Unclear on the Concept: No-Platforming at Stanford and the Right Wing

Some time back clinically-diagnosed dumbfuck Charles Murray was invited to participate in a media program at Stanford known as Cardinal Conversations. Lefty folks, mostly students, at Stanford organized a “Take Back the Mic” rally with counter-programming.

Naturally, Niall Fergusson, a member of Stanford’s Hoover Institute, prominent Republican and eminent jerkface, and a small group of conservative students responded with the typical concern for free speech that anyone might have when their preferred speaker is getting campus support for their speech while others say different stuff nearby. The Stanford Daily has the low-down on all this, including this particularly freedom-loving quote:

“Slowly, we will continue to crush the Left’s will to resist, as they will crack under pressure,”

e-mailed John Rice-Cameron, a student, to the other conservatives outraged by the threat to free speech imposed by people saying things they don’t like about a speaker that they do like.  To be sure, I wouldn’t take exception to that statement were it not accompanied by more than mere argument and rhetoric. But, of course, there was quite a bit more, including an attempt to gather embarrassing “oppo research” on the person they perceived as their primary opponent, Michael Ocon.

The comic cabal was composed mostly of people closely connected with Cardinal Conversations, but Ocon was not. Nonetheless, targeting him personally was seen as a good and desirable tactic.

Fergusson himself brought up specific strategies with the students, including procedural steps and other arguments to convince the Cardinal Conversations student advisory committee to oppose Ocon:

“[The original Cardinal Conversations steering committee] should all be allies against O. Whatever your past differences, bury them. Unite against the SJWs. [Christos] Makridis [a fellow at Vox Clara, a Christian student publication] is especially good and will intimidate them.”

That’s right, that’s Niall Fergusson, the free speech champion, stating the student who will intimidate other students is the one that is “especially good” for the conservative cause. The “no platforming” here is being undertaken by the right-wing heroes and targeting lefties, and isn’t even done with the open ethics of those who seek publicly to convince others that a particular person’s speech is non-productive or harmful and thus not deserving of the resources devoted to bringing speakers to a campus.

There are specific conversations in which it may make sense for there to be equal representation for each of a set of competing positions. But it is not free speech-compatible to declare that an ideological minority should be represented equally in general in conversations across a campus or community. Would a talk by Stephen Chu on the uses of laser cooling in temporal measurement need to be somehow balanced by a talk featuring Arthur Laffer on corporate taxation since Chu served in the Obama administration? Please.

While everyone sets limits on (what they take to be) the freedom of expression, the right wing is anti-free expression on almost every level.

The seemingly free speech positions of right wingers and the self-identified political iconoclasts who nonetheless support the right wing (:cough: SamHarrisJordanPeterson :cough:) are at best incoherent and at worst consciously dishonest, as is the case of Niall Fergusson. The only good news from all this is that Fergusson was forced to resign from his position within the structure of Cardinal Conversations.

I don’t even believe that no-platforming is always bad (or even always neutral-or-bad), but those who rage against no-platforming and even counter-programming by celebrating the intimidation of ideological others until they “crack under pressure” and lose their “will to resist” is engaging in a form of no-platforming that can never, ever be ethical.

I eagerly await the day when right wing tribal projection is strangled to its well-deserved death.

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