Pusillanimous and unprincipled


Popehat has definitely decided not to take Mo the Rutabaga to the UK. It’s sad for Mo, but it just wouldn’t be safe, not under present conditions.

Here’s the pusillanimous and unprincipled attitude of the RUSU and its sad ilk, offered in their own words:  modern university students should not do anything to give offense, and if anyone claims offense, they should stop whatever they are doing immediately.

Kara Swift, Kath Davey, Richard Silcock, and Ceri Jones are heir to great ideas forged in mighty minds.  They are heirs to Shaw:  “all great truths begin as blasphemies.”  They are heirs to Burke: “The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts.”  They are heirs to Orwell:  “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.”  But they reject that inheritance, choosing instead a life of petty bureaucratism and insipid, infantilizing “civility.”  Offered an opportunity to treat both speakers and listeners as adults, they treat them as children instead — children whose words must be curtailed until they do not offend even the most intolerant and overly sensitive child in the class.

A nation run by the Swifts, Daveys, Silcocks,and Joneses of the world will be weak and dull-witted and crabbed and pointless.  Such people exist in every place; it’s up to us whether we will put up with them or call them out.  I prefer calling them out.  So write about things like this.

Yes do!

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    You’ll find me in the comments on that thread, first nit-picking a previous commenter, and second, wondering what would happen if an atheist group put up a similar display at many colleges in the USA. In most cases, I hope, nothing. But I’m pretty sure that there’d be campuses where putting up a pineapple labled “Mohammed”, or “Jesus” would cause the same sort of reaction. Not necessarily from the same people, of course.

    I read Popehat regularly but have mixed feelings about the blog. A bit — in fact a lot — too libertarian for me, some of the time.

  2. says

    Ya. Libertarian, also Catholic. (A strange combination.) But fierce on frauds like Burzynski and bullies like Marc Stephens, and also very funny. I likeum.

  3. says

    Why thank you, Ophelia. The feeling is mutual. And for the record I was raised Catholic, but am now Presbyterian.

    And Trebuchet, I suspect that American colleges wouldn’t react that way to a Mohammed pineapple. They might well react badly to things you might find sillier, though. (Witness, for instance, the reactions to “affirmative action bake sales,” which (whatever you think of affirmative action) are obviously symbolic political speech.

  4. Trebuchet says

    Hi Ken! Having just read your post on Whittier College, I suspect Mo the Rutabaga would be against their rules. In fact, I think I’ve seen some posts right here at FTB about US colleges taking action against “Islamophobia”. Can’t point to any, of course, so I may be mistaken. I also suspect “Jesus the Rutabaga” would get some reaction at a number of colleges, especially religiously affiliated ones.

    Like Ophelia, I do enjoy your blog. Especially when you’re going after asshats like Burzynski or Carreon. We just don’t quite see eye to eye politically.

  5. Maureen Brian says

    I think Trebuchet has a point but I do wonder how these people would have coped in earlier days. I was taught by a complete set of Trotskyists plus persons on the run from both Adolf Hitler and Joe McCarthy.

    It may all have helped cement the certainty that I would never be a Tory but these guys seem to be missing out on the idea that other ideas are available.

    Perhaps that should be a t-shirt?

  6. rq says

    “Other ideas are available”? I like that.
    I suspect there are a couple of campuses in Canada who would react the same way RUSU did. I can think of one off the top of my head, at any rate. Then again, things may have changed a bit since I was there last.

  7. Timon for Tea says

    If he is bringing the vegetable to the UK, he should really call it ‘Mo the Swede’, but I guess there is room for confusion there.

    I don’t think this issue is the big free speech deal it is being made out to be. A Fresher’s Fair is a private event designed for particular ends, and it is reasonable for the Union to take a view if they believe that any particular group are deliberately attempting to provoke or upset another group that attends. You could easily imagine complaints should the Young Conservatives display pictures of, say Martin Luther King, with a target on his head and the legend ‘one at a time’, for example, and those students who wanted it down because it was offensive would have a case (this is easy to imagine because it happened). Freedom of speech does not mean the right to cause offense in every situation.

  8. 'dirigible says

    “Freedom of speech does not mean the right to cause offense in every situation.”

    We are discussing a state educational institution.

  9. Timon for Tea says

    “We are discussing a state educational institution.”

    Yes, which is a community of groups. I think in that situation it is reasonable for the authorities to adjudicate and forbid deliberate attempts to belittle, demean, insult, or provoke other members. For example, should a society launch a ‘No means yes’ campaign for the laughs, the university members who are intended to take offence would have the right to take offence, don’t you think? I realise the analogy isn’t perfect, rape is a much more serious issue, of course, but the principle is similar.

  10. sqlrob says

    Freedom of speech does not mean the right to cause offense in every situation.

    Correct. But your statement doesn’t imply that you can never be offended in all situations either. There was a point to the pineapple. It wasn’t “your mother smelt of elderberries”

  11. notsont says

    “I realise the analogy isn’t perfect, rape is a much more serious issue, of course, but the principle is similar.”

    Really? Those things are similar? Promoting rape is similar to naming a fruit after a myth?

    Loved the other example too, a picture of MLK with a target on him, honestly man if you really think these things are comparable I think you make a such a bizarre frame of reference that communication may not actually be possible.

  12. says

    Oops, beg pardon, Ken! Presbyterian makes the combination much less strange. (Well, maybe in Scotland it wouldn’t. Mandatory Sabbatarianism not very libertarian. But that’s Scotland.)

    Timon, honestly. The whole point is that a joke about Mo is not the same as an attack on real, living people.

  13. Timon for Tea says

    Come off it Ophelia, the point of the pineapple was to cause offence to Muslims, in the hope of provoking them into a response which could then be ridiculed. We all know that’s true. If they hadn’t thought any Muslims would see it, they wouldn’t have bothered. So it is dishonest to get all huffy when people you have set out to upset get upset and it seems reasonable for me for the University to tell everybody to play nice.

  14. says

    Don’t tell me to come off it, and “we” don’t know that at all. You might as well tell me an atheist society displays an atheist magazine to cause offense to theists. You don’t know that they wouldn’t have bothered. You don’t know any of what you’re saying so dogmatically. Don’t make a lot of dogmatic assertions and then announce that it’s dishonest to see things any other way.

  15. sqlrob says

    @Timon:

    How do you tell someone they have an imaginary friend and believe in fairy tales without offending them? Especially when this was rejected.

  16. Timon for Tea says

    “You might as well tell me an atheist society displays an atheist magazine to cause offense to theists.”

    I can think of many good reasons for publishing and displaying an atheist magazine apart from provoking theists, but can’t, for the life of me, see any reason to display a pineapple and call it Mohammad except that this is known to upset Muslims (and for some people upsetting Muslims is funny). What other reason can there be to do it? Why did they choose ‘Mohammad’ rather than ‘Shiva’ say? Do we all really have to pretend we don’t know that the point of the pineapple was to offend?

  17. Timon for Tea says

    “How do you tell someone they have an imaginary friend and believe in fairy tales without offending them? ”

    I don’t know. But if you can’t, perhaps that is a a good reason to resist the mighty urge to tell them?

  18. Rodney Nelson says

    Timon for Tea #17

    But if you can’t, perhaps that is a a good reason to resist the mighty urge to tell them?

    For some reason you seem to be resisting the point that the very existence of atheists is upsetting to many theists. As sqlrob notes in #15, an advertisement simply saying “Atheists” and giving names of two atheist organizations was rejected as being too controversial.

    The mere fact that certain people don’t believe in gods is anathema to many theists. So saying “I don’t believe in Jesus” is “the mighty urge to tell them.”

  19. sawells says

    @Timon: I find your position offensive, as you’re privileging superstition and the deliberate taking of offence over rational discourse and free speech. Since you have offended me, you have to shut up now. That’s how it works, right?

  20. sawells says

    I wonder if Timon spends as much time telling theists to stop talking about their gods in public as he does telling atheists not to talk about the nonexistence of gods?

  21. Timon for Tea says

    “For some reason you seem to be resisting the point that the very existence of atheists is upsetting to many theists.”

    That might be true, but it is not what is at issue in this case where the Union has simply stepped in to stop one group ate a function doing something to provoke another group. I am just saying that is not a free speech issue, that’s all. Imagine instead that someone had put up a poster saying ‘Abortion is murder’ and there had been complaints that this was offensive to some others in attendence. It would be reasonable for the Union to say ‘we would rather not have such a provocative poster at this function so take it down (but you can continue to make your anti abortion arguments in the other usual ways)’, no? It wouldn’t be a free speech issue.

  22. sawells says

    @21: you’re not allowed to talk any more. I found your earlier comments offensive, so no more speech for you. Your rules.

  23. Timon for Tea says

    Sawells, you don’t seem to understand but if Ophelia did say ‘some of my commentators find your posts offensive, so change them or you will be banned’, there would be no freedom of speech issue, would there? In fact, I am sure that has happened from time to time. Do you see?

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