So tired of the false accusations…as someone who works on a college campus, ground zero for the PC wars, I have to tell you it’s about as bogus as the War on Christmas. No, college students aren’t trying to silence conservatives, because a lot of college students are conservatives. Conservatives are pouring cash into like-minded student organizations, paying to bring in reactionary fools as speakers, handing out free posters endorsing idiocies, like Turning Point USA, and you can’t turn around without seeing reactionary clods whining about The Gays or The Trans Creeping Into Muh Bathroom, and surprise–no one sets them on fire or kicks them off campus. The crusade to slander universities for being oppressive bastions of PC thought is a load of nonsense invented by people with stupid ideas who didn’t like the fact they’d get their rhetorical asses kicked in any environment that wasn’t packed with their ideological allies.
Martha Gill gets it. The the threat to free speech is an invented pseudo-controversy. The usual suspects promote it as a way to pretend that a goddamned majority is somehow an oppressed class.
This sort of argument is everywhere. It often seems like the first line of defence when a notable figure has overstepped the mark. And just this month the academic Jordan Peterson launched a website, Thinkspot, to protect users from all the “censorship” that is around right now.
The argument that you can’t say anything was given a boost when, in 2015, the Atlantic magazine published The Coddling of the American Mind, an article by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff suggesting that young people, particularly students, were attempting to shut down discussions about topics they disagreed with. Universities, they argued, were sacrificing knowledge on the altar of hurt student feelings.
Then, the explosion. Thousands of articles were written defending free speech against the undergraduates, along with a slew of books – from Mike Hume’s Trigger Warning to Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive! to Haidt’s 2018 book borrowing the title of the original Atlantic article. There has been the phenomenon of Jordan Peterson, who says the unsayable but is still somehow a bestselling author. (Almost every piece on spiked-online.com has an argument defending free speech.)
She cites chapter and verse of counter-examples, and they jibe with my experience on a liberal college campus. It’s not that my environment has been sanitized of views I find disagreeable; I assure you, I am regularly rolling my eyes at the nonsense that gets promoted here. We had Ben Shapiro give a talk at UMM, and if that dishonest twerp can get a platform here, you’ve got no grounds to claim that conservatives are censored. Don’t worry, though: even as they rake in the cash from obliging conservative think tanks, they’ll keep on whining that they get no respect at the universities.
There’s a reason for that lack of respect, too.
Free speech advocates also misunderstand the motivation of those who might want to shut down a debate: they see this as a surefire mark of intolerance. But some debates should be shut down. For public dialogue to make any progress, it is important to recognise when a particular debate has been won and leave it there.
Even the most passionate free speech advocate might not wish to reopen the debate into whether women should be tried for witchcraft, or whether ethnic minorities should be allowed to go to university, or whether the Earth is flat. No-platformers are not scared – they simply think certain debates are over. You may disagree, but it does not mean they are against free speech.
There is also the problem of self-awareness. The trouble with the free speech defence is that it works to shut down any argument against it. You want to say something boring, or irrelevant, or malicious? Claim someone is trying to ban you from saying it. Dissent isn’t merely dissent then, it’s censure. (And censorship should be banned.)
Your opponents are against free discussion (and shouldn’t be allowed to engage in it). You can tack free speech on to any crackpot prejudice you have and suddenly you’re a lone truth-teller standing up to the hordes. It’s a clever rhetorical trick, the free speech defence. But it shouldn’t be taken much more seriously than that.
You want to go on a college campus and argue for a white ethno-state, or that trans people are perverts, or that life begins at conception, or that evolution is Satan’s religion, you can do that — I’ve heard all of that. You don’t get to say it without pushback from better informed people, though, and you’re not going to get the university administration to actively endorse those views, as they do the ideas that America is a pluralist nation with a diverse population that must be served by the educational system, or that human identities are complex and don’t fit into your limited bins, or that biology is a legitimate scientific discipline that tells us that your ideas are bullshit, and that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
That’s not censorship. That’s just us turning our backs on your foolishness.
Funny you should mention trans rights, since The Grauniad regularly features transphobes (like much of the English press).
Akira MacKenzie says
I can hear the Hyper-Skeptical Lords of all Reason and Logic (TM) now:
“If you REALLY believed in science and skepticism then all those topics should always be open to debate! New evidence might come in that black magic is real, non-whites really are degenerate animals, and that the planet is really is a flat disc covered by a crystal dome! QUESTION EVERYTHING!!!”
The whole argument about free speech at colleges has clearly been a lie from the beginning. Why? Context. It is obvious that there are very different contexts at a college, such as within a course lecture, at a speech in a rented room, on the sidewalk, or in a meeting of a student affiliation club. Yet complaints about free speech on campus almost never specify which context is under discussion.
What free speech advocate would say that I have a right to attend campus Christian club meetings and use their time to tell them that Jesus never existed? It is laughable to pretend that any free-speech advocates are saying that their “absolutism” supports that. So, since they all support contexts where speech has appropriate limits, it is a lie for them to complain about the issue without specifying the context under discussion. It seems likely they are deliberately ignoring the context in order to manufacture controversy.
Unless they want to talk about a context where they will support me telling college Christians that Jesus is a lie, they really have no sincere complaints about free speech. Principles can’t just be about positions one supports and not apply to positions they oppose. They would be the first to note this if the contexts were switched, so they forfeit all credibility.
As one xkcd comic put it, the free speech defense is basically conceding that the strongest defense you can muster for your position is that it’s not illegal to say it.
Advocates for free speech on campus aren’t arguing that anyone has the right to say anything anywhere. They’re saying that if a group of students and/or faculty (with the authority to do so) invites a speaker to campus they should have the right to listen to that speaker. So if the campus Christian club invites you to tell them Jesus never existed, yeah, you should be able to do so without having a bunch of protestors shout you down or otherwise keep you from speaking.
And that’s why all the free speech advocates were out supporting Anna Sarkeesian and speaking out against the people who were protesting her and making threats to attack the campus, right?
Thank goodness I’m in such a boring discipline! No one wants to talk about chemistry or argue with its findings, as they find chemical knowledge both too dull and too difficult to understand. Class discussions are refreshingly free of any bigotry, because no one can even understand covalent bonding or molecular oribtal theory, and so they can’t relate it to their bigoted notions.
The one thing I teach as absolute, unquestioned fact is climate change, but no one’s ever contested it with me, because I know an awful lot more about carbon dioxide than they do, and they know I could talk rings around them that they’d be bored by and couldn’t understand.
My colleagues never even talk about their bigotry, because none of us want to hear the noxious opinions that everyone else holds.
if you pay any attention to the debate at all, you’ll quickly notice that majority of free speech advocates do, in fact, identify contexts in which free speech is stifled at the unis.
In any case, it is one odd argument you have here. For starters, who are these mysterious “they” you are railing against? I, for one, believe that you fully within your rights to go to whatever club you want and make an ass of yourself by preaching that “Jesus is a LIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!11!111!!!!11!”, if that is, indeed, your thing. It is odd that you (and others) seem to be convinced that all free speech advocates would disavow that. You do realize that “free speech advocates” are not some homogeneous group of people, right? If not, no worries. It is actually a very common bias to perceive your ingroup as heterogeneous and diverse, all the while perceiving outgroups as highly uniform. Another common bias is viewing your own undesirable actions and those of your ingroup members as results of external circumstances, genuine mistakes, etc. while ascribing personal intentions when explaining actions of perceived outgroups. E.g. you might believe that you claiming “they” don’t want you to hear that Jesus is a LIEEEEEEEEE!!!111!!11!! is a genuinely well-meant, but mistaken, while also believing that “they” are intentionally lying. Stupid. But common.
it is funny how the movement and cry for campus free speech that erupted in the 60’s precipitated by the war in Vietnam which was vilified and attached by the conservatives at the time has now being foisted into the head lines by conservatives and radical right wing activists as a legitimate thing and a noble cause and that we are in desperate times for freedom.
sounds so good but feels just like a lie
spell check and my clumsy typing with their ally haste conspire against me
Amazing how disagreement is not recognized by those bozos as, ahem, ‘free speech’. Rather selective in their identification of it, aren’t they?
well as you note it is not free speech they want but unquestioning agreement with what ever they say.
not by what you say but what you do will you be judged
You are projecting, I believe.
are you implying that the neo-facists and white supremacists really believe in equal rights of free speech and or human rights for all people? You think I am mishearing them or misunderstanding what they do or what policies they implement when they have access to power? Do you think that the fundamentalist christians want freedom of religion for all people. Or are you just being a trollish a hole?
Well, it can be difficult to spew racial hatred in some places. A few years ago some neo-nazi group at the University of Ottawa invited a US nut-job to speak. I cannot recall her name but she was a well known Republican ass-hole.
Then the Rector (?) of the University wrote a letter to her pointing out that Canada had hate laws. Nut-case retreated to USA immediately.
And you know what, I have never felt my freedom of speech is under threat in Canada.
Ed Peters says
“That’s not censorship. That’s just us turning our backs on your foolishness.”
Or another way to put it:
That’s not censorship. That’s just you losing in the marketplace of ideas.
How did we go from talking about people who worry about the state of free speech at universities to white supremacists and neo-nazis? How on Earth did you make that jump?
It’s hardly a jump. We just stepped out of the “people who worry about the state of free speech at universities” circle and there we were.
chigau (違う) says
I didn’t jump to conclusions. I took a small step, and conclusions there were.
John Morales says
fckideologs, as every one else is noting, weak evasion.
You’d have done better to have written “Why do you ask?” — a stronger evasion.
My bad. I forgot what crowd I am dealing with. In your hive mind, anyone outside your ingroup is a neo-nazi.
Realizing that they have no actual evidence to support their position, fckideologs once again resorts to name-calling.
Kip Williams says
By disagreeing with him you prove his point. (Also, if nobody disagrees with him it proves his point, and if it rains somewhere, that also proves his point.)
No, fellow-travellers with Nazis* (most of the “Alt Right”) and useful idiots for Nazis and their fellow-travellers (like you) are much more common than Nazis.
*There’s no need at all for the “neo-“; it simply waters down the correct description of Nazis as Nazis.
To be totally fair, I am sure fckideologs is one of those other people that think having completely lost the debate already are being oppressed, like Peterson fans, or Incels, etc. He may only be “accidentally” one of the camp followers, providing a “useful service” to the Nazis and Evangelicals.
Pray do tell, what evidence some of you used to determine that I am a “he”? Other than it fits your preconceptions.
well besides the usual apologists who miss the point of the post and fail to understand who has now adopted free speech as a flag they can wrap themselves in when all other arguments have failed it ai’t your fathers free speech movement
. I guess it might be a case of as most of the loud voices doing the complaining are he’s
so on an anonymous website without access to any other information people will use a common convention so don’t take it personal just let everyone know how you would like to be referred to.
Yeah, what he said. If English had something less stupid than “they” which, to most minds, implies plurality, to designate a “neutral gender”, I would have used that. Instead I went with what is, again, unfortunately, standard convention. Regardless, jumping one “gender” mis-identification, in this context, as a method to discredit, or call into question the point of the comment is simply more of the same, “I am being persecuted, so you are wrong, and no one should listen to you.”, rhetoric. Its damned convenient how, ironically, the very issues that the right try to shut down, and shut out, or demand that their already mainstream views be given even more credence in contrast to are so easily turned to shaming those whose positions they are arguing against.
After all, among some of the left, the worst thing possible is to be accused of being just as biased as your opponents. But, as unclefrogy said, this won’t work here, because we are not talking about who is being biased or not, we are talking about some views being already so deeply entrenched, or so fundamentally disconnected from the truth, that they do not deserve the respect of being treated as equal ideas, and/or already hold the privileged position of having been previously unopposed, and thus outside the realm of being able to claim that they are being persecuted.
Its, to be a bit crass, and not at all PC, the 500lb fat man/woman, who lives two doors down in an expensive apartment, and was wheeled by a paid servant to see what was going on in the new building that opened, whining that they should have an equal turn at the soup, which was just set out for homeless people. If you have nearly all of the freaking power already, you can’t claim that someone else not wanting you there, or not giving you something, means they are treating you the same way you are demonstrably treating everyone else.
John Morales says
More to the point, fckideologs apparently has a problem with misgendered pronouns. They want their preferred pronoun, coy as they may be about revealing what that may be.
John Morales says
But hey, let not the hive-mind be rude.
So, fckideologs, what is your preferred gendered personal pronoun?
I wonder why so much of the “freeze peach in universities!” is about bigotry. So weird. Must …. not jump to conclusions….
So, Chris61 says “Advocates for free speech on campus aren’t arguing that anyone has the right to say anything anywhere”, and that they just want the right to listen to their invited speakers uninterrupted.
fckideologs says that they do want the right to say anything anywhere, and you should be allowed to go interrupt other groups (who might, say, be listening to a speaker).
So, which is it?
And fckideologs, Nazis came up quickly because a fair number of those whose free speech rights have been supposedly violated were Nazis or Nazi-adjacent, and that was why they were objected to.
Porivil Sorrens says
“God, these stupid SJWs! Why can’t someone just call for a white ethnostate and the mass incarceration of non-white asylum seekers in literal concentration camps without being called a nazi?”
As fckideologs stated earlier
so the answer to your question is ‘both’.
Why did you pick that weird unlikely example instead of the one where a transphobe is being invited to incite further hatred against trans people in a society where transphobia is quiet dangerous to trans people or the one where white supremacists are being invited in a diverse society where white supremacy is becoming more and more dangerous?
“you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
As I’m sure you know, your question answers itself – just as well, as you’re unlikely to get an honest answer from chris61, or any other Freeze Peach fetishist. What they are very reluctant to admit is that free speech can be systematically used to intimidate and harrass, and is indeed being used in that way by the “Alt right”.
Not to mention it’s very reasonable that Christian students protest their Christian organization for inviting PZ to tell them Jesus is a lie. Grow a backbone and say what you actually mean. It’s not like people here don’t already know you’re a bigot.
@35 & 38 Saad
Wasn’t my example, Saad. It belongs to Bruce @3. But I disagree that its reasonable for the Christian students to protest. Or at least to protest in a way that shuts down the speaker. They should listen. They might learn something useful.
So, what you’re saying is a person should have the right to speak anywhere he/she wishes without having the hassle of having to listen to others use their free speech (in the form of protest, in this case). IOW, you are okay with suppression of speech as long as the dissenters are interrupting someone you agree with. However, when it’s the other way around, you couldn’t really give a crap. I know this to be true because there are examples of actual speech being suppressed (i.e., professors fired for critiscism of Israel) and free speech warriors are very, very quiet about it. In fact, the only time you guys make a fuss is when a reactionary airhead is demonetized or canceled from speaking. Please don’t cry when someone calls you out for what you are; a right wing apologist. You have worn out your tedious “free speech” cover a long time ago.
No, I’m not saying a person has the right to speak anywhere they wish. I’m saying that if a group who is authorized to do so invites someone to speak on campus that the people who wish to hear that person speak should be able to do so. If you don’t want to listen to them, don’t attend.
…free speech cover…
It’s just cynical, nihilistic newspeak. Gotta love those trolls who’s idea of “free speech” includes an outright obligation to abuse it. Hmmm, now what could be missing from that conception… Oh yeah, good faith.
“Buh, buh, buh how can you know, when I’m gas lighting you, that I’m not really arguing in good faith? You’re not a mind reader [smirk, smirk, sneer, sneer]!”
F’ing trolls try to provoke and then they whine when they actually succeed and get punched in the head.
“If you don’t want to listen to them, don’t attend.”
Oh I think good people have listened. And they’ve decided, for instance, that allowing nazi ideology to fester and metastasize is a very bad thing.
Part of free speech is protest. You are asking for the right to say whatever you want without pushback. Ben Shapiro lost ONE speaking gig when he did his idiot tour. According to you, this is suppression of speech. To those of us who care what words mean, it is an example of how using free speech can cause positive change! Don’t like what you see? Organize a movement and present an opposing opinion. It has been happening in this country since its inception and there were always guys on the wrong side whinging about it.
Unless you can point to an incident where someone was arrested and thrown in jail for expressing their opinion, you don’t have a case. You also failed to address the other things I mention in my post. There are incidences of actual suppression of speech happening in this country. For example, in Texas a woman was forced to sign a contract promising she will not take part in protest movements like BDS, otherwise she would risk losing her job. This has a chilling effect on speech, but nary a word about it from the free speech warriors. There are political leftists, trans activists and feminists that had to cancel speaking opportunities because of death threats and safety concerns. I never hear FSW defending their free speech rights. I wonder why?
If you want to be taken seriously, be consistent. Otherwise, I’m going to assume your are nothing more than a disingenuous hack. A patently stupid one, too.
<bl BDS, otherwise she would risk losing her job. This has a chilling effect on speech, but nary a word about it from the free speech warriors.
Last I heard a Federal judge found in her favor on the grounds that the contract violated her First Amendment rights. So her free speech rights were indeed defended.
Now I’m confused. You appear to be saying that unless someone is arrested and thrown in jail for expressing their opinion, their free speech rights haven’t been violated. But your own example (the Texas woman) was neither arrested nor thrown in jail. Maybe you should consider being consistent as well.
Thank you for demonstrating what I have been saying for years about free speechers. You really don’t have a clue, do you?
Freedom of speech is protected from government restrictions. In other words, the government cannot coerce you into speech or silence you from speaking freely. The case in Texas was due to a new law enacted by the state legislature (i.e., THE GOVERNMENT). This is actually a case of a free speech violation that you wankers couldn’t care less about, or even recognize as a legitimate example of a violation to our first amendment rights. Thank you again for providing visual aid. You think protesting a charlatan is a violation of speech because you don’t understand what first amendment protections actually state. You just want to spout drivel with no accountability.
What you’re talking about? No, apparently not. I thought the topic was free speech on college campuses.
You clearly support protesting people whose views you don’t like. Do you also support protesting speakers like Linda Sarsour or Tamika Mallory?
Let me spell it out so you can understand. Protest is protected by our first amendment rights. It is an exercise in free speech. A college campus canceling a speaking engagement is NOT a violation of the first amendment. Neither is YouTube demonetizing a sniveling homophobic brat. THE ONE FUCKING EXAMPLE THAT WAS ACTUALLY A FREE SPEECH VIOLATION, YOU TWITS COMPLETELY IGNORED IT!!!!
I was being hyperbolic when I said “Unless you can point to an incidence when someone was arrested and thrown in jail for expressing their opinion, you don’t have a case.” I was referring to the fact that free speech is protected from GOVERNMENT interference. That interference can come from laws that can potentially cost a person their job, or laws that can throw a person in jail for expressing themselves. The first amendment protects us from government entities meddling in our lives, not from private enterprises kicking us off their property.
I love the projection, though. I am not the one throwing a hissy fit because some racist featherhead lost a few gigs preaching pseudo-science to college students. Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory caught heat because optics matter. People can protest them, cancel appearances, and even say mean things to them on the street. I don’t see it as a violation to their first amendment rights. I’m an adult. I am not a spoiled, entitled brat who pitches a fit when challenged. Free Speech Warriors pick and choose their crusades and it always ends up being around some deplorable bigoted scumbag. Democratic and biological systems are failing on a global scale, yet you and your ilk spend all your time bellyaching about a hypothetical gender studies student protesting Dave Rubin. Seriously, grow up.
I get that that’s your opinion. I note, however, that a lot of people who present themselves as Constitutional scholars disagree with it, at least as pertains to public colleges and universities.
I would agree if it weren’t for the fact that Free Speech Warriors were the most enraged when speakers were protested at Berkeley and Middlebury, two PRIVATE institutions. It’s abundantly clear speech isn’t the issue. It is preserving the right to say whatever you please without critiscism. Just fucking own it already.
Just for the record, I think Murray should have been aloud to give his talk without being shut down. I think stupid ideas deserve to be torn to shreds in a civilized public forum. However, the cynical use of “free speech” used as shield by the right is nothing short of sophistry. It’s not about freedom of ideas, it’s about being able to spout gibberish without repercussion. It’s pretty clear this is the case when “free speech absolutists” like Jordan Peterson want to shut down entire academic disciplines because he doesn’t agree with their conceptual models. Hypocrite much?
Also, waiting on guys like Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris to come out and defend that Canadian cartoonist. Dave Rubin’s show any minute now….right?
Not whatever you please and not without criticism but certainly without fear of physical injury. I think Berkeley and Middleburg generated so much heat because people were physically injured.
Then in this particular case, we agree.