You can’t say that


Those fervent conservative Free Speech Warriors have hit on a new strategy to protect our sacred right to say anything we want to anyone we want to: banning the bad words. Wisconsin Republicans have proposed sweeping censorship of words and concepts from the public schools there.

Curiously, they forgot to ban “irony”. Maybe they didn’t know the word exists.

Fortunately, the bill is just posturing by sanctimonious Republicans, and has virtually no chance of passing. If it did, I suppose I’d have to gallop across the border to rescue my granddaughter once she hit school age.

It’s such a strangely blatant defiance of the principles these people usually hide behind, but there’s a reason for it. We can’t make our white children conscious of racism.

The Wisconsin Assembly passed legislation on a party-line vote Tuesday that would bar public schools from teaching critical race theory, the latest Republican-controlled legislative chamber to take action on a culture war issue that erupted in school board meetings around the country this summer.

The measure mirrors efforts in other states to block teachers from instructing students on concepts of racial injustice or inherent bias.

But in testimony before a Wisconsin Assembly committee considering the bill in August, one of the measure’s lead authors went farther than in other states, spelling out specific words that would be barred from the classroom.

“It has come to our attention, and to some of the people who traveled here to Madison today, that a growing number of school districts are teaching material that attempts to redress the injustice of racism and sexism by employing racism and sexism, as well as promoting psychological distress in students based on these immutable characteristics,” state Rep. Chuck Wichgers (R) said of his bill. “No one should have to undergo the humiliation of being told that they are inferior to someone else. We are all members of the human race.”

Nothing in Critical Race Theory is about telling anyone they are inferior — quite the opposite. You can tell what really concerns him, though: the idea that white people might be told they’re inferior. When it was just discrimination against brown people, then it was OK to talk about their imaginary inferiority.

Wichgers, who represents Muskego in the legislature, attached an addendum to his legislation that included a list of “terms and concepts” that would violate the bill if it became law.

Among those words: “Woke,” “whiteness,” “White supremacy,” “structural bias,” “structural racism,” “systemic bias” and “systemic racism.” The bill would also bar “abolitionist teaching,” in a state that sent more than 91,000 soldiers to fight with the Union Army in the Civil War.

The list of barred words or concepts includes “equity,” “inclusivity education,” “multiculturalism” and “patriarchy,” as well as “social justice” and “cultural awareness.”

Whoops, there goes social studies and history.

Comments

  1. Allison says

    Does the legislation define “critical race theory”?

    Banning the teaching of critical race theory, at least banning it in high school and below, would have no effect at all, since, like relativistic quantum mechanics, it’s too advanced a topic for those grades.

    What they presumably want to ban is any teaching or discussion of racism, but that’s not the same thing. You don’t need to know anything about Critical Race Theory to understand racism. (If you’re Black, you probably already know more from personal experience than anybody’d be teaching in high school.)

  2. microraptor says

    Kinda funny how they’re trying to ban “woke”, since the term is used almost 100% by them to describe anything they don’t like.

  3. says

    They’re effectively saying “I don’t see any controversy,” and pretend one doesn’t exist. What a doubleplusgood idea.

    This reminds me of a recent item, an educator talking about resistance to factual education after parents told her “white kids were crying after they learnt what their ancestors did”. Imagine Germans trying to make that argument when kids are learning about the holocaust and their (great)grandparents’ role in it. It wouldn’t even be a discussion, it would be labelled revisionism and those advocating it stomped on.

    I’m annoyed as hell at what I’ve learnt in the last ten years about Canada’s history, but denying it won’t make it un-exist. The only way to deal with it is to deal with it.

  4. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Let’s be clear: Since they’re happy to countenance Holocaust denialism and protect the free speech rights of Nazis, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes and Christian supremacists, this is just saying what we knew from the start. They are in favor of the fascists. They aren’t brave enough (yet) to say that, but they will ban the speech of leftists but not of the right.

  5. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Let’s be clear: Since they’re happy to countenance Holocaust denialism and protect the free speech rights of Nazis, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes and Christian supremacists, this is just saying what we knew from the start. They are in favor of the fascists. They aren’t brave enough (yet) to say that, but they will ban the speech of leftists but not of the right.

  6. cartomancer says

    Has this kind of transparent nonsense ever worked? Students in Catholic universities in the 16th-19th Centuries tended to just use the Index Librorum Prohibitorum as a handy list of all the books that were definitely worth reading.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    “PC THOUGHT POLICE ARE SILENCING US! FREEDOM OF SPEECH, ACADEMIC FREEDOM, AND THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS ARE IN PERIL FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS, FEMINAZIS, BLM-THUGS, AND THOSE FILTHY GODLESS GAYS… So here’s a list of words and ideas that ought to be banned from schools.”

    Irony is truly dead. Worse, this clown, Wichgers, represents my hometown, but that shouldn’t surprise me. Muskego is a suburban hole infested with Trumpist redneck-wannabe trash.

  8. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 7

    They ought to hear what the nation of islam teaches about white people.

    As an ex-conservative, I assure you, they know about the Nation of Islam. They love using quotes from them as “evidence” that the civil rights movement and BLM are “racist against whites.”

  9. Snarki, child of Loki says

    They would have included “gullible”, but it’s already been removed from the dictionary.

  10. petesh says

    Iron is good! Iron is what we make steal from. So Irony is something stealy like, y’know, Donald wants. You cannot ban what Donald wants!

  11. festersixohsixonethree says

    One wonders why Wisconsin doesn’t just ban everything that came into being after 1200 CE and go back to a paleo existence. Sheesh!

  12. DrVanNostrand says

    I wonder how you’re supposed to teach Civil War history without concepts like “white supremacy” and “abolition”. I suppose they’ll just have to start teaching it as the War of Northern Aggression, like they do in Texas. The Confederacy was just sitting there, minding their own business, when the evil Lincoln attacked out of nowhere!

  13. raven says

    This is the GOP/christofascist version of Newspeak, the future language of Wisconsin.

    In Orwell’s fictional totalitarian state, Newspeak was a language favored by the minions of Big Brother and, in Orwell’s words,
    “designed to diminish the range of thought.” Newspeak was characterized by the elimination or alteration of certain words, the substitution of one word for another, the interchangeability of parts of speech, and the creation of words for political purposes.

    Definition of newspeak – Merriam-Webster

    These christofascists are trying to put student’s thoughts into a straitjacket by limiting their vocabulary, concepts, and ideas.
    It’s pure propaganda and thought control.

  14. brucegee1962 says

    Here’s an idea for a pair of assignments.
    Assignment #1: Talk to your parents and write about as much as is known about where your personal ancestors came from.
    Assignment #2: Write a research paper about shitty things done by your own personal ethnic group.

    Since no ethnic group exists that hasn’t done its share of shitty things, it should be easy to discover. And nobody can say this is about victim culture, because this is about when your people were victimizers.

  15. woozy says

    This reminds me of a recent item, an educator talking about resistance to factual education after parents told her “white kids were crying after they learnt what their ancestors did”.

    Well, in my childhood and in my memory when white kids were crying after learning what ones ancestors did it was out sadness for the suffering that occured– not out of any personal that someone had said bad things about their ancestors. At least that was the consensus of my 5th grade class.

  16. Paul K says

    As a resident of Wisconsin, this just burns me up, especially because these clowns would almost certainly not be in power were it not for gerrymandering. We have a Democratic Governor, Tony Evers, and the first elected, openly gay US senator, Tammy Baldwin, also a Democrat. Our other Senator, the ridiculous Ron Johnson, was elected, and then re-elected, during waves of insanity, in 2010 (two years after that Kenyan Commie got elected to the White House) and 2016 (when the orange nutcase riled up the haters) respectively. Statewide, Democrats get a higher portion of the votes, but somehow the Republicans not only control the legislature and our Congressional seats, but do so overwhelmingly.

    I realize that most folks here are already aware of this, but as someone who is living here, it is just so hard to see how these hateful hypocrites keep on keeping on. We are a red state through cheating only. The voters are more blue than purple, but here we are, a deserving laughing-stock to the world.

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    The voters are more blue than purple, but here we are, a deserving laughing-stock to the world.

    I’m sorry, but what mythological realm of Wisconsin are you living in? From where I’m sitting (Waukesha Co.) it’s openly racist, gun-toting, Bible-fucking, fascist trash as far as I can see.

  18. naturalcynic says

    “white kidsparents were crying after theytheir kids learnt what their ancestors did”.. FIFY

  19. martinhafner says

    Free radical therapies. Does this mean one cannot discuss cancer therapies in public schools in Wisconsin?

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    Were that bill to pass, it would seem that WI public school students could freely and with legislative approval use the B-word, the C-words, the F-word, and the N-word, etc, at their pleasure.

  21. birgerjohansson says

    There is a 1960s film named “Z” that ends with a list of the many words and concepts that were outright banned by the Greek military junta. Even the letter “Z”!
    In greek, the letter sounded like the phrase “he lives” , the context is explained by the film. The film director exposed the inherent stupidity of fascism beautifully.

  22. Marissa van Eck says

    I’ve come to the conclusion that everything, everything, a “conservative” complains about is confession, projection, or both. In other words, anything they complain about is something they have done, are doing, plan to do, wish to do, or some combination of the previous.

    This is classic DARVO, and it means the “conservative” zeitgeist is sociopathic. We must regard the entire umbrella, and therefore everyone who falls under it, as being functional if not actual sociopaths. It’s sad and scary but it’s also accurate.

  23. Tethys says

    A quick read of the Wikipedia entry for Chuck reveals that he is a fervent supporter of white male supremacy, and was totally down with attempting to subvert democracy and declare his orange idol supreme Emperor.

    Catholic. Recently attended a forced birth rally with a crowd of unvaccinated and unmasked fools.

    His qualifications for elected office include medical sales. It appears the Milwaukee area needs the Stacy Abrams treatment. Start now, and by the next election perhaps WI can remove the legislators that voted against democracy.

    That’s going to be the message, I expect it will be very compelling among the voters.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    In the english-speaking world conservatives have followed the tories and Republicans down the rabbit hole. But Angela Merkel (and the scandinavian conservative parties, about whom I know more) show this is not inevitable.
    I think USA and Britain have suffered such damage at the hands of its nasty nominal conservatives (really just aggregations of self-serving cleptocrats) that the countries can never regain the world position they had in, for instance, 2000.
    Other conservative parties in leadership positions or coalitions in countries all over the world may perform well or poorly, but they will all perform better than the tories and the Republicans. The latter can only thrive through gerrymandering.

  25. brucej says

    Start now, and by the next election perhaps WI can remove the legislators that voted against democracy.

    The 2011 gerrymandered maps put out by the Wisconsin lege basically enshrine unbreakable republican majorities in the state. In the OLD maps Democrats won 65% of the vote for state house races in 2018…and Republicans won 65% of the seats.

    The new proposed maps are even worse.

  26. drew says

    It won’t pass.
    They’re just playing to their base by stirring up the libs.
    And clearly that worked. This is helping.

  27. acroyear says

    “by employing racism and sexism, as well as promoting psychological distress in students based on these immutable characteristics”

    So…racism and sexism are immutable characteristics?

  28. blf says

    Say the words in, e.g., French, Spanish, Japanese, the local First Nations tongues, Morse Code, in some abbreviated or coded form (e.g., position on that list), interpretative dance, and so on. Doesn’t solve the underlying problems (plural), of course!

  29. kathleenzielinski says

    This is why it’s important to defend free speech. There is absolutely zero reason to believe that once speech starts getting banned, that it will be the speech that the left wants to ban. I agree with the commenter above who said this probably won’t pass, but there’s no guarantee for the next time. At some point some far right state legislature somewhere really will decide to use the law to shut down progressive speech. And the only defense against it is a principled, no-exceptions defense of free speech. Even if it also protects people whose speech the left wants to ban.

  30. says

    @37 kathleenzielinski

    The claim that the left wants to ban speech (outside of outright calls for hate) is a right-wing nonsense talking point. Close to 100% of the time you hear a right-winger blathering about free speech, they’re trying to use this faux principled stand to censor someone criticizing a malefactor.

    Not the first time I’ve seen you commenting in a way that expects us to uncritically accept the right-wing framing of something.

  31. DanDare says

    @37 kathleenzielinski free speech is about freedom to dissent or go against the norms.
    It does not cover hate speech, use of speech to harras, use of speech to deceive, defraud or impugn, or the giving of instructions for unlawful action.
    That is not a left / right thing.

  32. John Morales says

    Mmm, my problem with kathleenzielinski’s absolutist stance is a bit different.

    And the only defense against it is a principled, no-exceptions defense of free speech.

    No exceptions would entail no legal consequences for free speech.

    Clearly, label and slander laws breach this principle. As do national security laws.
    As do no disclosure agreements, and so forth.

    And, of course, it would entail no consequences for lies or disinformation.

    I’m always amused by the USA’s supposed commitment to free speech, though they put in actual shitloads of restrictions on it.

    (<cough> Chelsea Manning <cough>)

  33. kathleenzielinski says

    In the 1980s, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law making it illegal for public school teachers to say anything positive about gays and lesbians, The Supreme Court came within one vote of declaring pro-gay speech not protected by the First Amendment. I was one of the lawyers who got that case to the Supreme Court. So I know a thing or two about the value of free speech and how fragile it is. And having seen the Supreme Court come within a single vote of declaring pro-gay speech not protected, and knowing how important free speech was to getting the gay movement off the ground in the first place, I’m inclined to side with free speech.

    In the United States, you are far more likely to see political support for banning discussion of critical race theory than you are for banning racist speech. That’s a fact. Which means that any breach in the free speech wall is much more likely to hurt the good guys than the bad guys. its

    Abbeycadabra, No 38, I have been reading leftist blogs, newspapers, books, and publications for fifty years. Your claim that the left isn’t trying to ban speech it disagrees with is pure nonsense. Please do not make claims so easily refuted by anyone who reads what leftists ourselves have to say on the subject. (Yes, I’m a leftist, but a pragmatic one, and it’s OK to disagree within the movement.)

    And here’s the bottom line: Once the free speech wall has been breached, there is precious little in the way of a principled argument for picking and choosing. You may think that a principled line can be drawn, but the fascist who would like to see this blog shut down think they are too. Unless you’re willing to risk that your political enemies will gain power and shut you down, defending free speech is a matter of self interest.

  34. DrVanNostrand says

    @34 drew
    It depends on what you mean by “pass”. It already passed one legislative chamber. It will likely pass the other. Fortunately, in contrast to the Republican legislature, the Governor of Wisconsin isn’t a raving lunatic, so it won’t become law. It’s worthwhile commenting on this law because that Governor is elected every 4 years, and if Evers hadn’t narrowly won that that election this kind of idiocy would almost certainly become law.

  35. kathleenzielinski says

    John, are you talking about employment NDAs where an employment contract contains a provision that former employees can’t spill the beans about company secrets, or are you talking about litigation NDAs in which people settling a lawsuit agree not to talk about the lawsuit?

    In both cases I think they need to be regulated because they are subject to abuse, and the parties to the contract usually don’t have equal bargaining power. But that said, we’re talking about a contract, in which people voluntarily give up their rights in exchange for acquiring other rights. So I would say they need to be regulated, especially if they concern matters of public interest, but I’m not opposed to them altogether. And since we’re talking about agreements between private parties, the First Amendment doesn’t apply.

  36. says

    @14 kathleenzielinski

    Abbeycadabra, No 38, I have been reading leftist blogs, newspapers, books, and publications for fifty years. Your claim that the left isn’t trying to ban speech it disagrees with is pure nonsense. Please do not make claims so easily refuted by anyone who reads what leftists ourselves have to say on the subject. (Yes, I’m a leftist, but a pragmatic one, and it’s OK to disagree within the movement.)

    I call bullshit on this. Specifically, what speech exactly are you trying to claim “we” want to ban? Are you just here to protect overt, violence-causing bigotry?

    At least the claim about reading ‘leftist’ stuff for 50 years explains your previous TERF-style attitude. Are you sure you’re still actually a leftist, if every time you comment here you’re using exactly the same talking points as right-wingers? That’s a hell of a contradiction, especially since the Overton window had moved hard to the right in that time.

  37. John Morales says

    Exactly, kathleenzielinski.

    So… when you wrote “And the only defense against it is a principled, no-exceptions defense of free speech.”, you meant except when agreements between private parties exist.

    (So, clearly you don’t think of it as an unalienable right)

  38. Tethys says

    Your claim that the left isn’t trying to ban speech it disagrees with is pure nonsense. Please do not make claims so easily refuted…

    Then you should have no trouble actually refuting the claim with some proof, rather than bestowing your opinions on the thread.

  39. raven says

    Not the first time I’ve seen you commenting in a way that expects us to uncritically accept the right-wing framing of something.

    AHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHHH gargle, gurgle, siiggghhhh.

    That was the sound of another strawperson being killed by Kathleen. Won ‘t someone please think of the poor, defenseless strawpeople?

    She is also bothsidering.
    BTW, the actual left almost doesn’t exist in the USA any more. What the ultra right wingnuts call the “left” is actually what used to be known as the center or just normal people.

  40. kathleenzielinski says

    John, No. 46, you’re not distinguishing state action from private action. Free speech means the government can’t lock me up for it, or engage in viewpoint discrimination itself. It does not mean that PZ can’t decide who gets to comment here, or that you have to have a beer with someone whose views you find obnoxious, or that someone can’t be fired for saying on facebook that their boss is an asshole. I once had a woman show up for a job interview wearing a t-shirt that said, “Bosses are like diapers; always on your ass and full of shit.” I did not hire her. You’re presenting a caricature of what free speech is.

    Raven, No. 48, I’m not suggesting that left and right are the same (and I agree with you there’s not much that remains of the left anyway). What I’m suggesting is that government censorship of speech is equally dangerous, whether it’s suppressing right-wing speech or left-wing speech. If for no other reason because who holds political power shifts over time. In a country in which Donald Trump can get elected, and almost re-elected, I’m just not that comfortable giving the state the power to decide who gets to say what.

  41. John Morales says

    kathleen,

    you’re not distinguishing state action from private action

    Well, no. I’m not from the USA. Therefore, to me free speech is free speech, without that arbitrary distinction.

    Free speech means the government can’t lock me up for it

    <cough> Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange <cough>

    You’re presenting a caricature of what free speech is.

    The irony is palpable. It is not I who separates private and state action in its regard, it is not I who wrote about “a principled, no-exceptions defense” of it, it is not I who advocates for exceptions from the principle, so long as they are codified in law.

  42. Tethys says

    Chelsea Manning was court-martialed, which is a military court with its own system. She was also pardoned.

    Assange is not American. Plus he is a rapist so I’m having difficulty feeling any sympathy for his legal troubles. He made plenty of money and gave not one thought to the people he outed to various murderous regimes across the globe.

  43. John Morales says

    Tethys:

    Chelsea Manning was court-martialed, which is a military court with its own system.

    Ah yes, the military upholds the best traditions of ‘free speech’, as demonstrated here.

    Assange is not American.

    And not in America, either. Doesn’t stop the USA from trying to imprison him (or worse) for disseminating information.

    (Thus is the USA’s commitment to free speech exemplified)

  44. Tethys says

    When you join the military you are subject to their rules. Giving away sensitive state documents to Wikileaks violated several laws, but I’m personally very glad she was pardoned. She didn’t do it for personal gain. Civil disobedience over issues of conscience is also an American right.

  45. Tethys says

    Ok, I see your point about penalties John.

    However, the military was within its legal jurisdiction in the Manning case. As a matter of principal they are going to prosecute personnel who violate their military oaths and the espionage act to give away sensitive information. Manning pled guilty.

  46. kathleenzielinski says

    John, No. 50, you may consider government action versus private action to be an arbitrary distinction but others have more sense. There’s a whole lot of things for which public versus private have different rules. It’s not kidnapping, for example, when the government locks someone up for murder, even though it would be if I did it. I don’t have to give anyone due process before I decide not to have anything to do with them. Taxation would be theft if a private entity did it. If you seriously think the government/private conduct distinction is an arbitrary one, then please send us a post card from whichever planet you’re living on.

    And Chelsea Manning wasn’t prosecuted for speech but for theft of government secrets. We may or may not agree about whether and to what extent the government should have secrets, but theft isn’t speech.

  47. birgerjohansson says

    OT
    Good news, the torrential rain on the west coast will make it harder for the Jewish space lasers to set fire to stuff.

  48. submoron says

    Free speech. There was an American consular official in an embassy in a country at war. He handled cypher correspondence between a senior government politician and the American president. He thought the correspondence too sympathetic to the US joining against the side in the war which he favoured so he took copies and tried to get them to a local group which was sympathetic to his views.
    You know who I mean but he was acting in accord with his conscience.
    For anyone who doesn’t recognise him, Tyler Kent was handling correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt.
    Please put me right on this (sic).

  49. says

    Republicans currently support Uncritical Race Theory. No white person has ever done anything racist, and if they did it’s because some liberal said mean things about them.

  50. notaandomposter says

    There are limits to ‘free speech’ based on the role you are in when you are expressing yourself.
    for example: A teacher in a public school cannot lead prayer, undermine the state mandated science curriculum (by ‘teaching both sides’ i.e. creationism / criticism of evolutionary theory) leave their bible on their desk because it’s a ‘textbook’ and claim free speech- they are in the role of a a public official when teaching – and therefor governed by the contract the educator was hired under and relevant laws/regulations regarding the curriculum etc. In the same vein ‘free speech’ doesn’t protect soldiers from revealing secrets—but does (should) shield them in voicing opinions ‘as a private citizen’ like protesting against ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ policies when on leave or whatever

    a private individual, can say whatever the frick they want – it doesn’t absolve them from the consequences of what they say.
    One CAN yell ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theater – and the victims of the stampede can sue for damages, “free speech” will not absolve you of liability (nor shield you from criminal charges of reckless endangerment or whatever) same for Libel, defamation, etc.

    “free speech” protected by the 1st amendment prohibits actions of the government to stifle dissent/expression

    the bill in question would be the ‘poster child’ of the type of overreach the 1st amendment was written to prevent. And the GOP scumbag legislators that wrote it KNOW that. They know that the bill will never get signed into law- they are TROLLING

  51. Matthew Currie says

    I am reminded of a bill against obscenity I read about many years ago that listed the words forbidden, which was said to be so explicit that the list could not be made public, presenting a little problem in enforcement.

    I think if I were involved in education and this bill passed, I’d make sure that the list was prominently reproduced and posted.

    I wonder if one could enumerate the words on the list, and then refer students to the words by number. “I’m not permitted by law to use the word, but if you would consult our list, it’s number 65.”

  52. KG says

    The naivety of the kathleenzielinskis of the world never ceases to amaze. How could anyone with an ounce more sense than a cuckoo clock possibly believe that fascists require the excuse of leftists doing something before they can do it themselves?

  53. says

    @37 kathleenzielinski
    At some point some far right state legislature somewhere really will decide to use the law to shut down progressive speech. And the only defense against it is a principled, no-exceptions defense of free speech. Even if it also protects people whose speech the left wants to ban.
    Name ONE single space (a political party, an association, a website etc.) that had the following characteristics:
    1) It employed a “no-exception defense of free speech” policy.
    2) Said policy did NOT result in bigotry becoming significantly more common and intense in that space.

    If you can’t find even just a single space that has both of those characteristics, then we’ll have to accept the following conclusion: EVERY single time a no-exception defense of free speech was employed in a space, it ALWAYS resulted in bigotry becoming wider-spread and more intense – eventually resulting in marginalized people being silenced and driven out of those spaces. In other words: a “no exception defense of free speech” is IMPOSSIBLE, because you either preserve marginalized people’s speech; or you preserve bigoted speech. Preserving one always, in 100% of cases, results in the other being silenced. Preserving both is impossible.

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