Open Thread and Link Farm, Worldwide Kitty Edition

Thanks to Grace for suggesting the header:

Many of these links I gathered before I went on my east coast trip – which is to say, two weeks ago or more. I wonder if any of them have aged badly in that time?

  1. The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie – The New York Times
    This long article, about the search for information about two brilliant, but very obscure, female musicians in the 1930s, is the most fascinating thing I’ve read all month. I can’t remember who told me to read it, but whoever it was, thank you.
  2. My Family’s Slave
    “She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.” This engrossing, disturbing article has been much-discussed and much-criticized. To me, it’s a valuable slash disturbing article about how easily one can be in complicity with evil, and the author (to me) doesn’t seem to be making excuses for his own participation.
  3. Raspberry Stethoscope — On being a fat medical student, at the start of our metabolism module
  4. How ‘woke’ went from black activist watchword to teen internet slang
  5. No, Cato Institute, Sweatshops Are Not Feminist
    Good article arguing against the pro-sweatshop arguments that are all-too-common.
  6. The painful truth about teeth – The Washington Post
    Living with chronic, treatable tooth pain is commonplace for poor Americans.
  7. Headlines that say GOP bill makes sexual assault a pre-existing condition are misleading | PolitiFact
    What the GOP bill does is make it possible for insurance companies to discriminate against, and refuse to cover, rape victims who seek treatment (such as anti-AIDS medication). That’s horrific, but many progressives seem to believe that the Trumpcare bill explicitly makes singles out rape victims and makes sexual assault a pre-existing condition, and that’s not accurate.
  8. Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ – Vox
  9. House May Be Forced to Vote Again on GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill – Bloomberg
    I hadn’t realized that they haven’t yet submitted the bill to the Senate – and neither, apparently, had many Republican representatives.
  10. You don’t get to talk about abortion unless… | Kelly Thinks Too Much
  11. Allied forces knew about Holocaust two years before discovery of concentration camps, secret documents reveal | The Independent
  12. GOP Congressman Frelinghuysen Targets Activist in Letter to Her Employer – WNYC News – WNYC
    Frelinghuysen’s not a minor player – he’s the head of the House Appropriations Committee. This sort of thing, which pretty much zero Republicans will object to, is a far more dire threat to free speech than campus protestors.
  13. Why Colleges Have a Right to Reject Hateful Speakers Like Ann Coulter | New Republic
  14. Ann Coulter at Berkeley: Untangling the Truth | California Magazine
  15. Why Are Women Reluctant to Use the Word Rape? – Flare
  16. The Republican Lawmaker Who Secretly Created Reddit’s Women-Hating ‘Red Pill’ – The Daily Beast
  17. 7 reasons why today’s left should be optimistic – Vox
  18. The War against Chinese Restaurants
    “… there was once a national movement to eliminate Chinese restaurants, using innovative legal methods to drive them out.”
  19. What percent of all humans that ever lived are alive now? – Quora
    Of course, answering this question requires making many assumptions, but the answer is, a bit over 6%.
  20. Asking the Wrong Questions: They’re All Going to Laugh at You: On Three Versions of Much Ado About Nothing
    Very down on Whedon’s version, really loved the Tennant/Tate version.
  21. A Big Diet-Science Lab Has Been Publishing Shoddy Research — Science of Us
    The researcher in question is Brian Wansink, who posted a comment on “Alas” once, years ago, after I criticized a terrible study of his having to do with watching fat people at Chinese buffets.
  22. Republicans exempt their own insurance from their latest health care proposal – Vox
    What complete hypocrites.
  23. Hot Girls Wanted: Exploiting Sex Workers in the Name of Exposing Porn Exploitation? – Hit & Run : Reason.com
    The Netflix documentary, produced by (sigh) Rashida Jones, publicized a porn actress’ real name without her permission, among other things. That seems pretty deplorable.
  24. The Marketplace of Ideas Could Use a Few Product Recalls
    Just because an idea is bad, doesn’t mean it’ll sink.
  25. The Campus Free Speech Battle You’re Not Seeing
  26. Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong – The New York Times
  27. Why you should call the government to report crimes committed by extraterrestrials.
  28. How a Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered the Lies and Decided to Fight for Science
    “…then I talked to the climate skeptics who had made this argument to me, and it turns out they had done so with full knowledge they were being misleading.”
  29. Why did Trump win? New research by Democrats offers a worrisome answer. – The Washington Post
    If you have a bit more time, the slideshow presentation of the results is interesting.

world kitty

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36 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Worldwide Kitty Edition

  1. 1
    David Schraub says:

    The Moskowitz article on “the campus free speech battle you’re not seeing” is a pretty stock shock troop in the “scream bloody murder about censoring my side; utterly ignore censoring their side” form of fair-weather free speech advocacy. I was just at the annual Academic Engagement Network conference in Chicago, where the speakers regaled one another with the many, many ways that Israeli or pro-Israel speakers were censored or marginalized on college campuses. And because I find fair-weather free speech advocacy annoying, my contribution in my panel remarks was to remind them of illiberal tendencies amongst anti-BDS actors (the keynote example being the Israeli law barring BDS supporters from the country, but with shout-outs to cancelling Noa’s concert in Detroit and OSU Hillel kicking out a Jewish LGBT group for cosponsoring a non-Israel/non-BDS related event with — among many other groups — JVP). But my colleagues weren’t wrong that there is a significant push to censor or exclude Israelis or pro-Israel speakers from college campuses. Their examples were perfectly valid cases, and several of them were quite sickening. They were just myopic in thinking that it only happened to their side. As is Moskowitz.

  2. 2
    desipis says:

    Lawsuit: Boys endured public shaming, violence following racist Instagram incident:

    The first part isn’t that interesting:

    On March 20, students told teachers about another student’s Instagram account on which racist memes were posted. Some students were alleged to have posted comments on the photos and several others had “liked” the images, which were of 11 students — most of them girls, and all but one a person of color — and the school’s African-American girls basketball coach.

    According to school officials, parents and students, the images included nooses drawn around necks of those photographed and side-by-side photos of the girls and apes.

    All students associated with the account were suspended, many for as long as five days, according to the lawsuit, which claimed administrators lengthened the suspension without proper authority.

    The story gets interesting when the school decides (potentially unconstitutional) suspensions weren’t enough and that some “restorative justice” was needed:

    “The plaintiffs and the other suspended students were forced to march through the high school and were lined up in full view of all or most of the student body,” according to the lawsuit. “School administrators allowed the student body to hurl obscenities, scream profanities, and jeer at the plaintiffs and the other suspended students, who were all not allowed to leave what the school considered an act of ‘atonement’ but was rather a thinly veiled form of public shaming.”

    A parent eventually convinced administrators to stop the event, the plaintiffs allege.

    On March 30, the plaintiffs and other suspended students attended another “restorative justice” session where a few hundred protesters gathered outside. They allege administrators failed to get sufficient security to escort them out of the building, leading to two suspended students being physically assaulted, with one suffering a broken nose, the lawsuit alleges.

  3. 3
    nobody.really says:

    23. ….The Netflix documentary, produced by (sigh) Rashida Jones, publicized a porn actress’ real name with her permission, among other things. That seems pretty deplorable.

    Did you mean to say “withOUT her permission”? (And “actress’s?”)

    (Feel free to delete this comment.)

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    Re: #12 – Rep. Frelinghuysen may have acted legally, but he’s a real asshole.

    Re: #14 – that’s a very good job of unpacking what happened in that instance. I learned a few things from it.

    Re: #13 – Prof. Hanlon justifies including some material in his course syllabi while leaving out others on the basis of time. That’s fair. But it seems to me that there’s two things wrong with that analogy.

    First, if a professor leaves out material that challenges the point of view of his course without at least acknowledging when there are major controversies regarding his point of view he’s not educating his students, he’s attempting to indoctrinate them. Not that I’m saying that’s what he’s doing in his particular example – I’m not sufficiently familiar with the subject matter to tell. But it’s a point I don’t think he properly addresses.

    Second, there’s a big difference between the objectives of a syllabus and the time and materials pressure on it vs. scheduling speeches on campus. The latter has (as we say in I.T.) a lot more bandwidth. And there’s also a much broader audiences for the latter than the former, and at least on that basis if not on others a much greater obligation to present speakers covering a larger spectrum of viewpoints.

    Secondly, the author presents Ann Coulter as if her views are presumptively “hateful”. While many here might agree that’s hardly a non-controversial view, to the point that it seems to me that an academic institution’s mission is to leave that decision up to the people who would choose (or not choose) to attend and listen rather than making it at the administrative level.

    And finally – the graphic. My 18 year old cat seems to have suffered what the vet is calling a stroke of the spine. We woke up one morning a few days ago and said “Where’s Tiger?” as she always invades the bedroom demanding to be fed in the morning as soon as I start moving. I went into my daughter’s old bedroom (which we still reference as “[daughter’s_name]’s room” even though she moved out for good over a decade ago …) to find her on the bed. It’s where she generally sleeps. But she couldn’t get up. Since then she’s slowly improving – and last night she got up and down the stairs and played a bit with a toy, which last that graphic brought to mind. 18 is getting up there for a cat, so I know she’s going to go – but I’m not ready for her to go just yet. Right now we need her around.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    Wow, despis, that sounds like a “two-minute hate”, except that it lasted longer than two minutes. 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual. I suspect a massive lawsuit will follow.

  6. 6
    desipis says:

    #8 is a probably one of the better attempts to criticise Murray’s work I’ve read recently… well at least until they stop talking about evidence. Towards the start they acknowledge there are a range of opinions on the matter.

    …there is undeniably a range of opinions in the scientific community. Some well-informed scientists hold views closer to Murray’s than to ours.

    They state Murray’s case as revolving around 5 points; I’m not sure how accurate this representation is, but it doesn’t seem to be an obviously straw-man. I do think they have misunderstood or are misstating the way Murray uses the concept of race though. They then go through the evidence, noting that Murray’s primary observations are largely correct. They provide their interpretation of the evidence and note how it’s different to Murray’s.

    Then they go off the deep-end and decide to declare because Murray’s conclusions are morally objectionable, none of his evidence counts and he is doing “junk science”.

    I’m all for raising standards of evidence in the social sciences. However the standard of Murray’s work is considerably higher than average. That would mean that many of the points the Vox article uses to criticise Murray’s work, along with much of the lefts favoured social theories would similarly need to be thrown out as “junk science”.

  7. 7
    pillsy says:

    The articles on Murray (8 & 24) shed an interesting light on one argument I’ve seen come up again and again, where it’s basically corrupt to argue that you shouldn’t pursue questions because the answers might be harmful. This would be a much stronger argument if it weren’t, well, so likely to be false. The longevity of Murray’s style of scientific racism (which long predates Murray himself), and the endless attempts to rehabilitate him and his reputation [1] suggests that members of marginalized groups would be foolish to place much faith in the standard cut-and-thrust of academic debate to filter out arguments that further marginalize them, no matter how crappy they are on the merits.

    Advocates of open debate should really think twice about the message they send when they try to soft-peddle the nastiness of folks like Murray. “Even discredited racist cranks have a right to speak, and stripping them of that right is a cure far worse than the disease,” is a compelling argument, and one that liberals have proudly stood by for decades, in part on the grounds that bad speech can by countered by more speech, and that sunlight is a more than adequate disinfectant. By defending Murray and dismissing or minimizing the noxiousness of his ideas, liberals undermine the very mechanism they argue we should rely on to defend ourselves from illiberalism.

    [1] Most recently, he was dusted off after writing a book applying typical right-wing “cultural pathology” theories about poverty to the white working class. However, instead of attributing their problems to bad genes (which he doesn’t want to do because, you know, they’re white), he somehow decided everything was the fault of elitist liberals who don’t spend enough time at Applebee’s.

  8. 8
    Kate says:

    In response to the incident that Depisis posted about @2

    1.) Violence and verbal abuse is wrong. Full stop. The outcome, here was awful.
    2.) That is not what “restorative jusitice” is meant to be. It originated as an alternative to incarceration, to give people who commit crimes a chance to be reintegrated into the community, while making sure their victims can feel safe. My son’s school had a restorative justice policy, and it worked beautifully. He was accused of bullying a child. We had separate meetings in which my son was taught about what he had done that was wrong, and worked on ideas to atone for that. Meanwhile, the victim was working one what she would need to feel like she could feel safe at school again, and that justice had been done. When we’d made enough progress, the kids were brought together to work out a solution going forward. Then they presented a unified front to the community. But, restorative justice only works when both sides are on board. That was clearly not the case with the incident Depisis posted about. These young people were not ready to acknowledge that what they did was wrong, and their victims were not ready to forgive them. They should not have been brought together under those circumstances.
    3.) Posting a noose on an image of an African American is a threat. Threats are not protected speech.
    4.) The internet is not “private”. Posting things on the internet is like putting a sign on your front lawn – it may be your space, but you’re daft if you think no one’s going to see it and people certainly have a right to respond to it. Once these threatening posts were out there, their targets were rightly afraid. It created a hostile environment in the school, which the administration needed to address. Clearly, the administration did that poorly.

  9. 9
    Mookie says:

    They state Murray’s case as revolving around 5 points; I’m not sure how accurate this representation is.

    [T]he standard of Murray’s work is considerably higher than average

    .
    Wait, how do you not know whether or not Murray’s ‘argument’ can be summarized in five points* — this sounds like you haven’t read him? — but can confidently assert that his work is superlative? Can you show your work here?

    *why the mere act of summarizing him might be a strawman is unclear

  10. 10
    desipis says:

    Because it’s been a while since I’ve looked at his work, and as such I remember my general impressions but not specific details of his arguments.

  11. 12
    Mookie says:

    That’s confusing to me, desipis, because from your comment at 6, I take it that the authors did a marvelous, if inadvertent, job at proving Murray correct. But you’re also not sure, because of your dim recollection of what you’ve read of him, if they’re representing him accurately in their distillation of his thesis. Can you explain?

  12. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Horowitz’s U.S. publisher is an imprint of Penguin, which has published white authors with black protagonists, including kid’s books like Simon Mason’s Running Girl. (Kids books are relevant because Horowitz is a kid’s book author). So it doesn’t seem likely that there’s actually such a policy in place.

    Also, I am a children’s book author. I know children’s book editors; I know other children’s book authors. I can’t say that there aren’t individual publishers or editors who have such a rule – I can’t prove a negative – but I can say that it’s not the norm. What I think editors do want is to feel secure that when authors write outside their own culture, they can be trusted to do so with sensitivity and in a way that won’t piss off readers from that culture.

    With that in mind, I suspect that Horowitz’s editor, recalling that Horowitz did – just last year – get in trouble for racially insensitive language (when he said Idris Elba was “too street” to play James Bond), doesn’t think that having Horowitz write such a book is likely to be approved by the higher-ups who have to approve books. (Editors rarely get to make such decisions on their own.)

    Also, it’s ironic that Horowitz, while running to the press to talk about what was presumably a private conversation with his editor, pats himself on the back for how “guarded” and “discreet” he is.

    P.S. I’ve often been told that being publicly accused of racism, or of having said something racist, is a all but guaranteed career-killer. It’s notable, then, that Horowitz continues to write and publish books, despite his troubles last year. Which I think is the way things should be. Just wanted to point out that the catastrophic effects of this sort of thing have been exaggerated.

    (Edited to add the PS and to correct a misspelling of Idris Elba’s name and to delete the stupid “uh-huh” I opened the comment with.)

  13. 14
    Michael says:

    @pillsy#6- yeah but people on both sides tend to minimize the repugnance of the speakers they’re defending. Look at the recent Trumbo movie- it completely minimizes Trumbos support of Stalin. Or take for example WEB Dubois- he’s often portrayed as a victim of the red scare without mentioning that he described the kulaks as bloodsuckers and supported Stalins treatment of them. Or look at the “white genocide” professor- people rushed to defend him claiming he was merely parodying white supremacists without mentioning that he had earlier tweeted “off the pigs” and praised Lenin.

  14. 15
    Evan Þ says:

    Re link #5 on sweatshops – The article spends a whole lot of time describing how horrible conditions are in sweatshops, both in the 1800’s and in the modern day. I believe it. However, this doesn’t interact with the argument they’re responding to: that conditions were even worse in the farms where the workers would otherwise be. It’s possible for both to be true, which would make sweatshops a marginal improvement.

    Is this the case? Fortunately, link #26 (the New York Times article) offers some evidence: at least in Ethiopia, often not; the majority of sweatshop workers chose to leave and go back to what they were doing beforehand.

    (My guess is that it’s complicated: sometimes the sweatshops were/are better for whatever reason, otherwise nobody would stay; sometimes they aren’t, as we see from this study in Ethiopia.)

  15. 16
    Sarah says:

    Is the map at the end meant to illustrate something, or is it a picture of an elephant looking at a rock? I’m almost certain it’s an elephant looking at a rock…

  16. 17
    Ampersand says:

    I see it as a kitten batting a ball; what you interpreted as the elephant’s trunk, I interpreted as the kitten’s leg and paw reaching out for the ball.

  17. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Nobody Really:

    Did you mean to say “withOUT her permission”? (And “actress’s?”)

    Thanks for the correction! I did indeed mean “without,” and I’ve made the correction in the post.

    But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “actress'”? Or is your tongue in cheek? It can be hard to tell with nobody. :-)

  18. 19
    Ampersand says:

    David S. –

    I have no doubt that you’re right in everything you say.

    Overall, however, it does seem to me that censorious acts by the left on campus – including some events that really aren’t censorship at all, like the Ann Coulter thing (links 13 and 14) – get FAR more mainstream attention and criticism than any campus censorship from the right.

  19. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Desipis:

    That high school story is completely appalling. I’d like to see some other perspectives on what happened – that news report seems 100% based on what the kids’ lawyers wrote in their lawsuit – but assuming that’s accurate, then the entire story is terrible.

    And even if it’s not fully accurate, I’m leery about a school punishing kids for an out-of-school act of “liking” a racist post.

  20. 21
    nobody.really says:

    23. ….The Netflix documentary, produced by (sigh) Rashida Jones, publicized a porn actress’ real name….

    Did you mean to say …. “actress’s?”

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “actress’”?

    The range of policies regarding possessives astonishes me. For example, Bryan Garner’s Red Book manual for legal writing states at p. 135 that “By long-standing convention, some ancient multisyllabic names than end in a sibilant sound take the apostrophe alone. This exception applies exclusively to classical and biblical names.” Go figure.

    That said, I have yet to find an authority that would approve of the usage “actress’ real name.” The Associated Press Style Manual tends to favor whatever convention requires the least typeface; for example, it disfavors the Oxford comma. But even the AP Manual recommends writing actress’s rather than actress’ in this context. See, for example, this 2016 web page (approving of “the hostess’s table”).

    (For what it’s worth, the AP Style Manual disagrees with the Red Book about Jesus, Moses, and Socrates. The AP Manual does recommend an apostrophe without an s for names then end in an unpronounced s, such as Descartes or Camus—but the Chicago Manual of Style does not. Still, it’s not exactly a news flash that people disagree about Jesus, Moses, Socrates, Decartes, and Camus….)

  21. 22
    Harlequin says:

    However, this doesn’t interact with the argument they’re responding to: that conditions were even worse in the farms where the workers would otherwise be. It’s possible for both to be true, which would make sweatshops a marginal improvement.

    I think there’s also an implicit argument that sweatshops aren’t a necessity–that producing better workplace environments/wages is not prohibitively expensive (though it does, obviously, cost money). That is, part of the problem is that the Cato Institute article limited the question to “farm or sweatshop”, when it’s plausibly “farm, sweatshop, or better factory environment.”

  22. 23
    Harlequin says:

    For apostrophe-s-or-not, my rule of thumb is to ask how many “s” sounds I make when I say it.

    Actress’s = I pronounce this like “actresses” so I add the s
    my friend Mx. Smith’s house = smiths
    the Smiths’ house = smiths

    Doesn’t work for the historical names (Moses) but as nobody.really says there’s dispute there anyway.

  23. 24
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#19- there were a couple of troubling issues with the Coulter mess. First, as one of the links you posted show, there were indeed credible threats against Coulter. I don’t see how threatening someone in an attempt to prevent their appearance can be anything but censorship.
    Secondly, the reason why Spencer and Coulter couldn’t be disinvited for ideological reasons was that Auburn and Berkeley are public universities:
    http://college.usatoday.com/2017/04/20/do-controversial-figures-have-a-right-to-speak-at-public-universities/
    If you want to start the University of Ampersand, and deny Spencer and Coulter platforms, that’s different than if a public university does so.

  24. 25
    MJJ says:

    Several issues with Vox’s “takedown” of Charles Murray.

    (1) But observing that some people have greater cognitive ability than others is one thing; assuming that this is because of some biologically based, essential inner quality called g that causes them to be smarter, as Murray claims, is another.

    Isn’t g essentially a shorthand for the correlation between different kinds of intelligence? The idea is not that there is one identifiable factor (as in one gene or one biochemical) that underlies intelligence, but that the factors that influence intelligence in various areas seem to have a component that affects intelligence in multiple areas; that component is g.

    Moreover, the question of g is not terribly important to the issue of whether intelligence is heritable. Even if verbal, math, geographic, etc. aptitudes were completely independent, each could be heritable.

    (2) Heritability is not unique to IQ; in fact, virtually all differences among individual human beings are somewhat heritable.

    No one has suggested otherwise.

    (3) Murray takes the heritability of intelligence as evidence that it is an essential inborn quality, passed in the genes from parents to children with little modification by environmental factors… Heritability is not a special property of certain traits that have turned out to be genetic; it is a description of the human condition,

    There seems to be an implication here that Murray relies on the magical properties of the word “heritable.” Those who believe that environmental factors have little impact on intelligence generally believe that the data shows little impact or at least little permanent impact from deliberate environmental changes (there is also the possibility of random environmental effects which basically amount to noise). You may argue with their data or their interpretations of it, but I do not think that they are simply supposing that if they find some heritability that automatically rules out environmental effect in and of itself.

    (4) The new DNA-based science has also led to an ironic discovery: Virtually none of the complex human qualities that have been shown to be heritable are associated with a single determinative gene!

    I don’t see how this is ironic, given that Murray predicts such qualities to be distributed along a belle curve, and this is exactly what you would expect for any quality distributed along a bell curve.

    I’ve got more thoughts, but that will do for now.

  25. 26
    Ampersand says:

    Michael:

    1) I agree that threats are a form of censorship. But the claim that Berkeley College censored the student group or Coulter are not justified. (Unless it was someone in the administration of Berkeley, acting in an official capacity, who issued the threats.)

    If there were credible threats of violence, that makes Berkeley’s position stronger. When there’s a credible threat of violence, the university is especially justified in worrying about security issues.

    2) I think that colleges should have the right to refuse speakers of no academic value, as long as the standards are applied consistently to people from all views. At the least, when applying to bring in a speaker, student groups should have to make a positive argument as to why the speaker provides value to an academic community. Yes, this would make it easier to bring (ugh) Charles Murray or (ugh) Robert George to speak on a campus than Richard Spencer. That doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

    In addition, speakers who have used speaking engagements to publicly harass and mock nonconsenting students – i.e., Milo Y – should not be allowed, regardless of ideology. (I can’t think of a left-wing speaker who did that on campus, but if one did, I’d say they should never be invited to speak on any campus again.)

  26. 27
    Kate says:

    In addition, speakers who have used speaking engagements to publicly harass and mock nonconsenting students – i.e., Milo Y – should not be allowed, regardless of ideology. (I can’t think of a left-wing speaker who did that on campus, but if one did, I’d say they should never be invited to speak on any campus again.)

    Anthony Weiner isn’t a perfect fit, but he’s the closest I can think of at the moment. And look at how the left circled wagons around him!

  27. 28
    Kate says:

    And even if it’s not fully accurate, I’m leery about a school punishing kids for an out-of-school act of “liking” a racist post.

    If it were just a random meme, I’d agree. But, my understanding is that these were manipulated images of children they go to school with. That’s personal. That’s bullying.

  28. 29
    desipis says:

    I think that colleges should have the right to refuse speakers of no academic value

    The concept of “academic value” seems like it’d be rather difficult to pin down. I certainly wouldn’t want a university administration bureaucrats making those calls. The only way I could see that working would be a simple procedural test, where if any of the university’s academic staff vouch for the speaker then they are allowed.

    That still might run into a problem with a broader conceptualisation of a university. Students aren’t just there to learn, they go for a range of life experiences. Should all kinds of cultural, social or sporting activities be banned from the university simply because they don’t have “academic value”?

  29. 30
    Ampersand says:

    The concept of “academic value” seems like it’d be rather difficult to pin down.

    I’m suggesting that each campus could be free to develop its own aesthetic and approach (within the usual legal limits). So yes, the standards at UMass might end up not being identical to those at U of O. I think that’s better than having one standard for all.

    I certainly wouldn’t want a university administration bureaucrats making those calls.

    If you don’t like the way a college defines academic worth, instead of saying “they should not be allowed to take an approach I disagree with,” why not just go to a different college? (Nor are “administration bureaucrats” the only possibility – my guess is that many colleges would choose to use a faculty committee, or a committee consisting of a mix of people from the college community).

    Should all kinds of cultural, social or sporting activities be banned from the university simply because they don’t have “academic value”?

    No, you didn’t understand what I wrote. I said colleges “should have the right to refuse speakers of no academic value”; that’s not the same thing as “should never be allowed to bring in any speakers that don’t have direct academic value,” which is how you misread it. (“I have the right to say no when people offer me eat ice cream” is not the same as “I am never allowed to eat ice cream.”)

  30. 31
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Sure. Ideally private colleges would be free to do whatever they wanted, irrespective of the ill-defined “academic freedom” and tenure. Then people could simply go somewhere that matches their views. Want protection from bad views? Go to Oberlin. Want to be exposed to a lot of competing views, including ones you may dislike? Go to U. Chicago. And so on.

    That still doesn’t answer the issue of public colleges, though. Those are trickier.

    Ampersand says:
    If there were credible threats of violence, that makes Berkeley’s position stronger. When there’s a credible threat of violence, the university is especially justified in worrying about security issues.

    This is what’s termed the “heckler’s veto”. It’s a horrible idea: it gives incentives to threaten people you dislike; it makes censorship subject to random (and often unidentified third parties,) and it should not generally be permitted.

    2) I think that colleges should have the right to refuse speakers of no academic value, as long as the standards are applied consistently to people from all views.

    “No academic value” approaches the null set. You can make an argument for the “value” of anything. And if you have other rules, the speaker can just include a qualifying factoid.

    The standard can’t be applied consistently for all views because there is no such thing as a consistent and objective standard. They all just come down to “stopping speech I personally dislike.” (I’m not kidding. Try to define an objective standard if you don’t believe me, which doesn’t eventually come down to “I say so.” It’s one thing to imagine a standard and another thing entirely to produce one which works, as you will see if you try.)

    At the least, when applying to bring in a speaker, student groups should have to make a positive argument as to why the speaker provides value to an academic community.

    “It is good for people to have the opportunity to be exposed to views with which they disagree, even unpleasant ones. Anyone who can’t handle that is free not to attend the speech.”

    That covers pretty much anyone, right?

    Or, to look at it differently, how are you going to explain the common “academic value” thread between these? Do they all pass muster?
    1) An exhibit of photos, perhaps with a talk
    2) A poetry reading
    3) An “autoethnographic” presentation
    4) An inspirational speech by a political or popular figure.
    5) A slideshow and speech from a world traveler.
    6) A published author talking about her works and views.

    Are all of those academic?**

    Yes, this would make it easier to bring (ugh) Charles Murray or (ugh) Robert George to speak on a campus than Richard Spencer. That doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

    Of course it doesn’t, because you dislike the viewpoints you’re banning. But are you so hubristic to think that the viewpoints you like won’t end up being banned as well? Are you so very eager to throw away the open door policy, and are you certain that you fully understand the secondary effects of the change?

    **This was a trick, of course, to demonstrate the futility of finding an objective standard.
    1) Richard Spencer showing photos of black people, with a talk about why the subjects should be demeaned
    2) A poetry reading, by Milo, on his typical controversial subjects–his normal speech, but in free verse
    3) An “autoethnographic” presentation by a white nationalist
    4) An inspirational speech by a political or popular figure, perhaps a leader in the Nazi movement, or Ann Coulter (hey, I didn’t say it had to inspire US).
    5) A slideshow and speech from an ex-Marine, showing his Iraq experience and why he thinks we should kill all Muslims.
    6) A published author–Cathy Young–talking about her works and views.

  31. 32
    Elusis says:

    The concept of “academic value” seems like it’d be rather difficult to pin down. I certainly wouldn’t want a university administration bureaucrats making those calls.

    This is why at many universities, student groups are supposed to have faculty sponsors. In theory, I could understand a policy in which, if a group wanted to use student money and university resources (buildings, security) for a speaker, the faculty sponsor would have to attest to their academic value.

    I don’t think this would stop groups like Campus Republicans who think it’s clever to bring speakers like Ann Coulter, because despite the hand-wringing over how liberal faculty are, trust me there are plenty willing to make some dubious arguments in favor of truly putrid ideas, but at least faculty can nominally deal with one another as peers rather than administrators from the top down or students and their adolescent unchecked ids taking shots at other students.

  32. 33
    Ampersand says:

    This is what’s termed the “heckler’s veto”.

    No, saying “we need to hold this in a safe venue, here are some dates and times we can do this” is not the heckler’s veto.

    Yes, this would make it easier to bring (ugh) Charles Murray or (ugh) Robert George to speak on a campus than Richard Spencer. That doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

    Of course it doesn’t, because you dislike the viewpoints you’re banning.

    I could not possibly had made it clearer that I was indicating that there were people with viewpoints I despise who I think would be acceptable speakers from an academic perspective. And you must know that I’ve argued for the free speech rights of people I despise, because you’ve commented on those threads.

    The way you decided to read my argument is dishonest and insulting at worse. At best, it shows that you’re not even bothering to give my arguments a good-faith reading, and instead just fitting my words into simplistic “I know what the stupid lefties think” stereotypes. In neither case are you worth arguing with.

  33. 34
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    May 23, 2017 at 4:02 pm
    No, saying “we need to hold this in a safe venue, here are some dates and times we can do this” is not the heckler’s veto.

    Yes it is, the vast majority of the time. Those are excuses which are used to downgrade publicity of events, increase costs of events, decrease attendance at events, delay events after publication, and such. Moreover, the success of forcing someone to move is a demonstration of the power of protest, so it continues the escalation.

    You seem to be imagining that these are usually good-faith objective arguments to make things work for the speaker with only a tiny concession, and without considering the views of the protesters other than to protect against them. But in reality these decisions are made by people with strong views (often though not always opposed to the speaker) and they have broader political goals.

    Ampersand said:
    Yes, this would make it easier to bring (ugh) Charles Murray or (ugh) Robert George to speak on a campus than Richard Spencer. That doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

    To which I replied:

    Of course it doesn’t, because you dislike the viewpoints you’re banning.

    to which Amp said:

    I could not possibly had made it clearer that I was indicating that there were people with viewpoints I despise who I think would be acceptable speakers from an academic perspective. And you must know that I’ve argued for the free speech rights of people I despise, because you’ve commented on those threads.

    Dude. You literally wrote about how you would be OK with having what I might term a “lower category” of speaker (Richard Spencer); you reached for a squicky “academic” justification for a ban, and you said “that doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.”

    The fact that you identified some other speakers who you approve of… so what? You can tell me all you want that you are in favor of free speech. But the proof is in the pudding.

    You just said you were OK with restricting people from speaking; you don’t seem to be presenting an objective standard which would apply equally across the political spectrum; and you don’t write comments about the various things which liberals say and find offensive. You didn’t have any examples of left-wing stuff you might like banned; I can’t recall any recent posts you’ve written where you support banning left wing speakers from campus because their views are offensive, or because what they say might be perceived as “attacking” or “demeaning” students.

  34. 35
    nobody.really says:

    In case people missed it, Michael @ 24 provided a link to a fine summary of the law and policy involving controversial speakers on campus. It addresses the distinction between public and private colleges and the “public forum” doctrine, when content-based discrimination is permitted, time/place/manner restrictions, safety concerns and the “heckler’s veto,” and speech codes.

    Just FYI.

  35. 36
    nobody.really says:

    Mavel Comics’ sales are off because they promote a diverse cast of superheros? Or because they employ goofy management practices? Among other things:

    [C]orporate superhero comics have largely moved away from long tenures by creative teams. Artists are now regularly swapped around on titles to meet increased production demands, which devalues their work in the eyes of fans and rarely lets a title build a consistent identity. (Imagine a television show using a new cast and crew every few episodes for a sense of how disruptive this is.) Marvel and DC are both guilty of this, but neither seems to have grasped how damaging it actually is to the books themselves—and Marvel has pursued the practice for longer.

    Marvel’s editor-in-chief [said] that he didn’t know if artists “[moved] the needle” anymore when it came to sales. The fact that Marvel has trained audiences to regard those artists as disposable doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind; nor does the possibility that buyers—like a few prospective comics fans I know—might be turned off by constantly rotating art teams.

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