Free speech is a nice sharp sword


I’m liking this article, and the term, on the Free-Speech Grifters. You know who they are: the usual suspects who go into a tizzy of denunciations of the illiberality of people who espouse liberal views; who want to use the First Amendment as a cudgel to silence protests; who constantly, shrilly complain about people who use their free speech to demonstrate against liars and neo-fascists, but are strangely mum on the actual goals of said neo-fascists. It’s all ‘free speech for me and my fellow travelers, but not for libs and progressives and feminists and communists and environmentalists, you guys need to sit down and shut up’. All this in a time when open, vocal protest is fully warranted.

Let’s see the author name-drop a whole lot of popular, influential people I just happen to despise.

On the topic of campus politics and free speech, Andrew Sullivan has written in New York magazine about a half-dozen articles, warning that “the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy.” His colleague Jonathan Chait has written another dozen on PC culture, arguing that “these episodes are the manifestation of a serious ideological challenge to liberalism.” In The New York Times, Bret Stephens regurgitated a speech as an article called “Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort,” while David Brooks dedicated a piece to “Understanding Student Mobbists,” for which he spoke to exactly zero students. In ten months, Weiss has racked up three articles on the subject. You would think that these “mobs” on college campuses and Twitter were sending the unwoke to a Soviet-style gulag.

The enthusiasm to defend those triggering libs makes the Free Speech Grifters uniquely susceptible to right-wing propagandists. In her last op-ed, Weiss featured an obvious parody Antifa Twitter account, run by alt-right trolls, and YouTuber Dave Rubin fell for the same gag. In 2016, Sommers unwittingly did a full hour on a Swedish white-supremacy podcast. And the same year, in a since-deleted tweet, she announced she would be “defending free speech and reason” with Milo Yiannopoulos, who was recently outed by BuzzFeed for working with white nationalists to smuggle their ideas into the mainstream. He also appeared alongside Maher, railing about free speech, on Real Time. This isn’t all complete ignorance. Columbia University College Republicans invited Tommy Robinson of the far-right English Defense League, while the new Canadian free-speech club Laurier Society for Open Inquiry announced white nationalist Faith Goldy as its first speaker. In the National Review, Elliot Kaufman chided fellow campus conservatives for purposely giving the alt-right a platform in an effort to bait the left into doing something “silly and destructive,” so that they could play “martyrs for free speech on campus” and draw media coverage. “The left-wing riots were not the price or downside of inviting Yiannopoulos,” he wrote. “They were the attraction.”

What’s really amusing is how most of those named like to claim in public that they are soooo liberal and open-minded and prepared to give all sides equal support, yet somehow consistently only side with far-right extremists and centrists, and then misrepresent the left as a reason to dismiss them. Don’t be fooled. The Free Speech Grifters aren’t really about free speech, except as a noble-sounding excuse for their deeply regressive views. I would make two points in response to them.

  • First point: They tend to exaggerate the threat to fundamental liberties of protests. No one goes out to protest free speech: they use their freedom of speech to speak out against oppression and crimes against humanity. The left loves free speech — it’s a tool to use against the corruption and criminality that has taken over our country. Over and over again, we find that universities are hotbeds of liberalism and free speech values, simultaneously.

    But the alarmist case put forward by civil libertarians — that, as the American university has become more open to people of color and women, conservative perspectives have been censored — is empirically false. Poll after poll shows that universities are incredibly tolerant of divergent perspectives, much more so than arguably any other major institution in American culture. A recent survey of college students conducted by FIRE (the very group that has done the most to raise the alarm) indicates that the vast majority of students, including conservatives, feel relatively uninhibited in expressing their views. In response to a question about the appropriate reaction to a speaker who holds repugnant political views, only 2 percent chose “make noise during the speaker’s event so he/she can’t be heard,” and just 1 percent chose “use violent or disruptive actions to prevent the event from occurring.” Generally speaking, American attitudes regarding free speech have held steady, suggesting that college radicals are not altering national opinions of the First Amendment.

    In short, outrage about threats to free speech is overblown. It’s also ahistorical: The college campus — where young people, finding their place in the world, discover that the social order is not as it should be — has always been a breeding ground for protest. Sometimes these student actions displease the self-important graybeards who believe it is their job to police student behavior. Whenever there is student protest, there will be those who see it as a threat to American norms. (Gubernatorial candidate Ronald Reagan won the support of a majority of California voters in the 1960s by calling student protests “contrary to our standards of human behavior.”) And sometimes the demonstrations are uncivil and illiberal. But the long view shows us that campus-level revolts are not a threat to liberal values like free speech.

    But why would the Dave Rubins and Bill Mahers and CH Sommers of the world want to exaggerate “outrage about threats to free speech”? Because free speech is only a stalking horse to them, allowing them to slide oppressive talking points into the discourse under the banner of something the majority already favors.

  • Second point: the protests have been working. The right has to be feeling a bit of panic, because while they were all over the news and getting a lot of PR, their tactics haven’t been successful at all, and instead have inspired a strong backlash. They would love to stomp down the protests that give some individuals notoriety and press attention, but in the long run that attention is going to lead to their downfall. Milo Yiannopoulos, anyone? But also, the alt-right can’t handle the pressure.

    It’s a good time to offer an observation: on the terms it set itself, antifascist organizing in the United States has worked.

    Consider the failure of Spencer’s long-planned address at Michigan State University. Though it was spring break, students and organized antifascist groups showed up to protest, and Spencer gave his pitch for a white ethnostate to an almost empty auditorium. He issued 150 tickets, but only managed to get 20 people along. Spencer himself blamed the protesters for the event’s failure, just as he is blaming them for his movement’s declining ability to muster any numbers in public.

    And that non-event was not an outlier. The same weekend, a planned alt-right conference in Detroit fell apart after venues pulled out under public pressure and one of the organizers, lawyer Kyle Bristow, announced he was leaving the movement. Various “March 4 Trump” events around the country, featuring alt-right contingents, were also small, and met with significant counterprotests.

    Other events in the latter half of last year were also poorly executed and sparsely attended. On a recent podcast, Spencer said the movement was “in a dark place”. And it has been put there by those determined to oppose it.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re winning — the right has managed to scramble their way into power, and are busily knocking apart the physical and cultural infrastructure of the United States to keep their electorate, the poor and ignorant, on their side — but what the evidence does say is…DON’T STOP. Keep hammering on the right. Protest. March in the streets. The alt-right are actually weak and not as bright as they think, so those tactics of vocally speaking out (you know, free speech) actually work, because what we’re fighting for is right.

There are embers of optimism glowing in the ashes. Keep fanning them into flame.

Comments

  1. whywhywhy says

    to keep their electorate, the poor and ignorant

    I thought that the alt-right was composed of primarily the educated middle class. Now they need to get a larger number of folks to vote but folks in poverty tend not to vote for anyone.

  2. rietpluim says

    I hate to be the party pooper, but to what extend is the extreme right’s failure due to antifa actions? Extreme right rallies usually draw only a small number of always the same people. I am more concerned about their sympathizers who do not consider themselves extreme right but do put assholes like Trump in power.

  3. chris61 says

    From the original article

    The activist practice of no-platforming—denying public figures platforms like speaking engagements or articles, through protest or other means—has become an irresistible motif for the media. It is a terrible tactic for a number of reasons, for both academic freedom and the advancement of progressive causes.

  4. Porivil Sorrens says

    Why exactly should we care what Mari Uyehara has to say about it?

    A food reviewing travel journalist does not an expert in activism make.

  5. consciousness razor says

    The left loves free speech — it’s a tool to use against the corruption and criminality that has taken over our country.

    The first claim here is pretty murky; but as I’m interpreting it, that’s just not true of “the left” or all leftists. Laws against hate speech are supported by many on the left (but very few on the right), including of course some commenters here at pharyngula. I won’t delve into whether that’s good or bad right now, but either way, it’s difficult to see how that could be compatible with your claim.

    Also, quite a few times, I’ve seen people make the rather stunning assertion that it’s only a problem when governments restrict speech. (It’s common enough, but I have no idea where this comes from; maybe they just read the Constitution like fundamentalists read the Bible.) This is apparently meant to make us feel better about particular cases (how and why, I do not know), whenever it suits the apologist, who simply needs to conjure up an excuse of some sort, because there happens to be a “bad guy” non-leftist who can be hurt by this policy. But it does leave plenty of opportunities for our corporate overlords to grab even more power and take away this thing that is supposedly loved, which looks awfully problematic to me even when they try to tell me it’s not.

    Anyway, “love” doesn’t seem like the right word to describe a relationship that’s so tense and uncomfortable, if not openly antagonistic. “They generally respect it” sounds about right — yes, that’s probably not as easy to turn into a talking point, but it’s more honest.

    Over and over again, we find that universities are hotbeds of liberalism and free speech values, simultaneously.

    This sentence immediately followed the one quoted above. It seems like you’re trying to support it with this statement (and maybe the second half of the previous statement), but leftists aren’t all at universities and even those who are don’t univocally support free speech.

    chris61:

    The activist practice of no-platforming—denying public figures platforms like speaking engagements or articles, through protest or other means—has become an irresistible motif for the media. It is a terrible tactic for a number of reasons, for both academic freedom and the advancement of progressive causes.

    It’s funny that there’s even a term for this. I hereby deny you a speaking engagement in my living room, chris61. Was that terrible? Did you lose a freedom? If I’ve decided that you weren’t likely to say or do things that lived up to the standards I’ve set for what happens in my living room, then like a university and its academic interests, that is a sufficient reason why you’re not so invited. The end. That doesn’t infringe on your rights. And if other people protest that your speeches don’t belong there and anyone who thinks otherwise is flatly wrong, they are welcome to do so as far as I’m concerned. When they say these things, which they have every right to do, that also does not infringe on your rights. You may feel very entitled and indignant about all of this if you like, but it’s not a matter of what your rights are.

  6. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Holms, #8

    She can’t

    …wait, Chris61’s pattern of comments ISN’T mostly male privilege talking?

  7. Porivil Sorrens says

    @12
    Okay, fair enough.

    Given that it was a substance-less assertion from a person lacking in credentials, I don’t care what she has to say on the matter.

  8. chris61 says

    @11 consciousness razor

    I hereby deny you a speaking engagement in my living room, chris61. Was that terrible? Did you lose a freedom? If I’ve decided that you weren’t likely to say or do things that lived up to the standards I’ve set for what happens in my living room, then like a university and its academic interests, that is a sufficient reason why you’re not so invited.

    I’ve got no problem with that. The problem comes when your neighbor invites me to speak in her living room and you try to deny or disrupt her invitation. You have the right to set up standards for your living room but not for everyone’s living room.

    @8
    I was merely pointing out that PZ apparently approves of an article that explicitly states that no-platforming is a terrible tactic for the advancement of progressive causes. It seems a contradiction between approving an article that calls no-platforming a terrible tactic and yet apparently approving no-platforming himself – but YMMV of course.

  9. chris61 says

    @13 Azkyroth

    …wait, Chris61’s pattern of comments ISN’T mostly male privilege talking?

    Well if old females like me now have male privilege, I suppose it could be. But in either case it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the topic of this thread.

  10. consciousness razor says

    The problem comes when your neighbor invites me to speak in her living room and you try to deny or disrupt her invitation. You have the right to set up standards for your living room but not for everyone’s living room.

    Who’s the neighbor in this analogy? And who am I? I’d prefer it if you gave me a straight story about something that actually happened.

    But whatever. If I saw that the Klan was convening next door, I would certainly complain about that, loudly. I strongly doubt I would be alone.

    Is that what you mean by “disrupt”? We have to pretend like we’re okay with it? Not step on anyone’s toes? Make them feel welcome to engage in such behavior? Or do we have a right to speak, which we may freely exercise by saying something along the lines of “go fuck yourself, racists”? I think we do have that right, as disruptive as it may be.
    What do you mean by “deny”? What would I have to do? When does this happen in the real world, as opposed to vague analogies? Are you thinking of student protesters, who (very typically) live at a university, in addition to studying at it? And their university — or something, I know not what — is supposed to be analogous to their neighbor’s living room instead of their own?

    But in either case it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the topic of this thread.

    Except to the extent that some degree of unbelievable cluelessness and/or hate prevents people from understanding why protest is entirely justifiable when some asshole like Milo Y. “merely” wants a public speaking engagement at a college.

  11. chris61 says

    @18 consciousness razor
    The analogy was yours. But if you want to speak in specifics. The university is a community. Some members of the community invite someone to speak and some members of the community want to hear that person speak. Other members of the community do not wish to hear that person speak. That should be simple enough. It’s not like the speech is being broadcast over a loud speaker across campus. Don’t want to listen, don’t attend. What protests and disruptions are doing is denying the community members who want to hear the person speak, the opportunity to do so.

    Except to the extent that some degree of unbelievable cluelessness and/or hate prevents people from understanding why protest is entirely justifiable when some asshole like Milo Y. “merely” wants a public speaking engagement at a college.

    On the other hand is the unbelievable cluelessness that prevents people from understanding that protest is EXACTLY what Milo Y and his ilk want. In Milo’s case I suspect that a significant fraction of his audience were also there not to hear Milo but to witness a protest. Why do people who are clearly opposed to the nonsense Milo spouts want to give him what he wants?

  12. says

    @19, chris61

    What protests and disruptions are doing is denying the community members who want to hear the person speak, the opportunity to do so.

    Not all protests against a speaker are attempts to get the speaker cancelled, or interrupt it. So they needn’t deny anyone the opportunity to hear the person speak.

  13. says

    What protests and disruptions are doing is denying the community members who want to hear the person speak, the opportunity to do so.

    Why do you want to listen to Nazis?
    Oh, so you don’t, but maybe the next person would like to hear what they have to say and maybe decide that fascism is cool and become one as well?
    What about the right of potential Nazis to become fully formed Nazis complete with genocidal intentions, I ask you?

    Also, university speaking engagements, especially when the invitation is from the university itself, convey a certain respectability, a certain worthiness. If you say university shouldn’t not invite white supremacists then you say that universities should treat white supremacy as a valid point worth of debate.

  14. chris61 says

    @21 Brian Pansky

    Not all protests against a speaker are attempts to get the speaker cancelled, or interrupt it. So they needn’t deny anyone the opportunity to hear the person speak.

    Personally I have no problem with protests which aren’t attempts to get a speaker cancelled or to interrupt their speech.

    @ 22 Giliell

    Why do you want to listen to Nazis?

    Why do you?

  15. quotetheunquote says

    Also, university speaking engagements, especially when the invitation is from the university itself, convey a certain respectability, a certain worthiness. If you say university shouldn’t not invite white supremacists then you say that universities should treat white supremacy as a valid point worth of debate.

    Yes, exactly. There is no reason, nada, why Nazis should get the imprimatur of a university campus to spread their message. Denying them this is not, to any degree whatsoever, a denial of their right to free expression.
    Here in Canada, thanks to whole lot of “bad press” over the faculty’s ham-fisted handling of something a teaching assistant did, Waterloo’s Wilfred Laurier University is apparently “running scared” at the backlash from so-called “free speech-ers”. They let a right-wing pundit named “Faith” (I’d never heard of her either, before yesterday) in to give a give a talk entitled “Ethnocide: Multiculturalism and European Canadian Identity.” It did not go well, as could have been expected.

    Why they did this mystifies me – were they trying to “teach the controversy”? Will WLU next be inviting a flat-Earther to speak in the geography department, a breatharian to address the health studies department, an ID adherent to teach a biology course?

    Universities are NOT the street, they are NOT your living room … some standard of critical thinking must be applied to decisions about who gets on the podium.

  16. KG says

    Why do people who are clearly opposed to the nonsense Milo spouts want to give him what he wants? – chris61@19

    How do you think you know what Milo and similar scumbags want? My own hunch is that they think they win either way, once the invitation is issued – either their event is disrupted, and can pose as victims, or they are not, and they get to peddle their poisons at a prestigious venue. But Richard Spencer has himself told us that no-platforming is working. When and where to use it, or not use it, should be regarded as a purely tactical decision – I most certainly do not concede that Nazis and other “alt-right” spewers of hate have any right to a platform – particularly at a university – to threaten and intimidate those they despise, which is what their “free speech” always amounts to.

  17. KG says

    Also, chris61@19, I notice you didn’t answer Giliell’s questions, except with a bizarrely nonsensical tu quoque. If you would be so good as to read on from the question you thought you answered, you’ll find that Giliell knows you don’t want to listen to Nazis any more than she does, but has more to say. Or perhaps you did, and don’t have a coherent response.

  18. chris61 says

    @ 24 KG

    But Richard Spencer has himself told us that no-platforming is working.

    You can’t be seriously proposing that Richard Spencer is a reliable source of information, can you?

  19. chris61 says

    @25 KG
    In fact I assumed Giliell would want to listen to Nazis so she would know who to punch in the face. I want to listen to Nazis to find out if they are really Nazis or just someone with an opinion a little right of the extreme far left. I want other people to listen to Nazis because, unlike Giliell, I think most people would find genuine Nazis’ opinions distasteful and would be turned off Nazis by listening to them.

  20. monad says

    @chris61: Speaking at a university means the university is providing you a platform, and that platform is paid for in no small part by students of that university. It’s entirely reasonable that they should care what their money is buying and object if it’s being wasted on something like promoting racism. If other community members want to listen, well – free speech means they can in their own time and place, but you’re asking students to subsidize them without complaint.

  21. tomh says

    @ #23
    I don’t know how it works in Canada, are most outside speakers invited by the university or by student groups? In the US many are invited by student groups, and for public universities it becomes a serious problem to regulate them based on the content of their expected speech.

  22. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    In the US many are invited by student groups, and for public universities it becomes a serious problem to regulate them based on the content of their expected speech.

    The catch is that if the talk requires more security, the university can demand the student group provide the funds for the amount of security likely….
    You, as a student group, can’t pay for the security, take the venue off campus….

  23. tomh says

    @ 30
    It sounds good, but I doubt that ever happens, though in rare cases an event might be cancelled for security concerns.

  24. chris61 says

    @28 monad

    Speaking at a university means the university is providing you a platform, and that platform is paid for in no small part by students of that university. It’s entirely reasonable that they should care what their money is buying and object if it’s being wasted on something like promoting racism.

    What if a small group of students objects to their money being wasted on something like promoting gender equality or affirmative action and chooses to disrupt speech on those issues? Would you consider that entirely reasonable?

  25. Porivil Sorrens says

    @32
    They’d be welcome to protest as such, insofar as the campus’ policies allow for it.

  26. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    The university is a community. Some members of the community invite someone to speak and some members of the community want to hear that person speak. Other members of the community do not wish to hear that person speak.

    Oh, so it’s actually more like “your roommate invites the klan to hold a meeting in your shared living room while you’re trying to watch TV.”

  27. chris61 says

    @34 Azkyroth
    No it’s more like your roommate invites the klan to hold a meeting in his bedroom and you’ve decided that even though there’s a 55″ultra hi def tv in the living room you just HAVE to watch the 13″ B&W in his bedroom.

  28. consciousness razor says

    No it’s more like your roommate invites the klan to hold a meeting in his bedroom and you’ve decided that even though there’s a 55″ultra hi def tv in the living room you just HAVE to watch the 13″ B&W in his bedroom.

    Or it’s like I have a problem with the fucking Klan, and I’m not interested in watching something on their TV, no matter how fancy it is. If it were me, that’s what it would be like … but for someone like you, who the fuck knows?

    Do you believe, or are you worried, that we have a technological advantage over racists? Seriously? Or does that little detail, even though it’s extremely important in this story, have nothing to do with our real world situation?

    I still want a clear answer about what’s wrong with being “disruptive” and what I would have to do in order to “deny” speech. Can I speak freely or not? Or if only right-wing assholes should be allowed to express themselves openly, then I’ll need a step-by-step explanation of that.

  29. Porivil Sorrens says

    @35
    Except these speakers are generally not shuffled off to some minor, private, out of the way location where they can inoffensively call for mob violence against members of the student body. Milo, for example, has gotten pretty centralized, well-attended venues where he can dox transgender people to his braying audience.

  30. Zeppelin says

    Freedom of speech is valuable. But I find that the people who act as if it’s the Most Important Thing Ever, to be defended in any situation and at the expense of any other consideration, tend to be ones who can feel fairly confident that their other rights will be respected by default.
    If you’re at risk of getting murdered, or locked up, or deported, or ending up unemployed, homeless and sick, then some asshole’s right to promote the idea that those things should be inflicted on you starts to look a lot less vital.

  31. chris61 says

    @36 consciousness razor

    I should think it would be pretty obvious that if you have a right to disrupt speech you don’t like so does everyone else, including people who don’t like your speech.

  32. Zeppelin says

    @chris61: It’s acceptable to disrupt speech that is dangerous and harmful, and unacceptable to disrupt speech that isn’t.
    Our work lies in figuring out which is which, not taking the lazy cop-out of pretending that they are morally equivalent because they’re both “speech”. That’s not tolerance, it’s nihilism.

    I don’t care if someone’s opinion is Not Technically Illegal, I care whether it has merit. Silencing a Nazi is at worst kind of bad style. Nothing of value is lost when you do it, and depending on the situation it can have significant benefits.

  33. Porivil Sorrens says

    @38
    Indeed. I only care about freedom of speech insofar as it helps interests I care about. When it gets used by nazis to propagate their ideas, I couldn’t care less about it. At best, freedom of speech is a means to an end, not some platonic ideal to strive for at the risk of everything else.

  34. chris61 says

    @40 Zeppelin

    It’s acceptable to disrupt speech that is dangerous and harmful, and unacceptable to disrupt speech that isn’t.

    And who gets to decide what is dangerous and harmful? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

  35. John Morales says

    chris61, bah. You’re less of a gadfly than you seem to imagine.

    And who gets to decide what is dangerous and harmful? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

    The answer is apparent in reality. Legislators get to decide, and law enforcement gets to enforce. And social moods are a factor in determining who legislators are.

    How free speech gets to be conflated with being provided a platform is the real issue.

    (Also, it’s laughable that one side supposedly decries political correctness whilst simultaneously advocating it)

  36. Porivil Sorrens says

    @42
    The people in power get to decide. That’s just a fact of nature Hence why we’re trying to deny nazis from coming into power.

    You’re like, right on the cusp of getting it, too.

  37. consciousness razor says

    I should think it would be pretty obvious that if you have a right to disrupt speech you don’t like so does everyone else, including people who don’t like your speech.

    Exactly. So why are you saying it’s a problem that we “disrupt” each other in this sense?
    – I can try to convince people that Nazis are wrong. Not a problem.
    – They can try to convince people that I’m wrong. Also not a problem.
    – People on my side will win, because we’re on the right side. Also not a problem.
    – Nazis may not like it that people think they’re wrong, can resist them peacefully and are capable of bringing others on their side by simply speaking to them about it. Also not a problem.

    I’m failing to see the problem here. What exactly do you think it is?

  38. says

    Chris61

    In fact I assumed Giliell would want to listen to Nazis so she would know who to punch in the face.

    Have you stopped beating your whatever?
    That’s quite a nice assumption you got there, it would be a shame if reality happened to it.

    I want to listen to Nazis to find out if they are really Nazis or just someone with an opinion a little right of the extreme far left..

    If only you were equipped to actually do so. Intellectually.

    I want other people to listen to Nazis because, unlike Giliell, I think most people would find genuine Nazis’ opinions distasteful and would be turned off Nazis by listening to them.

    Giliell, unlike Chris 61, has read a history book.
    She also watched millions and millions of Americans elect Trump, whose views got quite a lot of airing.
    And before you try to knock over the bext Strawman, I don’t think that Trump is a fully fledged Nazi.
    Yet.

  39. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    And who gets to decide what is dangerous and harmful?

    The people who determine that correctly. Next stupid question.

  40. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    No it’s more like your roommate invites the klan to hold a meeting in his bedroom and you’ve decided that even though there’s a 55″ultra hi def tv in the living room you just HAVE to watch the 13″ B&W in his bedroom.

    Really?

    The auditorium that’s provided for the campus as a whole and paid for out of the pittance of students’ tuitions that aren’t going to buy sex workers and blow for the campus administrators is analogous to “your roommate’s own bedroom?”

    Even you can’t possibly be that fucking stupid.

  41. DLC says

    Actually, I reluctantly watched the Bill Maher/ Milo Y “interview” if you want to call it that, and later noticed that it was after that appearance that Milo’s career tanked big time.

  42. Dunc says

    No it’s more like your roommate invites the klan to hold a meeting in his bedroom and you’ve decided that even though there’s a 55″ultra hi def tv in the living room you just HAVE to watch the 13″ B&W in his bedroom.

    And the Academy Award for “Most Tortured Metaphor In Defence of Actual Nazis” goes to… chris61!

    Metaphors are supposed to make things clearer. This one is not really working for me… Let’s see if we can rework it a little:

    It’s like if your roommate invites the Klan to hold a meeting in his bedroom, and you’re like “Why the fuck are you inviting the fucking Klan into our house, you fucking dick?”

  43. Saad says

    chris61, #42

    And who gets to decide what is dangerous and harmful?

    You ask such easy questions.

    First and foremost, the marginalized groups who are the targets of the speech since it’s happening to them and affects them. Just like women decide what is sexual harassment since it’s happening to them and affects them. But I worry that’s a bad example to use for you since you’re so open with your misogyny.

    I should think it would be pretty obvious that if you have a right to disrupt speech you don’t like so does everyone else, including people who don’t like your speech.

    It’s not about “like”. I’m opposed to white supremacists holding rallies not because I “don’t like” white supremacy. We’re not talking about ice cream flavors here.

  44. rietpluim says

    It’s not about “like”. I’m opposed to white supremacists holding rallies not because I “don’t like” white supremacy. We’re not talking about ice cream flavors here.

    QFFT

    It is a fucking dishonest strategy by the alt-right whining You want to suppress opinions you disagree with? Who is the real Nazi now? like they are the victims here. Pathetic little losers.

  45. Saad says

    For the privileged white people:

    To various minorities, Nazis showing up in a community is like you walking out of a grocery store in your small town with your little child holding your hand and a stranger walks up to you and says “Your family doesn’t belong here and I know where you live”.

    I’m pretty sure your reaction won’t be “Sir, I don’t like the content of your speech. I believe we have a disagreement. Let us debate!”

  46. Saad says

    And everyone else in your community won’t be going “Let us all listen to the man’s point of view and decide for ourselves whether your kids belong here or not. The decision we make about your family’s safety and peace of mind will be the right way forward.”

  47. Dunc says

    “No, it’s cool bro, I just invited the Manson Family over to discuss their plans to kidnap and murder you with the aim of triggering a race war… If you’re not going to listen to their side of the argument, how can you be sure they don’t have a worthwhile point of view? Anyway, surely you can’t have any objection if I want to listen to what they have to say?”

    Also, I notice that you never hear any of these debate club enthusiasts speaking out in favour of free speech rights of people who want to promote the one viewpoint that very definitely does face serious “viewpoint discrimination” in America today: radical Islamists. Where are the university speaking gigs for people who advocate killing all the infidels and setting up a global Caliphate based on a strict interpretation of 7th century Sunni Islam? Or is that different somehow?

  48. billyjoe says

    Giliell,

    Why do you want to listen to Nazis?

    Firstly, the person invited to speak may have been characterised as a Nazi, neo-Nazi, or White Supremacist, and that person may deny that characterisation. Rather than trust the opinions of others, I might want to decide for myself by hearing that person speak for themselves rather than depend on the interpretation of others.

    Secondly, if that person confirms that the characterisation is correct, I might want to find out what led that person to hold those views and why that person holds those views. I might also want to participate in the QandA to better understand the motivations of that person.

    Thirdly, I might want to know my enemy (if that be the case!). If you don’t know their specific views and arguments you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to saving potential converts (or, heaven forbid, converting them!). The bits in brackets are just in case it is really the case that their arguments are so watertight that their conclusions are inevitable!

    Oh, so you don’t, but maybe the next person would like to hear what they have to say and maybe decide that fascism is cool and become one as well?

    Maybe. And maybe, the arguments offered will not appeal. Maybe the listener will become a anti-Nazi activist. Why assume the first option is likely to hold. Do they really have such convincing arguments that they can’t be effectively countered by targeted QandA and counter-speech?

    What about the right of potential Nazis to become fully formed Nazis complete with genocidal intentions, I ask you?

    Do you have so little confidence in your targeted QandA and counter-speech that you think you couldn’t possibly dissuade that potential Nazi? The potential Nazi is going to be so convinced by the watertight arguments of the Nazis that conversion is inevitable?
    Also, incitement to kill is not a free speech issue. It is a law enforcement and legal issue.

    Also, university speaking engagements, especially when the invitation is from the university itself, convey a certain respectability, a certain worthiness.

    It may seem so, but they do not. Universities, by definition, are open to all points of view. The free and open exchange of ideas. They couldn’t possibly endorse all the diverse and often contradictory and conflicting views that are expressed by those they invite to speak. In fact, most universities will explicitly state they they do not necessarily endorse the views expressed but that they aim to present a diversity of views for students to consider.

    Also, most universities allow their professors and student groups to invite whomever they wish to speak. In the case of the professors this is on the basis of academic freedom as well as freedom of speech. Once invited, the univerities cannot or should not disinvite or deplatform. That is against the principles of free speech. Students can protest against the invite, but to lobby for deplatforming is anti-free speech.

    If you say university shouldn’t not invite white supremacists then you say that universities should treat white supremacy as a valid point worth of debate.

    It says nothing about validity. It is just a point of view that’s out there. If students are not exposed to that view, how will they effectively counter it (or, heaven forbid, argue for it!) in the real world outside university. If univerities allow a white supremacist to speak – because either a professor or student group invited them – it’s because they are interested in presenting the diversity of views out there, not because they endorse or validate that view. They might consider it an exercise in critical thinking. They may wish to arm their students with appropriate well though out arguments for and against the diversity of views presented.

  49. billyjoe says

    Dunc,

    Where are the university speaking gigs for people who advocate killing all the infidels and setting up a global Caliphate based on a strict interpretation of 7th century Sunni Islam? Or is that different somehow?

    Perhaps the professors and student groups haven’t gotten around to inviting them yet. Perhaps no one is interested in inviting them. Perhaps they’re too scared to after seeing the violent reaction much less controversial topics have attracted.

    But, perhaps this is not actually a free speech issue, but a law enforcement and legal issue. Free speech does not apply to those who advocate breaking the law especially those who “advocate killing”.

    On the other hand, there is probably a strong case for someone knowledgeable in Islamic Fundamentalism to give a speech so as to expose students to that particle point of view. Of course, cries of “islamophobia” could silence that free speech as well.

  50. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    Why should racist lies be treated as free/protected speech and not defamation?

  51. Porivil Sorrens says

    Imagine wasting this much time and effort defending nazis. What, three threads now? Someone’s got a little SS on the brain.

  52. billyjoe says

    Or someone is a little soft in the brain and is incapable of comprehending was is being said.

  53. Khantron, the alien that only loves says

    Defending the principle of free speech is fine but why frame white supremacy as free speech when it’s malicious falsehoods? Why die on this hill?

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