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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95 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.

  36. 37
    Kate says:

    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.

    G&W – Amp said it would make it easier to bring them to speak – not easier to ban them from speaking.

  37. 38
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Kate says:
    May 24, 2017 at 10:46 pm
    Ampersand said:
    G&W – Amp said it would make it easier to bring them to speak – not easier to ban them from speaking.

    There’s still a relative difference between the two groups. YMMV, but from my perspective I don’t see much of a distinction between these:
    1) Imposing limitations on Group B, but not on Group A; and
    2) Imposing overall limitations on everyone, and selectively excepting Group A from the limitations.

    In both cases, the goal (and result) is that you hear more from Group A than from Group B.

    nobody.really says:
    May 24, 2017 at 6:49 am
    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.

    That is one of the better non-lawyer summary articles I’ve seen, but it still makes some common errors.

    For example, the article doesn’t really explain how incredibly limited the “fighting words” exception really is. In practice that loophole is quite small.

    Also, it keeps using the term “hate speech” but doesn’t discuss the fact that there is no such thing as “hate speech” in the law. Any time you read a First Amendment article which doesn’t explain that clearly, you should see that as a red flag.

    There is just speech. The Supremes have made certain delineated exceptions to free speech (including “fighting words”), but “hate speech” isn’t one of them.

    “Hate speech” is just a lay terms which translates into “speech that the listener doesn’t like.” And as usual for first amendment law, there is no viewpoint-neutral and objective way to define ‘hate speech’ which wouldn’t objectively cast a wide enough net to include all sorts of obviously protected speech.

    To use the common example of how the problem starts: everyone here probably agrees that it’s very bad for a racist Nazi skinhead to call Jesse Jackson a n–r, and it’s not necessarily a problem for Jesse Jackson to insult a racist Nazi skinhead. People want that to stop. So people think that we should be able to write laws which protect Jesse Jackson.

    But writing rules which revolve around insults would tag them both as criminals. Making “n–r” illegal would tag a lot of POC as criminals, even though they use it in a different way. Making rules which allow for POC insults and use of “n–r” but not for Nazi use of those insults and words would selectively privilege a viewpoint and/or a race, which we can’t do. And so on.

    And of course it’s much more dangerous than that. You may believe that a court could reasonably apply the standard to a Nazi skinhead / Jesse Jackson encounter. And you might be right! But there aren’t that many nazi skinheads around. And the same standard would also apply to anti-racists, anti-Trumpers, feminists, and so on. And the recipients of those strong statements would each file cases–as would the folks on the trans feminist/radfem debates, and so on.

  38. 39
    Jane Doh says:

    I think there is a big difference between being invited to a campus to speak by some club or organization and being invited to speak at an official university function (like graduation, an opening ceremony, an alumni event, etc). At most universities I’ve been to, the sponsoring organization is listed on any advertising for the event, so it would be clear that say the College Republicans, the local Green Party, or the College Democrats invited some political speaker, not the university itself. If someone is invited to one of these type events, and I object to their topic/opinions/message, I just wouldn’t go. If people wanted to protest or picket, I would support their right to do so in a manner that does not interfere with the event. In the event the speaker is especially controversial in a way that might interfere with the normal operations of the university, I would support Amp’s suggestion of suggesting to the speaker times when a controversial event that raises people’s emotions could be safely accommodated without too much interference to the rest of campus. When I was a student only a very tiny minority of students actually cared about such events enough to attend them, let alone protest. The rest just wanted to be free to go about their business unmolested.

    I would strongly object to a controversial figure being invited by the university for an official event. For one thing, it forces those involved in the event (especially graduation) to choose between a ceremony that may be important to them and their families and listening to a speaker they may not wish to engage for whatever reason. For another, it puts the weight of the university behind the speaker, and is both an honor and an endorsement of sorts for the speaker. This is much more problematic, since the university is sending a message, however unintended, to students who strongly object. Its not like there aren’t plenty of accomplished people who are not likely to be lightning rods for high emotions to choose from for such events. In this case, I would be much more likely to protest, if only to get the message that not all students at the university agree with and endorse the speaker. I still think nonviolent, nondisruptive protest is the best way to deal with this. I thought the protest of VP Pence at Notre Dame’s graduation (quietly walking out) was a fine example of how to protest a speaker without ruining the event.

    FWIW, it really, really sucked when the then-current US president came to give a speech at my undergrad university. I get that for those politically inclined, it was a great opportunity, but the security involved disrupted campus operations (some parts of some buildings were off-limits, which was a huge issue for the departments involved) for weeks before, even without considering the protests leading up to and at the event itself.

  39. 40
    Ampersand says:

    G&W, the paragraph you’re critiquing opened by saying: “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.”

  40. 41
    nobody.really says:

    FWIW, it really, really sucked when the then-current US president came to give a speech at my undergrad university.

    Imagine what it’s like to live in Palm Beach, FL. Or DC, for that matter; how often do people have to confront this or that march clogging all the roads?

    I live far from any such nonsense. And when scheduling my outdoor fall wedding, I anticipated that we might encounter inclement weather–but I hadn’t considered this obstacle: “You know that block of rooms you’ve reserved at our hotel for your wedding guests? You would mind if we cancelled all of those in order to accommodate the president and his entourage when they arrive for the Presidential Debates, would you?”

    Uhhhh … yeah I would. Instead, my guests got to mail their Social Security numbers to DC. And then they got to go through metal detectors and ride up and down the elevators with Secret Service agents—and occasionally meet the president! And we all got T-Shirts with the seal of the President of the United States on the front, and text on the back stating the name of the hotel and the words, “The Choice of Presidents. NO DEBATE.”

  41. 42
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    May 25, 2017 at 8:45 am
    G&W, the paragraph you’re critiquing opened by saying: “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.”

    Yes. But there is no non-subjective non-viewpoint “consistent” standard. And although you are interpreting this as disrespect, the opposite is true: You’ve obviously read plenty of stuff on free speech, and so you must know by now that there is no neutral and objective standard.

    And it is a near-universal truism that people arguing for speech restrictions are trying to stop speech they dislike, because otherwise they wouldn’t care. While many of those people may have good hearts (IOW they truly believe that social benefits justify speech restrictions,) those hoped-for social benefits come because they are shutting down more “bad” (to them) speech than “good” speech. You can’t fix inequality if you treat things equally.

    This is a dangerous road in my view. So I think that people who make non-neutral claims should not be allowed to hide behind the mantle of neutrality.

    I apologize for my tone. But it is much less frustrating when someone has not considered it, and is more frustrating when someone–like you–obviously knows what they’re talking about and still continues to make a utopian “consistent neutral standard” claim. Can anyone know the field; and seriously think that standard exists and will be fairly enforced; and claim to support free speech? I don’t think so.

    As an example of the impossibility of neutral standards, here is a link to New Real Peer Review’s Twitter feed. That’s a satirical tweetstream posting links to papers (mostly gender and SJ-related, but not always) with a strong implication that they are valueless, dumb, etc. Plenty of folks who read NRPR would probably say those are all “non-academic,” although they represent considerable work on the part of a lot of people who are in fact involved in academia. Similarly, any “academic value” analysis would have to come up with a reason why the speech folks don’t like is “non-academic”, and all of these papers are kosher. In the end you would either have to privilege the views of the NRPR folks or the other folks.

  42. 43
    Jane Doh says:

    Imagine what it’s like to live in Palm Beach, FL. Or DC, for that matter; how often do people have to confront this or that march clogging all the roads?

    Actually I lived in DC for a while. Most of the marches/protests/disruptive stuff takes place at or near the Mall–its mostly Federal or office buildings down there, and not really where most people live. Unless I went down there for something at the same time as a major march or protest, I pretty much never had an issue.

    I imagine Palm Beach, FL is suffering quite a bit, though.

  43. 44
    Harlequin says:

    nobody.really, that’s a great story!

    I lived a couple of blocks from Obama during the 2008 campaign (luckily outside the security boundary, though only just). The most I had to deal with happened when he came back for his first visit after the election. They needed to clear his route of parked cars for security reasons, I gather, but for whatever reason they didn’t get the No Parking signs up with 24 hours’ notice, so they legally couldn’t tow any of the cars that were already there. Somehow–I still don’t know how–the police moved about 1.5 miles of parallel-parked cars into the open slots in the street parking in the neighborhood. I woke up the next morning, looked out the window, and was temporarily horrified that my car was gone…

    The best part of this is that the city of Chicago maintains an online list of cars that have been moved or towed, so you can look up what happened to yours–or just browse chronologically. (Or at least you could at the time; I haven’t looked in a while.) This is usually a fun gallery of randomly abandoned cars, parked cars that fell into newly-formed sinkholes, cars that had to be moved for emergencies, etc. On this particular day, there were several pages of cars that had moved for “PRESIDENTIAL VISIT”….or “PRESADENTIAL VISIT” and various other misspellings….or my favorite, “O’BAMA VISIT.”

  44. 45
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    A lot of folks here have discussed the federal sentencing guidelines.

    Here are two highly unusual, excellent, and highly informative set of posts on the subject.

    They are unusual because they are written by a sitting federal judge, which is to say that the author knows what he is talking about to an unusual degree.
    They are excellent because the judge in question is fairly introspective, and is willing to ask tough questions.
    And they are informative because they have some hard statistics to support the “how do we aim towards equality?” discussion.

    Anyway, y’all should read them both. Be aware, should you be moved to comment, that the comment moderation there can be pretty harsh.

    Part 1: http://blog.simplejustice.us/2017/05/24/kopf-the-question-of-sentencing-disparity-part-1

    Part 2: http://blog.simplejustice.us/2017/05/31/kopf-the-question-of-sentencing-disparity-part-2/

  45. 46
    MJJ says:

    [This comment, and many subsequent comments, have been moved to this thread from the “Cartoon: White Priorities” thread. –Amp]

    nobody.really, 33

    (Yeah, yeah, you can’t really compare the status of dominant and subordinate groups, yadda yadda….)

    And that, I think, is where the antisemitism comes in. I think people object to being criticized for “white privilege,” etc., by a sub-group of whites who are, in socioeconomic, cultural (as in influence in the media), and political terms, especially privileged. Not dominant, perhaps, but disproportionately influential for their numbers. And yet they think of themselves as an oppressed minority, with at best, inferior privilege to whites in general, not with, in some ways, more privilege.

    Amp, 38

    It’s a little bit like Jews and eating matzoh. Not all Jews eat matzoh, and not everyone who eats matzoh is Jewish. But if you do see someone eating matzoh, odds are that person is Jewish.

    But are you suggesting that in a similar situation, a non-white person would behave better? Would most Asian-Americans (let alone Asians living in Asian countries), if they pursued a policy that benefited Asian-Americans but hurt others, even care? African-Americans?

    I’m curious as to what the caption would be if the protagonist were Asian, black, Jewish, Arab, etc.

  46. 47
    Jake Squid says:

    I think people object to being criticized for “white privilege,” etc., by a sub-group of whites who are, in socioeconomic, cultural (as in influence in the media), and political terms, especially privileged.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find that sentence to be frightening.

  47. 48
    lauren says:

    a sub-group of whites

    I am going to leave the rest of the (scary, I agree with Jake) sentence for those who are better equipped to tease apart, but equating jewish people only with white people of jewish faith is just facually wrong. There are jewish people of all colors of skin. Pretending otherwise, in an effort to paint jews on the whole as a privileged group, does not make for a strong starting point for any argument.

  48. MJJ:

    I think people object to being criticized for “white privilege,” etc., by a sub-group of whites who are, in socioeconomic, cultural (as in influence in the media), and political terms, especially privileged. Not dominant, perhaps, but disproportionately influential for their numbers. And yet they think of themselves as an oppressed minority, with at best, inferior privilege to whites in general, not with, in some ways, more privilege.

    I know I am echoing Jake here, but I’m going to say it a little more explicitly: I wonder if you recognize just how close this comes to crossing the line into one of the oldest, most pernicious and, frankly, dangerous antisemitic tropes there is? The only reason it doesn’t quite cross the line for me is the qualification “not dominant, perhaps…”—which is pretty faint comfort, if you ask me.

  49. 50
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman says:
    I know I am echoing Jake here, but I’m going to say it a little more explicitly: I wonder if you recognize just how close this comes to crossing the line into one of the oldest, most pernicious and, frankly, dangerous antisemitic tropes there is?

    Er, it’s a “trope” because it’s largely true. We Jews, especially Ashkenazi Jews, are (or were) disproportionally represented in positions of power and influence. And, probably as a result, we are/were arguably privileged out of proportion to our numbers. This is especially true in the U.S., which is the normal focus of Alas. It was true in lots of areas in Europe as well, before everyone killed the Jews off. Scott Aaronson has some interesting recent articles relating to that subject as well, which can’t be linked here but can be Googled.

    If describing a true state of reality is “antisemitic” then we should consider redefining the word. If people are fighting to use Jewish success against us we should focus on stopping the “fighting to use…against us” part, not the “success” part. Reality is what it is.

  50. 51
    Mandolin says:

    If it quacks like antisemitism.

  51. 52
    Michael says:

    @gin-and-whiskey#45- “Scott Aaronson has some interesting recent articles relating to that subject as well, which can’t be linked here but can be Googled.”
    Are you sure you don’t mean Scott Alexander?

  52. 53
    Ampersand says:

    And why can’t they be linked here?

  53. 54
    Hume says:

    It’s pretty interesting that noting that men or white people are disproportionately in positions of power and then calling all men/white people privileged because of this is considered quite acceptable in Social Justice circles. Yet merely noting that Jews are disproportionately in positions of power is sufficient to be called an antisemite, even if one doesn’t stereotype all Jews.

    This double standard in itself validates the complaint that Social Justice has a tendency to misandry and prejudice against white people.

  54. Hume:

    It’s pretty interesting that noting that men or white people are disproportionately in positions of power and then calling all men/white people privileged because of this is considered quite acceptable in Social Justice circles. Yet merely noting that Jews are disproportionately in positions of power is sufficient to be called an antisemite, even if one doesn’t stereotype all Jews.

    The ahistorical tone deafness of that comparison is so egregious I almost don’t want to dignify it with a response, but: There is–as a matter of fact, not interpretation–a history of white supremacy in the United States. Regardless of how one understands the place of that fact in contemporary American society or what one believes the response of contemporary American society to that fact ought to be, to note that white people are “disproportionately in positions of power and then [call them] privileged because of this” is to acknowledge and engage with that history. What constitutes that engagement might be a matter of debate on which reasonable people can disagree, but the possibility of that disagreement does not change the fact of white supremacy or the fact that we are still dealing with it in the 21st century.

    Similarly, the notion that Jews are somehow “super-privileged”–in the sense of being a minority with behind-the-scenes power and control and influence that essentially make us the true ruling elite of the country in which we live–is a trope of antisemitism that has resulted in very real and very fatal violence against Jews for centuries. This also is a fact, not a matter of interpretation, and that fact alone makes the comparison you want to draw both ahistorical and offensive.

    MJJ’s comment may be descriptively accurate, in that the antisemitism directed at Amp may indeed be rooted in white resentment of ostensible Jewish “super-privilege.” (Or at least some of it might be rooted in that resentment. I don’t know that Amp did or could identify the race of all the people who direct those kinds of messages at him.) But the comment itself, as written, skirted very close to suggesting that this was a reasonable explanation for antisemitism, not merely a description of the feelings experienced by the antisemites.

  55. 56
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    May 31, 2017 at 10:26 pm
    And why can’t they be linked here?

    The SSC posts are interesting and well written, and at least IMO relate considerably to the question of “how did Jews get the rep for being successful?” But the SSC posts get there, in part, by discussing evidence about relative IQ of specific genetic populations.

    Per your email, it is apparent that you consider any discussions relating to IQ differences between populations to be “scientific racism.” And since you were crystal clear that you would not entertain any discussion of that subject on Alas, in an effort to follow your rules I did not link to the posts.

  56. 57
    Hume says:

    @Newman

    Do you believe that any group that has been victim in the past can never be perpetrators in the future or conversely, that any group that has been perpetrator in the past can never be a victim in the future?

    Your argument boils down to: ‘we must prevent the wrongs of the past.’ However, history doesn’t always repeat itself. Syrian Islamists were oppressed by Assad, but once they freed themselves from his rule and became part of ISIS, they went after the Yazidis. If one were to argue that any mention of the crimes of ISIS validates the oppression by Assad, that effectively works as a shield for the crimes committed by ISIS. I object to giving erstwhile victims carte blanche, so I reject automatically treating groups as victims or as perpetrators, based on history, rather than their own actions.

    But the comment itself, as written, skirted very close to suggesting that this was a reasonable explanation for antisemitism, not merely a description of the feelings experienced by the antisemites.

    1. A common Social Justice argument is that disproportionate power and wealth is proof of privilege.

    2. It is a hard fact that Jews in the US have a disproportional representation in the senate and disproportionate wealth.

    If the people who believe (1) were not biased against and for certain groups, they would take fact (2) and draw the same conclusions that they draw about other disproportionally powerful and wealthy groups based on similar facts about their over-representation in the senate and among the wealthy. However, my suggestion is to abandon (1), so (2) doesn’t mean that ‘Jews are privileged.’ However, that would also require abandoning similar simplistic beliefs, like that disproportional representation of men in the senate and disproportionate wealth of men are sufficient evidence for male privilege.

    It’s interesting that when people point out that many SJ people have beliefs that, when combined with hard facts, lead to antisemitic conclusions, you attack those who point out that the emperor has no clothes.

  57. 58
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman says:
    June 1, 2017 at 4:16 am
    Similarly, the notion that Jews are somehow “super-privileged”–in the sense of being a minority with behind-the-scenes power and control and influence that essentially make us the true ruling elite of the country in which we live

    That’s a straw. These days the claim is this:
    Jews are a minority with behind-the-scenes power and control and influence that essentially make us the true ruling elite of the country in which we live result in power and elite membership which is very disproportional to their minority status.

    That claim is true. The 2016 U.S. Jewish population is ~ 7.6 million, which is a bit over 2.6% of the country. But for sure we Jews occupy far more than 2.6% of the elite and powerful positions–including such positions as “college professor” and “lawyer.”

    Since I am Jewish, I happen to take some pride in that fact. But more to the point it is an objective fact. It’s no different than the widely-discussed fact that other minority groups are disproportionately lacking in the ranks of the elite/powerful.

    I don’t think that anyone should apply terms like “anti-semitic” or “racist” to a statement of objective reality. If reality makes you uncomfortable, that’s on you.

  58. 59
    MJJ says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman, 51:

    MJJ’s comment may be descriptively accurate, in that the antisemitism directed at Amp may indeed be rooted in white resentment of ostensible Jewish “super-privilege.”

    That’s not what I said. I said it was rooted in resentment of the “I can criticize you, but you are not allowed to criticize me for the same things” attitude. Whether or not Jewish people have “super-privilege” is only an issue if you choose to make privilege an issue.

    But RJN’s comments do sort of prove my point. He is very critical of whites, but is incredibly sensitive to anything that could even be perceived as critical toward Jewish people. Do you honestly think that is going to make white people more likely to respond favorably to his criticisms?

    To understand how this appears to some, imagine a redo of this cartoon with a Jewish protagonist, saying “First things first. Before we discuss what to do about this situation, let me remind you that saying that Jewish men stand on walls is an antisemitic trope.”

  59. 60
    Ampersand says:

    Per your email, it is apparent that you consider any discussions relating to IQ differences between populations to be “scientific racism.”

    This is obviously a lie. The discussion which led to your rejected comment was set off by my link to this article, which says things like:

    People who identify as black or Hispanic in the US and elsewhere on average obtain lower IQ scores than people who identify as white or Asian. That is simply a fact, and stating it plainly offers no support in itself for a biological interpretation of the difference. … Liberals need not deny that intelligence is a real thing or that IQ tests measure something real about intelligence, that individuals and groups differ in measured IQ, or that individual differences are heritable in complex ways.

    It’s not “any discussion relating to IQ differences” that I’d object to linking.

    What I do think is for me to substantively engage in the IQ/race debate would require a lot of time spent researching, and writing posts that incorporate research likewise takes a lot of time (more time than a typical post, and frankly I barely have time for those nowadays). I don’t have that kind of time available. And I can’t assume that other anti-racist folks here have that kind of time; in general, for whatever reason, the people on “Alas” who habitually defend racist practices and policies seem to have a lot more time for writing posts than the anti-racist people do.

    I don’t consider having the debate over the causes of average IQ differences between different racial groups irresponsible. I would consider it irresponsible for me to run a blog where racist claims are made without being debated or contested. And I feel that’s a highly likely outcome of allowing defenses or advocacy of “scientific racism” to be posted on “Alas.”

  60. 61
    nobody.really says:

    On secret identities:

    If you’re not reading Superbutch, you are missing out. And if you are reading Superbutch, you may still be missing out–‘cuz there’s a shitload of subtext.

    The protagonist acknowledges maintaining four separate identities–and then discloses only three of them. But she does acknowledge is that she’s black, but presents herself as white while at work.

    Anyway, the story got a little odd in Chap. 1, p. 19. As a journalist, the protagonist bumps into an unfamiliar man in the office–a visiting cartoonist named George–and they exchange a knowing look. Whazzup wit dat? I figured Amp was just foreshadowing that we should expect future interactions with this mysterious character.

    And who knows, maybe that will still happen. But in re-reading it, I learned that was an Easter Egg: Cathy Young speculated in comments–and Amp then confirmed–that the mysterious man is George Herriman, the real-life creator of the classic Krazy Kat comic strip. And, I now discover, he was a black man who presented himself as white. But for Cathy’s comments, that would have (almost) completely escaped my attention.

    This came to mind as I was catching up on some old episodes of The Americans on FX. It’s a spy show steeped in secret identities. Renee is a beautiful single woman who just happens to meet FBI Agent Stan at the gym and develop a romantic relationship. It’s a lovely story line—except that we’ve seen undercover KGB agents Elizabeth and Philip engage in precisely this behavior when developing relationships with people they want to spy on, and often betray. So the viewer is primed to expect that Renee has a secret identity.

    I’m holding out hope that Stan, Elizabeth, or Philip discovers that she has various identity documents, and lots of disguise stuff, only to realize that … she’s passing for white! That is, we’ll discover that she DOES has a secret identity—but a benign one.

    (I’m guessing that people were still “passing for white” back in the 1980s–and even today. But the nature of the practice is that if people do it successfully, no one ever knows!)

  61. 62
    Ampersand says:

    but is incredibly sensitive to anything that could even be perceived as critical toward Jewish people.

    This is not justified by anything RJN said. RJN is criticizing (rightly) a specific antisemitic trope; criticism of a specific trope is not logically the same as being against “anything that could even be perceived as critical toward Jewish people.”

    It’s also weird that you frame your argument as being “allowed to criticize.” As far as I can tell, your right to criticize – even if that criticism is antisemitic – has not been questioned by anyone here. Like a lot of right-wingers, you seem to assume that if people criticize what you say, that’s the same as you not being “allowed to criticize.”

    Whether or not Jewish people have “super-privilege” is only an issue if you choose to make privilege an issue.

    Just a couple of comments ago, you wrote that Jews are “in socioeconomic, cultural (as in influence in the media), and political terms, especially privileged.” So I’d say that you’ve already made that an issue.

    Your argument hinges on seeing criticism of white power, and criticism of Jewish power, as the same thing – as if whites and Jews occupy exactly the same cultural and historic place. But they don’t.

    A significant number of Jews today are well-off economically, and that there are Jews who have done very well both in politics and in the media industry. This isn’t something many Jews would deny – on the contrary, it’s a cliche among Jewish people to say that Jews in America have prospered. But Jews are still a small minority. In Germany before the Holocaust, there were also Jews who had prospered – a fact that the Nazis used to foster resentment against the Jews.

    Jews have done well in the US (on average). But you’d have to be in utter denial of history to pretend that Jews being well-off (on average) means that Jews are safe from antisemitism. And you’d have to be in utter denial of history to ignore the way that resentment against Jews because some Jews are successful was a significant factor which led to the Holocaust.

    So yes, many Jews are sensitive to the “those powerful rich Jews are controlling society” trope. With good reason.

    White people, as a class, are not in the same situation. There is no time in history in which criticism of white power led to six million white people being slaughtered in concentration camps. Whites are not a minority at all, and even when we become a minority, there’s a huge difference between being 49% of the population vs being 2-3%. The equivalence you’re suggesting is not only false, it’s ridiculous.

  62. 63
    KellyK says:

    So, if there’s no objective standard for banning any speech, should public universities allow the KKK to speak and recruit on campus, as long as they don’t directly incite violence?

  63. 64
    Ampersand says:

    Nobody Really:

    Your comment was lovely for me to read. Thank you!

    But the Cathy who asked me about George Herriman wasn’t Cathy Young, just for the record.

  64. 65
    Ampersand says:

    And with that, I am bringing this particular discussion of antisemitism to a close, here on “Alas.” Everyone – but specifically, G&W, Hume and MJJ – please drop this topic, in this forum. Thank you.

  65. 66
    Ampersand says:

    To be clear, when I say “please drop this topic,” what I mean is that I will feel free to delete further comments without notice or apology.

  66. 67
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    KellyK says:
    June 1, 2017 at 8:45 am
    So, if there’s no objective standard for banning any speech, should public universities allow the KKK to speak and recruit on campus, as long as they don’t directly incite violence?

    If someone was strange enough to sponsor them as an invited speaker: Sure, I guess so.

    The KKK are a bunch of loonies who rarely are obliged to defend and openly state their views (if you haven’t read the KKK chapter in Econometrics, you should.) Listening to their idiocy, in the very limited number of situations in which someone would risk the social opprobrium of inviting them, would probably hurt the KKK far more than it would help them.

    Even if I’m wrong and if there was a benefit to the KKK, it would still be outweighed by the much larger freedom benefit of opening up speech, rather than restricting it.

    In any case, I find that it is always helpful to think about a particular hypothetical:

    First, imagine all the power and discretion that you want a right-minded ally to have (your favorite President; a college dean; a faculty member; a USSC Justice; whoever.) Now imagine that a genie shows up with a magic mirror. There is magically the same amount of power and discretion… but it is being exercised by your worst wrong-minded (to you) enemies: Trump gets all the Obama powers; Vox Day, Milo and Ann Coulter are college deans and faculty, with the permission to control curricula and speakers and protests; the USSC always rules against you; broad statements about majority groups are punished as ‘hate speech’; etc.

    Yikes, right?

    But if you don’t like the powers in the magic mirror, you should be skeptical of them in reality.

  67. 68
    nobody.really says:

    Do you believe that any group that has been victim in the past can never be perpetrators in the future…?

    Of course not. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to understand half the Dr. Who episodes. (Which, come to think of it, I can’t. But I also wouldn’t be able to understand the OTHER half.)

    Nobody Really:

    Your comment was lovely for me to read. Thank you!

    But the Cathy who asked me about George Herriman wasn’t Cathy Young, just for the record.

    Huh. She has a very similar font to Cathy Young, so I just assumed….

  68. 69
    nobody.really says:

    One theory of Jewish social advancement (Feel free to edit or delete as appropriate):

    The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews provides a link to the 8/12/16 lecture, “Why Were There So Few Jewish Farmers?” In 70 CE, the Jews were mostly illiterate farmers living in the land of Israel and Mesopotamia. By 1492 CE, they had become a narrow group of educated urban dwellers specializing in crafts, trade, lending, and medicine. Why the change?

    According to Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein, after 70 CE Jews adopted the view that all men must learn to read and study the Torah. This was an expensive tradition for the Jews. First, in a world with scarce labor, few written materials, and short lifespans, the return on investment in literacy may have been less than the return on investing in farming. Second, if you had a son who just didn’t like reading, this tradition gave him a strong incentive to go intermarry with some neighboring tribe of people who don’t look down on illiterates. (In this sense, there may be PLENTY of Jewish farmers; they just no longer identify as Jews.)

    Over the centuries, literacy just happened to become more useful. And Jews, who acquired literacy skills for religious and cultural reasons, were fortuitously able to capitalize on their investment. It was a fluke—as if they were all Karate Kids, spending their days polishing cars (“wax on, wax off”) only to later learn that these repetitive motions just happened to prepare them for martial arts.

    So anyway, it’s a theory. It explains a phenomenon without resorting to conspiracies, oppression, genetics, or claims of virtue or vice. Just a religious/cultural norm that had an unanticipated side-effect.

  69. 70
    Humble Talent says:

    Kind of off topic, but tangentally related, I think it’s interesting to think about the justaposition of Christianity and Judaism when it comes to literacy, especially around the timeframes we’re talking about…. Jews were encouraged to read the Torah, and Christianity did everything it could to keep the bible out of the reach of the faithful. The story of Martin Luther is thoroughly interesting, and if you aren’t familiar, I’d suggest taking some time to read on him.

  70. 71
    Mandolin says:

    Well, there’s also the historical limitations on what Jews were allowed to do, own, etc, which led to prioritizing some kinds of skills and ways of making a living.

  71. 72
    nobody.really says:

    Well, there’s also the historical limitations on what Jews were allowed to do, own, etc, which led to prioritizing some kinds of skills and ways of making a living.

    Likewise, there was also the historical limitations on what some Christians were allowed to do–for example, lending money at interest–that led to prioritizing some kinds of skills and ways of making a living for non-Christians.

    Many Muslims still feel constrained from charging or paying interest. This has led to the growth of Islamic banks which, as far as I can tell, manage to charge and pay interest via convoluted means–and generally at terms less attractive than are available at conventional financial institutions.

  72. Wow! Just wow! I’ve been away from my computer for most of the day so I am only catching up on the antisemitism thread just now. Amp, since you asked us not to continue the discussion, I will say nothing more except that you quite eloquently said pretty much everything that I would have.

  73. 74
    Hume says:

    So, Ampersand writes a long post and then bans further discussion of the topic. Interesting way to get in the last word.

    Anyway, the dark side to your ideology has been made clear: groups are a priori declared to be oppressors or oppressed and evidence is cherry picked to rationalize that prejudice. The exact same evidence that is commonly considered slam dunk evidence against some groups (see the wage gap narrative, where the mere existence of a wage gap is usually considered sufficient proof of discrimination in favor of men), is suddenly not considered sufficient evidence against other groups. Such special pleading and cherry picking can of course prove everything, as one can just tailor their argument around the exact characteristics of a group, where evidence that is considered significant for one group is declared irrelevant for another group. By ‘overfitting’ an ideology, you can achieve any desired conclusion.

    I’ll acquiesce to your ban by simply changing the ethnic group that we talk about:

    It is regularly argued that African-Americans are oppressed because they (have) experience(d) a lot of fatal violence. This is true, but men are far more often victims of fatal violence in our current society than women and almost certainly, historically as well. It’s regularly argued that African-Americans are oppressed because they are a minority, which is true, but men are also a slight minority in general and more of a minority among voters. So a rational person would either have to declare men to be at least somewhat oppressed* for these reasons or abandon the claim that experiencing violence and being a minority is sufficient evidence for oppression.

    I repeat my claim that the willingness to consider certain evidence sufficient to declare one group to be oppressed, but when it is pointed out that the same evidence exists for another group, the response is not to declare that the other group is also oppressed, is solid evidence that the the conclusions have been decided in advance and that the debate merely consists of constructing a rationalizing narrative**.

    * Note that the claim is not that the oppression is of the same severity as other groups, but logically, if negative factor X is considered proof of oppression at level Y for group A, then group B should logically be considered to be oppressed at 1/10th Y if they experience 1/10th of X.

    ** And the same goes for the inverse, where evidence of privilege of one group is not considered evidence of privilege of another group.

  74. 75
    Ampersand says:

    So, Ampersand writes a long post and then bans further discussion of the topic. Interesting way to get in the last word. […]

    I felt that the discussion was being dominated by people defending antisemitism, and that’s not the place I want “Alas” to be. If you don’t like that, there’s a simple solution: leave.

    Honestly, the extent to which you and MJJ have turned the discussion in (what I see as) an antisemitic direction really bugs me, and makes me wonder if you should be allowed to post here at all. (That you seem to be playing rules-lawyer a bit with the moderation doesn’t help your case.) For now, I’m removing both of your auto-approval privileges. From now on, all of your comments will need to be individually approved by a moderator before they appear. If your comments seem to be taking “Alas” discussion away from what the moderators think it should be, then they won’t be approved.

  75. 76
    KellyK says:

    Gin-and-whiskey, I like the *idea* that giving white supremacists a chance to speak allows them to prove how stupid and evidently wrong they are, but that doesn’t seem to be what actually happens. If it were, we wouldn’t have so many white supremacists in positions of political power, because they’d all have been laughed to obscurity. Instead, we put them in the White House.

    I think it assumes people are more logical than they are, and that they’ll automatically reject a bad argument. But in reality, if the bad argument appeals to them emotionally, they’ll accept it.

    Maybe if that hypothetical KKK speech happened *and* professors used it as a critical thinking exercise, that would be effective *for the students in that particular class.* But just tossing white supremacy out there seems to increase, not curtail, its spread.

    I’m not saying white supremacists should be legally barred from spewing their vitriol in forums that they control. But it seems odd to me to deliberately give them more legitimacy.

    So, if the KKK gets to recruit on campus, and the next week there’s a noose on a black kid’s door, do we just shrug and say those things can’t be related because speech is intrinsically harmless and that noose was probably a metaphor anyway?

    There have been multiple incidents where speech has led to violence. The most direct connection is probably the pattern of “Make horrific false allegations involving rape or murder of children, then feign surprise when someone kills or tries to kill the people you accused.” Blood libel, Pizzagate, and “Planned Parenthood cuts up live babies to sell their organs” are just three examples right off the top of my head.

    Dehumanizing people is a necessary step in the process of making people willing to kill them, or to stand by while others do. I don’t think schools should be working to hurry that process along.

  76. 77
    KellyK says:

    I think the magic mirror idea is an interesting question, but I also think that “Does this real thing that people are actually doing cause actual harm?” is not a question to ignore in favor of “What are all the possible ways that an attempt to mitigate or stop this actual harm could be misused to cause other harm?”

    Obviously, you have to put some thought into how any exercise of power can screw people over, but there’s a point at which that becomes self-defeating.

  77. 78
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    KellyK says:
    I think it assumes people are more logical than they are, and that they’ll automatically reject a bad argument.

    Not really. This is not in any way intended to be aimed at you personally, but: I don’t trust people to decide what a “bad argument” is. I do not generally trust people in power, at all. I do not trust KKK loonies (who I disagree with) but I don’t trust KKK protesters, either (who I agree with.)

    That is because history seems to make a very accurate prediction when someone gets to decide what is heard:
    1) Everyone wants to be the judge. Someone wins. They make something illegal.
    2) Everyone on the judge’s side (usually, though not always, the local majority) will try to keep/get power. This usually involves expanding what is illegal.
    3) The opposition will try to get power, and will walk the line of the rules.
    4) The judge in power will respond by making opposition illegal.

    So, for example,
    1) Someone gets put in power to fight communism, intending to argue against spies, treason, and the like.
    2) Being human, that power gets abused and lots of non-treasonous non-spies get accused of communism and punished for being communist.
    3) Opposition folks push back.
    4) The new claim is made that all opposition is communist.

    or
    1) Someone decides to empower a minority group and gives control over discourse to a minority member to stop “hateful __ist” speech.
    2) Being human, that power gets abused and lots of other speech gets banned as well.
    3) The opposition pushes back.
    4) The claim is then made that opposing the judge is itself ___ist.

    or, for your amusement here’s one which can be applied to multiple opposing Presidents:
    1) Someone gets put in power to oppose terrorism and enforce the law.
    2) Being human, that power gets abused to target groups they dislike.
    3) The opposition pushes back.
    4) The claim is then made that the opposition is disloyal, anti-American, pro-terrorist, or nakedly political.

    Shall I go on? I can keep this up for a while.

    There have been multiple incidents where speech has led to violence.

    So what? We live in a world of 7 billion people, and I bet 5 billion of them speak every day. The fact that we can cherrypick them in retrospect, and that we can (with a big margin of error) try to assign causation, says nothing about whether we should try and prevent them. What are you planning to do, shut down all the houses of worship where half this shit starts in the first place?

  78. 79
    Hume says:

    Ampersand,

    I was not rule lawyering, the point of making the same argument about African-Americans was to make it clear that you and Newman are treating different ethnic groups differently, while I am not.

    Furthermore, the core of my argument was not about defending or attacking antisemitism at all, but rather a meta-discussion about how the SJ model is broken, because the same reasoning that is commonly used by SJ proponents to declare that men or white people are in power and/or have privilege, also leads to antisemitic arguments when the same reasoning is applied to hard facts about Jews. The point of this is not that you or Newman ought to endorse these antisemitic arguments, but rather, that you should abandon this SJ reasoning and/or reject your allies who use this reasoning.

    I have seen quite a bit of antisemitism by left-wing people and my point is that you are inadvertently enabling this.

    However, it seems like the inferential distance is too great, because none of you appear capable or willing to address the actual argument I made and instead, it seems that you cannot overcome your disgust reaction to see what I am actually arguing.

    So let’s just drop it.

  79. 80
    David Simon says:

    Hume, I must point out that you were cherry-picking yourself a bit by choosing only fatal violence as your metric, as opposed to violence in general.

    More generally, I feel you are going a step too far in condemning the entire SJ model, even if we assume your specific criticisms are correct. I have two reasons:

    1. Instances of incorrect application of a method is not damning evidence that the method itself is unusable. It may be evidence that the method is flawed in that it’s too easy to mess it up, but such a claim at least keeps the baby separate from the bathwater.

    2. There is a common meme in SJ circles that “the patriarchy hurts men too”, and many SJers take it very seriously. This strikes me as an indication that the SJ model, in practice and theory, can acknowledge that an oppressor group is not necessarily getting 100% of the carrot and 0% of the stick.

    A side note: as someone who is also invested in the rationalist community, I don’t like the use of in-group terminology like “inferential distance” in contexts where people are not already familiar with that lingo. It’s just ineffective communication, and it’s often better to use a simple definition in place of the term.

  80. Hume:

    So let’s just drop it.

    I agree, except for this. You wrote:

    However, it seems like the inferential distance is too great, because none of you appear capable or willing to address the actual argument I made and instead, it seems that you cannot overcome your disgust reaction to see what I am actually arguing.

    For the record, I understood perfectly well “the actual argument” you were trying to make, which was neither new nor argued in a new way. I just don’t buy it. More specifically, I find the premise and framing—especially as you put it in this thread; and I don’t care whether you’re talking about Blacks or Jews—invalid. Which is all I’ll say since Amp has asked us to end that particular discussion.

    Also, please avoid the kind of presumptive dismissiveness of other commenters—as opposed to their ideas—that you indulge in the passage I quoted above. (I am a moderator here.)

    Finally, commenters on this blog have generally adopted the shorthand convention of using my initials, RJN, when referring to me in the third person. I’m sure you meant nothing by it, but given that convention, it’s hard for me not to read tone into your use of my last name, and we all know how problematic reading tone into an internet comment can be. Please keep that in mind for the future. Thanks.

  81. 82
    Ampersand says:

    To be clear, I just wanted the (paraphrased) “let’s talk about how Jews are soooo wealthy and control the media and government” discussion dropped. I did not mean that Hume’s argument about double-standards had to be dropped. I’m sorry that I wasn’t clear enough about that.

  82. I understood that, Amp. I just didn’t want to talk about Hume’s framing, which would, I think, inevitably have led us back to that discussion.

  83. 84
    Ampersand says:

    Hume:

    I repeat my claim that the willingness to consider certain evidence sufficient to declare one group to be oppressed, but when it is pointed out that the same evidence exists for another group, the response is not to declare that the other group is also oppressed, is solid evidence that the the conclusions have been decided in advance and that the debate merely consists of constructing a rationalizing narrative**.

    I’m not sure if this is a strawman argument, or if you’re just cherry-picking the weakest forms of the argument to respond to, rather than seeking out SJ people making more nuanced and interesting arguments. It would be helpful if you’d provide links.

    As most feminists and other SJs discuss it, suffering it not, in and of itself, proof of oppression.

    I doubt that any sophisticated social justice discussion of oppression will be vulnerable to the type of argument you’re making here. See the discussion of “oppression” here from a few years ago, for example – not just my post but also some of the strongly-argued replies in the comments. (It’s interesting that you say “the dark side to your ideology has been made clear,” when it’s hard to see how your argument even remotely applies to me, since I argue that both women and men are oppressed by the gender system.)

    In response to a similar argument made by Hugh of “feminist critics,” I wrote:

    Marilyn Frye, in her essay “Oppression,” writes:

    When the stresses and frustrations of being a man are cited as evidence that oppressors are oppressed by their oppressing, the word “oppression” is being stretched to meaninglessness; it is treated as though its scope includes any and all human experience of limitation or suffering, no matter the cause, degree or consequence. Once such usage has been put over on us, then if ever we deny that any person or group is oppressed, we seem to imply that we think they never suffer and have no feelings. […] But this is nonsense. Human beings can be miserable without being oppressed, and it is perfectly consistent to deny that a person or group is oppressed without denying that they have feelings or that they suffer.

    Frye could not have more clearly stated that suffering (which, as Frye uses it, is quite similar to how Hugh uses “harms”) in and of itself is not oppression. Similarly, in his book The Gender Knot (pdf link), Allan Johnson writes:

    …If we say a group can oppress or persecute itself we turn the concept of social oppression into a mere synonym for socially caused suffering, which it isn’t.

    My point isn’t that I agree with every aspect of Johnson or Frye’s discussion, but that they clearly argue that oppression is something significantly different from suffering (and also, I think it’s reasonable to infer, different from harms).

    Being murdered at a high rate is tragic for any group. But we can acknowledge that without having to say that being murdered is, by itself, enough to determine that a group is oppressed.

  84. 85
    Hume says:

    Ampersand,

    that they clearly argue that oppression is something significantly different from suffering (and also, I think it’s reasonable to infer, different from harms)

    So do you define oppression entirely by ‘power*’? As here you argue that suffering is orthogonal to the question of whether one is an oppressor or oppressed.

    Yet earlier (in comment 62), you argued that Jews cannot be considered to be in power because they have historically experienced great suffering. So then you explicitly argue that a large amount of historic suffering proves that a group does not have power.

    Or is your argument that there is some threshold for suffering above the level of deaths suffered by men in general and below the Holocaust, which can be used to judge a group as oppressors or the oppressed? If so:
    – what is the objective basis for drawing the distinction where you do?
    – if the level of suffering is a spectrum and this does show a link to oppression, then what is the justification for a binary model of oppressors vs oppressed?
    – how does this make women oppressed? Historically, genocides/mass murder frequently targeted men and spared women, but rarely vice versa.

    Anyway, I am totally confused on what you are arguing, as you appear to argue something in one comment and then denounce your own argument in the next. This may be because I don’t understand you position fully. Can you clarify the minimum necessary preconditions by which you consider a group to be oppressed and/or oppressors?

    Or alternatively/in addition, you can answer this question: what is necessary for you to no longer consider Jews (in America) an oppressed group? We cannot undo the Holocaust/past, so if we take that as a yardstick, Jews won’t ever be oppressors even in the thought experiment where society would put all gentiles in prison with the Jews as wardens.

    * In quotes because IMO most power is informal, through social norms, which means that power of change cannot simply be attributed to those who are in executive jobs, as long as there is a credible means of social influence by others on those who execute.

  85. 86
    Ampersand says:

    Hume:

    So do you define oppression entirely by ‘power*’?

    No, I don’t.

    Yet earlier (in comment 62), you argued that Jews cannot be considered to be in power because they have historically experienced great suffering.

    No, that’s not what I argued. It’s not even close.

    What I argued was that your argument (for SJs holding a double standard) only works if we assume that white people and Jewish people are identically situated, but in fact there are some significant differences.

    I don’t even know if I consider Jews in America an oppressed group.

    “Or is your argument that there is some threshold for suffering above the level of deaths suffered by men in general and below the Holocaust, which can be used to judge a group as oppressors or the oppressed?”
    “…what is the justification for a binary model of oppressors vs oppressed?”

    In the comment of mine you’re responding to, I linked to a post in which I argued against a binary model of oppressors/oppressed, and approvingly quoted a feminist theorist (Carolyn Main) also arguing against such a binary model.

    Here is the very first paragraph of the post I linked to:

    I’ve been reading Caroline New’s 2001 Sociology article about oppression (pdf link).1 New argues against the idea that “oppression” requires a clear-cut division between “oppressor class” and “oppressed class.”

    It appears that you didn’t even bother to read the first paragraph.

    But even if you can’t be bothered to read a link – even though you seemingly expect me to spend my time answering leading question after leading question – you could at least have read the comment you were responding to, in which I wrote “I argue that both women and men are oppressed by the gender system.” How did you interpret that as meaning that I believe in a binary model of oppression in which men are never oppressed?

    It appears you have a stereotype about what all SJ folks think, and you’re not willing to listen to anything any SJ person says that contradicts your stereotype. But if you’re not going to read what I write, then what’s the benefit to me – or to any SJ person – of having a discussion with you?

  86. 87
    desipis says:

    As most feminists and other SJs discuss it, suffering it not, in and of itself, proof of oppression.

    Those threads were interesting and I think helped me realise one key reason why I’m so at odds with the social justice left. I structure my sense of morality around human suffering, they structure theirs around oppression.

  87. 88
    Ampersand says:

    Must a sense of morality have just one dimension that the entire structure is based on? I don’t think so.

    I think oppression is wrong. I also think suffering is wrong. Both beliefs (and some others as well) are integral to my sense of morality.

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    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I’m a little late to the conversation about the KKK on campus, but I have some real experience with this to share.

    My High School had a Political Radicalism class for Seniors only. It was a semester course, half of which was dedicated to listening to radicals pitch their political beliefs. One of the speakers was a KKK Grand Dragon. Although the speaker was framed as a radical by the simple nature of the class, the class instructor didn’t need to tell us hat his ideas were toxic. The same goes for the communist speakers who met with us, the evangelicals, the anarchists, etc.

    It was the best class I’ve ever had, and I often think about it when there is a campus protest concerning an invited speaker. It saddens me that few college campuses could host such a class now, but as far as I know, this program is still in place at Thomas Worthington HS, and the KKK still comes to speak from time to time.

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    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Hume says:
    June 6, 2017 at 12:12 am
    …what is the objective basis for drawing the distinction where you do?

    There is no objective basis. The vast majority of general rules are, both in and out of the SJ context, subject to a lot of special pleading exceptions or requirements.

    It is true that a lot of SJ stuff seems to be especially reliant on claiming specific exceptions to general rules, but that is a matter of degree and not of kind. Even those of us who try to be as general as possible end up making exceptions on occasion, as there is no moral code which doesn’t contain some “because I say so” type of assumptions.

    More to the point:

    I repeat my claim that the willingness to consider certain evidence sufficient to declare one group to be oppressed, but when it is pointed out that the same evidence exists for another group, the response is not to declare that the other group is also oppressed, is solid evidence that the the conclusions have been decided in advance and that the debate merely consists of constructing a rationalizing narrative

    Come on, this is utterly ridiculous. Even if I disagree with folks, it is still perfectly obvious that these arguments almost never rely on a single piece of completely perfect evidence. They are constructed from multiple pieces of evidence.

    You’re basing this on a presumption that a single piece of evidence is “sufficient,” but nobody is arguing that.

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    desipis says:

    Must a sense of morality have just one dimension that the entire structure is based on? I don’t think so.

    It’s more about how issues are prioritised, than being just one dimension.

    I think oppression is wrong. I also think suffering is wrong. Both beliefs (and some others as well) are integral to my sense of morality.

    I see oppression as just another form of suffering. I don’t see suffering as having a lower priority simply because it falls outside a Marxist class based analysis. Two people living in poverty shouldn’t be given different levels of support simply because one is black and the other is white, or because one is a woman and the other is a man. Two people experiencing harassment and a hostile work environment shouldn’t get different levels of support simply because one is a woman uncomfortable with sexist jokes and the other is a man uncomfortable with being yelled at and harassed by political activists.

    I tend to see progressives using “oppression” (“patriarchy”, “racism”, etc) as a justification for believing otherwise.

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    Ampersand says:

    Two people experiencing harassment and a hostile work environment shouldn’t get different levels of support simply because one is a woman uncomfortable with sexist jokes and the other is a man uncomfortable with being yelled at and harassed by political activists.

    Suppose one is a woman uncomfortable with being told to make out with her boss or get fired, another is a person who loathes modern music and works in a music store, and the third is a person uncomfortable having to work with Jews in their job. For the sake of the example, assume that each of them is suffering an exactly equal amount of discomfort.

    Should these three people be given the exact same amount of support? You don’t see any of their problems as being in any way more urgent, or more of an injustice, than the others?

    Or – what if New Jersey disenfranchises Buddhists. NJ’s tens of thousands of Buddhists can no longer legally vote. But the Buddhists, while regretting the lost of their franchise and recognizing it as a form of political oppression, are calm about it, and deny that they are “suffering” per se. Meanwhile, the local KKK members genuinely are genuinely suffering because they’re so distressed that Jews and Blacks are allowed to vote.

    Which gets a higher priority, in your book – the non-suffering oppression of the New Jersey Buddhists, or the suffering of the KKK members?

    (I assume you believe, in these examples, that the women being sexually harassed should be given more support, and the disenfranchisement of the Buddhists is a more important thing to relieve than the suffering of the KKK members. But if so, that’s not consistent with your argument.)

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    desipis says:

    Your assumptions are sort of correct.

    I should clarify I don’t assess suffering (solely) using people’s subjective assessment of their own suffering, which I think should explain why I would see the disenfranchisement of the Buddhists is a more important thing.

    I see having unwanted sex as likely to be more harmful than listening to unwanted music, or dealing professionally with people of a particular race or religion (which would also flow onto threats or coercing involving the same) which partly covers your first hypothetical. The practicalities of preventing each type of harm are also going to be very different; the fact that the later two issues were foreseeable and the practical preventative measures involve self-help make them obviously less relevant when considering action at the social level.

    However, should any of those people end up unemployed, I still think they deserve the same amount of financial support to pay the bills, put food on the table, find a new job, etc.

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    Ampersand says:

    I should clarify I don’t assess suffering (solely) using people’s subjective assessment of their own suffering, which I think should explain why I would see the disenfranchisement of the Buddhists is a more important thing.

    Can you explain, how DO you assess suffering? What about the Buddhists makes you say they’re suffering for being discriminated against, even though they deny that they are suffering?

    For the second example, you now say it’s about what’s “more harmful” and about if “self-help” is a practical preventative measure. But that means you’re not just looking at suffering, it seems to me.

    However, should any of those people end up unemployed, I still think they deserve the same amount of financial support to pay the bills, put food on the table, find a new job, etc.

    Of course I agree. But what if person A is unemployed but not homeless (they own their own home, and their savings are sufficient to pay for property taxes), while person B is unemployed and also is about to be evicted and has no place to go. In that case, because of their different circumstances, I’d argue that it’s okay for person B to get more financial support than person A. What do you think?

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    desipis says:

    But that means you’re not just looking at suffering, it seems to me.

    Well I don’t think I ever said I would only look at suffering. (Although I do tend to see “more harmful” as “causing more suffering”, so not really a different thing)

    In that case, because of their different circumstances, I’d argue that it’s okay for person B to get more financial support than person A. What do you think?

    Sure, that makes sense. I don’t have any problem with taking the practical circumstances of the individual into account.

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