The University of Chicago is made of safe spaces

by Henry on August 27, 2016

This letter to incoming students from the University of Chicago’s dean of students is getting a lot of discussion (e.g.).

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

There’s something basically right with the idea that universities (in the social sciences and humanities) should be in the business of making their students uncomfortable with their preconceptions, obligng them to examine their own and others’ ideas forcefully, and getting them to acknowledge a la Max Weber that there are awkward facts for every political position. But there’s also something fundamentally wrong with the claim that the ideal of academic freedom and the idea of the safe space are opposed to each other.

One of these days, we may see Susanne Lohmann’s book on how universities think. But in the meantime, there are some helpful insights in the essays that are supposed to provide one bit or another of her argument. In particular, this piece, which argued, a decade ago, that the university was nothing more and nothing less than a congeries of safe spaces for faculty, who otherwise would be at each others’ throats.

As the university became increasingly differentiated into schools and departments, and factions within schools and departments, and factions within factions, it became internally conflicted. The members of a faction tend to reserve the most intense feelings of hatred for their intellectual neighbors rather than for the inhabitants of far-away worlds. This makes it very hard for faculty in the same, or closely related, fields to agree on appointments and curriculum design.

Protective structures followed faculty infighting: strong walls sprang up to separate the departments and schools, and federalist structures emerged. The voting procedures that aggregated the preferences within and across departments and schools became ever more complex. The university thus developed an intricate internal organization to protect the faculty from each other.

As Lohmann notes, this explains both the frequent intellectual rigidity and occasional dynamism of the university:

There is a dark side to the history of the university. It is largely a history of ossification punctuated by bursts of intellectual vibrancy and structural innovation. In the large sweep of history, change occurs not because existing scholars, departments, and institutions move with the times, but through replacement. New ideas and methods are developed by new generations of scholars working in newly founded disciplines. New structures that support new forms of inquiry and learning emerge in newly founded universities.

Existing institutions do change—some of them, some of the time. When institutional change occurs, it is typically in response to the political or economic threat posed by entrants. Departments have a harder time reinventing themselves, and when they do, it is because of generational turnover, for individual scholars tend not to change at all.

Also this – which isn’t really related to the point at hand – but which is too good not to quote (the point is accentuated if one includes contingent as well as tenure-line faculty):

The university is a cruel institution. It takes the best and the brightest, promises them the world, and then it throws most of them to the dogs. The vast majority of scholars start out as fresh-eyed and bushy-tailed newly minted assistant professors; their career peaks as they become tenured associate professors; and from then on their human capital declines steadily for reasons that are mostly not under their control. As a result, there is a lot of bitterness and resentment floating around in the heads of the tenured faculty.

And this, which is related:

Disciplines are controlled by journal editors and leading scholars who collectively decide what gets published in the top journals, who is awarded tenure, and which activities are to be supported by grants and showered with honors. There are selection biases in place that create a tendency for self-perpetuation. Perhaps most importantly, there is a natural bias toward gerontocracy that benefits scholars who are in mid-career or even over the hill. This is the group from which journal editors and leading scholars are drawn from, and they will tend to favor traditional work and support clones of themselves.

What this all suggests is that questions of preserving academic freedom and academic diversity are more complicated than the University of Chicago’s rather self-congratulatory letter to incoming students would suggest. Lohmann’s fundamental point (and I really hope the book emerges, so that these ideas get the airing they deserve) is that successful universities – surely including the University of Chicago – are congeries of safe spaces that factions of scholars have carved out to protect themselves from their intellectual enemies. More concretely – the University of Chicago has both a very well recognized economics department and a very well recognized sociology department. There is furthermore some overlap in the topics that they study. Yet the professors in these two departments protect themselves from each other – they do not, for example, vote on each other’s tenure decisions. They furthermore have quite different notions (though again, perhaps with some overlap) of what constitutes legitimate and appropriate research. In real life, academics only are able to exercise academic freedom because they have safe spaces that they can be free in.

Thinking about universities in this way doesn’t provide obvious answers to student demands for safe spaces, some of which seem to me to be legitimate, some not (I also suspect that the media has an interest in hyping up the most ridiculous seeming claims because the weird social connections between the American elite and a very small number of colleges mean that this stuff gets an audience – but that’s another matter for a different post). What it does though, is to make clear that universities’ and professors’ own notions (myself included) of what makes for legitimate inquiry, academic freedom etc, and what doesn’t are themselves contested, and the products of social processes that don’t always look particularly good when they’re subjected to sustained inquiry.

If the university is made up of safe spaces (we call them departments, schools, research programs and academic disciplines), then demands for safe spaces are nothing particularly new (except that they come from students), and should be examined in just the same kinds of ways as the safe spaces that academics have created for themselves, and don’t think about, because they seem part of the natural order of the universe. Sometimes, there will be some broader justifications for them (in terms of diversity or other desiderata), sometimes not, and the justifications will themselves always be arguable.

{ 716 comments }

1

AcademicLurker 08.27.16 at 1:16 pm

The letter’s references to trigger warnings and safe spaces were vague in what they actually meant, but the letter wasn’t a fine grained statement of policy, it was clearly signalling: “This is the kind of school we are”.

It was also, I think, a bit of an exercise in trolling. Quite a successful one, if the surly reaction in some quarters is any indication. The deans of U of C seem to have needled exactly the people they intended to needle.

2

James Wimberley 08.27.16 at 1:18 pm

As institutions go, so do individuals. After adolescence, do humans often change their minds from meeting radically new viewpoints? It seems to me that we accept change from ideas and individuals that are at the boundary of our individual safe bubble, who comfort many of our biases and only challenge a few.

3

Collin Street 08.27.16 at 2:01 pm

There’s something basically right with the idea that universities (in the social sciences and humanities) should be in the business of making their students uncomfortable with their preconceptions

No, this is fundamentally misconstrued.

The purpose of a university is to make the student transcend their preconceptions: making them uncomfortable with their preconceptions is part of that, sure absolutely, but it’s not the entire program any more than “we run until our legs are on fire, and then we do it again tomorrow” is any sort of athletics training program.

4

Anarcissie 08.27.16 at 2:16 pm

I would think the ostensible purpose of a university would not be to change the character of the students (or teachers, administrators, maintenance people, and chance bystanders) but to facilitate learning and thinking about what had been learned. It would be irrelevant whether the students had been made uncomfortable or on the contrary felt warm and cuddly about their environment; kitchens get hot but some people still stay in them and cook. Conceded, I am saying this from a great distance. I also know that universities are class-filtering authoritarian bourgeois institutions, etc. etc., but I was working from the ostensible aspect.

5

medrawt 08.27.16 at 2:33 pm

The specific language of safe spaces may be newish, as well as the structure of how the idea is articulated, but debates over appropriate curriculum and the propriety of protesting controversial guest speakers were also part of campus life at UofC at a time when I’d never heard anyone use “safe space” as a buzzword, and I imagine for many decades before that as well.

I only skimmed bits of Boyer’s letter but as Henry says, “self congratulatory” seems about right. Chicago sells itself as a special place, often noxiously so. There’s a way to make the case for having to read things you’d rather not read that isn’t quite so preening or dismissive of real concerns, and I’d agree with that case, and I’m not surprised they botched the job. (There’s nothing they could write that would make me donate money to them, but I’m occasionally flabbergasted by how tremendously they can miss the mark of how to appeal to me when they try.)

6

drveen 08.27.16 at 2:42 pm

Not enough of an expert on the history, here, but…. seems like the earliest universities, like (e.g.) Cambridge, were primarily religious institutions whose purpose was to inculcate, indoctrinate (some of) the sons of the aristocracy and gentry to be “good” and “productive” members of the ruling classes – in other words, perpetuating existing power structures.

Perhaps somewhere along the line, the narrative changed and to some extent, individual’s (both faculty and students, both across multiple generations) behavior changed. However, how much has the initial version really ended? Isn’t that the heart of so many criticisms along the “death of liberal arts” line? That the universities are training grounds for the ruling, both elite and beaurocratic classes?

7

nick s 08.27.16 at 2:48 pm

It’s definitely an assertion of proud institutional dickishness, even as the UofC surely has its own little room in the economics dept. with heavy shades over the windows and a fainting couch for whenever Paul Krugman writes about the dark age of macro.

8

Watson Ladd 08.27.16 at 2:53 pm

Students being surprised that a class on Eastern European history 1933-1945 is filled with discussions of mass slaughter, summary killings, rape, and genocide is not a real concern. I think most people know that one. Lolita is about a pedophile, Ovid writes about rapes.

“Safe spaces” is a very nebulous term. Does it mean a club where students are united by identity? Does this imply that the classroom is unsafe, unless it teaches the ideas that students want taught? If a black republican comes to campus and discusses welfare, is that now an unsafe space for blacks? Claims that speakers people disagree with are making the campus unsafe are commonplace now.

The fact is faculty is there to teach students and knows what students should learn. Not the reverse.

9

Lord 08.27.16 at 2:56 pm

What is it other than a proclamation of a safe space for conservatives?

10

AcademicLurker 08.27.16 at 3:04 pm

There’s a way to make the case for having to read things you’d rather not read that isn’t quite so preening or dismissive of real concerns, and I’d agree with that case, and I’m not surprised they botched the job.

I don’t think they botched the job. It depends on what you think “the job” was (see my remark about trolling above). They clearly didn’t go out of their way to explicitly mention trigger warnings and safe spaces because they were articulating any sort of formal policy about those things. Those references were included because they wanted to provoke precisely the reaction they’ve received. No doubt they’re pleased.

11

Scott Draper 08.27.16 at 3:10 pm

The university thus developed an intricate internal organization to protect the faculty from each other.

This seems implausible to me. Isolated departments likely exist because these people tend to work together. This may also, inadvertently, protect them from contamination by other departments in the University. Still, the most trenchant criticism isn’t likely to originate from outside the specialty, but from within it. The enemy of economists are other economists, not sociologists.

12

Patrick 08.27.16 at 3:22 pm

The terrific two step of triviality on safe spaces is that their either 1) just a way of describing specific, localized zones in which a subgroup of people can get away from the general milieu of culture and have conversation and interaction without dealing with outsides forces, or 2) a term for the normative goal of using whatever tools are at hand to cleanse entire swaths of society of “problematic” speech, in the name of preventing a highly questionable concept of “oppression.”

Those of us who find articles like OP’s shady have personally experienced the latter, and when you two-step the heck out of the issue you just come across like you’re dissembling. And when you describe the University of Chicago’s letter as self congratulatory and overly simplistic while engaging in a self congratulatory and overly simplistic analysis like this you come across as worse than dissembling.

13

Ian Maitland 08.27.16 at 3:27 pm

Here’s how I score it. After Yale’s incompetent and cowardly response to its students’ histrionics:

Chicago 1, Yale 0 (own goal).

Now Boyer has put his own shot in the back of the Yale net. Gooooal!

Chicago 2, Yale 0.

It is hard to believe that Yale hasn’t irreparably hurt its franchise. True, the season isn’t done yet, but Yale is perilously close to demotion from the Premier League.

14

stevenjohnson 08.27.16 at 3:41 pm

The letter cites a document by the Martin Ryerson something or other. There is nothing better than an endowed professorship to certify orthodoxy…to the living donor, if nothing else. In this case, Ryerson has been decently dead. You can google his tomb to prove it.

At any rate, formally there is very little substantive content to the letter other than to say, read this handbook. I strongly suspect this is more or less cover.

Otherwise as the OP implies, the content is simply this: “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

It is hard to even guess what not supporting trigger warnings might actually mean. Not requiring them from teachers, therefore not accepting complaints from students they didn’t receive one? Nor is it clear whether the rejection of safe spaces for the openly nefarious purposes ascribed by the letter rules out the right of emotionally distraught students to retreat from distressing scenes?

The only thing easily understandable is the assertion that the university can invite any speakers it wishes and students have no right to disrupt, no matter that speaker invitations are political endorsements, complete with monetary payments. No one invites Ayaan Hirsa Ali because they are concerned that so many of the student body are blindly planning to “circumcise” their daughters. They pay a speaker like her to explain to Christian students how awful Muslims are, as an act of solidarity with US foreign policy, which bombs an awful lot of Muslims.

The general perspective is reminiscent of the marketplace of ideas. Like most orthodox ideas that swipe metaphors from economics, it is grossly ideological. Like every educational institution a university is first about transmitting knowledge to young people. The question of how one recognizes knowledge is an indispensable part of the process, but it has nothing to do with diversity in values and perspectives as such. If anything the point is rather, conformity. All the diversity and difference in perspectives you could ever want will inevitably arise because there is an amazing amount of truth not known.

The marketplace of ideas is much better suited I think to the posture that the University of Chicago Department of Economics has every right to put out its ideas for sale (and sell they do, especially to those who benefit from them,) but they don’t have to fit in with anything the history department or sociology department or anthropology department are putting out, because those are different transactions.

15

Ben 08.27.16 at 3:53 pm

(There’s nothing they could write that would make me donate money to them, but I’m occasionally flabbergasted by how tremendously they can miss the mark of how to appeal to me when they try.)

I literally did a spit take once when I got a donation pitch that name-dropped Veblen. I printed out, highlighted and mailed some appropriate pages of The Higher Learning in America to the MBA’d dean whose signature was on the pitch.

Never heard back.

16

P O'Neill 08.27.16 at 3:54 pm

From the OP — (I also suspect that the media has an interest in hyping up the most ridiculous seeming claims because the weird social connections between the American elite and a very small number of colleges mean that this stuff gets an audience – but that’s another matter for a different post)

Great point and that post is eagerly awaited.

17

Fuzzy Dunlop 08.27.16 at 4:05 pm

re trigger warnings, does anyone else feel like the dean of students is (however trivially) overstepping his authority with this statement, in that the decision to use/not use trigger warnings in a given class is strictly the prerogative of the teacher? It sounded particularly dumb to me, for that reason. Maybe he can also offer his opinions on how professors will use Powerpoint…

It was probably great trolling from their PoV, b/c it would appeal to well-heeled middle-aged alums in non-academic professions, for whom 4 years at the U of C was the most intellectual time of their life, who (on average) think kids have it too easy these days…

18

Adam Hammond 08.27.16 at 4:06 pm

The claim that some tools are off the table is an attack on our academic freedom, not the defense of it. I am embarrassed by the letter (I’ve taught here for 10 years – science, so not in the center of this debate). There is no danger to academic freedom originating from our student body. Our administration is tired of being criticized and desires that our students stop questioning our motives and authority. This letter strikes me as intellectually feeble – ignorant of the terms used, ignorant of the broader context of the relevant discussions, and (unforgivably) ignorant of our own student body. This letter is a publicity stunt, with political overtones, that doesn’t rise to our own intellectual standards.

I think considerably less of the critical discernment possessed by the few of my colleagues who are cheering the relevant paragraph. We actively work to avoid causing serious harm to our students! We actively encourage our students to develop and share intricate arguments from diverse viewpoints! We use whatever pedagogical tools work best, hopefully. Academic freedom means that we get to do just that, and our students get to flex their own intellectual muscles in criticizing our attempts.

These forays in pedagogy and criticism necessarily lead, occasionally, to silly or misguided failures. The safe space of the university is exactly the right place for this to happen.

19

Faustusnotes 08.27.16 at 4:26 pm

It had never occurred to me that my job is to make students feel uncomfortable. Is this a thing? Last year, teaching the public health of injury, I used snake bite as an example, and one of my students turned out to have a lived grandmother die of snakebite (this is a thing in developing countries). The discussion obviously upset that student, and I felt bad for choosing an example that triggered a bad memory in a student. Do I instead deserve a medal? Should I strive to be more like that academic who hit the news last year because he likes to confront his students with boundary crossing sex, and only teaches men?

I remember back in the 1980s when Tipper Gore was trying to introduce “parental advisory” stickers to stop children and young adults hearing bad things. A lot of metal bands and rock journalists opposed these “tipper stickers”, megadeth even wrote a song (Hook in Mouth, it’s a great song!) about it. I was pretty aware of the campaign against those stickers but I don’t remember the UofC being involved. I guess I should congratulate them for catching up with ’80s metal, but I have this sense that while Dave Mustaine probably thought rock music was a good medium for being offensive, he may not have envisaged extending it to the classroom of elite universities.

But what do I know? I seem to be stuck in a previous era when not offending people at their place of work or study was considered a good thing. I guess I should move with the times …

20

Faustusnotes 08.27.16 at 4:27 pm

Lived = loved obviously. Trigger warning: autocorrect!

21

Fuzzy Dunlop 08.27.16 at 4:32 pm

Adam Hammond @17 “Our administration is tired of being criticized and desires that our students stop questioning our motives and authority.”

Trolling motives aside, I suspect this is what’s really at the heart of it.

22

JHW 08.27.16 at 4:46 pm

Patrick: You refer to “using whatever tools are at hand to cleanse entire swaths of society of ‘problematic’ speech, in the name of preventing a highly questionable concept of ‘oppression.'” When has this happened? What are the grounds for thinking this kind of project has any genuine (as opposed to imagined and rhetorical) connection to today’s fights on college campuses about “safe spaces”?

23

Mahood 08.27.16 at 4:51 pm

Putting side the complacent ageism of this post, which is certainly there and objectionable, or maybe even embracing it: student experience isn’t and shouldn’t be compared to faculty experience. And yes, schools and departments insulate themselves from each other. But that’s not the same as providing faculty safe spaces where they can sue if forced to hear certain ideas. And it’s just not true – at least where I teach – that sociologists don’t judge economists and vice versa. Tenure decisions at the departmental level are far less important than at the level of ad hoc or standing committees on tenure and promotion, which rely or should rely on the expertise of well-informed but skeptical outsiders. And where I teach it’s also the case that, as someone else puts it, the demand for safe spaces, etc. has been “weaponized” by students who have been coopted by administrators seeking to keep faculty meek and frightened. Adjuncts (some of color) at my school have been fired because of the complaints of guiltily rich SJW students able to assuage their guilt through getting to feel oppressed. A tenured antizionist had a speech monitor sent to his class when a student thought she heard him say something disparaging about Latin America. A win-win – student stands up for latinx’s, school pressures antizionist. Except for decency and freedom of inquiry.

24

Yankee 08.27.16 at 5:07 pm

A safe space is when we go onto the Aikido mat and attack each other with the greatest abandon consistent with a careful consideration for well-being of the “opponent” (“satan”). Comments section here does pretty well, actually. Comparatively. Surely most of the world isn’t like that.

… and is Jerry Coyne gloating. “I am not a jingoist”.

25

AcademicLurker 08.27.16 at 5:16 pm

It had never occurred to me that my job is to make students feel uncomfortable.

Right. Addressing some material might inevitably make some students uncomfortable, depending on the students and the material involved. But I wouldn’t give much for an instructor who placed “make the students uncomfortable” high on their list of priorities. I would be inclined to suspect that such a person was simply a creep.

That being said, I have colleagues who teach undergrads at less august institutions than U of C. They say that with some regularity the encounter freshman who perceive the mere act of being asked to provide reasons for their positions (as opposed to just asserting them) as some sort of slight or aggression. These apparently are mostly from conservative religious communities, but by no means only from those.

26

harry b 08.27.16 at 5:37 pm

They seem to be in a funny sort of conflict with their neighbours in Evanston. Here is Morty Schapiro’s very nicely done defense of safe spaces:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-create-inclusive-campus-communities-first-create-safe-places/2016/01/15/069f3a66-bb94-11e5-829c-26ffb874a18d_story.html?utm_term=.8cbb23afa783

AL: “These apparently are mostly from conservative religious communities, but by no means only from those.”
Yeah, I think it depends on the institution. Try asking a UW Madison liberal student to give reasons why abortion is permissible….

Daily Nous had a nice interpretation of the UofC statement — it is just one, very loud, trigger warning!

27

Scott P. 08.27.16 at 5:54 pm

I think Brad Delong has the simplest and clearest answer: this is not a message to students, but a message to Republican alumni and parents that they shouldn’t worry about ‘liberal indoctrination’ at UChicago and should keep the money flowing.

28

M Caswell 08.27.16 at 5:59 pm

Re the OP on the function of departments-

One thing that struck me about the U of C letter was the abstract and largely empty characterization of the learning students would be doing, of what for the sake of which “safe spaces” are supposedly being resisted: “free exchange of ideas” etc.

Within the more local spaces of the departments, are there on the other hand explicit, shared notions of what education is and how it is best pursued? What is the largest space across which those notions or questions might be shared at a typical university?

29

Watson Ladd 08.27.16 at 6:08 pm

Adam Hammond: You might have missed the time when students protested the appearance of a survivor of Charlie Hebdo, claiming her presence was making muslims unsafe. The people who were afraid weren’t those who faced a real risk of death for what they had to say, but those who have gunmen and assassins waiting to murder anyone who dares draw the prophet.

Then there was the time at Columbia where students insisted Ovid not be taught. Or all the law schools where the laws about rape are vanishing from the curriculum. The danger to academic freedom is real.

30

Matt 08.27.16 at 6:08 pm

Yeah, I think it depends on the institution. Try asking a UW Madison liberal student to give reasons why abortion is permissible….

As a former TA for UW-Madison’s ILS 209, “Intro to Global Cultures,” I have two pieces of information that bear on this hypothetical.

1. They didn’t seem to have any trouble making hypothetical arguments in favor of things like forced clitoridectomies, slavery/debt peonage, or young-earth creationism. This was something we did every semester in discussion section, although (begging the U of C’s pardon) I didn’t literally force everyone to speak words in support of the thing they found most abhorrent in the world, and so by Ellison’s reckoning may have been guilty of coddling them with a “safe space.”

2. UW-Madison undergrads aren’t particularly liberal. They’re also not particularly conservative, but except maybe for state-house lobbyists, undergraduates are by far the most politically conservative bloc of people inside the Madison city limits.

31

Joeff 08.27.16 at 6:12 pm

1. Kissinger (sorry, should have trigger-warned) once quipped that the fights in academia are so vicious because the stakes are so small.
2. More seriously, U of C’s openness to robust debate will be tested in about 5 minutes when the BDS folks set up their lit table in the commons.

32

medrawt 08.27.16 at 6:26 pm

Watson Ladd –

Assuming you’re talking about an event at Chicago, a little Googling suggests that the Charlie Hebdo survivor spoke, had some back and forth with the students in attendance, and then debate continued in the pages of the Maroon.

I’m also pretty sure I can still study Ovid at Columbia. I don’t know what you’re saying about law school curriculum.

That students WANT something is different than them getting it. College students are legal adults and otherwise mostly children; that they want something unreasonable is not a matter of concern or a new phenomenon. What I do find a matter of concern is how frequently their elders seem to respond by saying “ah, shut up and take your medicine.” (And often enough, when you really probe at it, it seems some of their desires aren’t that unreasonable.)

33

js. 08.27.16 at 6:33 pm

It was probably great trolling from their PoV, b/c it would appeal to well-heeled middle-aged alums in non-academic professions, for whom 4 years at the U of C was the most intellectual time of their life, who (on average) think kids have it too easy these days…

I had not thought of this, but this is a good point. (I see that Joeff makes a similar point @28).

Re the OP — Departments as safe spaces is brilliant.

34

Will G-R 08.27.16 at 6:44 pm

(I also suspect that the media has an interest in hyping up the most ridiculous seeming claims because the weird social connections between the American elite and a very small number of colleges mean that this stuff gets an audience – but that’s another matter for a different post)

The elites have an interest here too — they’re doing routine ideological maintenance work on the fiction that radical social movements are precisely equal to the uncompromising yet ultimately capitalist-friendly identitarianism that gets honed at today’s elite universities (i.e. “diversify the Board of Directors”). This fiction is of course abetted by the rapidly skyrocketing cost of attending such institutions, which functions in part to solidify the entire system of elite higher ed as an economic “safe space” shielding its students from meaningful contact with their socioeconomic inferiors. For the same reasons it’s hard to imagine the “radical” students of today raising money for a Marxist revolutionary party by buying copies of Mao’s Little Red Book, it’s also easy to see how these students end up maturing into #WeAreTheLeft-oriented neoliberal flunkies.

35

JHW 08.27.16 at 6:57 pm

Columbia students did not insist that Ovid not be taught. Some Columbia students argued that the way Ovid was taught as part of Columbia’s core curriculum marginalized certain students (here’s the op-ed that sparked the furor: http://columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2015/04/30/our-identities-matter-core-classrooms). They did not propose that it not be taught, and even if they had, curricular debates (especially for mandatory courses!) are fair game and not a “danger to academic freedom.”

Similarly, requesting that rape law be taught in a way that is cognizant of the presence of rape survivors among the student body is not an unreasonable request. It can be pedagogically challenging to handle this well, and some professors have decided that they would rather not bother, but that is not censorship nor an infringement on academic freedom.

36

Watson Ladd 08.27.16 at 7:06 pm

medwrat: Plenty of universities have bowed down under similar pressures. UChicago just said they won’t.

Columbia did remove Ovid from the Core Curriculum as a result of these complaints.

Let’s be clear: I think students organizations should be allowed to invite speakers to campus. I think professors should be able to decide what to teach and not have to worry about what topics will come up in classroom discussion, students should be able to respectfully express ideas and hear ideas they disagree with and I think if you are old enough to enlist in the Army, you are old enough to deal with this. That’s at odds with a view of students as perpetually weak, burdened with identities that can’t stand certain ideas, no matter how respectfully expressed.

37

Hey Skipper 08.27.16 at 7:21 pm

It is hard to even guess what not supporting trigger warnings might actually mean.

I disagree. Not supporting trigger warnings clearly means — to me — that sensitive students need to take it upon themselves to find out what they need to avoid, rather than imposing their needs upon others.

The only thing easily understandable is the assertion that the university can invite any speakers it wishes and students have no right to disrupt, no matter that speaker invitations are political endorsements, complete with monetary payments.

Ignoring for the moment the misdirection, that goes to the heart of the matter. Progressives have assumed for themselves the role of Thought Police: speakers contradicting received progressive wisdom must be silenced. Progressive thought is true because progressives think it. Disagreement is due to either ignorance or malice.

Which is why this letter is invaluable. It puts students on notice that their opinions are not privileged simply because they have them.

By all means, protest. By all means, invite speakers with more congenial opinions. By all means ask pointed questions during Q&A.

But try exercising the heckler’s veto, and you are out of here.

38

bob 08.27.16 at 7:26 pm

Jay Ellison’s statement “we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own” conveniently ignores the UofC Econ Department, many (most?) faculty of which retreat from and blithely dismisses all Keynesian economics. This is a far cry from the department in Hyman Minsky’s day, when “the Department had room for radicals like Lange, liberals like Douglas, middle of the roaders like Viner as well as the beginnings of a conservative group in Knight, Simons, and Mint. … Any department which ran the spectrum from Knight to Lange had to be intellectually open.” (Minsky, “Beginnings,” PSL Quarterly Review vol. 62 (2009), 191-203).

39

AcademicLurker 08.27.16 at 7:41 pm

no matter that speaker invitations are political endorsements

This seems like a very strange assertion. It’s true that with commencement speakers, the invitation implies “this person represents the values of our university”, which is why I think that student campaigns against particular commencement speakers are in a different, more serious, category than protests regarding other speakers that university’s routinely invite. But ordinary speakers? You really think that a university can’t have someone speak on campus without necessarily endorsing their views?

Regarding “right to disrupt”, what sort of “disruptions” do you have in mind. Without hyperventilating about “though police”, I do think that progressives have become a little too enamored of the heckler’s veto in recent years, and I wouldn’t like to see it encouraged.

40

JHW 08.27.16 at 7:54 pm

AcademicLurker: I don’t think hosting a speaker amounts to endorsing their views, but I certainly think that a student group, academic department, or university administration choosing to invite a particular speaker amounts to a kind of substantive assertion: that this person should be welcome in the community he/she is being invited to, and that what he/she is saying is something important and worthwhile and worth listening to. Those judgments are not automatic and are not afforded as a matter of course. No one is automatically entitled to speak on a university campus. They are evaluative judgments made on the merits (hopefully at least!) and they are contestable.

That doesn’t mean that the appropriate response to disagreement with inviting a particular speaker is to prevent that speaker from speaking. In general, a member of a university community who thinks it’s a good idea to bring a particular speaker should not be prevented from doing so simply because the university administration or some students think that it’s not a good idea. But it is perfectly fair game to disagree with the choice to invite a particular speaker, and to protest it. That does not violate academic freedom or free-speech norms and it does not amount to a claim that people should generally be sheltered from views they disagree with.

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AcademicLurker 08.27.16 at 8:13 pm

JHW: I have no problem with protesting speakers. Not even with loud 3 ring circus type protests outside the speaking venue. I object specifically to actions that prevent people who want to listen to the speaker from doing so.

Back during the early days of the Iraq invasion, there was a story in the newspaper about a commencement speaker who started making some general anti-war remarks during his speech (not specifically about Iraq. I think he might have been recalling his own actions during Vietnam). Anyway, some student charged the stage and wrenched the microphone away from him. Not OK. I feel the same way about activists going inside a speaking venue and making so much noise that the speaker can’t be heard.

42

js. 08.27.16 at 8:15 pm

Academic Lurker @36 — I have quite a bit of sympathy with what you’re saying, but I do think it’s incomplete. Say a department or some other univ. body decides to invite an avowed neo-Nazi or someone from Westboro Baptist, etc. Presumably you think this would be out of bounds. Or maybe you wouldn’t, but I think a lot of people who hold the sort of position you’re forwarding would, i.e. would consider it out of bounds. But if you do concede that, then you implicitly concede that this is really an argument about what the boundaries of acceptable discourse are, which is a very different and far more difficult topic than abstractions about the free exchange of ideas (which of course we all support, and I don’t mean that snarkily, or at least not entirely). I don’t have any very definite answers here—but I do think making this into a defence of free speech, as often happens, distorts the issue.

43

Fuzzy Dunlop 08.27.16 at 8:21 pm

re Ovid, this is not a matter of intellectual disagreement. Taking something off the curriculum is a big step, not at all to be taken lightly, but if it’s material that’s going to be emotionally harmful to a significant number of students (and obviously reading a graphic account of sexual assault is not a matter of intellectual disagreement), then it’s something that should be considered. I mean, there’s always limited space on a core curriculum, it’s not like anything and everything is in there.

(I’m always tempted to spam people who have such strong opinions about trigger warnings with links to rotten.com or whatever serves that function these days…)

44

stevenjohnson 08.27.16 at 8:24 pm

Hey Skipper@34 Your demand “that sensitive students need to take it upon themselves to find out what they need to avoid, rather than imposing their needs upon others…” is indeed quite clear. That is not what the UC letter says, which however, is therefore not clear. You may be guessing right. But if so, I suspect clarity was not a desideratum.

AcademicLurker#36 Protests against commencement speakers are a target, not an exception. One blogger delighted by the letter, Jerry Coyne, has specifically talked about the commencement speaker at his college (William and Mary,) bragging after the fact about how there’s protest, and there’s disruption, which is bad, bad, bad. The university as a public arena should uphold reasoned discourse that appeals to evidence as the means of persuasion, as well as the goal. On this ground alone it is appropriate to invite some speakers. You would agree that inviting Flat Earthers, Holocaust denialists, Mafiosi, astrologers, Scientologists, Shining Path guerillas, ISIS recruiters etc. would constitute an endorsement.

It is not strange to assert that speakers are endorsements, since they are. Inviting controversial persons for a debate is an explicit statement that the controversial opinions are something reasonable people can uphold. That’s why universities do not invite Marxist economists to speak. (Or at UC, Keynesians either, it seems.) According to your standard it would not be an endorsement if a university invited evangelists to speak every day of the week.

45

Hey Skipper 08.27.16 at 8:26 pm

That is not what the UC letter says, which however, is therefore not clear.

Good point. I imposed my assumptions without realizing it.

46

AcademicLurker 08.27.16 at 8:41 pm

js@39: I was going to add a follow up acknowledging that there are of course some invitations that would be so far beyond the pale that actual disruption might be hard to condemn. Someone who literally advocates genocide, for instance.

Allowing that possibility doesn’t really help anything. In the first place there’s not going to be complete agreement regarding what’s beyond acceptable bounds. In the second place, left discourse has a notable propensity for claiming that non-violent things are actually equivalent to violence. So saying “Of course, someone who literally advocates genocide is unacceptable”, mostly guarantees that in short order all sorts of non-genocidy things will be equivalent to literally advocating genocide eleventy!!

Best to just have strong norms against preventing speakers from being heard through disruptive means. The really extreme cases, if and when they come up, will just need to be dealt with one by one as best we can.

47

Collin Street 08.27.16 at 9:28 pm

Good point. I imposed my assumptions without realizing it.

It’s a stupid idea, is the thing. Your self-reliant student will need to ask — and be answered, individually — every lecturer about every possible point of conflict, and they’ll still miss stuff because of possible sensitivities the student was unaware of.

As opposed to simply the lecturer stating straight up, once, in the lecture, “this content has been known to cause problems for people with attribute X”, and only for the things that actually are known to cause problems.

Your proposal simplifies or improves things for nobody. It is not a good idea.

[for a real-world example: why do we print allergy warnings on foods? What would a parallel to your “students need to seek out possible problems themselves look like, and how would it work? Why did you need me to point this out to you? See also posts I’ve made earlier concerning linguistic pragmatics and correlation of disturbances in same with politics.]

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Hey Skipper 08.27.16 at 9:38 pm

Your proposal simplifies or improves things for nobody. It is not a good idea.

The problem with arguing from analogy, which you have done with allergy warnings, is that the analogy must both clarify and encompass all the relevant factors in the original problem.

That problem rears its ugly head here. Yes, we do indeed print allergy warnings on foods. College classes also have subjects, syllabi and required readings. What more information is required for a students to decide for themselves whether their sensitivities render the class inappropriate?

Trigger warnings and safe spaces serve only to reinforce passive dependency.

49

b9n10nt 08.27.16 at 9:47 pm

This is a great post.   I find the current topic of campus culture very interesting.  The idea that departments are themselves safe spaces seems right and reinforces my thinking on the matter.  

 On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the reaction against contemporary campus movements for calling out “microagressions”, “trigger warnings”, and “safe spaces”.  In a podcast featuring Sam Harris interviewing Jonahthan Haidt, Haidt recalls his own unpleasant experience at NYU.  He was showing a video expounding on research into moral disgust in which (I think I’ve got this right) a subject refers to male homosexual sex as “disgusting”.   A student in Haidt’s class was offended at the viewing and asked Haidt to apologize, which he eventually did out of a sense of expediency, not guilt.  The student was not appeased by Haidt’s apology and began a social media campaign calling out Haidt for homophobia.   He was brought before some administrative committee at NYU but no action against him was taken.   Even so, this would obviously be an unpleasant experience to go through.

Haidt claims that professors across the US are “scrubbing their curriculum” of any potentially offensive material because such battles over “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces”, and “microaggressions” are simply not worth the hassle, regardless of how seemingly irrational and ill-founded the complaints are.   I accept that his claim is correct.    I also endorse the claims made in Haidt’s co-written ( with Greg Lukianoff) article for the Atlantic last year that cognitive behavior therapy is a useful frame for much of this student behavior.

What I think Haidt misses, and pieces like the OP and Vox’s recent article by Kevin Gannon (08/26) see correctly, is that we are witnessing a will-to-power among co-belligerents here.  True: reactionaries are not merely seeking to establish a free and open discourse where students are challenged by new, potentially discomforting ideas.   They are, to the contrary, likely to be blind to their own tendencies to be prejudiced against threatening ideas (thus creating “safe spaces”), to work at avoiding unpleasant representations (and seek “trigger warnings”) or to enforce subtle taboos (and call out “microaggressions”).    So the tenor of both articles and most observations in this thread is correct.  But neither are the students seeking some ideal of social justice and harmonious toleration.   

Students’ claim to need a trigger warning, or the claim to be offended by a microaggression, or the claim to need a safe space to avoid re-traumatiztion is, in these instances, a social act intended to advance a group identity that empowers its members and creates status.  (Let’s not waste time pretending that such claims can ever be objectively, metaphysically “true”. I think we can hold this insight without losing empathy for all of us who get traumatized and victimized as a matter of course.) Haidt and Lukianoff may be baffled that students would harm themselves with psychically maladaptive victimization, but they don’t want to consider that the social payoff for such demonstrations of virtue might be of genuine egoic benefit to the participants.    And the reactionaries certainly do not want to see how similar they and the students (and all of us) are in this regard.   

50

PatinIowa 08.27.16 at 9:48 pm

@1 “It was also, I think, a bit of an exercise in trolling. Quite a successful one, if the surly reaction in some quarters is any indication. The deans of U of C seem to have needled exactly the people they intended to needle.”

They will not, of course, take responsibility for the fact that some of the people they needled have PTSD.

I used to work on a construction crew with a guy who parachuted into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne. Some of the guys thought it was hilarious to set off firecrackers behind him, because he’d jump a mile high every time. This is pretty much the kind of trolling I see in the letter.

As I’ve said before, when I teach Foucault, I tell the students that it’s hard, and they should be sure to allocate plenty of time. When we do exercises in class on how to care for people with terminal illnesses, I tell them that if they have had suffered recent losses (some of our students really do have six grandparents, and some of those grandparents really do, occasionally, die horribly from horrible diseases), they should be aware that there may be discomfort, and they should be prepared to cope.

And when we’re going to talk about rape, I tell them we’re going to talk about rape because (some) people who have been raped don’t have signs on them saying, “I have PTSD because of some entitled asshole.”

What the U of Chicago said, as far as I’m concerned, is this: “We don’t have to treat you with common courtesy and we don’t have to act like professionals.”

I’m delighted I chose not to go there.

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merian 08.27.16 at 9:54 pm

It’s good to see some thoughtful (as opposed to spiteful) posts from academics. There’s a graceful and generous text by the North Western U president on the value of safe spaces (for students), there’s the Tattooed Prof’s blog post http://www.thetattooedprof.com/archives/650 taking a stand against the caricature of trigger warnings that the letter implies, and then there’s your post.

It goes, to me, a little far to say that universities “should be in the business of making their students uncomfortable with their preconceptions”. What they should do is to broaden and deepen the students’ understanding, to teach tools for thinking, to have them step beyond their preconceptions and put together more complex mental models.

Me, I’m mostly just appalled at the intellectual laziness and arrogance in this letter and similar screeds. Academic freedom also includes the freedom to select pedagogic approaches, including content warnings, which are typically used precisely in the service of getting students to engage with something that is way outside their comfort zone. Has this guy even talked with or read a text by an academic that uses them? I also hear that the Dean of Students doesn’t have any actual say about the pedagogy employed by faculty, so why the hell is he making such pronouncements?

I’m just as appalled when I hear that a university kicks Ovid from the curriculum allegedly under student pressure. This is a time when ample resources are available to address considerations that, frankly, were sorely neglected in the canonical way of approaching this content. (See for example “From Abortion to Pederasty: addressing difficult topics in the classics classroom” by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Fiona McHardy — a book that has the merit to both look at concerns that may arise with socially conservative students (nudity, homosexuality) as well as with progressive feminists (rape, slavery, sex with children)). For the record, my secondary school put me through 5 years of Latin and 5 years of Ancient Greek, Homer, Ovid and the kitchen sink, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I would do the hell and teach these texts today the way we were taught back in the days in Germany… We’re not any longer teaching 19th century middle-class white male future civil service leaders in a colonial state. A student who raises their hand and asks “isn’t what Apollo does to this nymph rape, and why should we have any respect of this author?” or questions slavery in the Greek or Roman antiquity deserves an answer. Flustered waffling, or flat-footed insistence that the weak-minded millenials need to be made uncomfortable is neither ethically nor intellectually adequate.

Students are almost by definition not-yet-mature, in progress. Sometimes they grab some legitimate concern by the tail end, then get on their high horses over it and ride it triumphantly right into the swamp. Haven’t they *always* done that? And shouldn’t the institution’s response be a pedagogic one — one that gives space to legitimate controversial debate (I could imagine *so* many topics) while affirming freedom of inquiry *and*, where necessary, ensuring the safety (from physical harm or harassment) of everyone involved.

Or maybe that’s too much asked in an academic environment where faculty is pushed to be reduced to content providers to student-consumers. No, I expect more intellectual integrity from what’s supposed to be an elite institution.

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M Caswell 08.27.16 at 10:08 pm

.

These matters all fall under the principle: ‘the customer is always right’. All the more reason for schools (especially liberal arts programs) to try to say why someone would want to study there. The u of c letter doesn’t do that very well, I don’t think.

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Lupita 08.27.16 at 10:22 pm

We’re not any longer teaching 19th century middle-class white male future civil service leaders in a colonial state.

Indeed. You are now teaching 21st century middle-class multiracial, multigender future service leaders in an imperial state.

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merian 08.27.16 at 10:37 pm

Lupita @53: As far as reality goes, you have a point, though a lot aren’t middle-class, many aren’t going to be leaders, and I should hope that one would be open to approaches alternative to imperialism in a way our 19th century (or even 1950s) analogues weren’t.

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merian 08.27.16 at 10:45 pm

harry b @26.

Try asking a UW Madison liberal student to give reasons why abortion is permissible….

I keep saying, we need to have students, starting in high school, write argumentative essays — the kind that examines *both* sides of an ethical question and then comes to a conclusion.

Anyhow, it’s not just social sciences and humanities. The sciences, too, are likely to topple one’s misconceptions. (And science pedagogy these days deals specifically with ways to bring out and address them.) Even a simple class like an intro to earth sciences for non-science majors will put students face to face with the weakness of preconceived wisdom, and some will be uncomfortable. Not only those who don’t want to accept climate change, or want to rely on the bible for the age of the universe, but there are also both conservationists and pro-development people who will figure out that things are more connected than they seem and actions will have unintended consequences. That can be quite as destabilizing as studying slavery or getting your mind blown in philosophy class, TBH.

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Lupita 08.27.16 at 11:02 pm

I should hope that one would be open to approaches alternative to imperialism in a way our 19th century (or even 1950s) analogues weren’t.

Given the generalized support for wars of choice and “American leadership” by university-educated media members, university-educated members of government, both political parties, and the US population at large, I doubt it.

57

Watson Ladd 08.27.16 at 11:20 pm

Actually I’ve invited terrorists to speak at the UofC about what they did, and no one batted an eye about it. There is no “is so-and-so someone we want”, beyond the student organization doing it.

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merian 08.27.16 at 11:38 pm

Lupita, it’s not that I’m unsympathetic or think you’re wrong, but I see no benefit in making all of CT one large stew of a discussion. Also, the youngsters I get in contact with tend to be more concerned in saving/relocating small coastal Native villages affected by climate change, or getting renewable energy sources into remote areas. Ethically problematic topics tend to revolve around mining and resource extraction. Not that these topics are completely disjoint from imperialism, but not everyone is highly involved in America’s role in the world. If there’s anything in particular that I said and that relates to the UofC letter, I’d rather discuss that thing.

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Lupita 08.27.16 at 11:50 pm

@ Merian

I guess my point was that, just as students are granted a safe space and, according to the OP, so are university departments, so too the US is one great safe space.

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 12:04 am

PatinIowa@50: First, I didn’t say I approved, I said they succeeded. Which I think is becoming increasingly inarguable.

Second. The current kerfluffle over trigger warnings has approximately nothing to do with PTSD, except for the fact that the language of PTSD has been appropriated and is now being tossed around by all and sundry as a sort of toy. PTSD is a medical condition. As has been endlessly pointed out, what sets it off “could be anything”. That’s why Students with PTSD should ideally work through the ADA office which can then communicate the relevant information to instructors, or else approach instructors before class to discuss their issues and how to mitigate them. Instructors have no business playing amateur psychologists and trying preemptively guess what might or might not trigger an Iraq war veteran.

As far as obvious issues like sexual assault or graphic depictions/descriptions of violence, instructors have been giving content notices about that sort of thing since forever. If that has changed in recent years and there really is an epidemic of professors holding surprise in class screenings of The Accused or A Clockwork Orange, I’d love to hear about it. And I’d happily add my voice to those saying that instructors shouldn’t do that. I don’t expect to hear about it, though, because I don’t believe that there is any such trend.

Honestly, I’ve spent my adult life working on college and university campuses of one sort or another, and as far as I can see “trigger warnings”, as an issue that people get into arguments about, exist nowhere except internet comment sections.

61

Donald A. Coffin 08.28.16 at 12:13 am

I have thought–and said–for more than 40 years that universities are–or ought to be–safe places for people to encounter dangerous, uncomfortable, new, or strange ideas and ways of thinking, and to encounter people who believe or profess those ideas. The safe part of that is that you can encounter those ideas without what I will call here existential risk. But what makes all those ideas dangerous is the possibility that you will change your own beliefs or ways of thinking, and that will perhaps disorient you. Which is another reason why the university needs to be a safe place for that to happen.

That safety needs to be in the first sense physical safety (which id doubtless why in Germany in the 1930s the Nazis made universities physically dangerous places). But it aso needs to be safe in that you have to be able to admit your discomfiture when you are exposed to new ideas, even to the point of trying to reject them. If you can.

It is, of course, complicated, and difficult to achieve.

62

bob 08.28.16 at 12:29 am

AcademicLurker@46: “In the first place there’s not going to be complete agreement regarding what’s beyond acceptable bounds. In the second place, left discourse has a notable propensity for claiming that non-violent things are actually equivalent to violence.”
In 1963 an infantile undergraduate group at the University of Chicago invited George Lincoln Rockwell to speak on campus; their notion of entertainment. He, of course, did literally advocate genocide – which I would have to say is “actually equivalent to violence.” And of course nothing that he said in any way promoted serious discourse. So, not all controversial speakers deserve a public platform, particularly a prestigious public platform, do they? And “right discourse” these days has plenty of (perhaps less extreme) violence-equivalence.

63

krippendorf 08.28.16 at 12:37 am

UC reminds me a bit of Slate.com: it sees itself as contrarian, edgy, and intellectually superior, but far too often just winds up coming off as … dickish, for lack of a better term. See also its inexplicable decision to hire Jason Lieb.

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 12:45 am

bob@62: I’m honestly unclear on what your point is. Of course the founder of the American Nazi Party meets the definition of someone who literally advocates genocide. Which was exactly one of the hypothetical extreme cases I was talking about.

My reference to “claiming that non-violent things are actually equivalent to violence” referred to the propensity of some progressives to move from “you’re disagreeing with me” to “you’re literally killing oppressed group X!!!“. Look around on the intertubes and you can find some examples of what I’m referring to.

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Patrick 08.28.16 at 12:48 am

Or should also be noted that a safe space to discuss something is almost by definition an unwelcoming space to someone else. The whole reason you might feel that a space needs to be made safe for certain discourse is because you’re worried about being attacked for what you say. But making the space safe for people who might get attacked for what they have to say means silencing those who might want to respond in ways that make them uncomfortable.

Nothing about that is new insight, mind. Any academic who is unfamiliar with that principle must either be very new or woefully naive.

Easy example: a safe space for law students to discuss the ins and outs of sexual offense law will probably not be a safe space for a sexual assault victim; a safe space for sexual assault victims to feel that their experiences are being validated will not be a safe space for that law student to freely ask questions about the exact edges of what does or does not count as rape.

This is why the discourse of safe spaces is so pernicious. “Safe spaces” are only defensible when they’re as limited as what OP discusses- things like specific subgroups of campus. But of course that isn’t all people want, and the real point of this post isn’t to defend anything actually controversial, but rather to redirect the conversation while playing the part of the Socratic fool- how can anyone object to safe spaces if the concepts boundaries can’t be perfectly nailed down? But that was always the least valuable aspect of Plato.

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merian 08.28.16 at 1:05 am

Lupita, to the extent that it legitimately is, it should exist everywhere.

I like how Patrick and Donald A. Coffin have dug further into Henry’s OP’s classification of safe space. The term’s vague enough that if you *want* to sneer at today’s youth, or today’s academia, you can easily think up a straw-man ready to be pointed at.

In a university setting, some safe spaces are more like boxing rings are safe spaces for punching each other or wrestling/martial arts mats are safe spaces for hand-to-hand fight according to codified rules and regulations. Others are safe spaces like trap shooting ranges, where you can operate a dangerous thing in safety and improve your accomplishments. Others again are more like nice squishy sofas.

67

F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 1:27 am

The article by the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Boar linked to by JHW @32:
>During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work.

Fuzzy Dunlop @40:
>re Ovid, this is not a matter of intellectual disagreement. Taking something off the curriculum is a big step, not at all to be taken lightly, but if it’s material that’s going to be emotionally harmful to a significant number of students (and obviously reading a graphic account of sexual assault is not a matter of intellectual disagreement), then it’s something that should be considered.

Whatever the relevant brief passages are, one thing they decidedly aren’t is ‘vivid depictions of rape’, ‘detailed accounts of rape’ or ‘graphic accounts’ of the same. No sexual act even takes place in either of them – one describes only the abduction (the original meaning of the word ‘rape’) of a wife-to-be and the other describes the failed pursuit of someone who turns into a laurel. I assume that they can still cause distress to traumatised people and perhaps a trigger warning would not be out of place if the discussion is going to be focussed on them, but scrapping Ovid altogether because of them – if that really happened – was insane. In general, most significant and influential literature contains references to various sorts of abuse, violence and killing, so purging the curriculum of anything that might conceivably evoke somebody’s personal trauma means scrapping literature in general.

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JHW 08.28.16 at 1:34 am

Patrick: The University of Chicago could have said, “We recognize that safe spaces can be important in certain specific contexts, but we don’t think we should impose a university-wide restriction on what kinds of views can be expressed based on the idea of the university as a whole being a safe space.” That would be reasonable enough (I think there are limits even there but not ones that will be realistically tested most of the time), and it would not have gotten the backlash it did, and presumably would not have generated this OP.

But that’s not what they said. And if they had said it, their position would be largely irrelevant to most of the actual fights on campuses. That’s not to say that no student anywhere has ever made a proposal that would be a genuine, serious threat to speech on campus. But it is to say that this particular exercise in virtue signalling is largely grounded on straw men.

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F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 1:43 am

Perhaps I should add to 67 that people’s resorting to such absurdly inaccurate descriptions of texts suggests dishonesty and/or laziness, as well as confidence that one will get away with both. This is not a healthy phenomenon. At all.

70

merian 08.28.16 at 1:55 am

F. Foundling: Er. Let’s read, shall we? Using the translation from here: http://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/trans/Metamorph.htm#488381106

‘Wait nymph, daughter of Peneus, I beg you! I who am chasing you am not your enemy. Nymph, Wait! This is the way a sheep runs from the wolf, a deer from the mountain lion, and a dove with fluttering wings flies from the eagle: everything flies from its foes, but it is love that is driving me to follow you! Pity me! I am afraid you might fall headlong or thorns undeservedly scar your legs and I be a cause of grief to you! These are rough places you run through. Slow down, I ask you, check your flight, and I too will slow. At least enquire whom it is you have charmed. I am no mountain man, no shepherd, no rough guardian of the herds and flocks. Rash girl, you do not know, you cannot realise, who you run from, and so you run. Delphi’s lands are mine, Claros and Tenedos, and Patara acknowledges me king. Jupiter is my father. Through me what was, what is, and what will be, are revealed. Through me strings sound in harmony, to song. My aim is certain, but an arrow truer than mine, has wounded my free heart! The whole world calls me the bringer of aid; medicine is my invention; my power is in herbs. But love cannot be healed by any herb, nor can the arts that cure others cure their lord!’

He would have said more as timid Peneïs ran, still lovely to see, leaving him with his words unfinished. The winds bared her body, the opposing breezes in her way fluttered her clothes, and the light airs threw her streaming hair behind her, her beauty enhanced by flight. But the young god could no longer waste time on further blandishments, urged on by Amor, he ran on at full speed. Like a hound of Gaul starting a hare in an empty field, that heads for its prey, she for safety: he, seeming about to clutch her, thinks now, or now, he has her fast, grazing her heels with his outstretched jaws, while she uncertain whether she is already caught, escaping his bite, spurts from the muzzle touching her. So the virgin and the god: he driven by desire, she by fear. He ran faster, Amor giving him wings, and allowed her no rest, hung on her fleeing shoulders, breathed on the hair flying round her neck. Her strength was gone, she grew pale, overcome by the effort of her rapid flight, and seeing Peneus’s waters near cried out ‘Help me father! If your streams have divine powers change me, destroy this beauty that pleases too well!’ Her prayer was scarcely done when a heavy numbness seized her limbs, thin bark closed over her breast, her hair turned into leaves, her arms into branches, her feet so swift a moment ago stuck fast in slow-growing roots, her face was lost in the canopy. Only her shining beauty was left.

(I didn’t want to excerpt to avoid being accused of selective quoting.)

Most American-educated 20 year old women I know would immediately identify this as a rapey situation. Now this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be reading it, but “here, read this bit of Great White Western Male Canon for next week, for your erudition” doesn’t do it.

71

robotslave 08.28.16 at 2:21 am

All very well said, but it could use a good metaphor to tie everything together.

Perhaps some sort of fortified structure affording a sweeping but immobile view, made of an exotic material largely inaccessible the masses. And ideally of a nicely symbolic color.

“Platinum Spire,” maybe? No? “Moonstone Minaret?”

72

merian 08.28.16 at 2:24 am

As for happens to Persephone, it’s sure not a clean, respectful, abduction of a wife:

While Proserpine was playing in this glade, and gathering violets or radiant lilies, while with girlish fondness she filled the folds of her gown, and her basket, trying to outdo her companions in her picking, Dis, almost in a moment, saw her, prized her, took her: so swift as this, is love. The frightened goddess cries out to her mother, to her friends, most of all to her mother, with piteous mouth. Since she had torn her dress at the opening, the flowers she had collected fell from her loosened tunic, and even their scattering caused her virgin tears.

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F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 2:33 am

@72
You’ve omitted the end of this ‘account of a rape’, so here are the remaining sentences, for the sake of completeness:
‘The ravisher whipped up his chariot, and urged on the horses, calling them by name, shaking out the shadowy, dark-dyed, reins, over their necks and manes, through deep pools, they say, and the sulphurous reeking swamps of the Palici, vented from a crevice of the earth, to Syracuse where the Bacchiadae, a people born of Corinth between two seas, laid out their city between unequal harbours.’

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F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 2:47 am

merian @70 (tentative re-posting, stuck in moderation)
>Most American-educated 20 year old women I know would immediately identify this as a rapey situation.

Why of course it’s a ‘rapey situation’! He wants it, she doesn’t, he’s chasing her – you don’t need to be an American-educated 20-year-old woman to figure out that it’s rapey. If he had caught her, the result probably would have been a rape – don’t know how Ovid would have handled that – but the fact remains that he doesn’t, so it is not by a long shot a ‘detailed account of rape’, or a ‘graphic’ one, or even any account of an actually realised rape at all.

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Faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 2:49 am

Has anyone here seen the ALF video Hidden Crimes? I assume it is a legitimate video to show as part of certain courses on contemporary political struggle, animal rights or medical ethics – Peter singer might show it! (And indeed there is a chapter in his seminal text that uses similar material culled directly from animal research publications).

It is impossible from a syllabus or the title to understand how horrific that video is. I don’t understand why you can’t put a trigger warning on that, or indeed why there is anything different between trigger warnings, polite warnings, and censorship classification. Indeed we do this with friends and colleagues all the time – “I doubt you’d enjoy this documentary, it’s got talk of child abuse,” etc.

Is it the assumption of some commenters here that it is our responsibility to be rude to students, or do you just get off on it? Because warning someone that the content of a class might shock or offend them, or teaching in a way that reflects and understands modern sensibilities -isn’t that just common decency?

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F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 2:49 am

merian @72 (tentative re-posting, stuck in moderation)
>As for happens to Persephone, it’s sure not a clean, respectful, abduction of a wife

I’m shocked to learn this, I thought abductions were supposed to be clean and respectful. But it still isn’t a ‘detailed/graphic account of a rape’, in fact it’s not an account of a rape at all, because no rape is taking place. Of course, it’s likely that as a wife at his home, she will have as much ability to give or withhold consent to her husband as the average wife did at the time. And she had about as much choice in the matter of who her husband would be as the average girl had in a culture of arranged marriages. Yeah, the past was pretty bad. Students should learn that.

Whatever, I see no point in arguing about this, the texts are here and anyone can read them and make up their mind about whether their descriptions were fair or not.

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merian 08.28.16 at 2:55 am

Yeah, I left it out because it’s irrelevant. We’re talking about college students. They stop reading whenever they like. (And, if they’re in a class that does Ovid, have likely encountered the concept of a metaphor.) My point is simply that calling the description absurdly inaccurate and its proponents dishonest doesn’t make me trust in your own intellectual impartiality.

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F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 2:58 am

merian @72
>As for happens to Persephone, it’s sure not a clean, respectful, abduction of a wife

A slightly longer response is stuck for reasons that are beyond me, but, to be brief: no, it isn’t a respectful abduction – duh – and no, this is not ‘an account of a rape’, let alone a ‘graphic’ or ‘detailed’ one. As for the broader off-stage implications, I’d made a few remarks in my stuck post which will hopefully appear, eventually.

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F. Foundling 08.28.16 at 3:08 am

@78

>Yeah, I left it out because it’s irrelevant.

Well, it might be useful to see clearly that what the passage describes is Persephone’s capture and transportation, not a rape.

>My point is simply that calling the description absurdly inaccurate and its proponents dishonest doesn’t make me trust in your own intellectual impartiality.

And conversely, if you disagree with my assertion that the description of these texts as ‘vivid depictions of rape’, ‘detailed accounts of rape’ or ‘graphic accounts of rape’ is absurdly inaccurate and dishonest, then that doesn’t make *me* trust in *your* intellectual impartiality. In fact, it seems to me that you are arguing obstinately mostly because you have already taken a side in this. Whatever – all the evidence is here, everyone else is free to make up their own mind, I’m done.

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Ithaqua 08.28.16 at 3:32 am

If a 19 or 20 year old rape victim is reading an up-to-the-edge-of-rape text, she’s probably been raped quite recently, like in the previous couple of years. Her (or his) youth pretty much dictates this (note the “probably” before arguing, please.) Reading even Ovid while remembering “I was raped just 11 months ago”, yes, I imagine this could trigger panic attacks, stress, anxiety, flashbacks, etc. well out of proportion to what the text would “seem” to warrant. I don’t think the text has to be X- or even R-rated in order to justify a warning under those circumstances. Tact and consideration are not sins, but kindnesses, after all.

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merian 08.28.16 at 3:44 am

F. Foundling, I’m having to restrain myself from believing you aren’t simply trolling at this point.

Just because Dis abducted her, doesn’t mean he didn’t fuck her first.

Rape being a crime, it true that as far as the literal definition of rape in whatever jurisdiction is applicable to your location, there is reasonable doubt! No insertion of penis or object into orifice. OK. Let’s call it violent sexual assault — I think we can go for that.

But in the court of literary analysis? Let’s see:

• young girl picking flowers
• Dis “saw her, prized her, took her”. Out of “love”.
• She screams in fear, her dress gets torn. At the front.
• There’s a climax, and petals get spilled forth from her clothing.

That’s not supposed to be a description of rape? It requires about a 10th grade level of poetic analysis to come to that conclusion. Not to mention that sex after he took her is unlikely to have started out consensual. Can some literary types back me up here? Where’s Belle when you need her…

How to teach this part of the Western canon to American undergrads is a question that is genuinely interesting. Whether this part of the Western canon contains vivid descriptions of sexual assault which said American undergraduate (at least the women) will easily and sure-as-hell read as rape, is a matter of fact, not of debate.

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merian 08.28.16 at 3:48 am

Also, yes I wouldn’t myself choose the words “detailed account of rape”. It’s ever so slightly dramatic. But the difference to “vivid description of sexual assault” is rather minor, innit? We’re not talking about a court of law here, after all, but a piece of literature, where stretching interpretation into the metaphorical domain is part of the tool set.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 3:59 am

Faustusnotes @ 75

Because warning someone that the content of a class might shock or offend them, or teaching in a way that reflects and understands modern sensibilities -isn’t that just common decency?

First, modern sensibilities have changed. On tv and movies (and podcasts!), depictions of sensationalist graphic violence and/or realistic sexual behavior have become far more common, perhaps signaling to professors that students are as liberal in their media exposure as the popular culture seems to suggest. So professors might not have an accurate sense of what will/won’t offend. To my (limited) sensibilbities, the Ovid passage above wouldn’t require a warning of any sort.

Secondly, I assume that what is controversial about trigger warnings is that students may now actually act on them. I imagine the dynamic goes like this: professor gives “trigger warning” (which,as you say, is perceived by the prof. as common decency) and then begins, assuming that he can be regarded as responsible and sensitivite and assuming that the students will now be prepared and participate. So far, so good, according to traditional academic norms. But now, perhaps, one or a few students leave, or complain after the fact, or before the fact, making the professor’s performance of patrician benevolence irrelevant. This grates, and he’s not sure that material that goes beyond what his teenager daughter takes in regularly is really triggering acute anxiety or depression. He smells a rat: the uncomfortable realization that his authority and status are being neutered by a social dynamic completely beyond his control.

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PatinIowa 08.28.16 at 4:08 am

@ 60 “Honestly, I’ve spent my adult life working on college and university campuses of one sort or another, and as far as I can see “trigger warnings”, as an issue that people get into arguments about, exist nowhere except internet comment sections.”

Well, we’re talking about it because it existed in a letter from an elite university’s dean of students to each entering first year student, so I’m pretty sure it’s gotten beyond the internet. I’m not trying to score a point here, or at least not only. I think it’s of a piece with the kind of administrative arrogance exemplified by this particular letter and by a variety of ways they try to homogenize the classroom, not always as overtly political as this. If there’s any group of people on campus who seem to hate surprises, it’s administrators. Their clumsy pronouncements, both for and against “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces,” generally don’t accord with what happens in successful classrooms, the success of which, in my experience as a student and a teacher, is grounded in mutual respect.

I’ve been on a university campus my entire life as well, and I agree, there have been few arguments on the ground. By and large the faculty whose teaching I know are clear about what barriers (complexity, ambiguity, emotional difficulty) students will have to take into account when they approach the material, because they want the students prepared to overcome those barriers and learn. “Safe spaces,” is a lousy way of putting it, because it leaves out what the spaces are for. In my view, campus educational spaces ought to be and usually are made safe precisely so that people can confront difficult material and take risks in what they say and write about it.

You don’t have to be an expert on PTSD to see a reason to let an Iraqi vet know you will be screening the opening of Saving Private Ryan in your film class, in my opinion. And the rhetorical point of “trigger warnings,” and “safe spaces” is to let students know that they can, if they need to, work with the person writing the syllabus.

It’s weird to me that this is such a thing at this moment. At Iowa, the language in our faculty handbook requiring us to let students opt out of material they object to comes from the 80s, when a Christian conservative was made uncomfortable by strong gay imagery in a video art class. We’ve been living with it for a long time, without the plucky defenders of free speech coming to our aid. It’s clear that if students in the 2010s can be said to be coddled and cocooned, students in the 80s were as well.

I matriculated in 1971, and I believe I and my (almost all white, mostly male) cohort were way more fragile than the people we teach today. But that’s a different conversation.

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Marc 08.28.16 at 4:12 am

It’s basically impossible to go through every possible example of every possible thing that might bother someone. This is especially true in an environment where people are actively looking for ways to be offended. It’s also true that the underlying assumption – that reading can recreate trauma across a wide range of experiences – has vanishingly little evidence behind. (Yes, combat veterans can experience flashbacks from things like loud sudden noises. That is not the same as reading something that, with effort, can be turned into something similar to a bad thing that happened to you in the past.)

In addition, these things are intensely unpopular across the ideological spectrum, across races, across genders, and across age groups.

So, other than being extremely unpopular, unworkable, and largely counterproductive, there is nothing wrong with trigger warnings.

By contrast, I have conversations with students every class about special adjustments that they may need. There are professionals who can diagnose conditions (as opposed to having me guess about things that I’m not trained to do, and that may not even be relevant), and as a matter of course we do things like give extra time on tests, audio recordings of lectures, excused absences, and so on. We can deal with individuals well, better than trying to do some bullet-proofing to prevent a student from even having to talk to a professor about whatever problems they may have had.

And that’s why this is so frustrating – there are such straightforward alternatives.

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Val 08.28.16 at 4:22 am

@ merian
My former supervisor in history used to say that the biggest social change in the 20thC was the change in the position of women. But people often can’t see what’s in front of their eyes.

We are the inheritors of several thousand years of patriarchy and we have seen and are seeing some – not all – of that dismantled. I think we as scholars and teachers have a responsibility to be honest about that with our students, but many people – both men and some women – find it very confronting and are reluctant to do so. So, like f foundling I guess, they seem to make up all sorts of reasons to hide the truth from themselves, like ‘it wasn’t really rape’, …

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JHW 08.28.16 at 4:24 am

Maybe part of the problem is that, in depictions of sex and violence, we usually think of content warnings as being about how graphic or explicit a work is. Is there gore? Do you see genitalia? And so on. On this score, the Ovid passages being discussed in the comments above wouldn’t qualify.

But there are other ways in which they are pretty disturbing. The fear and violation of the woman. The callousness of the man. The sense you get that the narrator doesn’t see anything seriously wrong going on here, the portrayal of the events as just an exciting story. And put atop that the classroom context: look at what a good writer Ovid is, look at his skillful use of language, aren’t we glad we get to appreciate this kind of literature? For this purpose, it’s enough that Ovid dwells on it, that we get a vivid literary depiction, though not a sexually explicit one.

It is perfectly reasonable to think that teaching this to undergrads, especially as part of a mandatory literature course, requires a certain level of care about this issue.

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faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 4:31 am

b9n10nt, if I were to show the movie Hidden Crimes in a class on medical ethics without warning the students of its contents, I would expect that some students would leave halfway through. I would not think this was something to do with them wanting to undermine my authority – it’s because the movie is repulsive.

Back in the early 1990s the Australian youth radio show JJJ did a tour of an HIV/AIDS hospice, interviewing people dying of AIDS and describing the disease. That show was big news and it was advertised ahead of time for weeks, and it came with multiple trigger warnings because it concerned both homsexuality and medical horror like you wouldn’t believe. When Kurt Cobain died the same radio station plastered the airwaves with suicide prevention warnings, before and after reporting the news, for obvious reasons. As PatInIowa observes this stuff is not new and it never used to be considered terrible or anti-free speech or anything.

What has changed is that now minority groups (and women) are demanding an extension of those trigger warnings to cover things that might not trigger your average crusty middle-aged white dude: rape, colonialism, slavery, KKK violence – the sorts of things that are just abstract details to your average academic.

And let’s be clear about this too: The Canon is a safe space for white middle-class men. Some of the books in the canon are straight-up rubbish, included for historical reasons or because they give white men the feels. But we don’t call this a “safe space” we call it “literature”. For a first year literature course the canon obviously is limited to a fixed number of books, and I’m sorry but you cannot convince me that the books in the canon for any given first year lit course are exactly the right combination of books. Robinson Crusoe, really? It’s not even the world’s first novel, it’s just a naff book about a racist dude. Any of that Regency chick lit could be happily replaced with back issues of Cosmopolitan, and obviously anything by hemingway could be replaced with readings from Penthouse Forum with no loss of information.

But what has happened is that some students for whom that canon might not be entirely representative have decided they would like to debate its contents with their teachers. And that is triggering – for the UofC dean, apparently.

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merian 08.28.16 at 5:01 am

b9n10nt @81:

It’s not so much that the passages *require* a content warning necessarily: it’s more that there should be expected to be some degree of framing.

I read at least one of these Ovid passages, if not both, in 11th grade Latin class. We were expected to know how to translate the Latin, recognize and identify the meter, read in meter, write intelligently about the role of the muse and how the gods get subverted. What we completely missed out on was the social aspects. The whole heroic boys-will-be-boys, and love justifies taking what is yours wasn’t even considered worth mentioning. So no, I wasn’t traumatised, but my education missed out on something. Something that kids that *had* encountered sexual coercion would have recognized, and it would have made them quite rightfully question why the lessons considered it not worth mentioning, and whether this sort of literature was for them in the first place. Something that in today’s time, thankfully, is a little more recognized as a problematic aspect.

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Z 08.28.16 at 5:01 am

this is not a message to students, but a message to Republican alumni and parents that they shouldn’t worry about ‘liberal indoctrination’ at UChicago and should keep the money flowing.

I first read about the statement on the right-wing blog Powerline and that is precisely how it was received there.

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merian 08.28.16 at 5:04 am

faustusnotes, quoting:

What has changed is that now minority groups (and women) are demanding an extension of those trigger warnings to cover things that might not trigger your average crusty middle-aged white dude: rape, colonialism, slavery, KKK violence – the sorts of things that are just abstract details to your average academic.

This, too. A friend of mine said about this UC letter that what came across loud and clear to her and her teenage son (white, male, well-educated, likely straight) is that *he* could expect not to be troubled in his sensibilities in a place like UC, then.

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js. 08.28.16 at 6:19 am

First, modern sensibilities have changed. On tv and movies (and podcasts!), depictions of sensationalist graphic violence and/or realistic sexual behavior have become far more common, perhaps signaling to professors that students are as liberal in their media exposure as the popular culture seems to suggest.

A minor side point, but this is mistaken. Yes, there’s a lot more sex and violence more explicitly portrayed in TV and in films now than there was a generation or two ago. (Although re sex, I’m not sure that’s actually true.). But. If you watch old Hollywood films, you’ll e.g. see husbands slapping wives for being “hysterical” (there’s a pretty memorable scene in the Thin Man IIRC). It’s a sort of thing that would be utterly not OK in Hollywood portrayals today. Which is to say, it’s not about depictions of sex and violence (both of which I love, to be clear), it’s about the treatment of historically exploited and oppressed social categories in film, fiction, etc.

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Hey Skipper 08.28.16 at 6:26 am

Is it the assumption of some commenters here that it is our responsibility to be rude to students, or do you just get off on it?

Speaking only for myself, it is the students’ responsibility to show up prepared. Which means they have taken it upon themselves to know the syllabus, and have — I know this might sound like a huge burden — also at least hit Wikipedia to get an overview of any books, movies, etc. in the course.

Students have ample opportunities to afford themselves of whatever trigger warnings they might need.

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faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 6:36 am

So what did students do before the internet, Hey Skipper? Why do you think that knowing the syllabus will necessarily tell you how offensive the content might be? The IMDB page for Hidden Crimes, for example, doesn’t prepare you at all for the content.

And supposing it did – what is the difference between the student googling the syllabus to get trigger warnings, and the professor telling them the trigger warnings? Except that the professor likely has experience teaching the course to diverse student bodies (unless the prof is from UofC I guess), in which case they are more likely to know what people will find offensive or troubling than wikipedia is.

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faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 6:39 am

Another good example might be the use of Tombstone for Fireflies or Barefoot Gen in an advanced Japanese language class. These are both famous and well-respected films in Japan but the former involves two children starving to death and the latter involves quite horrible scenes of wartime destruction. What on earth is wrong with the professor telling the students “the next class is going to be a bit confronting, so you might want to steel yourselves” or even – heaven forbid – finding a less confronting movie that teaches the same stuff?

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Hey Skipper 08.28.16 at 6:46 am

So what did students do before the internet, Hey Skipper?

That was then, about which nothing can be done.

This is now, and students have it well within their power to learn, in detail, about the contents of a course, and the course materials.

The IMDB page for Hidden Crimes, for example, doesn’t prepare you at all for the content.

Perhaps. But this does. Found in about 30 seconds. Why is it too much to ask students for due diligence? Especially considering that when they leave academia, it will be expected.

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Hey Skipper 08.28.16 at 6:51 am

And supposing it did – what is the difference between the student googling the syllabus to get trigger warnings, and the professor telling them the trigger warnings?

Besides the obligation to due diligence I mentioned above, sensitive students have their own unique sensitivities, which they know, and professors do not.

So the question comes back to you. If it is possible for students to ascertain course contents for themselves, why do trigger warnings exist at all?

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 6:54 am

faustusnotes @ 86:

I want to distinguish between instances where “defensive” trigger warnings might protect students against intense anxiety or depression and instances where “offensive” trigger warnings might critique a text and the discourse around it. The Hidden Crimes example would represent the first case, whereas the Ovid example would represent the second case. The goal of critiquing the narrative voice and scholarship of Ovid is valid, the means of invoking “trigger warnings” to achieve this goal is valid too (I’m not the Pope of rhetorical validity), but we should appreciate that it’s a rhetorical strategy and distinct from an “equity and well-being issue”, to use ZM’s phrase.

This “dual use” model is more accurate in terms of what’s going on. It’s also, perhaps, more generous to those who are referred to as “silly college kids who will take things too far”. Today’s students aren’t, in fact, unusually tender flowers that need emotional protection from representations of oppression. They are, to the contrary, ingenious and resourceful agents who are seeking and creating status with the limited resources available to them.

Just. Like. Me.

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faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 7:03 am

Hey Skipper, maybe trigger warnings exist out of politeness, or because people aged 18-22 don’t know what will make them angry or upset yet, and professors have experienced it before?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard that there are teachers who respect their students and try to treat them with respect. Mythical creatures, I’m sure, but it’s possible some of those professors might think that interacting with the students about the emotional effects of being challenged is a sign of respect. But in any case you seem to think trigger warnings are a good thing, just that students should look them up rather than teachers, so it seems your primary concern is with reducing teacher workload, not any deep objection to the nature of the thing.

b9n10nt regarding “offensive” trigger warnings, I can see how teaching some of this stuff could get tricky if you have to think about everyone’s perspective, but it also seems to me that a lot of professorial resistance to this aspect of trigger warnings comes down to not wanting to have to think too much about other people’s perspective. i.e. intellectual laziness.

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bad Jim 08.28.16 at 7:39 am

Students aren’t necessarily children:

I once innocently listed human birth defects as a topic on a syllabus, and a distressed woman met with me to say she was worried she’d lose it in class — she’d given birth to an anencephalic baby a few years before, and she was terrified about that subject. She wanted to talk with me not because she didn’t want to hear about birth defects — on the contrary, she really wanted to learn about it, but she was conscious of her own emotional reaction — and wanted some clearer idea of what I was going to say and show. I told her that in fact I was going to focus primarily on neural tube defects, and that yes, I had some photos of the phenomenon, but the focus was primarily on mechanisms. It was enough that she knew what to expect so she could prepare for it, and she just asked that I let her know before I showed the photos.

Maybe there’s just a difference between biology and literature.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 7:39 am

merian @ 88 and js @ 91:

Yes, Ovid and old Hollywood films can be used as an opportunity to say “this is what mysogyny looks like. ” I think that to not frame these texts in this way would be a passive-aggressive attempt at anti-feminism. (And I only think that because of work done by earlier -mostly campus- activists.)

However, what I don’t see is that a student’s reaction to Metamorphosis or The Thin Man can be expected to be similar to Hidden Crimes, or the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, or the rape of Tony Soprano’s psychologist.

A general audience should have trigger warnings for the latter 3, not the former 2. An individual recovering from trauma will not benefit from specifically avoiding the former. But…a political movement- a group identity- can gain cohesion and benefit from claiming that certain texts represent values so repulsive as to need trigger warnings.

I could be wrong! But that’s what I think I know.

We are very political beings, and there are frequent opportunities to leverage privilege or claim privilege in myriad social situations. If one were to to say that this is not a motivating factor for student advocates for “trigger warnings” “safe spaces” and against “microagressions”, they would be naive and actually dehumanize those students into Pure Beings of Virtue and Insight.

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js. 08.28.16 at 7:53 am

@b9n10nt — The point is: What is “a general audience”? Seriously, if you actually want to engage the people who are calling for the kinds of things you want to argue against, you need to think about what’s being imported in that phrase and how it’s going to sound.`

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bad Jim 08.28.16 at 7:55 am

Let me memorialize one of Brad DeLong’s best typos:

To say that you are against sage spaces, without immediately saying that the two overriding purposes of the university are to be a safe space for ideas and for its members as scholars is also unprofessional.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 8:21 am

js. @ 101

I’m not sure that I’m arguing for or against trigger warnings for heated topics. I’m thinking about them and pushing a theory about campus activism (as a species of identity-creation) that doesn’t condemn but also doesn’t idealize.

A “general audience” is one not consisting predominantly of persons who have suffered a traumatic event that has them vulnerable to be triggered into anxiety, depression or other intense emotional episodes that preclude rigorous thinking, reading, and discussion skills that are necessary in a classroom.

A general audience wouldn’t need a trigger warning for The Thin Man, for instance, but would for Saving Private Ryan. A general audience might benefit from getting a trigger warning for the Thin Man, but for a different reason than it would benefit from getting one for Saving Private Ryan. For the Thin Man, a trigger warning w0uld amount to a statement against misogyny generally, domestic violence specifically. It would be a cultural performance.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

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Faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 8:33 am

How are first year students not a general audience?

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 8:48 am

Faustusnotes @ 104.

Exactly, they are.

Thx for that link bad Jim.

But let us also acknowledge that students and colleges can and do go overboard with trigger warnings, or -similarly- safe spaces.

In one framing, trigger warnings and the like are protecting people so that they can flourish in the classroom. In another framing, students are going overboard and creating an oppressive atmosphere for themselves and/or others.

I think those (on the left, of course) who like the first frame would either deny examples of the second or say “of course, they’re kids, they’ll go overboard, it’s harmless”. But what if we include the apparently over-the-top examples in our analysis, and neither deny them nor diminish their agents as “silly kids” without at the same time demonizing the over-the-board examples as representing Evil.

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faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 9:09 am

b9n10nt, today Vox had a first person essay about this (can’t be bothered linking) and the second part of the essay was about your “kids going too far” issue, and it made it pretty clear (without intending to) that the root of the problem was the complete lack of employment rights and career prospects of adjunct and junior faculty, which make them vulnerable to any student complaint. There was really no way to separate the “chilling power” of the complaints and campaigns from the obvious power of the university authorities over junior staff. So maybe the problem here is not that students have changed in this regard, but that universities have.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 9:11 am

2 links criticizing campus activism around trigger warnings and safe spaces:

type II trigger warnings, over the top?

this link didn’t work above, hope it will now

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Hey Skipper 08.28.16 at 9:59 am

[faustunotes:] But in any case you seem to think trigger warnings are a good thing, just that students should look them up rather than teachers, so it seems your primary concern is with reducing teacher workload, not any deep objection to the nature of the thing.

No, I don’t think they are a good thing. My primary objection is that trigger warnings infantilize students. Presuming sufficient detail is available about courses’ subject matter and materials — a professional obligation — then it is incumbent upon students to familiarize themselves with that information. Having done so, then they will have actively provided themselves with all the warning they specifically need.

The alternative requires professors to be aware of the entire universe of triggers, which seems, like the real universe, expanding at a significant fraction of the speed of light, to the point where the whole concept has become a clown car.

I think the recent article in The Atlantic, The Coddling of the American Mind.

The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.

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Hey Skipper 08.28.16 at 10:00 am

Wishing for an edit function …

I think the recent article in The Atlantic, The Coddling of the American Mind gives a pretty balanced discussion of a charitable impulse gone awry:

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SusanC 08.28.16 at 10:10 am

1. Television stations, at least in the UK, habitually give the viewer a warning before showing violence (either simulated, as in horror movies, or real, as in footage of terrorist attacks), sexual activity, or strobe lighting (the latter because it can cause epileptic seizures). I think the US is similar. So the idea that certain kinds of material are supposed to be preceded by some kind of warning is culturally commonplace .

TV, of course, is a high regulated medium, much more so that the university lecture; compare George Carlin’s “Seven Words you can never say on television”. But I could imagine an argument that lectures that don’t meet broadcast TV levels of acceptability are permitted, but should be preceded by content warnings.

2. There is a paradox in this letter. It is a trigger warning, sent to all students in advance of them seeing them material. Admittedly, it’s a rather vague trigger warning, analogous to “may contain nuts” on food items, but it still is one. Despite the fact that it appears to disparage trigger warnings.

3. I wonder to what extent the letter is “virtue signalling”, and to what extent the lawyers made them do it. A possible reading of the subtext might be “Our legal department has advised us that showing students sexually explicit and/or violent material without prior warning is likely to be construed by the courts as negligence on our part, leaving us liable to tort claims by the students. Accordingly, we are sending you a generic warning now, covering the entire course material”.

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Collin Street 08.28.16 at 10:11 am

Presuming sufficient detail is available about courses’ subject matter and materials

That’s what the trigger warnings are, dipshit, “sufficient detail”.

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SusanC 08.28.16 at 10:37 am

1. On the “safe spaces” thing, academic progress seems to need something that is at least analogous.

Suppose you want to present some new result in classical microeconomics. Someone in the audience is bound to make the point that classical microeconomics doesn’t really reflect how actual human beings behave, and so your spiffy new theorem is wrong and irrelevant before you’ve even got at far as expounding what it is. To make progress, it appears necessary to bracket concerns (ok, I’m an fan of the phenomenologists like Derrida and Heidegger…) such that you can see “ok, probably none of this describes the real world, but bear with me for the interesting hypothetical I’m about to explain, and we can return to cover the deeper issue in a different seminar”. (I can recall at least one occasion where some of the audience walked out when this move was made, but there you go).

Quantum computing, etc. etc. also require this.

Basic plan for a doctoral dissertation: look through your PhD supervisor’s publications for the thing that strikes you as being the most completely wrong-headed. Explain in detail, at book length, why your PhD supervisor is completely wrong on this issue.

“It’s wrong-headed turtles all the way down”, to adapt Terry Pratchett.

2. In the arts/literature, we sometimes need to talk about personal experience more than you would in the sciences. e.g. imagine that in art classes your are discussing each others paintings. Doing this effectively often requires a more select and sympathetic audience than would typically be the case for the sciences.

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Ronan(rf) 08.28.16 at 11:31 am

I don’t have any real problem with trigger warnings or safe spaces, although I find most of the arguments unconvincing bordering on disingenuous. (1) Afaik there’s not much evidence to support the usefulness of either (2) If all they want is a note on the syllabus saying something like “during this class on slavery in the US you will read about African Americans being oppressed”, it seems trivial bordering on pointless. Much like the warning before films “be aware, fatal attraction containsnudity and violence against humans and pets”, does anyone mot know what their getting into in such a class? Does anyone even read the syllabus. (3) Tbh, it’s not mine, or anyone elses, responsibility to look after your mental health. Not that I favour being reckless with other people’s feelings and mental health, but at the end of the day the responsibility is on the individual. (4) The arguments that “everything is a safe space for white men” seems (a) ott (b) beside the point. Are we saying that , if this is true, it is a worthy norm that should be extended rather than done away with? Patrickiniowa mentions above that in his university trigger warnings etc have become the norm since the 80s when religious fundamentalists kicked up a fuss about having to read about gay men. Are we now saying we should emulate the critical thinking skills of religious fundamentalists ?
A few more things (1) faustusnotes argument that it’s about not being rude is, of course, nonsense. It’s about politics, ideology and power; Which leads to (2) by and large, students on ivy league campuses are not “oppressed”, they are the future ruling classes or their courtiers. This is not, afaict, about offering protections to the subaltern, but a new ruling class creating new norms; (3) if people think it’s really going to end with everyone being content with a warning on the syllabus and an area put aside for safe spaces, I think they’re mistaken. Revolutionary vanguards are hardly known to stop at such limited victories.
However, as I said, I don’t really mind so much. I think there’s a lot to admire in this coming generation, and I have my feelings that they might develop into a quite admirable and compassionate ruling class. As such, I can forgive them their youthful transgressions, much as many had to forgive me of mine.

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 12:00 pm

Ronan(rf)@113: +1 to everything you said.

Like I said upthread, content warnings about things that could reasonably be expected to be upsetting to a general audience (sexual assault, explicit depictions/descriptions of violence) are something that instructors have been providing all along. The current bruhaha comes from the demand that we should somehow magically anticipate every possible bad reaction based on the idiosyncratic personal history and circumstances of each individual student. This is ridiculous and unworkable on its face. Even those arguing for trigger warnings, when they are not in “I must defend the position of my tribe” mode, will admit this. That’s one reason I’m surprised that this non-issue keeps cropping up over and over again.

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Marc 08.28.16 at 1:13 pm

There have been several cases where universities have faced a concerted student push for trigger warnings: UCSB and Oberlin are the most prominent. In every case that I could trace, the student efforts included a demand that the student be excused from having to read or watch or be tested on anything that would trigger them. Every single time – which makes sense if you buy the extension of the PTSD phenomenon into anything that might remind someone of a negative prior experience.

So, the claim that it’s just a courtesy warning is not true – it’s a demand to be able to opt of things that they don’t want to read.

Second, at least in the formal case of Oberlin, the proposed faculty guidelines also demanded that professors, once they’d identified this material, avoid using it unless it was irreplaceable.

The trigger warnings being demanded by student activists are not a request for labels on curricula; they’re demands to be excused from reading things that might upset them, watching things that might upset them, and are also being extended to demands that such items not be taught to a general audience at all unless they’re utterly essential to a subject. Obama brought up his opposition to students demanding these things for a reason – because that was what they were actually demanding, not a vague “the reading for this course include violence” thing.

Do the people defending trigger warnings agree with these three things? Because, unlike the sophistry of the “content warning” debate, these are the actual things being asked for. And, in your answers, they don’t apply only to the politics that you approve of and the groups that you want to allow to decide what they don’t want to read or see.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 1:32 pm

Marc @ 115:

I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a positive development that students are taking responsibility (per Ronan (fr) @113) for curricula that they want and that best promotes the skills they are asked to demonstrate in class. Do you argue that professors (I’m limiting this to literature classes, in this instance) need to have autonomy over what they put in the syllabus?

Ronan (rf) re: students on Ivy League campuses not being oppressed

But what these arguments about the curriculum might represent is a move from a hierarchical model of instruction (wherein an authority chooses the content and the students must first passively absorb it and then respond) to a cooperative model of instruction (wherein the participants choose the content and the authority facilitates their discussion). Ivy League students may not be oppressed, but they participate in an oppressive model of instruction that, if upended, could affect norms and expectations beyond campus life. Is that a ridiculous thing to argue?

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faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 1:39 pm

Is that correct Marc? The New Republic reported on Oberlin, but made pretty clear that the trigger warning policy was developed as part of a response to sexual violence, wasn’t ever mandatory (it was a series of tips on how to deal with it) and was soon replaced with placeholder text once the academics actually found out about it – and pointed out that they didn’t find out about it because the advice was developed by the committee investigating sexual violence, that had no academics on it.

It’s worth remembering that when the right runs a big campaign against something young left wing people do or demand, the campaign is usually a crock of lies from start to finish. That appears to be the case here. Do you have any strong evidence that “student activists” demanded the things that you say, or that they were successful?

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William Timberman 08.28.16 at 1:56 pm

Trigger warnings at Oberlin, concealed carry at UT Austin, both assiduously enforced? I was fond of the somewhat simple-minded idea that a university should be a place where you can’t get strung up for holding that the earth orbits the sun, but trying to stuff both second amendment fetishists and advocates of safe spaces into some sort of unified cultural context flat drives me crazy. Somebody may have the right idea here, but I bet it’ll be a long time before we sort out who it is.

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 2:06 pm

faustusnotes@117: The Oberlin administrators did everyone a favor by demonstrating just how ridiculous this sort of thing will get if it’s not reigned in. They walked back the policy because the faculty snarled at them, not of their own volition. Read the policy. If you honestly don’t think it would have had a chilling effect on all sorts of pedagogical issues, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Wrong headed as I think they were in many ways, the initial student demands were not really any big deal. 18 year olds don’t always think things through, and can sometimes be overzealous or downright dumb in the way they go about things. Film at 11. That’s why it behooves the rest of us to act like adults. What distinguished this particular movement is that a bunch of randos on the interned decided to get into the act. Maybe some day some one will explain to me where so many people who have never taught a class managed to acquire such absolute certainty about how it should be done.

b9n10nt@116: No. Students should not, in fact, be dictating the curriculum.

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Mahood 08.28.16 at 2:26 pm

As people have pointed out, Ovid’s Metamorphoses is no longer required reading at Columbia, thanks to student activists and a feckless administration anxious to oil squeaky wheels. Not reading the Metamorphoses not only robs students of a cultural treasure many of them go to Columbia to discover, but attenuates what they can get out of writers who assume that work as a background, just as not reading the Bible does. Those Ovidian writers include Dante, Spenser, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Joyce, Kafka, and Proust — white males, some straight, to be sure — but also Behn, George Eliot, Bishop, Woolf, Soyinka…. Why? Because of scenes you might find in PG movies (scenes, moreover, highly sympathetic to the women being chased and not the powerful gods chasing them).

There is nothing that isn’t offensive to someone. A default expectation or demand for trigger warnings is just a shoulder chip. Any decent faculty member will note when reading may be emotionally challenging, even at the cost of blunting the effect of hat reading — e.g. in Mrs. Dalloway or Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. But legislating decency leads to puritanical tyranny, and always has.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 2:30 pm

AcademicLurker @119:

Well obviously not in most fields of study…but what about introductory level literature classes? And maybe not dictating, but having a say?

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 2:31 pm

To follow up 119, at every university where I’ve worked there have been these things called “curriculum committees” that periodically evaluate the courses and content for each major and make suggestions. And at every university these curriculum committees have had student members. So students are not, in fact, without a voice in these matters.

On the other hand, allowing the loudest self-styled “campus radicals” to dictate course content to everyone else…I don’t really need to explain why that’s a bad idea, do I?

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 2:35 pm

121 posted while I was writing 122. When I was an undergrad, we had broad themed interdisciplinary freshman seminal courses. The theme and content were in fact discussed and voted on by a mixed group of faculty and students, so I see nothing wrong in principle with your suggestion.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 2:54 pm

Manhood:

Not “just” a shoulder chip, but a way to claim status so to speak. The chip on the shoulder is the will to power, not something that is objectively there as a psychic fact. What if the question isn’t “will the society have taboos” but “what taboos will they be”? 60 years ago, depicting homosexuality was taboo. In 20 years, maybe depicting authority figures as protagonists will be. But to claim that the entirety of modern Western Civ. has been “puritanical tyranny” because of the hang-ups that have thankfully relaxed is probably as much of an overstatement as predicting that campus activists will turn us all into a left-wing equivalent of Saudi Arabian subjects.

As for the Canon, no one’s stopping anyone from reading it on their own.

I don’t think we are appreciating how (potentially?) awesome this moment is, culturally. In the last 50 odd years, we are successfully pursuing a radically new experiment in women’s equality as well as sexual and gender equality generally. The fight against racist oppression and imperialist violence is claiming victories (amid setbacks, to be sure). How could it be that these momentous, unprecedented advancements could occur without radical shifts in how cultural works are produced and interpreted? And who but the young will be the vanguard of these new productions and interpretations.

Too much pearl-clutching by the old guard, I say, who would blithely accept out-moded taboos and sensibilities because they weren’t inconvenienced by them and were’nt driven to seek status by challenging them.

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Yan 08.28.16 at 2:58 pm

I agree with much of what Ronan says at 113, but one point:

“I think there’s a lot to admire in this coming generation, and I have my feelings that they might develop into a quite admirable and compassionate ruling class. As such, I can forgive them their youthful transgressions, much as many had to forgive me of mine.”

This confuses, as both sides of the issue often do, the general college population with the minority of students at prestigious universities, where most of the reported on cases and support is found.

It’s important to remember that it is a minority of “this coming generation” that considers these sorts of things high priorities of justice, because they have the luxury to do so. The students at my low tier regional state college don’t talk much about this stuff, and aren’t by default supportive of it, even those self identified as interest in social justice, or progressive, or radical.

I’m less optimistic than Ronan that the future ruling class portion of this generation are admirable or will be benevolent oligarchs, but the rest (the majority) of the generation is admirable precisely because they have higher priorities than this stuff, as OWS, the Sanders movement, and BLM have demonstrated.

Honestly, to the degree I see this stuff on my campus it comes from faculty, not students. Most of the criticisms of millennial narcissism and entitlement are the projections of parents and professors’ own phony radicalism and personal pathologies onto their children and students.

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SusanC 08.28.16 at 3:03 pm

@ZM; I think I mainly agree with you here.

on the other hand, I sometimes think that both in the arts and sciences there’s something of a difference in character between the public aspect of an art work or piece of scientific research, and the between-insiders discussion that went on during its creation. That insiders might be more candid when talking to each other than when presenting the finished thing to the public. That art works might contain aspects apparent to their creators but not made fully explicit in the published form. (Possibly also true of scientific research, in a more oblique way).

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Marc 08.28.16 at 3:08 pm

@125: People who haven’t read things and are simply looking for offense in strained readings of out-of-context passages are not giving us some glorious advance. The Cultural Revolution was presented in the way that you’re describing too. Sometimes vandals are vandals, and sometimes censors are censors.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 3:09 pm

AcademicLurker @ 122:

On the other hand, allowing the loudest self-styled “campus radicals” to dictate course content to everyone else…I don’t really need to explain why that’s a bad idea, do I?

Have a go at it! (Just watch out for the idyllic-past-and-linearly-progressing-slippery-slope fallacies).

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Yan 08.28.16 at 3:14 pm

b9… @116

“Ivy League students may not be oppressed, but they participate in an oppressive model of instruction that, if upended, could affect norms and expectations beyond campus life. Is that a ridiculous thing to argue?”

Not ridiculous, but it certainly assumes a narrow and contentious view of oppression that rests on a simplistic view of negatively defined Liberty which makes an kind of authority or rank a violation in principle. Not every kind of hierarchy need be oppressive, and not only because hierarchies can themselves be subject to horizontal constraints. For example, the hierarchy in virtue of which my surgeon doesn’t ask me for advice about where to make the incision.

To my mind, oppression is, first and foremost, hierarchy that controls one’s means of survival and thus one’s intellectual and personal autonomy. So, one’s labor. Hierarchical instruction is not control of one’s labor. Picasso wasn’t oppressed by art school but empowered by it to free himself of it.

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medrawt 08.28.16 at 3:18 pm

Mahood –

Well, I’m substantively against the idea that a student or group of students should be able to say “no, I find this reading troubling, and I demand that I not be exposed to it,” and that the university should capitulate to them. But:

(1) Metamorphoses. A must if you’re going to pursue the academic study of classical literature. A handy signpost if you’re going to pursue the study of literature, period, to be able to glean references to it (as you point out). But these days it hardly seems possible to arrange for the general student to acquire the entire literary backdrop used as source material for the last 500 years of Western literature; you wouldn’t have time to read anything actually IN the last 500 years of Western literature, or anything that isn’t Western literature, while also keeping up with fields of study we’d like students to be aware of that weren’t part of a gentleman’s education when every gentleman had some Latin and Greek. More specifically, I somehow managed to get through what passes for a pretty good education these days (maybe not by CT standards, but by everyday standards) without ever being assigned Ovid, and not only did I attend a selective college that prides itself on a robust core curriculum, I took all the Latin classes my high school offered (we read Virgil, Horace, and Catullus). I’ve missed something by not reading Ovid (actually, I checked it out of the library a few years ago [in English!] but decided to try again in the future, because I wasn’t getting into it), but surveying the rest of the world, I’m not sure Ovid is the indispensable linchpin holding our cultural understanding together.

(2) Based on the general tenor I see advanced in arguing against student requests to exclude certain curriculum (particularly the kind of curriculum I think they shouldn’t exclude, for the most part, Ovid included), I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Columbia did a BAD JOB of explaining why it was worth reading Ovid regardless of the objectionable content, and failed to make an argument that accommodated student concerns, and decided it was easier to capitulate. The job of the university is to educate, and if it was really worth keeping Ovid in the core curriculum, this was an opportunity to educate. If they chose to abandon the field, that’s not the students’ fault, any more than it’s a teenager’s fault when his parents say “fine, you know what, it’s your life!” and let him do something stupid the inadvisability of which nobody prepared him to understand.

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JHW 08.28.16 at 3:25 pm

Was there actually a student demand at Columbia to remove “Metamorphoses” from the core curriculum?

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Mahood 08.28.16 at 3:27 pm

That’s an amazing story, ZM. This is just to say that I do understand what triggers are. The demand for trigger warnings that UC is resisting is a demand that is based on a false notion of triggers. But it’s had baleful effects.

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 3:29 pm

b9n10nt@125: Nothing’s easier than getting a vicarious rush by identifying with “the young” or “the radical vanguard” or whatever, but it won’t keep the lights on or institutions running. It’s true that the-times-they-are-a-change’n, but it’s also true that sometimes 18 and 19 year olds don’t know what the F- they’re doing. Both can be true at once! In the mean time, classes have to be taught, assignments have to be graded, student on student harassment has to be dealt with & etc. The impending utopia sounds great, let me know when it arrives.

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bob 08.28.16 at 3:36 pm

I’d just like to point out the very reasonable statement made by the UofC Student Government President as reported in the campus newspaper, the Maroon.
https://chicagomaroon.com/2016/08/27/student-president-calls-free-speech-letter-messed-up/
The kids get it – “the administration is far more fearful of challenge and discomfort than any student I know.”

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merian 08.28.16 at 3:41 pm

Saying that content warnings and safe spaces can be — and manifestly, traditionally are, for some variants of them — useful tools for academic teaching and the structure of the university community doesn’t in any way imply condoning spineless disregard of the administration towards its faculty. When an administration is indeed (and that’s rare!) confronted with an organized list of demands by pro-trigger-warning activists I would expect them to respond in an intelligent, measured, respectful way — listen to what the students actually want, google “how trigger warnings are used” and read some of the more thoughtful pieces, consult with some faculty, of a certain range of attitudes, put out some sort of statement that shows that you’ve grasped the measure of it and, if you want an easy out, talk about the responsibility and academic freedom of the individual lecturer. That getting out of assigned readings should be a rare exception based on [something concrete … see ADA/student councelling office]. That rubbing one’s mind against things that one thinks of as dangerous and uncomfortable is a way to make it grow. I’m sure that Morton Schapiro — who was apparently on the receiving end of some student uproar re: Kipnis — would find a way to say it gracefully.

Maybe invite one of the more highly respected and thoughtful professors, someone who’s acclaimed for their teaching, who admits to a judicious use of trigger warnings, to give a public talk or seminar or whatever. The university is supposed to be the smart ones — this strong-guy posturing makes it sound lazy, thoughtless, defensive, and arrogant.

As for the various links to articles detailing terrible overreach — was it really a good way to post a bunch of links to 1500 word texts instead of excerpting some salient point? We’re discussing the OP and its larger topics, not a random corpus. And the texts are truly a mixed bag — a lot of misconceptions, some valid points. Overall they come across no less than sensitive flowers than the students they accuse of being that:

• Yes, students sometimes make wildly inappropriate demands or write stuff in the student paper that’s brash and offensive. That’s new, SRSLY? Those 70s firebrands *never* wrote anything that, in the greater scheme of things, turned out to be a bit off the wall? They never insulted anyone who didn’t deserve it? Isn’t that kind of intellectual risk-taking, even if it takes you into the weeds, part of the student experience? (And also, isn’t there often a tiny core of a valid point somewhere?)
• I lean towards agreeing that it’s unfortunate (though understandable and to a degree inevitable) that this stuff has been mixed in with medical terminology, and with the fight against campus sexual assault. (Though I’m also reading comments by counselling professionals who say that a word of warning that enables someone to actually benefit from the class in ways that would have been difficult otherwise.) These things would benefit from being disentangled a bit.
• Regarding the prof whose class on sexual violence in film went awry, I think she’s absolutely right that she can’t be the one to lead a group of youngsters down a complicated intimately disturbing topic *and* run the sexual abuse advocacy. Clearly students didn’t react the way she anticipated. (That, too, is hardly the first time this sort of thing happens in the history of university teaching.) Whether what the students needed was what they asked for (more and more detailled warnings) remains to be seen.
• A group of feminists announcing that they intend to protest an abortion debate between only dudes is an infringement of free speech? Huh. I might go protest a little, too. #allmalepanel (about abortion?)

One of the problems seems to be the way these things get blown to huge proportions in the press. I’m reminded of the Duke student who didn’t want to read Bechdel’s memoir, which was assigned to the whole incoming class. That one started out as his Facebook post, before the WaPo gave him an op-ed. But really, students who’ve balked at assigned readings are nothing new either, and I worry how in his case the success of national attention may have made it harder to get from his attitude to one that is conducive of transcending his current level of wisdom. (Apparently, in 2002, UNC assigned an abridged translation of the Quran. With much larger numbers of students refusing it. We’ve just forgotten.)

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Mahood 08.28.16 at 3:42 pm

There was some student demand. The real issue, as I’ve said above, is the current administration playbook. That playbook seeks to weaken faculty governance. They go to meetings and conventions where they figure out how to do this. One way is to make common cause with students against the academic freedom of faculty. And it’s a sad commentary on what passes for left liberal discourse that a lot of leftists think this is a good idea.

I never said, by the way, that Ovid is the linchpin of western literature. I said he was important (a LOT more than Catullus) and great. If you go to a college with a core curriculum partly to learn a great tradition, it’s kind of false advertising to then tell students they can go read it on their own if they like. Most people go seeking an education. Pressuring an administration to remove the Metamorphoses from a syllabus erodes the education they’re seeking.

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bob 08.28.16 at 3:44 pm

AcademicLurker@64: “bob@62: I’m honestly unclear on what your point is.”
No doubt that is because I didn’t read your comment carefully and didn’t see what your point was. I’ve re-read it and I apologize.

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 3:48 pm

bob@142: No worries.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 3:50 pm

Yan,

Thx. I agree with most of what you write. My hope would be that campus radicals might create “laboratories for democracy” that model more participatory, egalitarian modes of institutional relations while enforcing new cultural norms that reflect and solidify social gains made in our recent past. A quibble might be the negative liberty statement: freedom to construct one’s curricula and participate in influencing cultural norms is a positive Liberty, right?

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roger gathmann 08.28.16 at 4:47 pm

That wasn’t a letter to the students, that was a reassuring purr for alumni so that they would conttinue to donate to the University. They like the college they remember – it is the safe space in their memory. It is all about cash flow.

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Ronan(rf) 08.28.16 at 4:57 pm

“I’m less optimistic than Ronan that the future ruling class portion of this generation are admirable or will be benevolent oligarchs….”

You might be right, though I think I might be more conservatively minded in some ways, ie I think it’s inevitable and, in some ways, a positive that a ruling class will be austere and self referential, as they will need to be responsible and capable off setting a good example in society.
It reminds me of a story my mother used to tell me, when they were coming up in 70s ireland as small town Catholic bourgeoisie, when the declining, regional big house Protestants (ie socially above the protestant middle or lower middle classes, but without enough connections or wealth to get themselves into good favour with the rising Catholic elite, who were certainly austere and self referential) used to hold court in local pubs about how everything had been upended, with the Catholics rising and Protestants declining (a myth in some ways, but still). In my youth, As far as i could tell, a lot had decided to accept decline gracefully and cheerfully,one family I can think of used to sell off parcels of land whenever they wanted to throw a large session.
I have to say , I thought this was quite a dignified way of dealing with your groups obsolescence, so I’ll err on the side of giving the new overclass some time to find their feet, and accept that although their rituals and cultural dogmas aren’t my own, perhaps there’s some value then can be from gleaned them.

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b9n10nt 08.28.16 at 5:22 pm

So many great comments, folks. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed the thread. I was suspicious and worried that no one was acknowledging the excesses of the student activists AND defending them, but then Ronan (rf) @146 voiced my sentiments quite well (as you did with your 113 post).

merian @ 140: Apologies for not excerpting.

AcademicLurker @ 137: I’m pretty sure your post was a microaggression ;)

Cheers,

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AcademicLurker 08.28.16 at 5:24 pm

Saying that content warnings and safe spaces can be — and manifestly, traditionally are, for some variants of them — useful tools for academic teaching and the structure of the university community doesn’t in any way imply condoning spineless disregard of the administration towards its faculty.

To the extent that the U of C letter’s bit on trigger warnings can be read as “the administration will not mandate how/if trigger warnings are used by the faculty”, which seems a reasonable reading, they haven’t actually distinguished U of C from anywhere else. No university that I’m aware of has a policy mandating the use of such warnings, and every time the demand for such a top down mandate has been made, it’s been refused.

So U of C is claiming extra special conservative cred without actually doing anything exceptional.

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A 08.28.16 at 5:29 pm

I have taught Ovid in English and Latin multiple times, and I always let the students know that what is coming their way. I do so in part for students who might have a sensitivity to the subject, but mainly because it just makes a better class discussion if they know ahead of time. And, no, most undergraduates have no idea that Ovid is so rape-heavy (especially the first six books of the Met. and the Ars Amatoria).

As for the idea that Persephone and Daphne sections are not really descriptions of rape, I have no idea what to say here. Daphne would rather turn into a tree than be touched by Apollo, that is how strong here resistance to him is. And Persephone’s cries for her mother, and ripped dress?
Ovid is one of my favorite authors to teach, and if indeed Columbia has removed it from LitHum, that is a shame. But yes, “trigger warnings” (or whatever you want to call them — I’ve never used that term in class) make for a better classroom experience for everyone.

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Anarcissie 08.28.16 at 5:47 pm

JHW 08.28.16 at 3:25 pm @ 135 —
Google ‘ovid metamorphoses excluded from curriculum’ and step back. All the usual suspects work out vigorously.

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Yan 08.28.16 at 6:12 pm

ZM @138,

Despite being awesome in every way, including writing a ripoff of VU’s Sister Ray that’s almost as great as the original (Roadrunner), I’m pretty sure Jonathan Richman was completely wrong about this. Surely a great many people called Pablo Picasso an asshole? I’d like to believe he really did drive an El Dorado, though.

@134, I should stress I have many students passionately interested in social justice, but their talk of justice doesn’t focus that much on stuff like safe spaces and trigger warnings. In general they seem more interested in politics in the conventional sense on a national and international level than the politics of campus life.

Part of this is because many are non traditional working commter students, so there’s less of a campus culture and things like healthcare, wages, and childcare are more immediately pressing issues in their lives. Another reason is that most are working class kids who can barely afford even our school’s relatively low costs, so economic issues tend to get at least as much attention as other matters of justice. They’re not used to getting their way or being listened to by people with power. Finally, many have conservative and/or religious backgrounds (not just white Christians, but many minority and international students) that cultivate a certain deference to authority that makes them less willing to criticize faculty behavior or course choices.

I don’t know how generalizable my experience is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s common in colleges with mostly working class, and working, students in debt. They have clear practical reasons for having different political priorities than the average Yale or Oberlin student.

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Yan 08.28.16 at 6:23 pm

b9n10nt @144

Yes, I suppose I do grant your point about positive liberty and curricula in principle. In practice, though, the students’ desire to shape their learning experience often takes a predominantly negative form of “do we have to…?” I wonder if there’s an essentially illiberal aspect to education that can only be moderated not eliminated. No participatory egalitarian piano lessen will end with the student consistently practicing scales. That is, truly mastering the instrument.

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Peter Dorman 08.28.16 at 6:48 pm

The discussion of trigger warnings and safe spaces, with few exceptions, strikes me as grossly undialectical. Trigger warnings are useful for instructors who want to push the boundaries on the material they present. They’ve been useful that way for me in the past. Safe spaces are crucial for students to be able to take risks or deal with uncomfortable material. I always begin each quarter with a collaborative exercise with students in which we figure out how our seminar discussions can be safe — so we can get to a level of individual and group challenge. Safety and risk, a necessary duo.

Naturally, some people will see only one side of this and demand safety without risk or risk without safety.

150

Lupita 08.28.16 at 7:04 pm

@ b9n10nt

Students’ claim to need a trigger warning, or the claim to be offended by a microaggression, or the claim to need a safe space to avoid re-traumatiztion is, in these instances, a social act intended to advance a group identity that empowers its members and creates status.  

So true, and since we are taking about American students, group identity and status is as Americans, with all the privileges that entails: using the imperial “we”, invading countries on a whim, not having your elite disgraced and jailed for doing so, reaping the profits of being the global money launderer and arms dealer, etc.

Oberlin students, for example, were raised in this cultural milieu and seem to me to accept the US’ position in the world but want it tempered by seeking to be part of an imperial (American) elite that is more racially diverse and feminine. What truck me from the “Oberlin College Black Student Union Institutional Demands” was the privilege.

Oberlin Students demanded a 4% annual increase in black students from the Caribbean, a focus on Afro-Caribbean Music, the creation of a Haitian Creole language department, and a yearly report of black students from the Caribbean showing the recruitment breakdown, graduation rate, and number of students who have taken a leave. What a privilege to demand that the Caribbean – its people, musical tradition, and language – assume the costs and transport itself to your safe space in Ohio so you don’t have to go to Haiti, adapt, have your American notions questioned, learn about all the invasions, and immerse in its traditions!

That is status.

151

Lupita 08.28.16 at 7:20 pm

More from the “Oberlin College Black Student Union Institutional Demands”:

“We as a College-defined “high risk,” “low income,” “disadvantaged” community should not have to carry the burden of deconstructing the white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system that we took no part in creating”.

Indeed, why should they if they have the privilege of outsourcing that job to Haitians?

152

JHW 08.28.16 at 7:55 pm

Anarcissie at 149: I googled it multiple times before I posted that comment and I just googled it again with your suggested search terms. Lots of people accusing Columbia students of doing or thinking various things, but the only statement from actual Columbia students I can find is the op-ed I posted way above, which doesn’t ask that “Metamorphoses” be excluded.

153

Mahood 08.28.16 at 8:10 pm

They may not have asked, but excluded it was.

154

lewis lorton 08.28.16 at 8:17 pm

This thread seems to have focused very closely on the trigger warnings section of the letter. My interest is in the next paragraph, the section dealing with freedom of speech.

On another blog, Pharyngula, the consensus was that disrupting another organization’s invited speaker was an exercise of free speech. This seems to me a tortured use of one ‘freedom’ to destroy another’s.

155

JHW 08.28.16 at 8:26 pm

Mahood at 157: “Columbia decided not to teach ‘Metamorphoses’ in their core curriculum because it didn’t want to expend effort on figuring out how to teach it sensitively and conscientiously” is a pretty different story from “Columbia decided not to teach ‘Metamorphoses’ in their core curriculum because coddled liberal students insisted that nothing ever be taught that upset them.” And “Columbia decided not to teach ‘Metamorphoses’ in their core curriculum because they made general curricular changes that had nothing to do with student complaints” is still a third story, which is, for what it’s worth, the official story.

156

Mahood 08.28.16 at 8:36 pm

The idea that it requires some extra effort to teach the Metamorphoses sensitively and conscientiously after they’d been teaching it for decades, like the idea that they thought teaching the Heroides would somehow be more in keeping with a core curriculum and not a strange compromise is, well, hard to believe.

157

Collin Street 08.28.16 at 9:11 pm

The idea that it requires some extra effort to teach the Metamorphoses sensitively and conscientiously after they’d been teaching it for decades, like the idea that they thought teaching the Heroides would somehow be more in keeping with a core curriculum and not a strange compromise is, well, hard to believe.

Perhaps if we presented it as a clickbait listicle it’ll get through to you: “five ways that new discoveries and perspectives on personality and identity change how we have to teach literature [number three will blow your mind]”

But a smart person wouldn’t have needed me to point that out.

158

Lupita 08.28.16 at 9:23 pm

https://youtu.be/Ib5hAGga4V8

Tabou Combo from Haiti deconstruct capitalism so Oberlin students do not need to burden themselves! From their “The Masters” album from 1978!

Lyrics:

Inflation is general
(General)
Inflation alarms the world
(La la la)
But those who have money
(La la la)
Will always have more and more.

Inflation is general
(General)
Inflation kills people
(Kills people)
And those who do not have money
(La la la)
Will be poor until they die.

159

Faustusnotes 08.28.16 at 10:13 pm

The 2016 Columbia first year syllabus appears to include Ovid’s Heroides. The Columbia page states that texts rotation and off. Metamorphoses is also on the curriculum of another myth and literature course. You can find the Columbia curriculum if you google it – it includes the bible (Genesis) which is poorly written misogynist trash with shallow characters and a ridiculous plot, and should be triggering for anyone who gives a toss about not losing minutes of their life in that miasma. I would put the link here but immediately after I put the link to the Oberlin policy here I got accused of having not read it – presumably by an academic who is trained in understanding and analyzing texts. I won’t waste my time trying to put further links here since I don’t want to invade this safe space with micro aggressions like “facts”.

However since I already put the link here I will point out to the person who accused me of not reading it (Academiclurker) that the document in question is neither a pedagogic policy nor a curriculum document – it is a sexual offense policy. Furthermore it states clearly that it is not intended to restrict academic freedom in any way and specifically states that its suggestions are “tips” for teaching. I found this out by reading the document, which is available online for anyone (let’s refer to it as a “text”, shall we?)

Through a process of analyzing this “text” it is possible to conclude that a) the right wing pants wetters complaining about this “issue” we’re lying to you (news at11!) and b) nothing chilling to academic discourse happened here.

These are all things I said above, and I will never get back the one minute of my life I spent explaining them a second time. Still, at least I’m not being forced to read Genesis – so there’s that!

160

J-D 08.29.16 at 12:29 am

Lupita 08.28.16 at 7:04 pm

… since we are taking about American students, group identity and status is as Americans …

If somebody said to me ‘You are an Australian, so your group identity and status is as an Australian’, I would say ‘That’s certainly one of my group identities, but it’s not my only group identity, I also have other group identities’; and if somebody said to me ‘Next to your group identity as an Australian, no other group identities signify’, I would recognise that as an attempt at a form of gaslighting. I don’t like gaslighting.

161

Tabasco 08.29.16 at 7:06 am

The university is a cruel institution. It takes the best and the brightest, promises them the world, and then it throws most of them to the dogs.

This is true, but incomplete.

Google is a cruel institution. It takes the best and the brightest, promises them the world, and then it throws most of them to the dogs.

The State Department is a cruel institution. It takes the best and the brightest, promises them the world, and then it throws most of them to the dogs.

And so on.
The NBA is a cruel institution. It takes the best and the brightest, promises them the world, and then it throws most of them to the dogs.

162

ZM 08.29.16 at 7:57 am

[ At the request of the author of the OP, ZM’s comments have been deleted and this one replaced by a link to our comments policy:

http://crookedtimber.org/notes-for-trolls-sockpuppets-and-other-pests/

CB ]

163

SusanC 08.29.16 at 8:10 am

There is possibly a fight between faculty and central university administration entangled with this mess. (In addition tostudents vs faculty, etc.)

In the universities i’m familiar with, departments would be very, very resistant to any attempt by central admin to regulate the undergraduate curriculum or what postgraduate research is carried out.

Thus: courses may well have some kind of content warning if, for example, students are going to be asked to watch a porn film. But the determination of policy for what exactly needs a content warning is determined by the faculty of the department concerned, not central admin.

Likewise, inviting a guest speaker probably is a kind of endorsement ( though there is a long tradition of inviting speakers who are entertainingly wrong). But central admin absolutely is not going to tell departments who they can and cannot invite. Or rather, they might try, but the faculty will tell them to get lost. Any reputation damage lies with the faculty member who decided to invite the controversial speaker. Thus: “professor x is an idiot and a nazi because he keeps inviting cranks and the ultra right to give talks” is a valid opinion to hold. The adim can shrug: “yeah, he’s got tenure. Not our problem if his theories make no sense”

164

RINO economist 08.29.16 at 10:12 am

Well, for a case study on using films when teaching about Nazi Germany, see the first seven paragraphs of

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/189543/trigger-warnings-on-campus

Harvard in the 1960s and 1970s, locally-famous “general education” course Soc Sci 2 taught by Sam Beer.

165

ZM 08.29.16 at 11:19 am

Chris Bertram and Henry,

I think this is very unfair. Can I please email you both to discuss this?

You have deleted *all* of my comments on this thread, I only wrote *one* comment that may have contravened the comments policy, which I wrote in relation to Stephen @153 asking me for more details. I wrote at the top of the comment it was off topic and might get deleted for being off topic, even though it was related to my comment on getting PTSD and things triggering that.

None of my other comments contravened the comments policy in any way.

Even the long comment was only off topic.

I wrote nothing that was sexist, racist, or homophobic.

I wrote nothing that was personally defamatory or insulting. I have written about this matter a lot and I have not even received a letter from a lawyer accusing me of being defamatory and no defamation has been established at court. If anyone asserted I was being defamatory they would have to take it to court and prove that what I have said about them is wrong. Which it isnt and the musicians Stephen Malkmus and David Grubbs (who works at CUNY) have agreed to be my witnesses.

I did not seek to derail a thread through provocation of one kind or another. I was responding to a question from Stephen. I was not seeking to derail this thread on triggering. And I wrote a number of comments on triggering which is something that I have experienced, which have now unfairly been deleted.

I suppose you might think my comments are stupid or irrelevant.

I was not making marginally relevant debating points

I provide a valid email address and you can see who I am and that I am a real person.

I think deleting all my comments is very unfair. I can understand why you might want to delete the long comment I wrote in reply to Stephen, but I think you should understand that I have written to the media about this issue for months and months and the media haven’t published anything on the story at all. I think some writers in the media must have been aware of American musicians doing this to me, since so many musicians know about it, and also Jonathan Franzen referred to it in Freedom. In some sub section of the American entertainment industry it seems to have been common knowledge even though it has never been published and the media won’t publish anything even now when I have emailed them about it.

If you don’t want me to write anything about it on Crooked Timber again you can say so. But you deleted all my other comments as well, which I think is very unfair.

166

Faustusnotes 08.29.16 at 11:30 am

I don’t understand this idea (eg in tablet mag above) that you’re “at school to be disturbed.” What is that!? I watched The Descent to be disturbed, I went to school to learn path integrals.

A few months ago this blog covered the case of that dodgy English creative writing teacher who likes to force transgressive texts on his young female students, to desensitize them to various sexual and horror themes, and everyone agreed it was classic sexual harassment behavior. Somewhere in the last few months we have gone from shock at this behavior to approval.

I don’t go to school to be disturbed. If you can’t teach without disturbing people, maybe you should consider the possibility that you are not a very good teacher.

167

Hey Skipper 08.29.16 at 12:24 pm

[Lewis Lorton #155:] On another blog, Pharyngula, the consensus was that disrupting another organization’s invited speaker was an exercise of free speech. This seems to me a tortured use of one ‘freedom’ to destroy another’s.

(To which I’ll add that, IMHO, this is far more important than trigger warnings. Also, PZ Meyers was displaying exactly the kind of unearned moral preening that gives him license to police others’ thoughts.)

168

Val 08.29.16 at 12:51 pm

I was going to write a question on this thread but I’m a bit thrown by this business with ZM. Whatever the reasons, surely at least CT could have communicated with ZM privately before this decision?

169

Val 08.29.16 at 12:57 pm

ZM has been very open about the fact that she has mental health issues. It’s weird and disturbing that this happens on a thread which is about universities’ responsibilities to students.

170

ZM 08.29.16 at 1:03 pm

Val, while I appreciate your concern, this has nothing to do with me having a disability. I don’t think you are familiar with the indie musicians work, and I don’t think you know about their lives either.

171

Hey Skipper 08.29.16 at 1:26 pm

I was going to write a question on this thread but I’m a bit thrown by this business with ZM. Whatever the reasons, surely at least CT could have communicated with ZM privately before this decision?

Since I’m on the email feed for this thread, I was able to review ZMs comments. Yes, one or two was OT, and a couple might have rambled.

But delete worthy? That sure wasn’t apparent. To me, that is.

172

LFC 08.29.16 at 2:13 pm

Anyone who has been reading or even glancing at CT for a while knows that ZM has been writing about this particular topic for a long time. It’s not like it’s new with this thread. (I’m tempted to say a lot more, but I’ve decided not to.)

173

LFC 08.29.16 at 2:15 pm

p.s. Once one sees who has authored a comment and one or two key words therein, it’s easy enough to skip over.

174

faustusnotes 08.29.16 at 2:24 pm

My guess is the CT crew are worried about defamation, or they just don’t want to have critical comments about real people on their blog, since they aren’t in a position to determine the truthfulness of anything written. ZM, is there a reason you haven’t written this down somewhere yourself, like on your own blog?

I run a (pathetic, unpopular, fortunately) blog and I would be definitely uncomfortable with this kind of material appearing on it – even my pathetic and unpopular blog has once or twice led to scary real life consequences, and I can understand if the CT crew are overly careful about this kind of thing.

175

Stan 08.29.16 at 2:34 pm

So should a university be safe for black students to walk to class without seeing multiple confederate flags displayed in dorms, apartments and on vehicles? Because my student has to do that. Every day. Does she feel uncomfortable? Oh hell yes.

176

Anarcissie 08.29.16 at 2:55 pm

Faustusnotes 08.29.16 at 11:30 am @ 167 —
I conclude that there is a business model problem. Being disturbed is not a problem: all you have to do is hear the news, or become aware of what’s going on in your neighborhood. That would normally apply to institutions of higher learning. Certainly ‘In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.’ [Eccl.1:18] However, there are other concepts of school: for example, I have been told that for many years much of even the most prestigious liberal education was based on a concept of the university as a finishing school for young gentlemen, where they could get a smattering of foreign and dead languages and maybe a taste of mathematics, and thereafter be ready for the era’s equivalent of cocktail parties. This was the sort of education I encountered back in the later Middle Ages, and it was not very disturbing or disruptive because one was already used to certain aspects of the bad stuff, the rapes and murders and enslavings and so forth, from daily life and common knowledge, and everyone but scurrilous radicals agreed it was just the way things were. Then there was a religious school model, where, as in Genesis, really bad things happened but they were God’s will and the fault of Man, so maybe OK. Finally, in recent years, we have observed the advent of The Great Fear and the urgent desire of many to protect themselves and their children from the world and Ecclesiastes’ grief and sorrow. As you can see, the last set is bound to have a lot of problems with learning and knowledge, so the solution might be a new business model or rather set of models in which some institutions are for learning, some for disruption, and some for keeping safe.

Hey Skipper 08.29.16 at 12:24 pm @ 168 — This is theater. It would be a simple matter to construct a situation in which people could yell at each other as much as they wanted and no one had to shut up. Anyway, we have the Internet for that kind of ‘discussion’.

177

Hey Skipper 08.29.16 at 3:01 pm

I wasn’t trying to start a fight, really. Just trying to figure out what the rules of the road are here so I don’t unintentionally find myself banned.

178

Chris Bertram 08.29.16 at 3:23 pm

OK folks, I have just unapproved (not deleted, just put back in the moderation queue), 3 comments by ZM subsequent to the earlier deletion. Henry is travelling and is unable to manage the thread at this time. He did not want things to spin out of control when he was unable to access the internet. I suggest that ZM refrains from commenting now until and unless Henry gives the all-clear and that you all wait a few hours at least before engaging in further argument or speculation. Meanwhile, feel free to continue discussion of the substantive topic of the OP.

179

faustusnotes 08.29.16 at 3:26 pm

Anarcissie, were you really educated in the late middle ages? I have my doubts.

Yes it’s a business model and the business model for Columbia appears to be “propaganda for the elites.” That’s why they’re teaching misogynist junk like Genesis. That’s why the tablet article linked above is lauding what is essentially propaganda, not education. I studied English at a university whose academics apparently actually cared about the material they taught as literature, not as propaganda, which is why they critiqued it even as they loved it. Apparently this is hard.

I run a tiny blog about fantasy role-playing, and on it I have a series of posts about Tolkien’s racial theories that attract considerable anger. Apparently it’s not possible to enjoy a work and also to see and review its flaws. Coming from LoTR fanboys this is kind of acceptable, though a little tedious. But from academics, about work that’s been dead for 2000 years? That’s not just sad, it’s unprofessional.

180

AcademicLurker 08.29.16 at 3:49 pm

155,167: Right. Trigger warnings stopped being a remotely controversial subject with instructors once it became clear that administrators were not going try to mandate when/if/how they are used.

The increasing popularity of the heckler’s veto among certain preening factions of the left is a much more serious concern.

181

bianca steele 08.29.16 at 4:07 pm

I wrote something about the Columbia/Ovid case a while back here, and less relevantly here. To add some verbiage to avoid moderation, it’s a complete non-issue. Yes, all the students know what the Core Curriculum is for. It’s also a required course and usually a discussion section, for first-year students, who maybe aren’t mature enough to be discussing rapes in a general context, in which some people are moreover going to be claiming the content of the narrative doesn’t matter (while possibly at the same time claiming the brute sensual impact of the language does matter). Plus, anyone who doesn’t know any Greek mythology by college isn’t going to be helped by reading two redundant stories about divine rapes; there’s no reason to read the Apollo/Daphne story once you’ve read Hades/Persephone, which at least suggests pre-scientific ideas about nature. Why not Athena/Ariadne instead (if that’s in Meta.)? There are hundreds of stories to choose from, most of them with more importance to Western literature. Also, and maybe most controversially, the Greek readings in the course are so much superior to the Latin readings that you could get rid of everything but Virgil and Livy (which were all you got in my day anyway) with no loss, and even them.

182

medrawt 08.29.16 at 4:09 pm

faustusnotes –

Incredibly off-topic, but online conversation about Tolkien and race is one of my triggers, so I spent a little time looking at your blog. Without disagreeing with you in toto, I think you do your analysis a disservice by conflating Tolkien’s subdivisions of men with Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, etc; as much as genetic destiny is a powerful component in JRRT’s writing, I think conflating the two is incorrect, and he does not make similar use of the Dwarves and the Haradrim. It’s also worth noting that my perspective is shaped by reading The History of Middle Earth, which means I’ve read a lot of JRRT’s letters and notes to himself ABOUT all this stuff, to a degree that I’m not confident about what really exists in the novels vs. the background material. One interesting takeaway (and from some of your posts I think you’ve read at least some of this material as well) is how aware JRRT was of some of these problems. For example, he was very uncomfortable about the status of the Orcs, which is why there’s a lot of contradiction over what exactly they are: his storytelling need for hordes of arrow fodder discomfited his theological perspective, which was baked into the world-building.

183

Anarcissie 08.29.16 at 4:15 pm

Stan 08.29.16 at 2:34 pm @ 174 —
One of the things one learns in martial arts is to turn the weapons, the strength, the weight, and the intentions of your adversaries against them. A certain kind of person could use those Confederate flags to stick it to a certain kind of enemy very solidly. But I agree it’s not for everyone. That’s why I suggested different business models. Most people are just trying to get on with their lives, in a social structure where they must obtain an expensive and probably tedious college education to get even a dumb, dull middle-class job, and I think they have a right to an environment free of offensive manifestations and obscenities like the Confederate flag.

184

Eli Rabett 08.29.16 at 10:48 pm

Combining no safe spaces and open carry policies is somewhat contradictory.

185

Faustusnotes 08.29.16 at 11:05 pm

Medrawt, Waaaay off topic but I disagree: tolkien’s heirarchy of humanity is related to his heirarchy of non-humanity, in a very racially determined way. Also the dwarves are clearly metaphorically Jews and the Haradrim related to notions of falling and corruption. But come on over and have at it if you like – just like debate on the canon, threads about Tolkien and race never die.

Academiclurker, where is the hecklers veto actually being used in all this? The links above make clear it isn’t, and Bianca backs this up with reference to the particular content of the curriculum here. It’s clear choices are being made about the curriculum (horrible ones in the case of schlock like Genesis), it’s not a “hecklers veto” to criticize those choices.

That Columbia curriculum looks genuinely awful, not so much for the nature of the writing (though King Lear is far from Shakespeare’s most enjoyable play and the complete absence of anything post -17th century is disappointing) but just for the unrelenting stuffiness of the thing. To look at that curriculum you’d think nothing was written between the birth of Christ and Shakespeare that had any effect on culture, nothing German and French at all, that old and Middle English never happened, that poetry and song means nothing after the Romans, and that every single word written in the 20th century was wasted. That’s not a course about literature and western culture, it’s a propaganda exercise about a certain kind of dominant politics. And it’s I the core? I’m glad I wasn’t forced to study there …

186

William Timberman 08.29.16 at 11:51 pm

Eli Rabett @ 183

Combining no safe spaces and open carry policies is somewhat contradictory.

Hard to tell this late in the thread, but if your comment was in response to my 119, the contradiction was kinda the point. There’s a massive conflict of expectations at work in our culture these days, and not just in the U.S. Does a decent regard for other people’s feelings keep us safe, or is it guns that keep us safe? Shrill voices are plentiful on either side of the question, more heat than light is the rule, it seems. And in France, for a non-U.S. example, is wearing a burkini to the beach evidence that a woman is oppressed, or is it the three armed policemen forcing her to disrobe in front of a crowd of onlookers?

Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be flip, or derail a serious discussion of the OP, I was just thinking of all the ways we seem to be talking past one another these days

187

AcademicLurker 08.30.16 at 12:06 am

Faustusnotes@184: My “heckler’s veto” reference was to the pharyngula thread, where the emerging consensus seems to be that disrupting events that you don’t like is A-OK. As far as actual instances, I cited one above. I can hunt down more if you like but it seems kind of pointless. It’s the chorus of unthinking approving these actions get from the peanut gallery that I find more problematic, for now, than the actual number of incidents, which is still small.

Regarding the Oberlin policy, I was not accusing you of not reading it, I suggested you read it and draw your own conclusions, which you apparently have. I disagree. 1) The statement that triggers “could be anything” and a recommendation that instructors remove potential triggers from there courses are two statements that don’t belong in the same document. 2) A sexual harassment policy is a very questionable place to be dispensing suggestions on curricular matters in the first place and 3) Official administrative documents have weight by virtue of being official administrative documents, which places some burden on the writers to think about what they’re doing. As a member a various committees, I’ve been involved in the drafting of such guidelines myself, and “it’s just a suggestion” is not an all purpose get out of jail free card. Particularly not in a document purporting to draw links between course content decisions that “could be anything” and sexual harassment.

The Oberlin faculty apparently agreed, which is why their objections caused the policy to amended. I don’t think they’re all right wing bed wetters.

188

Eli Rabett 08.30.16 at 12:51 am

Willam @ 185, nope just thread fatigue didn’t see yours.

189

Faustusnotes 08.30.16 at 1:00 am

The more I read that Columbia curriculum the madder I get. What is it meant to teach exactly? It’s front loaded with Greeks and Romans but their influence on our political culture and social organization has been minimal. The did have an influence on our culture through a brief period of art and poetry but that poetry is not taught in the course at all. Most modern English speakers understand the classics through references in romantic poetry and the English enlightenment but there is none of that in the course – why teach these secondary influences directly without teaching the actual texts through which our culture Interprets them? That’s weird.

In fact reading that curriculum you would be hard pressed to believe that “western” culture progressed at all after Julius Caesar, or that the west consisted of anywhere except two small Mediterranean countries. You certainly couldn’t guess that English (the language in which the course is studied) came from England.

Actually there is a bright thread connecting the poems of old English through Middle English, the English enlightenment and romanticism to modern day rock and roll. Much of that thread is connected by poems not prose, and it only briefly touches on the Romans and Greeks, as a kind of easy shorthand. You can easily understand that thread by listening to Bruce Dickinson singing Jerusalem at Canterbury Cathedral. But if you study that Columbia curriculum you’ll learn nothing about the cultural forces that really drove the development of western culture – you’ll just get a brief insight into the fetishes of a narrow section of a particular elite part of the academy. What a wasted opportunity, that first year science students would have their appreciation of a rich and living languages cultural heritage destroyed by such a fusty reliquarium.

190

Henry 08.30.16 at 1:00 am

I was traveling from Ireland to the US today and saw ZM’s comments just as I was about to board my flight from Dublin- I asked for the comments to be deleted in a quick email to other CTers, since they made strong allegations and claims and I wasn’t going to be able to moderate them myself mid-Atlantic. I don’t know ZM – and if ZM has mental health issues as has been suggested by another commenter above, she has my genuine sympathy. I have unmoderated a comment where she complains about her treatment, while leaving two further comments, where she continues the controversy – in moderation. We do have rules about defamatory comments, and we have these rules for a reason. I also think that there’s a problem with comments which make non-defamatory claims about people’s sexual or personal lives that has consequences for their privacy. I understand that ZM believes that certain individuals have written about her, and that she has found that people aren’t prepared to publish what she sees as her side of this controversy. However, this just isn’t an appropriate place to litigate these complaints. I (and other members of CT) don’t know these people, and can’t adjudicate, even if it were our place to adjudicate in the first place. To be clear – we have had many trolls, jerks, narcissists etc over the years, and I absolutely don’t believe that ZM is one of these, or should be lumped in with them. However, if she continues to publish comments related to this particular controversy on my posts, or other comments of a similar nature, I will have to delete them.

191

robotslave 08.30.16 at 1:32 am

@190 Henry & other editors:

If you’re going to delete comments making specific accusations against specific people, then you’d probably do well to delete comments quoting those specific allegations against specific people as well (see #153 by Stephan).

I suppose this thread was bound to raise the question of why we have slander or libel laws in places where freedom of speech is nearly sacrosanct, but what an awful way for it to come up :(

192

Val 08.30.16 at 3:43 am

I accept what you are saying Henry and understand the problem. I realise now that some of the comments ZM made about particular named individuals were not things that should have been published. I guess it would have been good if someone had been able to contact her and explain that first but obviously your circumstances made that difficult.

193

Val 08.30.16 at 4:04 am

So the question I was going to ask – and Henry if you are reading comments please tell me if this is too off topic – is not exactly safe spaces or trigger warnings but it is about confronting material.

As I’ve mentioned before I teach in a post graduate unit on climate change and public health. A student mentioned recently that it can be a bit depressing – when you realise the scale of the problem and how little we are doing to address it, it certainly can be. I said I would try to respond (it’s an online course so we have general discussion threads).

My inclination is to recommend action (whether personal or political) and preferably activism. I have recently read some interesting research which I might quote in a separate post because the quote is a bit long – and the author also recommends activism as the most productive response. However in another sense I know ‘that’s how I would respond’ and I’m interested in whether others have a different take.

There was a commenter at LGM who said something similar in their discussion of this issue (where Henry is quoted) – s/he teaches a unit about racism and said s/he wouldn’t be surprised if students did get traumatised (although apparently they don’t seem to).

Naturally I would mention university counselling and support services but I don’t think that’s really the issue – it’s more like existential despair than personal depression.

I guess the big issue is: if we are going to teach students about bad things – like racism, or patriarchy or climate change – then should we also be able to offer them some hope? Traditionally scholar and activist roles are seen as separate (although it’s a bit different in my case) but isn’t it fair for students to say in effect: don’t just tell us about bad shit that has happened or is going to happen, tell us what you’re doing about it, help us work out what to do about it?

Isn’t that part of the responsibility of a teacher?

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mbw 08.30.16 at 4:06 am

@167 If you teach about the violations of Bell’s inequalities, or even the full implications of the equivalence principle, without disturbing most of the students, you haven’t really taught them. Did you really go to school just to be trained in some techniques?

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Faustusnotes 08.30.16 at 4:17 am

Val in public health we always teach the policy responses to the problem, even the unsolvable ones.

Mbw, bells inequality is not disturbing, I found it enlightening and uplifting when I learnt it. But I was lucky – my quantum mechanics teacher was great.

The linked example in tablet mag though is not education. Sure the teacher has impressed his students with how much he “gets” that genocide was bad and the nazis were bad, but he hasn’t taught anything useful about the slippery slope from Riefenstahl to auschwitz. There have been genocides without hitlers, and many other state cruelties that occurred without fanfare or lofty rhetoric. The study of genocide should not be about the staggering uniqueness of the holocaust but about all the aspects of its repeatability and mutability. That means understanding not just the high art of its foundation but also the gritty mechanics of its maintenance, the creeping totality of it and it’s way of copying ordinary life to the vile ends of the state. Good education is about the detail in the middle, not the beginning and end of the thing. And you don’t need to go out of your way to disturb people to teach that, though they may be disturbed and you may need to talk about that.

Education isn’t about beating your chest about how much better or braver you are. It’s about learning stuff.

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Val 08.30.16 at 4:36 am

fn @ 195
Yes that’s partly why I said in my case the scholar/activist distinction doesn’t exactly apply. As you probably know, the MPH is primarily a professional qualification and in the CC and Public Health unit we are in fact teaching students about what they can do about CC in their professional careers. But
– it can be depressing in the unit when they realise how big the problem is and how little is being done
– even when they have their MPH, including their elective in CC and Public health, it’s still likely they might encounter a lot of frustration trying to get anything done within the health service or sector they work in (my own research certainly confirms that)

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faustusnotes 08.30.16 at 4:58 am

Val I think I would just get angry. Not really productive …

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Val 08.30.16 at 5:01 am

The other thing fn is not just policy but the personal response of caring – not quite so relevant in my example (though still relevant) but I think part of the problem being discussed here may be that for students of colour and women, when they learn about bad things that have happened in the past, it’s like they are learning a white male ruling class canon that doesn’t care as long as the content is ‘good’ by technical criteria.

‘So now we will read part of Ovid that is describing a rape, but we are not interested in your emotional response, your demand that we condemn the rape (because no matter what campus policy says, we actually don’t think it’s that important compared to the importance of Ovid as high literature/historical record/…)’

There is a conditionality in some men’s response to women, which I became aware of when I was studying popular attitudes in turn of the (19th) century Australia, and which I think still exists in some quarters:
‘in the olden (‘barbaric’) days, men used to do whatever they wanted to with women, and we don’t do that now (because we are ‘civilised’) (and you should be grateful, because if we weren’t so civilised we might)’

I will let others speak about the subtexts around racism, if they dare – since likely we will get reproached/mocked …

(btw fn I am not suggesting you don’t know this, just that it needs to be spelled out)

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Nick 08.30.16 at 6:47 am

I learned a lot watching Riefenstahl at university (mid-90s). Not once did I ever get the impression the lecturers were “beating their chests”, or going out of their way to “shock us” by presenting historical examples of propaganda. Nor that they were “lauding” propaganda. We also studied American, Japanese and British propaganda, as well as 50s and 60s nuclear and anti-nuclear propaganda (Duck and Cover, The War Game etc). I’m unsure how you could teach students about the history of film and televised propaganda without them watching it for themselves.

At the same time, I don’t remember anyone being strapped to their seat Clockwork Orange-style and forced to watch it. It was always presented with content warnings. If 15 mins was enough for you, you swore something at the screen and left. If you didn’t want to watch it in the first place, you didn’t turn up in the first place. All of which was perfectly acceptable.

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faustusnotes 08.30.16 at 7:04 am

Nick I think you should consider the specific example given in the tablet mag above – a lecturing format designed to shock and awe the students into … something. It’s presented in a laudatory way, as an argument against trigger warnings. But it doesn’t seem very good teaching to me.

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Nick 08.30.16 at 8:08 am

So the only connection between the Triumph of the Will and Nuit et Brouillard was a curating decision made in the 70s designed to “shock and awe” students? Perhaps you should watch the films again. I didn’t care much for the article either, but you’re overshooting just a bit.

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Hey Skipper 08.30.16 at 10:11 am

AcademicLurker 08.30.16 at 12:06 am

Faustusnotes@184: My “heckler’s veto” reference was to the pharyngula thread, where the emerging consensus seems to be that disrupting events that you don’t like is A-OK.

Here is a professor who thinks it is perfectly okay to censor points view, based upon his say so.

To be more specific, I’ll pick Ben Shapiro as an example. Self-identified SJWs have, in various ways and places, prevented him speaking to groups that invited him.

Obviously, because his opinions are so far beyond the pale that the hecklers’ veto is what all right thinking people must do.

Here is a recent lecture he gave.

I’m having a tough time not concluding that SJW’s desire dominion over others’ opinions.

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Faustusnotes 08.30.16 at 11:33 am

But hey skipper, in the example the professor cited the students didn’t use a hecklers veto – they asked the university to withdraw a speaker invitation. The university didn’t. That’s not heckling, it’s debate. Unless you think every person is equally entitled to speak at every university then you have to accept some people need to be privileged over others, and he decision of who to privilege obviously rests with the inviting institution. In this case a small part of the institution thought that privilege had been misused and demanded it be deployed better; debate ensued; nothing changed. How is that not the essence of academic engagement ? (Even the part where nothing changed!)

I’m sorry but that’s not a hecklers veto .

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Hey Skipper 08.30.16 at 1:38 pm

But hey skipper, in the example the professor cited the students didn’t use a hecklers veto – they asked the university to withdraw a speaker invitation.

That the students were unsuccessful does not mean they weren’t attempting to use the hecklers’ veto. The students’ goal was to exercise their dominion over others thoughts.

Unless you think every person is equally entitled to speak at every university then you have to accept some people need to be privileged over others …

No, I don’t think that. For instance, I don’t think I’m as “entitled” to speak at a university as, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates: I have done absolutely nothing worthy of interest in a university setting.

But I’m not sure what you mean by “privileged”. If it is the university itself inviting speakers, then the university shouldn’t engage in privileging certain view points. On the other hand, if it is campus organizations inviting speakers, then it is most certainly an exercise, whether attempted or successful, for others to stop invitees from giving their presentation.

Such attempts at view point suppression is exactly what the UoC letter was getting at.

Ben Shapiro has been prevented from speaking due to the heckler’s veto. He has been disinvited because a college rescinded a campus organization’s invitation. Ayan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis. Christina Hoff Sommers at UMass. An Israeli academic getting shouted down at the University of MN. There plenty more examples.

In each case, SJWs are insisting on subjugating everyone else’s thoughts. Why should everyone else think that is OK?

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Val 08.30.16 at 1:50 pm

fn also re your earlier posts on Japan, that was very interesting. I have always taken the three major monotheistic male God religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to be most clearly associated with patriarchy, I don’t know enough about Jaanese religion and culture to compare, but it was interesting to hear your comparisons.

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Mahood 08.30.16 at 1:54 pm

Hey skipper — I mainly agree with you but need to correct an error. Ayan Hirsi Ali had the promise of an honorary degree withdrawn. She wasn’t invited to speak, so an invitation to speak wasn’t undone. Indeed Brandeis particularly said they’d welcome her to speak on campus. They just rethought the appropriateness of an honorary degree.

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Hey Skipper 08.30.16 at 2:06 pm

I mainly agree with you but need to correct an error …

:::Memory bank purge in progress:::Complete:::Resume.

Thanks.

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Henry 08.30.16 at 2:41 pm

robotslave – thanks and fixed (with apologies to ‘Stephen’ whose inquiry has been curtailed).

Val – no problem with branching out to a different but related topic (after 100 comments, CT threads are rarely about the OP anyway).

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Stephen 08.30.16 at 5:07 pm

Henry: apologies from me, too.
I do not have an extensive knowledge of all previous posts on CT.
If I had known the full reality of ZM’s difficulties, which deserve only sympathy, I would have said nothing,

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Kiwanda 08.30.16 at 8:38 pm

Not directly to do with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, but: the FIRE database of disinvitations allows looking only at cases where the event is a debate (not the honor of speaking at a commencement), and where the “heckler’s veto” of event disruption has happened (not protested elsewhere, or arguing beforehand for disinvitation). The results (sorry if the link doesn’t work) include recent events shouted down at UC Berkeley, on two occasions, and at UC Davis, Penn, Brown, and UChicago.

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Collin Street 08.30.16 at 9:06 pm

See, you say “heckler’s veto”, I say “free speech”.

[But I’m opposed to “free speech”.]

I’m not going to take these claims seriously; on first impression they’re so ill-conceived and

that progressing to second impressions and any sort of actual non-reflex thinking on their content really doesn’t seem worth it.

Oh: skip, if you’ve got social uncertainty on what constitutes appropriate behaviour, like your post 179 suggest,s it’s:
+ unlikely to be something restricted to your interactions here, but is likely to manifest in other places
+ may well affect your judgement on the behaviour of others, not just your own.
If you’re asking questions like “I wasn’t trying to start a fight, really. Just trying to figure out what the rules of the road are here so I don’t unintentionally find myself banned” then you should probably exercise extreme caution in assuming the reality of your conclusions based on social observation more generally.

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Hey Skipper 08.30.16 at 10:34 pm

Collin, I’ll take that in the spirit in which it was intended.

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Collin Street 08.30.16 at 11:09 pm

Collin, I’ll take that in the spirit in which it was intended.

You can try. But since my whole point is you don’t know “the spirit in which it was intended” — something you seem aware of — you’re going to have a hard time, no?

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Kiwanda 08.30.16 at 11:09 pm

The rhetoric of “safety” has been used to justify canceling a debate on abortion, disinviting an afrofunk band with too many white musicians, and outrage at a discussion that mentioned That Euphemism.

Protesters at Missou in November 2015 made the public quad at a public university a “safe space” from journalists (Daily Beast):

Then they turned their attention to the press, forming a human chain around the quad where protesters had been camping out for the past week.

“No comment!” they chanted as at least one held a sign saying, “No Media, Safe Space.”

The students pushed and shoved reporters and cameramen to prevent them from breaking through and interviewing protesters on the quad, including Butler.

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Hey Skipper 08.30.16 at 11:38 pm

You can try. But since my whole point is you don’t know “the spirit in which it was intended” — something you seem aware of — you’re going to have a hard time, no?

Not as hard as you might think:

If you’re asking questions like “I wasn’t trying to start a fight, really. Just trying to figure out what the rules of the road are here so I don’t unintentionally find myself banned” then you should probably exercise extreme caution in assuming the reality of your conclusions based on social observation more generally.

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Faustusnotes 08.30.16 at 11:54 pm

Hey skipper, allow me to quote some Shapiro for you:

But that is precisely the problem—common sense tells us that there are people who cannot and ought not to command our respect or empathy. We regard what they stand for as stupid, crazy, evil, or all three. To be respectful of them would be to abandon all moral sense, so that a completely tolerant person would be totally passive, without a moral center.

This is from the book that he wrote about the importance of destroying an entire realm of speech. He wrote that back when he was pals with WND and Breitbart, before he supported trump and palled around with the gamer gaters at breitbart – people whose disgusting war in free speech be supported until he suddenly noticed they were anti Semitic . You’ll have to forgive me if I’m surprised that someone who supports vicious attacks on public figures, censorship and death threats is shocked at being told he isn’t welcome at an institute of higher learning.

Funny how his sneering about how and tolerance is completely changes when he isn’t being tolerated…

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js. 08.31.16 at 12:45 am

But seriously, if you have an interest in film, you should watch some Riefenstahl. If you find the idea of watching Triumph of the Will too disturbing, you can watch Olympia.

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Val 08.31.16 at 12:58 am

ZM @ 171 – don’t want to revisit all this but just want to clarify that I wasn’t referring to your disability in the context of your statements about the musicians (which as you say I know little about and won’t comment on) but in the context of a poor process at CT in removing all your comments without explanation to you. I’ve now had explanations from several CT bloggers and I completely accept that it was just an unfortunate process due to circumstances and no-one on CT was being intentionally dismissive or insensitive to you, but they did need to remove some of your comments.
Won’t comment on this any further here. Best wishes.

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J-D 08.31.16 at 8:19 am

It is not a valid principle that people should never be prevented from speaking.

The information that X prevented Y from speaking (or tried to do so) is not sufficient basis for a conclusion that X was in the wrong (still less that Y was in the right).

There can’t be such a thing as absolute freedom of speech because freedom of speech is not (in the economists’ sense) perfectly non-rival.

So citing instances in which people have been prevented from speaking (or where such an attempt has been made) is not a valid basis for conclusive judgement; further inquiry is needed.

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Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 10:19 am

Is this the winning entry for the 2016 All World Newspeak Competition?

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Collin Street 08.31.16 at 11:05 am

Is this the winning entry for the 2016 All World Newspeak Competition?

It’s not perfect, but incomprehension is a pretty good marker for errors on your part.

If you’re arguing with people roughly equivalent in thinkinggoodness as yourself, then the raw error rate will be basically the same between you. But it’s easier to spot the errors of others than the errors you make yourself[1]: even though you and your conversational partner are making errors at the same rate, you’re identifying theirs faster than you’re identifying your own… which conversely means an unidentified error is more likely to be on your part.

This is a pretty powerful result, well worth remembering.

[1] As a corollary: you can never see that you are in error, only that you were in error.

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Collin Street 08.31.16 at 11:10 am

And, yeah. Speech is rivalrous. I’ve run the proof up here a couple of times before [it’s a consequence of the fact that audiences require social coordination], and it has some pretty important consequences: by definition a rivalrous action is not cost-free.

In a lot of cases this doesn’t hugely matter, and under normal circumstances we can treat speech as if it were non-rivalrous… but in the edge cases the differences matter, and it’s the edge cases we need the rules for.

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SusanC 08.31.16 at 11:39 am

@faustusnotes

I take it that the way in which Bell’s inequality is supposed to be disturbing is the antirealist implications: prior to the age at which we get to read physics textbooks, we have some intuitive understanding of how the world works based on our sensory experience of human-sized objects. To learn that this mental model might be seriously wrong, at least when applied to objects at the atomic scale, is somewhat disturbing. For that matter, it appears that Rene Descartes was somewhat disturbed after Gallileo pointed a telescope at the moons of Jupiter (cf. Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy; or Hanna Arendt, The Human Condition).

Possibly not disturbed in the same way as you are when viewing a porn movie, though.

(At least. assuming its not the first time you’ve seen a porn movie: “OMG, people like doing that“).

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casmilus 08.31.16 at 12:29 pm

@19

“It had never occurred to me that my job is to make students feel uncomfortable. Is this a thing?”

The authority on this is of course Mr Kennedy, as played by Stewart Lee long ago:

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Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 12:45 pm

[Collin Street:] It’s not perfect, but incomprehension is a pretty good marker for errors on your part.

Perhaps. But incomprehension is also a pretty good marker of the incomprehensible.

And, yeah. Speech is rivalrous. I’ve run the proof up here a couple of times before [it’s a consequence of the fact that audiences require social coordination], and it has some pretty important consequences: by definition a rivalrous action is not cost-free.

There may be cases when speech is rivalrous (e.g., commencement speeches), but certainly not all. A campus group inviting a speaker to speak to them in an available space isn’t rivalrous in any meaningful sense of the word. It doesn’t make anyone listen, it doesn’t prevent any other group from inviting their own speaker.

The glaring examples that, in part, led to the UoC letter are not edge cases, nor are they examples of rivalrous speech. Instead, they are perfect examples of progressives attempting to exert intellectual dominion over others.

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faustusnotes 08.31.16 at 2:10 pm

Oh look, suddenly Hey Skipper is studiously ignoring the fact that his heroic victim of censorship is not just in favour of censorship, but in favour of death threats and vicious public speech if they achieve censorship of his political enemies.

Shock!

SusanC this is another example of why teaching through appeals to emotion is wrong, and why we need to be aware of other people’s emotional responses when we teach. I didn’t find the implications of Bell’s Inequality disturbing at all, but liberating. But someone here thinks it’s obviously disturbing. If you’re standing in front of your class trying to disturb them and half the class think what you’re saying is not disturbing but liberating, you a) haven’t understood your class’s emotional standpoint very well or b) aren’t able to because the standpoint is too diverse and c) probably can’t craft an effective class on the basis of the participants viewpoint, since half of them are feeling radically different things to you. If you teach from facts and theories then you don’t have to deal with the obvious problem that your emotional perception may be different to that of your students.

This is why I think people who believe “university is there to make people uncomfortable” aren’t deploying an effective didactive strategy. It’s either propaganda or just useless for a certain proportion of the class, and as Collin Street has noted above, if you’re really confident in your position or insensitive, you won’t even notice that half the class aren’t getting it.

Which is probably why Ben Shapiro took so long to notice that his allies at Breitbart were anti-semitic.

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Kiwanda 08.31.16 at 2:32 pm

faustusnotes:

Oh look, suddenly Hey Skipper is studiously ignoring the fact that his heroic victim of censorship is not just in favour of censorship, but in favour of death threats and vicious public speech if they achieve censorship of his political enemies.

Ben Shapiro’s opinions about censorship are irrelevant to the question of whether he should be censored.

J-D:

It is not a valid principle that people should never be prevented from speaking.

Could you state that a little more generally? There’s no point in dwelling on minutiae.

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Patrick 08.31.16 at 4:30 pm

The “college should make you uncomfortable, the whole point is to challenge your complacency, etc” lines conservatives are throwing at liberals are literally a copy of liberal talking points from a few years ago, when conservatives were complaining about how college classes that discuss privilege, patriarchy, etc.

The fact that everyone is pretending not to recognize this is baffling to me, and makes me wonder how seriously I should take certain commenters.

From my own perspective- I don’t really care about trigger warnings on their own. There’s nothing wrong about students being told the content of a course so that they can avoid it if they personally don’t wish to encounter the material. These are usually humanities classes anyways, it’s not like med students are going to opt out of microbiology or something and real world harm might result.

That being said, I care a ton about the use of trigger warnings as a way to back door in the idea that certain things aren’t appropriate in a classroom, and should either be removed, or, students who object to them should be given accommodations. I don’t like the mendacity of switching back and forth between these issues as needed in order to only have to defend the more defensible point.

Safe spaces are similar. If a campus group wants a “safe space” where the only speech that is accepted is that which is compatible with, I dunno, let’s say, gender critical radical feminism that offends and dismisses modern trans advocacy, that’s fine by me. And if a different campus group wants a safe space where the only speech that is accepted is that which is compatible with modern trans advocacy, that’s fine by me too. They can each have a limited space where they can ban the others ideas, and talk about how awful the other group is. I don’t see this as any different from a pluralistic view of religion- you can have a church that says awful things about the mosque down the street, and the mosque can say awful things about you. The reality is that a lot of groups and ideologies out there have some really awful things to say about each other, and if we’re going to let them exist at all, which we kind of have to, we need to let them occasionally retreat into their own space to do their own thing unmolested. It’s fine because everyone has limited spaces in which they have authority to control ideas, and then we all (perhaps a bit belligerently) share public space.

Yeah, that “share public space” part is enormously important though. And I think it’s incredibly important not to allow safe spaces to creep outside their borders, because the whole point of a safe space, really, is to exclude people or ideas. There are times and places where that’s appropriate, but it needs to remain limited.

This is all just the standard gospel of pluralistic liberalism. It’s disappointing how increasingly unpopular it’s become.

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SusanC 08.31.16 at 4:58 pm

we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own

This has probably already been alluded to in the thread above, but to make it really explicit: these two statements are mutually contradictory.

The first point is that the rules of the game are that a guest speaker can say whatever they like, no matter how contrary to logic or politically offensive, and is allowed to get to the end of their talk (which is possibly the start of a Q&A session) without interruption from members of the audience who think the speaker is logically inconsistent/morally reprehensible.

That is the rules of the game guarantee the speaker a “safe space” (albeit limited in time and space) where they are guaranteed not to have to encounter objections from all the people who have “ideas and perspectives” different from their own. This is pretty much in contradiction to the second point.

Of course, in the real world it is not true that the speaker can say “anything”. At the very least, the laws on libel and conspiracy to murder apply (e.g. a Jihadist speaker is limited in how specific their advocacy of violent direct action can be). But at the first cut, I point out the internal inconsistency of the rules, before moving on to whether they reflect reality.

2. That’s actually only one of the possible ways to run an academic seminar. The “Gong Show” model is also perfectly do-able. e.g. attempt to explain your proposed doctoral dissertation to the audience. Audience are provided with flash cards they can hold up if they think you’re talking nonsense. If the session chair sees a sufficient number of cards raised, she indicates that you have to leave the stage immediately, even if you are in the middle of a sentence. The timer is set for ten minutes; if you haven’t been asked to leave the stage by the time the timer goes off, you win.

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Ragweed 08.31.16 at 5:35 pm

One thing is really bothering me about the whole Ovid/trigger warning issue. There is some comments up-thread that seem to treat rape as if it were a rare experience. But estimates and stats on college-age women and sexual assault, in the US, put the number anywhere from between 1 in 5 to 1 in 10, with 1 in 6 being an oft-used figure.

Which means that any class with 10-15 female students in the US is going to have at least one and possible several students who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Anyone teaching a college class should assume that there are rape survivors in that class. Treating it as some sort of unusual situation which might come up is just wrong. If you teach, it has already happened, and it is guaranteed to happen. To act otherwise is just ignorant.

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harry b 08.31.16 at 5:49 pm

Ragweed. Absolutely right. And that observation should be a part of the preparation of every teacher in higher ed. And it isn’t.

For the past 13 or so years, every sizeable class might also contain a veteran who has seen combat. Also, observation is not part of the preparation of teachers.

For me that is why the U of C statement seems at best naive and at worst meanspirited. The thing is, whether or not you put a trigger warning on a syllabus (I don’t), and whether or not you talk about ‘safe spaces’ (I also don’t, or at least, never have until all this debate started), as a teacher you guide the students through the syllabus, so that they have a good sense of what is coming, and are able to prepare themselves in whatever way they need, and you do this with sensitivity to the kinds of things they might have experienced that normal people might have been traumatized by. And you make the classroom a ‘safe space’ so that everyone can listen, hear, be heard and understood, and learn. Its your job to get them to learn, whatever kinds of experiences they bring to the room, and that requires trigger warnings and safe spaces.

Or, of course, you can just assume that your students are all sociopaths, and then you can be as insensitive as you want!!

(disclosure: I once taught a class at U of Chicago, and can attest that the students I got to know were not sociopaths, but interesting, smart, and sensitive people).

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awy 08.31.16 at 6:30 pm

awful many discussions about uchicago’s missive ignore the pretty obvious explanation, (over)reaction to the fairly recent episodes of campus rows over safe space in places like yale. it’s probably not as nefarious as some sort of alumni pr move, although that obviously may be a benefit or influence.

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Patrick 08.31.16 at 6:48 pm

harry b- the vision of safe spaces you are describing is a fantasy. A “safe space” for sexual assault survivors is not a safe space for students who want to discuss sexual assault law. A safe space for veterans is not a safe space for a student who wants to discuss their anti war, anti imperialist political ideology. Creating the sort of safe space you are describing requires either restricting the topics the class covers (a math class could probably be a safe space to all comers), or making decisions about who’s needs you will or will not treat as legitimate.

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Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 7:30 pm

[faustusnotes @228:] Oh look, suddenly Hey Skipper is studiously ignoring the fact that his [Ben Shapiro] heroic victim of censorship is not just in favour of censorship, but in favour of death threats and vicious public speech if they achieve censorship of his political enemies.

No. Epic point missing.

Until the start of this thread, I knew heck all about Ben Shapiro, other than that I had read he had been subject to the heckler’s veto. As a consequence of this thread, I went to Youtube. (IIRC, I provided a link.)

Based on the two Youtubes I viewed my unavoidable preconceptions, Mr. Shapiro is, IMO, guilty primarily of attacking progressive shibboleths and, secondarily, of tunnel vision about white privilege.* Of course, it is entirely possible, per Collin Street, that since you can never see that you are in error, only that you were in error , I am both completely wrong, and in blissful ignorance of my wrongness.

Could be. But the road to enlightenment isn’t on account of SJWs said so.

Faustusnotes, I am perfectly happy to accept your charges against Mr. Shapiro as true. That doesn’t lead to concluding that, therefore, you, I, or anyone else, is in the position to determine what others may think. I would assume anyone posting at a blog the thesis of which is of humanity, no straight thing was ever made would take that as given. Unfortunately, the evidence on offer isn’t encouraging.

The UoC letter repudiates the notion that self appointed bien pensants may intellectually subjugate the rest of us. Yes, trigger warnings, as a concept, are common courtesy. Yes, safe spaces provide refuge for those who feel overwhelmed by the predominant culture (while, as an unavoidable side effect, giving the impression that those demanding safe space are hothouse flowers).

But that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that a group of people belonging to a very particular point of view, through nothing more than circular logic, get to exercise intellectual dominion over everyone else.

* By that I mean — IMO — he hasn’t taken on board enduring consequences of institutional racism. (Trigger warning: by Crooked Timber’s standards I am a despicable racist sexist conservative white racist cis-gendered patriarchal neo-liberal racist. Did I remember to mention racist? And that doesn’t even begin to cover the expanse of my thought crimes.)

Similarly, while I very much admire Heather MacDonald, I think she has a woodpecker’s view of the forest when it comes to police interactions with black communities. Just like BLM.

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Ecrasez l'Infame 08.31.16 at 7:31 pm

That’s really it. Safe spaces are part of 2nd wave feminist pedagogy, where the aim is consciousness raising as a form of activism. That’s where they originated, and there’s no problem with that, if that’s what you’re trying to achieve. But student activism to inflict that structure on courses with other aims is basically a form of ideological sabotage.

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Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 7:31 pm

Oh, for the love of whatever, where is Preview?

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Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 7:34 pm

[SusanC: ] That is the rules of the game guarantee the speaker a “safe space” (albeit limited in time and space) where they are guaranteed not to have to encounter objections from all the people who have “ideas and perspectives” different from their own. This is pretty much in contradiction to the second point.

Unless it is allowing the speakers to make their point. Which is, after all, why they were invited in the first place.

The alternative is hecklers rule.

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harry b 08.31.16 at 7:38 pm

You balance these things out as best you can. Obviously, you decide everyone’s needs are legitimate — if you don’t, you should either complain to the admissions people for admitting people whose needs are not legitimate, or quit and get a different job. U of C, in a way, is doing the former (“if you are a veteran, or a sexual assault survivor, go elsewhere”) — as daily nous says, the letter is just one loud trigger warning. And, as with every need, not all can be met in the classroom simultaneously all the time. So you make judgments, balancing the needs of different students. You make relationships so that students feel they can trust you to do just that, and so that when something triggers them they know they will be treated with consideration and care. Of course, no space is fully safe, but the vision of academic life that many of the anti-safe-spacers seem to have U of C Department of Economics faculty colloquium. That is not a good model, for most people whom we want to educate.

Every syllabus, btw, should specify what the learning goals are, what is expected of students, and what topics will be covered and how. So, people should be able to go in with their eyes open.

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SamChevre 08.31.16 at 7:56 pm

It seems to me that merian @ 89 and b9n10nt @ 98 make a clear and useful distinction. Keeping that clear helps keep the “trigger warning” discussion from turning into a two-step of terrific triviality.

So, one useful category: “defensive” trigger warnings/content warnings. These might be helpful, and are what always comes up as the what’s the problem example. This is the classic diving into the nearest ditch when startled PTSD issue.

But the debate is about something different: “offensive” trigger warnings. The goal isn’t “brace yourself for the explosion”; the goal is to divert the focus from “here’s Ovid; learn it on it’s own terms” to “here’s Ovid; let’s discuss how it has non-WEIRD sensibilities.”

The first is a reasonable accommodation, that might run through an office working with disabilities–because histories can be very diverse. The second is a dramatic change to what’s taught, and how–and is most strongly defended by people who seem to overlap a lot with people who mocked the “don’t talk about sex as something people might like–it’s immoral” laws of the 80’s and 90’s, which were exactly the same idea with a different partisan valence.

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Ragweed 08.31.16 at 8:09 pm

Patrick – why not?

A safe space does not mean that you must avoid certain subjects, but that you approach them in a way that is sensitive to the individuals that might be affected by those experiences. I would think that the experience of being a sexual abuse survivor might allow one to bring different perspectives to sexual assault law (eg. regarding witness interview strategies).

If this is a general or introductory level law class that every law student must attend, then I think it is reasonable to treat the subject in way that is respectful of the fact that there are sexual abuse survivors in the lecture hall (or have an alternative assignment for someone for whom it is just to raw at that time). I can see there being specialist classes that might need to cover certain potentially triggering subjects in a graphic and difficult way – if you are going to be a criminal attorney dealing with crimes of sexual violence, you are going to have to be able to face some pretty tough stuff, just as you need to be able to handle the sight of blood to be a surgeon.

But for the most part we are not talking about specialist classes, we are talking about core curriculum, and it is completely reasonable to expect that classrooms are conducted in a way that is respectful of student experience. If you have students read a passage about rape (and I think in many classes you should), you can guide the discussion in a way that is respectful and does not belittle the experience of a sexual assault survivor. If you have a discussion about anti-war or anti-imperialist politics, you can teach it, and ask students to discuss it, in a way that is respectful of someone who has seen active combat. Again, particularly if this is a survey course or part of the core curriculum that every student must attend. I would expect that most good classes have ground-rules for keeping classroom discussions respectful – I don’t see where these sorts of things would not be part of it.

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AcademicLurker 08.31.16 at 8:15 pm

Ragweed@241: That sounds fine, but in that case “safe space” becomes simply a synonym for “properly conducted class”. I’m not sure why these fancy new terms are suddenly needed for things that already exist.

Honestly, after the spate of responses to the U of C letter, it seems that apparently the entire universe is a safe space. Or it isn’t. Or something.

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Ragweed 08.31.16 at 9:15 pm

“the goal is to divert the focus from “here’s Ovid; learn it on it’s own terms” to “here’s Ovid; let’s discuss how it has non-WEIRD sensibilities.””

How do you learn a Greek work in English translation “on it’s own terms”? What does that even mean?

If it means to uncritically accept the worldview of the writer – who was from a time and place where women’s lives and perspectives were not considered to be worth consideration – then I think that you are doing a serious disservice to students. To expect women to read this and not point out that the whole experience really sucked for the nymph who was raped chose to be mutilated and turned into a piece of wood rather than be raped, and was treated like prey, is really a problem.

To say that we have to only look at the aesthetics of the language (in translation?) and not to ask what the nymph might have though about it all is an act of conservatives trying to exert political domination over their students.

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Ragweed 08.31.16 at 9:17 pm

whoops – only the “was raped” should have been stricken out.

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Marc 08.31.16 at 9:25 pm

To expect everyone to filter all of their readings through a prescribed ideological filter is not reasonable either.

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J-D 08.31.16 at 9:34 pm

Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 12:45 pm

There may be cases when speech is rivalrous (e.g., commencement speeches), but certainly not all. A campus group inviting a speaker to speak to them in an available space isn’t rivalrous in any meaningful sense of the word. It doesn’t make anyone listen, it doesn’t prevent any other group from inviting their own speaker.

Speech in general is toward the non-rivalrous end of the spectrum, but the only scenario where speech is perfectly non-rivalrous is the soliloquy (at least, it’s the only one I can think of). Otherwise, there is always the potential for one person’s speaking to interfere with another person’s capacity to speak. What if an invited speaker is addressing a campus group and half the audience is talking loudly among themselves so that the other half can’t hear the speaker? are the interrupters interfering with freedom of speech, or exercising it? and if it’s both, doesn’t that illustrate how speech is rivalrous?

Hey Skipper 08.31.16 at 7:34 pm
[SusanC: ] That is the rules of the game guarantee the speaker a “safe space” (albeit limited in time and space) where they are guaranteed not to have to encounter objections from all the people who have “ideas and perspectives” different from their own. This is pretty much in contradiction to the second point.

Unless it is allowing the speakers to make their point. Which is, after all, why they were invited in the first place.

The alternative is hecklers rule.

Does that mean you want to stop heckling, then? how is that not a denial of freedom of speech? Hecklers are an excellent illustration of how speech is rivalrous.

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J-D 08.31.16 at 10:14 pm

Kiwanda 08.31.16 at 2:32 pm
faustusnotes:

Oh look, suddenly Hey Skipper is studiously ignoring the fact that his heroic victim of censorship is not just in favour of censorship, but in favour of death threats and vicious public speech if they achieve censorship of his political enemies.

Ben Shapiro’s opinions about censorship are irrelevant to the question of whether he should be censored.

It seems to me that what somebody is trying to say would always, or nearly always, have to be relevant to whether they should be prevented from saying it.

J-D:

It is not a valid principle that people should never be prevented from speaking.

Could you state that a little more generally? There’s no point in dwelling on minutiae.

Maybe I misunderstood, but it seemed to me that Hey Skipper was referring to instances in which Ben Shapiro had been prevented from speaking as if that automatically had to be wrong. Did you have a different and more specific interpretation of a principle Hey Skipper was defending?

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Faustusnotes 08.31.16 at 10:20 pm

The idea of reading Ovid’s work on its own terms is stupid. When we get to that section of the class do we also need to pretend that we really believe eve was created from Adam’s rib so he could have his own sex doll? This is part of the ludicrous notion that you can’t teach the canon from a critical perspective. If you want to read a book on its own terms do it at home. At uni you are there to be disturbed, remember? Which means you need to actually analyze the text,and all the implications that flow from it. That means when you read Genesis you need to relate what you are reading to 2000 years of misogyny; when you read the New Testament you need to break out your d&d monster manual and try to figure out what kind of undead Jesus is. That’s how textual analysis works. Ovid on his own terms…? Impossible.

Hey skipper, you use the term SJW which means you are a regular breitbart reader and a gamer gate limpet, so please forgive me if I don’t believe you had “never heard of” Ben Shapiro. In that case you are a fan of a movement that sends SWAT teams to the homes of feminist video game critics and you are presenting to us as a model victim of censorship a man who cheered those people on. This is a man who encouraged the use of the state to censor pornography, and the use of the armed state to threaten critics of right wing politics. A man whose political ideology is of intolerance, self described above. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t take your protestations seriously and don’t cry particularly many tears when a vicious supporter of violently enforced censorship is censored using a non violent version of his own strategy.

Kiwanda, shapiro gets plenty of opportunities to present his views – he has had several books published and had a column on breitbart, which is better than you or I get. He is also an advocate of censorship and supported a movement that SWATted its enemies and in one case used death threats to shut down their university presentations. Stopping him from presenting at a university doesn’t censor him in any way – it simply stops the university from adding its good name to the list of organizations that have enabled his violent hate speech to continue.

Seriously, people like Charles Murray and benshapiro have plenty of avenues for their speech. Universities aren’t a charity for racist, homophobic nut jobs – I don’t know why so many people think they should be forced to give free air time to the opponents of Liberty.

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harry b 08.31.16 at 10:41 pm

Academic Lurker

“Ragweed@241: That sounds fine, but in that case “safe space” becomes simply a synonym for “properly conducted class”. I’m not sure why these fancy new terms are suddenly needed for things that already exist.”

I agree with this, and that fancy new terms are not needed. What is needed, apparently, is that teachers be alerted to what it takes to conduct a class properly. Not so surprising given that professors get no training in how to teach and are not hired for their competence at conducting classes properly. (I say this as someone who, I think, failed to make my classes properly for many years, and is, of course, still trying to learn how to do it better). Of course, some of the demands are silly, and some are counterproductive, etc, but part of the reason for that is that the issue has been seized by people who are interested in making political points or in making names for themselves (maybe on both sides, but certainly on the anti-trigger warning/safe space side, eg that appalling piece by Haidt that seems to have set things off).

So, yes, this is all about pedagogy.

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Ragweed 08.31.16 at 10:43 pm

Academic Lurker: “That sounds fine, but in that case “safe space” becomes simply a synonym for “properly conducted class”. I’m not sure why these fancy new terms are suddenly needed for things that already exist.”

And I think that is the argument – safe spaces are part of “properly conducted classes” but not everyone has gotten the message, and we don’t do a good job of preparing academic teachers in how to teach. (Note that Harry says he does NOT use trigger warnings or talk about safe spaces, but tries to create the same effect implicitly).

That and the fact that we are coming out of an era (up until at least the mid 20th century) where college was about maintaining a hierarchical system, and professors considering the social-emotional needs of their students was considered anethma. And really that is what the U of Chicago letter is about – it is signaling that they don’t give a s— about the students social-emotional needs, and plan to separate the men from the boys.

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harry b 08.31.16 at 10:47 pm

ragweed. Snap!

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F. Foundling 08.31.16 at 11:02 pm

I agree that the professor analysing the Ovid passages within that literature course should have realised and highlighted the fact that the author is aestheticising violence and what we would consider evil, and that he is to a great extent accepting rather than condemning it, due to the ethical system of his age. Pointing that out may not have been necessary in a course focussing solely, say, on the ‘technical’ side of literature – especially given the fact that the fact is rather self-evident – but the official aims of that specific course also included the discussion of the period-specific worldviews, ideologies and philosophies expressed in literature (the description is available at http://www.college.columbia.edu/core/lithum/about, and earlier versions of the page can be accessed at the Internet Archive). So, if it’s true, as the student claimed, that the professor at Columbia only discussed the beauty of the language, then he just didn’t do his job. However, this has nothing to do with the students’ special identities and experiences and with alleged triggering (I agree with some other commenters that triggering is being confused with offensiveness here). That approach would have been completely wrong regardless of the life histories of the audience. It would have been wrong, from a learning perspective, for anyone, and, in a course including contrastive ethics among its subjects, it should have been offensive to anyone as well.

In general, the Greek gods of myth were bastards – even the Greeks thought so, when they bothered to consider the issue – and the real-life Greeks and Romans were bastards from our perspective, too. I don’t think anyone sane reading Classical mythology and history would confuse it for an ethics manual; after the first couple of pages if not sentences it’s immediately clear that these are stories from a thoroughly alien moral and intellectual universe. So the way you read them is that you relate to the relatable parts and initially laugh at or are outraged by the ‘alien’ ones, until you know them so well that you just come to expect them and take them for a given in *that* setting (Greeks gonna Greek, Christians gonna Christian, etc.) – which is, of course, what ‘taking them on their own terms’ means, and it certainly doesn’t mean *embracing* them! That’s the way the Classics have been read during most of Western history – inevitably so ever since the advent of Christianity. This non-universality of culture is arguably the number 1 lesson to draw from studying them. And, of course, it’s unnecessary and pointless to point out every single time how the worldview expressed in those works is wrong and immoral from our contemporary perspective.

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F. Foundling 08.31.16 at 11:39 pm

Faustusnotes @ 181

>Yes it’s a business model and the business model for Columbia appears to be “propaganda for the elites.” That’s why they’re teaching misogynist junk like Genesis. That’s why the tablet article linked above is lauding what is essentially propaganda, not education. I studied English at a university whose academics apparently actually cared about the material they taught as literature, not as propaganda, which is why they critiqued it even as they loved it. Apparently this is hard.

Actually, both the Columbia syllabus page and the Tablet article explicitly advocate critiquing the material and *not* teaching it as propaganda.

Columbia Lit Hum page:

‘Our Lit Hum readings asks us to explore radically different moral universes. … Here’s a few of the many questions raised in our Lit Hum readings: How do the power and agency of human beings differ? Why are some people (e.g., women, servants) denied agency? … In asking us to consider these sorts of questions, Lit Hum encourages us to compare our own assumptions and values to the radically different ones expressed in our readings.’

Tablet article:

‘It’s hard for me to imagine that any of the 60-odd preceptors, faculty, and graduate students who teach the various 22-student sections of the Core command the uncritical ingestion of sacred texts. (I teach sections of another Core course, Contemporary Western Civilization, myself, I must disclose. I don’t teach that way.)’

‘… There’s another way of looking at the annals of slaughter and rape that thread through the history of civilization—this civilization or any other. It is this: A record of civilization that lacks such accounts is a lie. “There is no document of civilization,” wrote Walter Benjamin, “which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” … Brutalities cry for attention. Attention to the appalling causes disturbance. Deal with it.’

You, on the other hand, aren’t advocating reading and critiquing, you are advocating (@88, 160, 181) not reading the stuff at all, because its values are all wrong anyway.

Faustusnotes @ 88

>Robinson Crusoe, really? It’s not even the world’s first novel, it’s just a naff book about a racist dude.

You may disagree with the opinion that Robinson Crusoe is culturally and ideologically significant, but if you don’t know *why* it has been considered to be that, well, I’ll just have to recommend reading a bit more about the issue.

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 12:07 am

Faustusnotes @191

>It’s front loaded with Greeks and Romans but their influence on our political culture and social organization has been minimal.

First, it isn’t true that their influence on Western or even just Anglo-Saxon political culture and social organization has been minimal (unless you only take into account direct institutional continuity), and second, even if it were, the issue relevant for the Columbia curriculum is literature, art and philosophy, not just politics.

>Most modern English speakers understand the classics through references in romantic poetry and the English enlightenment but there is none of that in the course – why teach these secondary influences directly without teaching the actual texts through which our culture Interprets them? That’s weird.

Yes, also, instead of teaching Shakespeare, let’s just teach something much more familiar to most modern English speakers, such as 21st century pop music and Hollywood films in which Shakespeare is referenced!

>In fact reading that curriculum you would be hard pressed to believe that “western” culture progressed at all after Julius Caesar

Perhaps we’re reading different syllabi, since the second half of the one I find (at http://www.college.columbia.edu/core/sites/core/files/pages/2016-17%20LIT%20HUM%20SYLLABUS_3.pdf, also at http://www.college.columbia.edu/core/lithum/texts) consists of post-Classical readings.

>You certainly couldn’t guess that English (the language in which the course is studied) came from England.

The syllabus that I find has Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, and Woolf.

>Actually there is a bright thread connecting the poems of old English through Middle English, the English enlightenment and romanticism to modern day rock and roll. You can easily understand that thread by listening to Bruce Dickinson singing Jerusalem at Canterbury Cathedral. But if you study that Columbia curriculum you’ll learn nothing about the cultural forces that really drove the development of western culture.

So, not only do you think that there is such an English national ‘bright line’ (well, brightness is a relative characteristic, I suppose), but also, crucially, that it’s more important to Western culture than Ovid, Dante, etc. That’s fine, but the prevailing opinion happens to be different as regards the second point at least, so you really shouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s the one reflected in teaching as well. One may also point out that your opposition to becoming acquainted with misogynistic documents like the Bible doesn’t fit in especially well even with your own Blake example.

>The more I read that Columbia curriculum the madder I get.

This observation does agree very nearly with my own impressions, I’m afraid.

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AcademicLurker 09.01.16 at 12:07 am

Faustusnotes:

I’m old enough to have lived through the original canon wars back in the 80s/90s. At the time I wasn’t much impressed with the conservative arguments in large part because, while claimed to just love the Great Books, they seemed more interested in putting them up on pedestals and praising them rather than actually engaging with them. St. Johns College, which after all has what should be the ideal conservative curriculum, isn’t exactly notorious for producing conservatives.

But your own view appears to be that the sole value of older works is as an occasion to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for the grand achievement of having been born in the late 20th century, instead of the 1rst or the 12th or the 17th. That doesn’t count as thinking any any more than the blind worship recommended by the conservative culture warriors does. Quite a few people who opposed slavery, advocated for the emancipation of women & etc., were inspired by their understanding of the bible, or the oratories of republican Rome. But hey, no reason to engage with those things at all right? Because nothing is complicated, and righteousness began on the day that we, in particular, were born.

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Faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 12:18 am

Foundling, I wasn’t disagreeing with those parts of the tablet article, but with the teaching strategy involving the two films. I also understand why cursor is significant (I studied it in English lit 2o years ago). It’s still a naff book about a racist dude, and it’s not the world’s first novel.

Also I’m intrigued by the claim that the ancient Greeks can’t be treated as a moral guide. We actually often are told they are – cradle of civilization, wellspring of democracy, what have the Romans ever done for us etc. I suspect the readings in that course would be a lot less triggery if people were coming to the course from a social background that hadn’t emphasized their importance to western philosophy and law. That’s not to say they are used as a moral guide by anyone anywhere, but I don’t think we can ignore the context in which first year students approach the course. Which, remember, also teaches Genesis, which absolutely is treated as a moral guide by the west.

I didn’t have a classical education – a poor Aussie country school – and when I went to university I found a lot of what I was being taught as “great” literature frankly offensive and not great at all. I wasn’t steeped in respect for the classics or anything – just a guy who liked reading – and so when for example Jane eyre wins at the end of the book by inheriting a slavers fortune, or when cruise gets a manservant, or whatever, I wasn’t thinking “oh yeah just roll with it, those were the times” I was thinking “why on earth does my education have to include this shit?” Jane eyre in particular was a real slap in the face, I nearly hurled that book across the room when I discovered what I was being expected to read. I wasn’t radical then either – I hadn’t yet read the dispossessed and didn’t really have any left wing ideas at all – but I just kept thinking “this is stupid crap, why is it important to read badly written trash about the travails of rich ancient racists?” I’ll grant you my perspective has mellowed now I’m older and lefter than I was then but I think I’m probably representative of a lot of lumpen apolitical types who would like just a little more guidance about why have to read this old junk. And yeah a trigger warning for “slavers princess” would have really helped me come to terms with the nasty ending of that book.

(My English lit course was great and I’m currently preparing a blog post about how great it was – but this aspect of lit curricula is only going to become more, not less significant, I feel, as society comes to terms with a more critical approach to the canon).

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 12:29 am

If one hopes to help students understand Muslim culture, a good place to start might be reading parts of the Koran. If one hopes to understand the culture of large parts of Asia, a good place to start might be reading Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian texts in translation and perhaps the original. That’s certainly how I was taught and how I teach.

A great way to not understand Muslim culture would be to refuse to read the Koran and understand how the text shapes and shaped the development of a great many nations.

Teaching students that they don’t need to learn the history of Christianity (which existed for 3 – 5 centuries in a variety of forms without a standardized text) is equally loopy. One would think that the links between relics, pilgrimage, and local and regional economies, (not to mention Chaucer) might matter.

One doesn’t read or teach Ovid, or Homer for that matter, so that we can emulate the gods or the mortals described in the texts. Rather, we teach these texts in order to help students understand how these tales shaped Roman culture, compare with other mythic tales, borrowed from the literature of Asian cultures, and continue to have a relevance today. Or not. And then there are all those meaningless figures like Plato, Pythagorous, and Pelagius.

I’m confident 70-90 percent of instructors make this clear to first-year students. If we hope to understand ourselves, understanding the ideas and individuals that shaped our world might be a good place to start. And, yes, looking for the voices of women and ‘others’ in all this might be the most interesting and important part of the undertaking.

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J-D 09.01.16 at 12:56 am

I wasn’t steeped in respect for the classics or anything – just a guy who liked reading – and so when for example Jane eyre wins at the end of the book by inheriting a slavers fortune, or when cruise gets a manservant, or whatever, I wasn’t thinking “oh yeah just roll with it, those were the times” I was thinking “why on earth does my education have to include this shit?” Jane eyre in particular was a real slap in the face, I nearly hurled that book across the room when I discovered what I was being expected to read.

Jane Eyre’s uncle is described as having made his fortune in Madeira. I don’t think there’s any explicit reference to what business he was in. Slaves were brought to Madeira for the sugar industry, but by the nineteenth century sugar production was concentrated elsewhere, the principal industry in Madeira was the wine industry, and slavery had been abolished.

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 12:58 am

Re 241 and 250 – of course, one of our priorities should be to avoid things that are likely to make some or most people in the audience uncomfortable, and that’s part of most teachers’ common sense. For instance, I’m sure that most teachers would, by default, have the common sense not to include graphic accounts of rape in their classes unless the discipline obviously presupposes it (in which case the student is there at his/her own risk). However, there is a balance to be stricken between not making people uncomfortable and making your point. Calling this a ‘safe space’ tips it too much towards the former at the expense of the latter. Completely safe from discomfort you can’t and won’t be.

Let me quote the students’ article:

‘Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.’

‘This year, we explored possible interventions in Core classrooms, where transgressions concerning student identities are common. Beyond the texts themselves, class discussions can disregard the impacts that the Western canon has had and continues to have on marginalized groups.’

‘Repeatedly, we heard from students who demonstrated that having difficult experiences in a Lit Hum or Contemporary Civilization class may actually be part of the norm. ‘

‘Students need to feel safe in the classroom, and that requires a learning environment that recognizes the multiplicity of their identities.’

This is clearly a demand for more politically congenial lecture content masking as a demand for sensitive consideration for individual emotional and mental comfort. Either the lecture content is true, relevant and fairly presented, or it’s not. It should be true, relevant and fairly presented regardless of the identity of the audience. To what extent students should be able to decide whether the lecture content is true, relevant and fairly presented may be debated. However, framing the issue as a medical one or one of emotional well-being – ‘help, these texts are marginalising my identity, so I can’t read and discuss them!’ – is not an appropriate approach. It is, as others have pointed out, a two-step, since the treatment of the much smaller group of instances of true medical trauma and triggers – one that is partly up to the teachers’ common sense and partly unpredictable – is extended to any kind of discomfort.

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faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 1:01 am

Kidneystones what you have effectively done there is offer a trigger warning. The approach you recommend seems to be quite different to the tablet mag (“THe history of civilization is a history of barbarism. Deal with it.”) or the UofC’s angry letter (we will teach what we want without explanation, apology or consideration of how you feel about it). I think it must be the case that less than 70-90 percent of instructors teach the way you suggest, since there has been a campaign in the last few years at these elite universities to have them teach more sensitively. What doesn’t seem to be considered is the possibility that they aren’t actually teaching very sensitively.

I see a kind of similar problem to this in teaching statistics to non-statisticians. We teach historically, building up from the basics and then moving through early statistical techniques (like the t-test) and then on to linear and logistic regression, which we teach separately to each other and to the generalized linear model. But in fact a lot of what we teach is dominated by historical constraints and not by the real goals of statistics. For example, the T-statistic and the Z-statistic only exist because there was a time when statisticians had to work from a single distribution represented through a table. This standardization process confuses students but is completely unnecessary in the modern world. Similarly we teach linear regression separately to the GLM for historical reasons but actually the formalism of the GLM is way better for understanding how statistical analysis works, and privileging linear regression leads to the ridiculous result in which, for example, economists routinely use the wrong regression framework and even if they use the right one, often write the equations wrong (e.g. putting residuals in a Poisson regression equation). I think this is because the teaching of stats clouds the understanding of stats through the confusion of historically important but theoretically irrelevant material.

Perhaps this also happens in modern humanities?

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faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 1:08 am

J-D actually from the viewpoint of a kid who was barely able to get to university and living hand-to-mouth to make it, even the way the tensions in the story resolve – she inherits money – was a big slap in the face to me, sitting there reading a story about a class I don’t understand from a time I don’t understand, expected to appreciate in some sense her struggle to be herself, only to find that she doesn’t have to struggle at all because rich uncle! I guess in modern parlance you would say it was “triggering”, though at the time I didn’t know that word and probably couldn’t have explained exactly why I was so angry (I did really enjoy the book up until then, and I was siding with her, so maybe that was part of it). It’s not as vicious and cynical and abusive as the end of The Breakfast Club or Titanic, but it’s still pretty nasty. And that aspect of the story was missed by the (otherwise generally good) teachers, just as a lot of critique of Harry Potter misses the fact that he was born rich and got everything handed to him on a platter.

Foundling, I don’t read those pleas as pleas not to teach the material, but as pleas to take into account the background of the students and the possibility that the material isn’t suited to their background. I’m not sure why you’re reading a sinister sub-text to it.

Although again it should be pointed out – the canon is large and diverse, and a choice to exclude one book and include another doesn’t mean that you are censoring or omitting some essential thing, you’re just making a choice. Is there a reason student identity shouldn’t be incorporated into the basis of that decision?

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 1:31 am

@ 259 ‘quoting the student’s article’

The article is intended to appeal to and win the approval of peers, yes, but more importantly is directed towards faculty and others holding purse strings and power, and who are engaged in precisely the kind of infighting Henry describes so eloquently in the OP.

The article is not an act of political courage, or scholarship, but one of signaling and self-promotion.

I was unlucky enough to complete my undergraduate degree in English and American literature at a time when graduate school meant ingesting enormous volumes of ‘theory.’ As a keen student of aesthetics, particularly those of the reformations and counter-reformations, there were very few options for graduate study that did not involve swallowing even more theory, at least in Canada.

Gary Tomlinson’s ‘Music in Renaissance Magic’ (1995) is an illustrative case in point. As I recall, something like 1/3 of an otherwise excellent text is sacrificed to invocations of Foucault and other ‘luminaries,’ where more on Ficino and his peers might be more useful.

Reading texts, including period newspapers, theatre/book reviews, maps, images, and almanachs is far more useful, imho, than reading modern commentary on texts that few any longer actually read.

As for first-year students and the classics, I can’t imagine how any individual is going to come away the poorer for listening to Derek Jacobi read the Iliad no matter how inadequate Fagles’ translation may be.

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J-D 09.01.16 at 1:32 am

faustusnotes, that’s a good point (about Jane Eyre) which I had never previously considered and I’m grateful to you for drawing it to my attention. I still think your reference to slavery was inaccurate, but I now understand that not to affect the main point you were making.

It makes me curious to understand your points about Titanic (which I have never seen, although I’ve heard about it and seen a few clips) and The Breakfast Club (which I think I did see once, or most of it, and never understood why it gets the positive evaluations it does — I just got nothing out of it, and as far as I recall my reaction to the ending was that it was silly, but not particularly sillier than the film as a whole).

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 1:36 am

Faustusnotes @ 256

>Also I’m intrigued by the claim that the ancient Greeks can’t be treated as a moral guide. We actually often are told they are – cradle of civilization, wellspring of democracy, what have the Romans ever done for us etc.

In some ways they were admirable and inspiring. In others they were total scum. People tend to be that way. Life’s complicated.

>Which, remember, also teaches Genesis, which absolutely is treated as a moral guide by the west.

Only by the idiots. And in the Columbia course, Genesis is obviously taught as literature, not as a moral – or scientific – guide.

>when I went to university I found a lot of what I was being taught as “great” literature frankly offensive and not great at all.

As I said, there are the good parts and the bad parts. You either see some good parts, or you don’t – obviously your teachers haven’t managed to demonstrate them to you in this case. Whether it’s ‘offensive’ by being e.g. about ‘rich ancient racists’ is one thing, whether it’s ‘badly written’ and ‘not great at all’ is another.

Faustusnotes @ 261

> Foundling, I don’t read those pleas as pleas not to teach the material, but as pleas to take into account the background of the students and the possibility that the material isn’t suited to their background. I’m not sure why you’re reading a sinister sub-text to it.

They are clearly making demands not just about changing the corriculum – which would be bad enough IMO – but also about how it is taught and what the teachers say. I’m not the one calling this sinister, but it should be explicit.

> Although again it should be pointed out – the canon is large and diverse, and a choice to exclude one book and include another doesn’t mean that you are censoring or omitting some essential thing, you’re just making a choice. Is there a reason student identity shouldn’t be incorporated into the basis of that decision?

Aside from the fact that classes aren’t and shouldn’t be segregated by identity, I don’t think the canon is *that* large. Ultimately, I believe in a set of classics common to all; Don Quixote isn’t just ‘for some people’. And excluding books based on their making you uncomfortable, including having a worldview profoundly different from your own, is just not a good thing. 99% of recorded human history since the advent of writing has been a time of oppression much greater than what we are used to, and this is reflected in the literature produced during all that time. I can’t imagine a canon that doesn’t include texts making underprivileged groups uncomfortable. You just have to learn to understand the aliens, there is no way around that.

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faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 1:56 am

Here you go J-D, my blog post criticizing both.

Foundling exactly where is the plea to drop teh course material? I just see a plea for better teaching.

I haven’t seen anyone here concede the possibility that these courses are not being taught in the way you think they should be. I see lots of “I assume that” and “no doubt …” but is it true? Or is the course material being taught exactly as the students suggest it is – by stuck up prigs who think we should all get some Ovid up us?

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 1:57 am

One book that I recall where a happy ending is achieved thanks to the slave trade is Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random. It was a fitting ending, too, considering the rest of the book. A great document of its age.

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ZM 09.01.16 at 1:58 am

Henry,

“I have unmoderated a comment where she complains about her treatment, while leaving two further comments, where she continues the controversy – in moderation. We do have rules about defamatory comments, and we have these rules for a reason. I also think that there’s a problem with comments which make non-defamatory claims about people’s sexual or personal lives that has consequences for their privacy. I understand that ZM believes that certain individuals have written about her, and that she has found that people aren’t prepared to publish what she sees as her side of this controversy. However, this just isn’t an appropriate place to litigate these complaints. I (and other members of CT) don’t know these people, and can’t adjudicate, even if it were our place to adjudicate in the first place. To be clear – we have had many trolls, jerks, narcissists etc over the years, and I absolutely don’t believe that ZM is one of these, or should be lumped in with them. However, if she continues to publish comments related to this particular controversy on my posts, or other comments of a similar nature, I will have to delete them.”

Thanks for explaining your decision Henry. I’m sorry I didn’t know you were travelling and not in a position to moderate the threads. I won’t comment about this issue on your threads again.

I would appreciate a comment or email if its possible clarifying for me if this applies to Crooked Timber threads generally or only to your threads.

I do disagree with your view about privacy being being invaded in this case, since the details are pertinent to the incidents, but I am fine with not arguing about this any further on your threads so I won’t argue anymore about that.

If its okay I just wanted to let other CT commenters know I have written to a number of media outlets in Australia, the UK, and the USA about what has happened, and also to let people know that I was cyber stalked by indie bands on Crooked Timber and indie bands plagiarised my comments in songs and film clips. I think I was actively cyber stalked by David Berman under 2 or more pseudonyms here after in 2014 he published Crooked Timber on his Menthol Mountains blogroll.

If the press does publish my complaints about these indie bands Crooked Timber will be in the media coverage.

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 2:07 am

@ 260 If you like a good read, I encourage you as strongly as possible to locate a bible and read just the first books of kings, also known as the first book of Samuel at the earliest opportunity. Assuming, of course, you haven’t already. It’s about 30 pages.

Caxton published classical authors in English because continental publishers had already mass produced classical authors in Latin. An English reading public unschooled in Latin represented an untapped, slightly niche, market Caxton was keen to develop and exploit.

English translations of the Bible predate 1533, but from this point forward we can safely assume a substantial number of readers familiar with both the bible and any number of classical authors. In the last 100 years, or so, the number of readers and author literate in the bible and classics has dropped off, perhaps dramatically. But very few authors writing before 1750 would likely have anticipated such a development. Joyce, Eliot, Faulkner, and Pound, all rely heavily on biblical and classical allusion, not to mention others.

Macbeth is structured around the twin imperial tales of the Tarquins and Saul starting with Dagon.

Give it a read. You’ll be the wiser and better-read for the experience. Then jump around looking for the parts that interest you. Job is essential.

The theory crap and endless discussions about ‘trigger warnings’ are just, imho, excuses for avoiding the much more useful, enjoyable, and occasionally difficult business of reading.

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ZM 09.01.16 at 2:11 am

Val,

“‘So now we will read part of Ovid that is describing a rape, but we are not interested in your emotional response, your demand that we condemn the rape (because no matter what campus policy says, we actually don’t think it’s that important compared to the importance of Ovid as high literature/historical record/…)’”

I don’t think Ovid in general depicts rape favourably. The women tend to turn into plants after being raped which is a critique of rape I think.

Ovid looks at this from a meta view as well in the story of Syrinx. This isn’t one of the more famous stories. I read it in relation to a John Ashbery poem Syringa which is one of his best poems and indirectly refers to the myth of Syrinx. I don’t know what personal event it refers to in Ashbury’s life the poem basically says whatever it was was couldn’t be turned into a poem.

Syrinx is a nymph escaping Pan who to escape him turns into reeds. Pan then makes a pipe from her after she escaped him and makes music from her.

I presume Ovid noticed the links to some of his work and this story of Syrinx when he wrote his Metamorphoses.

Culturally in Classical Greece when women were raped by Gods it was meant to bring forth a hero as the progeny, I think this is in Hesiod or someone like that. Exactly what the Classical Greeks meant about women being raped by Gods I don’t really know. Sometimes the Gods possessed other people’s bodies, like you read Ceres possessed a maid in one account. I think Greek culture relating the rape of women by Gods to the birth of heroes is something that makes rape in Greek literature problematic for modern sensibilities even when the rape is treated as harmful to the woman by the author.

Meredith might be able to give a better explanation, since she works in classics I think.

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 2:18 am

@265

>Foundling exactly where is the plea to drop teh course material?

I admit it’s not all that emphatic or explicit – my point was that they want to change what lecturers say *about* the works – but since you’re asking, they did express a desire to change *which* works are taught as well.

‘Altering the Core Curriculum is another important discussion—one that would undoubtedly require the insight of the larger student body. In the meantime, we hope that our recommendations will enable students to have a more intellectually rewarding experience in their classrooms.’

>I haven’t seen anyone here concede the possibility that these courses are not being taught in the way you think they should be. I see lots of “I assume that” and “no doubt …” but is it true?

Well, you have the (rather vague) word of some of the students against the word of some of the teachers, including the ‘mission statement’ of the course, which I quoted (https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/lithum/about). As for Genesis, nobody has claimed it’s taught as factually true any more that they were teaching The Metamorphoses as factually true.

>by stuck up prigs who think we should all get some Ovid up us?

When I say that ‘Don Quixote isn’t just ‘for some people’’, this is a statement of egalitarianism and belief in humanity, not of arrogance.

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 2:30 am

Let’s discuss the place of women and others in western and Islamic cultures, but skip that tedious and utterly irrelevant scabby book known as Genesis.

F-me. Ignorance as a virtue.

In the last several years I’ve actually had to start teaching key passages in Exodus to make iconoclasm in modern culture more understandable.

Who’s Eve?

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 2:33 am

Kidneystones @ 260
>If you like a good read, I encourage you as strongly as possible to locate a bible and read just the first books of kings, also known as the first book of Samuel at the earliest opportunity. Assuming, of course, you haven’t already. It’s about 30 pages.

I’m not sure, but I think it was this one I tried to (re-?)read a few years ago. I have to admit that I was just too angry to continue after a few pages (channelling Faustusnotes a bit here). It somehow seemed worse than Genesis, perhaps because it was a bit more realistic, and Yahweh and the Yahwists were just as insufferable. An excellent document of its time, too, no doubt about it.

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faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 2:41 am

Kidneystones, I think this is the point I’m trying to get at here – that reading is a great thing and reading hard texts out of touch with our time is a great thing, but all too often when these texts are presented only in terms of their classical interpretation, they just turn off the reader. It’s not necessarily a question of offensive politics, though that often bubbles up, but also just being out of touch or plain weird. And the troubling thing about good writing is that it really does punch you in the guts, so if good writing is portraying something you really feel strongly about it is really hard to deal with.

I would like to see literature courses that take this into account and try to manage it, rather than pretending we should all just (as one person said above) “Deal with it”. I think this was easy to do when all the people teaching and reading were white men from the ruling class of colonial powers, because they don’t necessarily place themselves in the position of the other that is all too often subordinated in the text. But now that the student body has diversified, there are a bunch of people who may be the victims of the story, either literally (if it’s Aboriginal people reading Rabbit Proof Fence, for example) or in some metaphorical way that they can’t easily avoid (women in a rapey uni reading Ovid, for example).

Just to consider the latter for a moment, there’s a blog post doing the rounds at the moment about how to flirt with women wearing headphones, which is really creepy and all about pursuit pursuit pursuit. Young female students see that, then get the tactics it describes used on them, as they’re on their way to uni to read a story in Ovid about pretty similar themes. How can they not place themselves in a different position reading that story to the male author of that blog post when he reads it?

If the people in these positions then have these books thrown at them without regard for how they might be feeling when they read them, they’ll begin to think – as I partly did after that year of English lit – that the canon is just a musty old relic for rich white dudes, and that glorifying anything outside of modern genre fiction is just another propaganda strategy to keep them in their place.

As teachers we can either teach around this or ignore it. It’s up to us, and the students are pointing it out to us. But if we ignore it, we can’t expect these students to love the books as we do.

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 2:56 am

On second thoughts, no, the one I had in mind @272 was the Second book of Kings.

faustusnotes @ 273

> I think this was easy to do when all the people teaching and reading were white men from the ruling class of colonial powers, because they don’t necessarily place themselves in the position of the other that is all too often subordinated in the text. But now that the student body has diversified, there are a bunch of people who may be the victims of the story

Actually, usually these texts are also full of white men victimising other white men. ‘Deal with it’, at least in this day and age, can only mean ‘learn about it’, not ’embrace it’ – that’s impossible unless one is a psychopath. Certainly, the teacher should always make it clear that reading the author doesn’t mean approving of the author in every respect.

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 3:01 am

@ 272 ?? You, too?

How can reading a 3,000 year-old story make anyone ‘angry’?

Reluctant as I am to lecture my betters, I don’t see how anyone can claim to literacy while being utterly ignorant of a text just about everyone, including Copernicus, Newton, and Darwin knew well. Einstein, Freud, Jung. It’s bad enough when the evidently lazy make ignorance a virtue. You teach western civ and you haven’t even read the key passages of the text. Were I your student, I can’t help but feel I’d be very surprised and disappointed.

Really.

Does knowledge of the bible matter in modern Russian culture? That’s your area, I believe? I’m genuinely curious because my understanding is that in eastern European nations anti-communism, the church, and nationalism are closely bound up.

F-me. Really. I’m shocked.

I mean it’s like Homer, Horace, and Plato. We don’t get to ‘skip’ the bible, not those of us who claim minimal literacy. How does one read Tom Paine, or MLK without being at least somewhat familiar with their points of departure? The entire history of the anti-slavery movement from 1700 to 1850 is inextricably bound up in christianity, not to mention the civil rights movement.

Bad you!

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 3:05 am

@ 273 My point is that you need to read more than you do and have. See my over-the-top 275. In your case, you care but don’t know. That’s a bad combination. Really.

@274 Missed this whilst tapping. Understood, but still find your ‘anger’ inexplicable.

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faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 3:08 am

Foundling, who is the other white dude in Genesis? Robinson Crusoe? What about the mad wife in Jane Eyre? I don’t remember a great many white dudes in the Tempest. Also note that I added a class distinction in my comment, which you have elided – often the victimization in the stories we read is of poor or weaker white men by stronger white men. As I mentioned above, as a (only slightly off-) white man from a poor background reading this stuff, I really felt like it wasn’t written about or for me. I could be wrong of course, but I think the more likely explanation is that most of the literature that has survived is literature about and for the glories and trials of rich powerful men. This may involve victimization but what happened to Jane Eyre is signally not the same thing as happened to the mad wife, and what went on between Macbeth and Macduff is obviously different to all the horrors their little tete-a-tete visited upon the men under their leadership.

If my class place were translated to those books back in time I would not be in the hero or enemy role. I would be one of the nameless hordes trampled into the dirt to help McDuff be noble, or whatever. I would have been the ugly, brutish guy or girl who didn’t get a name in the wedding scene of Jude the Obscure. But for most of the history of the academy, the people reading these books have always been able to place themselves in the role of McDuff or McBeth or Jane Eyre’s uncle. If you can’t recognize what that means for the reader’s relationship with the story, I strongly recommend you read up a little on what these students are trying to tell their teachers.

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 3:44 am

Europeans gained control over nations in Africa and elsewhere less than two hundred years ago, and that takes us right up to the present.

Slavery historically has had practically nothing to do with race until roughly 1700, when slavery encountered a reformed Christian church and eventually found solace in Linnaeus and modern eugenics a century later, long after tales of the curse of Ham failed to win over the moral.

Sexism, cannibalism, slavery, and the worship of rocks, bones, and the weather organized a great many non-European societies. The history of their exploitations is rendered meaningless inside the more urgent tale of the much more pressing discussion of why ‘looking at the confederate flag makes me feel bad.’ I agree, btw, that symbols such as this are offensive, but I’m certain 20k tuition fees are not required for this conversation to take place.

Understanding christianity and the actual content of the bible is essential if we hope to help our students understand western culture, in precisely the same way that we would not dream of embarking on an examination of muslim nations without first familiarizing ourselves with key passages in the Koran and other key texts.

Others are welcome to disagree.

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 6:59 am

[J-D:] Speech in general is toward the non-rivalrous end of the spectrum, but the only scenario where speech is perfectly non-rivalrous is the soliloquy (at least, it’s the only one I can think of). Otherwise, there is always the potential for one person’s speaking to interfere with another person’s capacity to speak. What if an invited speaker is addressing a campus group and half the audience is talking loudly among themselves so that the other half can’t hear the speaker? are the interrupters interfering with freedom of speech, or exercising it? and if it’s both, doesn’t that illustrate how speech is rivalrous?

For the concept of free speech to mean anything, then there must also be free hearing. When a campus group invites a speaker to speak to them, there isn’t anything rivalrous about that. No one has to listen, and no one is deprived of their own ability to speak. Lousy manners preventing others hearing a speaker doesn’t make a non-rivalrous situation rivalrous.

Does that mean you want to stop heckling, then? how is that not a denial of freedom of speech? Hecklers are an excellent illustration of how speech is rivalrous.

Yes, absolutely. As I said above, for free speech to be meaningful requires freedom of hearing. In a situation where people are not compelled to hear, and aren’t deprived the ability to make their point somewhere else, or at some other time, the situation isn’t rivalrous simply because hecklers wish to destroy others’ ability to speak and hear.

Your suggestion that stopping heckling somehow violates the hecklers’ freedom of speech, and that the presence of hecklers makes speech rivalrous falls apart under inspection. Obviously, the heckler’s goal is to prevent speaking and hearing. But their are other ways of attaining that goal, e.g. pulling fire alarms (SJWs have done that).

The result was the same: destroying others’ opportunity to speak and hear. Is pulling a fire alarm to stop someone speaking an example of rivalrous speech? Are laws against that impositions on free speech?

If the answers are no and no, then invoking the concept of rivalrous speech is really just a rationalization for the heckler’s veto.

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 7:40 am

[J-D @247:] It seems to me that what somebody is trying to say would always, or nearly always, have to be relevant to whether they should be prevented from saying it.

Beware passive voice. Prevented by whom?

Maybe I misunderstood, but it seemed to me that Hey Skipper was referring to instances in which Ben Shapiro had been prevented from speaking as if that automatically had to be wrong. Did you have a different and more specific interpretation of a principle Hey Skipper was defending?

That is exactly what I was saying. Preventing Ben Shapiro from speaking was automatically wrong.

Those who disagree with Mr. Shapiro were perfectly capable of arranging their own event, peacefully demonstrating outside, or participating in Q&A.

What they did instead, and in every other case like it is forcefully impose their point of view upon others.

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 7:41 am

[Faustusnotes @248:] Hey skipper, you use the term SJW which means you are a regular breitbart reader and a gamer gate limpet, so please forgive me if I don’t believe you had “never heard of” Ben Shapiro.

Full disclosure: I have never read Breitbart. Ever. I do not play computer games, ever. I know that Gamergate was a thing, but beyond that, I haven’t a clue.

So, I don’t forgive you. Your lack of awareness that the acronym SJW is very widely used isn’t grounds to accuse me of lying. Which renders this:

In that case you are a fan of a movement that sends SWAT teams to the homes of feminist video game critics …

Completely baseless.

… you are presenting to us as a model victim of censorship a man who cheered those people on. This is a man who encouraged the use of the state to censor pornography, and the use of the armed state to threaten critics of right wing politics.

(Without any link to what he has said, I can scarcely judge the validity of your assertions. Never mind, for the purpose of discussion I’ll take it as read.)

He is a perfect example of censorship. The whole concept of free speech is destroyed if Mr. Shapiro has to run his opinions by SJWs, or anyone else, for approval. No matter what his opinions are.

You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t take your protestations seriously and don’t cry particularly many tears when a vicious supporter of violently enforced censorship is censored using a non violent version of his own strategy.

Again, I won’t forgive you. You have made at least a half dozen serious accusations here, and not substantiated one of them.

Stopping him from presenting at a university doesn’t censor him in any way – it simply stops the university from adding its good name to the list of organizations that have enabled his violent hate speech to continue.

Yes, it does, or the word has no meaning whatsoever. A campus organization inviting a speaker has no need to vet its choice with people who would have been a perfect fit in the Cultural Revolution.

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J-D 09.01.16 at 7:57 am

For the concept of free speech to mean anything, then there must also be free hearing.

Yes, of course. I don’t know why you feel it’s necessary to explain that to me, since it’s from exactly that observation that my own point flows.

In a situation where people are not compelled to hear, and aren’t deprived the ability to make their point somewhere else, or at some other time, …

You don’t want to deprive hecklers of all opportunity to speak; you only want to deprive them of the opportunity to speak in one particular place at one particular time. But that’s exactly what hecklers do! deprive somebody of the opportunity to speak (that is, the opportunity to speak so as to be heard) at one particular place at one particular time.

If I eat a meal, I don’t make it altogether impossible for you or anybody else to eat; I only make it impossible for anybody else to eat the particular food items that I consume. Yet that’s exactly what makes economists consider food items to be rivalrous goods; what one eats another can’t. The situations aren’t identical, but they are similar. To a significant extent, one person’s ‘consumption’ of a particular opportunity to speak and be heard excludes its consumption by others. For the speaker to ‘consume’ that opportunity, the audience must largely forego doing so; if the audience ‘consumes’ it, the speaker must largely forego doing so.

Is pulling a fire alarm to stop someone speaking an example of rivalrous speech? Are laws against that impositions on free speech?

If pulling a fire alarm is considered a form of speech, then the fact that pulling a fire alarm can stop somebody from speaking is an illustration of my point that speech is not perfectly non-rivalrous; and in that case also, laws restricting the use of fire alarms are impositions on free speech. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s also my point, that sometimes free speech has to be limited. There’s a problem if you want to argue both that the speech of hecklers should be limited and that doing so is not a limitation on free speech. Since I don’t argue that there should be such a thing as absolute freedom of speech (because, for one reason, it’s impossible to have such a thing as absolute freedom of speech), I don’t have a problem with the idea that there should be restrictions on hecklers. The actual substantive disagreement is not about whether people’s speech should be restricted (because there is no way of avoiding this) but about what kind of restrictions there should be, on whose speech, where, and when: and it’s not possible to settle that question by invocation of the notion of absolute freedom of speech, since (as the existence of the disagreement itself demonstrates) no such thing can exist.

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faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 8:38 am

So Hey Skipper, you think universities should be required to offer their facilities to everyone who wants to speak their? When is my turn? Have you had yours yet? Is there a list?

Or is it the case that the university makes a decision about who to invite and who not to invite, and all that happened to Ben Shapiro is that students agitated for their voice to be heard in making the list?

Is not being invited to speak at a university censorship? If not, how is being uninvited different?

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 8:46 am

J-D:

Considering pulling a fire alarm a form of speech makes the concept of speech meaningless, and extends the definition of speech as rivalrous good so far as to make it useless.

There was absolutely nothing rivalrous about Mr. Shapiro’s presentation, and hecklers deciding they are entitled to stop him speaking doesn’t make the circumstances rivalrous. He was not a commencement speaker, after all.

That’s also my point, that sometimes free speech has to be limited. There’s a problem if you want to argue both that the speech of hecklers should be limited and that doing so is not a limitation on free speech.

That’s also my point, that sometimes free speech has to be limited.

Beware passive voice. By whom? Faustusnotes? You? SJWs?

There’s a problem if you want to argue both that the speech of hecklers should be limited and that doing so is not a limitation on free speech.

The flip side of the argument for free speech is that it is also an argument against censorship. Hecklers are censors. People who are engaging in censorship are not engaging in free speech, they are doing exactly the opposite.

The heckler’s veto, which is what you have no problem with, is a different way to spell censorship. By defending hecklers, you are advocating censorship.

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 9:03 am

[faustusnotes:] So Hey Skipper, you think universities should be required to offer their facilities to everyone who wants to speak their? When is my turn? Have you had yours yet? Is there a list?

If I recall correctly, it was a campus organization that arranged the event, not the university. SFAIK, universities that take public money are not allowed to engage in viewpoint discrimination.

What happened to Ben Shapiro was SJWs appointing themselves censors.

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J-D 09.01.16 at 9:19 am

1. ‘If pulling a fire alarm is considered a form of speech’, I wrote; I don’t particularly want to consider it a form of speech, and if you don’t want to consider it a form of speech then why did you introduce it into this discussion?

2. The economist’s distinction between ‘rival’ and ‘non-rival’ applies only to consumables, or whatever we decide to consider as consumables. If we think of a speech (for example, a speech by Ben Shapiro) as a consumable, then it is towards the non-rivalrous end of the spectrum, because its consumption — which in the case of a speech means listening to it — by one person tends not to interfere with its being consumed — that is, listened to — by other people. But it’s not perfectly non-rivalrous, because as more and more people are added to the audience it eventually becomes impossible for still more people to get close enough to hear.

But I wasn’t referring to consumption (in that sense, of listening to them) of speeches; I was referring to consumption of opportunities to speak and be heard. And those, too, are towards the non-rivalrous end of the spectrum, but not perfectly non-rivalrous. It’s possible for there to be some level of talk in the audience and for the speaker still to speak and be heard; but at some level of audience chatter, consumption of the opportunity to speak and be heard by the audience denies it to the speaker, and therefore to permit consumption of that opportunity to speak and be heard by the speaker requires some restrictions on consumption of that opportunity by other present.

You think there should be restrictions on heckling. So do I. But heckling is speech, so restrictions on heckling are restrictions on speech.

3. Given that I actually wrote ‘I don’t have a problem with the idea that there should be restrictions on hecklers’, I am curious to know what led you to the conclusion that I have no problem with the heckler’s veto; that’s not what I wrote and not what I meant.

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Stephen 09.01.16 at 11:07 am

faustusnotes@277: ” I don’t remember a great many white dudes in the Tempest.”
It’s been a while since I last saw a performance of the Tempest, and I never studied it closely, but as I remember it the characters are Italians from Milan or Naples (whom I would take to be white), except for Ariel, a magical spirit of no particular race, a few classical European goddesses, and Caliban whose mother was from Algiers. Am I wrong?

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Faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 11:57 am

Stephen I remember the tempest was mostly fae things.

Hey skipper, no student organization has ever invited me to the uni to talk about tolkiens racial theories. I think I am being censored. What should I do?

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Stephen 09.01.16 at 12:10 pm

fae means what?

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Anarcissie 09.01.16 at 12:23 pm

Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 9:03 am @ 285 —
Educational institutions could hardly perform their mission of replicating the Established Order if they did not engage in viewpoint discrimination.

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Faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 12:27 pm

Fairies and elves and stuff, Stephen

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Collin Street 09.01.16 at 12:32 pm

Hecklers are censors. People who are engaging in censorship are not engaging in free speech, they are doing exactly the opposite.

I mean, a normally-reflective person would have realised that “I’m not censoring, because people saying the wrong thing aren’t really saying anything at all worth respecting” was not exactly a winner.

But no.

[you can’t in general expect to have people explain why you’re wrong to your satisfaction, because your inherent human falibility means “your satisfactory understanding that you made an error” and “you made an error” do not always describe the same thing. I mean, they can try… but whether they’ll succeed is up to you, not them, and if they fail to convince you “it’s because you’re obviously correct” isn’t the only available explanation, is it.]

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Stephen 09.01.16 at 1:01 pm

Faustusnotes: thanks, I didn’t know that.
There are indeed minor spirits as well as Ariel, who occasionally sing. But the main characters, apart from Ariel and Caliban, are:

Prospero, formerly Duke of Milan
Miranda, his daughter
Antonio, Prospero’s brother, now ruling in Milan
Alonso, King of Naples
Sebastian, his brother
Ferdinand, Alonso’s son
Adrian, Francisco and Gonzalo, Neapolitan courtiers
Trinculo, Alonso’s jester
Stephano, Alonso’s brother.

Not elves, not fairies, and definitely white.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.01.16 at 1:05 pm

Would people please read wiki on what a heckler’s veto is? “A heckler’s veto occurs when an acting party’s right to freedom of speech is curtailed or restricted by the government in order to prevent a reacting party’s behavior. The common example is the termination of a speech or demonstration in the interest of maintaining the public peace based on the anticipated negative reaction of someone opposed to that speech or demonstration. […] In common parlance, the term is used to describe situations where hecklers or demonstrators silence a speaker without intervention of the law.”

Distinguishing between the legal meaning and the common meaning is important because hecklers can’t really censor people. Other than self-censorship, only the government or a media outlet can censor. Hecklers can of course drown people out, disrupt events, and so on but using the word “censorship” brings in a lot of baggage that doesn’t really apply.

In particular, a university is an institution and often one that takes governmental funds in one way or another, and governmental restrictions on censorship sometimes do apply to its actions. Hecklers are individuals or more or less ad hoc groups and the restrictions on them generally come in the area of “security”, i.e. being escorted out or arrested, which in the U.S. can be done pretty much under any pretext. So it’s not a meeting of equals. That is not to say that hecklers or the tactic of heckling is always good, but that the confrontation between university and hecklers tends to move from policy to security in a characteristic American way.

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Faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 1:51 pm

Yes Stephen, and all rich nobles. Which was part of my point – these stories aren’t written for or about ordinary people (though I guess some of these dandies may have been the kardashians of their day) and when ordinary people read these stories they may feel a lack of empathy or interest in the petty struggles of rich people.

Imagine if all that is left for post-anthropocene humanity to read of this age is a couple of iPhone technical manuals and Kim kardashians Instagram. That’s how I feel when I read this stuff – how do I know this is the best that society had to offer, and how do I know it represents that society, and given this vagueness and the nature of the stories, why should I care? I expect the people who study these books to at least try to get it together to give me a deeper reason than just “it’s famous”. What if Shakespeare was the “days of our lives” of his day? Just fables about imagined rich people. Yet we are studying it as of it has relevance to modern people. As an 18 year old metal head from the edge of the desert, with no money, reading this stuff, I got kind of resentful about what my teachers were trying to foist on me. And I was there voluntarily – the equivalent of me in this Columbia course is there involuntarily. If you are going to make engineers sit through King Lear you could at least try to understand how a modern 18 year old might react to it…

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AcademicLurker 09.01.16 at 2:27 pm

Faustusnotes: I’m not too convinced by the “people can only be engaged by stories about other people just like themselves” hypothesis. Most people I know don’t have super powers. Movies about superheroes nevertheless seem to do quite well.

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Faustusnotes 09.01.16 at 2:31 pm

differrnt contexts academic lurker. Remember we are talking about a compulsory course on the origins of culture here. Not your favorite superhero.

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 2:32 pm

[J-D @286:] ‘If pulling a fire alarm is considered a form of speech’, I wrote; I don’t particularly want to consider it a form of speech, and if you don’t want to consider it a form of speech then why did you introduce it into this discussion?

Some people think heckling to drown out a speaker is itself a form of speech, and therefore there is no preferring the heckler over the speaker. I noted that the real goal of hecklers is censoring the speaker, and to consider heckling free speech is to confuse means with ends. I illustrated this by noting a pulled fire alarm will censor the speaker, just as sufficient heckling will censor a speaker. That fire alarm wasn’t speech, it was censorship, same with heckling.

But [speech] is not perfectly non-rivalrous, because as more and more people are added to the audience it eventually becomes impossible for still more people to get close enough to hear.

Commencement speakers are a perfect example of rivalrous speech, but that isn’t what we are talking about here. All it is doing in this discussion is acting as a distraction. Yes, rivalrous speech does exist, but noting that doesn’t mean it always exists, even minutely; there has been no argument made about how presentations that SJWs have shut down qualified as rivalrous speech in even a trivial sense.

You think there should be restrictions on heckling. So do I. But heckling is speech, so restrictions on heckling are restrictions on speech.

I’ll repeat: heckling is a means to an end, and it is the end that counts. Pulling a fire alarm, blocking entrances, heckling, threatening mayhem to the point where a school cancels an invitation are all means to an end: censorship.

Free speech isn’t really that tough a concept. It means neither speaker nor listener need seek permission to talk or hear. Getting from that to saying that speakers and listeners need to get permission from hecklers amounts to completely rubbishing the concept.

Given that I actually wrote ‘I don’t have a problem with the idea that there should be restrictions on hecklers’, I am curious to know what led you to the conclusion that I have no problem with the heckler’s veto; that’s not what I wrote and not what I meant.

I apologize. I really do try and read comments carefully. Despite that, sometimes I fail to take everything on board.

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 2:33 pm

[Faustusnotes @288:] Hey skipper, no student organization has ever invited me to the uni to talk about tolkiens racial theories. I think I am being censored. What should I do?

Rethink the meaning of censorship.

Here is a pretty good definition: Censorship is the suppression of free speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions.

[Anarcissie @290:] Educational institutions could hardly perform their mission of replicating the Established Order if they did not engage in viewpoint discrimination.

That’s as may be, but that isn’t relevant here. When it comes to the use of university facilities, the university may not engage in viewpoint discrimination.

[Collin Street @292:] You can’t in general expect to have people explain why you’re wrong to your satisfaction, because your inherent human fallibility means “your satisfactory understanding that you made an error” and “you made an error” do not always describe the same thing.

You have embedded a begged question.

[Rich Pulasky @294:]

Distinguishing between the legal meaning and the common meaning is important because hecklers can’t really censor people.

That is being too clever by half, and is confusing ends with means. The threat of mayhem causes a school do cancel an invitation — the speaker and listeners failed to get permission from the hecklers to talk and hear, they have been censored.

Whether the mayhem imposing the requirement to obtain the hecklers’ permission happens before or during an event, the consequence is the same: censorship through the heckler’s veto.

So, you are right, my use of the term “heckler’s veto” isn’t consistent with the legal definition; however, lawyers do not own the language. My usage was completely consistent with the heckler’s desired end, which is what matters.

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 2:38 pm

@ 295 A play is performed and shared, btw, usually with audience interaction, and is not normally read. The only people who need to read the play are those performing in it, or similarly involved.

The ‘best’ is always a value judgement. Fortunately, an immense number of plays in a variety of languages survive. Many of Shakespeare’s plays are deemed among the best in English. Shakespeare also wrote sonnets, a number of which are also considered to be very good, or among the ‘best’ in English. Personally, I prefer Donne. Shakespeare may not have ‘invented’ a great many words in English. They are first recorded, however, in the Shakespeare corpus. Feel free to watch as many plays in as many languages as you like and nominate others you feel are superior to Shakespeare’s. We’re all ears.

It’s entirely fair to ask why an engineer ‘needs’ to be exposed to Lear. I’d be astonished, however, if engineers studying Lear do not watch parts, or all of the excellent versions of Lear available in English on DVD, and translated into other languages. I know a number of people teaching Shakespeare. Virtually all prefer students to watch the plays and act out a few scenes, rather than simply read the plays as homework. Most try to squeeze in at least one live performance whenever possible.

My guess is that even your totally inadequate teacher recommended you get off your 18 year-old ass and watch as many Shakespeare plays as possible. No doubt you expected your teacher do that work for you, too.

My favorite Lear on DVD is Ian Holm, probably more familiar to you as Bilbo Baggins.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/King-Lear-DVD-Ian-Holm/dp/B000CZ0O3Q

There are worse ways to spend the money and you might even learn something new.

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Sebastian H 09.01.16 at 2:59 pm

“Not elves, not fairies, and definitely white.”

The idea that Italians count as white in the US is at best 60-65 years old. If you have to racialize everything they certainly didn’t count as ‘white’ in the sense of being ‘just like us’ for the audience at the time that Shakespeare was writing either. So for the purposes of your arguments about canon, for at least 3/4 of the time that we were teaching Shakespeare in the US, it wasn’t an example of what you think.

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phenomenal cat 09.01.16 at 4:59 pm

Faustusnotes @260

Could you recommend a good, practical/useful introductory Stats text for someone with a sub-remedial grasp of the concepts and practices? I’m, uh, asking for a friend…

Thanks

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Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 5:10 pm

Collin Street, I mentioned you begged a question. Well, here it is:

Censorship on parade..

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LFC 09.01.16 at 5:18 pm

k’stones @300

What do you mean plays “aren’t normally read”? Of course plays are read. Yes, they’re written to be performed, but two different experiences are involved in watching and reading. In the case of Shakespeare, for ex., the plays are usu. performed w cuts, so watching a Shakespeare play you’re not getting the same thing as the text. And in a lot of performances of various plays, it’ll be hard to catch everything as words inevitably slip by misheard or unheard. And even a modern play full of recondite allusions and convoluted puns, a la some Stoppard for ex., is going to be almost impossible to appreciate fully without looking at the text.

(Sorry, OT, I guess, sort of.)

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Stephen 09.01.16 at 6:34 pm

faustusnotes@295: congratulations on rapid and extensive moving of the goalposts.
You started by saying “there are few white dudes in the Tempest”
I have pointed out that most of the characters were, in fact, white by any reasonable criteria.
You respond by saying they were “all rich nobles. Which was part of my point – these stories aren’t written for or about ordinary people”
If you have ever actually seen a performance of the Tempest, which I much doubt, you will have noticed that Stephano and Trinculo, and the Master and Boatswain whom I forgot to mention, are not by any criterion rich nobles. Look at some other contemporary plays for further and stronger examples.
If you think that Shakespeare, and other commercial playwrights of the period, were “not writing for ordinary people” then your ignorance is probably invincible.

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Stephen 09.01.16 at 7:31 pm

Sebastian H@301
I hardly know where to start.
“The idea that Italians count as white in the US is at best 60-65 years old.”
I have no idea whether that is so, but unless you were teaching English in the US before the early 1950s that is totally irrelevant.
You may be aware that portions of the world outside the US exist. In them, Italians have always counted as white (not Asian, not African …)
” If you have to racialize everything “
I don’t know why you confusedly think I’m trying to racialise anything. Maybe you are.
“”they [Italians] certainly didn’t count as ‘white’ in the sense of being ‘just like us’ for the audience at the time that Shakespeare was writing either.”
Read Othello and the Merchant of Venice (or a whole string of other plays) and then tell me why Shakespeare’s contemporaries did not regard Italians as white.
Look. if you want to equate “white” with “just like us” you have to believe that the English and French, French and Germans, Germans and Poles, Scots and English, Danes and Germans and so forth did not at the time Shakespeare was writing, and still do not, reciprocally regard each other as “white”. Not to mention USAians as opposed to Canadians, English, French and so forth. That way madness lies.
“For at least 3/4 of the time that we were teaching Shakespeare in the US, it wasn’t an example of what you think”.
Then was then, now is now . US =/= civilised world.

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 10:11 pm

@ 304 When one attends a play, one rarely has the opportunity to read the text. The idea is to listen to the actors and watch the performance. Reading the text make sense only after the plays have been watched, usually more than once. In the same way one wouldn’t normally study a song, or a piece of music, or a painting, with experiencing the actual piece multiple times. Context helps, but is still no substitute for the actual experience – singing the song, for example, in karoake with friends, or alone, or simply in the shower.

The great benefit of watching plays on DVD is that one can watch and re-watch favorite/challenging scenes. Whether the text, setting, and costumes, has been modified is of far less importance than the passion, talent, and commitment of the actors involved. Nothing could be duller and less satisfying than reading recipe books, or even looking at pictures of food without tasting, or preparing, the dish.

None of this makes any sense to you, does it?

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kidneystones 09.01.16 at 10:27 pm

Should read ‘….without experiencing the actual piece.’

As fine a performer as Alan Rickman is/was – just listen to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5qloszXpJw

RADA and ‘years and years’ of training in the theater add nothing to the play.

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F. Foundling 09.01.16 at 11:58 pm

Kidneystones @275, 276

I see that you’ve devoted quite some effort to demolishing my credibility as an expert in … well, something … around these parts. Now, I think I have made it clear that I do consider some familiarity with the Bible to be appropriate for everyone and especially for intellectuals in the field of humanities. However, by familiarity I don’t mean reading, let alone remembering *every single goddamn page* of the thing, unless one specialises in Biblical studies or a similar field. One ought to have read the more important, well-known and frequently referenced parts – the key ones several times – and to have a decent general idea of the content of the rest. I won’t disclose my speciality is and to what extent it requires knowledge of the Bible, since I prefer to be (very) anonymous here.

And yes, even though it is a good thing to be familiar with such things, occasionally the alien morality of a text does become too exasperating and consequently one is no longer inclined to read the text just for pleasure, without being obliged to. However, I wouldn’t consider that an excuse not to read something considered sufficiently important or something on one’s syllabus. Similarly, I’ll admit that I had to stop reading Water Margin soon after one of the ‘good’ characters that we were supposed to sympathise with slaughtered an entire house full of innocent people, women, servants and all, just to take revenge on the head of the household – all of it described realistically, in very graphic detail. I think such things didn’t get at me as much when I was younger. Obviously, I wouldn’t have stopped if my field of study had actually *required* reading the thing.

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Faustusnotes 09.02.16 at 12:21 am

Hey skipper, if I’m not being invited to speak at the university because my views in Tolkien and race are objectionable, then by your definition of censorship I’m being censored. Every time a university or student organization makes a decision about who to invite they also make a decision about who not to invite – likely through direct competition, by going through some kind of list.

Unless you think everyone who wants to speak should be allowed to speak wherever they please you need to accept that not being invited to speak is not censorship. If the debate about whether to invite someone to speak is vocal and public, it’s still not censorship.

Here’s what is censorship: giving the state the authority and motive to prevent the production, sale and broadcast of an entire group of people’s work because it is morally degrading. As advocated by whiny pants-wetter Shapiro in his book on pornography.

I’m nice you understand the difference between these two things you can understand what actually happened at the campus: a debate between two groups about whether to invite someone to speak. Exactly the same debate that happens every day at every media organization in the country, including shapiro’s gamergate loving ex employer, breitbart.

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Faustusnotes 09.02.16 at 12:28 am

Kidneystones, I have actually seen and read quite a few Shakespeares, live and in film and written and in comic form. Not only Shakespeare – the clue might be in my screen name and in the concept of my blog, though maybe your textual reading skills aren’t up to scratch. Your point here seems to have degraded to “you should read more.” I agree! This is true for everyone, even people as amazing as you who already know everything. Also my teacher wasn’t inadequate – as I mentioned above I thought my course was great and I learnt a lot. Perhaps in your English course you could have learnt to read?

Stephen I’m not shifting goalposts – I have multiple complaints and the invalidity of one doesn’t make them all wrong.

Phenomenal cat, its not perfect but you could try “statistics” by freedman and Pisani.

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Sebastian H 09.02.16 at 1:16 am

Stephen you’re using notions of ‘whiteness’ that don’t make sense in Shakespeare. Shakespeare used Italians as exotically different in much the same way as Asian women get typed as exotically different. ‘Race’ doesn’t exist as a real thing biologically but to the extent that it exists socially it exists as method of contrasting yourself with others on a stereotypical basis.

“Read Othello and the Merchant of Venice (or a whole string of other plays) and then tell me why Shakespeare’s contemporaries did not regard Italians as white.
Look. if you want to equate “white” with “just like us” you have to believe that the English and French, French and Germans, Germans and Poles, Scots and English, Danes and Germans and so forth did not at the time Shakespeare was writing, and still do not, reciprocally regard each other as “white”.”

You’re mistaken. A huge number of Englishmen during Shakespeare’s time absolutely considered themselves different enough from each other to code under different races under modern terminology. Italians in particular were often coded ‘swarthy’ as if that meant that they had huge fundamental differences in who they were. Roma would count as ‘white’ under your definition and they have always been treated as highly different in very racialized terms. Poles and Germans treated (and treat) each other in highly racialized terms. Italians both in the US and in Northern Europe have often been treated as ‘other’ in highly racialized ways until VERY recently–absolutely still in living memory (and frankly I wouldn’t totally be shocked to hear that they are still treated that way in Northern Europe, and if they aren’t see how Greek people are talked about).

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F. Foundling 09.02.16 at 1:16 am

faustusnotes @277

>But for most of the history of the academy, the people reading these books have always been able to place themselves in the role of McDuff or McBeth or Jane Eyre’s uncle.

Actually, during most of history, those of lower status have enjoyed stories about those of higher rank and managed to see themselves in them, and to see the parallels between their own experiences and those of the princes and chieftains – indeed to see the latters’ experiences as glorified versions of their own. The common people sang ballads and watched plays about the fates of kings, chieftains and heroes of old. And even in academy, the overwhelming majority of the readers were actually far below the characters they read about. And while this human tendency has the unfortunate side effect of contradicting ‘class/identity consciousness’, that doesn’t mean that the parallels that these people see with their own experience are false or unimportant. Not everyone can be a princess, but everyone can be an Antigone. Denying this means rejecting most of the cultural wealth of humanity. I have absolutely no sympathy for students who claim that they can’t possibly understand or care about the tragedy of King Lear because he is a king and they aren’t, or because he is white and they aren’t, or because he is cis and they are trans, or whatever. Or, conversely, for a male student who can’t bring himself to care about, say, Antigone’s situation because he isn’t a woman. This is just intellectual laziness and reluctance to use one’s imagination, and those are not habits that should be pandered to, least of all in higher education.

>Foundling, who is the other white dude in Genesis?

Well, to make the most obvious point, white dudes – in fact, just people quite regardless of gender and colour – are exterminated en masse by a big dude in the sky on many occasions in Genesis. In fact, any misogyny that can be found in the text pales against the background of its general mis-anthropy. One can say with good reason that it’s a screed of rabid God-supremacism and virulent anti-mortal chauvinism; and therefore, strictly speaking, if you aren’t God, it’s not for you. :) But, as I’ve mentioned, I definitely don’t think that’s an excuse not to read it.

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F. Foundling 09.02.16 at 1:27 am

I haven’t read most of the comments posted after 277, but I thought I really ought to make one addition to my comments from yesterday about reading texts from the past with different values. Not only is it often the case, as I have mentioned, that they have brilliant aspects independent of their values, but it also can’t be taken for granted that their values are *always* inferior to ours. For example, during most of Western history after Antiquity, reading the Greek classics entailed becoming acquainted with attitudes to things like democracy and homosexuality that were very different from those prevalent during the age of the readers, and it happens to be the case that from our contemporary perspective, the Greek position was ‘better’ than the medieval one. Of course, we tend to think that *our* contemporary perspective on everything is superior to all earlier ones in every respect, but who knows what future generations will say on the matter, and what a closer consideration may lead us (or each individual reader) to conclude? Becoming acquainted with a different worldview helps one examine and question that of one’s own age. Not to mention, of course, that there are different co-existing worldviews within our own age as well, and we need to understand these as well.

So, to sum up – why do we need to talk to aliens, past or, for that matter, present?

1. To understand the aliens and be able to deal with them.
2. To take what is good from the aliens.
3. To understand ourselves.

And to some degree, of course, every human is an alien.

Needless to say, this is all rather banal and I’m only writing it because it seems that, surprisingly, it’s being questioned here. And complaining that communicating with the aliens is too uncomfortable for some people is not productive. Suggesting, as the students’ article does, that women, black people and people from low-income backgrounds are somehow so handicapped by the trauma of their oppression that they can’t bear the stress of becoming acquainted with the heritage of humanity, warts and all, isn’t just stupid, it’s ultimately also patronising, racist, classist and misogynistic.

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F. Foundling 09.02.16 at 1:46 am

One more thing concerning ‘intellectual laziness and reluctance to use one’s imagination’ @ 313 – of course, it’s also the job of the teacher to help the student see the parallels with their experiences and the relevance of the story for themselves. If that hasn’t been achieved, that can be the fault of the teacher. However, it also requires willingness on the part of the student. In this context, dismissing texts because they are about ‘rich white dudes’ or complaining that they ‘contain material that marginalizes student identities’, which supposedly makes them ‘difficult to read and discuss’, does not move things in the right direction.

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Val 09.02.16 at 2:05 am

@314
That’s an interesting line you tried there f foundling. The ancient Greeks had ‘better’ attitudes to homosexuality and democracy than people somewhere in medieval times, therefore something not entirely clear about not protecting women, people of colour and gays in the present, which I guess adds up to saying the university of Chicago letter is ok?

Don’t know about “rather banal” but certainly doesn’t seem entirely clear where you’re going with this.🙄

Couldn’t resist the eye-roll sorry

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kidneystones 09.02.16 at 2:15 am

@ 309 Not a bit. Everest cannot crumble on a blog comment thread. My own credibility takes a fairly regular thumping. Tis all part of the fun. I noted, but should have stressed, that you attempted to ‘re-read’ Samuel II. This is the point. Filling in the gaps at any/every age cannot be anything but worthwhile.

The pity is that some/most believe that learning is the province of the young. I definitely do not count you in that number, for whatever little that may be worth. You may be horrified to learn I agree with a very great deal of what you add here, including the silliness of reading every goddam page. This is a something is (almost) always better than nothing problem. I visited the home page of the King’s College English department and there found both Milton and parts of the bible on the reading list.

We can’t ignore the dead white guys if we hope to study books because virtually all were written by dead white guys. So, if we’re cool with ignoring books, then we can dispense with the reading of dead white guys. This isn’t complicated, as you’ve noted. I very much like your comment about Antigone and the audience of the agora. The notion that poor people and the illiterate are unable to appreciate the arts is very wrong on multiple counts.

The historically uninformed evidently believe that the union jack flew over Britain forever and that the flag of St. George has ‘always’ been that of England. L’etat, c’est moi wasn’t an unfamiliar idea to anyone living at the time, no matter how many other contenders for the claim there might be. Macbeth is about negotiated kingship and given that 100 years of Plantagenet in-fighting effectively reduced the state to ruin, the notion of getting a good king on the throne was correctly equated with stability and peace. The coat of arms of the current monarch is a combination of the personal emblems of key families, not of any notion of a nation state, as you know.

@ 312 Sebastian H is quite correct to point to the dog-whistles, stereo-typing, and open race-baiting that make the plays so important and (doubtless) so enjoyable to audiences way back then. Ahem. The way things were and are in all the ugly glory.

Political context matters, of course, and the threat from the unreliable Italian/Venetian and the swarthy moor was not a fantasy trope to frighten the children and bigots, but a nationalist rallying cry. The great siege of Malta was part of modern history, not part of the past, and the threat of invasion and the loss of territorial integrity a very real threat – as the Irish, Welsh, and Scots could attest.

@ 311 I’ve suggested as kindly as I can suggested you arm yourself with some rudimentary familiarity with Samuel I (only 30 pages). Had you done so, you might have avoided making your ridiculous claims regarding a god-figure much more firmly grounded in your limited imagination, than in fact. I draw no conclusions from usernames and (dare I say it) have never felt any compelling reason to ‘visit your blog’ or learn much at all about you.

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ZM 09.02.16 at 2:55 am

I agree with Faustusnotes about Jane Eyre being problematic for a whole lot of reasons, but just wanted to point out that partly when you study the Brontes work in literature classes they are important as being some examples of women writing the novel when women writing the genre had been frowned on. They all published under male names originally, and they were also not wealthy themselves.

Also Shakespeare demonstrates familiarity with Italian writing in a number of works — Erasmus’ In Praise Of Folly is referred to in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Petrarch’s Sonnets are engaged with in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and Montaigne’s essay Of Canibals is referred to in The Tempest.

In Of Cannibals Montaigne recounts speaking to bloke about his trip to the Americas, and says this bloke seemed more trustworthy than other accounts, and there are a bunch of good things about indigenous American culture, and a bunch of bad things about European culture.

I think The Tempest is wrongly condemned for being colonialist literature.

Caliban is given some really good poetry in the play, although its simple compared to the complexity of Prospero’s poetry which of course is juxtaposed to it. None of the other Europeans get especially good poetry.

Prospero is critiqued in the play for not attending to the business of government enough when he was Duke of Milan by spending too much time with his arcane books. This is probably a reference to James I and VI, Shakespeare was working with the smaller All The King’s Men theatre at the time, after The Globe had been destroyed. James I and VI had a preoccupation with the arcane and witchcraft.

The ending of the play is the departure of the Europeans from the Island which represents America. The problematic aspect here is the depiction of Caliban, who Prospero takes back to Europe saying “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”.

Political intrigue and corruption in Europe is one key side of the play, and the other side of the play is the Island where you only have 3 characters Caliban the hybrid indigenous character, Sycorax his mother a witch who doesn’t appear in the play, and the spirit Aerial and some other sprits who perform a masque based on Roman myth when Miranda Prospero’s daughter marries Ferdinand (this is where we get the expression Brave New World like the Aldous Huxley novel — Miranda says this upon seeing Ferdinand, and Prospero says “‘Tis new to thee” since he is familiar with Europeans and political intrigue and doesn’t think its so brave).

I don’t know how Indigenous Americans feel about the treatment of Caliban, he really does get the best poetry in the play and his plight is treated sympathetically in many ways, but he is an unhappy character who is not “purely” indigenous and not European either “You taught me language, and my profit on ’t Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language!” .

When thou camest first,
Thou strok’st me and made much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in ’t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night. And then I loved thee
And showed thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle,
The fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile.
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king. And here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ th’ island.

He is made into a sort of slave and punished with magic, but also attempted to rape Miranda, and isn’t entirely a sympathetic character. But none of the characters are entirely sympathetic in The Tempest, its one of Shakespeare’s most jaundiced plays. It has some good poetry in it though and interesting engagement with current events and history and writing.

One of the sailors talks about native Americans being taken to England for exhibition and says people pay a penny or something to see the dead Indian and won’t pay a dolt to relieve a beggar.

So its not really about fairies, its about a Duke from Milan who is preoccupied with reading about the arcane probably relating to James I and IV, it refers to early colonialism in the Americas critically, it is a critique of forcing European culture of people of other cultures and critique of the appropriation of indigenous land and slavery. The spirit of the island performs a masque of Roman myth due to being subjugated by Prospero’s magic, so its also a critique of forcing indigenous people to conform to European religion I suppose.

I think you should give it another try.

LFC makes a good point about plays being made to be read and also performed.

Shakespeare is considered particularly good at writing for two audiences at once. When he was at The Globe the poorer people would have bought the cheap tickets for near the front of the stage, and Shakespeare often writes things twice so people of different levels of understanding can get what he is saying. Also at the time since a lot of people couldn’t read I have read opinions saying that people in those days were much better at following ideas in spoken word, since they were used to hearing speeches and going to church and things and lived in a world where complex ideas had to be communicated verbally due to the lack of literacy.

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ZM 09.02.16 at 3:11 am

Val,

“As I’ve mentioned before I teach in a post graduate unit on climate change and public health. A student mentioned recently that it can be a bit depressing – when you realise the scale of the problem and how little we are doing to address it, it certainly can be. I said I would try to respond (it’s an online course so we have general discussion threads).”

I recommend the book Designing For Hope in terms of climate change. I had a class with one of the authors and she said she always makes sure to show her students or audience reasons for hope in relation to climate change and sustainability challenges.

There is also a good paper Frantz, Cynthia M., and Mayer, Stephan F (2009), “The Emergency of Climate Change: Why Are We Failing to Take Action?.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 9.1 (2009): 205-222.

Frantz and Mayer adapt Latane and Darley’s 1970 paper The Five-Stage Model of Helping to the climate change situation.

The Five Stage Model of Helping provides a framework for understanding how people become motivated to help in an emergency.

The Model consists of Stage One “Noticing The Event”; Stage Two “Interpreting The Event As An Emergency”; Stage Three “Feeling Personally Responsible To Act”; Stage Four “Knowing What To Do”; and Stage Five “Implementing The Required Acts”.

When applied to climate change this model can help structure the provision of information to encourage people towards helping behaviour.

Frantz and Mayer state that psychological research has found that for people to interpret fear communications as an emergency needing them to act, they “must [be] provide[d with] highly specific recommendations regarding the behaviour that needs to be performed in order to avoid the unwanted outcome” — providing recommendations is more likely to lead on to the other stages of helping, such as feeling personally responsible to act and knowing how to act.

The article also gives recommendations about personal and collective actions that could be appropriate to the climate change situation.

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Val 09.02.16 at 3:53 am

Thanks very much ZM both of those readings sound very interesting for discussion, I will have a look at them (possibly they could be useful for the reading list too).

Hope the activism is going well in your area I know you have been involved in a lot.

Some psychological readings aren’t very useful because they are too individually focused but that one sounds good.

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Faustusnotes 09.02.16 at 4:15 am

Kidneystones if you can’t be bothered finding anything out about me don’t waste my time telling me what you think I need.

F foundling I think you’re arguing against something other than what I said – perhaps I didn’t put it well. But it does seem we have drawn out your position in opposition to the student demands – you indicate a complete lack of understanding of what they are saying or any empathy (I can’t think of a better word, sorry) for the problem they are describing. I think this is why they have raised this issue – because teachers teach this stuff as if only this canonical way of reading these texts counts, and any other impressions or interpretations (which just happen to be brought to the class by people who historically aren’t allowed in) are invalid, incomprehensible or fantastic.

Once again I think you need to try and engage with this student campaign in a more open minded way, ask yourself why the complainants aren’t satisfied with your answers – is it because the campaigners are stupid or mendacious or could it be that your answers are glib and defensive?

ZM I enjoyed the tempest. I get this so much – give any kind of criticism of a book and people assume you hated it. Sigh…

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kidneystones 09.02.16 at 4:48 am

@ 321 I don’t ‘think’ you need anything. If you want to speak with any modicum of authority on the bible, a good starting point might be to read it.

My original suggestion was ‘if you like a good read…’. Edification and the ability to participate in a much larger conversation and to better understand Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Faulkner, and any other number of authors, including Goethe, is a happy by-product of taking a tiny risk and reading select sections of a tome you clearly fear.

My suggestion was made with the best of intents and despite my near-certainty this would be your response – to claim persecution, defend ignorance and lassitude, and play the victim, again.

@ 319 Plays are not ‘mean’ to be read, other than by the actors and others involved in the production, despite the fact that many older plays today are. Works of creative fiction that are meant to be read are usually called novels, and never plays. At least to the best of my knowledge, that’s the case. Can you name a single playwright who wrote her plays so that they can be read? I can’t think of one. Part of my own background put me in close proximity with people producing work for public consumption. Not one ever expressed any desire to have the work parsed and mulled over by even the brightest of bright sparks.

Perhaps you recall ‘Idiot Wind?’ James Wolcott on Christopher Ricks on Bob Dylan?

https://business.highbeam.com/4776/article-1G1-121294149/idiot-wind

Writers write to be read. Playwrights write to have their works performed, not read.

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ZM 09.02.16 at 5:02 am

kidneystones,

I think there would have been the circulation of important plays in London, either for other writers or particularly interested readers. The first folio of Shakespeare was printed in 1623, but there were quartos before then starting from 1593 and 1594 at least.

The plays are great to read, I don’t know how anyone could study the writing without reading them. You would have to go to the play about 10 times or something.

Ben Jonson published his own plays to be read in 1616 the year Shakespeare died. He was the first playwright to be published in expensive folio format, then Shakespeare’s plays were published in expensive folio format 7 years later.

You can easily write plays to be performed and also read.

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faustusnotes 09.02.16 at 5:12 am

Yes Kidneystones, I know you don’t think. Otherwise you might have stopped to think that I might have read the bible, maybe more than once. You might have wondered if I had attended bible study classes in my youth, or been required to read it many times at school and outside of school. You might think that not everyone agrees on which texts are great and whether they’re well written or that different people have different opinions about the best parts of any text. But you didn’t because, as you say, you don’t think. And since afternoon is approaching, we both know that you will soon descend into your strange irrational and aggressive phase, so it’s better I think if you don’t bother replying to me further.

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kidneystones 09.02.16 at 5:40 am

@ 323 Thanks for the prompt reply and for your generally very positive contributions here. “You would have to go to the play about 10 times or something.”

This is quite close to my research area: audiences, economics, and cultural production, although for a different nation and time. In the 18th century have verbatim accounts confirming that going to the same show ten times is precisely what informed critics did. Indeed, it is this openly stated investment of time that adds authority to the critic’s view. So, in a very real sense you’re quite correct. A single viewing of a play probably meant that even attentive audience members missed much, some of the performance. This phenomena would be commonly acknowledged, at least by some, at the time, which tells us more about audiences. If we like something, we go back, which in turn means more money for the production company, and perhaps the playwright.

As you rightly point out, even at the Globe and the Rose, prices were low enough to admit the poor, allowing for multiple visits either alone, or with different sets of friends. The social dimension of the performance evidently involved a good amount of audience interaction. Then as now, artists frequently complained critics were clueless despite the best of intentions.

Thank you very much, too, for the Jonson link. This was new for me. I read one summary and one well-researched essay on Jonson’s 1616 folio https://episteme.revues.org/736 and will allow my original point to stand, at least until better evidence arrives

Jonson wrote his plays, masques, and other entertainments to be performed ,not read. Jonson’s decision to publish his works whilst still alive (a novelty), including his poems, seems to be far more to do with claims of intellectual property and to further his reputation, for self promotion. The income (in my view the most telling driver) an author hoped to earn would I expect confirm that Jonson earned far more when his plays were performed, no matter how many copies were published. The key is how many were purchased, not published. These numbers are, I expect, very difficult to obtain in the case of Jonson. The income challenge is complicated, of course, by the role patrons played in support for the arts.

Anyway, thanks very much for this. It’s well OT, but fascinating none-the-less. You’re right, there’s merit in reading the plays. But I stand by my original points – the playwrights wrote the works to have them performed, and reading the text is a very different experience from seeing the plays performed, ideally performed well.

Cheers!

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ZM 09.02.16 at 5:51 am

Thanks, I didn’t know that was your research area. That’s really interesting. I guess for Shakespeare’s contemporaries watching the plays was probably the best thing, and if you were interested in the writing then getting a quarto to read was a possibility.

But for us so many centuries later I think reading the plays is superior. It is interesting going to a performance of a Shakespeare play but its always another theatre company putting it on, not Shakespeare. So I think reading the play is the best now, and then watching the play can provide other angles, but never Shakespeare’s own acting or directing interpretation — always someone else’s. So its interesting then to juxtapose your own reading of the play with the reading the directors and acting are performing for you.

Also I guess since it was the Renaissance Shakespeare would have had the experience since grammar school of reading classical plays from the Greek or Roman, which had been turned into books to read rather than being passed down as plays year after year.

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kidneystones 09.02.16 at 6:18 am

@ 326 I generally agree with all this, with the caveat being that watching the plays on DVD, at least, is an essential part of the experience. I was very fortunate to have two good and one great teacher for Shakespeare. When attending one live performance at a famous production company one leaned closed to me and whispered ‘I hope you’ll tell everyone you know how bad this truly is.’ It was wonderful, and wonderfully liberating.

You’re quite right, too, to point to the role of grammar schools and book production generally. As a friend recently pointed out Shakespeare’s audience would be just as interested in Thomas Wyatt’s role in the life and loves of Henry VIII and other figures from England’s recent past, as in his posthumously published poetry. You likely know that Henry VIII wrote and performed music. Katherine Parr published on theology and Elizabeth I was famously trained in rhetoric, traditionally exclusive to males. Audiences would be keen to jump into a well-told story, but many would also be attuned to modern resonances. In my view, it’s a highly literate public, except among those too poor to escape a world of constant work. Shakespeare was writing for all of us.

Must go, thanks!

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J-D 09.02.16 at 6:21 am

Hey Skipper

All speech is a means to some end, because all speakers have a reason for speaking. If you take a concept of ‘freedom of speech’ and exclude from its scope all speech which is a means to an end, then you exclude all speech from its scope and render the concept empty. If you want to have a meaningful concept of ‘freedom of speech’, you cannot say that any speech can be excluded from its scope solely on the grounds that it is a means to an end.

You can take into account the specific purpose of particular speech when you are evaluating a decision whether to prevent that speech, but that’s my point: you need to take into account specific details, the bare fact that speech is being prevented is insufficient for an adequate evaluation.

It is not the case that all speech is equally valuable or equally worth of protection. If people are competing to speak, it is at least sometimes possible to evaluate who should have priority, and it is not necessary to deny that speech is speech in order to do so. Affirming the obvious fact that heckling is a form of speech is not equivalent to affirming that heckling is equally valuable with other forms of speech or equally deserving of protection.

For a proper evaluation of a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, the details of the situation need to be considered, probably including what it was that the speaker was saying or trying to say. The bare fact that somebody tried to prevent somebody from speaking, by itself, is insufficient information for a proper evaluation.

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Hey Skipper 09.02.16 at 9:58 am

J-D:

This is were you trash the whole concept of free speech:

For a proper evaluation of a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, the details of the situation need to be considered …

Beware passive voice. Need to be considered by whom? Rewrite that in active voice and identify the subject.

You can’t, not without rendering free speech mute.

Also, you have blurred the point I’ve been trying to make. In order for speech to be considered free, there must be unimpeded communication between speaker and listener without any prior restraint. When SJWs disrupt presentations, they have demanded prior restraint: comply with our demands, or we will shut you down.

That is censorship. That vocal cords may be employed doesn’t turn it from censorship into free speech.

Similarly, it has happened that student newspapers have published things that have angered SJWs. In response, they have taken as many copies of the offending publication as they could get their hands on.

If heckling in pursuit of censorship is free speech, then trashing newspapers in pursuit of censorship is freedom of the press.

Sounds Newspeaky, doesn’t it?

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ZM 09.02.16 at 10:18 am

There are a whole lot of restrictions on speech. Freedom of speech principally applies to political speech and you can always boo and clap and whatever in political speeches. Parliament has even freer speech since they have parliamentary privilege and you never hear so many interruptions at any speeches than you hear at parliamentary question time with each side interrupting the other side as much as humanly possible.

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dax 09.02.16 at 11:42 am

” it also can’t be taken for granted that their [ancient Greek] values are *always* inferior to ours”

But they are *always* inferior to ours (or at least no better), because we are judging from our moral framework. That is, the ancients had one moral framework; we have another. Since we are judging from our own, and moral frameworks consider their own moral judgments superior to those made in every other moral framework, the ancients’ moral judgments are necessarily inferior.

Here is my framing of this discussion. The canon causes problems because one of the necessary conditions to being part of the canon is that the work has persisted over a long time. This means that classical works (those which belong to the canon) have been written long ago, when a value system very different from ours was in place. This causes problems for those who are unable to accept the existence of different moral frameworks – who believe their own moral judgments are absolute and universal. Confrontation with different values, by those who are intolerant of other frameworks (even if their own framework includes tolerance of others) is always a shock.

Within the current elite American moral framework one is supposed to be tolerant, but like most frameworks it is intolerant of other frameworks.

This goes back to something which Ronan said very wisely far up in this thread: “a new ruling class creating new norms.” This new framework of norms and values which has appeared in America is just the latest form of American (more wildely, Anglo-Saxon) cultural imperialism, in that the US expects every other society in the world to adapt the same framework and make the same judgments. Just look at how many articles the NYT has devoted to the burkini conflict in France (six? seven?), all from the same “it’s obviously wrong to ban the burkini” perspective.

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Anarcissie 09.02.16 at 2:54 pm

[Anarcissie @290:] Educational institutions could hardly perform their mission of replicating the Established Order if they did not engage in viewpoint discrimination.

Hey Skipper 09.01.16 at 2:33 pm @ 300:
‘… That’s as may be, but that isn’t relevant here. When it comes to the use of university facilities, the university may not engage in viewpoint discrimination. …’

No, everything that goes on at universities facilities with official sanction is part of what they do, and what they do is almost never independent of their role in the state. Universities serve as a class and competence filter, through which most people must pass if they want a ‘good’ job and the associated social standing. It’s not like going to the movies. I can show a movie about the Ku Klux Klan, and you can go to it or not as you please, but if a university permits the Grand Klaxon (or whatever he’s called) of the Klan to speak at the debating society it’s as if they’ve legitimated the Klan somehow throughout the community of which they are the intellectual heart. Now, you know this, and I know it, so I think you should concede the point, so that we can turn to discussions of The Tempest and Jane Eyre which are a lot more entertaining than the unfortunate mechanics of our social order and its powers.

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stevenjohnson 09.02.16 at 4:29 pm

Re the issue of plays meant to be performed, not read. There is the term “closet drama.”
Milton’s Samson Agonistes. Byron’s Manfred. Shelley’s The Cenci. Goethe’s Faust.

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Patrick 09.02.16 at 4:34 pm

Anarcissie- that WOULD be the case, except that universities have a long standing tradition of honoring, at least with lip service, the idea that we should permit speech without endorsing it, then answer it with more speech.

This “endorsement” idea is an excuse, and a bad one.

And let’s just be totally clear- if that endorsement excuse was real and serious and people actually believed it, it would be the end of universities as actual academic institutions. It would be a field day for conservative critics of academia. That crackpot professor down the hall with tenure and wacky political views that enrage conservative students wouldn’t merely be making his own arguments in an academic free for all for students to compare with other positions to accept or reject, he would be offering a university endorsed point of view.

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Mahood 09.02.16 at 5:00 pm

stevenjohnson 09.02.16 at 4:29 pm
Re the issue of plays meant to be performed, not read. There is the term “closet drama.”
Milton’s Samson Agonistes. Byron’s Manfred. Shelley’s The Cenci. Goethe’s Faust.

How elitist of you to expect any of us to know that! (BTW, The Cenci is sometimes performed, but Prometheus Unbound almost never.)

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Mahood 09.02.16 at 5:07 pm

About Jane Eyre — I am puzzled that the crude plot device of her coming into a lot of money would turn anyone off the novel. The money catalyzes the last movement of the plot — CW: spoiler— by which St. John and his sisters are able to stay home, and by which St. John can put enormous pressure on Jane to marry him and go on a missionary colonizing expedition. The money does her essentially no good at all — it’s not a lucky ending for her, but a relatively minor link in the plot. So if you’re angry about the money, you’re angry about a narrative move. Fictional money is awfully cheap, and in the case of Jane Eyre not nearly worth the paper it’s printed on.

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Kiwanda 09.02.16 at 6:08 pm

Anarcissie 333: “…if a university permits the Grand Klaxon (or whatever he’s called) of the Klan to speak at the debating society it’s as if they’ve legitimated the Klan somehow throughout the community of which they are the intellectual heart. “

No, it isn’t legitimatizing, at least for a reasonable understanding of that word. If the Klan leader speaks, then people have a chance to hear and understand how he and people like him think, and perhaps how to respond; this exercise in critical thinking and debate would be educational. Agreement is not required or even implied.

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Stephen 09.02.16 at 7:10 pm

faustusnotes@312; ‘I’m not shifting goalposts – I have multiple complaints and the invalidity of one doesn’t make them all wrong.’
Well, let’s have a look. Your first complaint: “I don’t remember a great many white dudes in the Tempest”. Response: most of the characters are by any reasonable criterion white.
Then Goalpost Shift 1: “the tempest was mostly fae [fairies and elves] things”.
Response: no, most characters are normal humans.
Then Goalpost Shift 2: ““all rich nobles. Which was part of my point – these stories aren’t written for or about ordinary people”.
Response: no. they aren’t all rich nobles, and as a commercial playwright Shakespeare was very much writing for ordinary people.
Then Grand Uprooting of Goalposts: “I have multiple complaints and the invalidity of one doesn’t make them all wrong.”
I suppose that is as near as we will get to an admission that on this topic you have been entirely and persistently wrong.

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Stephen 09.02.16 at 7:30 pm

ZM@319: tend to agree with you, but when you write that the Tempest “refers to early colonialism in the Americas critically” I do wonder. It refers to the shipwreck on an unnamed and unlocated island of people in a ship from Naples, who meet an enchanter and his daughter from Milan who had reached the island after being set adrift from Italy in a small boat, and who have a servant who is the son of a witch from Algiers. All of these are consistent with the play being set somewhere in the Mediterranean. None are consistent with it being set anywhere in the Americas.
True, the play does include the phrase “Oh brave new world”. That doesn’t mean it was set in the New World, does it?

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Anarcissie 09.02.16 at 7:32 pm

Kiwanda 09.02.16 at 6:08 pm @ 338 and Patrick 09.02.16 at 4:34 pm @ 335 —
Several years ago, one of my relatives, then attending a small but very respectable college, somehow found himself on a committee to bring in speakers or panelists for controversial issues. At the time the Klan, or people purporting to be the Klan, had been active locally, and he proposed bringing in one of their representatives for this program to explain their purposes and behavior. This suggestion caused great controversy on the committee, eventually developing into considerable bad feeling, and even in its still hypothetical form was vetoed by the college authorities, on the grounds I mentioned, although their version was less explicit. I am not sure what you could get away with today. The Klan, Nazis, jihadis, probably not. In the old days Communist Party members would have been out. Some of you might be in a position where you could give it a try, however. Carefully.

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AcademicLurker 09.02.16 at 8:06 pm

Anarcissie@341:
Putting Klan members and Nazis aside for a moment, I think it’s still true that starting with “We’re presumptively endorsing the views of anyone we invite to speak” and using that as a guide for who is allowed to speak on campus is a pretty terrible idea.

One can both believe that a university is a place where a wide range of views, including views we may disagree with strongly, should be allowed a hearing and allow that some hypothetical speakers are so far beyond the pale that they have no business getting a platform on campus.

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Hey Skipper 09.02.16 at 9:21 pm

[Faustusnotes:] Hey skipper, if I’m not being invited to speak at the university because my views in Tolkien and race are objectionable, then by your definition of censorship I’m being censored. Every time a university or student organization makes a decision about who to invite they also make a decision about who not to invite

No, you aren’t. You haven’t been invited to speak. I haven’t either. I’m not being censored.

As for the rest, the definition of free speech doesn’t include who is not speaking, only that there are no prior restraints on speaker and listener. Certainly, a campus organization preferring one person over another doesn’t give license to another party entirely to restrain speakers or listeners.

Unless you think everyone who wants to speak should be allowed to speak wherever they please you need to accept that not being invited to speak is not censorship. If the debate about whether to invite someone to speak is vocal and public, it’s still not censorship.

I’m having a tough time making sense of that. The point at issue here is SJWs assuming for themselves the authority of determining what other people may say and hear. Your imposing the condition of not being invited for some reason or another isn’t censorship unless an outside party has determined what may be said and heard.

Here’s what is censorship: giving the state the authority and motive to prevent the production, sale and broadcast of an entire group of people’s work because it is morally degrading. As advocated by whiny pants-wetter Shapiro in his book on pornography.

Yes, indeed, he advocates limits on pornography. And it would indeed be censorship if what he advocates came to fruition. So what?

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Hey Skipper 09.02.16 at 9:23 pm

[Anarcissie:] No, everything that goes on at universities facilities with official sanction is part of what they do, and what they do is almost never independent of their role in the state …

I think you are taking my point further than it was meant to go.

So far as I know, and I fully acknowledge that I am not a lawyer, is that Universities may not engage in viewpoint discrimination in sanctioning campus groups, or the use of their facilities. That means if the university is going to grant official status to the Campus Crusade for Christ, then they have to do the same for an Islamic or Mormon group. The same with their facilities; they may not withhold facilities from one group, while allowing others to use them.

… but if a university permits the Grand Klaxon (or whatever he’s called) of the Klan to speak at the debating society it’s as if they’ve legitimated the Klan somehow throughout the community of which they are the intellectual heart.

Is it? Are there university policies that exercise prior restraint on Campus groups? (These are honest questions, BTW — I really don’t know.) If a campus organization asks a Grand Foghorn to speak, it isn’t at all clear to me that the group itself has legitimated the Foghorn, never mind the university.

It is entirely possible that universities have such restraints, even though that sounds to me like presenting serious 1A issues. Not that universities let that stop them; lord knows enough have grotesque speech codes.

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Collin Street 09.02.16 at 11:22 pm

No, it isn’t legitimatizing, at least for a reasonable understanding of that word. If the Klan leader speaks, then people have a chance to hear and understand how he and people like him think, and perhaps how to respond; this exercise in critical thinking and debate would be educational. Agreement is not required or even implied.

The meaning a statement or action conveys in context — which is what ‘does permitting someone to speak amount to an endorsement of the contents of their speech’ — is a linguistics question, not a legal, political, or philosophical one.

And, yes. Pragmatics: taking actions to promote the circulation of a viewpoint is to declare circulation of that viewpoint important, and ordinarily — unless specifically and explicitly disclaimed — the reason people arrange for the circulation of viewpoints is because they believe them to be true. Certainly that’s how you will be interpreted, at least by people with normal language functioning.

I mean, there’s no law forcing you to include the disclaimers, but there’s no law prohibiting you from making any other language errors either. And it is a language error, one that impacts people’s ability to understand your desired intent just the same as calling a cat a dolphin or confusing past and future tense.

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J-D 09.02.16 at 11:46 pm

Hey Skipper 09.02.16 at 9:58 am
J-D:

This is were you trash the whole concept of free speech:

For a proper evaluation of a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, the details of the situation need to be considered …

Beware passive voice. Need to be considered by whom? Rewrite that in active voice and identify the subject.

But nothing could be easier!

If you want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, you need to consider the details of the situation; if I want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, I need to consider the details of the situation; if any person want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, that person need to consider the details of the situation.

What is the alternative? How can any person properly evaluate such a situation without considering the details of the situation?

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AcademicLurker 09.02.16 at 11:50 pm

taking actions to promote the circulation of a viewpoint is to declare circulation of that viewpoint important, and ordinarily — unless specifically and explicitly disclaimed — the reason people arrange for the circulation of viewpoints is because they believe them to be true.

Maybe that’s ordinarily the case in some contexts, but it certainly is not in the context of a university, which is – or at least should be – understood as a place where the consideration of a broad range of views and ideas is one of it’s central missions. At my quite liberal undergraduate college, conservative speakers were invited as well as far out on the edge of crazy radical leftists. Neither of these 2 classes of speakers expressed views that more than a tiny fraction of the student body or faculty believed to be true. Affirming the truth of the views was not the reason they were invited. Has this idea really been lost since the early 90s? If so, that’s very sad.

Even within a university context matters. Intelligent design advocates have come to speak at universities I’ve worked for. If they had been invited by the biology department, I might have objected, but they were, as I recall, invited in one case by a student evangelical club and in one case by the campus atheist society. Question: did the atheists invite the IDers in order to affirm the truth of their views? If not, can you imagine what their motivation might have been?

Of course there are limits and no one is saying that it’s a crime against intellectual exchange if the suggestion that the local Nazis get invited to speak is shot down. It’s a bad idea to reason entirely from extreme cases.

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 12:06 am

Maybe that’s ordinarily the case in some contexts, but it certainly is not in the context of a university, which is – or at least should be – understood as a place where the consideration of a broad range of views and ideas is one of it’s central missions.

Sure. And for normally controversial topics this general environment-of-disclaimer is probably sufficient. But common sense suggests that you take extra care with particularly dangerous substances.

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 12:08 am

Also, of course, people dissemble and dogwhistle; they arrange for speeches to promote controversial viewpoints that they favour, and declare that they aren’t endorsing them. Listeners are entitled to consider this possibility, and if you want to rule it out you need to take actions to do so.

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Kiwanda 09.03.16 at 12:25 am

Collin Street: “…And it is a language error,…..”

If I’m following your three paragraphs of discourse on linguistics, pragmatics, and language error, you’re saying: people will think that sponsoring a speech implies endorsement of its contents.

Well, so what? If I’m the sponsor in that situation and I’m asked, I’ll correct such a mistake of interpretation. If I were to introduce such a speaker, I’d probably explain the circumstances, particularly if it matters to me what mistaken people think. In general, I’d prefer debates of controversial topics to unchallenged speakers on those topics, regardless of the topic, in which case the lack of endorsement is clearer.

If a horrible opinion has weak, powerless support, then hearing about it is harmless. If the horrible opinion has enough support to be dangerous, then all the more reason to understand it, debate it, know how to argue against it with people who are on the fence. In neither case is “no platforming” necessary, although an airing of a horrible opinion with weak support would be uninteresting, so why bother.

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F. Foundling 09.03.16 at 12:33 am

dax @332

>” it also can’t be taken for granted that their [ancient Greek] values are *always* inferior to ours”
>But they are *always* inferior to ours (or at least no better), because we are judging from our moral framework.

A moral framework may evolve or become more internally consistent over time. It’s perfectly possible that you may change your opinion on the morality of something after having considered more of its implications and aspects, while still regarding it in terms of the general principles that you adhered to originally. Becoming acquainted with a different view may help you notice implications and aspects that you hadn’t been (sufficiently) aware of originally. Perhaps a somewhat different weighting of the principles might also result.

>This causes problems for those who are unable to accept the existence of different moral frameworks – who believe their own moral judgments are absolute and universal.

This part is always a bit messy. The way I see it, if you have a moral framework at all, i.e. if you believe in it, you also believe that it is universal – not in the sense that it is objectively universally shared, but in the sense that it should be. The point is that one should also be open to the possibility that someone with different moral views in one respect may still have something valuable to offer in moral terms – or in some other respect – and also, as I said, that a different moral view at least about something more specific might ‘turn out to be right’ (i.e. that one may be convinced by it and find that it accords better with one’s own core values).

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Patrick 09.03.16 at 2:28 am

I don’t think ANYONE actually believes that the mere fact that a speaker was permitted to speak at a university means the university endorses the things they’re saying, or that the fact that a university specifically invites a speaker to speak on one topic means that the university endorses everything else the speaker has to say about other topics. I think everyone understands that a university’s mission and the reality of day to day university practice isn’t compatible with either of those ideas. I think its convenient to pretend to believe otherwise for purposes of public shaming and political protest, but I don’t think anyone actually believes it.

Certainly no one thinks that about themselves, their own speech, and their own university’s stance towards it. Its something people only ever say about others.

I can maybe get on board with the idea that inviting someone to be a commencement speaker implies “this person is, broadly speaking, admirable,” and I can support a few of the commencement speaker protests I’ve seen. I’m not sure they should be listened to very often, because “pick someone that no political faction on our campus will object to” is a pretty tough call. So maybe “they speak and people who hate them say why” is a valid compromise. But even then I think we all understand that the people making these decisions are referring to the primary display of the speaker’s public persona, not literally everything about their life or views.

Universities that allow protests to interfere with speaker invites when the invite is, in practical function, part of a student group’s activities, are vile and should be treated as less than true universities. That’s “creepy right wing Christian pseudo university with credits that don’t transfer anywhere real” behavior.

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Anarcissie 09.03.16 at 3:21 am

Patrick 09.03.16 at 2:28 am @ 351 —
I think the function in question is one of legitimation, rather than endorsement. The university or other such institution appears to be saying not that they agree with and support the invited speaker, but that the speech is part of the realm of legitimate, civilized discourse. The set of speakers (if controversial or marginal) define a sort of local Overton Window. The university speaks with great prestige within the state, because it is the major gatekeeper of class and competence certification, and it is not unusual for its personnel to be called upon to give advice to high government officials and corporate managers, or to testify as experts before legislatures and courts of law.

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JimV 09.03.16 at 4:16 am

205 (fn): “But hey skipper, in the example the professor cited the students didn’t use a hecklers veto – they asked the university to withdraw a speaker invitation. The university didn’t.”

206 (HS): “That the students were unsuccessful does not mean they weren’t attempting to use the hecklers’ veto. The students’ goal was to exercise their dominion over others thoughts.”

343 (HS): “”Yes, indeed, he advocates limits on pornography. And it would indeed be censorship if what he advocates came to fruition. So what?”

The principle seems to be something like: it is not right to interfere with (censor) Shapiro’s attempt (so far unsuccessful) to exercise dominion over other’s rights. But for some reason this principle does not equally apply to those students who unsuccesfully objected to his invitation to promulgate his views. They it seems must remain quiet, although their tuition money may be being used to support a cause they disagree with, whereas he must be allowed to speak.

Which is to say, if someone asked me to write a computer program to apply this principle automatically to every possible case, I would feel unable to do so. (This has happened to me before.) I would have to start by advocating that the students be allowed to give their objections and Shapiro be allowed to speak – that is a principle I could program (in principle).

Perhaps the principle is: everybody can say what they want except Social Justice Warriors, but for that program I would need a usable definition of Social Justice Warrior. My naive view is that Martin Luther King and Gandhi and Mandela were Social Justice Warriors, i.e., they fought for social justice, primarily with words, against considerable opposition which considered them radical cranks.

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Faustusnotes 09.03.16 at 10:20 am

Hey skipper, your claim that “SJWs” assign themselves the authority to decide who speaks presupposes that they have some superior authority on campus. They don’t. They have assigned themselves the right to dispute who should speak on campus. If the campus listens, that means they have asserted their right effectively. This is no different to two factions on a committee debating who should be invited to speak – one side wins this debate and a person gets to speak, one side loses and a person is censored. The mechanics of the decision making process may be undemocratic and not to your liking, but a decision not to invite someone to speak is not censorship. Censorship is something bigger than that. Otherwise breitbart (where your hero cheered trump and tolerated gamer gates death and rape threats) is constantly censoring left wing voices.

Now you might have a point that the people in question should have used “proper channels” or something. But ultimately what’s the difference? If they wrote a polite letter to the student club in question pointing out that Shapiro is a jock stain, and the committee agreed, it would still be censorship by your weird definition . But I fact it would have just been speech. I think you yet don’t understand what free speech and censorship are.

Stephen, I can’t be bothered looking but I’m pretty sure my original complaint was something along the lines of “rich men with power in their society”, which phrasing I chose carefully (I think). I subsequently in a throwaway line to you said “white dudes” because I was (misremembering) a cast entirely of fae. You then put up the cast of characters, which was mostly rich people (nobles and dukes). I think you’re just missing the nuance of a ckmplaint I may not have expressed well.

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 11:00 am

Here, let’s try it this way.

When you promote a speech, you do so because you want the contents of the speech to be said. When the contents of the speech is, for example, “black people should be treated as subhuman”, then — a fortiori / subbing in — promoting that speech is to promote circulation of the idea, no?

“Wanting it to be said that black people should be treated as subhuman” is of course not precisely the same thing as “Wanting to treat black people as subhuman”, but, y’know? They can both get fucked.

[“I think the hill I’ll die on is, ‘we need more racist statements made!~” is a pretty charming perspective, all up]

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 11:07 am

Which is to say, if someone asked me to write a computer program to apply this principle automatically to every possible case, I would feel unable to do so. (This has happened to me before.) I would have to start by advocating that the students be allowed to give their objections and Shapiro be allowed to speak – that is a principle I could program (in principle).

The Golden Rule only works if the people applying it are cognisant of the way that different people come to different conclusions and desire different outcomes. If you can’t do that — and some people can’t, as I’ve mentioned — then the “by others” part of “do as you would be done by others” isn’t framed with understanding of others wanting different things and collapses into “do what you want”.

[see also the libertarian distinction between initiatory and responsive violence, which pragmatically seems to boil down to “initiatory violence is what you do; I just respond”]

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ZM 09.03.16 at 1:20 pm

Stephen,

“ZM@319: tend to agree with you, but when you write that the Tempest “refers to early colonialism in the Americas critically” I do wonder. It refers to the shipwreck on an unnamed and unlocated island of people in a ship from Naples, who meet an enchanter and his daughter from Milan who had reached the island after being set adrift from Italy in a small boat, and who have a servant who is the son of a witch from Algiers. All of these are consistent with the play being set somewhere in the Mediterranean. None are consistent with it being set anywhere in the Americas.
True, the play does include the phrase “Oh brave new world”. That doesn’t mean it was set in the New World, does it?”

The island is an allegorical representation of America. The early colonisation of America was the current events the play is referring to — this is made clear by the reference to On Cannibals by Montiagne. Caliban could refer to either or both indigenous Americans and Africans who were enslaved — I am not too sure of dates of when slavery of Africans began in the Americas by European powers…. The island of the play isn’t “set” anywhere real — this is why there is a discussion of Utopianism as well in the play. I guess the reference to brave new world was probably a reference to the New World too. These are the current events being allegorised in the play.

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M Caswell 09.03.16 at 1:26 pm

‘Brave new world’ refers to the old world of the shipwrecked Europeans, which seems new to Miranda, born and raised on the island with her father and Caliban.

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ZM 09.03.16 at 1:57 pm

yes i know, but I guess it must be another reference to the play being an allegory about America, since its rather a coincidence otherwise, don’t you think?

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Hey Skipper 09.03.16 at 2:06 pm

[Collin Street:] When you promote a speech, you do so because you want the contents of the speech to be said. When the contents of the speech is, for example, “black people should be treated as subhuman”, then — a fortiori / subbing in — promoting that speech is to promote circulation of the idea, no?

Lets’ say it is. Which is better, getting it out in the open, or letting it fester underground?

I guess it depends whether you think others are too stupid to see the obvious.

[Faustusnotes:] Hey skipper, your claim that “SJWs” assign themselves the authority to decide who speaks presupposes that they have some superior authority on campus. They don’t. They have assigned themselves the right to dispute who should speak on campus. If the campus listens, that means they have asserted their right effectively.

Depends. Let’s say the University has invited a commencement speaker they think speaks bollocks — Ben Shapiro, say. Since that would pretty clearly qualify as rivalrous speech, then yes, I think SJWs (no need for the scare quotes, BTW, I’m using that term because every instance I have found where people have imposed censorship, is it SJWs doing the imposing.) would clearly be justified in, at least, pointedly walking out.

But that isn’t what’s going on. SJWs have taken it upon themselves to decide who campus organization may invite and listen to. If the campus group declines to acceded to SJWs requests, that, if there to be any respect for the concept of free speech, is exactly where it ends.

The mechanics of the decision making process may be undemocratic and not to your liking, but a decision not to invite someone to speak is not censorship.

Never said it was, or even close. Breitbart (or Salon) not being open to progressives or conservatives isn’t censorship. A prolonged DDS attack on Salon by conservatives, or the other way around, would be.

If they wrote a polite letter to the student club in question pointing out that Shapiro is a jock stain, and the committee agreed, it would still be censorship by your weird definition .

No, it wouldn’t. When attributing something to me, use direct quotes, please.

[Jim V:] The principle seems to be something like: it is not right to interfere with (censor) Shapiro’s attempt (so far unsuccessful) to exercise dominion over other’s rights. But for some reason this principle does not equally apply to those students who unsuccessfully objected to his invitation to promulgate his views.

You have the situation completely reversed, and have completely misunderstand what I have written.

Perhaps the principle is: everybody can say what they want except Social Justice Warriors, but for that program I would need a usable definition of Social Justice Warrior.

Wrong. For free speech to have any meaning, no one is in a position to decide what is correct, or useful, just, etc. Therefore, SJWs are no less deserving of the right to engage in speaking and listening without any need to get approval from conservatives.

Interestingly, it seems conservatives have a pretty good track record in that regard.

[Patrick:] Universities that allow protests to interfere with speaker invites when the invite is, in practical function, part of a student group’s activities, are vile and should be treated as less than true universities. That’s “creepy right wing Christian pseudo university with credits that don’t transfer anywhere real” behavior.

[J-D:] If you want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, you need to consider the details of the situation …

What is the alternative? How can any person properly evaluate such a situation without considering the details of the situation?

Here is the alternative: regardless of your, or my opinion, of the contents of that speech, the only acceptable evaluation is that censorship is wrong, no matter who did it. If you are looking to “details” to change that answer, that is a pretty good guess your notion of free speech is very conditional.

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SusanC 09.03.16 at 2:22 pm

When the U. of Chicago is talking about “controversial speakers”, they’re probably talking about the politically controversial, rather than the scientifically controversial (though it’s possible to do both in the same paper if you try hard). No-one is going to organize a protest march if I say (e.g.) no-one has yet produced a working quantum computer with more than 3 qbits, and this continuing failure amounts to an experimental refutation of quantum theory; although the physicists might heckle.

When we’re selecting papers for conference publication, sometimes we give priority to the papers whose referees reports have high variance. If all the referees think the author is an idiot, then yeah, the programme chair will agree he’s an idiot and the paper will go into the reject bin. On the other hand, if half the referees think he’s a complete idiot and the other half think it’s a great paper — and still think that after being asked to reread it, in case they simply weren’t paying attention the first time they refereed it — then that suggests acceptance (at least for a conference paper rather than top tier journal) as the exact nature of the disagreement is probably interesting and worth some further discussion.

“Controversial” in the U Chicago statement probably really does mean high variance, rather than “everyone agrees the speaker is an idiot”.

It’s not so clear to me that this works well as a policy for selecting the politically controversial, rather than the scientifically controversial. If the proposed speaker is e.g. a racist comedian, and the source of the variance in your students’ opinion of him is mostly down to the variance in the students’ ethnicities and hence tendency to be offended (only some the of white guys find the jokes funny) then the nature of the disagreement is fairly obvious, and actually hearing the guy speak probably isn’t going to make anyone wiser.

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 2:38 pm

For free speech to have any meaning, no one is in a position to decide what is correct, or useful, just, etc.

People have been telling you for multiple days that they don’t believe that free speech has or can have any meaning in the real world. Arguments of the form, “if free speech has meaning, X must happen” have no sway on people who don’t think that free speech can have meaning. How would they?

If you’re not going to learn, could you at least fuck off?

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faustusnotes 09.03.16 at 2:40 pm

Okay Hey Skipper, let’s try this. Crooked Timber has a functioning blog where they can broadcast their opinions widely. I write a letter to tumblr asking them to host CT as well – I want CT to be able to engage with the tumblr community. So tumblr open it up to a vote, and because tumblr is overrun with “SJWs” (the quotes are necessary; you say you’ve never encountered anyone who tries to censor who isn’t an “SJW”, but you have already admitted Shapiro is into censorship – are you not keeping track? The scare quotes remain until you can offer Shapiro the same venom you offer the scare-quotees) the SJWs vote against CT being allowed on tumblr.

So, CT have been censored? Even though they already have a perfectly good blog?

The same applies. Shapiro has a paying gig at breitbart where he can say what he wants. Someone wanted him to get extra speech opportunities at no cost to him, and a bunch of people objected. You now claim he is being censored. Does my example show how stupid your idea is? Or are we just going to go round and around with you demanding that anyone who wants to speak should be able to speak anywhere they want, provided it is someone you like?

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kidneystones 09.03.16 at 3:16 pm

De Paul event shut down by ‘free speech’ activists. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IawEMxTroBk

Perhaps this kind of chaos is what Chicago is trying to avoid. The event is being held within a space that only the willing can enter. The question isn’t one of protest, it’s of denying others the right to speak. Some doubtless believe that torpedoing dissent and minority opinion is entirely.

The best part is that these same clowns see their own efforts to shut down speech as “heroes” and those at the ACLU who champion free speech, even for the Klan, as pikers afraid of a good fight.

If you want to watch a good example of how to handle people you really disagree with, check out the invitation and reception Bernie Sanders received at Liberty University for adult behavior. Space made at the front for Sanders’ supporters to gather and cheer whilst Bernie stood on stage and declared his support for gay marriage and abortion to the ‘intolerant’ bible thumpers.

In SJW world James Baldwin and Bill Buckley would never debate anything because two sides of the issue never deserve to be discussed.

Pathetic;

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kidneystones 09.03.16 at 3:20 pm

‘is entirely correct.’ Here’s Bernie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5ZB8Lg1tcA

Watch just the first five minutes and think what might have happened had fix not been in.

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faustusnotes 09.03.16 at 4:09 pm

It’s really deeply embarrassing for UofC if any of their student organizations think Milo Yiannopolous is worth inviting to speak. And really embarrassing for people like kidneystones and Hey Skipper if they think a person like that has anything worthwhile to say.

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Hey Skipper 09.03.16 at 4:39 pm

[faustusnotes:] And really embarrassing for people like kidneystones and Hey Skipper if they think a person like that has anything worthwhile to say.

If I ever am stumped for a good example of an ad hominem, I’ll come back to this.

(NB: you are a perfect example of why the concept of free speech and prior restraint are completely at odds.)

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 4:58 pm

(NB: you are a perfect example of why the concept of free speech and prior restraint are completely at odds.)

People have been telling you for multiple days that they don’t believe that free speech has or can have any meaning in the real world. Arguments of the form, “if free speech has meaning, X must happen” have no sway on people who don’t think that free speech can have meaning. How would they?

If you’re not going to learn, could you at least fuck off?

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Ronan(rf) 09.03.16 at 5:05 pm

This is not a matter of free speech, but skewed incentives. In the contemporary world, where it’s ” denounce or be denounced”, the inventive structure means you have to get your denunciation in first so as to undermine your opposing tribes inevitable denouncing. We don’t need free speech, we need different incentives. Instead of public denunciations we should encourage quiet contemplation and a return to keeping journals.

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Stephen 09.03.16 at 6:22 pm

Faustusnotes @ 353: You say “I can’t be bothered looking but I’m pretty sure my original complaint was something along the lines of “rich men with power in their society”, which phrasing I chose carefully (I think). I subsequently in a throwaway line to you said “white dudes” because I was (misremembering) a cast entirely of fae.”

I’ve had a busy day but being scholarly and honest I can still be bothered looking to see what your original complaint was. (My browser has a Find command, maybe yours doesn’t. Beware in future.)

Your original complaint, @278, was “I don’t remember a great many white dudes in the Tempest.” That cannot have been a throwaway line in a subsequent reply to me, since I had not mentioned the Tempest before 288.

I have now no confidence at all in your memory for even very recent events, and I would advise you to have none either.

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Stephen 09.03.16 at 6:33 pm

ZM: I think what you may mean is, you are convinced that the Tempest (set in the Mediterranean, or are you disputing that?) must be an allegory of the colonisation of America because you have seen performances that took that angle.

There was a strikingly good performance of Macbeth by Zulu actors. Its excellence did not persuade me that the Scotch play is in fact, or was ever intended to be, about pre-colonial South Africa.

You mention that the Tempest has a reference to Montaigne, who is generally agreed to have been read at least in translation by Shakespeare. As I said, I’ve never studied the play in detail, but I would be very grateful if you could provide that reference.

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Patrick 09.03.16 at 9:19 pm

Collin Street at 356- The third option you’re not acknowledging is that you simply want to provide a public forum for speech, without concerning yourself with the content of that speech beyond the bare minimum necessary to ensure the forum’s operation (time, place, manner). To the extent that the “hill” you want to “die on” is that we should pretend that literally isn’t even an option, you’ve thrown away the best intellectual and moral legacy of the political left, and we need to shell that hill as soon as possible to get this over with so a real left can emerge.

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ZM 09.03.16 at 11:05 pm

Stephen,

No, I mean the text of the play does refer to the colonization of the Americas. I have studied the play.

This article gives the reference to Montaigne, I haven’t read it, I don’t think I would whole agree with the article from scanning the first couple of paragraphs, but it gives the reference to Montaigne:

The characterization of Ariel and Caliban in The Tempest is significant in relation to Montaigne’s essay, which was one of Shakespeare’s main inspirations for the work. In “On Cannibals” and in The Tempest, both Montaigne and Shakespeare explore the relationship between human nature and modern civilization.

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/lithum/gallo/tempest.html

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Collin Street 09.03.16 at 11:18 pm

The third option you’re not acknowledging is that you simply want to provide a public forum for speech,

“Provide a public forum for speech” really means “Provide a public forum for [the speeches you’ve chosen to promote]”. Which in turn really means, “Provide a public forum for [the content of] [the speeches you’ve chosen to promote”, which in turn is the same damned thing as “When you promote a speech, you do so because you want the contents of the speech to be said.”

You’re not actually disagreeing with anything substantive. You’re just balking at the conclusion — none of the premises — because you don’t like it. If you promote speeches by racists who want to make racist speeches it’s because you think that one of the problems the “public forum” faces is “not enough racist things getting said”.

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J-D 09.03.16 at 11:31 pm

Hey Skipper

I see no reason to agree that it is always wrong to prevent somebody from speaking, and what’s more I bet you don’t believe that either. For example, I get the impression you think it’s okay to try to prevent hecklers from speaking. But there’s not just that. If somebody is about to give orders for a murder, is it wrong to try to prevent them from speaking? If somebody is about to reveal to the secret police the hiding place of the dissidents they’re seeking, is it wrong to try to prevent them from speaking? More mundanely, if somebody is unwittingly about to reveal the surprise twist in a story to people who you know want to find it out for themselves, is it wrong to try to prevent them from speaking?

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Kiwanda 09.04.16 at 12:00 am

J-D, just above: Well, OK, if the only way to stop the ticking time bomb nuke from destroying Des Moines is to silence the terrorist by torturing them into giving a gazillion samoleons to have sex with someone who wouldn’t do it for a penny less, then by golly, censorship, torture, and prostitution aren’t just allowable, they’re the only decent thing to do.

Collin Street: “When you promote a speech, you do so because you want the contents of the speech to be said.”

This is more-or-less tautologous. Of course, wanting the contents to be said is not the same as agreeing with those contents.

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Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 12:17 am

[Collin Street:] People have been telling you for multiple days that they don’t believe that free speech has or can have any meaning in the real world. </blockquote

Yes, they have been telling me for days that they cannot distinguish between means and ends, or assert as true without bothering to make the case that speech is rivalrous, therefore we get to decide who talks. Free speech does, indeed, have a meaning. Reality may not always approach the ideal, but it is trivial to define what it is, and easy to see that, in in the example I cited, or any one of the seemingly endless series of SJWs deciding they are entitled to decide what the rest of us may listen to, that the real and ideal were darn close.

And then, with

If you’re not going to learn, could you at least fuck off?

you get right to the heart of the problem, the Progressive tautology: the thoughts Progressives think are true because Progressives think them. Therefore, it is everyone else who needs to fuck off. If you ever are puzzled as to why Progressives are in such bad odor with so many people, there is your answer, right there.

It apparently hasn’t occurred to you that your argument is based on a begged question. I noted that above. Have you figured it out?

[J-D:] I see no reason to agree that it is always wrong to prevent somebody from speaking, and what’s more I bet you don’t believe that either. For example, I get the impression you think it’s okay to try to prevent hecklers from speaking.

Please do me a favor, and instead of telling me your impression of what I think, quote what I actually said.

Which is: heckling is a means of censorship. Hecklers aren’t speaking, they are heckling. Heckling is a cause, the intended effect of which is to stop speakers talking, and the audience hearing. Heckling is using vocal cords , or air horns (are air horns speech?) to attain what others might do by blocking doors, pulling fire alarms, or threatening violence. Blocking doors isn’t speech, nor is pulling fire alarms, or threatening violence. They are all means of censorship.

Hecklers are perfectly free to speak. They can set up their own meeting space, invite speakers, publicize their event, and talk to whoever shows up.

What they won’t have to worry about is getting censored.

But there’s not just that. If somebody is about to give orders for a murder, is it wrong to try to prevent them from speaking? If somebody is about to reveal to the secret police the hiding place of the dissidents they’re seeking, is it wrong to try to prevent them from speaking?

Is the subject of the UoC letter, or the widespread incidents of attempted and successful SJW censorship, even remotely related to any of that? Is there nothing in law that addresses these irrelevant hypos that distinguishes between them and all other speech?

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Collin Street 09.04.16 at 12:24 am

This is more-or-less tautologous.

All deductive reasoning is, that’s how it works. You progress by chains of tautologies from known things to unknown conclusions; the conclusion is implicit in the premises, is tautologous if you like, but awareness is lacking, and the awareness, “what does this mean real-world, how far do the implications extend”, is what you’re looking for when you use deduction. I mean, the very word means “drawing out”; it’s about extracting information you “already have”, not creating new data.

Even so you’ve still got people like Patrick who disagree, who think there’s some way you can promote a speech without any relationship to its contents.

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Collin Street 09.04.16 at 12:46 am

Free speech does, indeed, have a meaning.

People have been telling you for multiple days that they don’t believe that free speech has or can have any meaning in the real world. Arguments of the form, “if free speech has meaning, X must happen” have no sway on people who don’t think that free speech can have meaning. How would they?

You may well think that free speech has a meaning, but you aren’t writing to convince yourself, you’re writing to convince other people who think other things. To convince a person, you need to root your deductive chain in conclusions and premises they have.

If you’re not going to learn, could you at least fuck off?

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kidneystones 09.04.16 at 12:48 am

Donald Trump spoke at a church this morning. According to Colin Street and FN, ‘free-speech’ advocates should not be prevented from blowing whistles to disrupt they hymns, taking over the pulpit from the pastor who invited Trump, hurling abuse at the congregation for inviting Trump to speak, and generally doing everything they can to make Trump the 45th president. http://althouse.blogspot.jp/2016/09/trump-speaks-in-black-church-in-detroit.html

The ACLU and Bernie Sanders, according to FN and ‘could you please just fuck off,’ have it all wrong. We don’t need to defend minority views and dissent, we need to stifle free speech, ideally with the all the tools of the state.

Morons.

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Collin Street 09.04.16 at 12:53 am

According to Colin Street and FN, ‘free-speech’ advocates should not be prevented from blowing whistles to disrupt they hymns

I mean, here I am talking about a rejection of “free speech” precisely because we need a method to ensure people can actually speak without being disrupted and apparently this turns into “disruption of the speech of others is free speech that needs to be supported” when it passes through the walls of ks’s head.

Fuck sake.

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kidneystones 09.04.16 at 12:59 am

Perfect. Now we have ‘could you please fuck off’ starts bleating about ‘not being heard.’

Keep it up. Blow a whistle maybe.

382

J-D 09.04.16 at 12:59 am

Kiwanda, there never is a situation where ‘the only way to stop the ticking time bomb nuke from destroying Des Moines is to silence the terrorist by torturing them into giving a gazillion samoleons to have sex with someone who wouldn’t do it for a penny less’; but there really are situations where somebody is trying to give orders for a murder, or where something somebody says reveals to the secret police the location of the dissidents they’re seeking, or where something somebody says reveals the surprise twist in a story to people who want to find it out for themselves.

Hey Skipper

Of course heckling is speech. ‘Hecklers are speaking’ and ‘hecklers are heckling’ are not mutually exclusive propositions, they are two different but equally accurate descriptions of the same situation. Likewise, ‘hecklers are speaking’ and ‘hecklers are trying to prevent the audience from hearing the speaker’ are not mutually exclusive propositions, they are two different but equally accurate descriptions of the same situation. As I pointed out previously, you can’t exclude heckling from the category of speech because it has an intended effect, since most if not all speech has an intended effect; if you exclude from the category of speech any kind of speech which has an intended effect, then your notion of freedom of speech becomes nearly or entirely empty.

I agree that it’s true that people prevented from heckling may still have the opportunity to speak at another place or time, but that is true of everybody or nearly everybody who is prevented from speaking, including the people in the examples you have mentioned yourself: they haven’t been completely prevented from speaking anywhere at any time, only prevented from speaking at a particular place at a particular time. That’s not enough to settle the question of whether it’s okay to prevent a particular individual from speaking on a particular occasion, whether that person is a heckler or anybody else. Right here, right now, a heckler is attempting to speak: is it okay to prevent that heckler from speaking right here and right now?

There is no law against saying something that reveals the surprise twist in a story to people who want to find it out for themselves. Where secret police exist, the law is usually on their side: it is typically not disclosure of the location of the dissidents they are seeking which is forbidden by law, but rather concealment. These examples are not directly relevant to the specific case previously under discussion; but they are directly relevant to the issue of whether there is a valid general principle that it is wrong in every case to prevent people from speaking. After all, ‘it is wrong in every case to prevent people from speaking except when what they are doing is a criminal offence’ is not the same thing as ‘it is wrong in every case to prevent people from speaking’ (and ‘it is wrong in every case to prevent people from speaking except when what they are doing is heckling’ is different again).

383

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 9:39 am

[J-D:] Of course heckling is speech. ‘Hecklers are speaking’ and ‘hecklers are heckling’ are not mutually exclusive propositions, they are two different but equally accurate descriptions of the same situation.

No. Hecklers are speaking is not an equally accurate description of the situation. That is why the word is “heckling” and not “speaking”.

Let’s try what you said, using words as if their meaning distinguishes them from other words that have their own meaning:

Right here, right now, a heckler is attempting to speak: is it okay to prevent that heckler from heckling right here and right now?

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J-D 09.04.16 at 10:07 am

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 9:39 am
[J-D:] Of course heckling is speech. ‘Hecklers are speaking’ and ‘hecklers are heckling’ are not mutually exclusive propositions, they are two different but equally accurate descriptions of the same situation.

No. Hecklers are speaking is not an equally accurate description of the situation. That is why the word is “heckling” and not “speaking”.

No; both more specific and more general descriptions can be equally accurate. For example, ‘I am a human’, ‘I am a primate’, ‘I am a mammal’, ‘I am a chordate’, ‘I am a deuterostome’, and ‘I am a eukaryote’ are all equally accurate statements.

Similarly: people who are heckling are speaking; people who are gossiping are speaking; people who are lecturing are speaking; people who are orating are speaking; people who are preaching are speaking; people who are scolding are speaking; people who are soliloquising are speaking. The more general description is less specific, by definition, but that doesn’t make it inaccurate.

There are reasons why we have more specific terms, but not to exclude the applicability of more general ones.

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Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 10:53 am

No; both more specific and more general descriptions can be equally accurate.

No. They. Aren’t. Blowing an air horn and pulling a fire alarm are not speaking. Heckling is the same via different means. For you to maintain that they are somehow the same marks you as a fan of newspeak.

And your examples don’t apply —

No; both more specific and more general descriptions can be equally accurate. For example, ‘I am a human’, ‘I am a primate’, ‘I am a mammal’ ..

are all at wildly different levels of detail. Heckler, speaker, and listener are not.

(Which, btw, highlights the problem with arguing from analogy — introducing elements not present in the subject under discussion. Your analogy is inapt, and, instead of clarifying things, makes matters worse.)

Please explain how it is that air horns and fire alarms aren’t speech, but heckling is, when the goal of all three is the same.

386

Collin Street 09.04.16 at 1:39 pm

are all at wildly different levels of detail. Heckler, speaker, and listener are not.

So you’re still not learning. Arguments from your premises will convince you: to convince others you need to provide arguments from their premises.

J-D has said that he regards heckler as a subset of speaker. If you want to engage with him you need to either treat heckler as a subset of speaker, or — starting from J-D’s premises, not your own — convince him that even within his analytical framework they have to be treated differently.

Even if you think J-D is wrong you still need to start within his perspective if you want to convince him. Starting from premises J-D disagrees with will not build an argument that J-D will accept.

You keep on fucking doing this. You keep on acting as if your premises were reasonable starting points for people who disagree with you; you keep on not realising that people’s different conclusions arise out of differing knowledges and premises; you keep on treating disagreement as superficial, almost perverse, that everyone fundamentally shares your perspective and disagreement only introduced, almost perversely, at the last minute as if people-not-you balked at the logic of the true [==, pragmatically, your own] conclusions.

You need to stop. Not if you want to be taken seriously — it’s far too late for that — but if you want to not disrupt the conversation like those hecklers you want to gag.

Or you could just fuck off.

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Sebastian H 09.04.16 at 2:48 pm

J-D appears to be arguing that anything which potentially allows us to understand the thoughts of the hecklers counts as communication which is therefore to be analyzed as performative speech.

Therefore murdering a speaker, since it communicates a desire for them to stop speaking, counts as speech. Under this analysis essentially every act possible by human beings counts as speech. One of the problems with defining ‘speech’ so broadly is that it doesn’t allow you to do anything analytically interesting with the definition.

So by the power of academic stipulation you have rendered the discussion meaningless. Your stipulation may make no sense, but if we are forced to take it seriously it renders the discussion moot.

But normal people don’t mean ‘speech’ to be “every method by which an outsider can discern things about the actors internal state”. They mean something else. Something which we aren’t getting any closer to understanding by seriously considering that they might mean that.

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kidneystones 09.04.16 at 4:08 pm

@389 Obviously. The question is why? One possible answer could be that getting people to wonder how many angels can actually dance on the head of a pin is a great way to avoid the reality of ‘Be quiet.’ ”Who the fuck hired you? You’re disgusting! You shouldn’t sleep at night.’

And lest anyone wonder whether this little bit of ‘heckling’ was directed with some ‘justification’ at a trouble-maker, or a troll, the target was a house ‘master’ at Yale who wrongly believed a university could a/tolerate a party with costumes. b/that if it couldn’t, he should at least try to explain why he thought it should.

Anyone who’s been in boot camp has likely been on the receiving end of much more unpleasant tirades. It kind of goes with the territory. Few, however, believe that any administrator, or teacher, or university employee, or student, or guest at a university should ever be subject to this sort of abuse. That’s what’s going on here and there and it’s working, in some cases.

http://dailycaller.com/2015/11/06/yale-student-shrieks-at-prof-for-denying-her-safe-space-video/

It’s intimidation and manipulation combined with bad faith argumentation. It works with the guilty and easily cowed. And the more the weak/well-meaning comply, the more unreasonable and insistent the demands become.

As folks noted up-thread, donors and alums aren’t having any of it. Who would?

389

Stephen 09.04.16 at 6:43 pm

ZM: sorry, but no. You wrote “The early colonisation of America was the current events the play is referring to — this is made clear by the reference to On Cannibals by Montiagne.” I cannot see how that makes sense unless the text of the Tempest does in fact refer to Montaigne’s well-known essay On Cannibals.
You now refer me to O’Toole’s article, which points out that Caliban is a name not at all distant from Cannibal (which nobody disputes), but adds that Montaigne takes on the whole a favourable view of cannibals, and Shakespeare does not take a favourable view of Caliban. I can see no evidence that the text of the Tempest makes any reference at all to Montaigne, or is influenced by his essay.
How do you wish to get round the facts that Caliban is the son of a witch from non-American Algiers, and the whole play is plainly set in the Mediterranean?

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Stephen 09.04.16 at 6:57 pm

Afterthought. The first recorded use of “canibales” to mean American man-eaters dates from 1492. There is no reason to suppose that Shakespeare necessarily took his altered version of the name from Montaigne.

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Marc 09.04.16 at 7:21 pm

@384:. I’m sorry, but this really is coming across as pure sophistry.

If a student group brings in a speaker there is a heavy burden of proof on anyone shouting them down. It’s not impossible for that to be a response, but most people would define the proper circumstances to be quite rare. Because, of course, there are many alternatives that don’t require silencing others, and the Golden Rule is a real thing.

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Kiwanda 09.04.16 at 7:38 pm

Collin Street: “When you promote a speech, you do so because you want the contents of the speech to be said.”

me: “This is more-or-less tautologous. Of course, wanting the contents to be said is not the same as agreeing with those contents.”

Collin Street: “All deductive reasoning is, that’s how it works.”, followed by a turgid explanation of what deductive reasoning is. I think in a legal setting such a reply is called “nonresponsive”.

Since we’ve already been treated to a lengthy exposition invoking linguistic philosophy to make a simple social claim, and a tutorial on how to make a persuasive argument, I look forward to another lesson, perhaps on how a bill becomes law, or how to make french toast.

393

Sebastian_H 09.04.16 at 8:37 pm

Collin, the problem with your “because you want the contents of the speech to be said” statement is that you aren’t offering the chain of logic that you want to come from that.

It also isn’t a particularly accurate description of the proposition that a pro-free speech position is almost always not about agreeing with content (and is in fact mostly agnostic to the content). The general free speech position is something like “almost all restrictions of speech ( not the J-D definition) aren’t worth the negative of consequences of restrictions on speech.”

There are border issues on “almost” and “speech” but the existence of thorny border issues doesn’t negate the general proposition nor does it suggest that any of the university situations under discussion are anywhere near the border issues.

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LFC 09.04.16 at 8:52 pm

Hardly an uncritical fan of O.W. Holmes Jr., but this discussion is almost enough to lead one to suggest that every entering first-year student be required to read his dissent in Abrams and write an essay on why its basic position should (or should not) apply in a university setting.

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LFC 09.04.16 at 8:53 pm

p.s. Extra points if they also read something from the huge contemporary lit. on free speech.

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mahood 09.04.16 at 9:30 pm

@LFC

Or even that antiquated Ovidian, John Milton, his Areopagitica.

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mahood 09.04.16 at 9:32 pm

@Kiwanda

Also worth noticing Collin Street’s made-up etymology for “tautology.” I am convinced that he’s actually a false flag cut out, defending freedom of expression by making the case against it as badly as possible.

398

M Caswell 09.04.16 at 9:56 pm

I think maybe he meant “analytic”?

399

mahood 09.04.16 at 10:01 pm

@ M Caswell

‘I think maybe he meant “analytic”?’

Etymologically analysis means untie or dissolve (like dissolving bonds). Analysis looks at a whole’s relation to its parts.

400

Mahood 09.04.16 at 10:17 pm

Hmm — I am stuck in comment limbo. To repeat: “analysis” doesn’t mean drawing out but dissolving (for example the bonds that tie things together) or just plain untying. This may not make a difference to his point, but “analytic” is not tautologously the same as tautologous, not can tautology</i< be analyzed into meaning analytic, and neither mean “drawing out,” which would be, maybe, the extensional listing of the elements of a set intensionally described.

401

Mahood 09.04.16 at 10:19 pm

Also, while I am tsk–tsking, @Ragweed, Ovid’s Metamorphoses is not “a Greek work.”

402

J-D 09.04.16 at 10:37 pm

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 10:53 am

Please explain how it is that air horns and fire alarms aren’t speech, but heckling is, when the goal of all three is the same.

I understand the word ‘speech’ to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’. I didn’t previously think it was necessary to state this explicitly. Notice that, as previously mentioned, the goal of the act is no part of the definition, as I understand it.

Hecklers are using their voices to form words. Air horns and fire alarms aren’t.

How do you understand the meaning of the word ‘speech’? And if your understanding of it is different from mine, what do you think we should do about that?

Sebastian H 09.04.16 at 2:48 pm
J-D appears to be arguing that anything which potentially allows us to understand the thoughts of the hecklers counts as communication which is therefore to be analyzed as performative speech.

I didn’t write anything like that, and I didn’t mean anything like that, and I’m curious to know how I created that apperance, because I certainly didn’t want to.

Therefore murdering a speaker, since it communicates a desire for them to stop speaking, counts as speech. Under this analysis essentially every act possible by human beings counts as speech. One of the problems with defining ‘speech’ so broadly is that it doesn’t allow you to do anything analytically interesting with the definition.

Probably; but then, I didn’t do that.

So by the power of academic stipulation you have rendered the discussion meaningless. Your stipulation may make no sense, but if we are forced to take it seriously it renders the discussion moot.

Not my stipulation.

But normal people don’t mean ‘speech’ to be “every method by which an outsider can discern things about the actors internal state”. They mean something else. Something which we aren’t getting any closer to understanding by seriously considering that they might mean that.

I think ordinary people use ‘speech’ to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’, which is how I’ve been using it. How do you think ordinary people use the term, or how do you use it yourself?

403

LFC 09.04.16 at 10:47 pm

@Mahood
Or even that antiquated Ovidian, John Milton, his Areopagitica

Yup. (Which it’s possible I’ve read a long time ago, but I’ve reached the point where I’m not always 100 percent sure. If so, it was indeed a long time ago and I don’t remember it well.)

404

Sebastian_H 09.04.16 at 11:01 pm

J-D, shouting someone down very specifically doesn’t require that the shouting have any content (nonsense words and whistling or clapping works just as well).

The idea is to drown them out. Yelling “Shut Up, Shut Up” is vocal communication, but not ‘speech’ in the sense of ‘free speech’. Just like loving a piece of art isn’t ‘love’ in the sense of loving your kids even though we use the same words.

405

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 11:06 pm

[Collin Street:] Or you could just fuck off.

No.

406

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 11:08 pm

[J-D:] Hecklers are using their voices to form words. Air horns and fire alarms aren’t.

Okay, fine. How explain how the difference is important.

407

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 11:09 pm

(grrrr…)

Okay, fine. Now please explain why the difference is important.

408

J-D 09.05.16 at 12:21 am

Sebastian_H 09.04.16 at 11:01 pm

J-D, shouting someone down very specifically doesn’t require that the shouting have any content (nonsense words and whistling or clapping works just as well).

The idea is to drown them out. Yelling “Shut Up, Shut Up” is vocal communication, but not ‘speech’ in the sense of ‘free speech’. Just like loving a piece of art isn’t ‘love’ in the sense of loving your kids even though we use the same words.

Well, I’ve explained, explicitly, that I’m using the word ‘speech’ to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’, without the goal or purpose of the act forming any part of the definition. I believe this to be way people ordinarily use the word.

I have already asked you to explain what other sense of the word you are using, or which you think people ordinarily use; you haven’t answered that question.

Hey Skipper 09.04.16 at 11:08 pm

[J-D:] Hecklers are using their voices to form words. Air horns and fire alarms aren’t.

Okay, fine. How explain how the difference is important.

If we are discussing the subject of speech, and if ‘speech’ is being used to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’, then it’s important whether something falls within the category of ‘using the voice to form words’. If you’re not discussing the subject of speech, what subject are you discussing? if you’re not using the word ‘speech’ to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’, what are you using it to mean?

409

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 12:35 am

J-D, do you believe there is a pertinent difference between shouting someone down with words, trying to cover up their speech with whistles, or shouting someone down with nonsense words? If so could you please explain what you think that difference is AND why you think that difference is important.

The AND part is really important. I can come up with dozens of ‘differences’ on almost any topic, but that doesn’t make them pertinent differences. It isn’t clear what difference your distinctions are supposed to make.

410

pignuts 09.05.16 at 12:39 am

@399, 400
he (obviously and correctly) meant ‘deduction’

411

F. Foundling 09.05.16 at 12:46 am

Does ‘free speech’ mean ‘the freedom to use the voice to form words’, or ‘the freedom to express one’s opinions (in words)’? Those beset by nagging doubts on the matter might want to look up ‘free speech’ up in the OED or on Wikipedia.

412

J-D 09.05.16 at 1:04 am

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 12:35 am

J-D, do you believe there is a pertinent difference between shouting someone down with words, trying to cover up their speech with whistles, or shouting someone down with nonsense words? If so could you please explain what you think that difference is AND why you think that difference is important.

The AND part is really important. I can come up with dozens of ‘differences’ on almost any topic, but that doesn’t make them pertinent differences. It isn’t clear what difference your distinctions are supposed to make.

It’s pertinent and important if the topic of discussion is related to speech and if we are using the word ‘speech’ to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’.

Is the topic of discussion related to speech? Are you using the term ‘speech’ to mean ‘the act of using the voice to form words’?

413

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 1:13 am

Again, what is your purpose on insisting on the distinction? Do you want to say that not all voice forming words is covered by ‘free speech’? Do you want to note that ‘free speech’ covers things not formed by voices like writings and internet posts? Do you think that any of these distinctions will enlighten us on the subject of shouting down speakers? What is the logical purpose of insisting that we talk about these distinctions?

‘Free speech’ is also not a plum or raisin or a lamp. ‘Speech’ is not aloe vera gel. I’m not saying that there is no purpose in making the distinctions you are trying to make. I’m saying that you haven’t made it clear what your purpose in raising the distinction is.

414

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 1:18 am

It may be that you want to say that because vocalizing using one’s throat is ‘speech’ that shouting someone down with specific understandable words should be protected but shouting them down with incoherent screaming shouldn’t. But if that is your position just say so and defend it. Or maybe your position is that both should be protected because there is something godly about the larynx but that airhorns shouldn’t be protected. Fine. Say so. Don’t retreat to “I want to make distinctions about whether or not vocal utterances are ‘speech'”.

415

JimV 09.05.16 at 2:07 am

Personally, I think speech as in freedom of speech includes written as well as spoken language, but not air horns or money, although I know some disagree with the latter; and although all of that is speech, not all of speech is legal (under the USA constitution). Also, for example, if you’ve entered into a contract not to say certain things and say those things, the speech may be legal but breaking the contract isn’t – but that’s just my guess, I haven’t studied it since high school.

416

Val 09.05.16 at 2:38 am

I haven’t read the extensive literature LFC refers to, but my guess is that what people are ostensibly talking about here is ‘freedom of expression’ as discussed in Wikipedia and various human rights instruments. You could express your opinion in different ways, not all of which are speech. However the conflict seems to be the old chestnut: where does my right to freedom of expression end, and your right not to be harmed begin? It’s not of its nature a simple question and can’t be decided out of context (social and historical).

However, as often seems to be the case at CT, there seem to other arguments going on here, one being ‘kids today are disobedient/disrespectful/etc’ (often referred to here as ‘get those kids off my lawn’ I think); another, more sinister one being ‘since we let those women and blacks into the university there’s been nothing but trouble’.

417

J-D 09.05.16 at 2:43 am

1. ‘Again, what is your purpose on insisting on the distinction?’
To avoid having the precise points I am making being treated as if they have an application they do not have.

2. ‘Do you want to say that not all voice forming words is covered by “free speech”?’
I don’t want to say anything about what is, or what is not, covered by ‘free speech’. Do you want to say that not all voice forming words is covered by ‘free speech’? Why, or why not?

3. ‘Do you want to note that “free speech” covers things not formed by voices like writings and internet posts?’
I don’t want to say anything about what is, or what is not, covered by ‘free speech’. Do you consider that ‘free speech’ covers things like writings and Internet posts? Why, or why not?

4. ‘ Do you think that any of these distinctions will enlighten us on the subject of shouting down speakers?’
No, I don’t think that any of those distinctions will enlighten you on the subject of shouting down speakers. What is your position on the subject of shouting down speakers, and for the purpose of that position, how do you define the category of ‘speakers’?

5. ‘What is the logical purpose of insisting that we talk about these distinctions?’
To seek clarification of the issues.

6. ‘It may be that you want to say that because vocalizing using one’s throat is “speech” that shouting someone down with specific understandable words should be protected but shouting them down with incoherent screaming shouldn’t.’
No, I don’t want to say that.

7. ‘Or maybe your position is that both should be protected because there is something godly about the larynx but that airhorns shouldn’t be protected.’
No, that’s not my position.

418

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 3:07 am

I see that you don’t appear to want to say anything in particular. Ok.

419

kidneystones 09.05.16 at 3:14 am

Speaking of safe spaces. Here’s a great interview with Sean Coombs and Al Sharpton. Sean speaks eloquently of the need for charter schools in New York, an updated curriculum, the connection between education and income and his call for black to ‘hold’ on to their vote, rather than simply hand it over to Ms. Clinton. ‘Cause I don’t believe any of them.’ Reverend Al’s response? ‘Let’s talk about your new album!’

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/09/04/rapper_sean_combs_blacks_got_shortchanged_under_obama_hold_your_vote_make_them_come_for_our_vote.html

@ 419 You noticed.

420

J-D 09.05.16 at 4:25 am

kidneystones 09.05.16 at 3:14 am
@ 419 You noticed.

That’s the Nelsonian kind of noticing, with the telescope to the blind eye.

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 3:07 am
I see that you don’t appear to want to say anything in particular. Ok.

If that’s what you see, it’s because you’re not looking properly, which is hardly my fault. I do have something in particular to say — maybe more than one thing, but at any rate at least one thing. In case you missed it (it appears you did miss it), I quote from one of my earlier comments:

If you want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, you need to consider the details of the situation; if I want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, I need to consider the details of the situation; if any person want to properly evaluate a situation where somebody prevents (or attempts to prevent) somebody else from speaking, that person needs to consider the details of the situation.

On the other hand, I notice that you are not answering my questions. If I answer your questions, but you don’t answer mine, what sort of conclusion might that suggest?

F. Foundling 09.05.16 at 12:46 am
Does ‘free speech’ mean ‘the freedom to use the voice to form words’, or ‘the freedom to express one’s opinions (in words)’? Those beset by nagging doubts on the matter might want to look up ‘free speech’ up in the OED or on Wikipedia.

I have consulted both the OED and Wikipedia. In the OED I read that ‘free’ has a specific use when applied to ‘speech’, namely, ‘characterised by liberty in expression of sentiments or opinions; uttered or expressed without reserve; frank, plain-spoken’, and it illustrates this use by five or six citations, of which the most recent is ‘Men were rather free of expression with each other in the days of the Regency’. I don’t find that gets this discussion anywhere.
Wikipedia tells me that ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of expression’ means ‘the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship’. Unless Ben Shapiro has been subjected to government retaliation or censorship (and nobody has told me that he has been), his freedom of speech in that specific sense defined by Wikipedia has not been infringed.

421

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 5:06 am

The amount of information you conveyed in the re-quotes seems very low. A reader knows essentially nothing about what you think appropriate and inappropriate details for censorship might look like.

My stance is relatively hardcore freedom of speech as classically understood. As it applies to the situations being discussed here: In almost no factual situation where one group in a university has invited a speaker to an event where attendance is optional, or in which the entire university is not directly implicated (say graduation) should ‘safe space’ be invoked by other groups in order to ban the speaker.

Can you construct a factual situation in theory where that isn’t true? Sure. And the ticking time bomb scenario gets a lot of people to agree to torture which might be an interesting fact if real ticking time bomb scenarios happened more than once in a lifetime. That has essentially nothing to do with how universities (or governments) should act in practical reality.

“If I answer your questions, but you don’t answer mine, what sort of conclusion might that suggest?” Once you’ve answered my questions we will have a chance to find out. Until then it is highly theoretical with no practical effect.

422

ZM 09.05.16 at 5:37 am

Stephen,

“How do you wish to get round the facts that Caliban is the son of a witch from non-American Algiers, and the whole play is plainly set in the Mediterranean?”

The rather famous writing devices of metaphor, allusion, referencing, allegory, and so on.

“ZM: sorry, but no. You wrote “The early colonisation of America was the current events the play is referring to — this is made clear by the reference to On Cannibals by Montiagne.” I cannot see how that makes sense unless the text of the Tempest does in fact refer to Montaigne’s well-known essay On Cannibals.”

Sorry, but yes — the text of The Tempest does refer to Montaigne’s On Cannibals, I have studied The Tempest two times. It remains one of Shakespeare’s most interesting plays for me.

“You now refer me to O’Toole’s article, which points out that Caliban is a name not at all distant from Cannibal (which nobody disputes), but adds that Montaigne takes on the whole a favourable view of cannibals, and Shakespeare does not take a favourable view of Caliban. I can see no evidence that the text of the Tempest makes any reference at all to Montaigne, or is influenced by his essay.”

You are misrepresenting the O’Toole article. Shakespeare clearly does not have to agree wholeheartedly with Montaigne’s On Cannibals to refer to the essay in his play. A critique can also be a reference. The Tempest clearly engages with On Cannibals.

O’Toole’s essay says:

“In “On Cannibals” and in The Tempest, both Montaigne and Shakespeare explore the relationship between human nature and modern civilization. “

“Ariel and Caliban can both be viewed as the “colonized subjects” of Prospero, and the differing attitudes of these subjects towards their master is indicative of the differing ways in which human nature responds to modern civilization. “

“It is Prospero’s art which controls both Ariel and Caliban, binding them to his authority as their master. Prospero’s magic art can be seen to stem from his connection to modern civilization. One can see how he utilizes his art, akin to modern technology, in order to suppress and subjugate. “

“Montaigne exalts the cannibals for having maintained a civilization so natural and unartificial, but Shakespeare asserts that when exposed to modern civilization, the cannibals become no different than the Europeans. The moderns employ their magic powers – intelligence, technology, and liquor – to subjugate and oppress the cannibals. Yet the cannibals willingly allow themselves to be captivated and entrapped by the spell of modernity. Whereas Montaigne praises the cannibals and places blame on modern Europeans, Shakespeare asserts that neither the cannibals nor the Europeans deserve praise – save for a few rare individuals, they are both equally pathetic.”

I have already made the point that Shakespeare’s attitudes to hybridity in The Tempest is problematic for modern readers, and that his interest in the artificial, the natural, and hybridity is also in play in the other late “problem play” The Winter’s Tale. Further this was a longer dialogue in English literature which you can see in other works, such as the treatment of the myth of Orpheus in Sir Orfeo where Herodis is kidnapped while under a grafted (ympe) tree.

A quick google search can provide you with several other articles about Shakespeare’s engagement with Montaigne’s On Cannibals in The Tempest.

Is there some reason you are disputing this well known fact with me without doing a google search?

See, for e.g.:

Montaigne’s “Cannibals” and The Tempest Revisited by Kenji Go

The Tempest: Montaigne “On Cannibals” by Michael Best

Stephen Greenblatt on Shakespeare’s debt to Montaigne – The Telegraph

Shakespeare on Global Colonialism – Cedar Crest College

Virtue, vice, and compassion in Montaigne and The Tempest by A Kirsch

Miraculous Harp: A Reading of Shakespeare’s Tempest by H Berger

“Afterthought. The first recorded use of “canibales” to mean American man-eaters dates from 1492. There is no reason to suppose that Shakespeare necessarily took his altered version of the name from Montaigne.”

The fact that The Tempest clearly refers to and engages with On Cannibals is a pretty good reason to think that Shakespeare was conscious of the similarities. I mean come on, he was a genius, its not likely to have been a sheer coincidence, right?

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J-D 09.05.16 at 5:56 am

Sebastian H

To write that there is ‘almost no factual situation’ where somebody should be prevented from speaking at a university is to concede by implication that there are some factual situations where they should be. If your position is that there are no such factual situations, you don’t write that there are ‘almost’ none. To use the word ‘almost’ is to concede the existence of exceptions.

There have been specific instances referred to in this discussion, not hypothetical ‘ticking time bomb’ scenarios, but events that actually happened. Are you sure those events do not fall within the scope of the kind of exception whose existence you implicitly concede?

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ZM 09.05.16 at 6:02 am

Val,

“…but my guess is that what people are ostensibly talking about here is ‘freedom of expression’ as discussed in Wikipedia and various human rights instruments. You could express your opinion in different ways, not all of which are speech. However the conflict seems to be the old chestnut: where does my right to freedom of expression end, and your right not to be harmed begin? It’s not of its nature a simple question and can’t be decided out of context (social and historical).”

There a quite a lot of exceptions to the First Amendment in the USA.

This article written for Congress provides a good general overview of the situation in the USA : Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment by Kathleen Ann Ruane, Legislative Attorney, September 8, 2014

“For example, the Court has decided that the First Amendment provides no protection for obscenity, child pornography, or speech that constitutes what has become widely known as “fighting words.”

The Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television (as opposed to speech transmitted via cable or the Internet), and public employees’ speech.

Even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be subject to “regulations of the time, place, and manner of expression which are content-neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”

Furthermore, even speech that enjoys the most extensive First Amendment protection may be restricted on the basis of its content if the restriction passes “strict scrutiny” (i.e., if the government shows that the restriction serves “to promote a compelling interest” and is “the least restrictive means to further the articulated interest”).

The fundamental question in obscenity cases is whether the speech at issue actually constitutes obscenity. This determination is by no means a simple one. Obscenity is not synonymous with pornography, as most pornography is not legally obscene. Most pornography, in fact, is protected by the First Amendment. To be obscene, pornography must, at a minimum, “depict or describe patently offensive ‘hard core’ sexual conduct.”

So-called “fighting words” also lay beyond the pale of First Amendment protection.19 The “fighting words” doctrine began in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, where the Court held that fighting words, by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace and may be punished consistent with the First Amendment.

In Chaplinsky, the Court upheld a statute which prohibited a person from addressing “any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place,” calling “him by any offensive or derisive name,” or making “any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with the intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation.”

This category of proscribable speech requires the threat of an immediate breach of peace in order to be punishable. In Cohen v. California, the Supreme Court held that words on a t-shirt that contained an expletive were not directed at a person in particular and could not be said to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

There are two ways in which the government may attempt to restrict speech.

The more common way is to make a particular category of speech, such as obscenity or defamation, subject to criminal prosecution or civil suit, and then, if someone engages in the proscribed category of speech, to hold a trial and impose sanctions if appropriate.

The second way is by prior restraint, which may occur in two ways. First, a statute may require that a person submit the speech that he wishes to disseminate—a movie, for example—to a governmental body for a license to disseminate it—e.g., to show the movie.
Second, a court may issue a temporary restraining order or an injunction against engaging in particular speech—publishing the Pentagon Papers, for example.”

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/95-815.pdf

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Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 6:17 am

” If your position is that there are no such factual situations, you don’t write that there are ‘almost’ none. To use the word ‘almost’ is to concede the existence of exceptions.”

You don’t understand why I raised the ticking time bomb hypothetical. I raised it because while yes there are logical exceptions to the general proposition that “torture shouldn’t be done” they are only compelling when they include highly hypothetical propositions like “you KNOW he can tell you where it is”. Similarly, you can construct exceptions which seem compelling, but have no practical relation to what is actually going on at the university.

“Are you sure those events do not fall within the scope of the kind of exception whose existence you implicitly concede?”

Yes I’m sure. None of the actually occurring situations mentioned in this thread come anywhere close to any of the kind of exceptions which I concede. None of them are remotely close calls. Intellectual carping over the exact placement of the line may be exciting some of the time, but none of the cases actually discussed are anywhere near any of the important border-drawing issues like ‘direct incitement of immediate violence’ or ‘revelation of truly dangerous world-shattering secrets’

You might disagree. But in order for me to engage with that disagreement you would have to actually explain yourself. Saying that there are important details without talking about what details are important isn’t explaining yourself. The detail you seem to be fixed on is ‘vocal utterance’ which seems like a very strange one, but you won’t explain why you’re excited about the distinction between vocal utterances and the rest of the discussion so no one can really engage you on it except by guessing.

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J-D 09.05.16 at 6:53 am

Intellectual carping over the exact placement of the line may be exciting some of the time, but none of the cases actually discussed are anywhere near any of the important border-drawing issues like ‘direct incitement of immediate violence’ or ‘revelation of truly dangerous world-shattering secrets’.

And are the actual hecklers in the actual cases discussed anywhere near any of those important border-drawing issues?

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Collin Street 09.05.16 at 9:16 am

To write that there is ‘almost no factual situation’ where somebody should be prevented from speaking at a university is to concede by implication that there are some factual situations where they should be. If your position is that there are no such factual situations, you don’t write that there are ‘almost’ none. To use the word ‘almost’ is to concede the existence of exceptions.

To be fair, in set theory I think they use “almost all” with the meaning… along the lines of “an infinitesimal fraction of the space”, or something really really technical [I’m not a very good set theorist] that’s some reasonable approximation of that. “Almost certain” and “almost impossible” are used with similar meanings.

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Faustusnotes 09.05.16 at 11:07 am

I took a few days out from this thread because certain key words were appearing which I thought might lead to certain internet crazies congregating, and that might lead to them attacking me (or others here) at their work. This has happened to me before – I have had climate change denialists put pictures of my family on the web and send me threatening emails at my work. as a result I have had to ask certain blogs to remove all my posts and have also stopped commenting at all on climate related blogs (even those run by scientists) becuase of the frenzied behavior of that crew. I am of course far better off than many other left wing people, primarily women, who we have seen driven off of the Internet and out of public debate with tape and death threats. Strangely enough the free speech warriors of the right are silent on this topic – Shapiro tolerated it when he was at breitbart where those who utilize these tactics or encourage them were active; many others like Limbaugh encourage violence. Meanwhile of course despite being shut down at a campus Shapiro still has a voice, which he continues to use to advocate for censorship and has not raised against (for example) those people who drive feminists off the internet.

Above, kidneystones references cheeto Jesus’s attendance at a black church, with the rhetorical “should SJWs shit it down” routine. He doesn’t mention that trump vetoed the questions that would be asked – that is, he went through his interviewers speech and struck out parts of it. Is this not censorship? He also only read pre prepared answers, gave a scripted speech at the end and took no audience questions. So tell me, had hecklers shut down this moment, would trump’s speech have been restricted at all? He could put the q&a on his website, hire an actor to ask him the questions, and phone into Fox News to read his closing speech. No aspect of that event would have been changed by his being gagged. Meanwhile, he has constant, huge amounts of free media from all the major networks, his own website, Twitter, Facebook and a bunch of surrogates with their own communication networks. It is not possible, we have all noticed, to shut this man up. Yet if someone shuts down a single one of these avenues for even a day we hear cries of censorship.

Which brings me back to a question I asked of hey skipper above that he hasn’t answered – is someone’s speech censored if they have other equally good (or better) avenues for the same thing? In the case of Shapiro, is the issue that he didn’t get to interact with the audience? If that is the issue, then surely trump censored the black church’s audience. Is it that he didn’t get to do a q&a? He could have set one up through his breitbart site. How is it possible to say that someone’s speech is censored of nothing about his or her ability to broadcast their ideas has changed?

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kidneystones 09.05.16 at 1:13 pm

Censoring Trump? Hell, yeah! That’s exactly the meme the vast, right-wing conspiracy is promulgating right this instant. That and Putin and the Chinese kicking sand in Obama’s face. Now, I listened to this twice and can’t hear any of the ‘off-camera’ shut-this-down discussion taking place. And given the level of suspicion floating around about ‘doctoring’ audio etc, I frankly couldn’t care less if it’s true, or not. https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/09/03/hot-mic-reuters-intentionally-cuts-camera-feed-during-positive-bishop-jackson-remarks-to-trump-in-detroit/

What is true, because the NYT says it’s true, is that vast chunks of the media as well as the establishment of both parties are working their asses off to ensure the election is handed to Clinton. As P. Diddy notes, the result is that Democrats aren’t even pretending to work for the black vote. Why should they? The fix was in from the beginning. Nobody complained. The press jokes about being in the tank for Clinton and that she doesn’t talk to the press.

And then people are surprised when people like Sean notice and say: “Hey wait a minute. Black votes shouldn’t hand her the vote automatically this time.”

‘Let’s talk about your upcoming tour, Sean!’

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kidneystones 09.05.16 at 1:24 pm

And young black voters are listening. ‘She’s corrupt and he’s a racist.’

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/05/us/politics/young-blacks-voice-skepticism-on-hillary-clinton-worrying-democrats.html?_r=0

That’s inducing a strong level of panic in some circles. Where’s my safe space?

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Hey Skipper 09.05.16 at 4:12 pm

[Faustusnotes:] Which brings me back to a question I asked of hey skipper above that he hasn’t answered – is someone’s speech censored if they have other equally good (or better) avenues for the same thing?

Free speech and censorship are two sides of the same coin. The concept of free speech, as someone else noted above must be agnostic to content (yes, I know there are exceptions, but they are few, limited, and irrelevant to this discussion), because it is impossible, knowing the crooked timber of which humanity is made, to entrust anyone with objectively judging content — and that is making the heroic assumption that such a thing is possible even given that godlike being.

The hypothetical that a speaker and audience, due to their viewpoint, has been relegated to some other venue, rubbishes the concept of free speech because that speaker and audience were subject to prior restraint by a third party.

In the case of Shapiro, is the issue that he didn’t get to interact with the audience?

No. The issue is that hecklers prevented speaking and listening.

If that is the issue, then surely trump censored the black church’s audience.

Your antecedent is false the consequent doesn’t follow. But never mind that. There was no third party exercising prior restraint on Trump. He was free to answer questions, he chose not to.

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Faustusnotes 09.05.16 at 10:35 pm

No hey skipper, trump censored the priest. He stopped the priest asking certain questions – got a list beforehand and told him he couldn’t say some of it. If a govt did that to a tv interviewer it would be censorship. So is what trump did. This is very different to being asked a question and refusing to answer, which is a powerful form of speech by the priest.

Your choice of the word “relegated” is interesting here. So in my example, if ct ask tumblr to repost the contents of this blog and tumblr say no, ct have been censored?

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J-D 09.06.16 at 12:18 am

LFC 09.04.16 at 8:52 pm

Hardly an uncritical fan of O.W. Holmes Jr., but this discussion is almost enough to lead one to suggest that every entering first-year student be required to read his dissent in Abrams and write an essay on why its basic position should (or should not) apply in a university setting.

In his judgement, Justice Holmes analyses the content of the content of the leaflets in the case and the reasons given by the prosecution for criminalising them, and concludes that those reasons are hopelessly inadequate. He does not attempt to judge the case without considering the content of the leaflets and the reasons given for criminalising them.

My position in this instance is similar to his in that respect. I do not attempt to judge cases in which people were prevented from speaking without considering what they were trying to say and the reasons given for trying to prevent them. I find no inconsistency between my approach and the approach taken by Justice Holmes.

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LFC 09.06.16 at 2:21 am

J-D
Well, from what I can discern I think the general tendencies of yr position and that famous opinion prob. do go in different directions. Basically the key paragraphs from that dissent have to do w the virtue of letting as many ideas as possible compete in ‘the marketplace of ideas’ — now there are plenty of things that can be said in criticism of the ‘marketplace of ideas’ metaphor, but if there is any setting where it might seem to work, one wd suppose a campus setting comes close.

The content of the communication matters, at least in the U.S. First Amendment context (which yes, is a parochial lens, sorry), because as has been pointed out upthread by others, not all communication is speech for First Am. purposes. But the pamphlets in Abrams were political opinion, which is right at the core of the First Am., which has been made v clear as the jurisprudence has developed. It’s important to note the date of the Holmes opinion — 1919 — which is really at or near the beginning of modern First Am jurisprudence; that’s one reason why it’s famous, though it’s mostly famous for its eloquence. There’s a ‘popular’ book from just a few yrs ago spec. about this opinion, btw. I’ll try to retrieve the title later.

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J-D 09.06.16 at 2:42 am

LFC 09.06.16 at 2:21 am

J-D
Well, from what I can discern I think the general tendencies of yr position and that famous opinion prob. do go in different directions. Basically the key paragraphs from that dissent have to do w the virtue of letting as many ideas as possible compete in ‘the marketplace of ideas’

But I agree with that. I think it is good for as many ideas as possible to compete in the marketplace of ideas. There is no inconsistency between, on the one hand, perceiving the virtue of having as many ideas as possible competing in the marketplace of ideas and, on the other hand, refraining from passing judgement on cases in which people are preventing other people from speaking without knowledge of what they were being prevented from saying and the reasons for preventing them.

Maybe some people think that because there is virtue in having as many ideas as possible competing in the marketplace of ideas, it is appropriate to pass judgement on cases in which people are preventing other people from speaking without knowledge of what they were being prevented from saying and the reasons for preventing them. But the judgement of Justice Holmes does not stand for that proposition.

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Hey Skipper 09.06.16 at 9:38 am

[Faustusnotes: ] … trump censored the priest.. He stopped the priest asking certain questions – got a list beforehand and told him he couldn’t say some of it. If a govt did that to a tv interviewer it would be censorship. So is what trump did.

You are missing a fundamental point, as illustrated by “He stopped … ” and “If a govt did that …”

Free speech is the unhindered communication between speaker and listener without the need for third party approval.

There is nothing in the concept of free speech that compels speaking or listening; speakers or listeners are free to make that decision for themselves.

Which is why Trump declining to take questions isn’t censorship, but if the gov’t prevented him taking questions, it would be.

437

ZM 09.06.16 at 11:41 am

I think heckling should be done so as not to prevent the speaker from speaking. Its okay to boo, or to make a face like you think the speaker is lying, or that sort of thing. It’s not okay to stop someone from speaking by heckling the whole time. If you disagree with something you can put your hand up and keep it up until the speech is over and its time for questions, or that sort of thing.

I think there are very few times it would be okay to prevent someone speaking with constant heckling. I would err on saying this was not acceptable at all.

If the content of the speech is so offensive, it would be better to contact the police if it broke any laws, or contact the venue hosting the talk or company promoting the talk, or else demonstrate outside, or enter the talk and engage in moderate heckling.

But I don’t think its really acceptable to drown out someone’s talk with heckling, you should contact the police or the venue if its that bad.

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Faustusnotes 09.06.16 at 11:48 am

Hey skipper, when the preacher asks trump questions he is not speaking to trump big to his congregation and to the people filming it and watching the film. When trump Ver’s what he can say to his audience he is interfering with that communication. He has to, because otherwise the preacher would say something trump doesn’t want the audience to hear. Why do you think trump is there, and why do you think the preacher wants to ask him questions?

439

Sebastian H 09.06.16 at 12:38 pm

“I do not attempt to judge cases in which people were prevented from speaking without considering what they were trying to say and the reasons given for trying to prevent them.”

Fantastic. It would be nice if you would actually do that instead of talking about doing that. Which views do you believe need to be censored?

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J-D 09.06.16 at 12:53 pm

Sebastian H 09.06.16 at 12:38 pm
“I do not attempt to judge cases in which people were prevented from speaking without considering what they were trying to say and the reasons given for trying to prevent them.”

Fantastic. It would be nice if you would actually do that instead of talking about doing that. Which views do you believe need to be censored?

You write that it would be nice if I actually did ‘that’ instead of talking about doing ‘that’, but I don’t understand what the word ‘that’ is being used to refer to.

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Marc 09.06.16 at 1:34 pm

@442: Is this performance art, or are you actually trying to communicate and not succeeding?

442

kidneystones 09.06.16 at 1:38 pm

This is so mind-boggling that I can’t quite believe it.

18 million for Bill as an ‘honorary chancellor’ of a for profit university.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-bill-clintons-nearly-18-million-job-as-honorary-chancellor-of-a-for-profit-college/2016/09/05/8496db42-655b-11e6-be4e-23fc4d4d12b4_story.html

Via the wapo. I watched Hillary’s latest coughing fit. This is getting positively otherworldly.

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faustusnotes 09.06.16 at 1:58 pm

I’ll have a bash Sebastian, here’s two.

1. when people on climate denialwebsites started putting pictures of my family up, they should have been stopped
2. when someone is speaking in a conference, but then a fire starts, you should sound the alarm even though it drowns out their speech, because then the fire alarm is more important speech

See how I’m judging the content here. Now, both of those examples can be generalized, I think …

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Collin Street 09.06.16 at 2:00 pm

Which views do you believe need to be censored?

See, the thing about a conceptual error is that it’s something that’s invisible within the conceptual framework; only in the interface between the perception and outside reality will it be revealed.

[the only errors that can be revealed by introspection are the ones that generate system-internal inconsistencies; only a few errors are like that and even in these cases the inconsistencies are hard to spot]

Which means that insisting that everyone frame things in terms of your conceptual framework — and “answer the question I asked” will act this way — is a pretty much 100% rock-solid guarantee of blinding you to any conceptual errors you might have made. If you have made a conceptual error, realistically the only way you’ll find out is if you let your conversational partner pick their own framing rather than forcing them into your own.

[but if you haven’t made a conceptual error, letting people chose their own framings will slow down your ability to process their input and understand their perspectives. There’s no 100% best path, although “be flexible” comes close.]

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Collin Street 09.06.16 at 2:08 pm

I mean, specifically here “which views do you believe need to be censored” is misconstrued because by-and-large “the need for censorship” is more a complex property of the idea itself, the circumstances it’s expressed in and the method of expression than attributable as a property of the idea-being-censored itself. Focussing on “the idea” as the important thing is going to obscure all the other factors and give you a pretty poor understanding of what the other person actually believes. To the point that answering the question might actually make you less informed, not more.

But if you keep on insisting people express their answers in ways congruent with your understanding of the world you’re never going to run across much that confronts or challenges your understanding of the world, are you? Which is fine if you’re omniscient or extremely insecure but otherwise less than optimal.

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kidneystones 09.06.16 at 2:21 pm

I just set my clock so my alarm can censor my sleep.

Nighty-night

All we need now is nurse ratchet.

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Sebastian H 09.06.16 at 3:27 pm

“You write that it would be nice if I actually did ‘that’ instead of talking about doing ‘that’, but I don’t understand what the word ‘that’ is being used to refer to.”

It feels like you are just playing games, but on the off chance that you’re really confused, OF THE SPEAKERS UNDER DISCUSSION IN THIS THREAD, which of them ought to have been censored under your completely non specified thus far criteria?

448

Sebastian H 09.06.16 at 3:29 pm

Collin, again you’re getting rather abstract and not really saying anything. Can you apply the criteria (whatever it is) to any of the cases at hand and explain why they should have been censored/kept from talking/shouted down/whatever you’re calling it?

449

Kiwanda 09.06.16 at 4:26 pm

J-D: “Maybe some people think that because there is virtue in having as many ideas as possible competing in the marketplace of ideas, it is appropriate to pass judgement on cases in which people are preventing other people from speaking without knowledge of what they were being prevented from saying and the reasons for preventing them.”

No, no one thinks that, at least here.

“But the judgement of Justice Holmes does not stand for that proposition.”

Is this “falsely shouting fire in a theater “? Please tell me it’s not “falsely shouting fire in a theater “.

450

LFC 09.06.16 at 4:54 pm

Kiwanda:
“shouting fire” comes from Schenk (1919). the ref here was to the dissent in Abrams, later that same year.

451

LFC 09.06.16 at 5:07 pm

The most famous passage in the Abrams dissent is:

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. …While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

Holmes was in some ways a repellent person, and some of his views ran in a reactionary if not crypto-fascist direction. That said, he could definitely turn a phrase when he wanted to, and the Abrams dissent arguably represents his ‘pragmatist’ side: “life is an experiment,” “time has upset many fighting faiths”, etc.

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J-D 09.06.16 at 9:18 pm

Sebastian H 09.06.16 at 12:38 pm
“I do not attempt to judge cases in which people were prevented from speaking without considering what they were trying to say and the reasons given for trying to prevent them.”

Fantastic. It would be nice if you would actually do that instead of talking about doing that. Which views do you believe need to be censored?

The answer to your question is ‘It depends on who wants to do the censoring, and on whom and what they want to censor, and on where and when and how and why’. You give me those details and I’ll give you my opinion. It’s exactly my point that without detailed information I can’t form a judgement.

Kiwanda 09.06.16 at 4:26 pm
J-D: “Maybe some people think that because there is virtue in having as many ideas as possible competing in the marketplace of ideas, it is appropriate to pass judgement on cases in which people are preventing other people from speaking without knowledge of what they were being prevented from saying and the reasons for preventing them.”

No, no one thinks that, at least here.

If you tell me you don’t think that, I accept your assurances. But it did appear to me as if some other people were making that assertion. It did appear to me that Hey Skipper, in particular, was judging to be wrong the behaviour of people who were preventing other people from speaking without reference to what they were being prevented from saying and the reasons for preventing them (and perhaps inviting other people to agree with that judgement). I could have misunderstood. If Hey Skipper also explicitly disavows that view, I will accept those assurances also.

“But the judgement of Justice Holmes does not stand for that proposition.”

Is this “falsely shouting fire in a theater “? Please tell me it’s not “falsely shouting fire in a theater “.

No, this is not ‘falsely shouting fire in a theater’; it is not ‘falsely shouting fire in a theater’. So what is this, and what is it?

453

kidneystones 09.06.16 at 11:59 pm

454

Kiwanda 09.07.16 at 1:06 am

LFC: ““shouting fire” comes from Schenk (1919). the ref here was to the dissent in Abrams, later that same year.”

Ah, great, happy to hear.

J-D: “If you tell me you don’t think that, I accept your assurances. But it did appear to me as if some other people were making that assertion.”

I’m reasonably confident that no one here agrees with an assertion so grandly general as to approach vacuity. I’m puzzled why you seem to think it’s a significant point. As I hinted above, and Sebastian H. mentioned explicitly, your apparent desire to have this concession on there being no utterly absolute, unqualified, universal, right to speak is analogous to those who try to extract the admission that there might be, somewhere, sometime, somehow, a circumstance where torture was morally justified.

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J-D 09.07.16 at 1:38 am

Kiwanda 09.07.16 at 1:06 am

J-D: “If you tell me you don’t think that, I accept your assurances. But it did appear to me as if some other people were making that assertion.”

I’m reasonably confident that no one here agrees with an assertion so grandly general as to approach vacuity. I’m puzzled why you seem to think it’s a significant point.

When I first raised this point (in a comment numbered, or currently numbered, 221) I was prompted to do so mainly by two comments from Hey Skipper (numbered, or currently numbered, 204 and 206) from which I quote

To be more specific, I’ll pick Ben Shapiro as an example. Self-identified SJWs have, in various ways and places, prevented him speaking to groups that invited him.

Ben Shapiro has been prevented from speaking due to the heckler’s veto. He has been disinvited because a college rescinded a campus organization’s invitation. Ayan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis. Christina Hoff Sommers at UMass. An Israeli academic getting shouted down at the University of MN. There plenty more examples.

In each case, SJWs are insisting on subjugating everyone else’s thoughts. Why should everyone else think that is OK?

It appeared to me then, and it appears to me still on rereading, that Hey Skipper was asserting that we could judge, in these specific real instances, that the people who tried to stop Ben Shapiro (and the other examples mentioned) from speaking were wrong to do so, and that we could form this judgement without reference to what those speakers were attempting to say and why the other people were attempting to prevent them from saying it.

In subsequent exchanges with me, Hey Skipper added the following remarks in comments numbered, or currently numbered, 281 and 361

Preventing Ben Shapiro from speaking was automatically wrong.

Here is the alternative: regardless of your, or my opinion, of the contents of that speech, the only acceptable evaluation is that censorship is wrong, no matter who did it. If you are looking to “details” to change that answer, that is a pretty good guess your notion of free speech is very conditional.

In context, that appeared to me, and still appears to me, to be confirmation that Hey Skipper thinks that those specific actual attempts at preventing speakers from speaking can be judged to be wrong regardless of what it was the speakers were trying to say and why people were trying to prevent them from saying those things.

Perhaps you have a different understanding of Hey Skipper’s remarks, but I still think my understanding of them was a natural and obvious one. A rejection by you of my interpretation of those remarks is not the same thing as a disavowal of my interpretation by Hey Skipper.

It appears to me that if it is reported that somebody has tried to prevent a speaker from giving a speech, Hey Skipper’s response is always going to be ‘That’s wrong’; whereas my response is going to be ‘Why?’ I think the difference between those two approaches is important and worth drawing attention to.

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Sebastian H 09.07.16 at 2:20 am

“In context, that appeared to me, and still appears to me, to be confirmation that Hey Skipper thinks that those specific actual attempts at preventing speakers from speaking can be judged to be wrong regardless of what it was the speakers were trying to say and why people were trying to prevent them from saying those things.”

You’re misunderstanding. It isn’t that it is THEORETICALLY impossible that they might say things that could cause one to invoke an exception to the free speech concept. It just isn’t likely. Because it isn’t likely, those who want to shout them down should have a damn good reason. Which they don’t. If they did we would have heard about it. Maybe even from you. But they don’t. And the presumption is/ought to be strong enough that the burden is on them. So when you keep invoking the theoretical possibility that there might be a good enough reason, while continuing to avoid actually saying what such reason is, you give the impression of not really caring about free speech but being afraid to own up to it. That may not be your actual intention, but that is what youre communicating.

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J-D 09.07.16 at 3:06 am

Sebastian H 09.07.16 at 2:20 am

… It isn’t that it is THEORETICALLY impossible that they might say things that could cause one to invoke an exception to the free speech concept. It just isn’t likely. Because it isn’t likely, those who want to shout them down should have a damn good reason. Which they don’t. If they did we would have heard about it. Maybe even from you. But they don’t. And the presumption is/ought to be strong enough that the burden is on them. …

1. They ‘should have a damn good reason.’
I agree. They should.
2. ‘If they did we would have heard about it. Maybe even from you.’
How would you have heard, or how would I have heard? People always have reasons for the things they do, but not always good reasons. In this case, the people who prevented (or tried to prevent) Ben Shapiro (and the other specific speakers mentioned by Hey Skipper) from speaking must have had reasons, although they may have been bad reasons. I can’t judge whether their reasons are good or bad without knowing what those reasons are. As a matter of fact I’ve never heard what those reasons are, and I can’t think of any reason why it would be expected that I would have. I had never even heard of the incidents until this discussion, and again there’s no reason why I would be expected to have done so. If you know what reasons these people gave for their actions, you can tell me about them, and then perhaps we can have a substantive discussion about whether they were good or bad reasons. If you don’t know what reasons they gave for their actions, I don’t see why you’d expect that I should.
3. ‘[T]he burden is on them …’
The burden is on them to do what? Explain their reasons? But to whom, and how? I know there’s no burden on them to explain their reasons to me, and I don’t know of any reason why there’d be a burden on them to explain their reasons to you. If there is a burden on them to offer an explanation of their reasons, maybe they have done exactly that. I haven’t heard about it, but there’s no reason to expect that I should have.

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Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 6:55 am

[J-D:] It did appear to me that Hey Skipper, in particular, was judging to be wrong the behaviour of people who were preventing other people from speaking without reference to what they were being prevented from saying and the reasons for preventing them (and perhaps inviting other people to agree with that judgement).

I can’t judge whether their reasons are good or bad without knowing what those reasons are.

More accurately, I think, you cannot judge whether you agree with their reasons, without knowing what they are.

Their actions, however, are wrong, no matter what their reasons are, or how much you approve of them.

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Larry Siegel 09.07.16 at 8:02 am

>2. More seriously, U of C’s openness to robust debate will be tested in about 5 minutes when the BDS folks set up their lit table in the commons.

They’re already there, IIRC. The U of C administration will not and should not have an opinion on BDS or any other political movement.

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J-D 09.07.16 at 8:22 am

Kiwanda, you can now observe that Hey Skipper confirms my interpretation; the thing that you thought nobody here was asserting turns out to be just what Hey Skipper was asserting.

Sebastian H, you took the view that people would need a ‘damn good reason’ for preventing a speaker from giving a speech; you may observe that this is not the position of Hey Skipper, who asserts that no reason can possibly be good enough for doing that.

Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 6:55 am

I can’t judge whether their reasons are good or bad without knowing what those reasons are.

More accurately, I think, you cannot judge whether you agree with their reasons, without knowing what they are.

Both, I should say; or, to put it in yet another way, more succinctly, I can’t judge reasons without knowing what they are. Can you judge people’s reasons without knowing what they are? or do you never judge people’s reasons at all?

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Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 9:50 am

[J-D:] Sebastian H, you took the view that people would need a ‘damn good reason’ for preventing a speaker from giving a speech; you may observe that this is not the position of Hey Skipper, who asserts that no reason can possibly be good enough for doing that.

There are already specific legal restrictions, but, SFAIK, they are not in the realm of prior restraint, which is the point under discussion, and they are extremely limited:

[SCOTUS] decisions have fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not allow a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or cause such action.

(NB: the rest of that link should make obvious the insuperable problems attending subjective prior restraint.)

Both, I should say; or, to put it in yet another way, more succinctly, I can’t judge reasons without knowing what they are. Can you judge people’s reasons without knowing what they are? or do you never judge people’s reasons at all?

Why should I care what you think, or you what I think, about their reasons. Reasons for what they did aren’t the problem, what they did is.

462

Collin Street 09.07.16 at 10:05 am

or do you never judge people’s reasons at all?

All right-wing activists, without exception, display signs of empathy impairment.

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J-D 09.07.16 at 10:43 am

Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 9:50 am
[J-D:] Sebastian H, you took the view that people would need a ‘damn good reason’ for preventing a speaker from giving a speech; you may observe that this is not the position of Hey Skipper, who asserts that no reason can possibly be good enough for doing that.

There are already specific legal restrictions, but, SFAIK, they are not in the realm of prior restraint, which is the point under discussion, and they are extremely limited:

[SCOTUS] decisions have fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not allow a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or cause such action.

(NB: the rest of that link should make obvious the insuperable problems attending subjective prior restraint.)

Both, I should say; or, to put it in yet another way, more succinctly, I can’t judge reasons without knowing what they are. Can you judge people’s reasons without knowing what they are? or do you never judge people’s reasons at all?

Why should I care what you think, or you what I think, about their reasons. Reasons for what they did aren’t the problem, what they did is.

I care about their reasons because I am unable to decide whether what they did is a problem without knowing what the reasons for it were. I observe that you can; that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t.

I observe that you’re citing the Wikipedia article on freedom of speech; that’s been mentioned in this discussion previously, and I wrote the following comment earlier

Wikipedia tells me that ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of expression’ means ‘the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship’. Unless Ben Shapiro has been subjected to government retaliation or censorship (and nobody has told me that he has been), his freedom of speech in that specific sense defined by Wikipedia has not been infringed.

As I’ve already mentioned this, I can’t help wondering whether the point has been made clear enough.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution says ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …’. It does not say ‘Nobody shall abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press’. The extensive history of interpretation of the First Amendment by the Supreme Court deals with what the law may or may not do, and by extension with what the government may or may not do in carrying out the law, but that history does not include a statement that those abridgments of freedom of speech which are forbidden to the government are also forbidden to everybody else. The legal concept of freedom of speech is relevant to evaluating governmental action, not action by others.

What’s more, the Supreme Court, like me, and unlike you, cares about the reasons the government gives for attempting to abridge the freedom of speech; the Supreme Court does not try to decide First Amendment cases without investigating the reasons for the laws under scrutiny.

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Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 11:19 am

[J-D:] I care about their reasons because I am unable to decide whether what they did is a problem without knowing what the reasons for it were. I observe that you can; that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t.

If you care about free speech, then their actions are a problem by definition.

If you don’t, and that seems to be the case, then you stand with them in awarding yourself the power over deciding what others may say, hear, write, and read.

That link to Wikipedia contains, I would think, plenty of examples why that is a problem.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution says ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …’. It does not say ‘Nobody shall abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press’ …

There are two serious problems with this.

First, many constitutional restrictions extend to any entity accepting government money. Liberty University, for example, accepts no federal funds, and is free to do as much viewpoint discrimination as it chooses. But UoC does accept government funding, and therefore is as much barred from exercising, or tolerating, viewpoint discrimination as as Congress. As far as this thread is concerned, your comment is true, but irrelevant.

Secondly, 1A jurisprudence has created a civil culture that values almost completely unbridled speech. Should universities tolerate, or, worse, encourage censorship, then civil society is likely to value free speech less. Which, so long as it is progressives deciding what others may think, is just peachy. But what about when the air horn is in the other hand?

Should Trump win, and the zeitgeist get rather less tolerant of progressive ideas, any tolerance of progressive censorship is going to put progressives on very thin ice indeed when they start appealing to free speech.

What’s more, the Supreme Court, like me, and unlike you, cares about the reasons the government gives for attempting to abridge the freedom of speech; the Supreme Court does not try to decide First Amendment cases without investigating the reasons for the laws under scrutiny.

You have this backwards. SCOTUS has clearly stated there are almost no reasons where abridgment is justified. Which is why virtually every time it is tried, it gets slapped down stat.

Here is an item at Popehat, a legal blog that frequently writes on 1A issues, pretty clearly explains why reasons don’t matter.

As noted in one of the links from that post:

It has long been settled law that the First Amendment is binding on public universities
such as UWS. See Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 180 (1972) (“[T]he precedents of this
Court leave no room for the view that, because of the acknowledged need for order, First
Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the
community at large. Quite to the contrary, ‘the vigilant protection of constitutional
freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.’”)

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Z 09.07.16 at 11:27 am

It appears to me that if it is reported that somebody has tried to prevent a speaker from giving a speech, Hey Skipper’s response is always going to be ‘That’s wrong’; whereas my response is going to be ‘Why?’ I think the difference between those two approaches is important and worth drawing attention to.

My position, which I believe is not far from Sebastian’s or indeed Hey Skipper’s, is that because it is actually quite rare that a speech is so harmful that it needs immediate termination, people trying to prevent a speaker from giving a speech by heckling or otherwise noisily or violently disrupting the speech is usually wrong and the reason they give is usually a variation of “the idea contained in this speech are wrong and abhorrent”. Which they very well may be, but rarely so much so that they attain the threshold above. Silent protest and many other kind of actions are of course A-OK.

Besides, I believe they are much more efficient and that heckling tactics are usually counterproductive, but that is a different discussion.

466

Sebastian H 09.07.16 at 12:02 pm

“I can’t judge reasons without knowing what they are. Can you judge people’s reasons without knowing what they are? or do you never judge people’s reasons at all?”
You are over universalizing. In real world applications you often won’t have access to people’s reasons. Worse, often their stated reasons will have a strong appearance of not being their real reasons. You can’t be paralyzed by that in certain areas because if you are, that which you want to protect can’t be protected. Free speech is such an area. You have to build the free speech protecting norms because if you are paralyzed any time someone doesn’t clearly state the reasons for wanting to prohibit the particular speech you just play into their hands every time. That is how you are coming across in this discussion.

Of course I judge reasons at all. in areas like free speech and murder there are indeed theoretical reasons which would cause me to judge against my normal judgment about the activities. But I don’t have to assume you have a valid self defense claim if you kill someone. If you have one I can be fairly sure you will raise it most of the time. If you fail to raise it, it isn’t silly of me to assume it isn’t there. Is it a logical impossibility? No. Are there zero cases? No. But is it worth setting policy based on “won’t raise the self defense claims”? No.

Tying it back here–the number of valid reasons needed to shout down a speaker at a university or political rally or general talk are very narrow. Almost vanishingly unlikely. So for policy purposes I don’t generally need to know what the hecklers think. Their reasons won’t even be close to the line. If they really are so bad as “incitement to murder” I trust that the hecklers will mention something of that gravity. When they don’t, I do not need to be paralyzed in judging their interference with free speech to be wrong. I can revise my judgment later if they present compelling but highly unlikely unmentioned facts. I am not required to assume unlikely facts in their favor–especially when I’m not asking anything serious happen to them.

467

Faustusnotes 09.07.16 at 12:29 pm

Sebastian and hey skipper, I gave above two examples of curtailment of speech that I think are valid reasons, with which you have not engaged, even though I was responding to Sebastian’s question. I’ll add a third: revenge porn. Now, will you respond to these examples, or continue to scrupulously avoid concrete forms of speech that harm others, or censorship that helps others?

468

Marc 09.07.16 at 1:42 pm

No one is claiming that there are never exemptions, just that they are narrow. I think that if a campus Republican group invites a Republican, like Ben Shapiro, to speak at their event, where no one is compelled to go there, that they have a right to talk without being shouted down or prevented from communicating. It’s fine to protest their visit or organize an alternative venue; but not if it prevents the people who asked them to come from hearing their message.

It sounds to me as if you’d be completely fine with preventing them from speaking, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong. If so, be careful what you wish for: your views on Christianity, for example, are intensely unpopular here in the US, and you could easily find yourself on the wrong side of the speech suppression business if the approach that you seem to be advocating ever got normalized.

469

Faustusnotes 09.07.16 at 1:46 pm

I already told you I have been on the wrong side of the (privatized) speech suppression business. It was nasty, very nasty. Whybshoukdnibhave sympathy for people like Shapiro who support it, and why should I support their right to advocate more of it?

470

Faustusnotes 09.07.16 at 1:47 pm

Ha! Seems I’m doing a good job of suppressing my own speech there … “Why should I”, obviously.

471

mahood 09.07.16 at 1:56 pm

Wow, the speech-limiters are trying to relitigate a century of First Amendment cases in almost complete ignorance of a very long and subtle and ongoing civil and legal discussion about the meaning of the First Amendment.

So of course you can stipulate that the First Amendment does not prevent private organizations from imposing certain restrictions on expression. That’s not the question here, or shouldn’t be.

The position in support of freedom of expression here (my position) is pretty simple: any private school decently committed to freedom of inquiry should guarantee its faculty, students, staff, and visitors the same first amendment rights that they would legally enjoy at a public school. (Public schools are run by the states, and therefore the First and Fourteenth amendments apply to their operations.)

Are hecklers guaranteed the right to shout down an invited guest if a student organization at Berkeley invites her? No. Are students at the University of Massachusetts able to reply on the U.S. Constitution to assert a right to send revenge porn around? No. Do faculty at Rutgers have a Constitutional right to engage in a pattern of making demeaning comments based on a student’s or a group of students’ membership of a protected class? Nope.

That doesn’t mean all private schools need do guarantee such rights (though if they take public money, I think it should). In particular it’s okay (though to me distasteful) for a religious institution (from Liberty to Notre Dame to Boston College to Yeshiva) to prevent some on-campus expression. If you go there you go with your eyes open to those restrictions.

But a private school devoted to freedom of inquiry should rely on the insights of a century of about the first amendment (or four centuries of discussion about freedom of expression) and tailor its rules accordingly. As a teacher or student, that’s the kind of school I would want to go to. Chicago seems to be such a school.

tl;dr If you can say it at Berkeley you should be able to say it at Chicago. If Berkeley can legally prevent your saying it, so can Chicago.

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Sebastian H 09.07.16 at 2:48 pm

If by revenge porn you mean publishing private intimate pics and video that was supposed to remain between the parties, yes limiting that is fine. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how that relates to shouting down public speakers but there’s your answer from me.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.07.16 at 3:27 pm

mahood: “Wow, the speech-limiters are trying to relitigate a century of First Amendment cases”

Yeah, I lost interest as soon as it became clear that although the context was the U.S., people weren’t willing to take even the beginning of the U.S. legal framework into account. That was clear all the way back at #300.

The alternative is to say that “free speech questions” have some kind of ahistorical, cross-cultural meaning, and they don’t. All societies have sanctions for saying some things at some times, but those vary widely, and it’s U.S. exceptionalism to think that our cultural rules are somehow the right and natural ones everywhere and forever.

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TM 09.07.16 at 3:56 pm

The “safe spaces” debate reminds me of the hysterical farce now playing out in France about banning women from wearing the frightening Burkini. For some women, clearly there is a need for a “safe space” in form of a swim suit that doesn’t expose their body. That demand for a safe space is met with hysterical (I said that already) rejection by the dominant culture (even though it doesn’t require anything of society other than keeping out of other people’s wardrobes, literally). Exposing the body is essential to the glorious French enlightenment culture and refusing to do so is “a provocation” (PM Manuel Valls) not to mention a sign of terrorist sympathies. Just a tiny gesture of questioning the dominant culture is seen as a threat to public order. Those who wish to paternalistically impose their views on the rest of society portray themselves as defenders of enlightement values and accuse minorities of intolerance.

I think this comparison would make for a great social science seminar.

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Marc 09.07.16 at 4:10 pm

@476: How this maps onto a demand for shouting down speakers that you disagree with must, I guess, remain mysterious.

476

Z 09.07.16 at 4:29 pm

@469 If a speaker at some University organized her speech around revenge porn or the private details of the life of an audience member (or a random person), then yes, I believe that person should be stopped, and by heckling if necessary.

That situation is vanishingly rare, though in fairness to your hypothetical, I remember that Alan Dershowitz had a document on his professional website (maybe at Harvard?) in which he suggested that Normal Finkelstein’s mother had resorted to dirty tricks to survive extermination camps, and Norman Finkelstein contacted the web manager (unsuccessfully, as it happened) in order to have it disappear from the website, even asking (according to his rendition of the discussion) if it was OK to publish on the official website of said institution that the mother of someone else was a whore.

477

Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 6:28 pm

[Rich Puchalsky:] … and it’s U.S. exceptionalism to think that our cultural rules are somehow the right and natural ones everywhere and forever.

Does anyone think that?

[Faustusnotes:] I already told you I have been on the wrong side of the (privatized) speech suppression business. It was nasty, very nasty. [Why should I have] sympathy for people like Shapiro who support it, and why should I support their right to advocate more of it?

How about showing us exactly what it is that Shapiro supported, and how he did so?

Sebastian and hey skipper, I gave above two examples of curtailment of speech that I think are valid reasons, with which you have not engaged, even though I was responding to Sebastian’s question.

Comment number, please?

I’ll add a third: revenge porn. Now, will you respond to these examples, or continue to scrupulously avoid concrete forms of speech that harm others, or censorship that helps others?

I think revenge porn comes under invasion of privacy laws, which have nothing to do with freedom of speech.

478

Kiwanda 09.07.16 at 7:14 pm

faustusnotes: “I already told you I have been on the wrong side of the (privatized) speech suppression business. It was nasty, very nasty. [Why should I] have sympathy for people like Shapiro who support it, and why should I support their right to advocate more of it?”

I see, so you do not support the right to speak of those who would do so in favor of the suppression of speech. Would you speak in support of the suppression of the speech of those who would favor the suppression of speech? Probably you would suppress such a speech.

Or maybe, Ben Shapiro’s right to speak should be supported independent of its content.

(J-D: here I’m regarding the discussion as occurring in the context of political speech; I do not support Ben Shapiro’s unqualified right to utter any commercial speech he wants, or slander, or anything intended and likely to incite an immediate breech of the peace, or copyright violation, or violation of a nondisclosure agreement, or revealing classified information, or speech so loud as to damage the hearing of those present, or speech likely bring on an invasion by aliens, or magical spells bringing forth demons, or jokes that kill those that hear them, or the ending of Game of Thrones, or anything related to Harambe, Lena Dunham, or Milo Yiannopoulos. In case you were concerned. )

479

PGD 09.07.16 at 7:20 pm

I’m sure that this has been pointed out somewhere in the voluminous comments above, but the question of whether the *university as a whole* is a ‘safe space’ is quite different from the question of whether individual elements of the university are ‘safe spaces’ or homogeneous in some way. The economics department gets to control its own hiring and disciplinary norms, but they do not get to prohibit people in the sociology department from publishing articles critical of economics, from holding public lectures in which critics of economics say their piece, etc. Likewise, the students can form clubs devoted to particular ideologies that only sponsor events and discussions related to that ideology, but they cannot prohibit other students from disagreeing with that ideology. It’s just a fundamental category error to say that because ideologically homogeneous groups or communities form within a larger institution the institution itself enforces ideological homogeniety.

480

Faustusnotes 09.07.16 at 10:35 pm

Kiwanda and hey skipper, I have several times mentioned here having pictures of my family posted online by people who disagree with me, and being threatened at my work. These are both forms of speech, and I want to know if you think I should stand by and let that happen? Is someone’s right to speech more Important than my safety? I don’t usually personalize debates like this but in this case I want you to say explicitly exactly what price you think I should have paid for your principles.

Once we have established that we can begin discussing the more abstract issue (to me, if not to you) of what price others should pay for your principles.

Revenge porn is not best described as an invasion of privacy. That’s a cheap excuse to avoid the fact that preventing it is censorship. The porn often involves two people who consented to let the other person own the images/video. You may not like to admit it but this is a speech issue for whichever person decides to get vengeful. If that bothers you consider this variant: a sex worker has a website advertising her services that is public but she is confident her family don’t know about. An ex decides to start telling all her friends and family about this. The pics on the site have the face blurred out but are still pics of her. By your exacting standards can she censor her ex’s speech? Consider that something like this (an explicit diary about a journalist) is how gamergate started, so your answer to this question potentially crushes a whole movement. Think carefully!

My original response to Sebastian was comment number (currently) 445.

481

Mahood 09.07.16 at 10:49 pm

Faustusnotes — stuff like this presents a hard case, and needs to be litigated and debated. There’s at least some feeling that posting pictures of private citizens without consent is not protected. Hence Hulk Hogan. Teaching Ovid is not a hard case. You spent a lot of capital expressing contempt for classical culture. That’s what most of us defenders of Chicago are responding to — not the idea hat revenge porn should be protected but that teaching Ovid should.

gamergate and the stuff happening to you is not difficult to interpret as harassment, and there are laws against that.

482

ZM 09.07.16 at 11:07 pm

I think that with the internet and other technologies making publishing and distribution more accessible there is some need for the governments to do some education on existing laws about speech and expression.

Also I think justice should be more accessible for people where there are violations of law relating to speech and expression.

I don’t think the justice system has kept up with the new technologies very well.

Most of the time people act according to the law, but I think that in the online environment or some publishing contexts people’s conduct is outside of what is legal.

But its really hard to do anything about this when your legal rights are infringed on; police and court resources are really lacking to allow people to get justice for violations of criminal or civil law pertaining to speech and expression in my experience.

I think the current resources might have been okay about 30 or 40 years ago, but technology has come so far since then, and so has access to publishing, and while most people follow normal behaviour which is within the law, some people use the new technologies or online environment to act in ways which are outside of normal standards and against the law as well.

483

Kiwanda 09.07.16 at 11:18 pm

faustusnotes 482: …

Gosh, what relevant and telling examples.

484

kidneystones 09.07.16 at 11:28 pm

More distracting crap from the usual sources. The issue of safe spaces on university campuses is pretty cut and dried. Safe spaces are allowed and serve as useful purpose for both academics and students as the OP and almost all comments confirm. Respect for one set of safe spaces means respect for all.

That means we don’t get to invade the space spaces of others: offices, classrooms, club rooms and deny others the protections we insist exist for ourselves. Marc up thread made this clear: the golden rule applies. That’s exactly the soup Bernie served up at Liberty and the bible crowd to their immense credit took it straight on the chin without so much as a whimper.

Only a very few believe that suppression of political speech on university campuses should be the norm. Those who do have been rightly flayed for hiding out behind pronouns and demonstrative adjectives both lacking clear antecedents, and/or moving the discussion so far from the original discussion as to be effectively meaningless.

Had to giggle reading one clown demanding that critics apologize for the internet.

Our alarm clocks didn’t censor sleep this morning. Who’s going to answer for that?

Henry made some excellent points in the OP. After that, meh, other than the Shakespeare drift.

LFC’s suggestion that all students be required to read and comment upon Holmes and his dissent is the best I’ve read anywhere in a long time.

485

Faustusnotes 09.08.16 at 12:09 am

How is being threatened at work for exercising your right to speech not relevant, Kiwanis? How is the long series of blog posts divulging the private life of a journalist, that led to the destruction of her career, not relevant?

Manhood, I wasn’t expressing contempt but anger at the way that the course is taught. And how is harassment not speech? Free speech absolutists have this trick where the define speech they don’t like as some other kind of crime and then suddenly it’s not speech anymore, in order to make it easier for them to be absolutists without recognizing that they actually accept a wide range of limits on speech. As J-D observed above, once you accept limits on speech then the debate about free speech has to take into account the content of the speech.

486

Faustusnotes 09.08.16 at 12:10 am

Goddamn autocorrect

487

Z 09.08.16 at 3:12 am

Faustusnotes, the cases you bring up 1) involve threats and harassments (going back to the letter of the OP, one of the first point it makes is that freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others) and 2) do not involve a speaker invited by a University (or segment thereof) to speak at a certain venue. For both reasons, they are quite tangential to a discussion about freedom of expression in an academic setting.

My position is quite clear (to me at least): threats and harassments are evil and should be stopped and punished by law; academic discussions, even in support of repulsive ideas, should be permitted and not be disrupted. So revenge porn, no; Peter Singer discussing the morality of killing newborns or Alan Dershowitz advocating the random destruction of a Palestinian village each time there is a suicide bombing in Israel, yes (though I personally find these ideas morally abhorrent and with very low intellectual merit). There are borderline cases, but they are rare.

What’s your position?

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faustusnotes 09.08.16 at 4:28 am

On the contrary Z, these cases are very relevant to free expression on university campuses – all the cases cited in comments include people related to a movement that deploys these strategies to prevent women speaking. Above someone posted footage of a Milo Yiannopolous speech being disrupted at a university. What is Milo famous for? And what are his victims famous for? Being forced to cancel their university campus speeches because of death and rape threats, and being forced out of journalism jobs or internet speech by the same movement. That movement is very active on campuses and Milo leads it, yet somehow it’s the attempts by his victims to shut down his speech that are being portrayed as the problem here. The man and his movement openly advocate violence, but the preferred position here is that their speech is protected at any cost.

There is a dark movement at work in America now, which aims to silence women and black people through threats of violence, and which also takes great joy in insulting and degrading them. The leading lights of this movement are gathering around Trump, who is also known for his opposition to free speech for people who aren’t like him or who disagree with his movement. This movement is also connected to the KKK and white nationalism. But the position put by many people here is that the Republic should be burnt down by these people rather than have them denied the right to speak by their victims at a single campus. That we shouldn’t even check the contents of their speech before determining that the people protesting it are wrong.

This is a very asymmetric situation, and in my opinion it’s no longer about some abstract issue of free speech – it’s about the ability of a certain group of people to seize power through violence, and a part of that is their ability to silence dissent in the media, and then to smear anyone who tries to protest their actions in any other way. This will have consequences, one of which will be the loss of any form of reasoned public discourse in America.

I think for many people commenting here this is all abstract, it won’t affect them. Instead it affects the people who can’t speak on college campuses, in magazines or on the internet because of threats of violence, which are coordinated and promulgated by a movement led by identifiable figures. For those people it’s not abstract and the limits on their speech are very real and concrete. When you decide that “free speech” as a principle is more important than their speech you are making a choice about whose speech is more important. You may not like that, but that’s what you’re doing.

And the speech you’re privileging is violent, misogynist hate speech.

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Z 09.08.16 at 5:22 am

OK, so let’s discuss the alt-right.

People on the alt-right have views (white supremacy, nativism, male supremacy, nativism…) that you believe to be both influential and dangerous to the free exercise of liberty for large segments of the population (and for FWIW I agree). Especially because of their first characteristic, these views are legitimate targets of academic inquiries and so yes, in particular, I believe that the expression of these views should be tolerated on an academic campuses.

People on the alt-right take actions to promote their views which include online (and real-life) harassment. These actions merit no special protection and vocal advocacy for these actions merit no special protection on academic campuses.

Now sometimes it is hard to distinguish the abstract opinion with the the specific tactics. As I am not familiar with Milo Yiannopoulos, let me discuss Ann Coulter instead. She has certainly openly advocated violence against her political opponents including in publications and talks on campuses; always in the sardonic tone that is her trademark but not always jokingly as she sometimes suggests. Should her invitation to speak by a Conservative Student Union be rescinded, and if it is not, should she be prevented to speak?

On prudential ground, I would say no, mostly for reasons of intellectual and moral coherence. I am not sure there is an easily enforceable criteria that would reliably exclude her from speaking but would preserve the opportunities of e.g Noam Chomsky, Normal Finkelstein and Steven Salaita’s opportunity to speak (all speakers that have been believed by large numbers of people to use their academic work to incite violence). Or indeed mine: I do advocacy work on behalf of migrants (and general freedom of movement, a cause I believe you are sympathetic with) and I have an acute conscience that my positions on the topic are believed by what may very well be a large majority of my fellow citizens to be a direct attack on the democratic and social institutions they consider the pillar of our society (just like you and I believe that the ideas of the alt-right constitute such an attack).

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kidneystones 09.08.16 at 5:41 am

“What is Milo famous for? And what are his victims famous for? Being forced to cancel their university campus speeches because of death and rape threats, and being forced out of journalism jobs or internet speech by the same movement. That movement is very active on campuses and Milo leads it”

Excellent. That’s a substantial charge. All that’s missing are names, dates, events. Which speakers to Milo specifically target and force to cancel speaking engagements because of death threats?

As for the internet. It is what it is. Milo is a self-promoting right-wing prankster cum entrepreneur.

We don’t need to be right, polite, or inoffensive. You live in a world happy to gag and chain all who don’t share your world view. Milo happens not to, and he levels his contempt for you and your ‘values’ with both barrels. If you don’t like him, feel free to change channels.

The internet is a great big space and you can certainly find more productive uses for your time.

As for the crybabies at De Paul, they managed to ban chalk graffiti at De Paul because they consider ‘Trump Train 2016’ to constitute hate speech. And that was before Milo showed up to speak to college Republicans. F-me.

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Hey Skipper 09.08.16 at 7:48 am

[Z:] … let me discuss Ann Coulter instead. She has certainly openly advocated violence against her political opponents including in publications and talks on campuses …

Do you have an actual examples?

I looked briefly, and came up with one (I’m not saying there aren’t others): “

I would like to see a little more violence from the innocent Trump supporters set upon by violent leftist thugs.

This highlights the problem with judging speech by its content — the judgment will invariably be subjective. What some saw as an incitement to violence, I see as an understandable reaction to violence, and perhaps even a deterrence to future violence.

It is worth noting that all the political violence so far this election season has come from the left.

[Fastusnotes:] What is Milo famous for? And what are his victims famous for? Being forced to cancel their university campus speeches because of death and rape threats, and being forced out of journalism jobs or internet speech by the same movement. That movement is very active on campuses and Milo leads it, yet somehow it’s the attempts by his victims to shut down his speech that are being portrayed as the problem here.

There is a dark movement at work in America now, which aims to silence women and black people through threats of violence, and which also takes great joy in insulting and degrading them.

Do you have any specific examples?

Kiwanda and hey skipper, I have several times mentioned here having pictures of my family posted online by people who disagree with me, and being threatened at my work. These are both forms of speech, and I want to know if you think I should stand by and let that happen?

There are already exceptions to protected speech, harassment, invasion of privacy, etc. I have no idea if what happened falls under them.

But let’s assume it didn’t. The problem you haven’t faced is that in order for free speech to exist, there can be almost no line drawing, because all such attempts involve first subjectivity, then, ultimately, abuse.

Of course, that doesn’t mean free speech itself isn’t abused; of course people use it for a cover to do reprehensible things.

The question is whether the abuse that will come with line drawing is worse than that which comes by individuals doing reprehensible things.

IMHO, attempting to cabin free speech is far, far worse.

Revenge porn is not best described as an invasion of privacy. That’s a cheap excuse to avoid the fact that preventing it is censorship.

Just over a year ago, Popehat participated in a Pepperdine law school debate on criminalizing revenge porn.

I think he does an excellent job outlining the problems of doing so, and concludes “that the most promising and effective way to prosecute revenge porn is to use existing laws against hacking, extortion, and fraud.”

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TM 09.08.16 at 8:06 am

Marc 477: I observe that you have made a bunch of unfounded claims at 116 and when challenged by faustusnotes (118) have completely failed to substantiate them. How does that map on demands to be taken seriously at CT must, I guess, remain mysterious.

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Z 09.08.16 at 11:26 am

Hey Skipper, if you’re serious about that, you’ll find no shortage of examples. For instance:

-In 1998 about Bill Clinton “[the debate should be] whether to impeach or assassinate”.
-Her column from September 2001, containing in particular the infamous “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” (but many other examples).
-About the staff of the NY times at the time of the NSA leak “I prefer a firing squad, but I’m open to a debate on the method of execution” and ” And do you think there is any possibility any action will be taken against The New York Times for something that could have gotten them executed, certainly did get the Rosenbergs executed?”
-About the media in general “Would that it were so! … That the American military were targeting journalists.”
– Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) is “the reason soldiers invented fragging,”
-The very funny joke “We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice Stevens’s créme brulée”
-Another very funny joke “They Shot the Wrong Lincoln” about Lincoln Chafee.

These are rather extreme examples, but her usual columns regularly contain more mundane ones.

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Faustusnotes 09.08.16 at 11:33 am

Hey skipper et al appear to be completely ignorant of the major movements in campus censorship over the past two years. I guess that is why you can say such silly things as “only SKWs” censor people while lauding a known advocate of censorship, or be surprised that people might consider milo a bad example for your cause. This stuff has been all over the news in the past year, there are whole sub threads on Reddit and 4chan devoted to it, major figures connected to it trashed the Hugo awards and drove some big figures in modern feminist off the internet and off college campuses, and you are ignorant of the whole thing … Yet here you are expounding on campus speech as if you know something about it …

Do I really need to point out to you that it doesn’t matter whether you stop speech by a censorship law, contract law or some kind of emergency services rule, the purpose of the instrument used is to stop the speech – it is all censorship. If you accept the use of these tools then you are pro censorship, and you agree with J-D that the content needs to be checked before you can decide whether or not to censor.

Now that we have established that you are in favour of censorship, the posturing about how “SJWs” are always wrong to censor people on campus becomes just that – posturing. We have established what you are, now we can get down to haggling over the price.

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Z 09.08.16 at 11:35 am

I should add, in reply to Faustusnotes, that another reason I am usually in favor of speakers to be able to speak if invited by a University is that the actual process of interrupting a speaker sorely lacks procedural guidelines. So one day protesters prevent that alt-right guy to speak and perhaps you and I rejoice, but next time Scott Aronson says something on his blog (something I found stupid and quite amazingly self-centered, but which can be deemed harassment in no existing Universe) and there are calls to prevent him teaching quantum computing and next time someone will be misquoted as saying something stupid or has the same name has someone who said something stupid and is subsequently booed of stage (I seemed to recall the second hypothetical actually happened once).

It should go without saying that protesting an invitation, and especially an invitation which bestows some kind of validation (for instance a commencement speech, or a doctorate honoris causa), on intellectual and moral grounds and through the normal procedure is not only perfectly OK but in fact an important duty of any member of the academic community.

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kidneystones 09.08.16 at 11:53 am

@496 You’ve asserted that Milo is famous for forcing people to cancel speeches “What is Milo famous for? And what are his victims famous for? Being forced to cancel their university campus speeches because of death and rape threats, and being forced out of journalism jobs or internet speech by the same movement.”

Milo’s not famous for shutting down speech at all except, it seems, in your fucking melon. I’ve looked under a number of different search strings and the only links that pop up are where you and your loopy pals temporarily succeed in shutting Milo down.

So, cough-up some names and some real life examples of Milo forcing people to cancel speeches, or lose their jobs, why don’t you?

Or, as the more genteel might say: ‘Substantiate, or retract.’

My bet is: you got nothing outside of your fevered imagination.

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kidneystones 09.08.16 at 12:35 pm

Here’s the ‘hate speech’ Depaul crybabies succeeded in banning:

“Last week, Depaul’s College Republicans organized a chalking campaign on campus, during which phrases such as “Make DePaul great again,” “Blue Lives Matter,” and “Trump Train 2016” were scrawled on the sidewalks.”

http://campusreform.org/?ID=7483

Still waiting to hear who Milo had fired, or who he forced into cancelling a speech. There must be a large number. Cause that’s what ‘Milo is famous for.’

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kidneystones 09.08.16 at 12:51 pm

Here’s a question: ‘If Hillary Clinton is forced to remove her coaching communication device during Townhall sessions, or debates, is that censorship?’

http://truepundit.com/nypd-hillary-clinton-was-wearing-invisible-earpiece-to-receive-stealth-coaching-during-live-nbc-tv-town-hall/

Wikleaks: Huma to H

‘Did u take your earpiece or do I need to get it?’

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Rich Puchalsky 09.08.16 at 1:35 pm

I was reading a book about the IWW today, and came across some charming examples of limitations of speech. I’d known the broad outlines — that advocacy of non registration for the draft was, itself, criminalized — but hadn’t known some of the details. For instance, when the IWW’s leaders were arrested en masse on suspicion of interfering with the war effort, their legal defense committee sent out mailings to possible supporters to raise money for their trial defense. First the post office crudely and illegally just didn’t deliver their mail, but people eventually noticed a huge pile of bags of mail building up. The government coerced private package delivery companies into refusing to deliver the fundraising appeal letters. Finally, the post office delivered them, after opening each one, reading it, and then resealing the envelope and stamping “Officially Sealed” on it for the benefit of whoever the mail was being sent to.

That was a century ago, but the parallels with what’s happening to various Muslim organizations and, indeed, groups like wikileaks, should be apparent. We now have just as up-teched version of the whole thing.

There seems to be an idea that once informal expectations about freedom of speech are quashed that righteous pushback against the right wing will happen. It’s nonsensical. First, the alt-right or whatever you want to call it is actually stronger than the left in that arena, because of the usual attraction of right-wingers to violence. Second, once the government gets involved — and it always does once things escalate from a few college students yelling at a speaker — then it is not a friend to the left. Whether you think “free speech rights” are a liberal delusion or not, it’s a very odd prediction to think that the left is better off without the idea.

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Hey Skipper 09.08.16 at 5:30 pm

[Z @495:] Hey Skipper, if you’re serious about that, you’ll find no shortage of examples [of Coulter’s incitements].

Okay, looks like she earned an F- in civility (but so has Paul Krugman). In my humble and very subjective opinion, all those examples are hyperbole, not incitement. (YMMV for very good reasons. Full disclosure: I’m not a Coulter fan.)

[Fautusnotes:] Hey skipper et al appear to be completely ignorant of the major movements in campus censorship over the past two years. I guess that is why you can say such silly things as “only SJWs” censor people while lauding a known advocate of censorship,

That is a perfect example of a category error. SJWs have engaged in actual censorship. Shapiro advocates for much stricter control over pornography. They aren’t the same: the former has happened many times, the latter not yet, and almost certainly not ever.

… major figures connected to it trashed the Hugo awards and drove some big figures in modern feminist off the internet and off college campuses, and you are ignorant of the whole thing … Yet here you are expounding on campus speech as if you know something about it …

Within the context of this thread, the Hugo awards (which seemed to include some very bad acting from the left, too) are the epitome of irrelevant.

Do I really need to point out to you that it doesn’t matter whether you stop speech by a censorship law, contract law or some kind of emergency services rule, the purpose of the instrument used is to stop the speech – it is all censorship. If you accept the use of these tools then you are pro censorship, and you agree with J-D that the content needs to be checked before you can decide whether or not to censor.

Bollocks. There is a clear civil and legal environment that puts almost no limits on free speech. That some speech may fall afoul of incitement, or be the consequence of fraud or invasion of privacy, doesn’t make me pro-censorship. You are, in effect, accusing me of hypocrisy, without having gone to the trouble of understanding my argument, or the ample legal foundation for it.

Now that we have established that you are in favour of censorship, the posturing about how “SJWs” are always wrong to censor people on campus becomes just that – posturing. We have established what you are, now we can get down to haggling over the price.

No, you haven’t. All you have done is demonstrated your misunderstanding.

Now, if I was to advocate shutting down, say, Laurie Penny, on account of she holds the all world indoor/outdoor free style record for spewing the most nonsense per second, then you would have me dead to rights.

However, you will find that nowhere in anything I have written. Viewpoint discrimination is bad, full stop. Institutions that accept government funding are obligated to observe that. Got that?

[Rich Puchalsky:] There seems to be an idea that once informal expectations about freedom of speech are quashed that righteous pushback against the right wing will happen. It’s nonsensical. First, the alt-right or whatever you want to call it is actually stronger than the left in that arena …

All of the campus censorship has come from SJWs. All of the political violence this election has come from the left.

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Patrick 09.08.16 at 6:39 pm

Ok, that’s not at all true. Conservative censorship on campus is as ongoing an issue as liberal censorship (conservatives use different tactics, mind, like liberals they too have a whole cottage industry of activists who quote mine professors and campus speakers to agitate their base, it’s just that their stronghold of power is state government, so that’s usually where they apply pressure).

This is why neutral rules and norms against viewpoint discrimination are so valuable, and why is such a pathetic disappointment that liberals, as they grow in power, are predictably but embarrassingly becoming less enamored of them.

And as for political violence, sure, there’s been some political violence from the left, and there’s been some serious media effort to cover a few instances of it up (not the ones you’re thinking of though, I bet). But violence from the right continues to be an ongoing drumbeat in just the same way.

Which of course is AGAIN another reason why it’s so nice to have and maintain neutral rules and norms against political violence. And neutral norms (rules would be inappropriate) against unnecessarily exaggerating regular politics into apocalyptic moments, lying about your political enemies, etc.

Viewpoint neutral rules are really great! But apparently they’re a tool of “the man” now or something for some reason or another. I dunno. Apparently a couple flippant references to ideas you got from reading a Plato excerpt in Philosophy 101 are enough to unseat one of the most powerful tools for political progress we’ve ever developed.

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Kiwanda 09.08.16 at 6:39 pm

Hay Skipper: “All of the campus censorship has come from SJWs. All of the political violence this election has come from the left.”

When the campus censorship is “Severe event disruption”, shouting down speakers etc, in the FIRE database it’s all from the left, as I noted above.

However, when the censorship is “withdrawing invitation to speak due to viewpoint”, the FIRE database has about the same number of “from the left” and “from the right” disinvitations and withdrawals, although mostly “from the left” in the last few years. This is not including commencement speakers, who should not be considered in the same way as other kinds.

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Marc 09.08.16 at 6:49 pm

@116: I observe that you haven’t bothered to read the thread; I stand by what I said. Read posts 120 and 189 for an assessment. In terms of trigger warnings, here is the actual resolution passed by the UCSB student body as an example of what was being asked for.

https://www.as.ucsb.edu/senate/resolutions/a-resolution-to-mandate-warnings-for-triggering-content-in-academic-settings/

In particular, if you don’t want to read the relevant link, the title of the resolution is

A Resolution to Mandate Warnings For Triggering Content in Academic Settings

and one of the clauses is

Let it further be resolved that: AS Senate urges the instructor of any course that includes triggering content to not dock points from a student’s overall grade for being absent or leaving class early if the reason for the absence is the triggering content.
—————————————-
In other words, there have been demands to make them mandatory and to allow students to avoid triggering material completely.

Happy now?

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ZM 09.08.16 at 8:47 pm

“In other words, there have been demands to make them mandatory and to allow students to avoid triggering material completely.”

But its not to allow all students to avoid triggering material, only those students who are triggered by the material.

There are medical questionnaires that are used to assess if someone experiences PTSD.

So there could easily be another provision for the students to go to the university counselling service to be assessed for PTSD if they wanted to avoid triggering material.

I kind of wonder though if the students have been working with the university admin on this issue or not though, because at the university where I go there are already provisions for equity and disability support that allow adjustments to be made.

I am pretty sure students with PTSD would be able to access academic adjustments through the regular scheme which is broadly defined, without any new provisions specifically about triggering material.

The University of Chicago says it provides accomodations for students with disabilities, so I would think students could access this service for adjustments for PTSD https://disabilities.uchicago.edu

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Collin Street 09.08.16 at 8:51 pm

SJWs have engaged in actual censorship. Shapiro advocates for much stricter control over pornography.

I mean, stop for a second and actually read what’s written here, try and parse it out.

There’s a number of other examples, where Skip says that A is not a B because it’s a C, when there’s nothing in the properties of C that prevent it’s being a B, or where even that C is a proper subset of B. A focus on labels rather than content. What we have is stuff written by a person whose mental framework is such that they don’t actually realise, at least not sufficiently to let it shape their thinking, that categories can and do overlap.

This is a cognitive pathology! It’s symptomatic of autism-spectrum conditions, for example. It’s actually no-shit-for-real a medical problem, not something that can be treated or managed by little untrained us.

As I keep on saying: all right-wing activists, without exception, display obvious symptoms of empathy impairment. All distinctively right-wing policies, without exception, reflect the empathy impairment of their advocates. There are no political problems, only mental-health ones.

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Collin Street 09.08.16 at 8:59 pm

But its not to allow all students to avoid triggering material, only those students who are triggered by the material.

Cognitive pathology, remember. No insight into the thoughts of others, so if any claims about mental states have to be treated as valid then all do; no way of distinguishing.

When we judge people on our assessment of their motives it’s like magic to them, a trick they can’t replicate and can’t believe.

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ZM 09.08.16 at 8:59 pm

Faustusnotes,

“And how is harassment not speech? Free speech absolutists have this trick where the define speech they don’t like as some other kind of crime and then suddenly it’s not speech anymore, in order to make it easier for them to be absolutists without recognizing that they actually accept a wide range of limits on speech.”

I think its probably because of how the First Amendment is interpreted in law in the USA, which is that the protections are greatest for political speech.

Harassment is not political speech, and doesn’t classify for First Amendment protection.

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ZM 09.08.16 at 9:06 pm

Collin Street,

“What we have is stuff written by a person whose mental framework is such that they don’t actually realise, at least not sufficiently to let it shape their thinking, that categories can and do overlap.

As I keep on saying: all right-wing activists, without exception, display obvious symptoms of empathy impairment.”

I think we all cut down on empathy when we are arguing our point. Think about debating, the teams aren’t empathetic to one another, they are trying to win the argument.

For CT commenters on the left the comment threads are more about communicating with like minded people, but for commenters on the right they have a lot fewer allies on CT. And there are not many comment threads which are politically neutral to discuss other non political things. Although Maria’s current one is I guess, and Harry’s.

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AcademicLurker 09.08.16 at 9:13 pm

zm@506: If trigger warnings were just about accommodating people with actual PTSD there would never have been any dust up over them. Students with actual diagnosed PTSD generally contact the ADA compliance person at Student Services, who in tern contacts faculty members, and everyone involved works to make “reasonable accommodations” for the particular difficulties raised by the specific student’s PTSD. This is as it should be because triggers are specific and, as we’ve heard ad nauseam by now, “could be anything”, so instructors shouldn’t be taking wild guesses at what they might be.

This is similar to the system for dealing with students with ADD, or various physical issues that might interfere with their ability to attend class, or take exams in the standard format, or whatever.

The ongoing kerfluffle over trigger warnings – which really should be over because the only controversial issue was whether they were going to be mandated from above by administrators, and they’re not – has nothing to do with accommodating students with PTSD.

As far as material that is commonly understood to be potentially upsetting to reasonable people regardless of whether or not they have PTSD, content notices about that sort of thing are commonly given and have been since forever. Remember, the whole dust up didn’t begin with “If you plan on screening The Accused in class then maybe you should give some advanced notice and come up with some alternatives for students who have been sexually assaulted”. It began with “The Great Gatsby should come with a trigger warning”.

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Collin Street 09.08.16 at 9:17 pm

For CT commenters on the left the comment threads are more about communicating with like minded people, but for commenters on the right they have a lot fewer allies on CT. And there are not many comment threads which are politically neutral to discuss other non political things. Although Maria’s current one is I guess, and Harry’s.

Empathy isn’t just caring about what other people feel, it’s about your ability to know it as well; “normal” is to know and care what other people feel, but you might know and not care, or you might care but not know, or you might neither know nor care. It’s the knowing I’m talking about here.

Impairments here have distinctive linguistic effects on “pragmatics”, language structure above the sentence level: “what you say” is shaped by “what people need to hear to understand what it is you believe” which is obviously tied to empathy two ways [you need to model how other people model you]. Impairments to the ability to understand others’ thinking manifest as odd, non-responsive statements, non-sequiturs and similar: for example, that “basing your arguments on premises the people you’re arguing with have explicitly rejected” that I’ve pointed out a couple of times.

This doesn’t actually have a lot to do with whether or not people broadly agree with you, because it’ll be revealed just as well in the details.

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Collin Street 09.08.16 at 9:19 pm

If trigger warnings were just about accommodating people with actual PTSD there would never have been any dust up over them.

Lies. People regularly resist offering consideration even to diagnosed medical conditions. Even wheelchair ramps get opposed.

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AcademicLurker 09.08.16 at 9:26 pm

Collin Street@513: Along with the rest of the faculty here, I get a notice from the ADA office at the start of every semester informing me of which students in my classes have what particular issues, along with recommended accommodations. I’ve yet to hear anyone here complain.

If you mean “people will be jerks about online”, well sure. But what about it? Trolls gonna troll.

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ZM 09.08.16 at 10:28 pm

Collin Street,

I think you’re making a bit of a stretch diagnosing all right wing people with psychological disabilities. Do you mean just the political establishment, or all the voters too?

The logic of your argument, should it be correct, would lead one to the conclusion that right wing people are more inclusive of people with disabilities, if the entire right wing political establishment have psychological disabilities.

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Faustusnotes 09.08.16 at 10:40 pm

Hey skipper, you clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Here is a brief rundown of what has happened to one feminist who had to cancel a talk at Utah State university because of death threats. The campus and local police couldn’t guarantee her security – and here we have people whining about “SJWs” demanding safe spaces. Do you know what SWATting is? I get the feeling you don’t know what is going on here.

That case is in the FIRE database. There are also cases of teachers and commencement speakers withdrawing because of pressure from the right. Is the problem that you don’t know how to do basic research ? Or are you just completely ignorant of all news about this topic?

I really think, before people get on their high horse about censorship and violent activism, they should go to the trouble to find out who is being censored and how, and whose speech is being privileged.

515

LFC 09.08.16 at 10:43 pm

FWIW, I think Collin Street’s longstanding assertion that people w whom he disagrees, or who he thinks argue badly, have cognitive and psychological pathologies, i.e. medical conditions, is utter nonsense.

If you disagree w someone, you should engage their argument, not hide behind the repeated assertion that they are sick. What is “empathy impairment”? Is it in the DSM? Or is it a made-up phrase to medicalize disagreement?

Now, I’m fine w the assertion that certain right-wing activists might lack empathy with people who have lost out in the competitive capitalist ratrace. That’s an evaluative description of their position as one sees it. But to say they have an empathy impairment adds nothing — it’s just a fake medicalizing phrase that amounts to practicing quackery on the internet.

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kidneystones 09.08.16 at 10:52 pm

516 I really think, before people get on their high horse about censorship and violent activism, they should go to the trouble to find out who is being censored and how, and whose speech is being privileged.

Agreed. Still waiting for you to provide a single example of Milo getting anyone fired, or forcing the cancellation of a speech.

Remember? You claim Milo’s speech rights need to be suppressed because he’s ‘famous’ for getting people fired, and forcing speech cancellations.

You’re lack of self-awareness is mind-boggling.

Provide the evidence that Milo (shouted down and silenced at Depaul) does what you explicitly claim he’s ‘famous for’ getting people fired and forcing them to cancel speeches, or retract your claim and acknowledge that these firings and cancellations occurred in the ‘false memory’ of your tortured imagination.

Still waiting;

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Mahood 09.08.16 at 10:55 pm

Oh, Faustusnotes, as you must know the problem at Utah was: harassment, death threats, and a ridiculous devotion to a distorted reading of the Second Amendment. Many of us First Amendment supporters would love to see the Second Amendment repealed.

(Anita Sarkeesian spoke at my school without incident. But we did all have to get tickets, go through metal detectors, and leave cell phones at home.)

I don’t know why it’s so hard to see that there’s a distinction in principle between harassment (including death threats) and free speech. No one on this list is defending death threats. And it’s totally unclear how your desire to restrict campus speech would have helped in the Utah case.

(Also, fwiw, most of the commencement withdrawals I am aware of have come because of left wing activism, including my own. Asking a school not to honor someone isn’t the same as preventing someone from speaking. Protesting outside a venue where they are speaking, or holding signs inside that venue, or asking pointed questions during a q and a are all fine.)

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Patrick 09.08.16 at 10:55 pm

You gotta love reasoning that goes, “People are saying that my position is too extreme, but I think that the people I’m talking to are cognitively deficient in ways that sound subtly close to saying that they’re intrinsically evil, so I’m pretty sure they’d object even if my demands were more limited. So I may as well not worry about it.”

I mean, if its really true that you’re arguing with a bunch of cognitively deficient people filled with nothing but hatred in their hearts for everyone who isn’t them, then I guess that’s what you gotta deal with. But if you’re WRONG about that, then you’re literally the exact sort of cognitively deficient monster you think you’re facing.

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Mahood 09.08.16 at 10:56 pm

@517 LFC

I continue to believe Collin Street is a brilliant provocateur running a false flag operation here.

520

ZM 09.08.16 at 11:21 pm

I think Collin has actually said before that he or someone in his family has an autism spectrum condition. I don’t think he’s saying the right wing people are evil monsters.

521

kidneystones 09.08.16 at 11:34 pm

Here’s an adult approach to Milo, introduced at Bucknell by a left-wing activist followed by a defense of the university.

522

Faustusnotes 09.09.16 at 12:25 am

Mahood, the link is not to harassment but to a campaign to drive her off he Internet through general nastiness. But it doesn’t matter whether Jessica vale to leaves the internet because of threats to rape and murder her daughter or just because the people being lauded in this thread made life too generally unpleasant for her – speech is speech. Whether you stop it through death threats or using a law to prevent harassment, you have stopped speech. If you accept that harassment and child porn is unacceptable speech then you accept censorship. You are not a defender of the first amendment or any absolutist concept of free speech. You believe that legal and extra legal tools can be reasonably used to limit speech. Whether that extra legal tool is a demonstration, Twitter banning people who make death threats or bombard activists with nasty stuff, and whether he legal tool is a censorship law or a harassment law – whichever tool you think is best, you have accepted that speech should not be free.

Once you understand that we can get down to debating whether person X should or should not have been censored because they said thing Y. But until you accept that we are talking at cross purposes, becuase you think a law to shut down a certain type of speech is not censorship, even though it stops someone speaking through a legal move; and you think an extra lega strategy to stop speech is not censorship because it is violent. Your position is incoherent, and we can’t discuss censorship from such a position.

So far people on this thread who claim to support free speech have identified a wide range of mechanisms to stop speech that they claim are okay. The issue for them is that someone they disagree with has added a method to that toolbox, or has a slightly different idea about exactly which category of things are protected speech. That’s not a debate about free speech, it’s a debate about politics and power.

For example, some people here have suggested libel is one of those things that can be used to shit down speech. Trump has said he wants to make libel laws easier to use to stop newspaper reports attacking him. By most definitions deployed here this is not an attack on free speech. But we all know he has suggested this to shut down speech he doesn’t like. This makes he position of most of the free speech absolutists on this thread contradictory and incoherent.

Any strategy to stop sleeping any kind is censorship. Once you accept that, we can move on to talking about useful issues – who is censoring who, what political forces are at play, what should be allowed and what cannot be stopped and what these things mean for free speech. But we can’t do that until the Americans on the thread come to terms with what censorship and free speech are, and stop treaty the first amendment like a catechism.

523

Faustusnotes 09.09.16 at 12:26 am

Jesus autocorrect you had one job!!

524

LFC 09.09.16 at 12:33 am

Mahood @521
Actually I’m inclined to think C. Street sincerely believes what he writes; he is a commenter of fairly long standing here and this theme is not a new one with him.

To be blunt, the assertion that people on a particular part of the political spectrum suffer from psychological conditions, which is what C. Street has long suggested at Crooked Timber, is something I find quite repulsive and ludicrous. First, it is at least potentially offensive to those who actually *do* suffer from psychological conditions. Second, it collapses political and ideological disagreement into psychological malfunction: conservatives aren’t wrong, according to this view, they are not misguided, no, they are sick.

On this view of the world, Phyllis Schlafly wasn’t wrong; she was sick. Ronald Reagan wasn’t wrong, he was sick. Edmund Burke wasn’t wrong; he was sick. And on and on and on. The claim is that anyone on ‘the other side’ either suffers from, or is close to suffering from, a psychological illness. It’s nonsense.

525

kidneystones 09.09.16 at 12:52 am

@ 524 Here’s your @490 “Above someone posted footage of a Milo Yiannopolous speech being disrupted at a university. What is Milo famous for? And what are his victims famous for? Being forced to cancel their university campus speeches because of death and rape threats, and being forced out of journalism jobs “

College Republicans invited a guest-speaker who supports Trump and who sets out to antagonize the left. The response of a minority is to shout down the speaker and prevent college Republicans from listening to the speaker they bring to campus.

You defend suppressing the rights of college republicans to invite their guest by specifically claiming that ‘his victims’ have been forced to ‘cancel speeches’ and have been ‘forced out of journalism jobs’. You further claim ‘the man’ openly advocates violence.

When challenged repeatedly to provide a single example of just one piece of example of the guest forcing the cancellation of a speech, of advocating that others should have their speech rights suppressed either through violence or threats of violence, or of any individual losing a job, you simply proceed as if you’d never made the charge.

You demand that speech rights of college Republicans be suppressed because college Republicans bring guests to campus who advocate suppressing the speech rights of others and force them to cancel their own speeches, or have them fired.

However, you’ve yet to provide a single example to support your claims.

The longer you wait, the clearer it becomes to all that you have no evidence. Maybe this works in your world, you just jam your fingers in your ears and eyes and pretend ‘I never wrote that.’ Sad.

526

kidneystones 09.09.16 at 12:55 am

My @527 paragraph 4 is especially riddled with sloppy grammar errors. Apologies.

Point made, however.

527

faustusnotes 09.09.16 at 1:02 am

Also let’s check out what Rod Dreher is up to this week. One day he is bemoaning the provision of free sanitary pads at universities, which is apparently the worst form of virtue-signalling ever (toilet paper is fine though). Then the next day he is cheering the Russians for threatening to imprison a kid for five years for playing Pokemon Go in a church, because churches are “sacred spaces.” Sound familiar? If you’re an old white man who is paid to tell young women they’re made of sin you get a safe space so vigorously enforced that a kid can go to prison for playing a computer game there; but if you’re a young woman you don’t even deserve a properly functioning toilet.

I could talk about what this means with the opponents of safe spaces on this thread, but there is little point because they aren’t here to defend the underlying principles (just like their incoherence on free speech, there are no underlying principles) – they’re here to police the political strategy.

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kidneystones 09.09.16 at 1:30 am

The attacks on the free speech rights of college Republicans, under the guise of ‘banning hate speech’ is real, as the Depaul ban on chalking support for Trump confirms.

This anti-democratic behavior is indefensible as Lawrence Tribe noted when he actually pushed through his own biases to examine the ‘totally unfounded’ charges that the IRS targeted conservative political activists. https://twitter.com/tribelaw/status/766399802070462464

Here’s Tribe ‘I confess error wrt IRS ideological targeting. The IG report and the CADC panel decision seem right to me. Inexcusable abuse.’ (That’s August 18, 2016) Democrats pushed the IRS to attack Tea Party groups in 2012.

Here’s Tribe, again, ‘See my agreement that IRS is engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against conservative groups and must be halted’ (Also August 18, 2016)

Note Tribe’s use of the present tense ‘IRS is engage in unconstitutional discrimination against conservative groups and must be halted.

The cocooning of the left in media and universities is so pronounced that even Tribe was ready to dismiss the charges of unconstitutional targeting without examining a shred of evidence. To his credit, when challenged Tribe did read the IG report and CADC panel decision.

Yet, how many here knew that Tribe agrees with Milo and other conservative activists. Four years after the unconstitutional targeting of grass-roots conservatives by the IRS began, conservative activists still find themselves audited and subject to intense scrutiny from one of the most invasive government authorities simply for holding views liberal authority figures deem undeserving of constitutional protections.

Denying college Republicans the right to bring in speakers of their choice is every bit as repellent, no matter how dull or loopy the speaker may be. It’s indefensible and the worst part is that I strongly suspect a sizeable percentage of readers here, like Tribe, are unaware these systematic abuses are taking place, often in their own academic communities.

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Patrick 09.09.16 at 2:05 am

I could point out that its easy to think that “safe space” rhetoric is too frequently an over reaching power grab while also not liking the notably unprincipled Dreher or otherwise being hooked to defend his nonsense, but you are a grown adult and therefore already know that and are simply choosing to pretend otherwise.

530

faustusnotes 09.09.16 at 2:11 am

Yes those despicable university girls, seizing way more power than they deserve by getting free sanitary pads in the toilets.

531

Anarcissie 09.09.16 at 3:02 am

LFC 09.09.16 at 12:33 am @ 526 —
I believe that in the Soviet Union, after the Gulag period, disagreement with the authorities was routinely treated as mental illness. The disease model is actually more profoundly authoritarian than the moral or reasoning model of error, which was convenient in that time and place, because it is outside the will and perceptions of the ‘victim’, whose whole mind is invalid (in both senses of the word).

Still, I would like to know what CS means by ‘Right’. When I was a child, empathy meant knowing what another feels, and sympathy feeling what another feels. The latter word has seemingly gone out of fashion, perhaps retreating to the card sections of drugstores and gift shops, and empathy has been smeared out to cover some of its work. However, if we restore its former rigor and constraint, then I can say I have certainly encountered people I would consider ‘rightists’ (authoritarians) who could discern exactly what I was thinking and feeling, even though they did not agree with it or sympathize (old meaning). There was nothing wrong with their perceptual and analytical skills; they just had different values. But maybe CS means something different by ’empathy’ or ‘the Right’. In any event, woe betide them if the mental health folks get on their case.

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Patrick 09.09.16 at 4:28 am

Sanitary pads are safe spaces now? What, very small, very localized safe spaces? I mean, I’m all for euphemism if its cute but that one’s just ridiculous.

I love the reasoning here.

1. Some people in this thread are skeptical of “safe space” rhetoric.

2. So is Dreher.

3. Dreher once wrote an article complaining about free sanitary pads.

4. Therefore the people in this thread must carry water for this article. MUST. Their actual opinion doesn’t matter; it will be imputed to them.

5. No, in fact, therefore sanitary pads LITERALLY ARE safe spaces, so if the people in this thread say something about safe spaces, they’re also saying exactly the same thing about sanitary pads.

Isn’t this an academic blog?

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Val 09.09.16 at 4:50 am

@534
In so far as it is an ‘academic blog’ (or even just a blog that tries to have sensible discussions), you should try to respect that by not setting up patently ridiculous straw person arguments about sanitary pads being safe spaces.

Perhaps you think talking about sanitary pads is intrinsically silly and therefore there is no requirement on you to make sense?

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faustusnotes 09.09.16 at 5:04 am

That’s clearly teh case Val, since Patrick has hooked onto the sanitary pads bit in order to avoid talking about the sacred spaces bit.

Also, it’s perfectly okay to build broad claims about how some random group of kids at a random university represent the entire left, but Rod Dreher has nothing to do with the right-wing movement against safe spaces. When your enemies do something that shows what you think is their true ideological bent, it’s representative; when your allies do the same for you, they’re an outlier and not representative at all.

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Hey Skipper 09.09.16 at 6:07 am

[Kiwanda @504:] Hay Skipper: “All of the campus censorship has come from SJWs. All of the political violence this election has come from the left.”

When the campus censorship is “Severe event disruption”, shouting down speakers etc, in the FIRE database it’s all from the left, as I noted above.

However, when the censorship is “withdrawing invitation to speak due to viewpoint”, the FIRE database has about the same number of “from the left” and “from the right” disinvitations and withdrawals, although mostly “from the left” in the last few years.

Thank you very much for providing the link. I took a look at the results.

While a decent share of the censorship doesn’t really apply here — private institutions may engage in viewpoint discrimination — you are right, there are indeed instances of the right shutting down speech.

Which is just as reprehensible as when the left does it.

[Collin Street @507:] As I keep on saying: all right-wing activists, without exception, display obvious symptoms of empathy impairment. All distinctively right-wing policies, without exception, reflect the empathy impairment of their advocates. There are no political problems, only mental-health ones.

That is exactly how racists think.

[Faustusnotes @516:] I really think, before people get on their high horse about censorship and violent activism, they should go to the trouble to find out who is being censored and how, and whose speech is being privileged.

I didn’t know about those instances of right wing censorship. Thanks again to Kiwanda for providing the link.

Doesn’t change my position. All such censorship is a travesty, no matter who is doing it.

(Nor my conclusion that virtually all recent censorship has come from SJWs.)

[Faustunotes @524:] If you accept that harassment and child porn is unacceptable speech then you accept censorship. You are not a defender of the first amendment or any absolutist concept of free speech.

No. Here is where you are getting it wrong: “… whichever tool you think is best, you have accepted that speech should not be free.”

First amendment legal doctrine has carved out an extremely large space for protected speech. Speech that falls outside that space is not protected. An argument against censoring protected speech is not troubled in the least by the existence of unprotected speech.

Now, if you want to make a case why unprotected — not unacceptable, unprotected — speech should be protected and, therefore, demonstrate the inconsistency of my argument, then go ahead.

But until then you are persisting in an invalid, and irrelevant, argument. The discussion is about censorship of protected speech.

Oh, and as kidneystones has noted, if you are going to make serious charges, it is best to either back them up, or retract them.

[faustusnotes @529:] Also let’s check out what Rod Dreher is up to this week. One day he is bemoaning the provision of free sanitary pads at universities, which is apparently the worst form of virtue-signalling ever …

I tracked that down.

I think you have badly mischaracterized Mr. Dreher — he was clearly poking fun at virtue signaling, which tends to live mostly on the left, and is very much satire worthy.

And has not heck all to do with (you at 532) “… those despicable university girls, seizing way more power than they deserve by getting free sanitary pads in the toilets.”

536

J-D 09.09.16 at 7:00 am

Hey Skipper 09.07.16 at 11:19 am

[J-D:] I care about their reasons because I am unable to decide whether what they did is a problem without knowing what the reasons for it were. I observe that you can; that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t.

If you care about free speech, then their actions are a problem by definition.

To my way of thinking, caring only about one thing absolutely suggests fanaticism. I am not a fanatic; I care, in different proportions, about many things.

If you don’t, and that seems to be the case, then you stand with them in awarding yourself the power over deciding what others may say, hear, write, and read.

On the face of it, that reads as doubly silly: first, because the idea that people acquire power by awarding it to themselves is patently circular (if people are actually able to ‘award themselves power’ to do something, that can only mean they had the power to do it independently of the ‘awarding’); second, because I don’t have (and can’t meaningfully be ‘awarded’ by myself or anybody else) any power to decide what anybody at the University of Chicago, or any other US university, or anywhere in the US, says, hears, writes, or reads.

Most probably you did have a more sensible idea, but it’s not clear what it was.

That link to Wikipedia contains, I would think, plenty of examples why that is a problem.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution says ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …’. It does not say ‘Nobody shall abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press’ …

There are two serious problems with this.

First, many constitutional restrictions extend to any entity accepting government money. Liberty University, for example, accepts no federal funds, and is free to do as much viewpoint discrimination as it chooses. But UoC does accept government funding, and therefore is as much barred from exercising, or tolerating, viewpoint discrimination as as Congress. As far as this thread is concerned, your comment is true, but irrelevant.

My standard for forming evaluative judgements is not ‘Is that in line with the Constitution of the United States?’, and I don’t think it should be anybody’s. It doesn’t even seem to be yours; you’re disapproving of the behaviour of hecklers, aren’t you? but not on the basis that it’s unconstitutional, surely?

And do you really want to assert that if Liberty University prevents people from speaking, that’s okay, but if the University of Chicago does, that’s not okay? I’m not asking about what’s constitutional, or legal, but about how you yourself judge such actions.

Secondly, 1A jurisprudence has created a civil culture that values almost completely unbridled speech. Should universities tolerate, or, worse, encourage censorship, then civil society is likely to value free speech less. Which, so long as it is progressives deciding what others may think, is just peachy. But what about when the air horn is in the other hand?

I’m not sure how much truth there is in the assertion that jurisprudence in the US has created a civil culture that values almost completely unbridled speech, but the use of the word ‘almost’ interests me. It seems to me that people who value almost completely unbridled speech must do so because they value unbridled speech but they also hold to other values, and that their values sometimes conflict, and that sometimes they find that their concern for unbridled speech is outweighed by other considerations and must give way: which is more or less the way I feel.

Should Trump win, and the zeitgeist get rather less tolerant of progressive ideas, any tolerance of progressive censorship is going to put progressives on very thin ice indeed when they start appealing to free speech.

I can only evaluate any attempt to restrict speech by taking into account (among other things) the reasons for attempting to restrict it. That’s the exact opposite of somebody who thinks that a restriction of speech for one reason is a justification for restricting it for another reason. I don’t think the fact that Donald Trump is capable of misinterpreting a statement is sufficient reason for avoiding it.

What’s more, the Supreme Court, like me, and unlike you, cares about the reasons the government gives for attempting to abridge the freedom of speech; the Supreme Court does not try to decide First Amendment cases without investigating the reasons for the laws under scrutiny.

You have this backwards. SCOTUS has clearly stated there are almost no reasons where abridgment is justified. Which is why virtually every time it is tried, it gets slapped down stat.

Here is an item at Popehat, a legal blog that frequently writes on 1A issues, pretty clearly explains why reasons don’t matter.

As noted in one of the links from that post:

It has long been settled law that the First Amendment is binding on public universities
such as UWS. See Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 180 (1972) (“[T]he precedents of this
Court leave no room for the view that, because of the acknowledged need for order, First
Amendment protections should apply with less force on college campuses than in the
community at large. Quite to the contrary, ‘the vigilant protection of constitutional
freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.’”)

The whole text of the judgement in Healy v James is available online. Have you checked what the result in that case was? The Supreme Court did not decide that there was no possible justification for the university’s restrictive action in the context of that particular case. It decided, after considering the details of the case, that there was a possible justification in the circumstances of the case, maybe, but that the courts below had not investigated that issue properly and so the case had to go back for reconsideration.

Here’s one relevant part of the judgement:

These fundamental errors — discounting the existence of a cognizable First Amendment interest and misplacing the burden of proof — require that the judgments below be reversed. But we are unable to conclude that no basis exists upon which nonrecognition might be appropriate. Indeed, based on a reasonable reading of the ambiguous facts of this case, there appears to be at least one potentially acceptable ground for a denial of recognition. Because of this ambiguous state of the record, we conclude that the case should be remanded, and, in an effort to provide guidance to the lower courts upon reconsideration, it is appropriate to discuss the several bases of President James’ decision. Four possible justifications for nonrecognition, all closely related, might be derived from the record and his statements. Three of those grounds are inadequate to substantiate his decision: a fourth, however, has merit.

It’s absolutely routine for courts to do what the Supreme Court is doing there, by which I mean, saying that each case can be decided only on the basis of its particular facts. In this particular case the Supreme Court is saying, in the passage I’ve just quoted, that not enough information about the facts of this particular case is available for a definitive evaluation; which is roughly what I’ve been saying about all the cases you’ve mentioned.

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J-D 09.09.16 at 7:22 am

Kiwanda 09.07.16 at 7:14 pm

faustusnotes: “I already told you I have been on the wrong side of the (privatized) speech suppression business. It was nasty, very nasty. [Why should I] have sympathy for people like Shapiro who support it, and why should I support their right to advocate more of it?”

I see, so you do not support the right to speak of those who would do so in favor of the suppression of speech. Would you speak in support of the suppression of the speech of those who would favor the suppression of speech? Probably you would suppress such a speech.

Or maybe, Ben Shapiro’s right to speak should be supported independent of its content.

(J-D: here I’m regarding the discussion as occurring in the context of political speech; I do not support Ben Shapiro’s unqualified right to utter any commercial speech he wants, or slander, or anything intended and likely to incite an immediate breech of the peace, or copyright violation, or violation of a nondisclosure agreement, or revealing classified information, or speech so loud as to damage the hearing of those present, or speech likely bring on an invasion by aliens, or magical spells bringing forth demons, or jokes that kill those that hear them, or the ending of Game of Thrones, or anything related to Harambe, Lena Dunham, or Milo Yiannopoulos. In case you were concerned. )

The question that interests me more in this case is not the abstract evaluation of the hypothetical reasons that might — or might not — justify people in trying to prevent Ben Shapiro (and the other speakers cited) from speaking, but rather the concrete evaluation of the actual reasons of the people who made those attempts. Knowing the facts, however, doesn’t seem to interest other people as much as it interests me, and this disparity is another phenomenon that interests me.

538

faustusnotes 09.09.16 at 7:28 am

Hey Skipper, there are countries outside America you know. First Amendment legal doctrine is not the only or even the best theory on free speech. Just because that doctrine has identified “protected speech” and unprotected speech, that doesn’t mean the unprotected speech is suddenly not speech. It simply means that you have identified a specific set of tools for determining what should and shouldn’t be censored. You’re still pro-censorship – you just have a different mechanism for deciding what to censor compared to say an Australian, who has a different legal basis for protecting speech.

If a conservative supreme court suddenly decides that criticizing the bible is not protected speech, that doesn’t suddenly mean that people who criticize the bible are not being censored.

Once you accept that we can talk about censorship. Until you accept that, you don’t have a coherent basis for discussing free speech and censorship.

539

TM 09.09.16 at 8:41 am

The whole debate is bizarre. As long as rightwingers allege that students criticizing the choice of a certain commencement speaker are engaging in censorship and threatening the freedom of speech, they just don’t deserve being taken seriously. They clearly don’t have the slightest clue what “freedom of speech” actually means, or more to the point, they don’t care about freedom of speech except for political propaganda purposes.

Btw kidney, what do you think of journalists saying openly that Hillary Clinton needs to be asked tougher questions than Trump because the expectations are higher? Another episode in the “the media are all in the tank for Hillary” saga.

540

Hey Skipper 09.09.16 at 9:13 am

The whole debate is bizarre. As long as rightwingers allege that students criticizing the choice of a certain commencement speaker are engaging in censorship and threatening the freedom of speech, they just don’t deserve being taken seriously.

Except that no one has made that allegation.

[faustusnotes @540:] Hey Skipper, there are countries outside America you know. First Amendment legal doctrine is not the only or even the best theory on free speech.

It is the only one in the US, which for the purposes of this discussion, is the only one that matters.

Just because that doctrine has identified “protected speech” and unprotected speech, that doesn’t mean the unprotected speech is suddenly not speech.

Never said it wasn’t, only that it is outside the very wide bounds of protected speech. The distinction is important. In the current civic and legal milieu, limitations on protected speech, when tested in court, always fail.

If a conservative supreme court suddenly decides that criticizing the bible is not protected speech, that doesn’t suddenly mean that people who criticize the bible are not being censored.

You can make up anything with hypotheticals. The principle of free speech (and freedom of religion, for that matter) stands, regardless of what your hypothetical court might decide.

And that is, to repeat for the eleventeenth time, speakers and listeners being able to talk and hear without prior restraint. Why is this important? Because prior restraint invariably involves subjectivity. I’ll bet SJWs don’t want to be on the receiving end of what they have been dishing out.

Once you accept that we can talk about censorship. Until you accept that, you don’t have a coherent basis for discussing free speech and censorship.

Your unwillingness to perceive a clear distinction is not my problem.

541

TM 09.09.16 at 9:51 am

“Except that no one has made that allegation.”

That allegation is being made all the time and you can’t possible not be aware of this.

Why does FIRE run a “disinvitation” database with entries like “Students opposed Oren’s selection due to his pro-Israel views” (Brandeis University, 2010, just a random example). Most of the entries in the database simply reflect political controversies, not attempts at censorship. FIRE also lists the alleged “disinvitation” of Robert Zoellick from Swarthmore College in 2013. Except, he was never disinvited. He withdrew because apparently he couldn’t handle criticism from well-informed, politically conscious students. But that apparently threatens freedom of speech.

542

Hey Skipper 09.09.16 at 9:51 am

[J-D @539:] The question that interests me more in this case is not the abstract evaluation of the hypothetical reasons that might — or might not — justify people in trying to prevent Ben Shapiro (and the other speakers cited) from speaking, but rather the concrete evaluation of the actual reasons of the people who made those attempts. Knowing the facts, however, doesn’t seem to interest other people as much as it interests me, and this disparity is another phenomenon that interests me.

I haven’t found that question interesting because I don’t think there is any reason that SJWs could possibly concoct that wouldn’t end up in the bin of circular logic: they are progressives, progressives think only correct thoughts, because they are progressives. Therefore, all disagreement is down to either ignorance, mental illness, or malignance.

In addition, it is very difficult to imagine what Shapiro et al could have said that puts them outside the bounds of protected speech.

Finally, I have spent some time watching some of Shapiro’s presentations. Which is how I ended up concluding the only possible justification could be SJW circular logic.

Have you watched any of his stuff? Can you think of anything he has said justifying SJW heckling and threats?

[J-D @539:] To my way of thinking, caring only about one thing absolutely suggests fanaticism. I am not a fanatic; I care, in different proportions, about many things.

This discussion isn’t about many things, it is about whether view point discrimination is ever acceptable (see also, England, non-platforming). Sure, there are a few cases — in the academic environment, university sponsored events that have a wide audience and expected attendance.

Outside that, though, what?

On the face of it, [awarding oneself power] reads as doubly silly: first, because the idea that people acquire power by awarding it to themselves is patently circular (if people are actually able to ‘award themselves power’ to do something, that can only mean they had the power to do it independently of the ‘awarding’)

Seriously? I decide to stop a Laurie Penny presentation by pulling the fire alarm. By definition, I had the power to do so (as does just about everyone) and I decided to exercise that power — I awarded to myself veto power over Laurie Penny communicating with her audience.

No circularity there.

My standard for forming evaluative judgements is not ‘Is that in line with the Constitution of the United States?’, and I don’t think it should be anybody’s. It doesn’t even seem to be yours; you’re disapproving of the behaviour of hecklers, aren’t you? but not on the basis that it’s unconstitutional, surely?

It is indeed my standard, and it ought to be (although for progressives, often isn’t) the standard for Americans “forming evaluative judgments”.

By this time you can’t possibly be confused over my main point: censoring protected speech is always wrong, regardless of the means: it violates constitutional guarantees, which are there for many very important reasons.

And do you really want to assert that if Liberty University prevents people from speaking, that’s okay, but if the University of Chicago does, that’s not okay?

As a general matter, censoring protected speech is never “okay”. It is much less okay if the UoC does it than Liberty University, to the point where UoC may not, and LU may.

I’m not sure how much truth there is in the assertion that jurisprudence in the US has created a civil culture that values almost completely unbridled speech, but the use of the word ‘almost’ interests me.

That, I hoped, was a clear reference to protected vs unprotected speech. The former category is almost boundless. Not quite — fraud, copyright violation, commercial speech, threats, libel/slander, incitement etc, aren’t protected — but they are all quite limited.

I can only evaluate any attempt to restrict speech by taking into account (among other things) the reasons for attempting to restrict it.

So long as the speech isn’t in an unprotected category, there are no acceptable reasons.

Well, except SJWs seem to think their opinions are sufficient. That can come back to bite.

Have you checked what the result in [Healy v James] was?

Is this the Healy v James holding that refusal to recognize the SDS was a 1A violation?

543

TM 09.09.16 at 10:23 am

“whether view point discrimination is ever acceptable”

On the face of it, view point discrimination is what everybody does all the time. Of course it is acceptable. We don’t read certain publications or authors, we don’t attend certain speeches. Event organizers choose certain speakers over others. Magazine editors invite and publish certain authors and not others. That is discrimination, surely. What do you suggest instead, choosing randomly?

544

J-D 09.09.16 at 11:39 am

I haven’t found that question interesting because I don’t think there is any reason that SJWs could possibly concoct that wouldn’t end up in the bin of circular logic: they are progressives, progressives think only correct thoughts, because they are progressives. Therefore, all disagreement is down to either ignorance, mental illness, or malignance.

I’m not sure I’ve understood you properly. Is it your position that all opinions held by progressives can rightly be dismissed as valueless? if not, how is your position different from that? (also, how can you tell who falls into this category?)

I can say, though, that if that is your position, then it would help to explain why you are less interested in knowing the facts than I am.

Seriously? I decide to stop a Laurie Penny presentation by pulling the fire alarm. By definition, I had the power to do so (as does just about everyone) and I decided to exercise that power — I awarded to myself veto power over Laurie Penny communicating with her audience.

No circularity there.

Saying that you had the power and that you decided to exercise the power is clear, and it adds nothing substantive to expand that description with a reference to your awarding yourself the power.

It is indeed my standard, and it ought to be (although for progressives, often isn’t) the standard for Americans “forming evaluative judgments”.

I can’t think of any reason why I should use conformity with the US Constitution as my standard of judgement, or why you should, for that matter; you certainly haven’t given any reason for it.

By this time you can’t possibly be confused over my main point: censoring protected speech is always wrong, regardless of the means: it violates constitutional guarantees, which are there for many very important reasons.

I am confused, though. Are you asserting that heckling is unconstitutional, or not?

As a general matter, censoring protected speech is never “okay”. It is much less okay if the UoC does it than Liberty University, to the point where UoC may not, and LU may.

I can’t think of any reason why it should be worse if the University of Chicago does it than if Liberty University does it, and I can’t find one in anything you’ve written.

Is this the Healy v James holding that refusal to recognize the SDS was a 1A violation?

What, is there more than one Supreme Court judgement called Healy v James? It was a case about recognition of the SDS, yes; the portion of the judgement I quoted above asserts that there was something called a ‘cognizable First Amendment interest’ (I am not sure whether ‘cognizable’ has some special technical meaning), but also states that there was still a possibility that non-recognition was permissible, despite the First Amendment issue. Unlike you, the Supreme Court did not take the position that as soon as you discover a First Amendment issue, the rest of the facts don’t matter.

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LFC 09.09.16 at 11:59 am

Anarcissie @533
My impression is that CS is using ‘the Right’ in a fairly standard way, but I don’t want to presume to speak for him on that.

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Sebastian H 09.09.16 at 12:01 pm

“Knowing the facts, however, doesn’t seem to interest other people as much as it interests me, and this disparity is another phenomenon that interests me.”. It interests me that in all these comments you have steadfastly refused to sketch out even in broad hints what kind of facts you think would be enough to support censorship. You are very careful to only ask others to clarify what types of facts they find important without revealing yours. It gives the appearance of not actually being interested in the facts, despite your claims because you keep your views above be checked by the facts.

My position is that if you don’t maintain a fairly strong default pro-speech position, you end up destroying free speech. This allows us to spend time analyzing the facts when they matter, and much less time when they don’t. In the kind of university cases which are the main subject of this post, the facts are typically grounded in political disagreement and therefore not particularly exciting UNLESS you think mere political disagreement should be enough. I don’t think they should be enough. We have no idea if you think they should be enough. The fact that this deep in the conversation we don’t have any idea if you think mere political disagreement is enough suggests your question raising may be just bad faith argumentation.

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Hey Skipper 09.09.16 at 12:24 pm

[J-D:] I’m not sure I’ve understood you properly. Is it your position that all opinions held by progressives can rightly be dismissed as valueless?

No, it is my position that I typed very, very badly.

My position, more clearly and less prejudicially, is that their opinions, whatever they may be, have no value with respect to deciding whether their actions were justified, because they can’t be. In exactly the same way that whatever conservatives opinions of Laurie Penny might be, those opinions can’t possibly justify censorship.

I suppose at some level I’d like to know why they take such exception to, say, Ben Shapiro. However, as a practical matter, the why isn’t important.

Saying that you had the power and that you decided to exercise the power is clear, and it adds nothing substantive to expand that description with a reference to your awarding yourself the power.

Well, no one else awarded me the position of censor.

I can’t think of any reason why I should use conformity with the US Constitution as my standard of judgement, or why you should, for that matter; you certainly haven’t given any reason for it.

Since you live (IIRC) in Australia, that’s true to a limited extent. You might not use the US Constitution as the standard of judgment, but the UoC certainly does, and must.

I think if you re-read my posts, you will somewhere find I have mentioned that the alternative to very extensive protected speech is the whimsy of subjectivity. That’s reason enough for me.

I am confused, though. Are you asserting that heckling is unconstitutional, or not?

SFAIK it is. Hecklers can get arrested for trespass or disturbing the peace, and since their goal was censorship, they get no 1A relief.

Here is what FIRE has to say:

[Hecklers do not necessarily violate others’ 1A rights.] For a general example, a solitary shout from a heckler may momentarily interrupt a speaker, but if the heckler causes no further disruption and does not attempt to silence the speaker, then the heckler may still enjoy First Amendment protection. As the NLG points out, it’s when the heckler’s speech suppresses the rights of the speaker that the heckler forfeits his claim to be engaging in free speech. And, as Weeks notes, context is important.

Make no mistake: When a [hecklers think they have] the right to forcibly prevent others from hearing a speaker and [use] heckling as a blunt instrument to silence speech, heckling cannot be condoned as free expression.

I can’t think of any reason why [censorship] should be worse if the University of Chicago does it than if Liberty University does it, and I can’t find one in anything you’ve written.

Gee, can’t imagine why. [/self demeaning humor]

The University of Chicago accepts government funds; therefore, it may never censor protected speech. That is a matter of settled law.

In contrast, Liberty University does not accept government funds; therefore, it may censor to its heart’s desire.

That’s why.

What, is there more than one Supreme Court judgement called Healy v James?

Guess not. It appears you misunderstood the decision:

Held:

1. The courts erred in (1) discounting the cognizable First Amendment associational interest that petitioners had in furthering their personal beliefs and (2) assuming that the burden was on petitioners to show entitlement to recognition by the college, rather than on the college to justify its nonrecognition of the group, once petitioners had made application conformably to college requirements. Pp. 408 U. S. 180-185.

2. Insofar as the denial of recognition to petitioners’ group was based on an assumed relationship with the National SDS, or was a result of disagreement with the group’s philosophy, or was a consequence of a fear of disruption, for which there was no support in the record, the college’s decision violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A proper basis for nonrecognition might have been afforded, however, by a showing that the group refused to comply with a rule requiring them to abide by reasonable campus regulations. Since the record is not clear whether the college had such a rule, and, if so, whether petitioners intend to observe it, these issues remain to be resolved.

IOW, the 1A is paramount: there may be no prior restraint on speech. The reservation the court noted had nothing to specific to do with the SDS, only noting that the only possible way to withhold recognition is if the SDS refused to comply with reasonable rules applying to all campus organizations. Since that was never demonstrated, the court has no opinion on that matter, which had no 1A implications in any event.

Note particularly the 1st sentence in the second para: regardless of association or philosophy, the college’s decision violated the SDS’s 1A rights. That is exactly what I mean when those facts don’t matter.

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J-D 09.09.16 at 12:35 pm

Sebastian H 09.09.16 at 12:01 pm
“Knowing the facts, however, doesn’t seem to interest other people as much as it interests me, and this disparity is another phenomenon that interests me.”. It interests me that in all these comments you have steadfastly refused to sketch out even in broad hints what kind of facts you think would be enough to support censorship. You are very careful to only ask others to clarify what types of facts they find important without revealing yours. It gives the appearance of not actually being interested in the facts, despite your claims because you keep your views above be checked by the facts.

I’m not asking an abstract question about what hypothetical set of facts might in general justify one or another judgement; I’m asking concrete questions about the actual facts of specific situations cited by other people. I don’t recall ever having even heard of these example cases before this discussion, but I’m assuming (perhaps wrongly) that the people who are bringing them into the discussion and passing judgement on them do have some knowledge of the facts. For the most part I don’t even know when or where these things are supposed to have happened, so it’s not easy for me to track down information; I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to ask that the people who are invoking these examples be just a little more specific about them, so I can get just a little bit more of an idea of what they’re referring to.

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Z 09.09.16 at 1:09 pm

Faustusnotes @524, especially ” If you accept that harassment and child porn is unacceptable speech then you accept censorship.”

But I don’t take the letter of the OP to be dealing with a question as wide as free speech and censorship in general; it deals with how the University of Chicago will deal with invited speakers, a minuscule but specific subquestion (though I will note that taking your own analogy, you probably believe that law enforcement with well-defined procedural guidelines is a morally better and more effective way to curb child pornography than private individuals hacking into the computers of consumers; just like I believe that cross-examining or simply ignoring hateful speakers is morally better and more effective than heckling them down).

Also, if I may, I would still be interested to know where you personally draw the line. Would you support people disruptively yelling “You spread hate” during a talk by Anita Sarkeesian? by Steven Salaita? or someone yelling “You want to destroy my country” at the talk of someone advocating for open borders (the charge being at least arguable)? I am guessing that you wouldn’t but I’m genuinely interested in a clear and enforceable criteria distinguishing these cases (as I indicated above, my own inability to find such a criteria leads me to err on the side of prudence; that is to say let people speak).

I mean, even if I could not change your theoretical outlook on the question, at least look at the question from a purely pragmatic point of view: watch Milo Yiannopoulos flaunting his childish narcissism and tell me that being heckled is not what he frankly pathologically craves, so much so that once you subtract immature provocations and “people want to control my life”, almost nothing remains of his one-hour talk. Deal with him in exactly the way befitting such an intellectual lightweight: ignore him totally.

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Sebastian H 09.09.16 at 1:52 pm

And we still don’t know.

551

Mahood 09.09.16 at 1:56 pm

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Patrick 09.09.16 at 1:59 pm

Val- he brings up Dreher and argues that Dreher is a hypocrite because Dreher likes churches as safe spaces but laughs at at free sanitary pads. He argues that this says “something” about safe space skeptics in this thread, but snidely claims that he’s too couth to say it. I point out that Dreher is a well known fool and that there no reason ere has to carry water for him.

And instantly the conversation devolves into “Whaddaya got against sanitary pads, Patrick? Huh? Huh?”

Up to and including literally just taking things I said about safe spaces an swapping in “sanitary pad” for “safe space,” presumably for the lulz.

I’d say this sort of school yard bullying is beneath you all, but it’s happening so apparently it’s not. I suppose I shall have to factor that into how I perceive you and your “contributions” to the conversation in the future.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.09.16 at 1:59 pm

Hey Skipper: “censoring protected speech is always wrong, regardless of the means: it violates constitutional guarantees”

That is ridiculous. You can’t be aggressively unconcerned with what the legal meaning of “censor” is and still refer to censorship as violating constitutional guarantees. Here’s a hint: students (as students) pretty much can not violate constitutional guarantees, by definition. This goes all the way back to why a “heckler’s veto” is really considered to be a veto *by the university*, not by the students — which you weren’t interested in.

Without understanding this, all of the evaluations of force, power, responsibility, and control along the chain get confused, and you get the nonsense above in which some people say “everyone objects to some speech so why not in this case” and some people say “but free speech rights”.

It’s an individual student’s right and responsibility to decide for themselves how to act. If they choose to heckle, they risk formal and informal sanctions. A student group similarly may risk being disbanded, defunded, or having its leaders punished. A university has a lot more power to control what goes on but also a lot more formal responsibility, and has its own set of possible hazards to consider. You can advocate for a viewpoint-neutral social norm in which severe heckling doesn’t occur, and that will change the expected value of all of these decisions. But the outcomes are not the same for all participants and blurring them together doesn’t help.

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Will G-R 09.09.16 at 2:23 pm

Hey Skipper @542, faustusnotes @540 is quite right about the intellectual importance of not burying one’s head, and the brain contained within one’s head, too deep within the ideological rectum of one’s own particular nation-state. Instead of turning exclusively to the opinions of the admittedly august past/present members of the United States Supreme Court, why not turn to some actual foundational work of liberal political philosophy?

Such being the reasons which make it imperative that human beings should be free to form opinions, and to express their opinions without reserve; and such the baneful consequences to the intellectual, and through that to the moral nature of man, unless this liberty is either conceded, or asserted in spite of prohibition; let us next examine whether the same reasons do not require that men should be free to act upon their opinions—to carry these out in their lives, without hindrance, either physical or moral, from their fellow-men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril. This last proviso is of course indispensable. No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions. On the contrary, even opinions lose their immunity, when the circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to constitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous act. An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Acts of whatever kind, which, without justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.

Of course leftist critics of liberalism can raise all the interesting ad hominems we want about Mill’s decision to use a capitalist threatened by a starving mob as his example of a case that might justify limits to free speech, but Mill’s reasoning can be transposed pretty much word for word onto the reasoning employed by those darn censory-censorin’ Ess Jay Dubyas and their darn censory censorship: the speaker is someone like Ben Shapiro (or better yet someone like John Bolton or Paul Wolfowitz), the mob is the combined might of the US/Israeli/Saudi/etc. military, and the corn dealer is a civilian population of whom the speaker is in a position to participate in effecting the military invasion and occupation, at great resulting harm. It should be emphasized that Mill takes a philosophical view and doesn’t assume that support by any particular institutional or state apparatus is in principle relevant to whether any particular act of speech or censorship is justified or not — this is the guy who also writes that “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind” — so the differences in perceived institutional legitimacy between a wealthy business owner in his mansion and the residents of Dahiya, or between a starving mob and a well-funded military, are in principle irrelevant.

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Kiwanda 09.09.16 at 3:12 pm

J-D: “I’m not asking an abstract question about what hypothetical set of facts might in general justify one or another judgement; I’m asking concrete questions about the actual facts of specific situations cited by other people. “

So, you’re staunchly in support of the general principle of talking about specifics. You’re adamant in your contention that, broadly speaking, we ought to get down to brass tacks about these issues. You bow to no one in your desire to, as a rule, dive down into the details. You stand in stern opposition to mere abstraction, demanding always to delve into the concrete. You won’t take no for an answer to your categorical demand to grasp the particulars.

556

Kiwanda 09.09.16 at 3:37 pm

Rich Puchalsky 554: Indeed, if an individual pulls a fire alarm to stop a debate, or shouts down a speaker, or issues an emailed threat, that doesn’t necessarily reflect on any group. But if a university disinvites a speaker from talking to a student group, because another student group objects to the speaker’s likely content, then that reflects badly on the university. Or if the university does not discipline the shouters, and doesn’t make clear its opposition to such disruption, then that reflects badly on the university. Ditto if the university refuses to provide adequate security in response to a threat. (Although, if the university and the FBI conclude that the threat is not credible, not quite as clear.)

As should go without saying, this is independent of the content of the speech or debate. (And again: in the context of speech that is not slander, a “true threat”, etc.) Nor does the speaker generally accrue any martyrdom credits and moral authority.

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Anarcissie 09.09.16 at 4:21 pm

Rich Puchalsky 09.09.16 at 1:59 pm @ 554 —
It seems to me most participants in this discussion strongly desire not to deal with the power dynamics of universities within the state, the economy, and the public culture, which can make the same identical speech, given in a living room, in a park, and on the premises of a university, three very different things.

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Collin Street 09.09.16 at 5:17 pm

My impression is that CS is using ‘the Right’ in a fairly standard way, but I don’t want to presume to speak for him on that.

More-or-less.
+ it’s limited to those advocating for and promoting viewpoints [people whose engagement is receptive/”passive” — such as for example voters-qua-voters are not meant to be covered]
+ It’s actually something only true of the “hard right”, the right flank of the right-wing groupings, excluding right-wing centrists… but the collapse of the centre-right intellectual tradition and support means that this is essentially a moot point; there haven’t been any new centre-rightists made for thirty or more years. I used to specify “hard right”, but there’s really not enough non-hard-right-right left to justify preemptively hedging.

Some other things worth noting:
+ I’ve outlined the basis of my conclusion wrt at least KS up-thread; you can check, and you’ll see that it’s rooted solely in his rhetorical structures and cognitive approaches. My conclusion that KS has some sort of significant language/cognitive impairment is politics-blind, and the link between the signs I see and have mentioned and political frameworks is an inductive one, induced by the vast number of right-wingers who demonstrate HS’s exact problems.
+ I’m not making vague or heavily-hedged claims; “every damned member of a political movement that has control of both chambers of the US legislature has cognitive problems that generate X and Y effects”, or any of the other factors I’ve mentioned, is not a difficult-to-falsify claim. But noone ever tries. Admittedly, “empathy impairment” has some pretty diverse effects, sometimes even contradictory, but still.

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Kiwanda 09.09.16 at 5:43 pm

Anarcissie: “It seems to me most participants in this discussion strongly desire not to deal with the power dynamics of universities within the state, the economy, and the public culture, which can make the same identical speech, given in a living room, in a park, and on the premises of a university, three very different things”

There’s a lot of people who’ve given a lot of talks at a lot of universities who only wish that a university talk had the kind of power and significance those supposed participants are, in their dark secret hearts, so concerned about.

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bruce wilder 09.09.16 at 5:45 pm

Kiwanda @ 556: . . . if a university disinvites a speaker from talking to a student group, because another student group objects to the speaker’s likely content, then that reflects badly on the university.

Does it?

It seems to me that if the objecting group has a sufficiently valid or persuasive critique embodied in its objection, then the university may well do itself credit.

As should go without saying, this is independent of the content of the speech or debate.

Content-neutrality seems like a strong rhetorical position, since it relieves you of the obligation to examine content, but a university is in the business of critically examining content. There are no circumstances in which it can completely escape the imperatives of that function on a priori grounds alone and constraints on time and resources merely sharpen the point. And, that’s before we get to the power dynamics of the wider body politic.

The social norms observed in a university setting regarding controversy are exceedingly complex and always subject to political negotiation and contest. Just revealing what those norms are and how they are constraining the ambit of reason may be politically useful to the society, but is likely to be costly to those who choose to engage in the contest.

Establishing “free speech” as a sacred totem, so that authoritarians invoke it or even respect it in a grudging hypocritical way as a principle transcending petty disputes has its usefulness, even if some philosophic confusion ensues and discussion of proper etiquette displaces seeking after truth or justice. But, if you rely solely on the nullity of an unworkable notion of neutrality to defend the High Principle, you may well find that someone else has worked out detailed rules and sanctions that leave the sacred totem no operative domain.

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LFC 09.09.16 at 6:00 pm

Contrary to b. wilder, there shd be a strong presumption of no-content-examination on university campuses for speakers. The execeptions shd be very rare. I am w others upthread who hold this basic position.

The reason has to do partly w the position of the university in society. It shd be in the business of fostering the broadest possible debate, and while as anarcissie suggests the univ. can’t be disembedded entirely from the (capitalist) society it exists in, it’s still far more insulated from a variety of power-political pressures than other institutions. This makes it well suited to play the role of a environment in which the Holmesian ideal of ideas in some sort of reasonably even-footed competition can approach being realized — it’s never actually going to be realized, but one can approach it.

b wilder:
The social norms observed in a university setting regarding controversy are exceedingly complex
Actually they’re not (or at least used not to be). They’re quite simple.

and always subject to political negotiation and contest. Just revealing what those norms are and how they are constraining the ambit of reason may be politically useful to the society

Those norms don’t “constrain the ambit of reason.” They’re all about enlarging the scope of “the ambit of reason.”

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Hey Skipper 09.09.16 at 6:23 pm

[Rich Puchalsky @555:] That is ridiculous. You can’t be aggressively unconcerned with what the legal meaning of “censor” is and still refer to censorship as violating constitutional guarantees. Here’s a hint: students (as students) pretty much can not violate constitutional guarantees, by definition.

Wrong.

Regardless of the legal liability of the students — did you read the link in my previous post — the university has unavoidable responsibility. If the university fails to prevent hecklers censoring protected speech, then it has played a prohibited role in censorship. By failing to stop hecklers, it provided de facto hecklers’ veto.

This goes all the way back to why a “heckler’s veto” is really considered to be a veto *by the university*, not by the students — which you weren’t interested in.

Did you read the link in my previous post? It clearly describes both uses of the term “hecklers’ veto”.

[Bruce Wilder @561:] Content-neutrality seems like a strong rhetorical position, since it relieves you of the obligation to examine content …

No, it relieves everyone of the impossible burden of objectively examining content.

563

Hey Skipper 09.09.16 at 6:24 pm

564

LFC 09.09.16 at 6:50 pm

typo correction on 2nd line of my comment @561 — exceptions

565

Kiwanda 09.09.16 at 6:59 pm

Bruce Wilder: “It seems to me that if the objecting group has a sufficiently valid or persuasive critique embodied in its objection, then the university may well do itself credit.”

By the way, you omitted my qualification regarding “true threats” and the like (in more detail above, and including also a version of “intimidation”).

Could you give some examples of objections that ought to carry the day? I don’t see where, say, debating Trump supporters or white nationalists or 9-11 “truthers” or flat-earthers would demand censorship, for reasons already discussed. If student groups want to hear what Charles Murray, or William Ayers, or Ben Shapiro, or Narendra Modi, or David Harris-Gershon, or John Derbyshire have to say (and hopefully, debate it), I see that as educational, and part of the free inquiry of a university.

I’m more troubled by SusanC’s example of comedians whose humor is racist: there’s no debate, it’s not a forum, it’s just (arguably) racism-as-fun.

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bruce wilder 09.09.16 at 7:48 pm

Hey Skipper: it relieves everyone of the impossible burden of objectively examining content

Because we wouldn’t want anyone at University examining content. [Yes, that’s sarcasm.]

LFC: Actually they’re not (or at least used not to be). They’re quite simple.

Ah, yes, in a simpler, better time long ago and far away . . . [sarcasm, again]

567

Ronan(rf) 09.09.16 at 8:41 pm

I have all the faith in the world in the youth of the day, and next to zero in the(;myself included ) single issue bores who make up everyone over 30. But if I can’t spend my time complaining about how everything’s going to hell, then what are the positives of getting old ?

568

Ronan(rf) 09.09.16 at 8:43 pm

I still don’t agree with Faustusnotes that all art before crocodile Dundee was awful and #problematic though

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bruce wilder 09.09.16 at 8:45 pm

Universities are gatekeepers. Pretending that there’s no gate to keep is not a solution to the problems of gatekeeping; at best, it is a self-deception and at worst an attempt to deceive others.

One of my alma maters once had a School of Homeopathic Medicine and a Professor of Phrenology. They don’t brag about it in the visitor’s brochure, though maybe they should. Universities should try ideas, but we should not lose sight of the end of a trial, which is judgment. Universities exist to carry the burden of “objectively examining content”. When they do so, they will make errors — that is true enough, but the point of a University is to honor and teach the kind of critical methods that detect and correct errors, logical, factual and moral. Doubt and uncertainty mean that there are always domains of legitimate controversy which cannot be settled immediately by reference to verified knowledge, but it is perverse to willfully maximize the breadth of such domains, knocking flat intelligent discrimination, and it is of no practical use to deny that the time and resources to confront infinite error are finite.

We prohibit censorship by the state because we are concerned to keep wholly arbitrary authority from usurping the role of persuasive reason and good will in fostering a deliberate and discerning discrimination. The role of the University, somewhat “insulated from a variety of power-political pressures”, is precisely to work at that deliberate and discerning discrimination that may prevail against arbitrary power. We don’t promote that end by hiding from the obligation to judge, anymore than we would, if we yield to alleged tribal pressures to enforce allegedly politically correct norms.

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Ronan(rf) 09.09.16 at 8:57 pm

The only one who could ever reach me
Was #problematic
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was #problematic…

: o

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J-D 09.09.16 at 9:13 pm

Kiwanda 09.09.16 at 3:12 pm
J-D: “I’m not asking an abstract question about what hypothetical set of facts might in general justify one or another judgement; I’m asking concrete questions about the actual facts of specific situations cited by other people. “

So, you’re staunchly in support of the general principle of talking about specifics. You’re adamant in your contention that, broadly speaking, we ought to get down to brass tacks about these issues. You bow to no one in your desire to, as a rule, dive down into the details. You stand in stern opposition to mere abstraction, demanding always to delve into the concrete. You won’t take no for an answer to your categorical demand to grasp the particulars.

No: I don’t present myself as staunch, adamant, stern, bowing to none, or refusing to take no for an answer.

I can offer a general position, and it’s this:
speakers should not be heckled without a very good reason.

Is that good enough for you? Do you have a problem with that?

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J-D 09.09.16 at 9:30 pm

bruce wilder 09.09.16 at 5:45 pm
Kiwanda @ 556: . . . if a university disinvites a speaker from talking to a student group, because another student group objects to the speaker’s likely content, then that reflects badly on the university.

Does it?

It seems to me that if the objecting group has a sufficiently valid or persuasive critique embodied in its objection, then the university may well do itself credit.

For example, there is a big difference between, on the one hand, a university cancelling an invitation from an African-American group to Frederick Douglass because a group of Ku Klux Klan members object, and, on the other hand, a university cancelling an invitation from a Turkish group to Talaat Pasha because a group of Armenian students object.

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LFC 09.09.16 at 10:38 pm

@ronan
But if I can’t spend my time complaining about how everything’s going to hell, then what are the positives of getting old ?

yeah this times ******* 1000.

of course i knew wilder wd seize on that one parenthetical phrase in my comment. that’s why i ******* included it.

oh btw have i said **** enough today? probably not.

****, ****, ****

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LFC 09.09.16 at 10:44 pm

b wilder
The role of the University, somewhat “insulated from a variety of power-political pressures”, is precisely to work at that deliberate and discerning discrimination that may prevail against arbitrary power. We don’t promote that end by hiding from the obligation to judge, anymore than we would, if we yield to alleged tribal pressures to enforce allegedly politically correct norms.

Well you can exercise the “obligation to judge” all you want but the problem arises when that obligation gets expressed in the stifling of speech. There are other ways to exercise the ‘obligation’ and I’m fine w those.

575

Collin Street 09.10.16 at 12:32 am

Well you can exercise the “obligation to judge” all you want but the problem arises when that obligation gets expressed in the stifling of speech.

Speech is rivalrous — do you feel the need to insist we relitigate this — which means that we need access / allocation protocols.

This, inevitably/inescapably, means some people get less speaking opportunities than they want. Some people get “stifled”. It is not mathematically possible to avoid this. Whether they lose the opportunities because you silence them or because someone you choose not to silence incessantly speaks over the top of them is up to you, but it’s one or the other.

If you’re going to disagree, give reasons, please. Give some sort of responsive response, say what sort of error I’ve made or what sort of factor I haven’t considered, something that I haven’t mentioned above. Don’t just say, “nuh-uh”. We have spent a fortnight on this shit and I really think that people could do better.

576

Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 4:53 am

[GR:] Instead of turning exclusively to the opinions of the admittedly august past/present members of the United States Supreme Court, why not turn to some actual foundational work of liberal political philosophy?

Mill is already embedded in US free speech concepts.

… but Mill’s reasoning can be transposed pretty much word for word onto the reasoning employed by those darn censory-censorin’ Ess Jay Dubyas and their darn censory censorship:

Everything following the colon demonstrates the falsity of everything preceding it.

(And you also miss that the corn dealer analogy is addressed in US free speech doctrine: incitement.)

[Collin Street:} If you’re going to disagree, give reasons, please. Give some sort of responsive response, say what sort of error I’ve made or what sort of factor I haven’t considered, something that I haven’t mentioned above.

Already done: above, you begged a fundamental question. Until you deal with that, then pretty much everything you have typed since is worthless.

And, this: Speech is rivalrous. Wrong. (And begging for wrongness: you have put yourself in the unenviable position of having to prove a negative.)

577

J-D 09.10.16 at 11:04 am

Hey Skipper

Plainly you and I have different understandings of the decision in Healy v James.

I’ll quote again part of what you quoted:

2. Insofar as the denial of recognition to petitioners’ group was based on an assumed relationship with the National SDS, or was a result of disagreement with the group’s philosophy, or was a consequence of a fear of disruption, for which there was no support in the record, the college’s decision violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A proper basis for nonrecognition might have been afforded, however, by a showing that the group refused to comply with a rule requiring them to abide by reasonable campus regulations.

From that it appears that the court was holding that the decision by the college to deny recognition was not legally permitted if it was based on A, B, or C, but might (perhaps) be legally permissible if it was based on D. So part of the court’s answer to the question ‘Is it legallly permissible for the college to deny recognition?’ was ‘It depends on the basis on which the college made that decision’.

You wrote

The reservation the court noted had nothing to specific to do with the SDS, only noting that the only possible way to withhold recognition is if the SDS refused to comply with reasonable rules applying to all campus organizations. Since that was never demonstrated, the court has no opinion on that matter, which had no 1A implications in any event.

But what’s your basis for saying that it had no First Amendment implications? If you are saying that this kind of denial of recognition sometimes has First Amendment implications and sometimes doesn’t, what’s the basis on which you’re saying that? If that’s not what you’re saying, how is it different from what you are saying?

578

LFC 09.10.16 at 3:07 pm

Will G-R @556
Mill’s reasoning can be transposed pretty much word for word onto the reasoning employed by those darn censory-censorin’ Ess Jay Dubyas and their darn censory censorship: the speaker is someone like Ben Shapiro (or better yet someone like John Bolton or Paul Wolfowitz), the mob is the combined might of the US/Israeli/Saudi/etc. military, and the corn dealer is a civilian population of whom the speaker is in a position to participate in effecting the military invasion and occupation, at great resulting harm.

an ‘A’ for creativity but an ‘F’ for persuasiveness, imho. Wouldn’t Mill be more likely to say “bring in someone to speak who disagrees w Shapiro/Bolton/Wolfowitz” than “prevent them from speaking”?

579

LFC 09.10.16 at 3:16 pm

C. Street:
“speech is rivalrous”

I guess I missed the “proof” of this upthread. (I gather “rivalrous” is being used in some [ostensibly] technical or game-theoretical sense?) I would think it depends v. heavily on the details of the setting.

580

Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 3:41 pm

Hi, J-D:

You wrote —

From that it appears that the court was holding that the decision by the college to deny recognition was not legally permitted if it was based on A, B, or C, but might (perhaps) be legally permissible if it was based on D. So part of the court’s answer to the question ‘Is it legallly permissible for the college to deny recognition?’ was ‘It depends on the basis on which the college made that decision’.

This where I think our differing understandings arise.

The way I read it, A, B and C (relationship with the National SDS, university disagreeing with the group’s philosophy, fear of disruption) were dismissed out of hand. The first two were clear 1A violations. The third, disruption, might be, but there was no evidence to support that.

That leaves D: the refusal could be upheld if the group refused to comply with reasonable campus regulations. This is why I said:

… the only possible way to withhold recognition is if the SDS refused to comply with reasonable rules applying to all campus organizations. Since that was never demonstrated, the court has no opinion on that matter, which had no 1A implications in any event.

I concluded that because the opinion clearly segregated that reason from the other three. IMHO, that is because reasonable rules are things that aren’t speech related. For instance, a reasonable rule might be that any campus group using a campus facility is responsible for returning that facility to its pre-use state.

That is a reasonable rule that applies to all organizations equally, and that has nothing to do with speech. Had the SDS refused to agree to that rule — a pure hypothetical, since the administration offered no evidence that the SDS had done any such thing — then that would have been grounds for the administration to deny the SDS’s recognition request, and it would have had nothing to do with the 1A.

In case I have failed to make myself clear, I will give myself another chance to fail. Reasons A & B are prima facie 1A violations — they are wrong, full stop. Reason C might not be. If the SDS had engaged in incitement, which isn’t protected speech, then that might put the SDS outside protected speech. But since there was precisely zero evidence for this, then the 1A prohibits the administration from imposing prior restraint. (Which is why the police are prohibited from arresting people for crimes they have not yet committed.)

Reason D is purely administrative and, as such, can have nothing to do with speech. (Indeed, if evidence was provided that the administration imposed campus rules far more assiduously on the SDS than other organizations, then the court should have found viewpoint discrimination. See Lois Lerner, IRS, et al. But that wasn’t the case with Healy v. James. It is the case with Lerner and the IRS.)

581

Anarcissie 09.10.16 at 3:43 pm

LFC 09.10.16 at 3:16 pm @ 581 —
Correct. Speech is rivalrous in some settings, less so in others. In some cases the limitations on speech are mechanical, as with broadcast radio, where one speaks to many. In others they are political, social, or cultural, where some get to speak from the dais, under a roof, in front of microphones, under the aegis of credential, office, repute, and power, and others don’t. In this regard it should be obvious that there is a difference between giving a speech in a park and giving a speech at a university. I am surprised at the resolution with which this simple fact is resisted.

582

Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 3:55 pm

[LFC:] an ‘A’ for creativity but an ‘F’ for persuasiveness, imho. Wouldn’t Mill be more likely to say “bring in someone to speak who disagrees w Shapiro/Bolton/Wolfowitz” than “prevent them from speaking”?

Why?

You have two problems here. First, you are implicitly agreeing to the false dilemma which Collin Street is perfectly happy to trot out absent an argument. It is entirely possible for Shapiro to speak unhindered AND for someone else bring to speak who disagrees w/ Shapiro et al.

Which is tantamount to agreeing with Collin saying all speech is rivalrous. No. Not by a long shot. Unless Shapiro had commandeered all speaking opportunities at all times in all places — or even a substantial portion of them — then Shapiro’s speech was not rivalrous. Those disagreeing had exactly the same ability to choose a venue and time as Shapiro did. There was absolutely no opportunity cost imposed on SJWs by Shapiro speaking.

The second problem is the extremely tortured argument from analogy. There are precisely two conditions where argument from analogy is acceptable. 1. The analogy simplifies the issue. 2. The analogy encompasses the conditions attending the issue; no more, no less. Those are two excellent reasons to strenuously avoid argument by analogy.

Will G-R @556 proposed an analogy so far divorced from the issue as to render it worthless. Had he used the parties and positions exactly as they were, with respect to Mill, then he would have found himself addressing whether Shapiro’s speech constituted an affront to incitement. Which, in turn, would have returned him right back to the hecklers’ veto.

And, in turn, to Collin Street’s begged question.

583

Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 3:56 pm

(J-D — For whatever reason, I have a comment at 582 that is awaiting moderation.)

584

Collin Street 09.10.16 at 4:12 pm

I am surprised at the resolution with which this simple fact is resisted.

Because if speech is rivalrous at all, speech is not in the general case cost-free and regulation in some cases is required. Which means speech can’t be completely unregulated, and “no speech regulation evah!” purists are stuck in the muck with the rest of us making pragmatic empirical judgements.

All this is double if “no speech regulation evah!” is something you’ve made a significant part of your identity. “If we agree with you it’d mean we were wrong all along” is a powerful motivation for persistence in error.

585

Collin Street 09.10.16 at 4:13 pm

And, in turn, to Collin Street’s begged question.

You don’t even know what a begged question is.

586

kidneystones 09.10.16 at 4:44 pm

The idea that only the left practices the policies of intimidation and censorship is ludicrous.

http://dailycallernewsfoundation.org/2016/09/10/catholic-university-drops-judge-as-speaker-over-pro-life-backlash/

First, it’s provably false. Second, it encourages faux physicians and amateur psychiatrists to ply their quackery in a quasi-academic setting: eg. ‘All x are sociopaths.’

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Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 4:54 pm

[Collin Street:] You don’t even know what a begged question is.

“Begging the question” is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself.

Way above, I flagged the comment where you begged a question. It happens to be the central motivation underlying freedom of speech.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you can’t figure out what it is.

Might have something to do with being unaware of an error while making it.

Because if speech is rivalrous at all, speech is not in the general case cost-free and regulation in some cases is required. Which means speech can’t be completely unregulated, and “no speech regulation evah!” purists are stuck in the muck with the rest of us making pragmatic empirical judgements.

You are making the same mistake you did before, but one step removed.

And it is all about grand assertions without so much as a thread of argument. Hint: Your consequent does not follow from the antecedent.

588

LFC 09.10.16 at 4:56 pm

@Hey Skipper
It is entirely possible for Shapiro to speak unhindered AND for someone else bring to speak who disagrees w/ Shapiro et al.

Yes. My point was that Will G-R tried to use Mill in support of ‘hindering’ Shapiro. Mill, I think, wd have been likely to advocate ‘more speech’ in this context (i.e. bringing in another speaker w another pt of view) rather than ‘hindering’ Shapiro. Fairly basic pt. Sorry if you found my expression of it unclear. (In other words, it’s not an either-or, it’s both-and: (1) Shapiro (or, within wide bounds, whoever) speaks unhindered; (2) students who disagree bring in their own speaker to contest what Shapiro said. So I think we agree on this particular pt.)

589

Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 4:57 pm

[kidneystones:] The idea that only the left practices the policies of intimidation and censorship is ludicrous.

Do you not see how this fits into the realm of rivalrous v. non-rivalrous speech, or how the invitation to a speaker from the university might differ from a campus organization?

590

LFC 09.10.16 at 5:07 pm

Anarcissie @582

In this regard it should be obvious that there is a difference between giving a speech in a park and giving a speech at a university.

Sure, and X’s NYT op-ed is going to be more widely read than Y’s comment on some blog or other. And so on.

But I thought the question at hand had to do with the approach to speech within a university setting.

591

kidneystones 09.10.16 at 5:14 pm

@ Hey Skipper. Nope. But I’m not looking, no disrespect intended. The sub-thread is a distraction, imnsho, and an intentional diversion from what I and perhaps you see as the main issue: the golden rule applies for all because the golden rule produces the best outcomes for all. We believe that, or we don’t.

I do.

Cheers

592

bruce wilder 09.10.16 at 6:12 pm

A listener’s (reader’s, viewer’s) attention must be available and focused and there are only so many hours in the day and many other matters which any individual must attend. Eyeballs and ears are not only scarce resources, but being for political purposes a commons, congestion and exhaustion are significant hazards.

The power to flood the available space, or to disable or corrupt the capacity of discerning critics and gatekeepers, can be, if anything, more effective as a tool of political domination and control in our inverted totalitarianism than the authoritarian’s censor was in an earlier day.

593

Hey Skipper 09.10.16 at 6:23 pm

[LFC:] (In other words, it’s not an either-or, it’s both-and: (1) Shapiro (or, within wide bounds, whoever) speaks unhindered; (2) students who disagree bring in their own speaker to contest what Shapiro said. So I think we agree on this particular pt.)

[Collin Street:] All this is double if “no speech regulation evah!” is something you’ve made a significant part of your identity. “If we agree with you it’d mean we were wrong all along” is a powerful motivation for persistence in error.

Strawman much?

594

Will G-R 09.10.16 at 9:40 pm

@ LFC: Wouldn’t Mill be more likely to say “bring in someone to speak who disagrees w Shapiro/Bolton/Wolfowitz” than “prevent them from speaking”?

From this it seems like you missed the point of the analogy. The Ess Jay Dubyas’ reasoning in so many words is that Wolfowitz and his ilk are speaking to a “mob” (the military) and “inciting” it (convincing the political apparatus in charge of it to order it) to “burn down” (to bomb into rubble) the “corn dealer’s” (the population of Iraq’s/Dahiya’s/Gaza’s) “house” (immediate community and/or entire country). At this point, the way the Ess Jay Dubyas see it, Wolfowitz either is crossing or has long since crossed the threshold separating speech per se from action, at which point the imperative to constrain one’s objection within the boundaries of the “marketplace of ideas” becomes irrelevant. Of course given his own background Mill wasn’t exactly what one would call a thoroughly principled anti-imperialist, but unless he could find a reason to reject one of those equivalencies in principle, his reasoning would seem to justify if not every single individual case of Ess Jay Dubya “heckler’s veto” then at least the compatibility in principle between such a veto and the ideas of liberty and free speech.

As Hey Skipper seems to be hinting, if Mill would attack any of those equivalencies first, it’d be the concept of “incitement” as applied to the institutional political process of a justifying, approving, and launching a military invasion, especially when the invader is a Western imperial power and the invasion is of a non-Western “undeveloped”/”developing” society. Mill in fact explicitly argues for Western imperialism in On Liberty on the grounds that “despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end”, a less-than-astonishingly naïve ideological take on the benevolent motives behind Western foreign aggression. But since today’s crowd of woke, anti-racist liberals seem to be no longer OK with all that explicit white-man’s-burden stuff where unwashed Third-World brown people are literally equivalent to children or the mentally disabled, what we’re left with is an argument that the only thing distinguishing Wolfowitz from the mob-inciter is the institutional process through which Wolfowitz conducts his “incitement”, and as long as Mill assumes that all actors in question are mature civilized white people he rejects that this distinction should be prima facie pivotal. Certainly if the tables were turned, and a “primitive” non-Western society was deliberating over whether to invade a Western country, Mill would be less reluctant to deem as incitement the speech of “an Akbar or a Charlemagne” (or more likely a Genghis or an Attila) in whipping up his savage barbarian horde into an animalistic tribal berserker fury against the innocent white women and children or whatever, and less likely to characterize someone who silences this barbarian political leader through shouting or even through violence as having thereby violated his just entitlement to freedom of speech and expression.

And yes, when hashing out these philosophical issues in legal settings like the US Supreme Court, the reasoning of institutional actors like lawyers and judges does pivot on terms like “imminent” and “immediate” to determine whether (say for instance) an assassination threat against President Obama by Stormfront user Saxon-Dominion_1488 constitutes protected political speech or criminal incitement. To the extent that Mill accepts this cop-out too, it’s arguably for the same reasons as his racist stance on barbarians and despotism — Western-style state and civic institutions are historically “mature” and therefore tacitly assumed to confer some sort of deliberative legitimacy, even when their instrumental rationality makes their progression toward violence no less imminent or immediate than that of an angry mob — but as one might also say regarding the assertion that “all men are created equal”, the reasoning itself transcends its initially blinkered and parochial application. Ultimately the cop-out falls into the same category of reasoning as Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” standard for obscenity, a decision to ignore the potential philosophical grey areas and contradictions of one’s own stance with a quick-and-dirty practical workaround that functions because a powerful institution has deemed it not to be challenged and can effectively silence those who disagree. If we’re acting not as representatives of the law but as philosophers, this stance that “I know the difference between Paul Wolfowitz and Saxon-Dominion_1488 when I see it” shouldn’t be good enough.

595

LFC 09.10.16 at 10:26 pm

No, I got the pt of the analogy, but I just don’t find it very convincing.

Putting Mill himself to one side for the moment, the military as incitable “mob” doesn’t work here, imo. “Incitement” to me implies something quite direct and is not equivalent to “convincing the political apparatus to order the military to do something.”

Moreover, if, e.g., Wolfowitz gave a speech or speeches on a campus in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, he was likely trying to justify to the public (or a subset of it) a policy that had basically already been decided upon. Not incitement.

And w.r.t.
Western-style state and civic institutions are [Mill would say] historically “mature” and therefore tacitly assumed to confer some sort of deliberative legitimacy, even when their instrumental rationality makes their progression toward violence no less imminent or immediate than that of an angry mob

There is an assumption here that Western state and civic institutions’ “instrumental rationality” leads those institutions to want to fight wars. Highly debatable, to put it no more strongly. And in fact, w/r/t the U.S. military itself, the top brass wd probably be very happy to accumulate fancy weapons that it never had to use. It doesn’t go out of its way these days looking for occasions to use them in conflict, is my impression. It likes its worldwide presence and its hundreds of bases all over the globe, and its special ops and drones etc., but it doesn’t routinely go looking for wars, esp. not full-scale ones. (This is obvs a generalization subject to exceptions and reasonable people will disagree, I’m sure.)

p.s. We have now in Syria, before the most recent US/Russian-brokered cease-fire that appears already to be breaking down, a situation where the Assad regime has been deliberately bombing hospitals and committing other atrocities and the U.S. admin is resisting calls from the Syrian opposition to become directly involved in fighting Assad in any way, preferring to concentrate its airpower against ISIS. That suggests that, claims about ‘instrumental rationality’ to the contrary notwithstanding, a U.S. president is very capable of deciding when and where to use and not use force, and neither civilian nor military institutions are inexorably driven to apply violence by some internal ‘rationality’.

596

Anarcissie 09.10.16 at 11:16 pm

LFC 09.10.16 at 5:07 pm @ 591:
‘But I thought the question at hand had to do with the approach to speech within a university setting.’

No university is an island.

597

J-D 09.11.16 at 1:14 am

I am confused, though. Are you asserting that heckling is unconstitutional, or not?

SFAIK it is. Hecklers can get arrested for trespass or disturbing the peace, and since their goal was censorship, they get no 1A relief.

Possibly I have not made myself sufficiently clear.

In the Constitution of the United States I find (among other things) the following words:

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Therefore, any violation of those terms — for example, by the election as a Representative of somebody aged twenty-three, or somebody who has only been a citizen for five years — would be unconstitutional.

But I don’t find anything in the Constitution prohibiting heckling, or trespass, or disturbance of the peace. Those things might be illegal, which is to say violations of hte law, but not unconstitutional, which is to say violations of the constitution. If trespass is illegal, it is because there are laws against trespass; but there is no constitutional requirement (that I can find) that there must be laws against trespass. The law deals with the status of trespass, but the Constitution (unless I’m missing something) doesn’t. People are not (as far as I can tell) prohibited by the Constitution from heckling.

In that sense, is it your position that heckling is unconstitutional? and if so, why?

598

Hey Skipper 09.11.16 at 4:54 am

In that sense, is it your position that heckling is unconstitutional? and if so, why?

I’ve already explained that above (and is fully explained in a link). When the degree of heckling arises to the point where it denies the freedom of speakers to talk and listeners to hear, then that heckling is censorship. Censorship, regardless of the means, is completely antagonistic to the 1A.

To hold otherwise renders the 1A meaningless.

599

J-D 09.11.16 at 5:20 am

Hey Skipper

I can’t see anything in your analysis of Healy v James which changes the fact that the judgement is saying that whether the action taken by the university in that case was constitutional depends on the reason for which they did it; even though the university’s action had the same effect on the freedom of association regardless of the reason for doing it:

Among the rights protected by the First Amendment is the right of individuals to associate to further their personal beliefs. While the freedom of association is not explicitly set out in the Amendment, it has long been held to be implicit in the freedoms of speech, assembly, and petition. See, e.g., Baird v. State Bar of Arizona, 401 U. S. 1, 401 U. S. 6 (1971); NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S. 415, 371 U. S. 430 (1963); Louisiana ex rel. Gremillion v. NAACP, 366 U. S. 293, 366 U. S. 296 (1961); NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U. S. 449 (1958) (Harlan, J., for a unanimous Court). There can be no doubt that denial of official recognition, without justification, to college organizations burdens or abridges that associational right. The primary impediment to free association flowing from nonrecognition is the denial of use of campus facilities for meetings and other appropriate purposes. The practical effect of nonrecognition was demonstrated in this case when, several days after the President’s decision was announced, petitioners were not allowed to hold a meeting in the campus coffee shop because they were not an approved group.

(You should notice, incidentally, that the freedom under discussion is not freedom of speech.)

600

J-D 09.11.16 at 5:21 am

Hey Skipper 09.11.16 at 4:54 am
In that sense, is it your position that heckling is unconstitutional? and if so, why?

I’ve already explained that above (and is fully explained in a link). When the degree of heckling arises to the point where it denies the freedom of speakers to talk and listeners to hear, then that heckling is censorship. Censorship, regardless of the means, is completely antagonistic to the 1A.

To hold otherwise renders the 1A meaningless.

But haven’t you already asserted above that if censorship is carried out by a private organisation like Liberty University it isn’t a violation of the constitution?

601

Hey Skipper 09.11.16 at 6:48 am

[J-D:] But haven’t you already asserted above that if censorship is carried out by a private organisation like Liberty University it isn’t a violation of the constitution?

Yes, but: the UoC, or any other university accepting public funds is not a private institution, and therefore has a legal — yes, legal — duty to ensure free speech without regard to viewpoint.

So when a public university charges a group $1,000 for event security, then fails to provide said security and the event is cancelled due to heckling (this has happened), then the public university failed its 1A obligations (It would have done so regardless of any charge for security, BTW) regardless of the affiliation of the hecklers. That they may be private actors is irrelevant.

As it must be, for the 1A to have any meaning.

[J-D:] I can’t see anything in your analysis of Healy v James which changes the fact that the judgement is saying that whether the action taken by the university in that case was constitutional depends on the reason for which they did it; even though the university’s action had the same effect on the freedom of association regardless of the reason for doing it.

Well, yes the university’s action could have been constitutional had it been due to a specific reason that had no relationship to viewpoint or content, and for which there was exactly no evidence in any event. There are many plausible administrative reasons that — if equally applied to all organizations without regard to viewpoint or speech (which is what you think you need to assess before making a decision — that would pass muster. I gave an example above.

But the clear decision in Healy was that the university explicitly denied the SDS recognition solely due to viewpoint and content. The administration hated the SDS and what it stood for, and decided to deny them recognition solely on that account.

(You should notice, incidentally, that the freedom under discussion is not freedom of speech.)

Strictly speaking, you are right. But, as noted in the secon sentence of your pull quote, that is a distinction without difference.

I’m sure this isn’t important, but I think the SDS was as barmy as SJWs are now. Despite that, I also think attempting to impede the SDS’s freedom of association (and, by extension, speech) was just as repellant as SJW censorship is now.

The argument stands without any regard to content.

602

J-D 09.11.16 at 7:02 am

Hey Skipper

Anybody who charges a fee to provide a security service and then fails to make a reasonable effort to provide the service they’ve charged for is, obviously, in default; if you charge a fee to provide a security service you should at least make a reasonable attempt to do so, and I’d still say the same thing even if that was not the law.

However, you now appear to be saying that the hecklers are allowed to heckle but that the University of Chicago is obligated to prevent them, which may for all I know be an accurate summary of the relevant constitutional law; but I still don’t regard the constitutional position as automatically the last word.

Well, yes the university’s action could have been constitutional had it been due to a specific reason that had no relationship to viewpoint or content, and for which there was exactly no evidence in any event. There are many plausible administrative reasons that — if equally applied to all organizations without regard to viewpoint or speech (which is what you think you need to assess before making a decision — that would pass muster. I gave an example above.

But the clear decision in Healy was that the university explicitly denied the SDS recognition solely due to viewpoint and content. The administration hated the SDS and what it stood for, and decided to deny them recognition solely on that account.

All of which is consistent with my previously stated position: if you want to evaluate the action, you have to inquire into the reasons for it.

603

Hey Skipper 09.11.16 at 9:09 am

All of which is consistent with my previously stated position: if you want to evaluate the action, you have to inquire into the reasons for it.

No, it isn’t. If the action was censorship, it is (absent very few and limited exceptions) wrong, full stop. If you think that it is permissible to assess the 1A acceptability of hecklers’ actions by their reasons for censoring others’ speech, then you are wrong, no matter how congenial you, or I, might find them.

You can assess their motivations to a fare thee well, but in so far as the US concept of free speech goes, it is meaningless.

However, you now appear to be saying that the hecklers are allowed to heckle but that the University of Chicago is obligated to prevent them, which may for all I know be an accurate summary of the relevant constitutional law; but I still don’t regard the constitutional position as automatically the last word.

Can and may are two different things. I think it clear from the UoC letter that it is a matter of policy that heckling to the point of censorship is unacceptable, and that the UoC is completely within constitutional law to, for instance, expel those who, through whatever means, disrupt speakers and listeners.

Also, there is a distinction between heckling that highlights people’s objections to content or viewpoint, and that which prevents protected speech. It is the latter I am talking about.

And, thanks in good part to Healy, the constitution is the last word. Subjective view point discrimination is out of bounds.

604

J-D 09.11.16 at 9:38 am

Hey Skipper

1. According to you, it’s not necessary to know the reasons. But when I look at what the Supreme Court did in Healy v James, I find that they did investigate the reasons.

2. Obviously the Constitution is the last word on the question of what is constitutional, but I don’t accept it as the last word on any other question, and I’m not going to be persuaded to change my stance by your vehemence.

605

ZM 09.11.16 at 10:07 am

faustusnotes,

“Also let’s check out what Rod Dreher is up to this week. One day he is bemoaning the provision of free sanitary pads at universities, which is apparently the worst form of virtue-signalling ever (toilet paper is fine though). Then the next day he is cheering the Russians for threatening to imprison a kid for five years for playing Pokemon Go in a church, because churches are “sacred spaces.” Sound familiar? If you’re an old white man who is paid to tell young women they’re made of sin you get a safe space so vigorously enforced that a kid can go to prison for playing a computer game there; but if you’re a young woman you don’t even deserve a properly functioning toilet.”

“That’s clearly teh case Val, since Patrick has hooked onto the sanitary pads bit in order to avoid talking about the sacred spaces bit.”

I think you are misrepresenting Dreher’s article about the Pokemon Go player here.

I think the guy who played Pokemon Go in the church was an adult not a kid, and he played Pokemon Go in the church knowing it was illegal.

Dreher said that he would only give the Pokemon Go player 5 days maximum in gaol for something like this, but he talked in the article about the context of the event in Russia, which was that historically in the communist era the Russian Orthodox church had been banned and people had been massacred.

So he was saying in that context it was pretty appalling to go and play Pokemon Go in the church and blog about it just to be controversial and provocative knowing it was illegal and knowing the history of the church in Russia.

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John Holbo 09.11.16 at 10:53 am

” If the action was censorship, it is (absent very few and limited exceptions) wrong, full stop.”

This full stop isn’t going to bring the issue to the halt you desire, Skipper. You have to distinguish, at a minimum, wrong morally and wrong Constitutionally, i.e. legally forbidden by the US Constitution. (And you need to distinguish morally wrong in the eyes of Hey Skipper and unconstitutional. And you also have to distinguish between should-be-unconstitutional according to Hey Skipper and actually unconstitutional, i.e. there is clear precedent in this area.)

I’m not interested in getting in a moral argument with you about censorship, Hey Skipper. Been there, done that. But if you genuinely are curious about the Constitutional status of these sorts of potential claims, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that it is not clear. There is some – not strong – precedent for the position that the shoe is on the other foot. That is, protesters’ voices are Constitutionally protected, ergo there is a Heckler’s veto. I don’t think that makes sense, but the fact that the argument has been made suggests that the situation is not clearly the diametrical opposite of that.

Check out

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_v._Colorado

There it was decided that there was no Constitutionally protected right to speak within a certain radius of a medical center, but the attempt was made to argue that there was.

Check out also:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_v._City_of_Chicago

The issue there is slightly different: suppose a demonstration contains some rowdy elements and some protesters who are not being so rowdy. Can the cops bring disorderly charges against ALL of them. Answer: no. This is related to your contention that the U of C would (if Hey Skipper were appointed to a majority of seats on the Supreme Court) be guilty of violating the 1A rights of speakers if it failed to protect them adequately against protesters to continue their speeches. This would run afoul of the precedent that hecklers can’t make others guilty-by-association of heckling. The U of C is not the hecklers and does not clearly have a supererogatory duty to stop heckling, on pain of being guilty of 1a violation of speakers’ rights.

You cite the Healy case, but it isn’t clearly analogous to the heckler case. Acts by the university are not automatically legally equivalent to acts by third parties that the university fails, positively, to prevent.

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Hey Skipper 09.11.16 at 12:00 pm

Hi, John,

You have to distinguish, at a minimum, wrong morally and wrong Constitutionally, i.e. legally forbidden by the US Constitution.

You have lost me here, because distinction you are insisting I make is in two different realms, for good reason.

My moral assessment might very well be different than yours. Since I can think of no reason why my moral sensitivities are in any way superior to yours, I am equally unimpressed if the tables are turned.

That is because moral assessments are inherently subjective. Your reproductive rights may be my murders of convenience. That is a perfect example of an impossible distinction because both points of view have considerable merit, and weaknesses. What then?

Which is why the Constitutional viewpoint is in a different realm. Ideally (and the court cites you attached come close) those decisions are based upon objective reasons completely independent of viewpoint.

Therefore, I can’t fathom why my moral opinion has any bearing on a Constitutional conclusion.

(Gotta go. Train to catch.)

608

John Holbo 09.11.16 at 12:42 pm

“Therefore, I can’t fathom why my moral opinion has any bearing on a Constitutional conclusion.”

I’ve seen people puzzled as to how 1 could = 2. But you, sir, are the first I’ve seen sincerely stumped as to how 2 could = 2. I could tell you to read the first 300 pages of Russell’s “Principia Mathematica”, but I fear you would find no relief!

609

Sebastian H 09.11.16 at 1:05 pm

“The power to flood the available space, or to disable or corrupt the capacity of discerning critics and gatekeepers, can be, if anything, more effective as a tool of political domination and control in our inverted totalitarianism than the authoritarian’s censor was in an earlier day.”

An enormous portion of this thread seems to involve making true statements that don’t have much to do with the discussion. Yes we limit free speech in the case of certain direct threats, no such direct threats have anything to do with any of the cases under consideration. Yes completely flooding all communication channels is dangerous to free speech, no that has nothing to do with the cases under discussion. J-d is my favorite with that: yes facts are important but NONE OF THE FACTS IN THESE CASES lend themselves to censorship under free speech models. It seems that quite a few people in this thread just refuse to accept that they don’t like the liberal idea of free speech very much. So they painfully contort their arguments to sound like they support it by engaging in circular nit picking or by raising “torture is ok in the right hypothetical therefore you agreed that torture is ok HA” types of ‘logical’ arguments.

Here are some other things that impact free speech:
The heat death of the universe,
The sun experiencing a super nova,
A giant meteor destroying civilization,
Aliens enslaving us.

If you want to be able to regularly censor your political opponents just make the argument about how you think that will be better than free speech defaults. Stop pretending.

610

ZM 09.11.16 at 1:14 pm

John Holbo,

““Therefore, I can’t fathom why my moral opinion has any bearing on a Constitutional conclusion.”

I’ve seen people puzzled as to how 1 could = 2. But you, sir, are the first I’ve seen sincerely stumped as to how 2 could = 2. I could tell you to read the first 300 pages of Russell’s “Principia Mathematica”, but I fear you would find no relief!”

I think you’re wrong. This isn’t how the law works. When the law works like this the law isn’t working at all.

If you really think this is how the law should work you would think the trial in To Kill A Mockingbird went right — but no one thinks that trial went right.

Hey Skipper is correct that there has to be objectivity in legal decision making.

611

John Holbo 09.11.16 at 1:24 pm

“I think you’re wrong.”

About 1 = 2? Or 2 = 2?

To put it another way: I can’t tell what you think I’m wrong about, ZM.

“Hey Skipper is correct that there has to be objectivity in legal decision making.”

I’m not opposed in the least.

612

ZM 09.11.16 at 1:30 pm

Hey Skipper wrote: “Therefore, I can’t fathom why my moral opinion has any bearing on a Constitutional conclusion.”

Then you wrote: “I’ve seen people puzzled as to how 1 could = 2. But you, sir, are the first I’ve seen sincerely stumped as to how 2 could = 2.”

This sounds like you are saying that 2 = 2 is “[Hey Skipper’s] moral opinion” = “a Constitutional conclusion”…

Is that what you meant?

613

John Holbo 09.11.16 at 2:48 pm

“Is that what you meant?”

No.

Maybe this will help. It sounds like you want to assert the correctness of what is called legal positivism: the law is a system of rules that can/should be applied objectively without any input of extra-legal moral sentiment, intuition, judgment, what have you.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/legal-positivism/

If that’s what you are saying I’m wrong about – namely, I don’t acknowledge the correctness of legal positivism – then my answer is: yes, I don’t acknowledge the correctness of lp. I regard it as an inadequate philosophy, descriptively and normatively.

I’m not so sure about Skipper. Up at 605 he was clearly equating moral and legal reasons. Then at 609 he seemed to be saying, to the contrary, that never the twain shall meet, i.e. he shifted to assert legal positivism? That was what my 2 = 2 remark concerned, but perhaps it’s not worth unpacking.

614

Val 09.11.16 at 2:49 pm

ZM – what I think just happened (roughly)

John Holbo told Hey Skipper that he (HS) needed to distinguish between his moral judgement and the Constitution (ie they are not the same thing)

Hey Skipper, confused and confusingly, said ‘I don’t see what my moral judgement has to do with the Constitution’.

John Holbo said in effect ‘I just told you they were two separate things. Why are you apparently disagreeing with that?’

so John Holbo can correct me if I’m wrong, but unlike most of this thread, this seemed like a simple misunderstanding that could be sorted out (your misunderstanding of JH I mean), whereas the rest of it seems a bit like the labour of Hercules to sort out, if one ever could

Possibly because quite a few people writing on the thread want to believe that there is some absolute way that one can judge who is right and who is wrong, and have a lot of trouble with the concept of uncertainty

615

Val 09.11.16 at 2:52 pm

My explanation crossed with JH’s reply. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will have the fortitude to pore over them and see if they are compatible

On first glance there seem to be at least some areas of agreement

616

John Holbo 09.11.16 at 2:53 pm

Yes, Val has it right.

617

Will G-R 09.11.16 at 2:58 pm

LFC @ 597: Moreover, if, e.g., Wolfowitz gave a speech or speeches on a campus in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, he was likely trying to justify to the public (or a subset of it) a policy that had basically already been decided upon.

That’s exactly the point! Especially in the case of the Iraq war, it’s quite clear that the relevant policies have been decided on ahead of time by all or almost all institutional actors, before they’re ever presented as topics for deliberation to the “marketplace of ideas” of civil society and the public at large. Mill’s defense of the marketplace of ideas presumes that this marketplace is how a mature, just, democratic society actually decides on its course of action; you and I and the Ess Jay Dubyas all appear to agree that this isn’t the case here, and the marketplace is only functioning to provide a rubber stamp of legitimacy on decisions that have already been made in a quasi-democratic or arguably undemocratic manner. This is doubly alarming when a particular predetermined course of action like the Iraq war is judged to be illegitimate even if undertaken in a fully democratic way, much like Mill’s starving mob burning down his corn dealer’s house. (Which wasn’t some kind of niche position either, given the number of otherwise US-allied governments that refused to participate for exactly this reason.)

Given all aspects of this scenario it seems questionable to assume that the overriding imperative is to respect decision-makers’ freedom of expression within the marketplace of ideas. Barring a violent revolution to topple the entire state apparatus, one has no real political recourse but to explicitly protest the democratic legitimacy of that entire group of institutional actors, particularly the prominent group of neocon hawks who make their living in the nebulous area of overlap between DOD political appointments, think-tank sinecures, and defense-industry lobbying gigs. (And these people are a thoroughly bipartisan group, as evidenced most recently by the way even the most ostensibly GOP-aligned among them have tripped over themselves to endorse Clinton, so voting for one major party over another won’t do the trick either.) If these people are annoyed at being shouted down by some uppity Ess Jay Dubya when they’re invited to speak at a university or other public forum — invitations that only reinforce the notion that these people are vital experts and that their consensus is unimpeachable wisdom — they should have thought about that before they left these Ess Jay Dubyas with no real recourse for meaningfully participating in those decisions in the first place.

There is an assumption here that Western state and civic institutions’ “instrumental rationality” leads those institutions to want to fight wars. Highly debatable, to put it no more strongly.

It certainly is a highly debatable proposition because there are many potential debate partners who have an ideological interest in denying it, but absent this it’s pretty obviously true. Aside from the mere production of advanced weaponry making a great economic surplus recycling mechanism — to simplify to the utmost, take a less developed area of the US that would otherwise be in constant deficit to more developed areas, and plop a manufacturing plant there for F-22 components or whatever — the threatened or actual use of these weapons is also quite necessary as an available last resort when other ways of persuading potential “rogue states” to fall in line behind great powers’ strategic interests (“strategic” having recently replaced “imperial”) when other means of persuasion fail. Of course the interests of individual powers can conflict, as we’re currently seeing in Syria between the US and Russia, which has certainly let the conflict get much messier than regional conflicts between nation-states like Turkey/Iran/KSA and their proxies otherwise would. By contrast Iraq under Saddam Hussein had few enough external allies that after he crossed enough red lines, regime change was determined by essentially all the relevant institutional actors to be both feasible and necessary, and we seem to agree that this determination happened before the issue was presented to the public. At some point asking at what moment the decision became “imminent” or “immediate” is like asking this about a Rube Goldberg machine.

618

ZM 09.11.16 at 3:18 pm

John Holbo,

I think Hey Skipper was not disagreeing with you about the bit where he has to distinguish between his moral judgment and the law, which he agrees with you about but he says these are two different categories (realms) — the “distinction you are insisting I make is in two different realms, for good reason.”

He agrees with you that these are distinct, but he goes on to say they are two different categories, I suppose meaning that here he is arguing not about freedom of expression according to his own moral judgment, but that he is arguing about freedom of expression as per the USA Constitution and related jurisprudence.

Whether he gets the laws right is another matter, but if that is what he says his intentions are you have to take him on face value or else decide he is lying.

Then he says “the Constitutional viewpoint is in a different realm [from individual moral judgments]. Ideally (and the court cites you attached come close) those decisions are based upon objective reasons completely independent of viewpoint.
Therefore, I can’t fathom why my moral opinion has any bearing on a Constitutional conclusion.”

Then you said “I’ve seen people puzzled as to how 1 could = 2. But you, sir, are the first I’ve seen sincerely stumped as to how 2 could = 2. I could tell you to read the first 300 pages of Russell’s “Principia Mathematica”, but I fear you would find no relief!”

I am still a bit confused about what “2” is here. 2 = 2 is “John Holbo says moral judgement and Constitutional law is different” = “Hey Skipper says moral judgment and Constitutional law is different” ?

But then I don’t see where Hey Skipper is stumped about 2 = 2 since he is agreeing with you but making a further distinction, not stumped by your distinctions, in my reading.

Hey Skipper was saying his moral judgment was in a different category of reasoning all together, implying he has been arguing about Constitutional interpretation in this thread, leaving aside his own moral judgment about what speech would and wouldn’t be allowed in his Ideal City should he obtain one sometime.

“the law is a system of rules that can/should be applied objectively without any input of extra-legal moral sentiment, intuition, judgment, what have you.”

Well the law should be applied objectively or correctly as much as possible without fear or favour. If there is an error of law in a decision you can get the decision reviewed, then another judge in an appellate court has to decide if the decision was right or not.

I don’t think legal decisions are the right category for positivism though. That is more for philosophy or science or social science. The law is much older before positivism existed as a epistemology, so it predates positivism.

619

John Holbo 09.11.16 at 3:39 pm

Ha! Well, I’ll let Skipper speak for himself when he returns. If he’s a strict legal positivist, after all, then he can try on that position for size. We’ll see how it fits.

“The law is much older before positivism existed as a epistemology, so it predates positivism.”

Well, if you don’t want to be a positivist, you can join me in not being a positivist. But then what did you mean by ‘like this’ when you wrote: “When the law works like this the law isn’t working at all.” I took ‘like this’ to refer to cases of judges bringing in extra-legal moral considerations. That’s why I thought you were a positivist about it.

620

Tyrone Slothrop 09.11.16 at 3:41 pm

Here are some other things that impact free speech:

Aliens enslaving us.

Typical Sebastian, blithely postulating that future interstellar (economic?) migrants will prove an existential threat to our cherished (neo)liberal freedoms…

621

ZM 09.11.16 at 4:05 pm

John Holbo,

I am not a lawyer so I don’t really have a legal epistemology to be honest. My only experience with the law is I spoke at a case about a broiler farm and now it is taking me a long time to write an application for a judicial review pertaining to the section of the decision about my bit and I have waited for 2 months for an answer from the principle registrar about something I need to know. This wasn’t enough for me to develop a legal epistemology I am afraid.

My planning law professor thought I was quite strict when I had to evaluate a planning permit application and I wrote down all the many clauses in the Planning Scheme that weren’t met by the design and application, and he asked me “What would you do?” since I just refused the permit outright, and he thought I should have an alternative plan for this development that meant it would somehow meet all the clauses in the Planning Scheme and get a permit. But I am not an architect so I couldn’t design a building to meet all of the clauses. And that was the only law subject I ever took.

In the page you link to it says

“The positivist thesis does not say that law’s merits are unintelligible, unimportant, or peripheral to the philosophy of law. It says that they do not determine whether laws or legal systems exist. Whether a society has a legal system depends on the presence of certain structures of governance, not on the extent to which it satisfies ideals of justice, democracy, or the rule of law.”

I do think laws exist whether or not each law has merit in my view or not.

Does that mean I am a legal positivist? Thinking all laws exist as laws even if I don’t think some have merit?

On the other hand I think laws *should* have merit, and laws without merit should be changed.

Maybe that makes me a legal idealist too if that’s a thing?

622

Sebastian H 09.11.16 at 5:05 pm

Only the aliens who enslave us. The other ones are other issues. ;)

623

Kiwanda 09.11.16 at 6:59 pm

Bruce Wilder: “A listener’s (reader’s, viewer’s) attention must be available and focused and there are only so many hours in the day and many other matters which any individual must attend. Eyeballs and ears are not only scarce resources, but being for political purposes a commons, congestion and exhaustion are significant hazards.”

A student group at Williams College has a series called “uncomfortable learning”. They invited Suzanne Venker, an anti-feminist it seems, to speak and debate on feminist issues. They were forced to disinvite her due to campus protests. They later invited John Derbyshire, a racist, to speak and debate, and the president of the college refused to allow it. I would think and hope that views like those of Venker and Derbyshire are expressed extremely rarely on the Williams campus. Moreover, Williams has departments whose main activities, day in and day out, are to express views antithetical to Venker’s and Derbyshire’s. I would think that the commitment of the students, faculty, and administration of Williams to equality is not so fragile that it would be harmed by allowing Venker and Derbyshire to be heard and debated by whoever wants to do so. But well, after all, there’s only so many hours in the day, as Bruce notes, and understanding and debating two people who hold odious views is two precious hours too many.

Last spring, the regents of the University of California adopted a resolution that included the statement that “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.” Here we have the judgement of a university system expressed clearly and directly: anti-Zionism is a form a of discrimination. Surely all here, being against discrimination, would agree that no further expression of anti-Zionism should be allowed at the UC’s. Since the matter has been decided, valuable eyeball and ear resources can be employed elsewhere.

624

LFC 09.11.16 at 7:33 pm

I didn’t think I was going to say anything further in this thread, but for the record, while I have been on the ‘pro-speech’ (shorthand) side in this thread, I must register my disagreement w/ Hey Skipper’s statement that the law is an objective system of rules into which moral considerations don’t enter. W/r/t (U.S.) constitutional interpretation, I think that is very much *not* the case. But at this pt it wd make more sense to have a separate thread on jurisprudence and const. interpretation, where Holbo can engage in his usual m.o., which as I see it is basically to eschew direct statements, at least most of the time, in favor of being clever in an analytic philosopher’s style.

Any straightforward response to ZM, for example, wd have included the info that ‘legal positivism’ is an accepted designation for a particular position in jurisprudential debates, but Holbo being Holbo, he disdains conveying such basic information. Why enlighten people in a CT thread, after all, esp. if you’re a front-page poster like Holbo? Make them go to Wikipedia instead!

625

Hey Skipper 09.11.16 at 7:35 pm

[John Holbo:] I’ve seen people puzzled as to how 1 could = 2. But you, sir, are the first I’ve seen sincerely stumped as to how 2 could = 2. I could tell you to read the first 300 pages of Russell’s “Principia Mathematica”, but I fear you would find no relief!

I, for one, am always astonished when people liken soup to nuts.

But if you genuinely are curious about the Constitutional status of these sorts of potential claims, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that it is not clear. There is some – not strong – precedent for the position that the shoe is on the other foot. That is, protesters’ voices are Constitutionally protected, ergo there is a Heckler’s veto.

Check out Hill v. Colorado.

There it was decided that there was no Constitutionally protected right to speak within a certain radius of a medical center, but the attempt was made to argue that there was.

That is incorrect. The decision held that within 100 feet of a medical center, a law limiting protest activities within 8 of a person entering that center did not violate the First Amendment.

Which raises some interesting questions. When does speech become intimidation or hindrance? Does an eight foot circle impose any significant burden on protestors? What is the balance between freedom of speech, and freedom from speech?

But what it doesn’t do is help your argument.

On the one hand, the restrictions are completely objective, and have nothing to do with viewpoint — the restrictions are content neutral.

Of course, the dissenting justices didn’t see it that way: the only speakers affected by this law were anti-abortion protestors, and therefore this is about abortion.

This is where your insistence that I distinguish what is wrong morally goes astray. There is no morally correct position to be had here. Okay, let’s put that aside. How about we assess the protestors’ reasons? If they pass some muster, they will be allowed to speak in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

Even though I am sympathetic to the protestors point of view (How is it that almost all abortions are not murders of convenience? Full disclosure, I am very reluctantly pro-choice.), it seems to me that no matter their viewpoint, their conduct verged on intimidation and hindrance, which took them outside the realm of protected speech. That this law is tailored the way it is has nothing to do with the content of the protestors speech, but rather their conduct; it just so happens that no other controversy extant is like abortion, so the nature of the protests is unique.

Morally, I side with Scalia and Thomas. Big fricking deal. Constitutionally, the protestors behavior, no matter their viewpoint, had become unacceptable.

Check out also Gregory v. Chicago

The issue there is slightly different: suppose a demonstration contains some rowdy elements and some protesters who are not being so rowdy. Can the cops bring disorderly charges against ALL of them.

This is related to your contention that the U of C would (if Hey Skipper were appointed to a majority of seats on the Supreme Court) be guilty of violating the 1A rights of speakers if it failed to protect them adequately against protesters to continue their speeches.

Once again, I apologize for typing badly. I was trying to get across a difficult concept, and failed. What I really should have said that if the UoC demonstrated a pattern of tolerating hecklers for certain kinds of speakers, but not others, then the UoC would be guilt of viewpoint discrimination. Otherwise, bring on the brown shirts.

FWIW, here again SCOTUS decision had nothing to do with content.

Which is true of all the cases cited (I didn’t bring up Healy, btw): the majority decisions in all cases had nothing to do with viewpoint.

Maybe this will help. It sounds like you want to assert the correctness of what is called legal positivism: the law is a system of rules that can/should be applied objectively without any input of extra-legal moral sentiment, intuition, judgment, what have you.

I’m not so sure about Skipper. Up at 605 he was clearly equating moral and legal reasons. Then at 609 he seemed to be saying, to the contrary, that never the twain shall meet, i.e. he shifted to assert legal positivism? That was what my 2 = 2 remark concerned, but perhaps it’s not worth unpacking.

John, generally speaking, I agree that LP isn’t tenable, if for no other reason than writing and reading laws cannot possibly be sufficiently precise. We aren’t talking FORTRAN, after all.

However, with regard to the concept of free speech, I think positivism should very much be the goal. The outcome of Healy (and the others cited) should have been exactly the same whether the complainant was the SDS or the Young Republicans.

Which has been my point all along: any presumption that one viewpoint is to be given preferential treatment over another holes the concept of free speech below the water line.

(Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer. I have never spent a minute in law school. But I find the subject interesting, and enjoy reading legal articles. And I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express once.)

626

LFC 09.11.16 at 7:45 pm

p.s.

“The positivist thesis does not say that law’s merits are unintelligible, unimportant, or peripheral to the philosophy of law. It says that they do not determine whether laws or legal systems exist. Whether a society has a legal system depends on the presence of certain structures of governance, not on the extent to which it satisfies ideals of justice, democracy, or the rule of law.”

I can’t be bothered to scroll up and find the link for this, but WTF?? It’s admittedly been a long time since I read about any of this, but this does not correspond to what I think of as legal positivism. Indeed the passage is bizarre inasmuch as few people would assert that the existence of a legal system depends on whether it’s a good one. I mean, Nazi Germany had a legal system; it existed. Was it just? Obviously not. Case closed. This has little or nothing to do w legal positivism, afaik.

627

Collin Street 09.11.16 at 9:26 pm

I was trying to get across a difficult concept, and failed.

See, you do this all the time: “maybe I was wrong” never crossed your mind. All disagreements are a result of you inadequately explaining yourself. Not that I’m saying, specifically, that the position you’ve taken here is an error: it’s just that you’ll never consider the possibility, so when — inevitably — you do make some mistake there’s no way forward; you’ll endlessly restate your erroneous claims in a futile effort to find some framing that makes them correct, and conversations bog down.

Now, I could make a pretty good case tying this to your larger cognitive problems, but I don’t need to: with your current approach you cannot become cognisant of your mistakes, and your inevitably error-ridden input is more heat than light.

628

Collin Street 09.11.16 at 9:37 pm

I mean… when you have cognitive problems then by-definition the way you think about things becomes the problem. The way you think ceases to be effective, and doing what seems natural or reasonable ceases to be a good choice: you need to fight against your natural tendencies to get the results you want.

629

John Holbo 09.12.16 at 12:28 am

“Constitutionally, the protestors behavior, no matter their viewpoint, had become unacceptable.”

This is where you lose me, Skipper. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

630

John Holbo 09.12.16 at 1:14 am

OK, a bit more fully: in addition to being made of safe spaces, universities are made out of viewpoint discriminations. You want to figure out which are the good ones. That’s the theory, anyway. If the Constitution ruled out any and all viewpoint discrimination, on first amendment grounds, that would rule out universities, on first amendment grounds. You couldn’t hire or teach or any of that stuff. You are reading the Healy decision as ruling ALL viewpoint discrimination out of bounds. But that can’t be a correct reading of Healy.

631

Rich Puchalsky 09.12.16 at 1:21 am

No matter how many times someone tells Hey Skipper that the Constitution has nothing to say about protestors’ behavior, he won’t be able to read it. Just this once Collin Street’s preferred explanation is looking as good as any.

632

John Holbo 09.12.16 at 1:43 am

“someone tells Hey Skipper that the Constitution has nothing to say about protestors’ behavior”

Well, to be fair, that’s too strong. There are all sorts of ways protestors can violate the constitutional rights of others. There just isn’t any simple straightshot to the particular, quite sweeping conclusion Skipper wants, based on the Healy precedent. Healy is a relevant precedent in this area, all the same.

633

Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 7:14 am

[John Holbo:] This is where you lose me, Skipper. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

On what?

Here’s my position: Protest can cover a wide range of behavior. Depending on the behavior, it can fall into the realm of protected speech. However, it can also become intimidation, property damage, incitement, etc, none of which are protected speech.

Presuming you agree with me so far, then it is possible, at least in theory to dare lines separating protected speech from the rest. And those lines shouldn’t depend on the protestors point of view. I maintain that Hill did just that. Protestors, whatever their message could continue to convey it, but without crossing the line into intimidation.

While Healy was different, it is on point. Some of the commenters here apparently believe that free speech is conditional on the content of that speech; therefore, it is impossible to decide whether hecklers shutting down a presentation is an instance of protected censorship without first knowing why they were protesting.

In Healy, the case was about whether a university administration could decide, after assessing a group’s message, it was permissible to impede its freedom of association and, consequently, speech.

It isn’t. No viewpoint tests are permissible.

But when you insist that I distinguish between morally and Constitutionally wrong, that seems to you on the side of conditional censorship.

Unfortunately, to make conditional censorship defendable, it must be possible to come to an objective moral conclusion. This is the question Collin Street begged above, and everyone who is in favor of such a thing hasn’t addressed.

634

TM 09.12.16 at 7:55 am

Hey Skipper has conceded my challenge in 543. The right-wing allegations of left-wing censorship on university campuses are almost always wrong as demonstrated by the facts quoted in 543. Trying to argue reasonably with these folks is an utter waste of time.

635

TM 09.12.16 at 7:57 am

LFC 563, I’m genuinely curious how you think universities should select speakers if the content of what the speakers have to say strictly cannot be a criterion. Should they hold lotteries? See 543.

I think I get what you are trying to say – universities should give space to speakers who aren’t getting a lot of space within the dominant, capitalist society so that students can be exposed to less than conventional ideas (*). But that patently isn’t what the UC leadership for example wants. They aren’t likely to invite many anarchist or socialist speakers or speakers who offer a fundamental critique of the UC economics department and the cult of economic growth. Or would you disagree with that assessment? What they want is just the opposite – they want students to not complain about the mostly utterly conventional, conformist views that they (the leadership) find appropriate. To my knowledge, student protests against commencement speakers were directed NOT against unconventional figures but against establishment figures like Zoellick, Rice, etc. The students precisely wanted *more diversity, more criticism and less conformism*.

(*) Of course, unconventionality can hardly be the only criterion, or you would have to spend most of your time listening to creationists, holocaust deniers and 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

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John Holbo 09.12.16 at 7:58 am

“But when you insist that I distinguish between morally and Constitutionally wrong, that seems to you on the side of conditional censorship. “

No. It is obviously possible to distinguish between morality and Constitutional law without being in favor of censorship. (You yourself say you distinguish between these things – although I have my doubts. And you yourself are against censorship, right?) I am not addressing the moral question. Somewhat against my better judgment I jumped into this unruly thread to address a narrow, Constitutional, legal question.

Which brings me to my “on what?” Which baffled you. On the Constitution. The Constitution is what. You have an exaggerated notion of the implications of Healy – although you are quite right that it is important precedent in this general vicinity. From the fact that a university will be guilty of infringing free speech if it arbitarily refuses to recognize a student group it does not follow that a university will be guilty of infringing free speech if fails to prevent a speaker from being heckled into silence. These are not analogous cases. “No viewpoint tests are permissible” is neither true, simpliciter (if it were, 90% of university business would have to stop immediately); nor is it, on its face, clearly applicable to protest cases. Suppose – suppose! – there is a 1st amendment violation, in the event of a protest that is loud and rowdy enough to shut a speaker down. Who is the violator? Not obviously the university. You say the university may not impede freedom of association. But the university is, by hypothesis, not doing the impeding. The university is, perhaps, failing to impede the impeding. But that’s different

You may say the university is morally culpable for not having taken responsibility to uphold standards of free inquiry and basic decorum towards guests. But the question is whether the university is legally culpable. Does the Constitution generate a positive, police duty, which it falls specifically to the university to enforce, to prevent heckling vetoes of speakers? That is the question, and Healy doesn’t speak to it. That’s all I’m saying.

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Z 09.12.16 at 8:13 am

I think I would learn more from this thread if people were more forthcoming with their choices in some actual cases. Take Kiwanda’s examples @625. All else being equal, would you like a study or discussion group at a University to be able to organize an event with Venker and Derbyshire? Would you approve of a University adopting a resolution stating that anti-Zionism is a form of discrimnation and is thus not tolerated? How about if the resolution mentioned only anti-Semitism? How about if a University said that caricatures of Muhammad are islamophobic?

Personally, my answers to these questions are respectively yes, no, no and no. A good thing to keep in mind is that the more hateful ideas are, the more crude and stupid they also are. So I am entirely confident that a joint conference on the history of the cultural impact of the jewish people supplemented by a history of anti-Semitism will outshine then times any anti-semitic speaker (and, now that I have watched way too much Milo Yiannopoulos for my own good, I confess I fantasize about him being invited anywhere near me in order to see him get the ridicule he deserves).

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TM 09.12.16 at 8:58 am

Z 639: I looked up the Venker case cited at 625. What is reported is as follows (e. g. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/inside_higher_ed/2015/10/williams_college_uninvites_suzanne_venker_after_student_backlash.html): a student group invited antifeminist Suzanne Venker (who claims in her own words that “feminism fails” “because it denies the existence of biology and teaches that equality means sameness”). The invitation was criticized on facebook. The student group then withdrew the invitation.

What has not happened: nobody was “forced” to do anything, in particular was there no pressure from the university. No speech was censored and nobody was prevented to read and discuss Suzanne Venkers views. Nobody’s rights, whether constitutional or other, were violated.

The group who invited her had the right to invite her and they also had the right to withdraw the invitation. Venker herself has the same right as anybody else to be present on campus and speak there but neither she nor you and I have a “right” to speak on campus as an invited guest speaker.

If you wish to disagree with any of the above statements, please be specific.

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TM 09.12.16 at 9:11 am

Further to the above, in case it needs to be spelled out: the students who criticized the Venker invitation had every right to do so. They were participating in debate, not suppressing speech (it doesn’t appear that the criticisms were defamatory). As to Venker, I don’t know her views but based on her own statement that “feminism denies the existence of biologiy”, it seems to me that she is uninformed and unqualified to speak on the subject of feminism. If she were applying for a position in an academic department, I wouldn’t be surprised if her qualifications were found lacking. Nevertheless, of course students are free to read and discuss her writings and to invite her if they wish. But the claim that students need to be exposed to the ideas of Rightwing Wingnuts Who Say Dumb Controversial Things is totally bogus. Again, how often are students exposed to socialist or anarchists views? In the real world, there is absolutely no shortage of right-wing propaganda on university campuses.

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TM 09.12.16 at 9:22 am

And finally: the controvery has given Venker far more media exposure and prominence than her speaking gig in front of a dozen students would have given her. I’m sure she’s content.

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Z 09.12.16 at 9:23 am

TM, thanks for looking up the specifics. As I wrote @497 above “It should go without saying that protesting an invitation […] through the normal procedure is not only perfectly OK but in fact an important duty of any member of the academic community” so I am perfectly fine with someone being disinvited, and if I had been a student at Williams College at the time, I would probably have protested the invitation (because Venker’s ideas seem to me truly devoid of any intellectual merit).

I will note though that according to the link you provided, she was disinvited because, based on comments on the Facebook page of the event, the organizer was worried that the event might turn violent and there was not enough time to organize security. I regret the fact that security concerns, and not the quality of her intellectual arguments, led to her not being invited. Do you (it’s fine with me if you think this was actually great, I am just curious)?

Since you ask (with a slightly adversarial tone, perhaps?) I completely agree that nobody’s rights were violated and these events do not constitute censorship. Do you agree, on the other hand, that they might fall within the bounds of the University of Chicago letter, i.e that the letter at least suggests that in a comparable situation the University of Chicago would work to ensure that such an event would not be cancelled merely for reasons of safety (to restate canceling because the academic community has come to the conclusion that the ideas likely to be exposed are not interesting enough is perfectly fine)? If you agree with this interpretation of the letter, do you approve of such a move (I do)?

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Z 09.12.16 at 9:34 am

TM @642. Ha, but here is the thing: I actually find Venker’s ideas (or the little I know about them) repulsive, offensive and barely rising to the argumentative level I expect of my 8 year old. Consequently, as I wrote upthread about Yiannopoulos, even setting aside the moral and prudential reasons to be wary of talks being disrupted by protests or cancelled because of the threats thereof, purely on pragmatic ground, I wish her talks would go on uninterrupted.

I mean, invite a true scholar with a feminist perspective to speak at the same time and let Venker give her pathetic little speech in front of a dozen students. Or, if she is up to it, organize a debate and let her be crushed in front of the audience.

But her talks not happening because of security concerns and her then being able to repeat ad nauseam on Fox News that the left is so unable to refute her arguments that they have to resort to violence to prevent her from speaking seems to me to be the worst possible outcome, if your intention is to minimize the impact of her ideas.

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Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 10:07 am

[Z:] … so I am perfectly fine with someone being disinvited, and if I had been a student at Williams College at the time, I would probably have protested the invitation (because Venker’s ideas seem to me truly devoid of any intellectual merit).

Did you follow the link to the post the organizer wrote?

Too often, it seems, student activists who view the world through the blurred lens of motivated ignorance tend to accent the expression of existential catharsis without seriously confronting conservative arguments on political issues of significant interest to them. This willful disregard of uncomfortable learning, at times, results in insulated world-views.

When one only, or mostly, talks politics with people they agree with, they tend to receive a round of applause, but this ring of motivated ignorance, grounded on tribal insularity, suffocates the potential for uncomfortable learning and dynamic intellectual exchange. This ring of motivated ignorance, in fact, becomes the refuge of those who, in the face of intellectual challenges, avoid critical reexamination of their sacred beliefs at all costs.

You are one of those he talks about. You are apparently so secure in your conclusion that Venker’s ideas are so without merit that no one should be exposed to them, no matter how much anyone else might want to.

Read some reviews of the book. Clearly, there is a wide divergence of opinion. Wrong thinking must be stopped.

[TM:] Further to the above, in case it needs to be spelled out: the students who criticized the Venker invitation had every right to do so. They were participating in debate, not suppressing speech (it doesn’t appear that the criticisms were defamatory)

From the post I linked above, here is a criticism:

When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.

Yep, that’s perfectly reasonable, and not at all defamatory.

But the claim that students need to be exposed to the ideas of Rightwing Wingnuts Who Say Dumb Controversial Things is totally bogus.

And there’s the problem right there: adopting the mantle of speech arbiter, which progressives deserve because of their almost superhuman intellects, and exquisitely sensitive moral acuity. After all, progressive thoughts are true because progressives think them.

[TM:] The group who invited her had the right to invite her and they also had the right to withdraw the invitation. Venker herself has the same right as anybody else to be present on campus and speak there but neither she nor you and I have a “right” to speak on campus as an invited guest speaker.

I disagree. Where you go astray is “the right to withdraw the invitation”. Of course, it is worth noting that “privilege” was exercised under some, ummm, encouragement. “Nice presentation you have there; shame if something was to happen to it.”

Withdrawing the invitation was due solely to people who decided they were entitled to decide for others what they may hear. If that isn’t censorship, then the word has no meaning.

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TM 09.12.16 at 10:10 am

Z 643: First, I’m glad you agree that nobody’s rights were violated. Why then do you think this case merits discussion at all? There was no evidence in the report I read that there wer reasons to worry about security. Maybe there were, maybe it was a pretext, maybe the organizers cynically used the incident to get public attention. All I can say is that it was the organizers’ decision. Whether it was a good decision is another question. I absolutely don’t see how this case relates to the UC letter and moreover I don’t for a minute buy the UC caim that they are particularly committed to free speech. Again I ask: how many socialists and anarchists have they invited recently to speak at Chicago?

Z 644: I agree with your pragmatic point. There are situations when I would be in favor of protesting a speaker and this probably wouldn’t be among them. Of course, just like CT commenters never listen to me when I ask them to not feed the trolls, these students probably wouldn’t listen to me when I tell them that sometimes ignoring an offensive speaker is better than protesting them. That is always the catch-22 in discussions like this: there’s aways somebody who writes something on the internet that can be interpreted as “PC police trying to suppress ideas they find offensive”. We can try as we might to set the record straight, to no avail. As soon as the right wingers manage to establish their framing of ordinary political controversy as “free speech suppression”, they have already won. That’s why I always berate people on CT to not accept the right wing framing. Again, they don’t listen.

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TM 09.12.16 at 10:14 am

Hey Skipper, will you have the integrity to admit you were wrong at 542?

Re 645, the facts are clearly laid out at 640 and 641. Nobody’s views were suppressed. That you disagree with what somebody wrote on facebook is completely irrelevant, their speech is as protected as yours or mine. You are not offering anything resembling a fact-based argument. Totally unworthy of a response.

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Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 11:04 am

[John Holbo:] From the fact that a university will be guilty of infringing free speech if it arbitarily refuses to recognize a student group it does not follow that a university will be guilty of infringing free speech if fails to prevent a speaker from being heckled into silence.

You have mischaracterized my position, undoubtedly helped by my expressing it so badly first time around.

No, a university isn’t guilty of infringing free speech if hecklers’ get their way.

But a university that routinely allows to get hecklers from a particular viewpoint shutdown speakers from another viewpoint could well be, in that the university might well be engaging in censorship at arms length.

“No viewpoint tests are permissible” is neither true, simpliciter (if it were, 90% of university business would have to stop immediately) …

That is not an argument I ever made, nor is it even remotely close to what the UoC letter that started this whole thing said — which has nothing to do with 90% of university business.

“No viewpoint tests are permissible” has only to do with protected speech, and without which protected speech cannot exist. In that regard, in the US, relying upon US jurisprudence, when are viewpoint tests permissible?

Does the Constitution generate a positive, police duty, which it falls specifically to the university to enforce, to prevent heckling vetoes of speakers? That is the question, and Healy doesn’t speak to it. That’s all I’m saying.

No. Again, I apologize that my first attempt clearly led to that conclusion.

You are right, Healy does not speak to that.

[TM:] But that patently isn’t what the UC leadership for example wants. They aren’t likely to invite many anarchist or socialist speakers or speakers who offer a fundamental critique of the UC economics department and the cult of economic growth.

Perhaps, but that isn’t what this is about. It is about attempting to censor invited speakers, and the fact that universities may not exercise viewpoint discrimination upon student groups, or who they invite.

If a group at UoC decides to invite an anarchist speaker, then it gets to do so, and the UoC will not tolerate attempts to censor that speaker.

What’s the matter with that?

[TM:] The right-wing allegations of left-wing censorship on university campuses are almost always wrong as demonstrated by the facts quoted in 543. Trying to argue reasonably with these folks is an utter waste of time.

Every case of left wing censorship mentioned here happened. Currently, the vast majority of censorship is issuing from the left, and, if anything, it is worse in England (google No Platforming).

That doesn’t mean there are never conservative attempts at censorship, and I’ll bet that prior to Healy, most censorship was from conservatives.

It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

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Collin Street 09.12.16 at 11:07 am

And there’s the problem right there: adopting the mantle of speech arbiter, which progressives deserve because of their almost superhuman intellects, and exquisitely sensitive moral acuity.

Because there’s Just No Fucking Way people can do things you can’t, is there.

“Ooh, he claims to have the mystic and unprecedented ability to control a motor vehicle without hitting anything! ooer, ain’ he gran’.” “Lookee there! that man claims that he can urinate standing up without hitting the floor!!” “I say good chap, do you seriously intend to tell me that man can distinguish between foecal matter and argillacious earth!?”

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Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 11:33 am

Here is what the horrible no good very bad Suzanne Ventner was going to say.

Because there’s Just No Fucking Way people can do things you can’t, is there.

That’s exactly the question you are begging.

This has been a long exchange. For me, anyway, having to consider what others say has given me the opportunity to get exposed to their points of view, and learn about SCOTUS cases I wasn’t aware of.

You have been the sole exception.

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TM 09.12.16 at 11:45 am

Skipper’s now repeated claim that Robert Zoellick is a victim of “censorship” because he is a coward and didn’t want to speak to students who criticized him (compare 543 and 648) is ludicrous but it is exactly what his demagoguery boils down to. Please folks stop feeding that troll.

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Z 09.12.16 at 12:02 pm

TM @646 Why then do you think this case merits discussion at all?

Because I think that the question “Is it a sign of good intellectual health when a student group has to cancel an invitation because safety cannot be ensured?” is worthy of discussion (at least in comments on CT) and is not entirely subsumed neither in the question”Was it legal/constitutional/permissible to cancel the invitation?” nor in the question “Was it a good idea to invite Venker?”

Hey Skipper @645 You are apparently so secure in your conclusion that Venker’s ideas are so without merit that no one should be exposed to them, no matter how much anyone else might want to.

Wait a minute Hey Skipper. You did realize that I wrote in support of Venker’s invitation to go through, right, and that consequently the opinion you attribute to me is exactly the reverse of what I believe and wrote upthread? See, I do believe that Venker’s ideas have a very low intellectual content and that therefore a student group will learn more listening to another speaker or even listening to that particular speaker’s ideas being thoroughly refuted. Nevertheless, if a student group disagrees with me and thinks that it is a good use of their intellectual attention, then I am in favor of them being able to organize the event. Yeah, again, pretty much the exact opposite to the position you attribute to me.

Also, since we interact again, let me point out that I disagree with what you wrote @502: I leave to you the appreciation of the civility of the quotations I gave of Coulter @491, but I can’t see how they do not advocate for violence against political opponents (in a hyperbolic and sardonic way, sure, but that is a form of advocacy). And before you jump in full “you believe that no one should be able to listen to Coulter ever” mode, note that I still believe and wrote above that if a student group is so misguided (in my not at all humble opinion) as to invite her, then she should be able to speak.

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Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 12:05 pm

TM, I made no specific claim about Robert Zoellick. If you had been paying attention, you would have noted I specifically excluded things like commencement ceremonies, which are instances of rivalrous speech.

So rather than point at what I didn’t say, how about considering all the examples that are actually on point?

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TM 09.12.16 at 12:24 pm

Skipper hasn’t specifically mentionet Zoellick but I have. He quoted the Fire database as “evidence” of leftwing censorship and claimed that although it was pointed out repeatedly that the database mostly consists of reports of entirely legitimate political controversies, like the Zoellick case. Skipper made a false claim at 542 and repeatedly refused to admit it. On those grounds, I won’t respond to his continued bad faith trolling.

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TM 09.12.16 at 12:28 pm

Addendum: Skipper’s link in 648 specifically lists the Zoellick case as “disinvitation” so yes, he has claimed (by affirmatively qzoting Fire) that Zoellick was a victim of leftwing censorship. [Strike “and claimed that” in the above comment].

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Rich Puchalsky 09.12.16 at 12:31 pm

JH: “Well, to be fair, that’s too strong. There are all sorts of ways protestors can violate the constitutional rights of others. “

No they can’t. Constitutional rights, in the U.S., are about what the state can’t do. A protestor or protestors could commit assault, battery, disturbance of the peace or whatever but unless they are acting with state authority they can not violate constitutional rights. The whole “you’re censoring me” thing is a colloquialism that’s OK informally but is wholly inadequate once you try to have a serious discussion of edge cases. In particular, it leads to the kind of nonsense above in which people go back and forth about whether anyone’s heckling of any speech ever is “censorship”.

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LFC 09.12.16 at 1:03 pm

TM@637
LFC 563, I’m genuinely curious how you think universities should select speakers if the content of what the speakers have to say strictly cannot be a criterion.

Student groups will invite speakers based on their interest in what the speaker has to say, so in that sense ‘content’ is a criterion; and when the univ. itself, as opposed to a student group, selects a speaker, the criteria are often obv. ones having to do w scholarly reputation etc etc. So I didn’t mean to suggest content is not a criterion of selection; I was no doubt compressing @563, but I’m not going back for the context and I will let this serve as a (partial at any rate) clarification.

I think I get what you are trying to say – universities should give space to speakers who aren’t getting a lot of space within the dominant, capitalist society so that students can be exposed to less than conventional ideas (*). But that patently isn’t what the UC[hicago] leadership for example wants. They aren’t likely to invite many anarchist or socialist speakers or speakers who offer a fundamental critique of the UC economics department and the cult of economic growth. Or would you disagree with that assessment?

My hunch is the majority of speakers at UChicago are invited by student groups, not the univ itself. There is presumably (this is a reasonable, I think, guess) the usual left-to-right range of student groups at U Chicago (not all students there embrace the views of the Chicago econ dept).

The letter that kicked off the OP and this thread doesn’t really say much of anything directly about outside speakers — it’s mostly boilerplate, iirc, along the lines of students shd be exposed to various views and have their opinions challenged etc. What the UChicago admin actually wants I don’t know, but I doubt there is much interest in admin ranks as a whole in indoctrinating students specifically into the views of their econ dept. Even if one posits, for argument’s sake, that the U of C admin implicitly sees one of its functions as helping to reproduce the dominant capitalist mentality, that doesn’t mean they have to specifically make sure that all students emerge w the view that Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom is holy writ. IOW, it can be and usu. is a lot more subtle, which allows for some students to ‘escape’ and become dissidents of one sort or another.

I wd suggest that as machines for the reproduction of hegemony in the Gramscian sense, U.S. univs. seem to be pretty ‘leaky’ or inefficient institutions. Arguably they have to be, bec. even in the age of the ‘neoliberal corporate univ’ a part of their self-image still depends on their being havens for the expression of unpopular views.

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LFC 09.12.16 at 1:17 pm

p.s. I have no first-hand experience of U Chicago, but what I’ve gathered at second and third hand suggests that what really gets the engines revving, so to speak, of at least some longtime faculty and senior admins there is the sense that they are the guardians, for lack of a better word, of the particular traditions, curricular and other, w/ which Chicago is still associated — correctly or not — by the public, or by that portion of it that, casually or otherwise, follows higher ed in the U.S. If this speculation is wrong, someone will no doubt correct me.

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TM 09.12.16 at 1:21 pm

“My hunch is the majority of speakers at UChicago are invited by student groups, not the univ itself.”

My hunch is that inviting speakers costs money and genuinely unconventional nonconfirmism isn’t where the money is. It should be easy to prove me wrong if indeed the University of Chicago and similar institutions are havens of genuine academic and political diversity.

“I doubt there is much interest in admin ranks as a whole in indoctrinating students specifically into the views of their econ dept”

Come on. Seriously.

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John Holbo 09.12.16 at 1:24 pm

“It is about attempting to censor invited speakers, and the fact that universities may not exercise viewpoint discrimination upon student groups, or who they invite.”

I don’t see that the 1st amendment ensures that student groups can invite whomever they want onto campus. Students do not ordinarily have a 1st amendment right to invite anyone they like on to campus, even if they want to hear them speak. The university can assert an interest in managing who is on campus, for the sake of ensuring that a proper learning environment is maintained, there are no disruptions, etc. Now I guess I can see how a Healy case could be brought on the basis of a clear papertrail of arbitrarily differential treatment of speakers by different groups who were equally likely to lead to on-campus protests. But the stopper here is that I think it would be alright, 1st amendment-wise, for the administration to say: we allowed this one controversial speaker because we deemed him or her to be intellectually worth the risk, whereas this other controversial speaker struck us as a vicious idiot, and the invitation seems to us just an immature attempt to troll other students (or whatever). That’s viewpoint discrimination, but, if a student group’s activities are spilling over onto the rest of the campus, in a plausibly disruptive way, the university can exercise its discretion as to which disruptions are tolerable, for higher educational purposes, and which should be squashed. (Universities engage in a lot of viewpoint discrimination, as a matter of course, about what is worthwhile, educationally.) That said, if a group wants to invite a speaker for a small, low-key, private (student group only) discussion section, and if this sort of thing is typically allowed, and if such meetings are positively squashed by the admin, that would be a colorable Healy violation. At some point it would be like not letting someone own a copy of a controversial book, on campus. Or not letting someone on campus make phone calls off campus to controversial persons. (What if the speaker were merely skyping in, not physically present?) That would put you in 1st amendment territory, so there has to be some point along a continuum of increasingly invasive actions where something like your point would have bite. But I don’t see that any existing cases are near that level.

“No they can’t. Constitutional rights, in the U.S., are about what the state can’t do. A protestor or protestors could commit assault, battery, disturbance of the peace or whatever but unless they are acting with state authority they can not violate constitutional rights. “

You are right. I was thinking of various civil rights violations, 13th amendment stuff. Sexual harassment on campus and Title IX. That sort of thing. But that’s only Constitutional at a one-step remove, fair enough.

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LFC 09.12.16 at 1:57 pm

JHolbo @660
Speculating here, but given that the Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist. ‘substantial disruption’ standard in the public high-school context has never been overturned by SCOTUS, though it has been nibbled around the edges, I would think any disruption in the university context wd have to be v. ‘substantial’, at a minimum, to justify disallowing a student group from inviting someone.

If a student group invites a blatantly racist or antisemitic speaker, say, and the univ admin has good reason to believe the speaker is going to cause something like a mini-riot, then disallowing the invitation might be justified under a disruption rationale. But a speaker that will merely attract some hecklers or protesters (say, a ‘pro-life’ speaker, an ‘anti-feminist’, a neocon or, on the other side, a rep. say of a self-styled revolutionary socialist org. or whatever) I don’t think cd be disallowed on disruption grounds.

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John Holbo 09.12.16 at 2:22 pm

“But a speaker that will merely attract some hecklers or protesters (say, a ‘pro-life’ speaker, an ‘anti-feminist’, a neocon or, on the other side, a rep. say of a self-styled revolutionary socialist org. or whatever) I don’t think cd be disallowed on disruption grounds.”

Yes, that seems right. I linked to this upthread:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_v._City_of_Chicago

If the disruption is due to people who are offended by the speaker, then you cannot make the speaker or organizers responsible-by-proxy for the disruptive actions of those trying to stop them.

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Kiwanda 09.12.16 at 3:33 pm

Digging a little more, indeed, Venker was cancelled because the student group felt that safety and a meaningful exchange of ideas could not be ensured, due to the vitriolic backlash. (I admire the rhetoric: “When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ you are not only causing actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students, but you are also—paying—for the continued dispersal of violent ideologies that kill our black and brown (trans) femme sisters. You are giving those who spout violence the money that so desperately needs to be funneled to black and brown (trans) femme communities, to people who are leading the revolution, who are surviving in the streets, who are dying in the streets. Know, you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood.”) Venker was not speaking on racial matters. Venker says that this is the speech she wanted to give.

Not to be relevant to the OP or anything, but a student editorial mentioned that college should be “safe space”, and that inviting Venker would be an invasion of it.

Admittedly, the only issue here regarding the university administration here is that they apparently could not make adequate assurances regarding safety to the organizers. The cancellation of the Derbyshire talk by fiat of the president is much worse. The “anti-Zionism is discrimination” resolution by the UC board is even worse: a public university, a huge one, and the resolution is not one that all right-thinking enlightened people would immediately agree with, necessarily.

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Will G-R 09.12.16 at 3:33 pm

Rich @656: This is why the legal positivism being thrown around by Hey Skipper and others of his persuasion (i.e. “universally applicable political philosophy no, strictly legalistic US 1A jurisprudence yes”) is so disingenuous. Out of one side of their mouths, they purport to be having a conversation where the limits of the issue are strictly confined to the narrow literalisms of US Constitutional law, the legitimacy of the system as such is an inarguable first premise, and appeals to some underlying philosophical sense of justice — as I’ve tried to articulate, the appeal boils down to certain categories of institutionally approved “speech” as containing an irreducible component of systemically violent action, which if true would make the Ess Jay Dubyas better and more consistent classical liberals than the pro-“free speech” FIRE etc. folks ever could be — are completely out of place. Hey Skipper @ 609’s “I can’t fathom why my moral opinion has any bearing on a Constitutional conclusion”, and so on.

Out of the other side of their mouths, though, they’re willing to be as sloppily colloquial and affect as many rhetorical flourishes as strikes their fancy: a 300-level undergrad Comparative American Studies seminar at Swarthmore or Oberlin becomes the Central Committee, a sophomore who shouts 15 seconds of unsolicited questions at Oliver North or Chuck Colson before being escorted out by security becomes a political commisar, languishing without university speaker invitations because one’s “clash of civilizations” narrative reflects less knowledge of MENA history than an intro survey course becomes a Siberian gulag, and having to worry that people will stop talking to you if you make a rape joke becomes the old Eastern Bloc truism that “the walls have ears”. (Which is also ironic because racism and sexism are enormous social problems in the former Eastern Bloc, not to mention outright neo-Nazism, and the former regime apparatchiks who barely waited for the dust from the Berlin Wall to clear before joining up en masse with the new neoliberal center-right parties are willing and eager to egg it on as long as they can solidify their own political positions. The US alt-right’s respect for Putin didn’t come from nowhere, after all.)

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TM 09.12.16 at 3:52 pm

Kiwanda 663: Do you agree that the “vitriolic backlash” as well as the student editorial are nothing but protected speech, even if you may disagree with their “rhetoric”? If so, then do you agree that the accusation of “censorship” against people who do nothing but engaging in protected speech is highly disingenuous? Do you agree that those making the accusation are effectively asserting that certain protected speech shouldn’t exist?

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Kiwanda 09.12.16 at 4:20 pm

Yes, *of course* protest (including “you are dipping your hands in their blood, Zach Wood”) and student editorials are part of open debate. Not part of open debate: shouting speakers down, physical threats, false fire alarms, university administrations shutting down student-organized talks and debate. (I’m not claiming these occurred in the Venker case. Although what exactly created those safety questions is not clear.)

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LFC 09.12.16 at 4:28 pm

@Will G-R
While some of Hey Skipper’s comments might have invited your response, the dichotomy you want to set up between “narrow literalistic” First Amendment jurisprudence, on one hand, and philosophy or an underlying philosophical ‘sense of justice’, on the other hand, is a false dichotomy. First Amendment jurisprudence necessarily involves, among other things, philosophical considerations even if, a la certain S Ct justices, one pretends that it doesn’t.

Your position that shouting down a Wolfowitz to the point where he had to stop speaking would be “just” because his speech “contains an irreducible component of systematically violent action” sets up a standard sufficiently subjective that it would permit or encourage the shouting down of quite a few speakers. I don’t see much that is ‘classically liberal’ about that.

I would support protests against speakers one doesn’t like (standing and turning one’s back while they are speaking, e.g.) as long as those protests allow the speaker to speak. The standard you propose about ‘speech containing violent action’ is a slippery slope that wd lead to a lot of what I wd consider ‘speech, period’ to be made fair game for exclusion.

Your view seems close to the view that classically liberal tolerance is nec. repressive because it reinforces a repressive system while purporting to be neutral. I don’t find that notion of ‘repressive tolerance’, to quote a phrase of some years ago, to be very persuasive. If a Wolfowitz can be shouted down and prevented from speaking b.c his speech contains ‘violent action’, then others can shout down a supporter of Roe v. Wade on grounds that abortion is violence and his/her speech contains ‘violent action’. You can say that is sophistry, but I think that’s what you are opening the door to.

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TM 09.12.16 at 5:01 pm

667: I don’t find the quotes “irreducible component” etc. you attribute to Will. What are you quoting?

I think 664 is spot on, what exactly are you attacking here if not a straw man?
“a 300-level undergrad Comparative American Studies seminar at Swarthmore or Oberlin becomes the Central Committee”, indeed this is exactly the level of argument offered by Fire, Skipper and the rest.

667

Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 6:04 pm

[Will G-R:] This is why the legal positivism being thrown around by Hey Skipper and others of his persuasion (i.e. “universally applicable political philosophy no, strictly legalistic US 1A jurisprudence yes”) is so disingenuous.

What is disingenuous is the distortion of my argument beyond all recognition. Which you would have avoided it you had quoted it directly, instead of relying upon your fever dreams.

[Kiwanda:] I admire the rhetoric: “When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’ …

The gap between her planned speech, and the rhetoric attacking it is so wide as to make it a wonder they can both exist on the same planet.

And that person, whoever it was, feels perfectly entitled to decide what others may hear.

Despite having gotten it wildly wrong.

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LFC 09.12.16 at 6:22 pm

@TM
I don’t find the quotes “irreducible component” etc. you attribute to Will. What are you quoting?

I’m quoting from this sentence of his at 664 (emphasis added):

Out of one side of their mouths, they purport to be having a conversation where the limits of the issue are strictly confined to the narrow literalisms of US Constitutional law, the legitimacy of the system as such is an inarguable first premise, and appeals to some underlying philosophical sense of justice — as I’ve tried to articulate, the appeal boils down to certain categories of institutionally approved “speech” as containing an irreducible component of systemically violent action, which if true would make the Ess Jay Dubyas [SJWs] better and more consistent classical liberals than the pro-“free speech” FIRE etc. folks ever could be — are completely out of place.

669

LFC 09.12.16 at 6:29 pm

p.s. I’ve never even been to the FIRE site. And I’m not criticizing a straw man. Will G-R is arguing, among other things, that the SJWs are the real, genuine classical liberals here. That was the point of his riff on J.S. Mill and the mob-in-front-of-the-corn-dealer’s-house @556.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.12.16 at 7:53 pm

JH: “You are right. I was thinking of various civil rights violations, 13th amendment stuff. Sexual harassment on campus and Title IX. That sort of thing. But that’s only Constitutional at a one-step remove, fair enough.”

Thanks for writing that I’m right, but your add-on is still a bit wobbly. The 13th Amendment is pretty unusual in that it actually puts restrictions on people in addition to states. But things like Title IX complaints are not actually things that charge an individual with a crime or with a violation of some kind, even if they are about an individual. They’re really directed at a university and have to do with the university allowed the creation of a hostile environment.

So people talk about a Title IX complaint affecting someone because the university takes action against the person creating a hostile environment, sometimes by kicking them out (in addition to possible criminal and civil legal cases etc. that operate through other parts of the legal system). But Title IX puts restrictions on the university, not the individual.

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John Holbo 09.12.16 at 11:21 pm

Rich: “Thanks for writing that I’m right, but your add-on is still a bit wobbly. “

I’ve admitted you are right, Rich. It was the least I could do, under the circumstances … but also the most I could do, under the circumstances.

“The 13th Amendment is pretty unusual in that it actually puts restrictions on people in addition to states. But things like Title IX complaints are not actually things that charge an individual with a crime or with a violation of some kind”

I never said the 13th Amendment wasn’t unusual in this regard. Obviously I would not have singled it out as unusual in this regard if I did not appreciate it’s unusualness. Nor did I allege that Title IX complaints charge an individual with a crime. Let me be perfectly clear: none of my mentions of irrelevant thoughts, on my part, that induced me to make the wrong statement that you rightly corrected were intended, in any way, shape or form, to detract from your ultimate rightness!

You’ll have to settle for being right. Your rightness is spot-on %100! And that’s my final offer! I can’t go higher.

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Will G-R 09.13.16 at 6:55 am

@ LFC: “First Amendment jurisprudence necessarily involves, among other things, philosophical considerations even if, a la certain S Ct justices, one pretends that it doesn’t.”

It involves philosophical considerations as much as any form of exegesis does, to account for the vagueness of the texts being interpreted. Obviously some folks’ idea of exegesis is to somehow divine what philosophical considerations would have been in the minds of the people who held their quills to the original parchment and adopt these considerations as a set of supplementary dogmas to the central text, Madisonian Hadith to the Constitutional Qur’an if you will. But even a more robustly philosophical approach to law is still a fundamentally different kind of task from philosophy proper, for the simple reason that the law as such can never arrive at the conclusion that the law is just plain wrong, while this possibility is probably the closest thing political philosophers have to a first premise. Hey Skipper is engaged in the former type of task, and it seems to strike him as bizarre that anybody would be asking him to engage in the latter.

“the SJWs are the real, genuine classical liberals here”

Sure, because on some level these people’s political project is still to take the reasoning of classical liberals and try to apply it more universally than it was ever meant to apply, i.e. “all [white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men with property] are created equal” and so on. Associating them with movements to the left of liberalism doesn’t really work; at least in my experience the types of people who would heckle Oliver North at a university lecture aren’t cynical enough to be real radicals, still clinging to some kind of faith that institutions like the university and the state can be made to serve liberal values, where if they were actually Marxists they’d start with the assumption that asking a bourgeois institution like a university to mind the concerns of the dispossessed as closely as it does those of the ruling class is asking the impossible. So interpreting them as overextended classical liberals trying to grapple with the logic behind concepts like structural violence and collective action makes much more sense to me than interpreting Lena Dunham et al as engaged in some kind of deep-cover Gramscian war of position, à la reactionaries’ wonderfully stupid “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory about the Frankfurt School as Stalinist infiltrators plotting to turn the proud nations of the West into helpless cucks. (By the way, in case it isn’t clear, I consider “SJW” equivalent to “cuck” as an attempted insult that only ever makes the people who use it unironically look ridiculous.)

“If a Wolfowitz can be shouted down and prevented from speaking b.c his speech contains ‘violent action’, then others can shout down a supporter of Roe v. Wade on grounds that abortion is violence and his/her speech contains ‘violent action’. You can say that is sophistry, but I think that’s what you are opening the door to.”

I’m not sure if the slippery slope is as slippery as you’re making it out to be, a distinction in principle between justified and unjustified heckling shouldn’t be any more unfathomable than a distinction between justified and unjustified use of force. Obviously it’s a bit harder to articulate from the perspective of a university administrator since the argument for a “heckler’s veto” is clearly meant to exist in the realm of philosophy, not law: the hecklers aren’t administrators and they don’t claim not to be breaking the rules, which is part of why it’s so silly to depict them as agents of some deep-cover Politburo meeting at a patchouli-smelling vegan dining co-op to swap quinoa recipes while determining The Amazing Atheist’s gulag sentence. But even the law never pretends to be able to eliminate the behaviors it prohibits or there’d be no need for punishment, yet Hey Skipper @ 627 manages to argue that “a pattern of tolerating hecklers for certain kinds of speakers, but not others” (in which “tolerating” presumably means “punishing lightly enough not to deter the behavior in practice”) can itself constitute a form of censorship. And finding patterns in any data at all is trivial if you look hard enough (“University Censors Green Jelly Beans!”) so by this reasoning the presence of any hecklers at all can be taken as indicating de facto censorship.

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TM 09.13.16 at 8:11 am

670: I was confused because you changed a few letters and I did a text search to find the offending passage, which didn’t succeed.

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Hey Skipper 09.13.16 at 9:37 am

[Will G-R:] Hey Skipper is engaged in the former type of task, and it seems to strike him as bizarre that anybody would be asking him to engage in the latter.

What strikes me as bizarre is that you can construe an argument that free speech as a concept cannot exist with prior restraint as some sort of appeal to originalism. That the 1A explicitly tells what the government may not do with respect to speech, that is beside the point, which is true regardless of what the Constitution says.

Prattling on about a “more robustly philosophical approach to law” doesn’t get you off the hook. If you do so, and use that as an excuse to allow some people, no doubt those who philosophically agree with you to, to censor others because their philosophy isn’t so agreeable, then you don’t have free speech anymore.

No matter how much sophistry you throw at it.

By the way, in case it isn’t clear, I consider “SJW” equivalent to “cuck” as an attempted insult that only ever makes the people who use it unironically look ridiculous.

Gee, and all this time I thought SJWs referred to themselves as SJWs. Besides that, the term accurately describes those who have taken it upon themselves to decide what others may hear. No insult, just a fact.

But even the law never pretends to be able to eliminate the behaviors it prohibits or there’d be no need for punishment, yet Hey Skipper @ 627 manages to argue that “a pattern of tolerating hecklers for certain kinds of speakers, but not others” (in which “tolerating” presumably means “punishing lightly enough not to deter the behavior in practice”) can itself constitute a form of censorship.

Hypothetical. A college routinely cancels speakers invited by conservative student groups, because SJWs routinely threaten disruption. But the college never cancels speakers invited by progressive students. The college receives federal funds. Is the college engaged in viewpoint discrimination? Is the college tolerating viewpoint discrimination? What if it is the UoC routinely cancelling progressive speakers?

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J-D 09.13.16 at 10:12 am

Hey Skipper 09.13.16 at 9:37 am
Gee, and all this time I thought SJWs referred to themselves as SJWs.

Really? What made you think that?

(For myself, I have no experience of anybody using ‘SJW’ as a self-description, but maybe I’m exceptional in that respect.)

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J-D 09.13.16 at 10:19 am

Sebastian H 09.11.16 at 1:05 pm

An enormous portion of this thread seems to involve making true statements that don’t have much to do with the discussion. Yes we limit free speech in the case of certain direct threats, no such direct threats have anything to do with any of the cases under consideration. Yes completely flooding all communication channels is dangerous to free speech, no that has nothing to do with the cases under discussion. J-d is my favorite with that: yes facts are important but NONE OF THE FACTS IN THESE CASES lend themselves to censorship under free speech models.

Should I blush? Flattery will get you nowhere.

The thing that first prompted my first comment in this discussion was a comment by Hey Skipper which included this:

To be more specific, I’ll pick Ben Shapiro as an example. Self-identified SJWs have, in various ways and places, prevented him speaking to groups that invited him.

When I read that, the name ‘Ben Shapiro’ meant nothing to me. The only facts the comment made available to me were that Ben Shapiro had been prevented from speaking in ‘various ways’. I didn’t know — in fact, I still don’t know — where, or when, or by whom. Maybe you are in possession of those facts, but I’m not, and if you are I don’t understand how it’s supposed to be excessive for me to request that you share them.

The suggestion that there can be no possible justification for people behaving in ‘various ways’ I continue to find unpersuasive.

677

Hey Skipper 09.13.16 at 11:08 am

[J-D:] Really? What made you think [SJWs refer to themselves as SJWs]?

(For myself, I have no experience of anybody using ‘SJW’ as a self-description, but maybe I’m exceptional in that respect.)

Here’s the first definition I found for SJW:

“Social justice warrior” (commonly abbreviated “SJW”) is a pejorative term for a person expressing or promoting socially progressive views, including advocacy for women’s rights and civil rights. The phrase originated as a laudatory term for those engaged in social justice.

I know I have seen personal profiles of people describing themselves as social justice warriors. But since I can’t remember any off hand, that won’t carry much weight.

Regardless, the vast majority of campus censorship, attempted and actual, in the last half dozen years has come from people who fit the SJW definition.

[J-D:] When I read that, the name ‘Ben Shapiro’ meant nothing to me. The only facts the comment made available to me were that Ben Shapiro had been prevented from speaking in ‘various ways’. I didn’t know — in fact, I still don’t know — where, or when, or by whom. Maybe you are in possession of those facts, but I’m not, and if you are I don’t understand how it’s supposed to be excessive for me to request that you share them.

Here.

To which we can add Christina Hoff Sommers.

Or Suzanne Ventner.

The suggestion that there can be no possible justification for people behaving in ‘various ways’ I continue to find unpersuasive.

Ok, then explain how you find any of the instances of censoring Ben Shapiro justified. Compare the claims made by SJWs about these people with what these people actually say.

678

Hey Skipper 09.13.16 at 11:12 am

[J-D:] Really? What made you think [SJWs refer to themselves as SJWs]?

(For myself, I have no experience of anybody using ‘SJW’ as a self-description, but maybe I’m exceptional in that respect.)

Here’s the first definition I found for SJW:

“Social justice warrior” (commonly abbreviated “SJW”) is a pejorative term for a person expressing or promoting socially progressive views, including advocacy for women’s rights and civil rights. The phrase originated as a laudatory term for those engaged in social justice.

I know I have seen personal profiles of people describing themselves as social justice warriors. But since I can’t remember any off hand, that won’t carry much weight.

Regardless, the vast majority of campus censorship, attempted and actual, in the last half dozen years has come from people who fit the SJW definition.

[J-D:] When I read that, the name ‘Ben Shapiro’ meant nothing to me. The only facts the comment made available to me were that Ben Shapiro had been prevented from speaking in ‘various ways’. I didn’t know — in fact, I still don’t know — where, or when, or by whom. Maybe you are in possession of those facts, but I’m not, and if you are I don’t understand how it’s supposed to be excessive for me to request that you share them.

Here.

The suggestion that there can be no possible justification for people behaving in ‘various ways’ I continue to find unpersuasive.

Ok, then explain how you find any of the instances of censoring Ben Shapiro persuasive.

More examples.

679

J-D 09.13.16 at 11:44 am

Hey Skipper

It’s common enough for words and phrases that were originally laudatory to become pejorative, or to change their evaluative tone in other ways. ‘Naughty’ used to mean ‘wicked’ (‘so shines a good deed in a naughty world’); it’s still a negative term, but the evaluation is now much less grave. If you call somebody ‘officious’ it’s a criticism, and it’s no less a criticism because the word was once a compliment. It could easily be the case that I came in late and missed the period when people used ‘SJW’ in a laudatory way. But what it means now is not controlled by what it used to mean; if you choose to refer to people as SJWs, you are choosing to insult them, not to describe them — at least, that’s what the definition you cite suggests by calling it a pejorative term.

When I clicked on the first link you provided, the first citation I found was to a story about a protest against a speech by Ben Shapiro at California State University Los Angeles, led by the Black Student Union. So I searched for an account of the events by the Black Student Union, and I found a statement by its President, here:
http://csulauniversitytimes.com/5969/showcase/op-ed-bsu-president-on-protests-that-occurred-last-week/

She asserts that the physical safety of the protesters was threatened and that they responded non-violently. I don’t know how much truth there is in that statement; I do know that the question of how much truth there is in that statement must affect a reasonable evaluation of the situation. If she’s telling the truth it makes a big difference; if she’s lying it makes a big difference; the specific facts matter.

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J-D 09.13.16 at 11:47 am

Hey Skipper 09.12.16 at 11:04 am
[John Holbo:] From the fact that a university will be guilty of infringing free speech if it arbitarily refuses to recognize a student group it does not follow that a university will be guilty of infringing free speech if fails to prevent a speaker from being heckled into silence.

You have mischaracterized my position, undoubtedly helped by my expressing it so badly first time around.

No, a university isn’t guilty of infringing free speech if hecklers’ get their way.

But a university that routinely allows to get hecklers from a particular viewpoint shutdown speakers from another viewpoint could well be, in that the university might well be engaging in censorship at arms length.

If you had information like that it would be highly relevant to an evaluation of the situation. But the only way you can get information like that is by detailed inquiry into the facts of individual cases.

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TM 09.13.16 at 11:52 am

Troll? Feeding?

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Sebastian H 09.13.16 at 1:10 pm

J-D the problem is we have no idea what ‘facts’ are important to you in the analysis of when free speech ought to be shut down. If I were to make the request, people would know to draw my attention to immediate incitement of violence and the like. You have steadfastly refused to give the slightest hint. So if I raise the facts that I think are important (like there is no evidence that Ben Shapiro has publicaly said anything like that, and that DePaul [under no threat of any specific demonstration from any particular group] cited ‘concerns’ that hecklers at universities made Shapiro unsafe, the very holding a speaker accountable for his heckler’s violence that Hoblo explained is dangerous to free speech above) you are to easily open to saying “I want more facts” endlessly.

I don’t know your argument so I don’t know what facts you care about. You have steadfastly refused to hint at what facts you find pertinent so it is trolling to demand we provide them.

You can however Google “DePaul” and “Shapiro” just like anyone else and raise the facts that are important to your argument. I suspect you won’t, because you could have done so any time this week if the facts were as important as you have stated.

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TM 09.13.16 at 1:26 pm

SH: I have made the effort above to look up facts concerning Venker. I have established that the right-wing brouhaha about alleged censorship is utter BS. I have also factually established that the “Fire” database contains a bunch of unambiguous lies (543). As long as so many right-wing claims about alleged censorship turn out to be utterly false, the evidential burden really is not on my or J-D’s side.

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Sebastian H 09.13.16 at 1:35 pm

Shapiro was banned from DePaul because of alleged safety concerns caused (to the extent that they are legitimate at all which I would tend to suggest is not at all) by the hecklers. None of his views to my knowledge are in any of the normally understood free speech exceptions.

If you think his speech falls into what is or what should be an exception just tell me what it is or what it was. If you think speakers should be banned when people do