make sense. Diversity of thought is still very important but not being given a microphone is completely different than arresting somebody for what they said.
I specifically mentioned that Milo was invited by an independent student group (Berkeley College Republicans), not by UC Berkeley itself.
Furthermore, cancellation of an invitation due to violent acts is censorship – it just transfers the power to censor to anyone who can muster a violent mob (for example the Black Bloc).
Universities aren’t obligated to support everyone a student group invites either. If a student group invited Bashar Al-Assad to speak at their university, I wouldn’t blame them for cancelling it either.
I do agree with your second paragraph though. Cancelling an invite because mobs might become violent is the worst thing a university can do. It’s just legitimizing violence.
Public universities like Berkeley aren’t permitted to engage in viewpoint-based discrimination. They don’t have to offer a venue to student groups, but if they do any rules have to be viewpoint neutral.
Private universities like Harvard aren’t so bound. It can of course be publicly measured against any academic freedom or free speech principles it’s espoused, and judged thereby, and that can have effects on future actions. (But if it chooses to take the heat, it can be as arbitrary as it cares to.)
Students and faculty may also have rights under any rules the university has voluntarily adopted.
“Cancelling an invite because mobs might become violent is the worst thing a university can do. It’s just legitimizing violence.”
No, there are worse things:
– Letting mobs become violent (e.g., by not enforcing anti-KKK laws against wearing masks in public for purposes of intimidation)
– Not punishing afterwards those who were violent.
Interestingly, your Assad example almost happened a couple of weeks ago (it was Syrian ministers rather than Assad, and the talk wasn’t cancelled).
Actually… government entities, including state universities, **ARE** required to be viewpoint neutral, when allowing student-run bodies to use government facilities for invited speakers. If the university lets official student groups invite speakers, they can’t ban certain invitations because they don’t like the viewpoints expressed. The “mainstream” (whatever that is) plays no part in decisions like this.
Boy, it’s too bad we don’t have a ubiquitous medium through which any person can reach any audience who seeks them out. If we did, it wouldn’t even be possible to prevent people from spreading their ideas, and in-person events would be relegated to performative kabuki shows. Why, even if these darn kids continued to try and block in-person events, their efforts would serve no purpose beyond demonstrating their physical control over their small enclaves, and would otherwise only serve to generate publicity and distribute the “blocked” speakers’ ideas far more effectively than the original talk ever could have!
Censorship is censorship, regardless of whether you happen to feel that the Internet renders it all obsolete.
The post I replied to questioned the existence of free speech, full stop, based on a handful of incidents involving a very particular and narrow channel of speech.
If comic books with anime catgirls were to be banned tomorrow, it would be censorship, and it would be perfectly reasonable to object to that censorship–but if there were no other bans, and catgirls of every conceivable variety could be accessed freely and legally through other mediums, calling it the death of free speech would look a little histrionic.
Just because you have *a* channel to express your thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean that you should tolerate shutting down all the others.
And it doesn’t mean you should *accept* shutting down any.
It’s be even better if that medium wasn’t reliant on infrastructure controlled by the government and a few powerful corporations that could filter it or shut it down and influence what we see.
Businesses spend billions of dollars annually on corporate travel because being there in person is more effective much of the time than telecommunications.
This is especially true in the case of a superb individual like Murray. It’s hard for observers to continue to believe the demonizations of Murray after they meet him in person.
Generally speaking the phrase “free speech” has historically been used to refer to legal protections preventing the government from a priori proscribing speech.
What Universities (and to an extent “lower” levels of schools) should be advocating and (dare I say enforcing) is “the open exchange of ideas” and “polite debate”.
Public universities are stuck with the government part.
We could privatize them if we don’t want that.
We have free speech
By historical standards? More than ever before.
Beliefs are heavily constrained by social milieu — you won’t get very far exploring ideas that no one is willing to talk to you about. Before the internet, social milieus were heavily constrained by geography.
Now more people are saying more and edgier things in front of bigger audiences than ever before.
I think you’re overestimating the degree to which free speech was honored pre-internet. The “marketplace of ideas” was heavily curated by the mainstream media. You won’t necessarily like this documentary as it has a bit of a liberal spin, but it does give some idea of how heavily the public conversation was tilted before the internet:
“Free speech” is not about being able to speak, a’la Mr Smith, or being heard. It’s about not being punished for speaking.
It’s about _all_ of those.
I’m saying that’s exactly how it needs to be done. I understand you catch more flies with honey and all that but free speech is one of those things where the fundamental point is that it’s all going to be vinegar and we’re trying to convince people it’s worth it anyway. It’s worth it because the exchange and challenge of ideas is the surest way to arrive at the truth. It’s also worth it because having a society where it’s the norm means your time at the podium is guaranteed should you ever find yourself at odds with the powers that be.
Besides, we’re leagues off from the ugliest and most hate-able people. Once universities start trawling the bottom depths of 4chan for campus speakers I’d agree things have gone too far (though I believe the situation would quickly correct itself).
agreed on all points.
As others have note speech that is popular and inoffensive needs no defense.
Important addition to this conversation.
I didn’t misunderstand the last post, and I still think the clarification is horribly incorrect.
The part about how you should try to go with speakers that will be good for promoting your case instead of speakers that are good to demonstrate how far your principle goes makes sense to me.
However, I’m still not clear on why it makes sense to think about “sacred” principles as exhaustible resources. Does anyone have an explanation as to why that is a good way to think about reality?
There are two criticisms I have of your argument:
1. It is not obvious that the Harvard team were picking the ‘most controversial speakers’ that they could think of. It looks like they picked speakers with the biggest gap between public perception and actual character in order to make their point about free speech. Murray is perfect.
2. It is not obvious that even if they were picking someone ‘Troll-Grade Controversial’ like Milo, or perhaps Gavin McInnes, or even Richard Spencer, purely ‘for the lulz’ that this would be ineffective strategically at discovering Truth. Perhaps not deep Truths about economics or genetics, but there are important Truths to be revealed about the nature of our society. It is True that there is a section of the Left that hates free speech and approves of violence to silence it. It is True that our Universities have become dominated by Left-wing ideas.
And the Truth is effective; political Truth is as effective in politics as engineering Truth is in a jet engine. Whether you’re leveraging Truth to find more Truth, or just deploying Truth for the lulz, so long as you serve Truth it is a sword that will devastate your enemies but never harm you.
“It looks like they picked speakers with the biggest gap between public perception and actual character in order to make their point about free speech. Murray is perfect.”
Who do you think they should invite? Gregory Cochran? Would his name be popular enough to provoke a reaction? And if there is no reaction, then what’s the point of the club? Isn’t the point to invite people who aren’t being given voices elsewhere as a counter?
Maybe Christina Sommers?
Could you provide them (us?) with a list of controversial speakers who will provoke some reaction, but are actually good? That way we can all re-calibrate our process to something that would pick the same list.
I think the idea of somebody going around trying to invite controversial speakers is itself wrong. If you’re the Social Science Club and you think Charles Murray is the most interesting social scientist around and you want to hear from him, then by all means invite him. If you’re the Genetics Club and you want to hear Greg Cochran’s views about genetics, then invite him too. If you’re the Causing Offense Club, then there is no good answer for “who should you invite” which is not going to make the problem worse.
I don’t think any of the commenters on either this or the prior post took this to be your position. The Rosa Parks section in particular seems to at least strongly suggest the possibility of finding the “right” people to invite. I don’t think it’s really a matter of adding caveats to limit the scope of what you’re saying; as currently written, I at least wasn’t even getting close to your actual meaning. Maybe clarify?
Are these two things supposed to be the same thing here, if there is some light between them, who should the first group invite, or is the first group different but still bad?
What is your evidence that this is the “Causing Offense Club”?
The Peterson event happened Monday night. It apparently attracted “quiet protest” but nothing more disruptive. So either they failed in inciting a riot, or that wasn’t their goal to begin with. And it sounds like it wasn’t – the event organizer said he was “pleasantly surprised”.
Here’s their self-authored purpose statement:
And here’s some more from their organizer from an article in the Harvard Crimson:
Not much in there about offending for the sake of offense. In fact he specifically distances himself from “stirring the pot” (from the same article):
So they do seem to be inviting people who are controversial in order to give an opportunity for discussions they feel were unfairly shut down elsewhere. But it’s extremely uncharitable to call that the “Causing Offense Club”. If causing offense were their major/only goal, it would seem there are much easier ways to do it.
Right, the Harvard student organization that Scott objects to has already scored a triumph for civilized behavior by shaming opponents of Professor Peterson into behaving well at his speech.
It would appear that Scott’s tactical advice is turning out to be 180 degrees wrong.
Masked vigilantes physically assaulting C.h.a.r.l.e.s. M.u.r.r.a.y. was a disgrace to American academia as a whole. It is right and fitting for the leading American academy, Harvard, to partially rectify academia’s shame by inviting Murray to speak at his alma mater.
I’m sympathetic with the general notion of “don’t be an asshole,” but I think in the case of the response to controversial speech, it is in tension with the use of an important tool in confronting injustice — creating a test case on the most favorable ground possible. And in this case, I would resolve this tension in the direction of confronting injustice.
In other words, these people are passionate about *free speech* for free speech’s sake. I have no interest in hearing a lecture by Charles Murray. But it still bugs me that he is shut down by a riot, and I’d still like to do what I can to prevent this from being the normal response.
One means of doing that is for people who are passionate about that subject to go out of their way to invite controversial speakers, and then, either:
1. ) The speaker will be accepted, setting a precedent that expands the room for other controversial speakers.
2.) The speaker will be rejected, and attention will be brought to the rejection for a broader conversation about what’s going on.
I think both these outcomes are good, and worth the risk that people will associate the principle with the unpopular person who stands to benefit from it.
The gaping omission in everything you’ve written so far, Scott, is any suggestion of any more productive means to combat the campus attacks on free speech. SOME response needs to be made. We cannot allow thugs to dictate who is allowed to speak.
Thanks for clarifying. I see your point that the outcome of selected speakers reflects, but is not deterministic, of the process. People will try to infer the process by both the speakers, and their reason for being selected.
Given American civic values, I think free speech for the sake of free speech isn’t clearly bad, and a Harvard club of otherwise smart level-headed kids (e.g. not inviting Milo), trying to make a point, doesn’t clearly make things worse. Although you are perhaps right that it may not make things better, if done incorrectly.
Well, but what if you’re the Free Speech Club?
Starting a Free Speech club is an intolerable provocation to the SJW crowd. At least, if the wrong people start it.
Scott, if you think the activists are interested in Causing Offense and aren’t really interested in the free exchange of ideas, then where are the real free speech activists? Are they hiding with the people who are legitimately concerned with unborn babies but not part of the really-just-a-cover-for-controlling-women-under-the-guise-of-caring-about-babies pro-life movement?
Somebody “looking for the most controversial speakers” is pursuing what they think is offensive, and any truth caused is unintentional. […] they are making a serious meta-level mistake.
Come on, man. You admit you’re not part of their group and don’t actually know what process they used to select speakers. Have you not even considered the idea that they were trying to maximize truth as well as controversy? I mean, they could have gotten a lot more controversy by inviting Richard Spencer, but I think we can safely assume virtually no Harvard students think Spencer’s views are true. A speaker who says true and interesting things politely, while still being controversial enough to attract a violent protest, is pretty much the exact equivalent of Rosa Parks in your analogy.
I think you kind of did. Right here:
I mean, right off the bat, “far-right wierdo” is uncalled for. Among Blue Tribe, family values is the “far-right wierdo” position. Among Red Tribe, it’s the normal moderate conservative position. But possibly that’s what you meant by “in polite company”.
You are correct that we may see a shift from free speech as a sacred liberal value to free speech as a sacred conservative value. Given the nominal definition of “conservative”, shouldn’t we expect or at least hope that all worthy values, sacred or otherwise, shift over time into the conservative camp? And, of more immediate tactical interest, conservatives control all three branches of the US government, the vast majority of state governments, seem to be making inroads into even the traditionally liberal bastions that are universities, and certainly aren’t going away any time soon. Seems to me, these might be good people to have on the side of free speech. Seems to me, if political polarization makes it impossible for conservatives and liberals to agree on anything this decade, it might be better to have the conservatives on the side of free speech,
But to you, that’s the “nightmare scenario”, and I want to understand why. It seems to me, e.g. with the “polite company” crack, that it really comes down to “far-right wierdos” (ordinary conservative) being unpopular, unattractive, uncool, On The Wrong Side Of History, and not to be allowed any of the cool stuff that you see as part of your bluish-grey tribe’s cultural heritage. I’d prefer a more charitable interpretation, but I’m not seeing one.
Me, I see the best hope for the future of western civilization being through the dynamic conflict of liberal and conservative, with the balance of power shifting slowly towards the conservative as (or if) we approach the utopian Universal Culture that needs only enduring conservation. So your nightmare, is my dream. Bring it on, please.
It’s not that I would prefer free speech to be a liberal rather than a conservative value. It’s that I would prefer it to be nonpoliticized.
On the other hand, if it had to be politicized, I would rather it be liberal. That way, social science professors in campus can listen to Charles Murray’s ideas and consider them when developing theories or advising on policies. Freedom of speech seems like it’s most important for academics, and since most academics are liberals or at least in liberal places, they’re the ones who most need it protected.
If small farmers in Iowa lost free speech and weren’t allowed to hear anti-war activists or something, that would be unfortunate but not a potential civilization-level catastrophe.
That’s probably a poor example given the importance of the Iowa caucuses .
Politicization is a little like The Nothing swallowing everything in The Never Ending Story. We’re just watching as every nonpoliticized part of life is gradually swallowed up. If the trend doesn’t stop or reverse before the (currently uncontroversial) norm of “peacefully accepting election results” is swallowed up, I guess that will be it for democracy.
Particularly in a democracy, wouldn’t freedom of speech be most important for voters, politicians, and political activists? The example of Rosa Parks has already been invoked; neither she nor (more importantly) most of the people who brought her case to the world’s attention were academics.
And if you see freedom of speech as presently a liberal value and would like it to be an apolitical one, how do you expect to get there without conservatives saying “This is our value too and we are willing to fight for it i”? No, you can’t append that with “…so long as it isn’t too offensive to liberals”, or what you would have conservatives fight for isn’t free speech at all and isn’t something conservatives will value enough to fight for.
I do not see any path for freedom of speech as a bipartisan or apolitical value that does not pass through conservatives defending the right to speak in a manner deemed intolerably offensive to liberals, and lasting until liberals generally abandon the “I am intolerably offended so shut up or be marginalized!” card. And I do not see the future where free speech is the private virtue of academia, to be one worth fighting for. In short, I am fairly certain I understand your argument and I am wholly unconvinced.
It has already been politicized, and it is not in the leftist (“liberal”) camp. Will you abandon free speech to preserve your tribal loyalty, or will you abandon your tribe to uphold free speech?
Note that this doesn’t mean that you should become a conservative, just that for now you should ally with them on this issue.
While Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi converts to Pastafarianism, I suppose.
Academic social science is FUBAR. Better to discredit the field, burn it down, and then reconstruct it from ground up.
And is this unchangeable?
That way, social science professors in campus can listen to Charles Murray’s ideas and consider them when developing theories or advising on policies.
And if they value their professional skins will know that the only acceptable outcome of “considering such ideas” is fervent condemnation. I don’t know if Murray is right or wrong, an impartial researcher or a racist supremacist. But I certainly know what the popular view of him is, and it’s not “yes, another source that can be considered without evoking any trouble”.
This is a bizarre false choice.
Obviously, anyone can advocate for any idea they like regardless of “tribal loyalty”. In fact, in context, people don’t seem to consciously decide what they believe or don’t believe based on “tribal loyalty” — it seems to be more like a sociological construction of knowledge kind of thing.
I would think you’d want left advocates of free speech to advocate for it using leftist values and coming from their strong point to try to win over people in the same camp — that seems more effective than defecting, symbolically giving them the middle finger, and then advocating for free speech.
After the Middlebury disgrace, American academia needs to regain the confidence of the public that it upholds its own and American values of free speech and fair play.
Several colleges, such as Columbia and NYU, have since hosted Murray in well-run events that helped get across that not all of American academia condones the violence and science denialism on display at Middlebury.
Murray is helping American academia regain some of its honor by exposing his 74-year-old body on this tour of campus speaking events.
The American public has ways to object to turning campuses over to the Goon Squad, as the recent financial fate of the U. of Missouri has demonstrated.
At this point, the universities need Murray more than Murray needs the universities.
To be more precise, universities need tolerance-of-Murray-et-al. If my kids want to go to a university where Murray has never been invited to speak, I’ll still be just as happy to help with tuition. If one insists on going to a university where speakers are excuses for violence and institutions turn a blind eye, I’m not paying for anything except self-defense classes.
If small farmers in Iowa lost free speech and weren’t allowed to hear anti-war activists or something, that would be unfortunate but not a potential civilization-level catastrophe.
I’m disappointed, Scott, since I think that’s the most (or indeed any) classist thing I’ve read from you. Free speech for liberal academics but not for the sons and daughters of the soil? Because if the little people lose rights it’s not important or a threat to civilisation? Well, I guess we low-class types know our place in the coming post-scarcity utopia:
Since the majority of the population are not liberal academics (or even illiberal ones), then events that affect them are more likely to be “a potential civilization-level catastrophe”, because anything that takes out the majority of your population (or adversely affects them) is going to leave you with very little of a civilisation left. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians won’t get things done, to quote a saying that is probably now regarded as racist and/or offensive terminology to use.
(or should that be Read! Read!) ?
>I’m disappointed, Scott, since I think that’s the most (or indeed any) classist thing I’ve read from you. Free speech for liberal academics but not for the sons and daughters of the soil? Because if the little people lose rights it’s not important or a threat to civilisation?
I empathize with this response to Scott, but I think if you read him more charitably, knowing he tends to be remarkably consistent on these matters, he’s making a grander predictive claim that this outcome is less likely to result in civilization-collapse. Not trying to say that the Ohio person is morally less valuable.
I know he’s generally much more even-handed and this might just be an unfortunate turn of expression, but it did risk slipping into “smart educated people like us need our values protected, the common herd don’t matter”. Liberals in a majority liberal space need protection? If they’re not already protected there where they are in the company of their like-minded peers, I don’t know what can be done to make them feel safer (save shutting down everyone that doesn’t sound like a liberal, which is counter to the entire argument over “free speech should not be a political football or the property of one side”).
As for civilisational collapse, a civilisation is made up of more than the top 1%, 5% or 10% smartest/most educated/professional classes; it consists of a lot of people who aren’t the smartest, most educated, or professionals. This risks sounding like Ayn Rand’s notion of Galt’s Gulch, where the world will topple into chaos once the small minority of the truly creative and productive sequester themselves away and leave the rest of us to get on with it.
I think that, given we’ve had all kinds of civilisational collapse in history before and yet here we are again, that the rest of us could maybe manage to cobble together something if the liberal academics weren’t permitted to give lectures about the oppressive colonialism of requiring children to learn the times table and hence the ruin of Civilisation As We Know It came about, but if you take away or deny or even say “what use have you for these rights?” to the majority of the people, you’re sawing off the branch you’re sitting on. A bit like those who point out the contradiction between Jefferson et al writing of the natural rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” while being slave-owners: what need have slaves of liberty, they wouldn’t know what to do with it if they had it! What need have Iowan small farmers of free speech, they’re not liberal academics in academia!
Where “all men” is to be understood to exclude certain classes – such as Iowa small farmers?
Anyway, remember: James T. Kirk is an Iowa farmer! 🙂
Except A: Scott has rather explicitly stated that he fears the Donald Trump presidency may lead to nuclear war, a thing traditionally associated with civilization-collapse, and B: openly denouncing the denizens of flyover country as unworthy of the attention or values of the liberal cosmopolitan elite, is how we got President Donald Trump in the first place.
“Gosh, in the abstract maybe it would be nice if you hicks were granted the same rights and privileges as those of us in the ivory tower, but most of you don’t even have college degrees, never mind aspiring to careers in academia, so there’s no real harm if you get left out while we focus on the Important People”. That’s how Scott’s offhand dismissal is going to be read in flyover country, like so many others before. That’s how you get President Donald Trump, and all the harm that comes with him. And deserve every bit of it.
Maybe people should read Scott’s comments charitably and debate the point he’s actually making instead of trying to shame him for a possible misinterpretation of what he’s saying? “How it plays in flyover country” ain’t necessarily the most relevant consideration in SSC comments, is it? Wasn’t this supposed to be the place for weird, uncomfortable ideas?
There is a strange tension between the respect that is expected here towards denizens of flyover country and the respect that is expected towards, say, black people.
I would be interested to see a principled justification for why Scott’s relatively innocuous comment about small farmers in Iowa is a serious issue and requires a bunch of tut-tutting about demonstrating the proper respect, while stuff like “Whereas Africans tend to backslide from colonial times into savagery” from the original Sacred Principles thread flies by without comment. That is, admittedly, a particularly egregious example, and I think it is reasonable to hold Scott to a much higher standard than anonymous denizens of the comment section — but if Scott’s comment about Iowa is the bar for taking offense, then it seems to me that there are plenty of things said and implied about black people (or Muslims, or whatever) on SSC that are at least as bad.
If comments like Scott’s justify Trump, then what does Steve Sailer justify?
(Note: I do not intend to imply that Scott is correct to say that residents of Iowa don’t need free speech protections. Indeed, I disagree with most of Scott’s post. What I’m specifically interested in is the tone policing.)
Speaking only for myself, I want more hand-wringing about the ideological slant of these comments like I want more holes in my head. That horse isn’t just dead, it’s already been turned into glue and shipped to elementary school classrooms all over the country.
Why do you assume the Iowa farmer is white? 😉
I suspect that if Scott dismissed the needs of any stereotypical group for free speech protection — hair braiders in Queens, food truck owners in Miami, convenience stores owners in LA, etc. I suspect he would have faced similar blowback.
Dismissing the concerns of less-educated whites takes on particular salience since this group just flexed its muscles to produce an electoral result that many, including Scott, consider disastrous, and one of the stated reasons is cultural marginialization. So it might be wise to avoid further marginalization.
That thinking is a little close to negotiating with terrorists for my liking, but I’m not sure it’s completely invalid.
Don’t know that “principled” enters in so much as in-group vs. far-group distinctions combined with the overall makeup of the commentariat – it’s quite plausible to me that a Johannesburg native would be more offended by the latter than the former, but my understanding is we don’t presently have terribly many readers from that city: no one is sufficiently annoyed (or personally insulted, or…) to respond in the heat of the moment.
That said, if you do want principles, “agency” comes to mind: being ignored as unimportant denies it, but “backsliding” doesn’t.
>Why do you assume the Iowa farmer is white? 😉
I feel like this sentence is a great summary of the general level of argument going on here 😛
I think that it’s possible to read Scott charitably here – (I think) he was trying to argue that it’s okay that different groups have different priorities on different values, (perhaps as suits their needs –
– a military unit in a hostile area is going to value “free expression” of some thoughts a lot less than a group of academics sitting around a table at a library, and likewise, the group of academics isn’t going to have quite the same need for the right to bear arms -)
And I think he was trying to say that it was rational for a society to put more effort into promoting particular values in some areas rather than in others.
Which is all well and good, but I was getting Brave New World flashbacks, and about broke out into hives over how he phrased it.
Further more, the children of the soldiers might well grow up to sit in academic halls, and the children of the professors to bear arms against invaders and terrorists, so perhaps we might try inoculating the whole damn population with the same values.
(At least until we re-institute an honest-to-God caste system.)
Edited half an hour later to add:
Regarding the impact of the “backsliding into savagery”…I think that the point about a stance that can be supported or undermined by evidence is important. I think the relative lack of economicaly successful and peaceful representative nations in Africa compared to the portion in Asia & Latin America is a fact that we can investigate. I don’t think that we draw absolutes – there is Botswana and Burma, f’zample.
Is it an unpleasant fact? Absolutely. Is it complicated? Undoubtedly. Does that make it false? Nope. Other information might make it false, but its’ unpleasantness does not falsify it.
Preface: I’m literally, actually from Iowa, born and raised. So, I’m clearly biased.
(Personally, I don’t read all comments; the ones I do read, I don’t always read all the way through; I’m relatively certain I didn’t even read that one. Anyway.) One reason is purely practical – one was a second-level comment, posted 24 hours ago in the current, more active thread (with ~500 comments and running at a fast clip), while the other was a fifth-level comment, posted seven hours ago in the slower, older thread in response to a lengthy, probably wrung out argument on a post that didn’t even hit 150 before being subsumed. Another purely practical reason is that Scott’s comments always attract outsized attention.
Yet another reason is normative/descriptive. After now reading the backsliding comment, I think it’s clearly offensive, but I can at least imagine an operationalization being possible and hypothetical data which could support/disprove a rigorously-stated version of the claim. I don’t think there is such a possibility for the idea that, well, everyone knows that important speechy-things that can actually affect Real Society happen only in liberal, academic spaces. There’s basically no way to operationalize and test this; it’s about as close to purely weighing abstract values that you can get.
It has to be a weighing of abstract values, because “important aspects” of society are stupidly complicated, probably unquantifiable, and are almost certain immune to dynamic modeling. The first instinct I would have would be to try to go down the route of studies that show how policy seems to follow the desires of the “elites” when said desires conflict with the general public. There are plenty of incredibly difficult details if we want to do this, but let’s not even get into that. Instead, observe that even if we were successful in trying to make such an argument, we could flip the optics, go back a century or two, and defend similarly horrible claims. “Everyone knows that important speechy-things that can actually affect Real Society happen only in white spaces. Sure, it would be unfortunate if black people weren’t allowed to hear anti-alcohol activists or something, but it’s not a potential civilization-level catastrophe.”
Instead, in the real world, the fact that black people get free speech is what allows MLK to happen, fundamentally affecting Real Society in a way that may have been simply unpredictable based on prior data. I’m not MLK by any means, but like I said, I’m from Iowa. I’ve lived in primarily conservative areas. I’ve lived in primarily liberal areas. I’ve always held some ideas that were very unpalatable to many people around me. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in academia, and now I’m doing things that I would like to think has an affect on Real Society (you’ll have to check back in 20 years to see if I can get up to a two or three on the 1-to-MLK scale). It is purely a value-based argument that preserving free speech for all does or does not have the capacity to affect Real Society in fundamental and unpredictable ways. [Looks like keranih beat me to this one.]
That’s why I read it as different than some guy who is being offensive and likely wrong on the facts, anyway. I have a habit of ignoring false factual claims that comes with hyperbolic rhetoric. I care a bit more when someone makes a forward-looking statement that maybe it wouldn’t be all that bad to restrict the rights of me and mine under a poorly-thought-out rationale, because we aren’t important anyway.
Do I? 😉 (The word “white” does not actually appear in my post.)
Yeah, this is what I am getting at. To get more explicit: I think it is totally legitimate to have a problem with what Scott said. Those who wish to take issue with it, though, should consider what that principle looks like when applied to their own outgroups. A similar example: I think it would behoove people who believe that Democrats are biased against the white working class to apply the same standard of evidence when evaluating claims that the Republican party is biased against black people.
It can’t, because it’s not a value that people (except a few weirdos) actually like.
I mean, do you mean this in an “epistemic” or “instrumental” way? Because it seems to me that not much would change if, say, Haidt weren’t able to develop his ideas within an academic environment, except that we would perhaps be a little less correct about group values, while a lot of the ramifications of freedom of speech are very important to how regular people carry on with their lives every day.
But Scott if genuinely useful values are being politicized isn’t the optimal strategy to make sure they get politicized to your side?
I’m not saying this was the student groups goal (they seem like pretty vanilla free thinkers), but if politics is war and politics is consuming everything I kinda want all the valuable commons to wind up on my partisan side.
If we assume good faith on the part of Milo and other provocateurs then they’re libertarians trying to institute a tit for tat strategy to prevent the hard left from continuing to defect in the prisoners dilemma of open discourse.
If however they’ve identified open discourse and free speech as valuable territory they want to hold in the war (and territory the other side wants to surrender at that…)
Well you can’t fault their tastes
As a long time lurker, first time commenter, and avid reader from Iowa, I appreciate the un-personing, Scott. I’m glad to learn that my freedom – and my desire to gain knowledge – count for nothing in your estimation. Are only the Bay Aryans allowed to pursue Truth and Beauty?
Do you think there are no academics in the Midwest? Do you think the children of farmers don’t grow up and go to universities and become academics elsewhere? If you’ll grant me that such a thing is possible, than where will those future academics learn to value freedom of speech, if freedom of speech is denied to the small farmers? How will they even become intellectuals in the first place, if they are raised and educated in an environment of censorship?
The social norms surrounding free speech – freedom to put forward an idea or question someone else’s idea without fear of retribution – are also fundamental to the process of creating individuals who become social science professors, develop theories, and advise on policy. Eliminating free speech for any subgroup, be it conservatives or liberals, Iowa farmers or Chicago urbanites, reduces the chance of any individual from said group becoming an academic. But I guess you’ve already determined that academics from flyover country are an acceptable loss.
Now, now: I’m sure we should understand that even Iowa small farmers have their uses and their place in a properly ordered society; after all, who is going to grow the nootropic foods that the academics need to fuel their big brains? 🙂
Misinterpreting something Scott says in such a way as to maximize offendedness is not a good thing to do. Would prefer to see less of it.
The problem is that free speech is an explicitly political virtue. You can’t make free speech non-political any more than you can make the Good Friday Agreement non-irish-Christian.
If you did somehow manage to succeed the norm of political tolerance evaporates in a puff of logic and the Red Tribe and Blue Tribe, Protestants and Catholics, go back to settling their disputes the old fashioned way.
Academia doesn’t do useful things. Academia is a cancerous tumor, a blob of inherently popular aristocrats who cheerlead the process of “annihilating utility for the have-nots in order to give emotional rewards to the haves”. Their politicking and petty pissing matches make it as hard as possible to do useful things, and select against people who do useful things. Academia is malice. Academia is popularity.
@DrBeat – “Academia is malice. Academia is popularity.”
I understand malice, but what’s popularity got to do with it? What’s your model here?
Popularity is status unmoored from any productive or useful action, uncoupled from any positive trait. The popular are popular because they are popular and for no other reason; being popular means they are entitled to deference and respect and resources and attention.
Academia is pure popularity, because it is utterly unmoored from doing useful things or having positive traits, and yet they are entitled to deference and respect and resources and attention. Even among people who say they hate academia, they always get attention, they always get noticed, their views are always important enough to count, despite not doing anything useful and not producing useful information. All academia is malice and pissing matches and cheerleading for the popular utility monsters to annihilate more utility. Given the actual history of academia, the actual history in real life in the world, they should be lower-status and command less respect and deference than Naruto x Sakura fanfic authors. But they are still entitled to respect and deference, entitled to always be important and always matter. Because they are an instantiation of popularity.
This is a strange thing to say while using a computer.
A lot of liberal academics, such as Cornel West, really do believe in free speech and thus have reacted admirably to the Middlebury outrage.
It depends what you mean by “civilization-level catastrophe”. I think history shows us that some type of civilization can be perpetuated without free speech. However, as for the kind of civilization we have right now in the USA, if some class of people like farmers lost free speech, that would, in actual fact, constitute the end of our civilization.
On a very related note, I don’t understand why “Free Speech” is being used in what seems to me to be a very sloppy way, especially in failing to distinguish between things in the political and in the academic spheres. (They seem quite different to me. Free Speech in the political sphere is a formal thing that has a libertarian-ish object of increasing freedom for individuals, while “free speech” in the academic sphere–or what used to be called “academic freedom” or “freedom of inquiry” or “freedom of expression”–has an object of facilitating the formation of the best ideas.) But everybody seems to be doing it, so it’s probably a failure on my part.
And if you’re a supporter of free speech like Scott, that’s a bad thing, because it means its being shifted from the winning tribe, the ever-more-ascendant tribe, the tribe to whom the future absolutely belongs; to the loser tribe, the human face upon which the boot stamps, the doomed tribe headed for the ash-heap of history. It means free-speech as a value risks being destroyed along with the Red Tribe (including me and mine) when the latter is expunged forever from the earth.
Citation needed on all of these. “Conservatives” (for a certain value that includes the most liberal Republican president in decades in almost any area except immigration and trade) may control the presidency, but the Executive branch is far, far more than just the president. We seem to be receiving a lesson right now in how little power the president, especially a Republican one, and the rest of the temporary, merely-elected “government” has over the permanent state. And how much power does Congress really have, save as a rubber stamp passing lobbyist-written “legislation” mostly authorizing various Executive bureaucracies to write regulation? Look at any of the so-called “government shut-downs” for how far the House’s “power of the purse” has been reduced. And as for the third branch, you mean the same judiciary that legal thinkers across the spectrum have described as “in revolt” against Trump? Sure, there was the confirmation of Gorsuch, who I firmly expect to follow in the footsteps of such bold right-wing jurists as Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts. (When Republicans appoint someone to the court, that justice moves leftward; when Dems appoint someone, they stick to their positions… or move leftward). And what do state governments matter? If a state government defies the federal one, guess who wins? And we may not be “going away any time soon”, but we are shrinking, have been for a while, and become ever smaller each passing year, ever-easier to ignore, override, demonize, or target.
“Seems to me, if political polarization makes it impossible for conservatives and liberals to agree on anything this decade, it might be better to have the conservatives on the side of free speech”
Why? Because if political polarization means free speech must belong to one tribe or the other, wouldn’t it be better for it to belong to the side which has a future, rather than those of us whose extinction is pretty much guaranteed?
[Edit: added the links I intended, but accidentally omitted, on “judicial revolt”]
A further thought: For at least half a century liberals have been champions of free speech, and have conspicuously used that freedom in a manner that really is calculated to give the greatest possible offense to conservatives. See e.g. Piss Christ. After fifty years of being on the wrong end of that, conservatives seem to be coalescing around the position, “Free speech is pretty awesome; we want some too! The high-grade stuff, with power to offend and respected by both private and public authorities.”
If Scott is correct, then liberals will respond to seeing much less offensive application of free speech by their enemies, by saying “Freeze Peach is a tool of the enemy and must be abolished from this Earth!”
If it is inevitable that free speech be politicized, how can anyone who claims to value free speech in and of itself deny that the proper custodians of free speech in the 21st century are the conservatives, and the sooner the better?
A further further thought: Free speech is far from being the only liberal procedural right that we could be treating as an exhaustible resource. Look at how we’re fouling the commons of legal due process by extending it to sleazebag criminals.
“Look at how we’re fouling the commons of legal due process by extending it to sleazebag criminals.”
Exactly! Just look at how lawyers defend the 4th Amendment right against search and seizure. Practically every case, they’re defending some icky accused criminal that the police found damning evidence against. If our legal profession doesn’t want to “erode the commons”, maybe they should confine themselves to defending in court the nice victims of unwarranted search where the police didn’t find anything and who haven’t been charged with anything…
“Remember, Tolerance is a great British virtue – let’s not waste it on Yids, Polacks, Wops, Krauts and Arabs.” –Monty Python
“how can anyone who claims to value free speech in and of itself deny that the proper custodians of free speech in the 21st century are the conservatives, and the sooner the better?”
The same way one denies that an eighty-year-old with terminal cancer is a better custodian for a precious item than a healthy, vigorous thirty-year-old. If only one side may have “custody”, how can one not wish that custody to belong to the side with a future, rather than the side doomed to be wiped utterly from the earth?
the side doomed to be wiped utterly from the earth
In the presidency of Donald Trump instead of the anointed ascension of the First Female President, how’s that right side of history, inevitable, unstoppable and irreversible march of progressive enlightenment lookin’ to ya?
Given that there are allegations of real, actual concentration camps for gays in Chechnya right now?
You had better hope genuine conservatism is alive and healthy because your choices are not looking too good there: the equally aging dregs of 60s idealism and 70s taboo-breaking, or the new barbarism.
And what has this Donald Trump presidency gotten conservatives? A few scraps of deregulation and one Supreme Court justice, while the liberal triumph proceeds so far unmolested.
It hasn’t even been three months. Whether you think Trump’s going to bring doom or salvation, I think you need to wait longer than that before you start admitting defeat.
(Personally I’m in the camp of “no doom, no salvation, plenty of embarrassment”, and results have been encouraging so far, but I’m not about to declare victory.)
Have you actually paid attention Kevin’s posts? You are barking up the wrong tree here. Kevin is like you, but even more fatalistic.
Hey, we told you Trump was going to be incompetent. He’s like the pissed off drunk guy with a gun spinning around in the bar. He’s less likely to hit what he aims at, but he is a damn sight more likely to pull the trigger, even if he doesn’t mean to, and who the fuck knows in which direction the bullet will fly.
I know this is clearly the partisan meme, but do you think it’s really supportable at the moment to the exclusion of the obvious alternate scenario? Trump, like a vast majority of presidents, frankly, hardly had any idea what the practical concerns, interests, and constraints were before being elected. That led him to say unrealistic things on the campaign trail. (Please don’t make me form a long list of prior candidates doing this, lest I happen upon one you like.) Upon getting into office, professional diplomatic, military, and intelligence advisors explained many of these things to him. He was then persuaded to choose an action that was somewhat less aggressive than what Hillary Clinton openly called for.
I mean, sure, it’s viscerally nice to assume that your ideological enemy is simply a bumbling, irresponsible idiot… but I certainly don’t see how other explanations have been ruled out.
Yes, I think it’s quite fair to rate the Trump administration’s competence as very low. I understand why you would think I do this from a position of ideological bias, and I am sure that has some effect on my judgement.
But let’s take some simple examples.
After a recent meeting with Chinese President Xi, Trump said:
Waiting to learn that from the foreign leader, instead of from your own prep team, is incompetence galore.
Or let’s talk about the recent signal from Trump that he would take some actions to explicitly try and blow up the ACA exchanges unless Democrats negotiated with him to replace the ACA.
Now, I think that specific signal itself is incompetent, but whatever. The unarguable incompetence displayed there is having your administration be so uncoordinated that the HHS secretary announces the opposite one day earlier.
You can talk about three dimensional chess all you want, but there isn’t any evidence that the Trump administration is even getting what it wants. And there is a great deal of evidence that they are failing to get what they want. Occam says you should favor the simple explanation, which is that the massively unprepared team of outsiders, which is also too small, is very bad at running an organization as big and complex as the executive branch.
Controls Freak, real talk, do you think Trump’s outfit is competent? As competent as Obama’s, say?
The Trump administration has yet to produce a fiasco on the scale of the Obamacare rollout. But the day is young.
Yeah, they haven’t _tried_ anything on the scale of the Obamacare rollout.
They failed on far simpler tasks (e.g. a repeal with full government control, e.g. travel restrictions they wanted.)
Well, good then: perhaps the object-lesson wasn’t lost on everyone.
Like a speed bump. A minor delay in centuries-long Leftist march.
You seem to miss that I’m not on the side of that march. I’m the guy who has said that not only was the American Revolution a mistake, so were the Glorious Revolution and the Protestant Reformation. I’m the guy who thinks the only way my people and my values survive is to reverse the “Enlightenment” (in all elements except the scientific/technological, to the extent that technology was even a product of the Enlightenment; one need not belive in “the Rights of Man” to work out a steam engine, yes?), and bring back monarchy, hereditary arisocracy, guilds, state religion with an inquisition to prevent entryism and maintain memetic hygiene against mind-viruses (I’m an atheist fan of both the Holy Inquisition and Arnaud Amalric), stigma against bastardy, arranged marriage, and add in a good dollop of the “pessimistic” Xunzi strain of Confucianism. (And, as one might guess, I’m a Warhammer 40,000 fan.)
I agree that Leftism is a disaster, incompatible with human nature and civilization in ways that are guaranteed to destroy at least the latter if not stopped. I think that Leftism, if not halted and reversed, will lead to the extinction of my people, the destruction of all I consider good, and an irreversable collapse of civilization from which our species will never recover, if it even survives. It’s just that it looks to me like there is no way left to stop it. That’s it’s already far, far too late and our doom is already assured. There is no hope, there is no hope, there is no hope. All is lost, there is naught but despair.
Leaving aside the moral value of what has happened in the last 500+ years (suffice it to say that I disagree with most of what you’re saying), how do you think these social changes happened? They were driven by technology. How do you separate the printing press from ordinary people learning to read, and getting all sorts of wild ideas? How do you separate industrial advances from people moving into cities, with all that entails? When firearms get to the point that you can teach some peasants drill far more easily than they could be taught to use a longbow, toss in some pikemen to keep the cavalry at bay, all of a sudden that changes a lot. Etc.
The idea that social change can be rolled back without abandoning technological change is ludicrous.
Well, on the firearms-and-pikemen-to-mass-armies (and thus to democracy, presumably) bit, well, hasn’t modern military technology somewhat reversed back toward the Spartiate/knight/samurai capital-intensive elite away from the labor-intensive pikemen/riflemen model? Secondly, while technology does, yes, affect cultural development, and they are not orthogonal, nor are they entirely correlative. Is “people moving into cities, with all that entails” really fundamentally incompatible with monarchy, aristocracy, inegalitarian sex roles, arranged marriage and rare-to-no divorce? Can I point to post-Meiji-restoration, pre-American-military-occupation Japan?
Well, there’s the traditional Chinese model of religious tolerance, or Jim’s “Restoration Anglicanism” model. You have toleration for error and superstition among the peasants, because they’re peasants, and thus have no say or political power and so their opinions and “wild ideas” don’t really matter. And then you have an Official Religion for the elite, to which one must credibly express allegience and conformity to be admitted to any position of real power (including in information-forming bodies like the Academy), and a functioning Inquisition to guard that against entryism.
Yes, one cannot simply revive the past wholesale with present technologies. (That’s what puts the neo- in neo*****ionary.) But that does not mean we must accept absolutely 100% of modern social, legal, political forms as completely and totally inevitable, and that all of those past forms are to be utterly ruled out in their totality. The idea of total technological determinism, that “how these social changes happened” was because they “were driven (entirely) by technology” and absoluely nothing else, that technology is the sole and single driver of all of human history and culture and the only, only thing that matters, is quite obviously at least as wrong as the idea of total orthogonality of technology and culture.
Plus, can I point to the Amish, as, while I would not go as far as them, it is possible to pick and choose which technologies one will accept and which ones a society might choose to reject in favor of other values (Japan didn’t legalize oral contraceptives as such until 1999, and it’s still used far less there than in other “developed” nations).
Plus, you seem to have missed the part where, while holding this to be necessary for survival, I also held it to be unachievable. I agree that there’s no way, in the world we live in, to achieve this goal. Hence why we’re doomed, all hope is false, despair, despair, and so on.
@Kevin C., let me make sure I’m not misinterpreting you. Are you pointing to Imperial Japan as an attractive model? I suppose I usually don’t reply to you because the inferential difference is too great, which is the only reason I’m even considering this hypothesis, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be correct. But I still want to double check and make sure that really is what you’re saying.
And who exactly are “your people”?
Also, why stop in the Middle Ages? Why not decry the fall of Rome, or the rise of Rome? (Personally as a Jew I think things started going pear-shaped when Constantine converted to Christianity, but that’s just me.)
Ok, you started out with saying the word ‘incompetent’, but then you refined your specific accusation. You said:
That gets to something much more specific than general competence, and I pretty clearly poked at that bit. If you’d like to take a second shot at justifying that, then I can speak to what your examples might say about general competence.
I was clearly going for some dramatic flair in that comment. It feels a little unfair for you not to grant me that creative license.
But, let’s go through that comment, point by point.
“He’s like the pissed off drunk guy”
Clearly Trump is angry, and specifically talks about being angry, a great deal. The drunk part? Trump has generally lowered inhibitions about saying whatever comes into his head and then acting on it.
We have spent about a month with some non-trivial part of the machinery of the Federal government trying to justify a tweet Trump sent about Obama “wiretapping” him, likely because he heard it on “Fox and Friends” and couldn’t be bothered to actually check if it was true or think through whether it was a good idea to make the accusation public.
“with a gun spinning around in the bar.”
The executive branch is a powerful tool. Being careless with it is dangerous.
“He’s less likely to hit what he aims at, but he is a damn sight more likely to pull the trigger, even if he doesn’t mean to, and who the fuck knows in which direction the bullet will fly.”
For instance, it’s possible that the latest threat Trump has made about the ACA could lead to vastly increased premiums, or even a complete lack of providers, in places where the population is sicker, older, poorer and less populous. He has essentially already pulled the trigger on the first round, as companies are currently trying to figure out what and how much they will bid for 2018 and raising the specter of those payments going away effects their thinking. He thinks he is aiming that gun at Democrats, but it’s the population in those areas that would be hit, and the Republicans will take the blame for it.
Attempting to treat with N. Korea essentially in public, a nuclear power with uncertain regard for S. Korea, Japan, or even for its own population, absent sound advice from people who actually have expertise in the subject, without taking 10 minutes to learn some basic facts about your stance? Another example.
Coming into office with a list of policies that certainly would require some Democratic votes, but thinking you can dominate your way to obtaining those votes? A bullet squarely into his own foot. Subsequently antagonizing the House Freedom Caucus after its become clear that you will have unequivocal resistance from the Democrats and you will need to do things like pass an appropriations bills or a CR by the end of this month? A shot in the direction of the other foot .
I understand you probably don’t like the simile I used, but I’m a little at a loss why you think it doesn’t fit.
Maybe a bit; the professional military has replaced peacetime conscription and wartime conscription. But your average rank-and-file soldier is someone who is serving for, what, 3 or 4 years? A far cry from someone raised from childhood to be a warrior and little else.
As for Japan after they basically said “fuck this shit – we’re gonna work as hard as we can to keep this whole samurai thing going”, that lasted until foreigners came and they realized they could either compete or get conquered. It’s the same reason hunter-gatherers die out: while, by some standards, hunter-gatherers live better than agriculturalists, and live a lifestyle that is more sustainable (we are far more likely to wipe ourselves out than hunter-gatherers were), hunter-gatherers cannot compete with the numbers and technology of agriculturalists.
But then it turned out that some peasants were somehow able to get their hands on political power: the knights are unpleasantly surprised when they find out that, hey, these merchants have a lot of money all of a sudden, don’t they? Or, someone in the elite arms the peasants (again, easier to do when “a few weeks/months of musket-and-pike drill” replaces “lifetime of learning to fire a longbow” or “massive investment of time and money in gear and skills to fight as heavy cavalry”).
Is it fair to say that this is both a description of how the Death Eaters think society is now (where “Official Religion” is some sort of “progressivism”), and how they think society should be (where “Official Religion” is “throne and altar” or whatever?)
I never proposed absolute technological determinism. However, technology shapes society, probably more than the other way around.
The Amish rely on protection from technologically advanced outsiders.
And I’ll point out what I have pointed out before: what makes you different, except facing in the opposite direction, than an acquaintance of mine who (living in an environment that notably lacks mobs of brownshirts roaming the streets) is terrified of the mobs of brownshirts roaming the streets?
Further, for you personally, if what you want is inegalitarian gender roles, arranged marriage, rare divorce, religious authority, whatever, and you are right that the Powers That be have it in for you (which I dispute), you have options, such as:
-convert to ultra-Orthodox Judaism and either go live in Upstate NY or the settlements in Israel (in the former case, local politics will protect you; in the latter case, the state is on your side)
-convert to a conservative form of Islam (it is not a secret that modern left-wingers are really really bad at spotting misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and extreme social conservatism in general and calling it out when Muslims do it)
I’m semi-serious here. Instead of proclaiming woe and doom in a comments section, you could become a religious scholar and have a subservient wife who needs to cover up to some extent in public, and many children. Now, I think that is not exactly great, but I’m an evil left-winger on the march who is going to destroy everything, or whatever.
I understand the dramatic flair, but given this description, I feel like even you understand that it’s not the core part of any real criticism. It’s mostly heat. My personal belief is that while I don’t like many of the ideas the Trump administration embraces, it’s fundamentally a pretty regular administration that is subject to pretty regular political pressures, and I feel like these types of rhetorical flourishes are contributing to a really skewed idea of what may actually be going on. Bad modeling is a problem for its own sake, because even if we think it might benefit ideas we like at the expense of those we don’t, it’s basically impossible to justify those predictions using a bad model.
I’ve said for a long time that everything that everyone has been saying on this (including Trump) could simultaneously be pretty much true, yet there be no scandal. The story has already taken several twists, so I’m mostly in waiting mode.
On this point, I think he’s in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t scenario. If Trump had called up Jeff Sessions and said, “I want you to come to the WH this afternoon and brief me in all ongoing investigations that are related to the Russia investigation and, in particular, electronic surveillance,” do you think that you might get upset with him for ‘meddling in an ongoing investigation’?
I think likening the healthcare debates to firing a loaded gun in random directions is just bizarre, given how it seems much more natural to interpret it in terms of other presidential powers.
I also don’t see your evidence for the claim that he hasn’t actually acquired any sound advice on the topic of North Korea. I really feel like it’s begging the question, because my alternate interpretation given earlier seems to fit the data just fine.
The bit on legislative bickering really doesn’t even rise to the level of being worth my attention… so it certainly doesn’t implicate an image of the Commander in Chief using kill-em-dead weaponry haphazardly. The latter could be an actual threat to me; the former is just a personal opinion on squandering political capital.
As far as I know, it’s been clarified that the accusation was on the basis of a New York Times article indicating that the FBI had gotten some information about Trump campaign members from wiretaps of Russian officials. Trump must have skimmed over that aspect or he wouldn’t have wanted to draw more attention to it.
I was pointing to it as an example that industrialization and technological “modernization” need not entail democracy, women’s lib, “love marriage” (according to the stats I’ve seen, the majority of Japanese marriages were arranged well into the 1940s), and so on.
I also think that when it comes to the Pacific theater of World War II, the United Stated was quite clearly the “bad guy”; that America’s actions in East Asia served mostly to hand over China to the butcher Mao; and that Pearl Harbor was a perfectly justified reaction to the FDR regime’s economic warfare against Japan (see here to start).
I have criticisms of Japanese culture which would make me reluctant to fully endorse it as “an attractive model”. But as preferable in many, many ways to what we have now, I will say yes, indeed.
Basically, the more irascible, heathenish, gun-loving, “Heinz-57” blended mutt, barely inside the Hajnal line (and so clannish-but-not-too-clannish), white Borderers.
Mainly, because while the Middle Ages may be irrecoverable in it’s entirety, elements remain at least somewhat salvageable in theory, whereas the world of classical Rome is gone far beyond that. It’s the same element that forms my core critique of neopagan movements; that they’re like taking a few fragments of shattered pottery from an archaeological dig, gluing them mosaic-style to a piece of cardboard in a vague vase-shape, and dubbing it the vase restored.
That said, I’d agree that plenty of the principles driving the modern left are indeed Christian virtues “run amok”, and the blame could be laid there. I have even more blame for Plato, though, and his victory over the unfairly-maligned “sophists”. As I once heard a philosophy student sum up the base differences between Western and Eastern philosophical traditions, in the West the Anti-Sophists won, while in the East, the Sophists won. Hence my interest in the Confucians, especially Xunzi, who seems particularly compatible with elements of Western Right-wing thought. (Let me also link again to Alexander Eustice-Corwin’s “Confucianism After Darwin“.)
Fair, but more direcly, that an “Official Religion” of some sort is inevitable, so better it be openly recognized as such, and that it not be insane, requiring patently false material claims about human nature and human “equality”, dysgenic, and incompatible with maintaining civilization, our current one being all of these.
That I’m right and he’s wrong? That we don’t see “mobs of brownshirts”, but we do see the “Antifa” mobs? And the demographic decline of whites, with plenty of people openly cheering it on, to it’s ultimate conclusion?
And as for your religious conversion “options”, first, what makes you think I’d do any better trying to fake sincere belief in their supernatural nonsense any better than I’d do faking sincere belief that Caitlyn Jenner is stunning and brave? Secondly, I’m not sure how familiar you are with those ultra-Orthodox Jews, and how rare it is they actually welcome (for certain values of that word) converts, and the degree to which non-ethnically-Jewish converts remain somewhat outsiders despite the religious conversion. As for converting to Islam, besides likely creating a permanent and fatal breach with all my kin, first let me point you to Jim Donald explaining why Islam is “The solution we do not want.“.
Read the whole thing, really. And as for the (willfull) “blindness” of modern left-wingers to the “misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and extreme social conservatism” of Muslims, what I’ve seen indicates this doesn’t really extend to lily-white conversos.
Again, no, not really. I have actually researched such paths, along with Russian Orthodox (plenty here in Alaska) and others, and they pretty much are all like I outlined above. Either they’re too insular and ethnocentric to truly let in a white Gentile convert, whatever the lip-service paid toward “conversion”, or the Left’s “tolerance” of their illiberalism is narrowly tailored toward their being “non-Euro”, or both, and further, in the case of Islam, loaded with enough of their own dysfuctions (cousin-marriage, inshallah fatalism, the legacy of Al-Ghazali’s rejection of cause and effect in favor of occasionalism, etc.).
(It also doesn’t help that the only local Muslim community is Somali, and very much aren’t the sort to be welcoming a pasty white boy into their midst.)
[Edited to fix html tag and add parenthetical note]
If you’re going to use that line of reasoning, then the US’s economic warfare was a justified reaction to Japan invading East Asia.
I feel like the sin ultimately traces back to Perry’s Black Ships. All Japan wanted was to be left in peace, but America, as usual, could not resist the urge to meddle, destabilizing the region and creating conflict.
I feel like all of these arguments have the potential to back in time repetitively until we’re arguing over which tribe is descended from Cain and which from Abel…
Plenty of official religions have required belief in patently false material claims. As for dysgenics – do you approve of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink treatment of priests’ mistresses and children in the middle ages, or do you think that some of the smartest people should actually be celibate?
Are there mobs of them roaming the streets? How many people have they killed? The violent suppression of speech is a problem, I’m not gonna deny that, but a long weekend in Chicago is liable to kill more people than all the antifa in the Western world in decades have. There aren’t mobs roaming the streets.
Plenty of people have faked sincere belief in things they don’t really believe. Has there never been a clergyman with doubts?
I was being somewhat flippant. I do understand that there are some “contemporary orthodox” communities, however. In any case, religious converts often are not fully accepted, but their children or grandchildren are.
What makes you think I haven’t? “You must be ignorant of what I’m saying if you don’t agree with it; educate yourself” is not more charming coming from the right than the left. Jim has a punchy writing style, but his outsized confidence in what he is saying regardless of the subject is not a strength.
You think in a conservative mosque The Left is going to burst in, grab the white convert, and drag him into the street, while shouting “the rest of you guys are OK though?”
Look, ultimately, I’m just kind of baffled. You seem both to place great value in some things, but also be extremely fatalistic, to the extent of wallowing in it.
How so? (Whatever happened to the Monroe Doctrine?) How were Japan’s actions in East Asia any of our business whatsoever?
But I am a member of a shrinking demographic, and those trends are both being cheered on by powerful people and institutions, and show no signs of reversing, so why shouldn’t I project them on to our extinction?
Plenty of people who aren’t me. I’m simply not capable of being one of them. It is beyond my abilities to lie and fake belief in that manner.
That Jim seems rather unpopular here, for one.
In the literal, physical mosque? No. In the workforce? In the neighborhood (with neighbors calling the cops and such)? In the courts? In one’s children’s school (or with the inevitably-intervening CPS if one homeschools)? Yes on all of them.
What’s so incompatible about those two, that their combination is so “baffling”?
I already gave you evidence, from Trump’s own lips.
This administration is profoundly not normal. I’m thinking you are simply ignoring the things about it which aren’t normal. There are dozens and dozens of example of how “not normal” it is. The Mexican foreign secretary visited the US, and State didn’t even know it was going happening until they are asked about it by the media.
Given that in the Western world most powerful people are, and most powerful institutions are predominantly made up of, white people, that at least makes the “cheering on” bit rather more complex. There are certainly 3edgy5me types and so who talk about “white people” as though they themselves were not white. But it is a huge leap to take that to “the powers that be are cheering on white extinction”, is it not? Further, it is generally incorrect to look at a trend and assume it will continue in the same fashion indefinitely.
This isn’t a place where people necessarily categorize people/sentiments that are “unpopular” or even “abhorrent” as Things That Cannot Be Read. It’s not as though he’s a wizard who can, through his words, trick people into becoming slavery enthusiasts who think women aren’t fully conscious, or whatever. Unlike Warhammer 40,000K, evil books don’t warp your mind and summon daemons.
As a thought experiment – let’s say someone who thinks like you but can fake belief converts to Islam. Or, maybe he’s of a theistic bent, and does believe it. He attends a conservative mosque, is active in the community, marries a woman from the community (let’s say they’re Sunnis of Arabic background). He may not be completely accepted, but his kids are. Is he going to get in trouble if he doesn’t go out of his way to be an edgelord – is he going to get fired because he goes to a mosque where conservative Islam is preached? What are his neighbours going to go after him for? If he lives in a part of town with a Muslim population, and sends his kids to school there, presumably the school administrators are not going to overlook whatever it is the would object to, except for the kids who have a white convert father?
In my experience, nihilism and fatalism tend to go together.
No, it isn’t a “huge leap.” And as for those whites who talk of “white people”, this is where Albion’s Seed Puritans-and-Quakers versus Borderers comes in. And I can link you to some people who call for the extinction of “white people” who indeed are themselves not white. As our “most powerful institutions” become less white, do you really think the “what we need is for all the old racists (where “racist” is defined as synonymous with “white person”) to die” attitudes are going to decrease. That as we become a minority of the population, that our treatment, and the hatreds expressed our way, are going to get better, rather than worse. Look at history. Look at South Africa.
Perhaps, but tell me what factors could plausibly turn the trend around. I can see plenty that might accelerate it, but not any that lead to “making America whiter again”, as it were.
That still doesn’t mean I should automatically assume my interlocutor has read any particular writing of his.
More like “grandkids” for acceptance, I’d say.
Quite possibly, the moment the first complaint is filed with the paper-pushing womenfolk in HR.
Spousal and/or child abuse? After all, he’s a guy forcing his wife into a burkah and all that. Sure, said neighbor would never make that call on a “brown” Muslim, because then he might be accused of racism and Islamophobia and the cops wouldn’t bother, but a white guy? Sure, he should know better.
That’s a bit of an assumption right there, that there’s enough of a community.
I’m saying that, yes, it is indeed possible that the school administrators may well act toward “the kids who have a white convert father” in ways they wouldn’t against the “pure” Muslims, and if they don’t, it will be entirely due to the “non-white” mother.
(And all of this misses the whole “converting to Islam is ending Western Civilization, not saving it” argument, and that the whole outmarriage bit necessary to make these “convert to non-White religion” recommendations work serves to destroy one of the things I’d be seeking to conserve)
Fatalism may accompany nihilism, but it’s also known to accompany sincere religiosity as well; after all, see “inshallah”, “Deus Vult”, “God’s plan”, and so on. The ancient Greeks had plenty of fatalism, didn’t they? One need not believe in nothing and care about nothing to believe that outcomes lie mostly beyond one’s influence.
South Africa is a completely different story than the US. In South Africa, whites have gone from making up about 20% of the population, to under 10%, and currently it’s slightly under 80% black, under 10% white, under 10% mixed, and most of the rest are South Asians. The US is many different groups. Even when whites are a minority, they’re going to be the largest minority, and it is not a secret that there are ethnic tensions in the US that don’t involve any white people at all – it isn’t gonna be “they’re 49% of the population – let’s everyone else bust out the machetes.”
Well, given that “white” is a definition that has changed over time, there are people in the US right now who are not considered white, or not considered fully white, who will be, just as there are people now considered white who once were not considered white, or were not considered fully white. And, look, there are already places where the population is below 50% white that are nice places to live! Take Canada – neither Vancouver nor Toronto has seen a collapse of Western Civilization, pogroms, machetes, etc.
OK, that’s fair.
There are plenty of employers not like this.
OK, we’ve established that this hypothetical guy is, if not fully accepted, then at least the community is OK with him. He’s married into it. They are still going to back him up, for all sorts of reasons, most of which involve keeping a strong front up. Further, see below – why would his neighbours not be Muslims themselves?
The US has a Muslim population of 1%, Canada has a Muslim population of just over 3%. They are not evenly distributed throughout the population. My neighbourhood has a street a couple of blocks over that, for several blocks at least, is heavily Muslim; there’s halal chicken and pizza shops; the supermarket has a halal meat section, etc. There certainly are places that if a Muslim wanted to live near a mosque and have neighbours who were mostly/entirely Muslims they could do so.
And to her (and his, and the kids’) links to the community.
What is “Western Civilization” – what, to you, constitutes it?
The attitude of “if God wills it” is very different from “we are screwed and there is nothing we can do.”
Quite aside from the case of Trump, I think you are being unreasonably generous in your reading of his predecessors. Most of them were professional politicians. If they said unrealistic things on the campaign trail it wasn’t because they thought they were realistic, it was because they thought saying those things would get them votes.
But those “many different groups”, the “coalition of the fringes”, are politically united — in the classic manner — via provision of a common enemy. Those “ethnic tensions that don’t involve any white people” are papered over by what Steve Sailer dubs the “KKKrazy Glue:
So long as all failings can be blamed on the white man’s
evil eyewhite privilege and systemic racism, he can remain a figure of hate even well a smaller fraction of the population. After all, what fraction of the population are Jewish, historically? Did that stop there from being a non-trivial number of people who believe them to be secret puppetmasters hoarding the wealth?
And look at how little representation in politics the “Trumpenproletariat” have had. As we become a smaller share of the electorate, should we not expect politics to go even further against us? There’s a whole number of ways a people may be targeted and damaged socially and politically which fall short of literal machetes. And while non-whites won’t be “busting out the machetes” at 49%, what about at 30%? 20%? 10%?
Really? Who are these presently-not-white folks who will “become white” you speak of? Because what I see is Sailer’s “flight from white“, as with the push for a MENA (Middle East & North African) census category, or Rachel Dolezal. And as for referring to supposed similar cases of “becoming white” in the past, I hope you’re not referring to that whole, debunked “the Irish weren’t white” nonsense. And as for the whole “black by one-drop rule but ‘passing’ as white”, the modern DNA ancestry testing shows such low levels of sub-Saharan African admixture amongst self-identified (non-Hispanic) white Americans that such “passing” has to have been very rare in reality. So no, the boundaries of “White” are not so fluid as all that, and to the extent they are, it’s entirely “flight from white” outflow away from being one of the “privileged” who are the root of all evil.
As for your Canada example, the only (former) Vancouverites I’ve known would very much dispute the “nice place to live” descriptor. (Yes, yes, anecdotal, non-representative sample, and all that.) And I’d note that these are individual cities embedded in a larger polity still majority white, yes? And that a significant portion of the non-White is East Asian, right? And I’ll see your “Vancouver and Toronto”, and raise you Detroit, Baltimore, Ferguson, Atlanta…
Because there is no “Muslim neighborhood” in his city? (There isn’t one anywhere in this entire state.) Basically, I essentially reject your hypothetical. And as I and Jim both say, conversion to Islam is simply a different form of defeat and destruction.
For defining “Western Civilization”, it’s hard to give a solid, non-fuzzy definition on account of it having been mostly devoured by the alien entity from beyond the void. (That post of Scott’s is a good place to start.) I’d say that any such definition would have to include Charles Martel, Pope Urban II, Ferdinand & Isabella, Vlad Țepeș, and these fine folks; and would have to exclude marrying first cousins as anything other than rare and icky. Whatever the exact boundaries of Western Civilization, Islam will always be outside them.
True, but the point is that “we are screwed and there is nothing we can do” does not logically entail moral nihilism. One can believe it and still have moral values.
OK, but, is this working? Almost 1/3 of Hispanics voted for Trump, and it’s impossible for even half of those votes to be Cuban-Americans. Hillary Clinton suffered a drop in black votes even though her campaign and the zeitgeist surrounding it was less friendly towards (or, at least, considerably shittier at appealing to) working-class white men (Obama in 2008 and even 2012 got people Trump got this time) – which would suggest “he’s one of ours!” was a more powerful motivator than “fuck them!”
Further, they’re “papered over” to those isolated from them. Sailer also points out the huge ethnic tensions between Hispanics and black people in parts of California. Affluent left-wingers on university campuses of every race might not see what is happening in poorer parts of towns as Hispanics push black people out, often by using means that would be big news if white people were doing it. Sailer has noted recent conflicts between black people and Arab immigrants. And of course there’s the classic black-versus-Korean-shopkeep clash. “Papered over” does not mean “ceases to exist” it means that the sort of people who are very attached to narratives over reality don’t have to notice them.
The Democrats having an invincible demographic advantage has been predicted how many times? Sailer also likes to note that the predicted huge Hispanic impact on American politics keeps getting postponed. I think you are misreading the demographic situation: it is not 50-50, 40-60, 30-70, etc. It’s 50-20-15-10-5 or whatever. The “whites against everyone else”, whether it’s the vengeful Turner Diaries fantasies, or the fearful “oh jeez they’re gonna machete us all” fantasies, or the vengeful “we’re gonna machete them all” fantasies, or the hopeful Manson/Weatherman-esque “we, the Good Whites, will unite with the downtrodden hordes, to fight the Bad Whites” fantasies, are just that, fantasies. For fuck sake, you know what one of the most hated groups in South Africa is? Zimbabweans!
Consider how “hispanic” is treated. For official statistics purposes, it’s treated as a cultural add-on to other racial groups, but for all practical purposes, it’s a racial/ethnic category. Consider how racial definitions are different in Central and South America. Forget about the Irish – in Canada, anyone not an Anglo was considered “not properly white” a while ago (or, see “speak white”). Or, here’s Ben Franklin:
Changes that, before they happened or when had only begun, were considered disastrous, have happened, without disaster. This means that it is rational to discount someone saying “this will lead to disaster.”
The parts of Vancouver that are shitty are shitty because of heroin first and foremost. The whole “East Asians are different” thing ignores that, in the early to mid 20th century, East Asians were hated, and the stereotypes were different – very different from the “conformist math whiz” stereotype today, certainly. The only negative impact East Asians have in Vancouver is foreign real estate speculation.
Meanwhile, Toronto (as of 2011) has the largest single “visible minority” group (apparently “visible minority” is a Canadian only term) as “South Asian”, but they break East Asians up into several different groups. The demographic mix of Toronto – not just racially, but religiously – would horrify the good old Toronto families of yesteryear. And yet the sky has not fallen.
None of that is inconsistent with East Asians being different.
My point is that 100 years ago the stereotype was “subhuman coolies looking to skive, cheat, and work as little as possible, who are trying to hook white women on opium”, and the concept of, say, 10%+ of Toronto’s population being Chinese would have horrified most people. That happened, and the sky didn’t fall, plus the stereotype is completely different now.
So? If East Asians are different from other groups, it’s possible that fears of East Asians could be wrong while similar-sounding fears of other groups are correct.
It’s not proof of anything. But when someone says “if this thing happens, there will be these consequences”, the thing happens, 100 years later, the consequences haven’t materialized, that has to be taken into consideration when assessing similar statements being made now.
I don’t think you did. I think you quoted him stating something that we all think is true. That he points out that this can be gleaned from Xi’s own lips is not evidence that he hasn’t listened to any advisors. A pretty obvious strategy if you want someone to do something is to remind him that he knows he can do it.
This criticism is profoundly normal, and I’ve generally found it to be rooted in an ignorance of history.
Case in point. This is kind of like the PDB discussion all over again. Through the years, various presidents have found it desirable to trust certain segments of their advisors and to magnify/downplay certain administrative vehicles. I’m not going to bother digging for an example that is super similar to this one, because it just smells of the boring type of one-off gotcha that almost certainly is completely meaningless in the big picture.
I think you’re right, and I don’t think this contradicts my claim. Politicians can simultaneously be clueless about how things really work and also make campaign claims primarily to get votes. There are also cases where politicians do know how things really work, but make decisions they know are damaging because they think it will get votes regardless. We have historical examples of both of these things, which is a big part of why I usually roll my eyes at the cries of, “This is totally different!” Ok… there might be some things that are somewhat different… but let’s be serious about large-scale phenomena, please.
And how much of this is a product of Hillary? (Not to mention, this is further support of the point I make to my fellows on the Right that the ‘Hispanics are “natural conservatives” who are only turned off voting Republican because of opposition to illegal immigation’ meme is nonsense, and that as polls indicate, the primary Hispanic opposition to Republicans is on economic/redistributive policy ends, as seen with this president being left of the Repub “mainstream” on everything except “nationalist” issues like protectionism & immigration. And it was Gillian Brassil who said in Politico that “Donald Trump tweets like a Latin American strongman“; import Hispanic people, import Hispanic politics.)
Indeed, but that doesn’t mean the latter isn’t still a motivator, and particularly that when a group satisfies the former, they may turn to satisfying the latter.
So, were Jews in medieval and early modern Europe “misreading the demographic situation”, seeing as it wasn’t (a few percent) Jews versus “non-Jews” — since there were “ethnic tensions” between Germans and Slavs, Catholics and Protestants hated each other, clashes between Poles and Lithuanians and Cossacks, and so on, and you can’t just “paper over” those differences — unless you’re “attached to narratives over reality” — making their fears of Anti-Semitic myths fueling pogroms totally overblown and paranoid?
That doesn’t exactly mean “Kill the Boer” has gone away, has it? That there hasn’t been yet another recent wave of horrific attacks of torture and murder against white South African farmers (whose numbers have halved in under two decades as they flee this danger), and that Zuma didn’t just last month call for the uncompensated confiscation of white-owned land.
So you’re suggesting something like the Brazilification/”Castizo America” model, then?:
(The article I linked and excerpted above gives plenty of criticisms which I would hold forth as reasons such an model is very unlikely as a stable outcome.)
This reads like a categorical rejection of “this time is different” as an argument; need I point to all the Basic Income supporters on this board who respond to the ‘the Luddites were wrong about technological unemployment, therefore technological unemployment can never, ever happen’ argument with what are “this time is different”-type arguments.
Again, that’s not what my ex-Vancouverite contacts had to say about Chinese culture and it’s negative aspects.
You still haven’t given me reason to believe that the percentage of the population who are white (by present day definitions) won’t fall to literally zero.
The share of the Hispanic vote that Republicans get is usually in that range, though. GWB got a record high in one of his elections. It’s a significant margin, but not a “clear and obvious enmity by an entire group” margin.
OK, but, what evidence is there that the latter impulse exists to a significant degree among most/all visible minorities?
The comparison is false. Jews were a minority that had zero power. What % of positions of authority were held by Jews in the middle ages? Versus what % of positions of authority in the US today? I don’t see how a majority, that holds a disproportionate share of wealth and power, that is going to be the largest minority, still with a disproportionate share of wealth and power, is comparable to a tiny and hated minority.
Again, South Africa’s demographics are completely different from the US. If you have a country where 15-20% are Group A, 80+ are Group B, and Group A has ruled over Group B by law, it isn’t going to look great for Group A if actual democracy arrives. But that’s not the case in the US.
More that there are people right now who are “white”, as in, if you saw them on the street, you’d say “a white guy just went by” but they’re not considered white for cultural reasons. The term could get redefined. It’s been redefined in the past.
I don’t categorically reject those arguments, but “this time is different” needs to come up with some extra-good evidence.
They tend to commit violent crimes at a lower rate than average, and I thought that was the ultimate worry here?
Because extrapolating trends to the future is an extremely dicey business?
No group of people ever had zero power. They may have had very little, but I can’t think of any group that had zero agency.
Also, power is not the same as being in ‘positions of authority.’ People in positions of authority have more power, tis true, but that doesn’t mean that the governed are powerless.
Political power, whatever. Jews in Medieval Europe had nobody to defend them except for local rulers who would gladly stop defending them as soon as “getting rid of creditors” became more attractive than “being able to borrow.”
I understood this just fine. I’m disappointed to hear that some did not.
I am not sure that the people Scott is complaining about necessarily did not understand the first post. I think you can understand that he is saying ‘don’t intentionally try and be offensive to promote a cause, that will just tarnish your cause’ and make the kinds of comments people made on the first post.
Plenty of people in the first post are clearly rejecting this as a good tactic. Other people who complain about the examples also might not be missing the point, as a key element of his point is that the Harvard group is a ‘Cause Offense Club’ so by explaining that M&P are about as inoffensively offensive as you can get, they are arguing against the assumption that the Harvard group was just trying to cause offense. Obviously some people did not understand the post, I imagine that happens with any post, however I am not sure if all the people Scott thinks didn’t understand actually didn’t understand.
I think we just see the line between “invite controversial speakers for the sake of controversy” and “invite well qualified people who happen to be controversial” as nebulous. All the people who think Murray should be allowed to speak are in the latter category. All the people who think he shouldn’t be allowed to speak are in the former.
“I feel like the free speech movement is trying the opposite tactic: looking for the most hideous, deformed, universally loathed axe murderer to sit on that bus and become their test case. Not only does that make them more likely to lose their test cases, it makes things harder for everyone else. I understand the temptation, because free speech as a principle is about protecting the unpopular. But this doesn’t mean that the political process of defending free speech needs to be.”
Who does “the free speech movement” refer to in this quote? I see a lot of people promoting nasty people and causes because they support those nasty people and causes. I don’t see a lot of people who promote nasty people and causes that they don’t agree with out of a desire to promote free speech. People who care about free speech defend the right of those nasty people to say what they want of course, but as you say that’s very different from actively trying to spread nasty views in the name of free speech.
I just can’t see describing the people who invited Murray and Petersen as being part of any real free speech movement. It seems much more plausible that they’re motivated by some combination of actual sympathy for those people’s views, and a desire to fuck with their classmates.
Who else would you invite then? If I were going for “maximally offensive that I disagree with,” well as a conservative Catholic it would be some kind of performance artist that aborts the baby Jesus and yells about how white people and Christians are the root of all evil or something. And if I did that, at most US campuses, no one would riot over it.
Scott, I just think that you muddied the waters by writing your essay around a very bad example. If you had written it around an invitation for Milo, it would have been received differently, I think.
Ultimately, NAACP had to wait quite some time before they found Rosa Parks, who was both willing to do this and a good victim. You don’t just get to create your test cases from scratch, most of the time you have limited options.
IMHO, Jordan Peterson and Charles Murray come across very well to high IQ people and at most are incomprehensible to the rest of the population.
PS. You misspelled Peterson as Petersen again.
Rosa Parks was an active member of the NAACP, in Montgomery, beginning in 1933. The bus boycott was in 1955-56. They weren’t waiting to find her. They spent nine months planning the boycott, not looking for a sympathetic face. That was the easy part.
Furthermore, Claudette Colvin was one of the plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, which was the court decision that ended bus segregation. Rosa Parks was not. Parks’s case was caught in a legal tar pit.
Apparently no one else in the thread knows this either. I’m not sure it has any bearing on the core of Scott’s argument, bu the historical analogy falls apart on getting basic facts wrong. People are too quick to compare things to the Civil Rights movement, without bothering to understand what actually happened.
I’m curious about what the mechanics of changing this story from the historical truth to the popular myth we have, who has behind it, who benefitted, and what it means.
To summarize the popular myth, it’s that a regular black woman at the end of a long day of work refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger, and was somehow compelled to do so (I am intentionally *not* looking up the historical details).
What is the impact of the transition from that story to reality? To think of a few:
* It minimizes the work required to make real social change. One day, Rosa Parks just decided she’d had enough, refused to give up her seat, and brought about change. Slacktivism works! No need to think too hard about strategy and grind out series of small wins. Just decide one day you’re not going to go along with the injustice, and that will set the wheels of progress in motion.
* It suggests that Parks was responding to an arbitrary practice on a particular bus rather than confronting entrenched institutional racism. Maybe if Rosa had caught an earlier bus that day, she would have been allowed to sit, and the whole thing would be avoided? This narrative minimizes the scope of the injustice being confronted, and allows us to tell ourselves that the problem was a few overzealous bad apples than a fundamental institutional problem. Getting rid of those racist Bad Apples is enough.
It seems both of these would be in the interest of preventing any real change and keeping injustices going. It invites people to engage in ineffective means to try to bring about change, and to scapegoat individuals instead of taking on institutions.
So we need to fire/try racist cops, or fire the United gate workers, etc, rather than look deeply at how those institutions operate.
People are too quick to compare things to the Civil Rights movement, without bothering to understand what actually happened.
I think because the Civil Rights Movement has become this black-and-white (pun not intentional), feel-good story where the heroes and villains are clearly defined, the villains acted atrociously, and a victory can be declared (“and this is why we don’t have segregated lunch counters any more!”) even if it’s not that simple in actuality. There’s a golden aura of the Right Won, the Wrong Lost, Justice and Truth were triumphant about it that is very appealing: white people get to feel good about things (because they’re sure they would have been one of the Good Whites back in the day, not the ones pulling black women out of bus seats or voting for Bull Connor as the Democrat Commissioner for Public Safety).
So every activist cause that comes afterwards wants to shine some of that light on itself, and make their cause the sympathetic, heroes and villains with an easy clear result, story that the Civil Rights movement has been mythologised as, e.g. gay rights (which drew and draws criticism from some African-Americans, particularly those in Black churches, because they resent the identification of white gays with their cause and resent being cast as the repressive, oppressive, backwards-looking villains in the story this time round).
I knew both those things, but I thought that the NAACP were first looking for people outside of the NAACP who were good PR, which turned out to not work very well, so eventually they picked a member (which was a risky strategy in itself, if the media had outed her as a plant, which they didn’t). But perhaps I am mistaken on this.
That Claudette Colvin was the legally strongest case, but too weak for PR purposes, just strengthens my point.
I understand that The ACLU defended those Nazis in Skokie specifically because they were repellent, and that it was a largely effective tactic for defending ‘free speech’. If my understanding is correct, it’s hard to reconcile with this post.
Also, “the toxoplasmosis of rage” can be an effective tactic, depending on circumstances,right?
Lenny Bruce, 2 Live Crew, Ice T. All vulgarians who only strengthened free speech norms.
No, they strengthened free speech *laws* and constitutional thinking.
The average schmoo on the street still doesn’t understand “free speech” or necessarily agree with it.
And yet they’re not going to call the cops on comedians or rappers who are as or more offensive (or less, but outside what the boundaries were before) than those examples. Without Lenny Bruce could we have had George Carlin?
No, they’re going to shout those comedians down themselves. Why should the police bother to do it when active citizens will do their job for them?
George Carlin wouldn’t last today. Too critical of both sides, which is unacceptable, because we all know that one side is good and the other side is evil. Even Dave Chappelle is quickly becoming a pariah…
I watched Chapelle’s special on Netflix last week and I was amazed to hear the only really controversial thing I think I’ve heard from a comedian in recent memory in his defense of Bill Cosby.
Yep. I’m also thinking of the Scopes Monkey Trial that wasn’t the result of one brave teacher who happened to teach a lesson on evolution; it came from the ACLU and officials in the city of Dayton Tennessee deliberately setting up a situation where they could bring a test case. I don’t exactly think evolution or free speech advocates came out of that one looking bad.
Something I’ve wondered about that case; since it was a cherry-picked test case that was set up to look like “one brave teacher takes on the backwards”, did it help harden the attitudes that are still evident, so that in the Year of Our Lord 2017 Americans are still fighting battles over Science Versus Religion in schools?
After all, if you paint your opponents as dumb knuckledraggers, and your opponents know the case didn’t just fall out of the sky but was engineered, and yet the narrative has been fixed in the popular consciousness as “brave stand for science and truth by one lone fighter against the entrenched and powerful forces of ignorance and repression”, they’re going to feel angry and vengeful and will block and fight back and fight every inch of the way.
Does anyone think the Scopes Trial won the battle but helped aggravate the war, and that things might have cooled down and naturally changed if it hadn’t been taken? Or is it a case of this had to happen, else schools all over America would be teaching Adam and Eve in Eden in biology class?
I’m mainly interested because my biology teacher was a nun, and there was no problem about teaching the curriculum including evolution, and no “this is all fake, you have to believe the Bible literally word for word” commentary. So the American school wars seem very odd to an outsider.
The American school wars come from the Protestant, not the Catholic, tradition. American Catholics, I believe, occasionally have to be reminded that the Pope said it was OK to teach evolution in science class back in 1950, but mostly don’t have a problem with it and explicitly Catholic schools in the United States generally teach biological evolution (including of the human body) as an uncontroversial fact.
Protestants are different, much more prone to biblical textual literalism (it’s a minority even there, but a substantial one), not as respectful of science and reason as alternate paths to the truth. Whether Scopes made that worse, is hard to say. It is at least plausible that it is so.
Is this the case for Protestants elsewhere as well? I was raised Greek Orthodox and AFAIK there’s no overall consensus in the Orthodox tradition about whether evolution is compatible or incompatible with Genesis (my church leaned heavily towards the former). Looking at Europe, the EKD (covering most of the German Protestants) is pretty clearly pro-evolution, and the few other countries with large Protestant populations I looked through were at least compatibilist.
So I suspect it’s something more specific than Protestantism’s literalist leanings that makes it a problem in the US. The idea of “purity spirals” being induced when there is insufficient outgroup warfare comes to mind; Europe fought wars early and often over Christian denominations, while in the US it was mostly limited to Catholics and Protestants sometimes sneering at each other and self-segregating. The Roman Catholic church has a strong, worldwide power structure to mitigate this by deciding the question at a higher level that most Protestant denominations lack.
I add that Protestants have always had issues with continual schism, so that this is a problem with some groups, not others.
Protestants, as Mary notes, are a diverse bunch. In particular, they include a great many agnostics, secular humanists, etc, who like having a church around to hold weddings and funerals in. There are a great many Protestant churches where a majority of the parishoners under the age of fifty fit that profile to at least some extent and the clergy is careful not to offend them. I suspect, though do not have the experience to say with certainty, that European Protestantism is now mostly of this strain.
Protestants who still place their belief in God and Jesus Christ at the center of their lives, have a long and well-established tradition of taking Biblical text as the highest path to truth, and relatively little in the way of authorities or role models for integrating scientific truth into a religious framework. This doesn’t always lead to rejection of human biological evolution as a scientific truth, but it often can do so. That may be primarily an American thing (or, given the enthusiasm of American Protestant missionaries, at least a not-European thing).
“But since the devil’s bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she’s wise, and what she says, what she thinks, is from the Holy Spirit, who can help us, then? Not judges, not doctors, no king or emperor, because [reason] is the Devil’s greatest whore.”
–Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Last Sermon in Wittenberg (1546)
“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but–more frequently than not–struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”
–Martin Luther, Table Talk (1569), pg. 353
It’s not so much protestants in general as Baptists, which are the loudest and most numerous sort-of-group of Protestants in America.
Baptists are also the most (IME) prone to splintering and having someone get a theology and pissing off to start their own church and do their own thing.
Martin Luther had a lot of stuff to say about the Jews, too. Don’t think it’s entirely fair to hold all protestants responsible for that.
They didn’t pick the Nazis, though. They had a long history of defending free speech, then the Nazis came along and they said, “Yup, these guys too.” That’s not the same as looking for a controversial figure to defend and then defending them (though the Scopes Trial is an example of such, as phoenixy tells it; I think it also can be distinguished, on other grounds, but that’s beside the point).
Right. This Harvard group isn’t so much choosing Murray as it is allowing recent circumstances to offer him up on a silver platter.
“I’m saying that if you are looking for a test case specifically to promote the value of free speech, and you do it by deliberately searching for the ugliest and most hate-able person you can find, you’re doing it wrong…”
If that’s all they were interested in doing they’d go down to the local homeless shelter and get a foul-mouthed guy with nothing to lose to spout off on stage. No, clearly they’re choosing the obvious choices, people who’ve been no-platformed, boycotted, and disinvited RECENTLY, and who were invited to speak to an academic audience for academic purposes.
Okay, but how is Charles Murray, Harvard class of ’65 and perhaps the most productive American social scientist of his generation, not the right person for free speech advocates at Harvard to take a stand over?
I am happy for people to take a stand over him being heckled at Middlebury.
I don’t think the right way to stand for Murray is to invite him somewhere without caring about genetics or race or social sciences just because he seems suitably offensive.
If the harm to Murray is that he was unfairly denied a forum to speak (and he may have just been heckled, but Allison Stanger got a concussion – let’s not euphemise that event), then how is offering an alternative forum not the perfect stand to take?
How would you propose someone stand for Murray in a way that would not attract your criticism?
Are they offering an alternative forum or just inviting him to show they like free speech? Was he actually *denied* a forum to speak? (I literally do not remember – I know at least one of the Berkeley/Middlebury events was streamed over the internet anyway, despite protests, but can’t remember which)
Here’s an op-ed from the (liberal!) professor who was given a concussion in the event.
Short version: his lecture was shut down partway through due to protesters in the lecture hall shouting him down. They moved to a different venue, to lecture via livestream. That venue was discovered by protesters as well, who banged on the windows and pulled a fire alarm. When attempting to leave that building, Murray, Stanger, and a Middlebury VP were surrounded by a mob that injured Stanger and attempted to prevent them from leaving by surrounding and banging on their car.
So to some degree the event “happened”, in that there was at least a partial livestream, but it was far from the forum that was originally intended (no live Q&A, for one).
Oh, I thought they successfully got a pretty-much-complete event done with the livestream (obviously no open Q&A, but my understanding was that the professor was at least able to ask some things and make it more conversational). An alternate venue is quite appropriate if that’s not the case.
I don’t think the right way to stand for Murray is to invite him somewhere without caring about genetics or race or social sciences just because he seems suitably offensive.
I think in part this is because it’s college students, and students are gonna be students and be ‘daring’ and ‘challenge authority’ no matter if they’re left, right or anywhere in between. So the choice of speaker by any student society (from the atheists to the orthodox) is always going to have one eye on will this stir up publicity? can we get a row going?, mainly on the basis that (a) there’s no such thing as bad publicity and (b) a gang of late teens/early twenties love feeling big and important and that they’re changing the world, and having a big row on campus does that, even if for the outside world it’s a storm in a teacup.
I don’t think the right way to stand for Murray is to invite him somewhere without caring about genetics or race or social sciences just because he seems suitably offensive.
To within a rounding error, everybody cares about race and genetics. On campus, some people care about the social sciences. Off campus, a few people like you, me, and Murray also care about the social sciences.
Murray elicits so much much rage and attempts at demonization precisely because he objectively studies the Big Issues of Our Time.
Do you see why the position your articulating here is completely incoherent?
To use your Rosa Parks analogy, Rosa Parks didn’t ride the bus because she cared about getting from point A to point B. She did it because she wanted to have the right to do so.
If you still don’t see the problem, I honestly don’t know how else to help you expect to warn you that you’re way to mindkilled, with a likely large side of cognitive dissonance to think clearly about this issue.
Why not? It seems like a perfect application of the tit-for-tat strategy:
The authoritarians shut him down using violence at Middlebury, this was a defection in the political discourse game. If you want to disincentivize them from shutting down speakers using violence, the proper response is to give their victims an even larger platform, and make a big deal about it, even if you don’t care about or don’t like their message (that is, giving them a platform is a costly defection on your part). This way, shutting people down becomes counterproductive for the authoritarians, since it amplifies their message instead of suppressing it.
If instead people who are shut down are not given an alternative and larger platform, then the authoritarian strategy works, and they are incentivized to do it again.
Scott, you’re not reassuring anyone by referring to what happened at Middlebury as mere “heckling.” What happened at Middlebury was a violent confrontation. By poo-poohing the severity of the incident, you are reinforcing the impression that you really only care about offenses committed against your own tribe.
A liberal political science professor Alison Stanger was put in the hospital with a concussion by the masked vigilantes out to get Dr. Murray.
In listing the reasons we admire you, your being a Machiavellian genius at wily PR ploys comes pretty far down the list.
I think you are getting wrong the psychological dynamics of the current moment. There’s no shame in that.
In contrast, the Harvard Open Campus Initiative is closer to the optimal.
Although they haven’t gotten the symbolism perfect either. The best thing would be to invite both Charles Murray _and_ Alison Stanger to recreate their aborted discussion at Middlebury on the big stage at Harvard in front of a peaceful, quiet, respectful audience. Have Harvard be the role model for how intellectual debate should be carried on in American academia.
“…if you are looking for a test case specifically to promote the value of free speech, and you do it by deliberately searching for the ugliest and most hate-able person you can find, you’re doing it wrong.”
I can’t help but compare this to the problem you describe in the Toxoplasma of Rage post. In both the free speech case described above and the examples used in the TOR post, some group is signaling their commitment to their cause by daring people to support the weakest case they can possibly make for it. And, in doing so, they’re pulling something out of the culture to hype their point–or simply themselves.
The thing that seems wrong here is that ultimately there’s no benefit to society in this whole process. It’s just a virtue-signaling exercise that leaves behind a residue of anger. There’s no good will involved, either on the part of the virtue-signaler or the people from which he’s extracting grudging agreement. It ultimately isn’t free speech (or animal rights, or rape awareness) that’s being promoted. If it were, there’d be some kind of a positive-sum game, and the whole exercise would be worth it. Instead, what’s being promoted are the organizers of the event. Everybody loses but them.
Of course, this could be a positive-sum exercise. But that requires real political skill and the ability to identify ways for everybody to win. That skill seems to be in short supply these days, while the hyping skills are available in abundance.
Another thing they have in common is that they’re both pretty blatant examples of Scott dealing with cognitive dissonance between Scott wanting to be a rationalist and to fit in with his social circle. For example in that post he conspicuously avoids noticing the lack of examples where the people on the right turned out to be wrong. However, he’s unwilling to do the rationalist thing and conclude that the people on the right tend to have a better model of the world. Instead he prefers to attribute the problem to a cognitive bias that could happen to anyone.
Isn’t the more likely explanation for the selection of Charles Murray et al. the fact that Murray at least, specifically, was recently and publicly chased by a mob to prevent him speaking? What stronger signal in support of free speech would there be than giving a forum to the man who was just very publicly denied a forum by way of riot?
The most direct support for free speech will generally be supporting victims of censorship. Sure, if you’re trying to create a martyr, choose carefully a la Rosa Parks – but Murray is facts on the ground, as it were.
Beyond that, Murray is willing to risk his not young body to allow universities to demonstrate that they are still civilized places. It’s American academia that has something to prove at present, not Charles Murray. Murray is graciously offering to let colleges prove they aren’t as violent and hate-filled as they seem.
The Institute for Justice is doing the same thing with Civil Forfeiture laws. Basically, these laws allow the police to seize your property without due process if they suspect you of a crime (no, I am not using hyperbole). The problem for opponents of legalized theft is that most of the people targeted by the law are some combination of poor, black, and criminal. But the laws are now being used to target middle-class white families, which makes it easier to make the case to middle-class white people that these laws are bad.
Significantly better than the original post, and for some reason this feels less echo-chambery to me. I prefer talking first about the incident before talking about theory. And knowing that Milo was ruled out helps me understand the case. I prefer abstract level discourse, and I often rely upon you to keep things grounded in a story, facts, something, before getting into an abstract notion of the Free Speech Drawing From the Commons ideas. You do this type of thing very well and reliably.
Second, I never know whether to refer to Scott as ‘you’ or as ‘him,’ when commenting. Do you, Scott, have a preference? Or does anyone know if Scott has a preference? Or should we go old-fashioned and avoid all second and 1st person pronouns.
This commenter would be tickled by that convention, although the author might have some objections to being otherized.
Probably depends on who you’re intending to talk to. Sometimes people address the rest of the commentariat, sometimes they address Scott himself.
It seems to me that if you want to promote free speech, you invite those speakers who are both:
1. The most offensive possible; and who also
2. Have the most worthwhile substantive things to say.
I am not saying that free speech is only for attractive popular people. I’m saying that if you are looking for a test case specifically to promote the value of free speech, and you do it by deliberately searching for the ugliest and most hate-able person you can find, you’re doing it wrong.
And I’d be sympathetic to that argument except.
Except it sounds like (whether this is what you mean or not) you’re saying “Ugh, those conservatives, there was no problem about free speech until they started making all this fuss and deliberately inviting provocative speakers who will cause riots”.
And I’m going to say phooey right there. I’ve had to put up with instances of “transgressivenes is so cool and good and right and let’s épater those bourgies, baby!”
I’m going to take the stupidest case I can think of: Piss Christ. Yes, I know you’re all sick to the back teeth of it and I’m not going to say it’s a great example, but it’s precisely because it’s so stupid I want to use it.
Yeah, I was a little bit offended by it, I’ll admit that off the bat. But mostly I was shrugging and going “Well, this is what modern artists and their hip clientele and the galleries that show them like to do, big whoop”. I could see the point of the conservatives who were protesting about “Is this what public money is going to support?” but I knew that was a lost battle. The artist would never have dreamed in a million years of doing a Piss Martin Luther King which would have been really radical and shocking and re-invigorating the imagery that has become sanitised and acceptable over time yadda yadda yadda I forget how he defended his work; because it was safely using right-wing or traditional Christian imagery it wasn’t going to attract any opprobrium (except from the conservatives/right/traditional Christians, which was gravy because that was what it was intended to do in large part).
Now, artistic expression can fall under free speech. And I’d have no problem (although I would have and did grouse) about that in this case, except.
Except that there was very palpably a tone of “So it’s upsetting the squares/the right-wing/the traditional conservatives in power? Yippee!” There was pleasure that it was offensive to certain sensibilites. The offence was the point, as far as a good number were concerned, even if they didn’t say it outright. But you could read it between the lines: we’re the sophisticates, they’re the rubes, and unfortunately they’re in power right now (it being the hey-day of the Republicans and the Religious Right) so let’s stick it to them while we can. You can possibly even read it in this 2014 HuffPo piece, so charmingly titled “One Of The World’s Most Controversial Artworks Is Making Catholics Angry Again”:
Powerful piece of artwork? Cheap trick, more like, and quick – can anyone name (without Googling) the artist or any of his other works? But I really don’t think the piece is worth all the fuss and bother it caused. It was of its day and its day is done. And can you imagine the HuffPo tossing off a light, laughing, mocking reference to “a certain subset were nonplussed at the idea of their deity being dunked in someone’s bodily fluids” if an artist had used a Hindu deity or Buddhist or [pick your own small ethnic belief system]?
But anyway – my point, such as it is, is that there was a time when deliberate provocation was seen as a good thing for society, and now the shoe is on the other foot and I’m not actually all that sorry it is, to be honest. Yes, all my grudges are showing.
I agree with Scott’s larger point that two wrongs don’t make a right. But damn it, we on the right didn’t start this particular bar fight, and the tone of “why oh why are they using such methods when we were having such a nice civilised tea party” sits ill with me.
Where are you getting that? Is it from Scott’s condemnation of the Middlebury mob? Is it from his condemnation of Richard-Spenser-punching? Seriously, where the hell do you see this?
Where are you getting that?
Now, I’ll admit that Thatcher’s invocation of “Victorian values” sat very badly with me (and I’m socially conservative) because it was clear what the intention there was, and I’m sure that “family values” did indeed go the same way in the USA.
But how come, or why did, conservatives suddenly out of the blue start on about “family values”? Tell me those excepts don’t sound like “things were muddling along but generally okay until for no discernible reason those on the conservative/right wing suddenly kicked up a fuss about A, B or C”? I’m more than happy to give Scott the benefit of the doubt about intention, but the tone can be interpreted variously. And nothing there, I note, about maybe liberals shouldn’t give in to the temptation to “conspicuously desecrate” conservative principles, which is half the problem in the first place: liberals gonna liberal, nothing wrong there, let them desecrate to their hearts’ content; conservatives push back, oh noes, culture war and it’s all their fault for having values liberals don’t like!
Why, as I asked, did conservatives feel the need to talk about “family values” or, as now, “free speech”? Could it possibly, maybe, I don’t know, let’s take a wild guess, have someting to do with it being a reaction? A reaction to something those on the liberal/left-wing side were doing socially and politically? Or was it just lust for controversy for the sake of controversy? Can we ever know? As in the wise words of Zapp Brannigan:
It is indeed a puzzlement!
The real issue you are arguing about is terminal values, and which ones are “right”. The phrase structure “I think your embrace of X and Y are abhorrent and I would not say such things if I were you” has been employed uncountable many times with X and Y representing both liberal and conservative terminal values.
This is common human behavior. Conservatives are human, too.
Ok, I think I see where you’re coming from. I read those passages as “free speech is very obviously under threat (from illiberal leftists, by and large, which is why it’s mostly under threat in left-dominated areas), but we need to be careful about how we defend it because we might accidentally turn it into yet another political football, rendering the issue permanently intractable.” This doesn’t seem like an attack on conservatives to me; just tactical discussion from an ally in the same fight. It happens that conservatives are the majority of the ones complaining about the problem, but that fact isn’t the *cause* of the issue, it’s a natural result of what’s going on.
I think a better comparison than “family values” might be the fight over the death penalty – after SCOTUS reinstated it during the crime wave in the late 20th century, it became an extremely partisan issue, with conservatives gradually pushing harder and harder for executions and liberals doing everything they could to sabotage them, without anyone ever actually either (a) arguing over its correctness or (b) trying to change the laws.
The US in general has a problem where we will recognize rights like, say, privacy, that people should have in light of new issues that weren’t present during the founding of the country or the immediate aftermath of our civil war, but nobody ever considers just amending the constitution. A similar thing can happen the other way, where some part of the law just doesn’t work, and the courts try to patch it (or not: sorry, Bureau of Land Management) and Congress never fixes it, leaving things to court or administrative interpretation that really need to be settled in a firmer and clearer way. This has very little to do with free speech, though.
To address only your tangent, I think it’s important that:
1. Powers of the government are strictly enumerated because governments are composed entirely of weasels, BUT
2. Rights of the people are broad and presumed to exist and be worth protecting because governments are composed entirely of weasels.
So by amending the constitution to ensure certain specific rights are preserved you are implicitly admitting that that your rights don’t exist until the government enumerates them, and that is the opposite of truth. iirc, that was the point of including the 9th amendment in the bill of rights, as a compromise between your view and mine (mine is better).
I view the 9th amendment as a means of discovery, not a defense. “The people have other rights not listed” is inadequate protection against a government that is, as you note, entirely composed of weasels. The proper use of the 9th amendment, in my view, is as a holding measure while we develop explicit text for the right. You don’t want to depend on it, because it’s possible for the 9th amendment to just not work if you have a judge who disagrees with you about what rights are “natural” or otherwise present in the common law. Sometimes it does work, of course, so it’s a good backup, but it’s not reliable.
I really appreciate you deiseach for so frequently and so cogently expressing the unworthy emotional responses of us backwards knuckledraggers.
Can I also just make the point that I don’t believe more than 5% of the population actually believes in free speech. They might say they do or think they do, but there’s always conditions applied once you drill down into it. I’m personally in favour of getting rid of defamation laws but very few people agree with me because apparently malicious lies don’t count as speech or something.
That is to say, I don’t think there is a commons to be protected or used sparingly. It’s all turf wars.
A lot of people were disgusted by what happened at Middlebury.
I’m genuinely unsure how that is related to what I said. Did you mean to post this comment elsewhere?
“I don’t believe more than 5% of the population actually believes in free speech.”
I commented to the effect that the fairly encouraging reaction to the Middlebury disgrace would suggest that is overly cynical.
“The freedom of Charles Murray to discuss his research at a university” is a small subset of all potential freedoms of speech. I’m not at all disputing that most people want some speech – even some controversial speech – to be free.
I am arguing that most people don’t actually hold the broad principle of freedom for all speech everywhere. Again, I point to defamation law.
Perhaps by freedom of speech you mean something more narrow, such as “the freedom of reasonable people to calmly discuss controversial topics”. That’s something that has somewhat broader support, I freely admit.
But I think fundamentally the reason people support Murray’s right to speak is because they see value in *his speech* as opposed to wanting to allow *any speech*. The latter is just easier to argue without being branded a racist.
OTOH, very few people actively don’t believe in it.
It’s always a matter of whose ox gets gored.
Okay, that’s interesting. I count myself as “pro free speech”, but just as you predicted, I think that getting rid of all defamation laws is a bad idea. I defend this by saying that free speech is not valuable in itself, but has a number of useful “side effects” if you will. Spreading malicious lies on the other hand, is usually just pure bad. If you can discourage it without anything bad happening, why NOT make it illegal?
Have I changed your mind? If so, great. If not, I have a question. Why in the name of public discourse would you want to legalize that???
Yes, I’d be surprised if even 5% of the population literally holds free speech as a terminal value, but I think a much wider proportion think it’s a good thing in general. Probably upwards of 90% of people who will spontaneously join a conversation on the subject and most people who take a minute to think about it; it’s just a question of how many people have literally given it no thought at all.
The problem is, “in general” isn’t enough for it to matter. “Free speech is fine but hate speech should be illegal” is a common enough opinion (indeed, it is the law in many western democracies). To me, someone with this position does not “support free speech.” They oppose it. Because as the cliche goes, only unpopular opinions need to be protected.
I can see progressives defending a piss Hindu god.
Now piss Muhammad? You’d be an evil bigot who deserves everything they do to you.
No, I genuinely can’t see them doing so; if a Hindu or representative body complained that they found it disrespectful, insulting and (in this instance probably more congruent with the idea of cultural appropriation being harmful) deeply hurtful and emotionally wounding that one of their deities was treated in such a manner, I don’t imagine you’d get many progressives willing to stand up and take the hit about “sorry, artistic expression trumps your feelings”.
(I wouldn’t like it either, on the grounds that mocking people’s religion is offensive, even if I personally think these are false gods or pagans or what have you, but defending something on grounds of respect for religion is probably a dead duck as far as liberal good thinking is concerned).
Well, that’s the thing.
If someone who is American and doesn’t have any relation to a culture that is majority Hindu starts creating Brahmans out of, say, human excrement, yes they might get criticized for appropriation.
But if an artist from India, who was raised Hindu, does this, they can’t be accused of appropriation. And their art is available as social commentary. You would tend to see liberals generally supportive of this.
Salmon Rushdie is still celebrated in liberal circles, so we can also see Le Maistre’s point is incorrect.
But if an artist from India, who was raised Hindu, does this, they can’t be accused of appropriation.
Ah, you mean like the African artist, Chris Ofili, who used elephant dung in a picture of the Madonna? Possibly; certainly if a white artist had produced an image uncomfortably reminiscent of a golliwog they would have been crucified for it.
But I think things have reached such a pitch today that it wouldn’t be quite that simple; there would be those accusing the Indian artist of internalised colonialism, self-hatred, selling out, touting their culture for Western approval and money, etc. And certainly there would be a substantial number more willing to accuse and attack the liberals supporting the offensive imagery.
If he’s an African artist, there’s an excellent chance that he was raised Christian. Most of Africa south of the Sahel is; there are still some holdouts of African traditional religion, but they’re in the minority. Don’t know anything about the guy’s background, but “Ofili” sounds West African to me.
(North Africa and the Sahel are majority Muslim; but I wouldn’t expect to find a “Chris” there.)
I don’t recall him being accused of appropriation.
And the complaints about him were from the right. The left (which is the side from which accusations of appropriation come) seemed a lot less disturbed about it.
I think the general reaction to something like this would be to bury the story as much as possible. Because taking either side is potentially problematic, all the mainstream media outlets and official sources of approved public opinion would simply ignore it and refuse to discuss it.
The general rule seems to be: Mocking religion is OK, but mocking culture isn’t OK. Other societies’ religions are also culture, but your own society’s religion is just religion.
First off, Piss Christ wasn’t mockery, it was angry denunciation.
I think the general principle is more that mocking someone else’s culture or religion is bad. Mocking (elements of) your own is fine.
And “mocking” is a stand in for a more general idea, which is that that you need to be much more careful the farther away you are from something. Which is actually a pretty good idea, epistemically speaking.
If piss christ was created by an Iranian artist with no significant connection to the west or Christianity, do you think the groups of people who were celebrating/denouncing it would change to any significant degree?
That’s probably the wrong example, simply based on the fact that Iran and the US are engaged at a cultural level in opposition to each other in a way that, say, the US and India are not. That changes the context of the art.
Let me put it this way, I think if an Iranian tries to make a artistic point about, say, Catholic child abuse, the people who support it will be different (and fewer) than if a Boston Catholic does.
Hmmm, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.
I think it’s one of those double standards that constrains the acceptable behavior of white Christian Americans, but not of anybody else.
That’s because you are inside that culture.
I can see the use of the distance criterion as a heuristic: it’s easier to be wrong about someone else’s culture. The point where they lose me is where they inflate it into a moral imperative.
How was Piss Christ an angry denunciation? I know very little about it. Wikipedia states:
Winners write (revisionist) history. As well as exculpatory Wikipedia entries.
Let’s just say I think the contexts in which such an explanation for a piece of art involving an honored figure for a segment of the population with bodily waste would be accepted are severely limited.
Sorry, that was a loose characterization based on memories that are 30 years old.
My point was that it wasn’t intended to mock Christians as an outgroup. (Incidentally, it was also really only infamous because Jesse Helms wanted to use it as a stick to beat up the NEA.)
First off, Piss Christ wasn’t mockery, it was angry denunciation.
Mmmm – I don’t know. I understand the idea of questioning the restrictions, especially religious, of the society you were raised in when you are an outsider because you can’t fit in to the standards imposed upon you, and I realise he is from a Catholic background. On the other hand he was born and raised in New York and went on to study at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, so it’s not like he was isolated from a cosmopolitan, secular cultural atmosphere.
And he hasn’t come out and said it was about anger, though that may be diplomacy on his part; it’s the usual boilerplate about leaving interpretations up to the viewer. He does seem to have a taste for the attention-grabbing (calling it “lurid” as one reviewer did may be a bit on the strong side), possibly due to his background in advertising?
And if “Piss Christ” is about angry denunciation, what is he denouncing in his other images in the “Immersions” series (the Michaelangelo Moses the Lawgiver for one – I notice nobody has picked up on Moses or The Thinker)?
Granted, we don’t know that all the fluids are piss, they could be “milk, blood, and urine” because those were what he used, but it’s funny that it’s the one of the crucifix that is explicitly called Piss Christ (and as I said, nobody has made any reference to a Piss Moses as an accompanying denunciation of Judaeo-Christianity in American culture, can you possibly hazard a guess why? Yes, I would love to see a knock-down drag-out fight between the ADL and Serrano’s apologists over that one).
This is getting at Scott’s argument about “deliberate provocateurs are bad test cases for free speech” and Serrano strikes me as someone more invested in carefully cultivating an image (by riding the wave of what’s outrageous now) than making any serious statements.
A slightly edited version of something I said on the last post:
Well said, but I think you failed to state clearly 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.
Harvard is the leading institution of American higher education. With prestige comes responsibility: it has an obligation to show that American academia is not quite as degraded as recent events suggest. The most obvious way to do that is to host Charles Murray in a respectful manner by making clear that thugs will be punished.
“American academia” is not a monolith and Harvard has an obligation to make sure it does not become one. Part of that obligation involves not bowing to pressure from elsewhere when elsewhere is wrong, but part of it is also not getting involved in fights elsewhere.
If the current Parliament is voted out in Britain but refuses to give up their power, this reflects very badly on Western politics and governance, but the US has no obligation to step in and ensure that there is an orderly transition to the new government – in fact, I would argue that we have an obligation to stay out, in order to avoid entangling the two governments overmuch. Similarly, the best way for Harvard to show that American academia is not “degraded” is to carry on as before. Invite speakers when they are relevant to give talks on their area(s) of expertise, regardless of their statements outside that sphere. If a mob tries to shut down a lecture *at Harvard*, punish them then.
Part of the problem for Harvard and other American academic institutions right now is the perception that Middlebury, Berkeley, and all other campuses are one gigantic institution – that Harvard can punish mobs in Vermont and California by holding an event in Massachusetts, that bad hiring practices at U Chicago mean MIT must change its policies (not literally, but hopefully you see my point), and so on and so forth. Jumping into a conflict happening elsewhere only reinforces that notion.
Sounds like outgroup homogeneity bias.
Indeed. When your group is subject to outgroup homogeneity bias, actually being homogeneous is a bad plan. (This generalizes pretty well for other things, too – you never want your opponents’ propaganda to be right!)
Yes, this is essentially the same argument I made here in an OT a few months or weeks back about the gay/LGBT parades which apparently made a couple of people quite upset. I did not quite understand why but I think I might understand it better now.
My argument was that if you think the general public is not open enough to gays or LGBT you want to present them as something “boring” and ordinary. So ordinary that the people will think “what was that fuss all about?”. On the other hand the actual floats seem to be designed for “maximum outrage”. Kind of like inviting Milo Yiannopoulos (I am resorting to copy paste lest I would misspell his name) to an event which is supposed to promote free speech. I concluded then that it serves no good purpose, possibly actually causes harm. I am not absolutely sure about that any more though.
The outrageous gay float and the outrageous gay Greek both seem to serve the function of providing a sort of a “barrier” which, if it holds, ensures that the things you actually care about – gays not being ostracized (not just by Greeks) and reasonable controversial speech being actually free – are safe and secure.
At the same time, the two arguments do not necessarily contradict each other. If all people imagine when they hear LGBT are latex-clad weirdos (now mind you I have nothing against latex-clad weirdos but they are not the best PR), they are not going to be so accepting of LGBTs but at the same time if you make them tolerate latex-clad weirdos in the streets, you know that they will tolerate anything that is not nearly as “scandalous”. Similarly, if all people think of if you say free speech is Milo Yiannopoulos, they will indeed think less of free speech, but if you convince than that it is sensible to protect the freedom even of a speech like his, then you will find it much easier for them to accept any kind of reasonable speech. I am not sure whether accommodation or upholding principles radically are the better strategy. One could argue that since gay pride parades chose the latter and were largely successful, this gives you an answer. But I am not quite sure to which degree gays became much more accepted in the general population due to those marches and to which degree despite them and due to other factors.
So, Pride parades are about celebrating a particular culture that grew up in LGBT communities. Some LGBT folks go to them and some don’t; some go only as a show of solidarity, but at their core the parades are about a particular culture. They have more in common with eg Latin@ cultural celebrations that pop up sometimes than with speakers at college campuses. I think celebrations of non-Blue-Tribe culture at universities would be great (and that they would inspire huge protests from illiberal and/or confused leftists, but that’s not my point at the moment), but the group Scott is talking about seems to be inviting nominally controversial people so that they can say they invite nominally controversial people, and Milo’s schtick (seen from a distance) appears to be much the same: he says nasty stuff in order to generate a reputation for saying nasty stuff so he can capitalize on that persona. This is not a cultural festival, it’s a controversy festival. And it’s not going to cause people to like or appreciate or feel welcomed by the culture, it’s going to cause needless, distracting controversy and a lot of empty posturing.
@Gazeboist – Transgression, as I understand it, is about consciously rejecting societal norms that one believes are illegitimate.
Gay Pride parades are transgressive. They are built around rejection of conventional social morals which exclude homosexuality and frown on public displays of sexuality generally. Milo is transgressive. He insists on saying arguably true but definately rude things in public.
The controversy is over whether one can say or do certain things. Some say yes, some say no. Transgression is about rubbing the opponent’s face in things they despise, forcing them to accept the unacceptable, live with the unlivable. If they can accept it, maybe it’s not so unacceptable after all, right?
I’m not sure whether that is still used but there was this chant from those parades “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” or something like that. That is a) quite clearly a political statement, b) quite well summarizes the strategy. If you can get people used to ‘scandalous’ floats (or insulting Greeks), then you’re done, they won’t find it hard to get used to anything less ‘scandalous’.
In a way it is sort of an all-or-nothing strategy or close to it. You might end up with a high degree of ostracization of gays/lots of censorship because of the reaction of disgust you provoke, or you might remove those pretty much entirely. If you go the way of accommodation you risk that you will never achieve your goal and also you don’t have a clear “Schelling point” to stand by. Maybe if you steered away from just a little bit more controversy, you might get just a bit more acceptance but then you might find yourself in a state when you are self-censoring your views or actions.
Ok, I get that but since, as you say yourself (and as I know from a few gays I know), not all LGBT people actually like those LGBT parades, maybe they should call themselves something else? This way, as long as they are indeed not trying to be political, they label themselves with something that makes them political by default. I don’t know how they should call themselves. I’ve been to a superficially similar event called the “hell party”, which was more about the so called “modern primitives”, suspension (basically hanging people by their skin on metal hooks) and BDSM. There were apparently also quite a few gays and transgender people there and all sorts of people in bizarre costumes regardless of sex or sexual orientation. I found it interesting. But if it labeled itself politically in a way that people would understand as “this is what group XY is about” whereas the group XY is in fact much wider than that, I would take issue with that event (particularly if I were a member of group XY who is not represented by this).
I haven’t really heard any of Milo’s talks and I don’t quite care for them, I gather that he is indeed all about controversy. But if the people who come see him enjoy the controversy I don’t quite see the difference between that and controversial clothing. I think that a bad thing to do is something like advertising his talk as a “free speech parade” in that it gives the impression that “this is what free speech is all about”. That is not the best analogy since while a lot of people might be fairly unfamiliar with gays and especially transsexuals and so they might actually get confused by the label “gay pride”, I think there is less confusion potential with a simple and rather clear idea like “free speech”. Nevertheless, as long as your aim is to have fun with wearing weird costumes or with insulting all sorts of people and you’re not actually trying to be political, then you should try to make that clear (of course, that is more compatible with the parades than with Milo since politicization is what creates the controversy and without it there is not much to it). If you are trying to be political as well, then you should consider whether the accommodating strategy is better than the in-your-face strategy. I am not sure which really is better, it probably depends on context.
Never mind, I guess that you can come up with quite a few parades which are not really political at all. Still, correct me if I’m wrong but don’t the organizers often cite things like “it is important that we do this parade because it raises awareness and acceptance of gay/LGBT issues in the society” as the “casus processionis? That sounds like a political goal to me. And unless I am mistaken about that and they don’t actually say this, then you really need to think about your PR. Once again – I am less sure about the way it is done being tactically bad, but it could be and the reasons are the same as with maximizing outrage for free speech.
Btw, one thing that particularly makes me doubt the claim that gay pride parades aren’t political is the fact that they are parades in the first place.
I probably should have been more careful in what I wrote; I didn’t mean to imply that gay pride parades are apolitical (although I read something earlier this afternoon implying that many have toned down to the point where they actually are pretty much apolitical; in any event they certainly weren’t in, say, the mid-90s). The difference I see is the message being sent. A “gay pride” event (anything pride, really) is focused on the group that is having the event. The message is fundamentally, “we are here, we exist, this is what we are/do/think.” A club interested in hosting “controversial speakers” is seems more focused on groups that they can or will piss off by hosting a particular speaker. The message reads closer to, well, “fuck you.” I think the former is good and the latter is bad, but I also think it’s often hard to tell the difference, especially if you’re one of the people pissed off by whatever it is that’s happening.
I think it’s possible I am misreading or would misread Milo and/or his allies if they were to have the equivalent of a pride-type event, but I think they frequently don’t. LGBT activists sometimes fall into the same trap with things like #diecisscum, but I would agree that those instances are really bad on a tactical level (and just plain bad, but that’s beside the point). I just don’t think pride parades, taken as a whole, are one of those instances (though you could probably find particular examples at any pride parade in a major city).
That’s exactly my point – they say that but they don’t represent it accurately or with any sense of PR. Instead of picking the photogenic upper class black girl, they pick the not so good looking working class pregnant teenager. You have floats full of people in bizarre costumes which really is not what most gays are about. And even the vast majority of people (gay or straight) who are into things like these do not wear them in public. If you say “this is what we are and do” than you will convince some people that you are those “little pervs in latex” and hence someone so far away from them that there is no way for them to relate to them. They will then oppose anything related to gays.
So the only reason I can see behind that is to increase the controversy. That might be a valid strategy for the reason outlined above, but it is really the same as with inviting Milo to rant in the name of free speech. Or perhaps it is not the same, you can imagine going even more controversial, say by having sex on the floats or something (although even the free speech people could up the controversy for example by inviting neo-nazi speakers), I am not sure what would exactly compare to Milo but the point is that controversy seems to be the aim.
Imagine a gay pride event (doesn’t even have to be a parade to be in public) where maybe you have some concerts and you have people talk about coming out and stuff and if you come there as someone who knows no gays (or at least none that aren’t in a closet, say you’re from a village somewhere in central US or something) you think “hmm, ok, what’s the fuss at home about that, these people seem to be quite upstanding citizens”. And this would be a bad thing of they really weren’t by and large basically “upstanding citizens”, but since they are, there’s no point in convincing people that they’re not.
In fact, I think that even if you want to promote something actually weird, say BDSM, you can do a similar parade or you do it in a more calm way, which will necessarily include some, um, demonstrations, but which will be given in context and with an explanation so that those people who think that you are disgusting perverts (right wing?) or mysogynist (somehow regardless of the sex of the dominant) bastards (left wing?) and better be banned (ironically, in Britain they seem to be going down that road, this time not so much because of conservative sentiments but because feminist ones, but the result is the same puritan thinking) will possibly at least partly see that that might not be the case. If you whip tied up people on a float in a parade instead, you won’t really reach out to anybody, at best you will preach to the converted. I’m not saying it can’t be fun but if you are political (and since this would be a lot more controversial than a gay pride parade today, it is political whether you like it or not), you have to think about the political implications as well.
I serve ice cream which many people reject because of conventional tastes, that reject ice cream containing blueberries and human excrement.
If you’re going to claim that cause A is inextricably associated with cause B, and cause B is really terrible, no amount of “well, cause A is really important” will excuse this.
Of course, that’s what they’re trying to do–they’re trying to piggyback “society shouldn’t discriminate against public nudity” onto “society shouldn’t discriminate against gays”, implying that anyone who dislikes the former is a raging bigot who dislikes the latter.
I’m hardly an expert on the history of the gay rights movement, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they didn’t do this stuff until AFTER they already had a critical mass (and possibly majority) of “right-thinking” people on their side. Allies who already generally agreed with and would side with them over any potential objectors to their behavior. This type of thing probably didn’t happen anywhere in the 1950s, probably didn’t happen in Oklahoma in the 1980s, and probably doesn’t happen in Yemen today.
Given that it only happens AFTER you have the support, the point is that it’s not intended to convince anybody. Sufficient convincing has already happened. It’s intended as gloating. As a victory dance. It is explicitly designed to troll and antagonize your remaining opponents.
So the problem with free-speech loving conservatives at Harvard is that they AREN’T the majority. They are the minority. They DO need to convince. They exist in that environment because their enemies tolerate them. Gloating and antagonizing, in this context, is about as good of an idea as holding a gay pride parade in the streets of Mosul.
Matt M – “Given that it only happens AFTER you have the support, the point is that it’s not intended to convince anybody. Sufficient convincing has already happened. It’s intended as gloating.”
Strongly disagree. political power is a spectrum, not a binary. Most of the space between “being hunted like rats” and “Unquestioned Lords and Masters” consists of the grinding slog to advance your cause where you can. From what I understand, Gay Pride as a tactic developed as a response to the AIDS crisis in the 90s, when society was willing to sit back and watch as gays were decimated by a horrifyingly lethal plague. The gay rights movement concluded that being grudgingly ignored wasn’t good enough, they needed more. So they went for confrontation, and it largely worked.
Gun rights has used open carry in much the same way, though in a far less unified manner.
I’m thinking less “did nothing to stop AIDS” and more “will beat the shit out of you if they find out you’re gay.”
The reason there were no gay pride parades in the 1940s is because if you tried to have one, a bunch of local tough guys would beat you up, while the cops stood across the street and laughed at you, because you totally had it coming.
Gay pride parades did not begin until the culture changed sufficiently that enough people believed gays deserved protection such that the police would NOT stand by and let people beat you up. Doesn’t mean 51% of the population is rabidly pro-gay in every policy area. Just that you are seen as decent humans worthy of basic rights.
Is this true for free-speech conservatives on college campuses? I say it is not. We can all recall plenty of instances of anti-conservative riots on college campuses where people were assaulted for their beliefs while local police and campus security stood by and did nothing. It’s not just that free-speech conservatives comprise less than 51% of the population. It’s that the vast majority of the population believes free-speech conservatives are abhorrent to the extent that they do not deserve basic and fundamental protections of their rights. Their views are respected to the same extent that Charlemagne respected the religious views of conquered pagan tribes. They are given the same choice – renounce your old beliefs and convert to ours, or be destroyed.
“Their views are respected to the same extent that Charlemagne respected the religious views of conquered pagan tribes. They are given the same choice – renounce your old beliefs and convert to ours, or be destroyed.”
Exactly, and it’s only going to keep getting worse, until, like those pagan tribes, we all end up either converted or dead.
I have a feeling my comment had something to do with this. Or maybe that’s just a way to puff up my self-importance. Whatever.
Anyways, I take your point; these things should happen naturally and not out of a desire to offend, because a desire to offend is rarely taken well. You should invite someone if you think you and other students will gain something from hearing them, and you should pick your battles wisely on top of this.
With that said, maybe you should’ve chosen your battles more carefully yourself. Between triggering a lot of people over Murray and the Harvard thing maybe not being the best example (I’ll elaborate more if anyone wants, but I’ll have to think about how to do so), seems like you ended up not making the best case for yourself 😉
Here’s the thing – people are saying “why isn’t Charles Murray sympathetic?”
To me and most of my leftist friends, Murray isn’t sympathetic because he’s a racist and sexist who despite that, will continue to make six figures, appear on TV shows as a respected panelist, get plaudits in newspaper opinion articles across the political spectrum, and so on, and so forth. So, in our view, Murray hasn’t lost his free speech no more than we have lost our free speech because Paul Ryan won’t let us in his office to talk about Medicaid.
OTOH, if you could find a conservative who wasn’t heavily privileged (and I mean in the “wealthy author who has a job at a Washington think tank and a nice house close to the Potomac” version of priveliged) or one who didn’t act like an ass who was affected by being shot down by campus advocates, you might have a chance at convincing some of us.
Personally, if I was in charge of the anti-SJW Right, I’d find some nuns or old women or even young women who have conservative, but not extreme views, who talk calmly, but not harshly about social issues. That’ll get the protesters, but also likely get good press for your good side. Depending on 27 year old dudes being asshats to women and people of color isn’t going to convince folks you’re not a bunch of asshats from the Internet trolling people which isn’t going to work well for you in the long run.
Do you believe someone can believe in racial differences in IQ being caused by genetics and not be racist?
I don’t think there is a reasonable definition of “racist” that would exclude that belief.
In that case what’s wrong with being “racist”? It seems like being a rationalist may very well require one to be “racist”.
To be fair he’s admitting the possibility of evidence/scenarios in which he’d change his mind.
If “racist” is an opinion on a matter of fact, it could in theory be correct. (probably isn’t though)
Contrast this with many people who take “racism is wrong” as a undeniable metaphysical truth which no evidence could persuade them otherwise of and you see by making a falsifiable commit he’s being more rationalist than not.
Really, where? All I see is an assertion that certain beliefs about matters of fact are “racist”, which given the connotations of the word likely means Anonymous Bosch believes that holding said opinion is unacceptable. I see no evidence he’d be willing to change his mind based on evidence.
I’m curious what evidence lead you to this conclusion. Nearly all the evidence I’ve seen, e.g., test scores, crime statistics, family studies, twin studies, etc. suggests IQ has a genetic component which is in fact correlated with race.
Do you believe that it cannot be immoral to hold a belief about a matter of fact if it is false, just because it would not be immoral to hold that belief if it were true? Does this apply to, say, holocaust denial (and all the anti-semitic conspiracy theories that go with it)?
(I am not saying that these are morally equivalent to beliefs in IQ differences. This is a high-energy ethics thought experiment.)
Whether such things would still be called “antisemitism” in a world where they were actually true is beside the point.
I don’t think you can say beliefs about facts can be moral or immoral. Negligence or poor intellectual rigor leading to incorrect (or motivated) beliefs can be immoral, but ignorance or faulty data evaluation is amoral.
@random832: It is not the opinion that there was no holocaust that makes it immoral. You could simply be mistaken. What makes people conclude a holocaust denier is immoral is that they quite reasonably guess that despite the overwhelming evidence of the holocaust, they still deny it which means they probably ignore the evidence by choice which means that they are well aware of the fact that holocaust existed but they are consciously trying to confuse people about it as to minimize to horrors of national socialism. Of course, they might simply be delusional in which case I would not say they are immoral any more than someone who is completely out of his mind and kills someone is immoral for that. Maybe ammoral is a good word for that – you cannot ascribe morality to things that are in a sense not self-aware.
Now of course what you pronounce as delusional and what you pronounce as vast amount of evidence is in a way subjective, but in particular with the holocaust it seems clearly to be above those thresholds so the assumption that someone who reject that evidence is either delusional or sinister is quite safe.
Regardless of the details, it seems analogous to the basic implied claim lurking behind “if racism is an opinion on a matter of fact, it could in theory be correct”. So what if it could be correct? If it’s not, then there’s no reason to let “could be”s prevent us from passing moral judgement on racists.
Well, many people consider “honest mistakes” not culpable, so if the point under contention is potentially true but merely happens to be contingently false, that opens up the possibility that your interlocutor is making an honest mistake. More important I think is the problem that you don’t have direct access to the truth, and you could be wrong when you think they’re wrong. Honestly for this reason, I try not to morally judge people for Holocaust heterodoxy; I wasn’t there, and can’t confirm with certainty all the details.
But this is all kind of beside the point, because for some of the facts considered racism, it’s not that they “could” be true. They are true, the evidence points strongly in that direction, and it’s the race denialists that are the deluded ones.
@Jesse E – “I’d find some nuns or old women or even young women who have conservative, but not extreme views, who talk calmly, but not harshly about social issues.”
They exist, and are ignored. Extremism works.
“Depending on 27 year old dudes being asshats to women and people of color isn’t going to convince folks you’re not a bunch of asshats from the Internet trolling people which isn’t going to work well for you in the long run.”
Which is why Gay Pride parades were scorned by the Gay Rights movement, and why the NRA never accomplished anything, and why the left’s biggest cultural successes came from staid, quiet moderates writing in a calm, reasonable fashion, and not from the wholesale embrace of transgression as a positive good by academia and the media. Transgression *works*. Extremism *works*. Pissing off the squares and the prudes *works*. Maybe it burns the commons, and maybe long-term it’s not sustainable, but we’ve been driving down this road for sixty years now, and it’s a little late for second thoughts now.
Like, for example, making the plaintiffs of your religious liberty case the Little Sisters of the Poor?
Tried that, we got Kim Davis.
I’m a little confused. Are you saying that the people who want to bring Milo and Murray to campuses don’t support free speech, but rather are racists/sexists who use free speech as cover for pushing their views, or am I completely misunderstanding you?
There’s a chunk who believe in Free Speech, but there’s also a larger chunk who exist to piss off liberals/leftists of various shapes and sizes and have racist/sexist views they use free speech as a crutch to lean on. See Cleek’s Law
In my view in a parliamentary republic, the respectable “classical liberal” party of Paul Ryan or Gary Johnson would get 10% or so while most Trump voters would either vote for a white nationalist or a Christian Dominionism type of party.
The truth is, the GOP as a party was to the left of it’s base until the last few years when the Internet made it easy for voters to realize how their representatives were talking tough, but kneeling down to the Muslim Socialist Fascist in the White House. 🙂
I don’t feel like arguing about this, but I vociferously disagree with basically all of those political judgments.
It would make a heck of an interesting topic for the next OT though, wouldn’t it? In a parliamentary US, what would the major parties be and what would the governing coalitions look like?
I assume by “Parliamentary” you’re assuming proportional representation as a part of that. Otherwise there’s no real reason it couldn’t just be a parliamentary system with Republicans and Democrats and the occasional independent.
So conservatives are allowed to invite speakers, just not anyone notable or famous, because in that case punching up, defined quite literally, isn’t a problem for free speech?
The reason Murray gets invited to give speeches is because of his work as a scientist. You can’t just replace him with some random sympathetic conservative nun who has never heard of a t-test. It’s not about being racist, it’s about finding what’s true.
The parallel to Murray would not be “Paul Ryan won’t let us into his office to talk about Medicaid.” The parallel would be, “Paul Ryan won’t let us into Bernie Sanders’s office to talk about Medicaid.” The Middlebury rioters and their friends at Berkeley, McClark, et cetera, wanted to prevent people like Murray from talking to other people who wanted to listen to him. That’s straight up censorship, and you’re making excuses for it because you don’t like the man.
Personally, if I was in charge of the anti-SJW Right, I’d find some nuns or old women or even young women who have conservative, but not extreme views, who talk calmly, but not harshly about social issues.
Who gets to decide what are and are not “extreme views”? When the Nuns On The Bus were out and about, most of the media coverage used stock images of nuns or sometimes unattributed photos of actual orders, which fit the pop culture view of nuns but which missed the wider mark; the progressive nuns were the orders who abandoned habits etc. and move gradually more and more leftward, the nuns in habits were belonging to traditional (conservative, orthodox) orders which are the ones seeing growth.
The Nuns On The Bus were the ‘nuns without extreme views’ and got much, much sympathetic coverage over their persecution by the Vatican (said persecution was “hey, you know, maybe having speakers about how all this Jesus stuff is bunk isn’t quite in keeping with being a member of a religious order?”). But they are not the representatives of the religious orders which are attracting new entrants.
What this call is for is for ‘conservative’ nuns who will say all the right things about serving the poor and Jesus Loves Us All but won’t say things like “it is against our beliefs to provide for contraceptive coverage in employer health policies” (because those are extreme views). In other words, conservatives who think like liberals on the important stuff, like abortion.
Perhaps being Jesse E simply meant being able to talk about one’s strongly pro-life views without sounding like one, at any moment, might utter the phrase “baby murderer”.
If you can get people to viciously attack a sweet, faithful, little old lady, you usually win.
You are right that her views might be just as “extreme”, but packaging matters.
Coming soon to CNN
Do you think this supports the position that it’s the mean, mean liberals who are censoring points of view?
Nah, just the position that the left is constantly seeking a new crop of “‘conservatives’ who agree with us on all the important issues”
OK, it just moderately hilarious that in this discussion you whipped out Tomi Lahren as your go to example of left-wing hypocrisy.
That … lacks introspection.
And it’s not even like CNN is left wing or has actually hired her.
I didn’t introspect because I did not intend the reference in the way you assume I did.
I think you often over-think many of my posts. Sometimes I’m just trying to make a quick funny reference or something. Maybe I miss the mark on humor sometimes. Not *everything* I say is meant as some sort of profound critique on left-wing culture.
“To me and most of my leftist friends, Murray isn’t sympathetic because he’s a racist and sexist who …”
Could you explain what “racist” means in this context?
As best I can tell, Murray believes that there are significant differences in the distribution of IQ between blacks, whites and East Asians, and that the differences are in part genetic. As you use the word, does that make him a racist? Does it depend on whether the belief is true?
You can see “free speech” as an active right of the speaker or a passive right of the listener. It is either my right to have a platform or your right to make that platform accessible to you. Consider the extreme case that a speaker only has access to “left-wing” (or “right-wing”) platforms, so that the people from the right (or left) won’t ever be able to hear him (undistorted by their partisan filter). Then if you have a college campus which is apparently quite close to the strictly left-wing platform, even if Murray is a best-selling author etc., that means very little in that left-wing bubble (I would also like to note that while I don’t know Murray, reading about him on Wikipedia I don’t quite see how he is “right-wing” except in that his research seems to challenge the purity moral foundation of some parts of the left).
In short, the problem of people like Murray being “disinvited” from college talks is less of a problem for Murray himself and more of a problem for the students and the universities. Inviting nuns might be interesting but are they really going to say things which have a potential to challenge the views of the listeners?
He wasn’t “disinvited”. He was attacked by a mob. This is an important distinction to make.
In which case it is even worse then. The right of the people who wanted to hear him was violated as well as that of him to express his views. How anybody can be fine with people being physically attacked for a talk is beyond me, those are totalitarian tactics.
Agreed, which I suspect is why the reaction to Scott’s post has been so strong. the end result of doing as he suggests essentially amounts to letting the mob have their veto. My personal response to that is not just “no” but “Fuck No!”.
To be fair to Scott I think his point is not invalid in an abstract way (as I try to argue elsewhere here, I made a similar point about gay pride parades and I am not sure whether the prescribed strategy is better or worse than the alternative), but he did indeed choose a rather poor example to illustrate the idea.
But when it comes to crafting Machiavellian PR ploys like Scott attempted to do here, perhaps abstract principles aren’t all that useful?
Free speech, diversity, segregation bans. Pick two.
We had a cohesive, unjust society. We traded cohesion for justice. Now we have a more-just-but-not-just-enough society that is losing all cohesion, and the possibility of not having any society at all is looking more and more likely. People are sufficiently diverse, particularly in terms of beliefs, that a good number of them will not tolerate living together. If they can self-segregate, this is maybe okay. If they can’t, they’ll try to get rid of their out-group by whatever means are available, and will continue escalating until this is achieved.
Political victory is not secured by being moderate and reasonable. Extremism works. If you are willing to accept a patchwork model where groups you disagree with are allowed to have things their way in their own enclaves, then political victory becomes a lower priority and coexistence might be possible. Unfortunately, we decided sixty years ago that patchwork was unacceptable, so here we are. Cohesion and free speech are just two of the commons we’ve depleted; the idea of “society” isn’t looking so hot either.
Don’t tempt me. And don’t force me, or I may not get to two.
I do not drive the train. I merely read the schedule. Two years ago, I thought it might be possible to de-escalate the culture war and find some sort of stable consensus. That seems a lot less likely these days.
[EDIT] – Incidentally, as with all “pick two” models, one or none is also an available option. The option that isn’t available is all three.
I’m perfectly OK with picking just the first, but I honestly think that if we look at history, the latter two is a natural albeit slow consequence of said first.
I would have agreed, a few years ago. On good days, I can manage to believe that it’s still possible. Today isn’t a good day, I guess. In the last two weeks, I’ve had two cases where political discussions got me to the point where the nuclear annihilation of all human life seemed like a pretty keen idea. There are people in the world that I don’t want to share space with, and it’s pretty clear they feel the same way. I would like us to stop sharing space as soon as possible, but instead it seems the walls are closing in.
If the Harvard group wants to deliberately carve out a space for controversial speakers who’ve gotten shunned elsewhere, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. If you want to invite Murray to hear Murray, sure, go for it, but of you want to invite him because he’s an academic that’s controversial and gets shouted down elsewhere, that’s a justifiable reason, too.
If the Harvard group thinks that deplatforming is a widespread problem, carving out a space where it’s less of a problem seems a viable experiment. We used to have insurers of last resort for people who couldn’t get insurance elsewhere, and having a campus-platform-of-last-resort for thought leaders who get shunned elsewhere can be a valuable service (at least in some horrific SJWs-take-over-the-world scenario that everyone here seems to think we live in or are about to live in). If the world doesn’t end and valuable discussions and fallout happen from Harvard giving a platform to these people, it encourages more campuses to follow their example, and it gives a valuable test case and ammunition to people arguing “fight free speech with more free speech” and “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and etc.
That said, if you’re going this route, I think you really need to make invites as board-based as possible for people to buy into it and the project to work. I was glad to read that they’re also planning on also inviting controversial left-leaning speakers, though I think it would have been far wiser (and helped to clarify that their mission really is primarily free-speech related, vs. right-wing-tribe related) if they actually had a concrete liberal name or two lined up, before making the announcement. The best thing they can do is invite a wide variety of people, with something to challenge the tolerance levels of everyone eventually. A free-speech push that had a shot at broad-based acceptance would have a premise like, “Hey, have you gotten disinvited from a university? Send us documentation and apply to our Free Speech Sponsorship Program! Promise not to heckle/target individual members of our student body [this seemed to be their main reason for rejecting Milo?], and we can give you a microphone here. Though if we’re on our, say, third HBD-associated speaker for the year, we’ll probably ask you to wait while we put some Palestine-associated people in the rotation.” Maybe you can also add a caveat of, “Do you have some scholarly substance to your views?” if you’re also trying to optimize for interesting and impactful presentations vs. just controversial ones.
If free speech is a commons-depletion matter, this will help to raise everyone’s stake in the commons. And if it’s a muscle to exercise, this will help a wider swath of people build muscles, so under either theory it works.
It would be a very good thing for American intellectual culture for Harvard University to throw the weight of its prestige behind a series of provisions to prevent campus thuggishness, physical and auditory.
Harvard should invite Murray to speak and should issue guidelines. For example, Harvard could warn that under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 268 Section 34, anyone wearing a mask will be arrested on the spot.
Harvard has the authority to arrest people?
Campus police forces can have a lot of power.
For example, the University of Chicago police department patrols and arrests miscreants well beyond the borders of the campus in order to create an attractive environment for faculty and students. During his decades in Chicago, Barack Obama always made sure to live within the safe zone policed by the high powered U. of Chicago cops rather than trust his safety from crime to the Chicago Police Department.
Well consider me educated! I’m fairly sure we don’t do things that way in Australia.
This has been brought up before, but seriously, can you think of anyone who would be shouted down at a typical university for expressing views that are left-wing? I really, genuinely can’t. No matter who I reach for — terrorism apologists? Anti-Zionists? 9/11 Truthers? Communists? Stalinists? Islamists? Domestic terrorists? Traitors? “Pol Pot did nothing wrong”? They would all be absolutely fine.
Someone on the reddit CW thread pointed out that Donna Hylton was a featured speaker at the recent Women’s March. To be clear, this is a person who was convicted of directly participating in the kidnapping, extended rape and torture and eventual murder of a 62-year-old businessman. Since being released from prison, she has apparently launched a career as an advocate for women’s and prisoner’s rights, because of course she has.
To be sure, some people on the right and a few on the left complained about this, but I follow culture-war material on the regular and completely missed this. It didn’t seem to make any big splash. And we are, in this thread, discussing whether offering a platform to “controversial” people depletes respect for free speech.
[Unbecoming rant removed.]
…With some publicity in the right places and a careful choice of venue, I imagine you might be able to get Red Tribe to act the way toward a rapist, torturer and murderer that Blue tribe acts toward a rude gay man.
The only people I can think of would be Manning or Bergdahl (maybe), or a senior al-Wahhab cleric and even then I wouldn’t expect the response to be as nearly as aggressive as what we’ve already seen.
Edit: In response to FC’s edit.
They said they planned on bringing them in, so I’m trying to assume they had some idea in mind and were speaking in good faith.
In the previous thread someone also brought up FIRE’s list of disinvitations, and it’s something I’d be fine using as a baseline to widen the pool. It may not be a perfectly symmetrical widening, but it’s still a widening. You could argue that the ones marked as “disinvited by the right” weren’t at typical-enough universities, or weren’t protested and disinvited in precisely the correct way for it to count, or were actually all disinvited by the left, or what have you. But America is chock full of different shades of universities (I went to a super-weird one), and these people were evidently still offensive enough to some subset of the college-attending public to spark a backlash.
Even if you think it’s a weak starting point, it is still a heck of a lot better (in terms of getting broad-based buy-in) than, “We’re only going to agitate about free speech and deplatforming when it’s the evil SJW liberals doing it for particular SJ-sounding reasons at elite 4 year institutions. And California.”
Does the Likud Right count? They’ve gotten some pro-Arabs in trouble on American campuses.
At UCLA, for example, Israeli donors are pretty aggressive about policing student politics. Of course, so are the Diverse at promoting BDS:
Here’s an example of right wing activism from the Texas Tech school newspaper:
Angela Davis visit spurs controversy
By Amy Cunningham
News Editor Feb 8, 2015 11
As a part of the third annual African-American History Month Lecture Series this week, Texas Tech will host speaker Angela Davis at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Helen DeVitt Jones Auditorium of the Museum of Texas Tech.
In response, the Tech College Republicans have created an online petition against Davis speaking at Tech to prevent the university from spending $12,000 to host the speaker, Rebeca Jurado, a senior political science major from Mexico City, Mexico, and Tech College Republicans chairwoman, said.
The petition, available on change.org and the Tech College Republicans Facebook page, has a goal of 4,000 signatures. As of Sunday, the petition has 369 signatures.
Jurado said the petition was made to let the greater Tech community know how the money is being used.
“We’re hoping to bring light to the issue that Texas Tech is spending $12,000 for Angela Davis to come speak,” she said. “We just want to bring light to the issue and have people express their thoughts and tell us why they don’t agree with this expenditure.”
Davis is a professor emerita of history and feminist studies, according to a Tech news release.
In the 1970s, Davis was placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list, according to an article by The New York Times. Davis was acquitted of all three charges against her, which were murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.
Tech should not use public funds to host someone the community does not respect, Jurado said.
Carson Bonner, an undeclared sophomore from Houston and fundraising chairman of the Tech College Republicans, said the organization created the petition because they are against the use of Tech’s money, not Davis herself.
So … campus Republicans peacefully petition against spending $12k to bring elderly Communist (who perhaps got some cops murdered — she was, however, acquitted!) to Texas Tech.
It appears that the petition was ignored and Angela Davis got her 12 grand from Texas Tech in Lubbock.
Free speech as an exhaustible resource and the Toxoplasma of Rage are both concepts I like a lot, but I’m uncertain where that leaves arts and entertainment. Milo is undeniably a comedian, even if you don’t like his shtick. He’s also a political commentator, but there’s a long history of that overlapping with comedy/entertainment, with them being inextricably tied for a number of entertainers/artists. A lot of entertainment is going to be offensive, and possibly seen as needlessly so, to people who fall outside its target audience. Comedians probably shouldn’t be used as the poster children of Freedom of Speech w/r/t academics, but I worry about the Commons shrinking if they’re only used to feed “serious” speech.
I don’t expect the Comstock Laws to be revived, but at the same time I worry about this becoming another weaselly argument akin to it, albeit with racism or what have you in the place of pornography.
I’ve always felt he does that thing where you’re supposed to take his opinions seriously, but whenever he crosses a line he defends himself with “lol I’m just a wacky crazy joker, everybody!”
Which is something you could also say about the Colbert Report. Serious commentary, but as soon as you point out an error or distortion you get hit with “stop analysing it, it’s a comedy show!”
It’s definitely a kind of motte and bailey that those kinds of comedians/commentators use a lot, and it’s one of the many issues with infotainment, but I’d rather tolerate it and just tell everyone I can to see it as entertainment. It’s long been a response I’ve made to people complaining about talk radio/FOX News opinion shows, they’re really entertainment above all else. Maybe I’m odd like this, or maybe it’s because I’m inclined to fall into the same behavior, but when I’m confronted with it I think “I’m going to approach this semi-seriously, respond according, and if it feels like conversation is breaking down then I’m going to treat it like a joke too and see if we can yuck it up.” This leads to problems with irony consuming everything, but I’m not sure how you can crack down on that without hurting yourself/your own tribe, either directly or by discarding people who aren’t entirely on the serious side of the spectrum.
In other words, you like posts that help you [rationalization the cognitive dissonance](https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/12/clarification-to-sacred-principles-as-exhaustible-resources/#comment-487123) between being a rationalist and wanting to keep your political beliefs.
I feel this is being a bit uncharitable.
Do you have a better explanation for why CromwellForever picked two od Scott’s stupidest posts to praise?
I just want to note that since I posted the Claudette Colvin example in the comments a few threads back…yay, Scott-senpai noticed me! ^_^
The examples you pick seem a good case against the thesis. Murray is not the most offensive person *anyone* can think of. He’s a meek academic who studies intelligence. That he’s even on your mind when thinking of this means the overton window is *scarily* narrow.
If you really wanted to demonstrate the extent of free speech by getting the most offensive person you can then have someone make the case for repealing the 13th Amendment. That’s what pushing the boundaries looks like. At the very very least a lower bound is that the most offensive person has to be willing to call people the n word, as an insult, to their faces.
The reason why I think treating freeze peach as a commons won’t work is that failing to use it in one case makes it harder to use in the next, not easier. Because the definition of “offensive” grows every time there’s *even a debate* about letting someone speak. The fact that we’re discussing this means Murray is “controversial”. The fact that he’s “controversial” means there’s a good reason for someone who wants to avoid controversy to not invite him to talk. The more we actively think about such things in these terms the more people become “controversial” and “offensive”.
Exactly. Every instance of self-censorship strengthens censorship. There are maybe a few hundred people willing to engage in black bloc tactics and they can’t do it too often without risk of serious reprisals from the state.
Scott, If you want to know why students might invite a person to create maximum furore, you should read an excellent piece called The Toxoplasma of Online Rage. It’s online somewhere – a quick google should turn it up. 😉
And if you wanna know why when there is a wonderful commons we all depend on it might get destroyed, and there’s no appeal to logic that can prevent it, then I recommend further reading: Meditations on Moloch.
This is sort of a half off-topic but given that this is about US colleges – why don’t more US students study in Europe? In many countries they either don’t have to pay the tuition or pay a fraction of what they would pay in the US even as foreign nationals. Yet I don’t see all that many American students in Germany for example (I met two who actually stated lower costs as one of the reasons to study there, but those were the only American students I ever met in Germany).
The language barrier might be a problem sometimes but there are many programs where at least the Master courses are in English (Bachelor is usually only 3 years in Europe and pretty much everyone does the usually 2-year Master afterwards since Bachelor is regarded as basically incomplete…also, you can only start a PhD once you already have an Master degree). Also, it is probably cheaper to learn a language than to work out the student debts. Student visas are also hardly going to be a problem for US students.
I’ve been hearing this more often recently, about going to college in Europe. Well, maybe only at SSC. My first thought is that very few people know that Europe is cheaper. But another issue could be the value of a European college education in the US. I firmly believe that the signalling value of a college education is much greater to the average student than the human capital value. Thus, a college degree is only worth the time and effort it takes to the extent that employers will accept the degree as a valid college education. And the truth is that very few hiring managers in the US know anything about European colleges, and so might discount this value. I would be hesitant to recommend college in Europe for this reason.
This is way off topic, but it might be worth a discussion in a hidden thread elsewhere if anyone has further insights.
My hunch is that it might work the other way. I think a lot of people would see “American who went to college in Europe” as a signal of high class/high status and, without any information on the quality of the particular college, would generally rate it positively rather than negatively. Studying abroad temporarily is certainly a high-status thing. Why wouldn’t doing so long-term be as well?
Also plays well with stereotypes that the American education system generally is flawed and that the European model is superior.
It depends on how much they know. In academic circles, for example, certain degrees from certain UK colleges say “this person has a respectable education”. Other degrees – sometimes from the same schools! – say “this person was willing to trade a bunch of money for a degree”.
Why should it be high-status when it’s actually usually cheaper?
I am not sure whether this is a stereotype about the education system as a whole or just the school system. I think that in Europe the stereotype about the US education is that it is generally quite bad until the university at which point it becomes good to very good but extremely expensive. I don’t know whether the former holds, but the latter seems to be quite accurate.
American academics (the mast majority of which lean very left), will assume the only reason it’s “cheaper” is because European governments do the upright and proper thing and heavily subsidize it.
They don’t assume Canadian healthcare is low quality, so why should they assume German education is?
The trade-off here is probably between standing out and fitting in. You won’t have a huge alumni network filled with built-in advocates who want to help you. On the other hand, your resume will have at least one interesting thing on it. That may be enough. Most elite employers get 5x more Harvard/Yale/MIT applicants than they can take. Harvard won’t catch anyone’s eye or be seen as particularly interesting. But “went to college in Europe” might. And getting someone to “take a second look” rather than toss you right in the trash can is at least half the battle.
Who’s it cheaper for? My understanding is that when university is subsidized, foreigners pay more. That’s how it is in Canada, for example.
My guess is that an Oxbridge degree would be at least as good for signalling as a degree from a good U.S. school. I have no idea how easy it would be to get in or how expensive.
For a less well known school I’m not sure.
British universities are actually quite expensive (particularly the two you mention) and for non-EU nationals (and soon probably non-UK nationals) they seem to cost about as much as the Ivy league universities in the US.
But many German universities are very good and there is either only a minimal tuition or none at all (depending on the Bundesland, this is one of the few things in which Germany is actually federal). Dutch universities (judged by the ranking) seem to be even better, although I know not sure what the tuition policy is in the Netherlands. I guess that the problem might indeed be that Americans don’t know non-UK European universities very well.
Ivy League universities seem to cost in the region of around $50,000, which is quite a bit more than even top-range British universities.
Perhaps that’s because they don’t speak German or Dutch?
60% of Dutch master studies are in English, nowadays.
Average tuition fees non-EU/EEA students:
– Bachelor: between 6,000 – 12,000 EUR/year
– Master: between 8,000 – 20,000 EUR/year
I’d say it’s the problem.
In purely monetary terms, perhaps. But what you miss is that us Americans are incredibly mono-lingual. For those of us for whom English is our first language and who do not grow up in a bilingual home, the fraction of us who actually become fluent in a second language is very, very small (not zero, as you note, but small). When you get down to it, it’s English and English only for most of us.
Hey, speak for yourself.
There are many Americans for whom English is a second language. This is not to down play the value of English as a unifier.
On the other hand, without English, all these native speakers of Southern, Texican, Joirsy, Southie, Bahstan, and Bronx would just be shouting incomprehensibly at each other, whilst the Yoopers stared on and said, “ay” to each other.
(I do kid. American regionalism peaked, I think, shortly before WWII, and even without the draft at that time, was on the down swing due to the labor migrations of the Great Depression. The larger point still holds – America is pretty freaking huge and internally diverse.)
You seemed to have missed this bit in my comment:
Please read more carefully in the future.
It sounds to me like free speech advocacy works similar to comfort zone expansion or exposure therapy.
If you jump right in at the most extreme cases you can find, you’re just going to end up traumatizing the patient. The way to go is to push at the “near” end; not the cases that you want the principle to cover, but the cases that are maybe “a little” controversional, so that most people would agree or could be peer-pressured into agreeing that freedom of speech should be extended to them, so that you can then push outwards from those cases; does that sound right?
I think I understand your point.
The claim I think you’re making is: Taking actions purely for shock value (and not because you respect or want to express the thing itself) towards the purpose of proving and promoting free speech is a bad idea. You then extend this out to a model in which there’s a commons for free speech and this depletes too much for bad reason.
I think there’s definitely an argument to be made that if you invite a person over to a place to prove a point about free speech and they start making this noise for 2 hours straight loud enough for everyone on campus to hear it, then everyone is going to start questioning why there’s such an open tolerance policy for extremely annoying Free Speech. (A different example for this point could be a very cruel person standing in front of an audience and then verbally attacking each person in the crowd one by one until they all run away crying. I’m sure this audience can think of other examples to fit the bill if they try.)
The more people think of that most annoying person ever as the example of TRUE FREE SPEECH the less they are going to like that concept and if that person because the national or worldwide example then people begin strongly questioning the entire idea itself. (Or alternatively not actually “questioning” it and just feeling some negative emotions towards it and then pretending like there’s a good argument for shutting it down some.)
I have a few points:
1. I have the general expectation that this is a fairly common behavior all over the place and that more of it is done by the blue tribe than red tribe. I can think of red tribe taking guns in strange places to prove a point (which I really don’t like because guns) but not too many other examples. I expect this to mostly occur in percentages though, since I expect the primary reason for things like gay pride parades is because people want to celebrate LGBT, but at the same time some people are obviously attempting to be as ostentatious as possible (NSFW example).
2. The fact that this behavior isn’t new at all but is now appearing in the limited domain of ostentatious college campus speakers is sad and unexpected since it’s an area where young highly-motivated people can exert control over other young highly-motivated people. I think trolling, strong discomfort from being a republican on a campus like Berkeley, and other factors begin coming into play when actually looking at the direct motivations on the humans involved.
3. I like your idea about Rosa Parks, but at the same time isn’t Milo Yiannopoulos really close to the equivalent of the good looking person who fits a bunch of important criteria? He’s generally good looking, non-American, gay, has a black boyfriend, Catholic, claims to have Jewish routes on his mother’s side, and more. He also fits the bill for being an actual example of Free Speech being pushed since part of Free Speech actually occurring as a public example is in situations where people notice ideas being put forward and dislike listening to them. I’m not sure who else would be a good example for the Rosa Parks of this sort of thing.
“Short version: his lecture was shut down partway through due to protesters in the lecture hall shouting him down. They moved to a different venue, to lecture via livestream. That venue was discovered by protesters as well, who banged on the windows and pulled a fire alarm. When attempting to leave that building, Murray, Stanger, and a Middlebury VP were surrounded by a mob that injured Stanger and attempted to prevent them from leaving by surrounding and banging on their car.”
Sigh. That’s depressing, and abominable. I hadn’t heard all the details.
I am afraid you may be misinterpreting the free speech evangelist thought process as purely normative.
Thus, it could make sense to a free speech evangelist to think of the same sacred principle as a *mostly dormant* resource, which s/he hopes to awaken through strident activism possibly at the cost of depletion in the non-dormant portions.
“Publicizing a good case improves public support for free speech; publicizing bad cases drains it.”
The problem is that cases that are generally seen as ‘good’ at the time almost inevitably don’t need protection as they have popular support. If Charles Murray or Jordan Peterson aren’t good cases, I would be hard pressed to know what would be a good case in this day and age (at least in the Northwestern quadrant of the planet). The problem with your proposal is that you are implicitly allowing the censors to determine who is okay to hold up as a challenge to their censorship. You are ceding the defining of the space to the opponent.
People either support out of principle or out of emotion. The emotionally driven supporters will get exhausted, but they were never really on your side anyway. Emotionally driven supporters are driven by inherently fickle and manipulable feelings. They are like a wave; you either get to crest with them, or stand firm against them, but you can never count on them. If you are losing emotional supporters, then you need better/different rhetoric, not to surrender the principle that you are defending.
“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.” – H.L. Mencken
I am disappointed that Scott has replied to all the people who misunderstood him to tell them so, but has not replied to anyone yet who apparently understands but still disagrees.
i’m disappointed that he claims the issue was with the post being too short, when in fact this post makes it clear that the original post was if anything too long. His original post started off by saying you shouldn’t be controversial for controversy’s sakes, but that point stands regardless of how controversial the people invited actually are, so what was the point of expounding further? Either he changed his main point or he got sidetracked, either way he should admit it.