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.
Scott: Am I correct in ascertaining that you’re trying to warn the left that “free speech” is becoming a right-wing value, and that choosing right-wing (or perceived right-wing) people as their examples is driving the wedge wider?
If so, I must observe the backlash you’ve received for this is because you’re attacking the wrong side of the equation. The problem isn’t that the right has claimed free speech for itself – the problem is that the left allowed it, by making the speech of the perceived right into a social-political problem to be solved.
Just to point out, this actually has happened before.
The last time “free speech” was a major political football, the left was using it to tear down anti-pornography laws.
It was the left that tore down anti-pornography laws? I mean, I’m happy for my side to take credit, but my general impression has always been that this is a prude vs. anti-prude issue, not a right vs. left issue, and there are both prudes and anti-prudes on both sides. Certainly a lot of people seem to blame feminists for such restrictions on pornography as presently exist or are being discussed (which doesn’t seem right to me; again, it looks to me like an unholy alliance of prudes from both sides doing such anti-pornography work as is being done).
Complete shot in the dark here, but perhaps feminists get disproportionate credit because everyone expects conservative and religious people to be prudish, so it’s a violation of everyone’s subconscious expectation that parties will be diametrically opposed when lefty feminists also turn out to be prudish. “The Ground Was Blue For Fifteen Minutes!” is way more memorable than “The Sky Remains Blue!”
I appreciate your clarification in caps, that clarification then must exclude Jordan Peterson from your point. Jordan Peterson’s whole shtick is free speech — he got popular by refusing a positive mandate of speech, and the majority of his career he has spent on the psychology of standing up against authoritarianism. Any student group who might be inclined to “invite generic offensive person” is almost necessarily interested in JP’s research. From seeing confrontations on youtube where JP has been protested, I’d also say he fits the the bill as pretty Rosa Parks-esque–he consistently engages his protesters peacefully and genuinely.
I don’t know enough about Charles Murray to say anything definitively about him, but from a brief Google search I can see how he might be invited for the sake of conflict rather than for his own ideas.
On the argument itself, though, I think your argument is a valid one. I think an opposing argument that has already been pointed out in these comments is that free speech is like a muscle. I think the truth is something of a compromise.
When in a situation of disagreement, you can either fight, debate, or ignore. Advocating “free speech” seems to me to be an advocation that, in any situation of disagreement, strongly prefer “debate”. On the other hand, viewing controversial speech as a microagression advocates strongly preferring the “fight” option.
However, when you bring a speaker who is too controversial to campus, and many students erupt, those students are being conditioned that controversial speech leads to fighting, and are more likely to fight in response to controversial speech in the future. The solution then, if you wanted to maximize the preference for “debate” over “fight”, would be to invite as controversial a speaker as possible which would result in a peaceful response by as many students as possible. There may still be a minority in protest, but if the rest are conditioned to treat controversial discourse with an open mind, that would, I think, strengthen the value of “free speech” in general.
Thanks for pointing out the downside, though, I hadn’t stopped to consider it.
“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.”
Isn’t it the exact opposite? The ugliest, most hate-able ones are precisely the ones whose free speech must be protected, they’re the test cases, the ideas and people you don’t like, don’t find palatable, etc.
There’s no problem with the free speech of the beautiful ones, the ones we agree with, etc., of course we want them to speak freely. It’s the ones we hate who test our commitment to the ideal.
Here we have what is perhaps the official Harvard SJW response to the Open Campus Initiative.
IME, you simply cannot reason with this. I mean, you can point out where it’s wrong and the negative consequences of all the principles stated here (e.g. these principles would, in 1960, outlaw advocacy for legalizing abortion). But a mind which believes this is too far gone; the belief system is closed against criticism.
And here is the more measured position of the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson. It makes some valid points in comparing the debate with Peterson against an earlier case in which the Harvard Financial Analyst Club invited Martin Shkreli as a speaker, and basically gave him free rein to strut his self-aggrandizing persona while suppressing critical questions.
That Shkreli talk was a much clearer case of inviting a controversial speaker for the case of courting controversy. If Scott had used it, rather than Murray and Peterson, as the example to base his point on, he’d have encountered a lot less disagreement. And he could then have used OCI’s invitation of Murray and Peterson as an example of how it should be done.
The SJW article assumes that readers know what it means for Jordan Peterson’s opinions to “threaten people’s existence,” but I’m honestly not sure. Do they mean that:
1) His model of transgender psychology is different from the popular SJ model? That seems more descriptive than relating to existence. If I say “I’m a very successful self made dude” and some SJW says “No, you benefited from white privilege and also, you didn’t build that,” we may disagree about whether my internal model of myself is accurate, but we both agree that I exist. Heck, if someone from the radical solipsist society wants to give a speech arguing that zie is a brain in a vat and I don’t, in fact, exist, I think that’s fine too.
2) His speech will lead to murders? Given that he gave his speech, maybe we can try to test that prediction.
3) His speech will lead to suicides? See #2.
I think they mean a slightly extended version of (1): that he believes the people in question have an incorrect self-model, and that he advocates forcing them (in a meaningful metaphorical sense, if perhaps not literally) to live in accordance with his model. I would question both parts of that claim, but especially the second part.
I strongly disagree with this – the testcase has to be someone controversial, otherwise it will get no traction. I read reason.com and from their reporting it seems to me that enough people are already being banned from speaking for no good reason whatsoever( and it changes nothing). Hopefully situation with campus censorship will get so bad that there will be blowback strong enough to actually accomplish something…
If people like Dave Rubin are denouncing left because of its anti-liberal bias, it seems that pendulum is about to start swinging back
I’ve only been looking at SlateStarCodex for a very short time, but I think it’s strange that you don’t see this as fundamentally a problem with the polite company. And why do you want to placate them?
“And why do you want to placate them?”
Because they are the ones who rule our society? Because they’re the ones with power, including the power to greatly diminish people’s future life prospects? Because they’re the boot, and their opponents the human face being stamped upon forever?
I think it’s simpler than that. They’re his identity, his culture, his tribe. He was raised to be a worker in the polite company, and perhaps one day rise to management. Like most human beings, he doesn’t want to be shunned by his social circle. It’s perfectly understandable.
If a left-leaning student group sees merit in engaging viewpoints they disagree with, you’re saying they shouldn’t do that? Specifically, you’re saying they shouldn’t go rabble-rousing, but in this case the problem they seem to by trying to fight is the idea that it’s okay to disinvite/silence/shout down opposing viewpoints when you’ve decided your viewpoint is Truth. What these Harvard students are doing, it seems, is trying to expose themselves to viewpoints they and their fellow students strongly disagree with. Controversial viewpoints.
If seeking out controversial viewpoints should be avoided, we’ll end up with echo chambers and group-think. Maybe you’re saying we should seek out less-but-still-somewhat-controversial viewpoints. But is that better? Is the message, “It’s okay to hear what you have to say, so long as I don’t disagree too strongly”? I think that would erode free speech even more. Perhaps a liberal who is exposed to Murray will question their faith in free speech. But a conservative who is constantly told their views aren’t welcome on campus will likely come to a different conclusion: that their liberal countrymen are opposed to free speech and are “the enemy” of civil society. Softening our stance toward free speech may be worse for civil discourse than allowing everyone to be heard.
Or maybe you’re saying we should lay off the controversy for a while until things die down. But if we’re in an era of greater polarization because the two popular sides won’t talk to each other, I don’t see how a moratorium on talking to each other will help.
So what do you think of Larry Flynt as a free speech ’cause celebre’?
He got himself a movie made about him and it doesn’t seem like he hurt the cause of free speech.
He was on the right side of the cultural zeitgeist. College conservatives are not.
Mocking a major evangelical Christian figure in the Reagan era put Flynt on the right side of the cultural zeitgeist? That seems pretty questionable, college conservatives aside.
To clarify: When I refer to the cultural zeitgeist, I am referring to the direction in which the culture is moving.
Larry Flynt was controversial for his time, but it was pretty clear that things were moving in his direction. He could have waited 10 years and nothing he did would have been considered particularly controversial. Or he could have waited 30 years and witnessed an era where every 12 year old possess a device which, in a manner of minutes, can pull up HD video of pornographic acts the likes of which he never imagined, and nobody really thinks of launching any court cases about this.
Campus conservatives are also at the fringe, but things are moving away from their direction. I would not be at all surprised if, within 10 years, many US states have hate speech laws (don’t tell me “this can’t happen, it’s unconstitutional” – we have tons of laws that seem to be clearly unconstitutional, they’ll find a way). Within 20 years I think it’s virtually guaranteed.
Larry Flynt was Rosa Parks. Conservative free-speech advocates are George Wallace. Free speech now, free speech tomorrow, and free speech forever. Good luck with that one.
I think Larry Flynt would be still be a controversial invite to a colle campus today. I don’t expect he is giving any talks at either BYU or Wellesley?
The free speech case that people remember most was about a parody ad that claimed Jerry Falwell lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse. That one wasn’t even porn related.
And today, Buzzfeed is uncritically repeating reports that Trump got peed on by underage Russian prostitutes.
Where’s the society-wide outrage? Where’s the lawsuit?
Instead it’s boring. Par for the course.
The only person outraged at that time was Falwell.
He was trying to make hay for himself by taking down Flynt (because pornography is of the devil) and increasing his own brand in the process.
But it’s not like Flynt was on the right side of the zeitgeist back then. Hustler wasn’t Playboy. It was regarded as decidedly low rent and sleazy and fairly misogynistic. Flynt wasn’t admired.
No, it’s really that Falwell massively overshot and turned Flynt into a hero. Partially because Falwell took such delite in prosecuting the culture war against liberals, he turned Flynt into “the enemy of my enemy”.
Right. When forced to choose between fringe left and fringe right, the culture chose fringe left.
It will make the same choice this time too.
And the time after, and the time after that, and the time after that…
The broader problem that Scott is not talking about is that for many people defending Larry Flynt was never about defending Free Speech, regardless of what they say. Many people’s actual motivation was more like, “I’m interesting in my protecting my own sexual behavior, so if I can push the boundary out to where Flynt is, I’ll be much safer.”
Scott’s worried about Free Speech becoming politicized, but it’s always been politicized.
An older relative of mine was once very active in the ACLU (a local chair or something like that). When the ACLU decided to get involved in the Miranda case (mid-60’s), he decided to stop his involvement in the ACLU, because he felt that Miranda was just too terrible a person to be spending such significant resources to defend. It’s not that he was against rights-reading as a legal principle, just that it wasn’t worth burning so much financial and reputational capital to defend a person like Miranda. Maybe it was a Toxoplasma strategy by the ACLU. In any case, I think it can be debated whether incidents like that ultimately raised or lowered the profile of the ACLU (probably raised donations, but probably also raised the amount of eye-rolling when the name “ACLU” comes up). I can see both sides of that issue, and for similar reasons the one being discussed here.
I still don’t think that their meta-level decision method is accurately described as “choose people who cause offense.” I think they deliberately chose accomplished academics, who had been harassed in the past, to demonstrate how eminently reasonable people (not just people like Milo, Spicer, or Spencer) are victimized.
They could bring in boring, moderate speakers to offer uncontroversial opinions, but that would cause no stir and people would say “see, it’s fine, these speakers weren’t harassed.” It also wouldn’t do anything to demonstrate to people what Murray’s views actually are, and I think the two facts that he *is reasonable* and *people interrupted his talk anyway* are relevant in combination.
Does anyone know what the expert opinion is on Murray citing Jensen, Lynn, and Rushton?
Is that a legitimate thing to do (or was it at the time TBC was published) because they’re real scientists with serious work, albeit scientists who seem to have associated with some dodgy characters, especially in Rushton’s case, or is it the case that their work isn’t reliable and shouldn’t be cited?
I don’t know, but it’s a real dilemma from the point of view of a layman trying to evaluate Murray’s stuff. On the one hand, it seems awfully thinly sourced; on the other, you’ve got to wonder how much more supporting research might be available were it not for the campaign of vituperation.
As I’ve mentioned on here before, I think Lynn has a political axe to grind and I wouldn’t believe his assessment of the intelligence of a blind kitten with the head-staggers and mange. If Murray is leaning heavily on his work (or used it a lot in his own previous work), this is exactly why he should be invited to universities to speak – so that people who know the state of the field can engage him and argue the bad methods of the research. Shouting him down and silencing him does precisely nothing tl clean up the garbage work, it merely means it’s never aired out at all and can still circulate while all that is said against it is merely the tag “racism” which by now has been so over-used it’s devalued to the point of being the equivalent of calling someone a bastard – you mean nothing as to their status of legitimacy in law, it’s a term of abuse.
Jensen was a great man. His greatest rival, James Flynn, was a huge admirer of Jensen. Here’s Thomas Sowell on their relationship:
Thanks – if Sowell says he thinks Jensen is a real scientist with integrity, that says a lot. (Maybe Flynn too, but I’m not as familiar with Flynn).
Flynn is a great man, too.
Let me add this: freedom of association is no longer respected or recognized on the left, because it’s been used as a right-wing objection to antidiscrimination laws for so long that lefties now mentally translate “freedom of association” to “exclude black people from my lunch counter.” Furthermore, although there’s a patina of sincere, principled Barry Goldwater libertarians leading the opposition to antidiscrimination laws, most of the objectors don’t care about free association and just want to discriminate, so the mental translation is reasonable, though the effects are regrettable.
The irony is that freedom of association as an American legal concept (as distinct from the narrower notion of peaceable assembly in the text of the First Amendment) was first articulated in defense of the NAACP.
Well, yeah. I would say the concept of “states rights” and federalism was poisoned by slavery and segregation as well.
For the main point, I think many principles are advanced by people who don’t particularly care about the principle, but the exercise thereof, perhaps in ways most of us wouldn’t approve of. Many of the cases involving civil liberties involved plaintiffs who were in fact guilty (e.g. Miranda was re-tried and convicted of rape with his confession thrown out), but didn’t want to be convicted.
So, yeah, it’s true that people’s interest in these principles often coincides with their desire to exercise them. But I’m not sure that’s a damning critique. I probably don’t care too much about my municpality’s permit laws until I want to put and addition on my house.
> I would say the concept of “states rights” and federalism was poisoned by slavery and segregation as well.
The concept of states rights was born poisonous. It has never been and will never be used in defense of anything that a national majority has not convinced the federal government to do the opposite of – be that slavery, drugs, or sanctuary cities.
Well, freedom of association must necessarily include freedom *from* association, otherwise it doesn’t have a leg to stand on. If that means that people will treat different people differently according to personal taste, so be it.
Freedom of speech necessarily includes your right to stand on the sidewalk outside my home screaming insults and obscenities at me at 3:00 AM, but that doesn’t mean etc.
Freedom of speech excludes such things because of the non-speech parts (the 3 AM and the screaming), not because of the content of the speech.
Are you objecting to my point? I mean, I kind of don’t see how you could. If you don’t have the freedom to reject associating with someone, you don’t have freedom of association. The only consistent (and real) stances are “both” and “neither”.
Correct. Freedom of association was obliterated in America with the Civil Rights Act. It no longer exists in any meaningful way, as a legal right, or even as a social and societal norm. Suggesting that maybe it should exist makes one likely to be cast as a horrible racist.
So it only existed for 6 years?
But it is a necessary implication of your description of free speech as a public commons.
On a macro/norm/policy level, free speech can not be a commons in the domain of expression.
Describing something as a commons is informative only insofar as one implies a potential tragedy by misuse. The strong implication thereof is that there are some people who never turn on their fish farm’s filters. Your description necessarily makes free speech into a coordination problem.
But the exact purpose of free speech is to preserve incoordination of ideas without respect to their “badness.” Calling for the coordination of ideas is the antithesis of free speech, and to do so in the name of free speech is incoherent. Moreover, is functionally identical to “We should avoid using free speech to defend people beyond a certain level of badness.”
On a micro/personal action level, the true commons associated with free speech is in the domain of interpretation.
In this/our context, free speech essentially means that the range of interpretations of a given speech or textual unit shall not constrain its expression. It moves the burden from the speaker to the one who interprets. Speech is only free to the degree that it is universal, and as such, it is only free to the degree that the burden of interpretation is held to be universal, both in terms of who must interpret, and who must be interpreted.
Therefore, if there exists a speech “commons,” that commons exists not in the domain of expression, but in the domain of interpretation. We preserve this commons by granting mind-space to ideas that we find controversial or that we disagree with. The tragedy of this commons is when one requires others to constrain their expression, so that they may claim the entirety of their mind for ideas they find attractive or agreeable.
Therefore, to claim that free speech is a public commons is fundamentally incoherent, and an abrogation of one’s duties of interpretation.
I think you’re dead wrong even in this limited practical sense. If the tragedy inherent to the speech commons is when people close off their interpretative faculties to certain controversies – or, close off their interpretative faculties by labeling ideas controversial – the correct challenge can only be to court controversy. If we value free speech, we should defend it in these cases all the more vigorously, IE, if we blue-tribers care about free speech, then we should stick up for Milo.
“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.” Well, you can have multiple motives for what you do. Granted, the offensiveness of the speaker should not be the sole motive for inviting him or her, but it can be one of the motives; and if you are testing the limits of freedom of speech, it must be one of the motives.
If, as you seem to assume, the aim is to rally the general public behind freedom of speech, one should indeed walk a fine line: invite a speaker who will present valuable facts or ideas which the thought police would attempt to censor, though they are only mildly offensive. But another motive is to encourage other thinkers and potential speakers. In an environment where speakers of a certain cast or ideology are being censored, inviting and presenting such a speaker offers encouragement to other potential speakers of the same ilk, who might have something interesting (though offensive) to say but would not pursue the matter if they expected not to be invited to present their ideas publicly. For this purpose, the wilder and more offensive the invitee, the better: the others will think, “If this guy is making a career out of presenting that very offensive stuff, my much milder offensive stuff should not debar me from success.”
Scott, you’ve already written about this in your Toxoplasma of Rage article, and I’m surprised that you don’t recognize it. It’s just virtue signaling. Now that free speech is a Conservative Value (TM) the only way to signal one’s true conservative bona fides is to defend not just the reasonable free speech cases, but the EXTREME free speech cases.
Also, I’m going to drop a truth bomb on you. In reality, the vast majority of people don’t give a shit about free speech, or indeed principles of any kind. There is no principle so pure that it could not be distorted into something awful if taken to its extreme. Libertarianism is just the sense that the government should not interfere so much in people’s lives, but when taken to an extreme it can be used to justify people starving in the street because “the government shouldn’t interfere.” Rationalism is the sense that people should try to apply logic in their everyday lives, but take it too far and you start thinking that logic is the most important thing in the world.
Generally people just believe in a moderate application of all generally good principles, and are repulsed by extremism. The most enduring principle that humanity believes in is “Try to Not to be a Dick.” But because of the tribal signalling that you described in the Toxoplasma of Rage, extremism creeps in to any group as people try to virtue signal. The more popular the group (and thus the more insulated they are from outside threats) the more their effort will be focused on competing for status internally rather than uniting against external threats.
In other words, this behavior is cyclical. A group will assume a generally good principle in reasonable proportion, and because of its mass appeal they will gain popular power. But then thanks to their newfound position of power, they grow complacent against external threats and start competing with each other for status by proving that they are the most “pure” adherents to their core principles. Eventually, the principle is taken to such an extreme that the general public is repulsed. A purge begins, led by the general populace, and the group loses power to another group with a different and more reasonable ideology. Then they are forced to adopt more moderate principles in order to win support. Meanwhile, the group that displaced them starts to go through the same process and the cycle begins again.
You can see an example of this in how the Republicans assumed power during the Reagan era. Communism was a serious threat, and capitalism was an ideology with the power to beat it. But then Republicans took their fetishization of capitalism and free-market principles too far and starting engaging in purity tests, causing their base of power to collapse. Right now, the Republican party is seriously questioning their free-market principles, and some might say that Trump campaigned on the opposite of that, showing how clearly free-market ideology is played out.
Democrats had the same thing going with racism after the Republicans collapsed. They campaigned on a principle of equality and ending racism. Increasingly, their goal of gender equality and opposition to racism became more and more extreme, until they were eroding other civil rights like free speech and even supported violence against “bigots.” Now they have been purged from government and are cast out into the wilderness.
Free speech is the same thing. Right now, it is making a huge comeback. But because of its popularity, people are eventually going to become more and more extreme in its application until it becomes something perverse and revolting. Then there will be another purge and a new value will rise up and eventually be corrupted. This cycle is inevitable.
This is why I sometimes get frustrated with your childish insistence that you are a liberal. Having an emotional attachment to ANY political party or tribe is moronic, because they will grow and change over time. I used to be a liberal, but now I am a conservative so that I can tear down all the liberal extremists and their legacy. Eventually the conservative party will grow too fanatical, and I will switch back to being a liberal so that I can tear down the parts of conservative ideology that I disagree with. The most reasonable way to handle politics is to behave as a gardener, switching sides regularly to prune whichever side of the tree has become overgrown.
Since you mentioned Rosa Parks…
I’ve been thinking about the United incident. The optics of it look horrible, but I have a hard time articulating what is bad about it. The company is covered by fine print, and even if it wasn’t the plane is clearly their property. They can refuse service, the police is obligated to defend their property rights, by force if necessary, and he should have disembarked, but may have had the right to sue over the incident. Contractually, I can’t find a way to defend Dao.
And yet, there are times in history, such as the case with Rosa Parks, where the world became a better place precisely because people acted in contractually indefensible ways (although I’m sure the opposite is true as well). Depending on how you view the implicit social contract, an argument can be made that all advances of civil rights were thru people acting in contractually indefensible ways.
So what is the principle in play here that can be used to justify some of those acts, without resorting to something like “the person with the least power in a disagreement is always right”?
No, UA is not covered by fine print — they in fact violated their own contract with the customer. He paid his money, and that gave him certain rights. Their only legitimate recourse was to keep raising the offer until somebody found it worthwhile to voluntarily give up their seat.
I don’t think it’s possible to be certain which way a court would rule as there are conflicting principles of contract interpretation and the whole area is heavily regulated.
The question would be whether he was “denied boarding” under Section 25 of the contract of carriage because the flight was “Oversold” defined in Section 1 as having too many “Passengers” (which excludes “crew”) with “Tickets.” If he was properly “denied boarding” under Section 25 and had his contractual right to be on the plane revoked, then they had a contractual right to remove him under Section 21(H)(2). I assume, but have not confirmed, that Illinois state and/or federal law authorizes reasonable force by police officers to remove an unauthorized person from an airplane and that a person calling police in good faith is not liable for the police’s actions, in which case United is in the clear.
On the other hand, if the flight was not Oversold (because the United employees were not Passengers with Tickets) or if Dao had already boarded, then Dao retained his contractual right to be on board and could not be removed.
It’s certainly possible that a court would find that the trade usage of “denied boarding” covers any rejection from the plane until the doors close and “crew” to only mean the employees working the flight. On the other hand, ambiguities are to be construed against the drafter of a contract. So, a court could probably go either way on the meaning of the contract. There also may be state or federal law or regulation requiring obedience to cabin crew (I can’t find one, but I do see a ton of people asserting there is one) which would probably require Dao to deplane even if United was breaching its contract by requiring Dao to do so. It’s highly likely that police would be authorized to use reasonable force in that case.
This is the part where a lot of people go astray. If the contract did not permit United to throw Dao off the plane, then by doing so United was in breach of its contract. Breach of contract gives rise to a cause of action for expectancy damages. It does not create a right for the non-breaching party to obtain specific performance through self help.
Regardless of the contract entirely, United was entitled to withdraw Dao’s invitee status. At the point it did so and Dao refused to depart the premises, Dao became a tresspasser. The police are entirely within their rights to use reasonable (but not unreasonable) force to remove a tresspasser.
This was a business disaster and United absolutely screwed up in that sense. They will likely settle any ensuing lawsuit on generous terms to avoid further publicity. But from a strictly legal point of view, the great internet contract of carriage interpretation debate only goes to the question of damages caused to him by delay (e.g. hotel costs, lost income from missing work, etc.) it doesn’t go to the question of battery or use of force at all.
I assume that by “self help” you mean “remaining in the seat you have been promised”, not “instructing people to manhandle an innocent man on false pretenses”, right? I had to infer that from context, because the meaning is not at all clear otherwise. Or do both meanings apply?
If not, slumlords everywhere, rejoice, and start practicing your speech for the next time you want to break a lease! “Get out, right now, or I’ll have you beaten. You (or your next of kin, depending on the extent of the head trauma) will be free to sue afterwards.”
There has to be *some* limit to this forced acquiescence to an invalid charge of trespassing, right? Can a hotel drag you from your bed at midnight? Can a taxi driver take you halfway, but then kick you out in the bad part of town? Could United have diverted a plane to Middle Of, Nowhere and left the passengers there with no way to get back? Could they have waited until they were in the air, then handed out parachutes? Would it matter if they had no parachutes? These sound like rhetorical questions but they honestly aren’t.
Imagine I have a travel company which wants to be able to guarantee that we won’t abandon our customers far from home and have them violently removed from our vehicle(s) if they object. Is there any way, in your view, for us to make this promise, or is that just inherently impossible, because if we ever change our minds then that will take precedence?
The libertarian answers to all those concerns is “Markets!” — i.e., perhaps the de jure answers to those questions is “Yes,” but the de facto answer is “Hell, no,” because a company that acted this way would soon find itself with a loss for customers.
But, we are not in a purely libertatiran paradise. There are a handful of airlines, and perhaps only one or two real choices for certain routes. The profits of Spirit Airlines tells us that airlines aren’t regularly punished for poor customer service. Even in the age of the internet, prospective tenants probably wouldn’t have perfect information about the past behavior of a landlord, and there are asymmetries of power in those relationships.
To take one example. Could United divert a plan into the Middle of Nowhere? Well, it seems to me that they would have to be able to in order to respond to emergencies like bad weather and mechanical failures. A legal policy where they must land where it says on the ticket no matter what could lead to disaster. It seems the only workable solution is that the airlines have the flexibility to divert their planes, and their decisions are evaluated after the fact, both in torts and in the court of public opinion. An airline that regularly diverts their planes for specious reasons would find itself dealing with lawsuits and fewer customers, so they would have incentives not to do so.
Spirit Airlines, as well as United, as well as everyone else, provides the exact amount and quality of customer service that customers actually desire.
Anyone who wants exceptional customer service from an airline is free to pick the most expensive one and buy a first class ticket.
The fact that most travelers do not do this is relevant here.
The reason certain airlines have poor customer service is because they are punished for high prices, and most customers value low prices more than they value great service.
I’m explaining how the law works as I understand it, not making any kind of normative argument.
Landlord-tenant law is a separate branch of law that has its own rules. A landlord isn’t in possession of property and tenets aren’t invitees.
Hospitality law is also generally covered by a separate set of laws. In most hotel rooms you can usually find a plaque somewhere that has parts of the hospitality law they are required to post. That said, if push came to shove I think a hotel operator could call the police and have them get you out in the middle of the night. The officers might insist on some kind of explanation but technically they probably shouldn’t. Ditto for the taxi hypo.
An airline can divert its plane to the middle of nowhere, leave you off with no way to get home and you still don’t have any legal right to storm onto a plane and refuse to leave. You’d have an action for damages.
An airline couldn’t revoke your invitation and declare you a trespasser in mid-air whether or not parachutes were on board.
U.S. contract law in general disfavors specific performance (i.e. forcing one side to carry out what it is has promised to carry out) and instead prefers to remedy breaches with cash compensation. It even more strongly disfavors self help (i.e. attempting to enforce your rights yourself).
Even penalty clauses are generally forbidden, so a contract that said United would have to pay you $1 million dollars if they didn’t fly you from X to Y by time Z would probably not be enforceable.
Can you cite authority for the first two sentences? I agree that an Illinois peace officer is authorized to use reasonable force to arrest someone committing the crime of criminal trespass under 720 ILCS 5/7-5. I don’t think that Dao committed criminal trespass of a vehicle under 720 ILCS 5/21-2 as he did not enter or operate the aircraft without authority.
More broadly, roystgnr makes a good point that it’s strange to characterize remaining in a seat as self-help but not physically removing someone from their seat. There’s a significant difference between someone forcing their way onto an airplane and someone remaining in a seat they properly entered. When I think of self-help, I think of a lock out or repossession – something that changes the status quo.
Probably with enough effort. But I frankly don’t feel like writing a memo on the issue. If that means you aren’t convinced, so be it.
I don’t know what to tell you. From the point of view of contract law it was self help.
The claim from those that want to parse in great detail the contract of carriage is that if the airline was in breach that’s some great trump card that means that calling the police and the police’s subsequent actions are totally unprivileged. That’s not how contract law, tort law, or 42 USC 1983 law works.
If the contract was breached Dao is entitled to sue for expectancy damages. That’s it. It is otherwise not at all legally relevant. I’m sorry if this offends people’s sense of justice.
This argument (and anything that has been said here about “revealed preferences” meaning these things are somehow illegitimate) ignores the fact that protesting, boycotting, sharing this video on twitter, etc, are all perfectly legitimate ways of attempting to influence what the customers desire.
Brad: Thank you for the legal parsing. It’s nice to know that my understanding was relatively close. What I’m curious about is the conflict between legality and morality. I don’t know that Dao was morally justified to remain on the plain under those circumstances, but I can certainly think of situation where someone would be, that would not, to my understanding be any different from a legal stand point. Suppose all minority passengers were asked to disembarked in order to give up their seats to some privileged group. Legally, the situation appears the same (the passengers have to leave, can sue later), but morally I think most would agree that they were justified to resist.
I’m having a hard time articulating this sort of civil (or non civil) extra legal disobedience. There are situations where laws should be broken, and there are others that don’t fit this category. But aside from “this feels right and this doesn’t” I can’t really differentiate between the two. I think it has something to do with whether the legal form of redress (in this case suing the airline) is sufficient deterrent to stop some sort of injustice from recurring.
What percentage of the people protesting do you think are frequent and/or high margin United customers?
And do you think the people protesting have a clear sense that the only way to really guarantee better service would necessarily involve higher fare prices?
Competing on price is a messy game. Companies never *want* to do it. They do it because they have to.
I’m inclined to think that Dao was morally entitled to do what he did. But I’m not sure that inclination would stand up to rigorous self reflection, if that makes any sense.
In general and in the abstract I tend to think that civil disobedience and the concomitant erosion of rule of law norms ought to be reserved for very serious wrongs.
Brad, I’m not asking for a memo. A restatement or ALR would be fine. I’m a real estate attorney, and I’ve never seen a situation where the party insisting on maintaining the status quo was seen as engaging in self help.
From Emanuel on Property ISBN 0735540101 (pg. 255)
This goes to the question of civil tresspass, for criminal there’d need to be a mens rea analysis too. But I think you could at least get to probable cause.
Fine print is sometimes a sufficient defense against the charge “X is illegal”. It is not a sufficient defense against the charge “X is wrong”. It will never stop people who believe they have been wronged from demanding righteous vengeance. Do you really not understand this?
As is the lunch counter of every restaurant that ever had a “no coloreds” sign. And even the people who would in principle defend such signs might balk at throwing the colored folk out after you’d taken their lunch order and their money.
The cultural norm is that if you take someone’s money, you are obligated to provide them with the service they paid for if at all possible, and to tell them as soon as possible if you can’t follow through. If you instead plan to offer a deal where you can string them along for weeks and then arbitrarily throw them off the premises at the last second, then you really need to put that in bold text up front. Fine print only protects you against the purely legal consequences of violating that cultural norm. And then only if you perform the incantation absolutely right.
The nice thing about legalities, is that they are mostly clear. You can look it up, and somewhere it will say “this is legal, and this is not”. Sometimes some lawyers will argue about what constitutes this, or that.
Morality is more complicated. What happened to Dao certainly seems immoral. It feels wrong. But when I go to describe why it feels wrong, I can’t quiet narrow it down. I can’t claim that the airline cannot under any circumstances remove a paying passenger from a plane. I can’t say that police cannot under any circumstances use force to remove an uncooperative trespasser. I certainly can’t articulate why I feel he was right to stay and resist, despite feeling that he was, and I can’t for the life of me separate out under what circumstances someone is right to resist, as opposed to getting off the plane, catching the next flight, and then suing the company for damages later.
Why can’t you narrow it down? No need to insist on exceptionless rules like you seem to be doing.
So how do you articulate the exception? One should always work within the system unless… what?
I think it’s possible that an expansive principle against compelling specific performance, particularly of corporations rather than individuals, particularly when the specific thing being demanded is not much of a burden – goes against people’s intuition.
People’s moral “gut feeling” is that because they had a contract they should have been required to keep him on the plane, and should have had no right to refuse to do so.
I think you’re still missing the point. The point of seeking out speakers that the Left dislikes is to make their attempts to violently suppress other viewpoints counterproductive. If every time they try to prevent someone from speaking, that person gets three more invites, after a while they may give up on the tactic.
You seem like the kind of guy who tries to avoid confrontation, but sometimes you have to stand up to bullies. The Left has been muzzling dissenting voices for decades. They used to do it by shouting down speakers and harassing listeners. Nobody did anything about it, so, as bullies are wont to do, they escalated to physical violence. They need to be stopped, firmly and decisively. Rather than criticizing the people who are trying to put an end to the Left’s censorship, you should be thanking your lucky stars that these people are using peaceful tactics instead of returning violence for violence.
Some of the people the left dislikes are disliked for good reasons. If you seek out the most despicable people out there and give them popularity, your tactic may result in the left abandoning the tactic you dislike. It will also result in very despicable people having a great deal of power. I’m not sure that’s much of a victory.
But that’s the point we keep coming back to: Murray and Peterson are nowhere near the most despicable people out there. In any reasonable world they would be respected mainstream academics and well within the Overton window.
Scott’s entire beef seems to be based on the idea that this Harvard student’s club intends to deliberately invite the most outrageous people they can find, in order to stir up controversy. But as far as I can tell, the phrase “the most outrageous speakers possible” appears only in the byline of the article which Scott’s post was based on. It was an inaccurate summary from the article’s author, not a quote from the students.
The actual president of the student group, as quoted in the article, phrases their objectives in a much more reasonable manner, and in fact pointed out that they would not invite a heckler such as Yiannopoulos. Does that sound as if stirring up as much controversy as possible is their main goal?
Technically true, although it’s a miniscule percentage. Especially if one restricts to currently living people.
Scott: We have a series of high-profile incidents in which the Left violently suppresses the speech of those they disagree with, and you say nothing. Then somebody tries to do something about it, and THAT’s when you speak up, criticizing their actions and saying that, rather than defending the free speech of people the Left dislikes, we should focus on defending the free speech of people the Left likes.
Why are you surprised that people came to the conclusions they did?
“I don’t want free speech to become a politicised cause but if it has to, I’d prefer it to be politicised by the liberals” – why I think this won’t work is because when the liberals were the ones needing the protection of free speech, they didn’t defend it on “yes this material may be offensive or challenging, but the principle remains”, they trilled about purity and disgust; the reason homophobes were against gay marriage was because they thought gay sex was icky. There were no principles involved because it was all irrational. Even a sympathetic précis boils it down to: back when people didn’t know about stuff like we know about stuff, this was useful but now we have proper Science (with the conclusion trailing afterwards, whether understood to be implicit or explicit so we should dump those old notions because they’re harmful and only the stuck-in-the-mud hang on to them, maybe because they’re slightly dumber than us or driven by fear, who knows?):
The same attitude as in that HuffPo article I linked about the Piss Christ: only boobs, Babbitts and Puritans would get their knickers in a twist about things like this! So they never felt the need to protect free speech as a principle, because back when the unstoppable wave of the right side of history was bending towards the arc of justice, they looked forward to the day when the only speech heard would be their speech, and their speech was right speech, so no problem!
Now that they are the ones being offended, they of course have left themselves open to the counter-charge they used all along of “But isn’t this simply your disgust module being triggered?” and that is unacceptable, because it means they are not Right, they are merely Squicked. So the principle of free speech gets thrown under the bus, and now “Anything you say that I don’t agree with is Hate Speech”, and error hath no rights.
I natively have the disposition towards censorship and repression, and I have had to (and continue to have to) fight very hard to recognise and apply the priniciple of “just because you don’t like it, even if you think it is wrong and dangerous, they are still entitled to exercise their right of free speech”. I don’t believe liberals, as seen in recent decades, have any such qualms because they have satisfied themselves that only those on the right/the conservatives can be censorious and repressive, they on the other hand are only acting out of the finest motives of justice since they are opposed to hatred and bigotry if they want to shut someone/something down.
It’s worth noting that haidt has revised his opinion on left wing purity.
Upon further reflection, I think my disagreement with Scott (and possibly a lot of the disagreement of other commenters) has a lot in common with my disagreement with his reasons for endorsing Hillary.
Scott’s endorsement of Hillary seemed fundamentally to rest on the assumption that things aren’t that bad and are mostly going in a positive direction and we therefore don’t want to upset the apple cart too badly by choosing a high-risk candidate over a predictably status-quo candidate. Many disagreed with his appraisal of the status quo, myself included.
Here, what Scott’s saying makes sense given an assumption that freedom of inquiry and diversity of opinion within the academy are mostly pretty healthy with a few unpleasant hiccups. If such were the case it might make sense to say “you’re not doing free speech any favors by associating its cause with shitstirring provocateurs.”
But that’s not the case; freedom of inquiry and diversity of opinion within the academy are in a crisis. There are vast swathes of the Overton Window which are simply taboo in any academic venue. Half of the political spectrum is virtually unrepresented there, fleeing instead to think tanks. Major topics like race, gender, and interpretation of certain aspects of history brook no dissent and divergence from orthodoxy results in ostracism at best. Mainstream, serious thinkers like Charles Murray are called “white supremacists,” their work dismissed as “pseudo-science” and violence justified in the name of keeping them from “spreading hate.” This is a crisis.
Given such circumstances (or, at least, to someone who shares my appraisal of the situation), much more active tactics may be justified, indeed, may be necessary than simply waiting for the SJWs to make themselves look even worse by attacking the next innocent victim. They don’t back down when you remain silent or apologize. They just grow even bolder. And those who let the battle come to them are characteristically not ready for it. I am very glad some people are taking the battle to them.
+1, I couldn’t agree more. Even at a relatively “apolitical” “technical” university like MIT, the narrowness of the window of expressed views is stunning (I know of precisely zero people here who voted Trump, for instance). A Colloquium of Controversial and Underexposed Views is an excellent idea to combat this oppressive intellectual atmosphere. I’m certainly planning to attend the Murray talk, whenever it happens, and probably many further talks given by this group.
If I were to summarize Scott’s general advice, it would be, “don’t be a jerk.” Don’t vote for a sexist millionaire just to piss off the liberals. Don’t hold nerds out for shaming because sexism. Don’t use stronger rhetoric or snark than absolutely necessary to make your point. Don’t assume the worst of your adversaries. etc.
I had a time thought that Scott’s approach to things was informed by a kind of naievete describe above — not coming to terms with the fact that there is evil in the world that occasionally needs to be resisted.
But, it occurs to me that just from what he’s written in this blog, Scott has come face-to-face with more evil and suffering than I ever have, or hope to. So writing it off as naievete probably won’t wash.
What it may be is a recognition that much of human suffering comes not necessarily from “evil” people but from “good” people who have given themselves a license to act badly. So, to improve the world, it’s best not to try to think of ever-more ways to be meaner to *bad* people, but to limit the licenses we give ourselves to act poorly.
So, inviting a provocative speaker would force a conflict over free speech that would make the censors look bad, but it would also cause some suffering. Some people would be genuinely hurt by the content of the speech. If the speech provokes violence, some people are likely to be hurt. And it wold associate the cause of free speech with this intentionally provocative speaker. Is it worth it?
I think there are some circumstances where the answer is, “yes,” but those circumstances are likely closer to Scott’s answer than the answer we’ve come up with.
This feels like a weakman of both my position and Scott’s. He didn’t just say “don’t vote for Trump just to see the world burn.” I’m sure he’d disapprove of that, but that wasn’t his only argument. I like that Trump pisses off all the right people, but that isn’t the primary reason I preferred him to Hillary. If I thought a world with Trump POTUS would result in more suffering than a world with Hillary POTUS then I would have supported Hillary. But I didn’t think that, nor do I think anyone who was arguing against Scott then did.
Regarding the campus speakers, he isn’t saying “don’t be a provocateur because some people might get hurt.” If anyone gets hurt at these events, it’s the poor people who want to hear the speaker and bravely come out despite the knowledge their fellow students and/or masked vigilantes will likely hurl abuse at them. He’s saying “don’t be a provocateur because it burns good will toward free speech, perhaps for not much gain.” And many of us are arguing that it probably doesn’t work that way.
To reiterate: if people really thought things were going pretty well, and would probably continue to go pretty well under Hillary, yet voted for Trump just for shits and giggles to piss off the squares, then that is terrible. But nobody here supported that. If free expression on campus were basically fine and 4chan edgelord trolls kept inviting the most outrageous speakers possible to push the envelope, effectively associating the cause of free speech in regular peoples’ minds with pointless provocation, then that would be terrible. But it’s not the case.
Leaving aside the facts on the ground for the moment, what do you think the correct response would be if the first of these claims were false (free speech is not in a good state) and the second were true (edgelords be edgelording)?
Then probably what Scott says: don’t support unnecessary provocation. So what we have is a disagreement on facts. Be the edgelords edgelording? In the case of Milo, yes. He’s intentionally saying provocative things in order to provoke a reaction. In the case of Murray and Peterson, no. They are saying things they believe are true and have scientific evidence for in ways as gentle as they can, and yet the easily offended are taking offense.
Not convinced some quarters of academia have gone off the deep end?
Subreddit suspects this of being a hoax.
The Editor-in-Chief Verashni Pillay defended the post against the pushback mail they received:
Well, it had to be a hoax because it’s a damn stupid notion if you take five minutes to think about it.
So we’re arguing that the global problems are all caused by white men so let’s take the vote away from white men.
Okay. Given that the global population is majority non-white, what good is this going to do? Take the vote away from white men and allow only non-white people (I’m presuming the article – or the editor – intends that non-white women should be permitted the vote) to vote, and see how progressively feminist a world you end up with. If they’re sincere about “a world where power is wielded to dangerous and destructive ends by men” then they have to disenfranchise all men all over the world.
Yes, that is going to work so well. Leaving aside any areas where there is no such thing as the popular vote, this means you are going to let only women have the vote. Mm-hmmm. So women will elect all women to the parliaments of the world and we’ll have a women-only government and presidency in every nation and then the utopian feminist dream will commence. Somebody get out the ouija board and contact Maggie Thatcher, her advice on being a gentle, nurturing, non-confrontational leader who presided over a land of universal public benefits and egalitarian communes is going to be badly needed.
What this really means,
and I can’t believeon second thoughts unfortunately yes I can believe it, what the editor really thinks, is that white men in positions of power in the rich and powerful USA (and maybe Western Europe) should be disenfranchised and only non-white persons allowed vote. Then we’d have the SecondThird Coming Of Obama and everything would be beer and skittles.
How on earth does someone who is a black woman living in South Africa think that women alone, or non-white men alone, having the vote is going to make things be all sweet and kind and non-violent? Winnie Mandela and necklacing not ringing any bells with her? Reality not ringing any bells with her? Does she honestly think rich women aren’t going to be as involved in “the uneven distribution of wealth and power” as rich men? Is she, for instance, dividing her salary as editor-in-chief of the HuffPo South Africa 50/50 with her cleaning woman?
Or maybe she thinks that the bits that aren’t “all sweet and kind and non-violent” will happen to other people, first and foremost her political/tribal enemies. If the meanness and violence and necklacings all end up toward those awful white men and their allies, so much the better, yes? I think it’s “those who have held undue power granted to them by patriarchy” losing power, and she and hers gaining it, that is the part that really matters.
Yes to the second part, but this is definitely a non sequitur. It didn’t have to be a hoax just because it was damn stupid and obviously so. Damn stupid stuff gets published in earnest all the time.
But in this case it was indeed a hoax, and if you follow the link to the editor-in-chief’s defense of the piece, you find out they removed it.
The argument “People that tend to vote against me, shouldn’t be able to vote” makes perfect sense, in a cold and tactical manner. That’s why the editor-in-chief wrote another article defending the first article. I see alt-right libertarians that argue this in respect to women voting as well.
I don’t think it’s fair to characterize an “MA philosophy student” as any quarter of academia. A PhD student might be teaching classes and you could sort of stretch to maybe pretend their opinion was relevant, but “MA philosophy student” is essentially “random idiot”.
Now, HuffPo, HuffPo has definitely gone off the deep end.
I would also add that some alt-right commentators have openly called for taking the franchise away from women (and insist that they are not joking)
I would say that you can either have an academia where disenfranchising people is an acceptable topic of discussion (fine with me), but then you need to have an academia where that topic is genuinely open for discussion (one where you could seriously suggest disenfranchising women, or people below a certain IQ). Or, you can have an academia where you can’t seriously suggest disenfranchising anybody, as has been the case for the past 50+ years.
Right now you can seriously suggest disenfranchising white men and have it appear in the Huffington Post, which, like it or not, is still taken pretty seriously in the mainstream, but you couldn’t seriously suggest that about any other group. This may or may not be a fraud, but this kind of talk has still become surprisingly mainstream: people on my Facebook reacted to the United thing by literally saying “why didn’t they throw white men off the plane first” and “they wouldn’t have done this to a white man.” I, personally, am disappointed to learn only now that being a white man means the police won’t manhandle me if I refuse to obey their orders (of course, the real disparity, if there is any, is the question of whether or not they’d have done this to a woman of any race; I think it less likely).
Since as an anarchist, I want to disenfranchise everybody, I like the idea of a big Overton Window. But I was pretty okay with an academia in which suggesting to disenfranchise any particular group would have been beyond the pale. But if academia has become a place where it’s okay to suggest disenfranchising white men, then it’s also a place which has lost all credibility to denounce alt-right calls to disenfranchise black women.
Assuming it’s real, but “just” some MA student, then okay, sure, it’s “just” some MA student. But that MA student has an advisor. That MA student is getting published in Huffpo. That MA student may be an eminent professor of philosophy ten years from now.
Any random idiot may be an eminent professor of philosophy ten years from now, let’s deal with that when the time comes.
Agree with this. And an MA student that published a “why don’t we disenfranchise blacks” article under their real name would almost certainly be kicked out of any respectable college.
Doesn’t Huffpo let anyone with a comment account post articles to the site? (Or am I confusing it with a different blogging platform?)
Yes, it looks like a blog thing. I think it is dishonest to say the real point here is that HuffPo endorses it.
The real point is that the author places himself in no danger by posting this article, when arguing to disenfranchise anyone else would be life-annihilating. That’s the problem. He knows that arguing to disenfranchise people is virtue signalling and will result in him being granted emotional rewards and approval from popular people, because the people he argues to disenfranchise don’t have fashionable identity categories.
The popular created an environment that everyone understands wherein “I want to take away the right to vote from people whose identities aren’t fashionable enough” is a signal of virtue that will get you rewards.
THAT is the problem.
I may overestimate the significance of it appearing on Huffpo, since it is apparently easier to get your writing featured on Huffpo than I thought (though I found it through a link from a major news aggregator, which made it seem like a serious publication, though probably that is just because it is so outrageous).
But yes, my point is that while this article may be a bit “out there” and unrepresentative, or maybe even a fraud or parody, it is representative in the sense that, within academia (and certain other social circles; I’m not saying this is just an academia thing) you’d be surprised how common and totally acceptable sentiments like these are. Very common; very acceptable. My facebook is full of “white guys this,” “white guys that”; maybe this has been going on for a while in the darker corners of the SJW universe I don’t frequent, but it seems fairly recent to me that it’s gone rather mainstream.
Try posting a blog on HuffPo that says we should deny the franchise to homosexuals and see how long it lasts.
Don’t give me this “anyone can post anything there” nonsense.
Fields differ, and there’s a lot of regional and individual variation, but while I understand that in a lot of technical or engineering fields, a Masters is a serious degree, in philosophy an “MA student” is almost certainly someone who just couldn’t get into a PhD program. They might, it is true, eventually get into one at some future time, but they are not someone on any likely path to becoming an “eminent professor.” And most of the best philosophy departments only have PhD programs, so an “MA student” likely doesn’t have an “eminent professor” as an advisor either.
I think you’re missing the point. This isn’t a test case. it’s not designed to be a test case.
There’s multiple ways that rights can be eroded.
1: the laws/constitution is changed. You’re focusing on this as if it’s the only case.
2: people start acting like the rights don’t exist. The case law is settled. the test cases have been done. The rights are well defined but socially actually availing of those rights is moving outside the overton window.
When you try to avail of your rights they don’t arrest you, people just declare that you’re basically hitler 2.0 and try their damnedest to screw up your life.
You’re worried about the city building a parking lot over the commons, but that’s not going to happen. The real problem is thousands of shitheels who are destroying the commons from the inside in little ways.
1 is not the problem the student society is going after.
Charles Murray is not sitting in a jail cell.
The problem is that censorious asshats have been contracting the overton window for what can be said in public. The correct way to attack that problem is to be outrageous, to make a clear point to everyone who can see that the edge of the overton window is all the way over there and people really can express views like that in public.
Being a mousy little thing and avoiding controversy does not achieve that. indeed it makes it worse.
Sometimes the rational choice is to take the South Park approach. Which only seems like a bad idea if you believe they’re going after a completely different problem.
Again, Scott, you may or may not have a point in principle, but your examples are so bad that they undermine your point.
Even granting that picking the most controversial speaker for the sake of causing a stir and proving a point may be a bad strategy, it seems plausible that inviting speakers who offer reasonable, interesting and possibly relevant arguments and who are only controversial because they challenge the dogma of a group of too-easily-offended people is a very good strategy – these are precisely the people who make the principle of free speech pay dividends for society. And by all appearances (and by your impression, and by that of your readers), Murray and Peterson are firmly in the latter camp, so your article at the very least suffers from a serious case of strawmanning (“These people are doing something bad! Now, they may not actually be doing it, and I don’t even know if they intended to do it, and I can’t name anyone else who’s actually doing it, but if they did it, it would be totally bad for the following reasons…”)
Scott, you seem to be saying that there are only two different reasons why someone may want to invite a controversial speaker:
1. Because you are genuinely interested in what that speaker has to say, and it just so happens that the topic is controversial.
2. Because you want to be controversial for controversy’s sake — you don’t actually care about the speaker’s topic, you’re just trying to stir up shit.
But it seems to me that there’s an excluded middle here:
3. Because you fear that you may be living in a bubble where you are only exposed to one side of the political spectrum, and so you want to make a conscious attempt to expose yourself to a wider range of interesting ideas.
If #3 is your motivation, then the speakers you choose will inevitably be somewhat controversial, but that doesn’t mean that you are inviting them for the sake of stirring up shit — you’re inviting them because you are genuinely interested in what a person from outside your bubble has to say! And if other people then try to prevent you from learning about those ideas, then I don’t think it would be fair to dismiss that with “well, you went out of your way to be controversial, you got what you deserved.”
From how the Harvard club describes itself, it seems to me that reason #3 is the most charitable interpretation of their stated aims. And it seems to me that this is something which you, of all people, ought to strongly sympathize with?
Allow me to present you with a few questions to help you assess whether the “exhaustible resource” model reflects reality.
Which would you expect to create more controversy, the first time someone says “fuck” on daytime TV or the 1000th time?
Which do you expect people to be more accepting of, a new law they dislike or an old law they dislike?
Who is more likely to be allowed to continue squatting on property they don’t own, someone who has been there one day or someone who has been there thirty years?
I believe your model is wrong and tolerance is a learned habit not an exhaustible resource. I think you will agree if you reflect on the question carefully.
Good post though! You had me convinced for about thirty minutes.
There’s two types of tolerance. There’s the type of tolerance where if you keep your head down and don’t call attention to yourself, people won’t seek you out for a fight, and then there’s the type of tolerance where you’re there, you’re queer, and they’re used to it. The first type of tolerance is an exhaustible resource, the second type is a learned habit. The second type of tolerance is more tolerant, but getting there requires a fight. And that fight is Scott’s “nightmare scenario”, because he knows he’s on the “unpopular/conservative” side, he knows that his commie tumblr friends will think he’s a “far right weirdo” if he follows his conscience in that fight.
Yes, Scott would rather defend students who invite Charles Murray because they want to learn about society than defend students who invite Charles Murray because they want to cause a shitstorm, but that isn’t how most real-life protests actually work.
Even Rosa Parks, it’s pretty well known, didn’t just randomly sit at the front of the bus because she was tired. She was engaging in an intentional act of protest, as she had done previously. The whole point is that a black woman sitting at the front of the bus shouldn’t cause a shitstorm, yet everyone knew it would, which is why she chose to intentionally provoke that shitstorm and make people face the issue.
It is interesting, however, that many seem to be more sympathetic to those who unintentionally cause a shitstorm, presumably because people don’t like troublemakers. This is probably why people tell the story about Rosa Parks just being tired, as if she was just a random black lady who randomly decided one day she was too tired to change seats. But one shouldn’t have to wait for oneself to be conveniently, unintentionally victimized, and, in practice, protest movements rarely do. They intentionally provoke the reaction they are objecting to as a way to call attention to it. And it works.
Pretty much exactly.
Athiests ireland did almost exactly this to try to challenge the new blasphemy law.
Intentionally provoke the reaction they are objecting to as a way to call attention to it.
Have standards of controversy been inverted in the last 5 years?
I find it strange to read Jordan Peterson being touted as a controversial speaker. All his lectures are on youtube and he makes his points clearly.
Welcome to 2017: where forcing others to use your made-up pronouns is legally defensible in Canada; where saying “Aboriginals are statistically more likely to commit crimes” is classified as hate speech in Australia; and where Jordan Peterson, professor of Psychology who says “cultural appropriation is nonsense – manifesting others’ cultural practices is an important basis of peaceful society” is controversial.
If you think that’s bad, just wait until 2018. This will only keep getting worse, and nothing can stop it, except the total (and irreversable) collapse of civilization, which has become inevitable and inescapable.
We get it already. We got it a long time ago. Mission accomplished.
You might “get it”, and yet so many of those leaning rightward here still talk as if there’s any hope. I’m trying to get them to open their eyes and see the patently obvious truth that their hope is all false.
Do you really think you are convincing anyone? It’s not like you offer any argument. Just assert over and over again “woe is me, all is lost!” Why should anyone update their beliefs at all based on your 1:32 PM post for example? What did you offer in the way of evidence?
You are acting like the crazy guy sitting on a city street corner yelling at passersby to repent because the end is nigh.
Heck Kevin, I am predisposed to be sympathetic and even I’m wondering what you hope to accomplish here.
Well, what would be evidence, if the past 500 years of history aren’t it? I can keep pointing out how so-called “plans” for defeating that centuries-long Leftward trend are clearly doomed to failure, and yet “absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence” and so on, so I’m left trying to prove a negative; with this sort of burden of proof, I’m left trying to prove a negative. How does one prove a problem is truly insoluble, if, even when every solution proposed is not actually a solution, you still get ‘just because all solutions proposed so far are unworkable doesn’t mean a workable solution doesn’t exist out there somewhere’, and so all problems are automatically presumed solvable, with an impossible burden of proof placed upon any who would rebut that presumption. That’s why I keep asking people what would convince them, because it seems like they’re consistently placing that point impossibly high.
@Kevin C. – “That’s why I keep asking people what would convince them, because it seems like they’re consistently placing that point impossibly high.”
There doesn’t seem to be any value in assuming problems are unsolvable, and there doesn’t seem to be any cost in assuming they’re solvable, so people prefer the latter. You haven’t articulated why giving up is better than fighting in a practical sense, or how people should go about doing it. You also make predictions on timescales that can’t reasonably be checked.
For example, I think Trump might do a good job as president. If he doesn’t, and the backlash sweeps the Democrats back into office again in 2020, I will probably go back to voting democrat as there doesn’t seem to be much point in voting Republican. Would that constitute proper despair under your framework?
Except all the time, energy, and other resources (potentially including human lives) wastefully spent pursuing “solutions” with absolutely no hope of actually solving the problem. As John Schilling said back in a similar discussion in Open Thread 50.75, “there is no problem so bad, so desperately in need of a solution, that it cannot be made worse by squandering limited resources on a plan that cannot work.”
Almost certainly not. “Proper despair” would be fully accepting into your heart that all you hold dear will be utterly eradicated, that all you consider right and good will be utterly and permanently defeated, and that Evil shall triump absolutely forever.
and that Evil shall triump absolutely forever
Oh, sugarlumps! That’s tosh.
Civilisation will collapse? Inevitably and completely? Yes, it will. That’s what civilisations do, and if you were a proper conservative you would have learned that lesson long ago: where now is Rome? Greece? Babylon or Egypt? Sumer that was so great? China’s dynasties? Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,/Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
But civilisation sends up green shoots again out of the wreck. Will our current civilisation topple? Yes; it can’t last even at its best, and all we are debating about is has it passed its best and started the decline into decadence or not? Even if we think there is life left in it, maybe we can only hope that it will last out our own life time and we don’t have to see the fall or live through it.
But the eternal triumph of evil, where evil (so grand a name you put on it!) are our foolish fellow-humans who have damn stupid opinions and are to the left of us? Will you ever go look in a mirror and take heed of yourself?
My religion commands me to believe that evil is already defeated, we only play out the end, but Good has and will triumph. Even outside of religion, ‘evil’ is a very strong term for a group that will all go down with the ship when our civilisation sinks under its own weight, and who will come after them, who can say?
Nobody expected the next great empire to come out of a minor island in the north-west of Europe, and that Empire itself saw the sun set on it. Power has moved to the USA but power will not make its lasting abiding place there; this may or may not be cause for despair, but it’s the iron truth of history, and I would chide you – if you call yourself a conservative – to gird up your loins and face this truth and stop wringing your hands about the Evil Left who will win and triumph forever. They may win, they may not, but if they do it certainly will not be forever.
Even the lifetime of the Earth is still sufficiently long, that to say “forever” when talking about the end of the USA to be the eternal triumph of Evil is self-aggrandising boobery.
And that’s what I dispute, at least this time. Because there are such things as points-of-no-return. And because the Industrial Revolution is a once-per-planet event, no successor ‘civilisation’ can ever hope of reaching anywhere near our heights.
And I do not share that religion, so appeals to it will avail you little with me.
And you seem to miss that extinction is a thing, for peoples as well as species, and there’s no coming back from that. If a people, as a biological ethnos, have been exterminated, they do not “recover” from it; they’re gone forever.
Oh, and I do not call myself a “conservative”, because there’s precious little left to conserve. I’m a reactionary, wishing I could salvage some of what’s been lost rather than “conserving” what’s almost entirely the victories of previous generations of leftists.
That wish is indeed the closest thing to hope. And it is thus yet another reason to criticize all the futile plans to “fight the Left”. Because not only will they fail, but the inevitable backlash they will provoke will hasten “the fall”, and make it more likely that it comes in “our own life time”, and cuts that lifetime short, as there will be no “living through it” for us. “The fall” will at the very least see we of (a significant and visible quantity of) European ancestry exterminated to the last, and, given nukes and/or bioweapons, the possible end of our species.
Tell me, what “green shoots of civilization” will rise if H. sapiens goes extinct?
It’s like the old joke about the Jewish man in early Nazi times.
Why do liberals read newer responding? Where else can they go to hear how powerful they are?
I often feel like me and Kevin C. are the only people here who think the left is winning, the only difference is that I am mostly happy about it.
I feel like the left is winning – but I ascribe a lot of that to the left being much more quickly to move and co-opt winning causes generally
The weird thing to me is that nobody seems to be willing to believe that the results are mixed, or even could be.
[raises hand with alacrity]
I worry more that your plan is more to wait for a white woman to be made to go to the back of the bus, because the public is more sympathetic to whites than to blacks. What the hell kind of case is fundamentally better than Charles Murray’s? He’s a careful, thoughtful intellectual whose only crime is saying the sort of thing people want to censor. If you’re waiting for a more sympathetic test case, you’re waiting for a case that’s not a test at all.
He’s argued that it isn’t about Charles Murray, but rather about the organizers explicitly looking for controversial people to invite. His basic argument seems to be that the ACLU shouldn’t be looking for test-cases at all, I guess?
He says things like “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” and they’re “searching for the ugliest and most hate-able person [they] can find”, and I can see where he’s going with that. Charles Murray is pretty hate-able and universally loathed. But the fact of the matter is, if espousing heterodox positions makes you a hideous, ugly, deformed ax murderer, then anyone who wants to defend the right to espouse heterodox positions is going to have to defend hate-able and universally loathed people. There’s no getting around it. So you can’t really blame these guys, they’re not burning any more commons than they have to.
Yeah, the argument doesn’t make sense to me either. Unfortunately, most of Scott’s replies have been directly to the question of whether Murray is “bad” and not to the people challenging the general principle.
The ACLU shouldn’t be *generating* test cases. Looking for them and defending them is good and laudable; deliberately generating them creates the appearance of an ulterior motive and strengthens the opposition.
Inviting Murray to speak so as to generate a reactionary mob is generating a test case, not defending one. The Middlebury case cannot be affected by anything that happens at Harvard because it is already over, and that battle was lost.
So are you ruling out civil disobedience in general, then? Blacks sitting at the whites-only lunch counter were generating their own test case.
We are going to have to bite the bullet that the principle of free speech means a lot of shitty people get to come in under the protection of the umbrella as well.
Are we willing to accept this? I think I have to, given that I do have the “burn them at the stake” tendencies of an inquisitor that I consciously have to fight to overcome. If I give in to “free speech for nice people who are only a tiny bit controversial and will easily win over sympathies”, then I know I am going to push as hard as I can (unconsciously) for “but no free speech for this guy
who offends mewho is a bad case and only stirring up trouble!”
I still think this is entirely wrong frame for debate. Riots (in their current form) are a win for free speech at large because they make there invisible censorship visible. It’s similar to the doctor on the united flight who drew more attention to overbooking than the thousands of other people who were involuntarily removed.
You need Lenny Bruce to show the limits on free speech to get people to rally to improve free speech.
If genetic inequality is real and significant, the natural egalitarian response would seem to be advocacy for universally accessible gene therapy and/or making genetic engineering accessible to lower-class people who want to have kids.
Why is this a position I’ve never heard anyone take? Why isn’t there a subfaction of SJ folks who say there’s an ethical imperative to offer genetic engineering to racial groups that underperform in order to level the playing field?
Personally, I would like to see more people take this position. I worry that genetic inequality is real, that it accounts for racial differences that achievement, that we will one day discover data that confirms this conclusively, and that people will adopt the screwed up morality of white supremacist types when this happens because they were the only ones whose worldview integrated these facts.
Such gene therapy isn’t even possible yet. Even fixing obvious single nucleotide defects in human embryos isn’t reliable yet. So demands to make such gene therapy universally available are probably premature.
Read “The Fall of the Meritocracy” by Toby Young (whose father, Michael Young, coined the term ‘meritocracy’ with his 1958 satyrical essay “The Rise of the Meritocracy”).
(The essay as a whole is worth reading, discussing points from Rawls’s theories of justice and desert, to Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve (for another point of relevance), to possible reasons so many of his fellows on the left cling to tabula rasa theories.)
So it is, indeed, out there, if presently not terribly popular.
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.
Being charitable, I would assume he is taking those criticisms on board and taking the time to digest them and see if he comes to another perspective. If he hasn’t responded yet, it would seem to indicate he hasn’t rejected them yet.
Thank you for pointing this out, I will try to be more charitable in the future.
“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 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.
“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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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! ^_^
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?
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, 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.
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?
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 😉
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“…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.
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.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.”
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.
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?
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.”
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?
I didn’t misunderstand the last post, and I still think the clarification is horribly incorrect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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].
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.
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.
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 “contro