Open Thread and Link Farm, Helicopter Bug Edition

  1. Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult | Aeon Essays
    “Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders. … They are not irrational, but systematically misinformed about where to place their trust.”
  2. Why I’m suing for my right to flip off the president – The Washington Post
  3. Evaluating the One-in-Five Statistic: Women’s Risk of Sexual Assault While in College: The Journal of Sex Research: Vol 54, No 4-5
    This 2017 article, while focused on the 1-in-5 statistic, is also a useful summary of much of the current state of sexual assault prevalence research.
  4. Revisiting “The Breakfast Club” in the Age of #MeToo, by Molly Ringwald | The New Yorker
    “How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it?”
  5. A new law intended to curb sex trafficking threatens the future of the internet as we know it
  6. SESTA Is Already Having Devastating Impacts on Sex Workers—Just Like They Predicted – Rewire.News
  7. Why Open-Plan Offices Don’t Work (And Some Alternatives That Do) | ArchDaily
  8. Jordan Peterson Resource Page | Noah Berlatsky on Patreon
    A list of links to various articles critiquing Peterson’s output.
  9. How Women See How Male Authors See Them | The New Yorker
    “Whit Reynolds ripped open a Pandora’s box of secondary sex characteristics when she challenged her Twitter followers to ‘describe yourself like a male author would.'”
  10. How the Quakers became unlikely economic innovators by inventing the price tag
    This is a three-minute video from Planet Money.
  11. What I learned about masculinity behind bars in Texas | Aeon EssaysContent warning for abuse, imprisonment, and self-harm. “When US media paints portraits of prisons, they always focus on the gangs, the violence, the rape and the racism. All of that is there, to be sure, but those events exist as lightening-like fissures in the slow cyclone of fatigued tedium.”
  12. For Trans Women, Beauty Standards Are an Impossible Balancing Act | Allure
  13. Fossil fuel supply: why it’s time to think seriously about cutting it off – Vox
  14. MuckRock’s guided tour of lesser-known DEA patches • MuckRock
    My jaw literally dropped. (And I’m using the word “literally” to mean “literally,” not “figuratively.”)
  15. The Case For Prisoner Voting Rights
  16. Publication Selection Bias in Minimum‐Wage Research? A Meta‐Regression Analysis
    Apparently there’s a publication selection bias in favor of studies which find the minimum wage raises unemployment.
  17. How to Stop Reliving Embarrassing Memories
    An interesting, but lengthy, article about the (still up in the air) science behind “cringe attacks.” Interestingly, the only people who don’t have this happen to them, are people who literally never forget anything.
  18. The photo on top shows three of the creations of Noah Deledda, who carves these sculptures out of soda cans with his bare hands. Here’s an animated gif showing his process.

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138 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Helicopter Bug Edition

  1. 1
    Jokuvaan says:

    I think worst issue regarding the critique of figures like Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Gad Saad, ect coming from the left is the willful misunderstanding or framing their arguments as something else than what it is instead of arguing against the actual arguments they are making.

  2. 2
    desipis says:

    The Skeptics Are Wrong Part 2: Speech Culture on Campus is Changing. – Part 2 of the heterodox academy response to the critics of the concern about the free speech on campus.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Jokuvaan –

    I’m sure you’re right, some of the time, that there is a misunderstanding of Peterson’s arguments. (Not all of the time.)

    But I think you’re wrong to think this is typically a willful misunderstanding. It’s more a matter of which echo chamber each person is in. Did you read the link about echo chambers?

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Desipis, that post is making a “broken clock is right twice a day” argument, isn’t it?

    After all, the right has been arguing that there’s a free speech crisis caused by left-wing students on campus for MUCH longer than the last few years. The argument that there was no free speech crisis until “Gen Z” arrived suggests: 1) that the right’s beliefs about campus speech were wrong for many, many years, and 2) the right’s beliefs are only correct now because students happened to change to match the right’s preexisting beliefs about students.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Looking further through the post, I don’t disagree with everything they say. But I do think they’re relying a lot on data sets that were only begun in the last 3 years, rather than on data that asks the same questions of students again and again over many years. The kind of data they rely a lot on really is incapable of demonstrating change, since it doesn’t provide any measure of how things used to be, only of how things are currently.

    For instance, they write “a little more than half of all students report having stopped themselves from sharing their ideas and opinions in class, but the number is higher for the two conservative bars (average of 61%) than the two liberal bars (average of 53%).” But can we they know this wasn’t also the case ten, twenty, or thirty years ago?

    During the 80s, when I was in college, there was a national debate about “political correctness” on campus, which closely resembled the discussion we’re having now. How can they assume that an identical survey conducted in 1988 wouldn’t have had similar results?

  6. 6
    Jake Squid says:

    I am HUGE fan of the Heroin Intelligence Unit patch. There’s so much great stuff going on in it, but nothing obscures any other facet of the design. But mostly, Fire Breathing HORSE!

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    It’s also telling what data they do and don’t report from the surveys they rely on.

    For instance, the CATO/YouGov survey included a question asking students if they think NFL players should be fired for “taking the knee.” 65% of conservative students said that the NFL players should be fired, while only 19% of liberal students agreed. But that question doesn’t get cited in their assessment of left vs right students attitudes towards free speech. Nor do the questions about flag-burning.

  8. 8
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    When it comes to people willfully misunderstanding Peterson, I think much of it has to do with his delivery. He sometimes doesn’t express his ideas clearly. In his talks, he constantly bounces around between the “is” and the “ought.” He also relies on weird word definitions, specifically his definition of “truth.” He’ll sound like a scientifically minded person one moment, and then he’s talking about the book of Genesis in the next- maybe there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s jarring. I think he finds deep meaning in the story of Pinocchio, I’ve heard him reference several times. All of this makes him hard to follow, and difficult to critique. These tendencies are especially frustrating because Peterson so frequently accuses his opponents on the left of obscurantism. I think he may be right about that sometimes, but maybe he should consider how easy it is for others to accuse him of the same tactic- and if he’s being willfully misunderstood, perhaps the same can be said for his opponents?

    I work alone, so I listen to a variety podcasts all day every day while I work, so I’ve heard some but not all of what Perterson has to say. I think the best way to understand his work is to imagine a clinical psychologist asking himself “why do seemingly good people do terrible things, like work in Nazi death camps, and what kind of moral philosophy would keep prevent people from justifying these kinds of atrocities?” and then imagine that this psychologist is obsessed with Carl Jung and the balance between chaos and order.

    The result is really weird, and I think that’s part of the appeal. He says stuff in ways most people haven’t heard before and the novelty of that can sometimes mask his lack of clarity and rigor. (I think this also explains the rationalist’s communities poorly concealed fascination with Nick Land) I don’t agree with Peterson on much, but I do appreciate his anti-radicalism in the name of preventing future atrocities. I also think he’s right that “big idea” people could often do better to make the world a better place by getting their own house in order first. Like, I know who Noah Bertlasky and Jordan Peterson are mostly because I’ve wasted time on the internet in search of new ideas. Instead, I could be improving my woodworking skills or something like that, and make the world more beautiful. To me, that’s the weirdest part about Peterson. If you really take his words to heart, you should probably turn him off.

  9. 9
    desipis says:

    Ampersand:

    After all, the right has been arguing that there’s a free speech crisis caused by left-wing students on campus for MUCH longer than the last few years

    Have they? Can you link to such arguments prior to say, 2014? From my perspective things started to shift around 2014, right around the time of the Ferguson riots.

    Edit: The google trends show a significant up tick in interest in the issue around 2015.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    From The National Review, in 2013:

    Yet a climate of political intimidation was present at Vassar well before the advent of the divestment movement, and it’s worth attending to that background before turning to today’s divestment debate.

    Consider a September 2012 opinion piece by sophomore Luka Ladan in Vassar’s student paper, The Miscellany News. Ladan tells of election-year political science classes that regularly devolve into snickering sessions aimed at Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and other Republican candidates. Professors take the lead, teaming up with liberal students to mock Republicans and anyone else who leans right. The Vassar students I’ve contacted (some afraid to speak for attribution) largely confirm this picture. Sophomore computer science major Jarret Holtz, told me, “I don’t feel that [conservative students at Vassar] are able to freely express their views at all.”

    From Time in 2012:

    We tend to think of the 1990s as the height of political correctness on college campuses. But as a new book argues, college students today are more insulated from offensive or unpopular speech, ostensibly for their own and the greater good, than they were twenty years ago. In Unlearning Liberty, author Greg Lukianoff describes a perfect storm of highly-tuned cultural sensitivity, bureaucratic bloat, and fear of litigation that has created a stultifying atmosphere on campuses nationwide where unpopular ideas and offensive language are policed to an absurd extent. Lukianoff’s organization, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, (which includes a number of Harvard faculty on its board) rates campuses that curtail free speech and Harvard currently has the worst rating.

    (Admittedly, the authors of the Time piece aren’t liberals conservatives).

    Note that both of these pieces refer to this as an already-existing issue, not as something new.

    A student quoted in “Inside Higher Ed,” defending a racist poster (although it was anti-Asian racism and the student is Asian):

    “I thought it would be funny to satire the oppressive environment of political correctness at Tufts. I think it’s unhealthy that people feel afraid to express their views.”

    That’s in 2009.

    From “Commentary,” in 1989, objecting to proposals to limit bigoted speech on campus:

    We are, after all, seeing students pleading for controls to be imposed on campus behavior in the name of decency and morality. Yet these same students would be outraged if their colleges and universities were once again to function in loco parentis by constraining personal liberty in any other way. What is more, faculties, administrators, and trustees are complying with the student demands; they are adopting and—one must assume—enforcing these behavior codes. […] A student may do anything he likes with or to his fellow students, it appears, including things that are indisputably illegal, unhealthy, and dangerous for everyone concerned, and the university turns a blind eye. But a student may not, under any circumstances, speak ill of another student’s origins, inclinations, or appearance.

    The larger—and not the least bit amusing—issue is, of course, the matter of freedom of expression and efforts to limit it.

    Given time and interest, I suspect I could find dozens more pre-2014 examples.

    The exact object of the argument changes – today it’ll probably refer to no-platforming, in the 90s it was more likely to refer to speech codes – but the argument that there is a free speech crisis caused by those darned lefty students has been going on forever.

    Re the Google Trends, I don’t doubt that newspaper folks are talking about it more in recent years – it’s currently a fashionable topic for pundits. (And not for the first time, either – look at 2005.) But pundit trends may not be an accurate reflection of reality.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    From a 2007 article. Note, again, the reference to this as a problem that’s already been going on for years.

    Remember when the Right had a near-monopoly on censorship? If so, you must be in your sixties, or older. Now the champions of censorship are mostly on the left. And they are thickest on the ground in our colleges and universities. Since the late 1980s, what should be the most open, debate-driven, and tolerant sector of society has been in thrall to the diversity and political correctness that now form the aggressive secular religion of America’s elites.

  12. 12
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think a good case has been made that there are just as many people on the right willing to embrace censorship as there are on the left- or at least it’s close enough that in a sense this really shouldn’t be seen as a partisan issue… and yet, I think it still kinda is one.

    I’m not so sure that polling people for their opinions on free speech is a good way to understand the free-speech-front of the culture war.

    How many recently published opinion pieces can one find that overtly call for changes to the way we protect free speech written by a right-of-center thinker? How many of these can one find coming from the left? After some brief googling, I’m willing to bet the ratio is something like 20-1 in favor of leftist calls for the limitation of free speech. Our sense of who is on which side of the debate is being skewed by the fact that writers aren’t necessarily representative of their political tribes. The guys over at National Review may be Republican, but they don’t represent the many republicans who want to throw flag burners in prison.

    Maybe some of this is tied to recent events? Disgusting kinds of right wing speech increased and became more visible. A reaction on the left caused an uptick in “hey, maybe we should rethink freespeech” kinds of articles, like this one, from a writer linked to above:

    https://qz.com/1053957/charlottesville-neo-nazis-and-the-case-against-free-speech-for-fascists/

    I don’t know. But I do know that giving up free speech rhetoric to the right seems like a terrible idea.

    Then there is social media. The major social media networks are more likely to censor right-of center speech. This is something that happens on the fringes, but I think this is pretty obvious (I’m kinda okay with it actually. I can laugh at tankie twitter in a way I couldn’t at nazi twitter). It’s not really that big of a deal, but it’s the kind of thing that happens frequently so we can all see it.

    On top of all this is the reactions centrists get when we discuss this stuff. My Trump supporting mom and step-dad may not like it that I support one’s right to burn the flag, just as my leftist cousins don’t like it that I support the rights of nazi’s to march without being punched. But the rhetoric coming from my left is far less charitable. A part of this could be my filter bubble. Maybe I, and most centrists, are more likely to be friends with the kind of person who says “you think that because you don’t care about minorities,” and less likely to be friends with the person who says “you think that because you don’t love your country.”

  13. 13
    Elusis says:

    By May of 1991, George Bush weighed in with an address to University of Michigan students condemning so-called politically correct speech codes.”

    The media turning point came when Newsweek ended 1990 with a cover story on left-wing “thought police.” The article’s meager data, written up by Jerry Adler, showed that the staff could find very little in the way of empirical referents for the PC movement; they cobbled the story together from a series of disparate campus incidents in which a racial or sexual minority rebelled against a routine slight coming from someone or some group for whom such back talk was “nontraditional.” What to these students were often acts of disputation, remedy, reform, or clarified dialogue were described by Adler as insidiously totalitarian and part of a widespread popular front falling just short of conspiracy.

    Note the hypocrisy of responding to previously-voiceless groups speaking up by labeling it a threat to free speech.

    George Will, 1991: “Tenured radicals are trying to turn campuses into authoritarian mini-states.” (Attribution here.)

    Politically Correct Bedtime Stories” was a best-seller in 1994.

  14. 14
    desipis says:

    Whatever free speech issues American universities have are dwarfed by the Orwellian Dystopia the UK is heading towards. Post your favourite rap lyrics to the internet? That’s a hate crime. Make a YouTube video joking about Nazis? That’s a hate crime.

  15. 15
    Elusis says:

    Intimidating professors with the “wrong” viewpoints, de-funding student groups they don’t agree with, enforcing dogmatic group-think: all the stuff the right wing accuses the left wing of doing on college campuses, they’re actually doing.

    Again and again, I am struck by how closely right-wing attacks on college campuses embody the precise allegations that conservatives like to level at the left. There is no organized liberal mission to control college elections, police conservative viewpoints on campus, force ideological homogeneity on students, or track right-wing professors (and there are many right-wing professors, especially in certain disciplines and types of schools). It’s true that some elements at some universities skew left, but that’s likely because it’s a refuge for many professors from the mighty conservative corporate and political enterprises that dominate the planet. The American right, aided alas by far too many allegedly centrist writers, keep attacking left-wing academics for what the right wing is actually doing. Right-wing provocateurs and their violent supporters are what’s threatening free expression on campus—not safe spaces or trigger warnings. Christian schools make students worship the flag and believe in hyper-specific theological dogma (it’s often not enough to worship Jesus; you have to worship the right kind of Jesus), enforcing groupthink to a degree impossible at secular universities. Now, Turning Point wants to take over your student government as well, to make sure that only the right groups get funding.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    #13, Vox on cutting off fossil fuel supplies:

    The article strategies for doing this without taking into consideration one unavoidable result. Cutting off fossil fuel supplies would cause the overall price of energy to climb. Fossil fuel-derived energy is the cheapest and most flexible energy. Limiting it will cause the price of energy to climb. Moreover, it would affect the poorest worst, since poorer people spend a much larger fraction of their income on essential energy (e.g., transportation, home heating/AC, etc.) than wealthier people do. The political resistance to this by the energy buying public would far outstrip any effect on trying to do this than any lobbying by fossil fuel energy interests. How the authors of this article completely ignore this I have no idea.

  17. 17
    RonF says:

    Amp @ 7:

    65% of conservative students said that the NFL players should be fired, while only 19% of liberal students agreed. But that question doesn’t get cited in their assessment of left vs right students attitudes towards free speech.

    Maybe because that has little to do with free speech. You have free speech rights on a college campus, especially a public one. The school administration’s duty is to exert themselves to protect their student’s free speech rights, not restrict them. It is especially their duty to protect them if they express a viewpoint that does not reflect that of the majority of the student body or the faculty, or if someone wants them suppressed because it hurts their feelings or they find them reprehensible. But the law is clear that you do NOT have free speech rights at your place of employment, especially when you are on company time and in front of the company’s customers.

    Elusis @ 15:

    There is no organized liberal mission to control college elections, police conservative viewpoints on campus, force ideological homogeneity on students, or track right-wing professors (and there are many right-wing professors, especially in certain disciplines and types of schools)

    And on what basis should we accept these assertions as fact? The author certainly offers no proof. Not even any supporting evidence.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    Apparently there is a D.C. Councilman who is a complete fool.

    Strong words, but here’s supporting evidence:

    The photo, taken in 1935, depicts a woman in a dark dress shuffling down a street in Norden, Germany. A large sign hangs from her neck: “I am a German girl and allowed myself to be defiled by a Jew.” She is surrounded by Nazi stormtroopers.

    D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) studied the image. “Are they protecting her?”

    Lynn Williams, an expert on educational programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and White’s tour guide for the day, stared at the photo.

    “No,” she said. “They’re marching her through.”

    “Marching through is protecting,” White said.

    “I think they’re humiliating her,” Williams replied.

    Seriously, read the whole thing. The kicker is that he toured the museum in the first place because he caught criticism for saying the following in a video that he posted to his Facebook page of a snowstorm he was driving through in D.C.:

    “Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,” he says. “And D.C. keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

    It just takes your breath away. How can anyone go through school in America and not be taught about World War II and the Holocaust?

  19. 19
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Ron, I live in DC, and I’m not surprised, and doubt there will be much fallout over this. It wasn’t until I moved to DC that I was witnessed casual anti-semitism. It’s painfully common here. I heard something gross (I won’t repeat it) just the other day at a 7-11 while checking out, and the others in line just laughed along with it, as did the cashier.

  20. 20
    Kate says:

    And on what basis should we accept these assertions as fact? The author certainly offers no proof. Not even any supporting evidence.

    There are several examples of Republican state legislatures trying to limit speech at public colleges, both through cutting funding and outright bans.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/13/arizona-schools-social-justice-courses-ban-bill
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/09/university-of-wisconsin-masculinity-program-republicans
    https://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/09/politics/university-budget-cuts-gay-literature-south-carolina/
    https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/05/20/university-tennessee-diversity-funding-bill-allowed-become-law/84650208/

  21. 21
    Kate says:

    65% of conservative students said that the NFL players should be fired, while only 19% of liberal students agreed. But that question doesn’t get cited in their assessment of left vs right students attitudes towards free speech.

    Maybe because that has little to do with free speech. You have free speech rights on a college campus, especially a public one. The school administration’s duty is to exert themselves to protect their student’s free speech rights, not restrict them. It is especially their duty to protect them if they express a viewpoint that does not reflect that of the majority of the student body or the faculty, or if someone wants them suppressed because it hurts their feelings or they find them reprehensible. But the law is clear that you do NOT have free speech rights at your place of employment, especially when you are on company time and in front of the company’s customers.

    “Can” they be fired isn’t a free speech issue. Of course they can, for the reasons you stated. “Should” they be fired is a free speech issue.

  22. 22
    Elusis says:

    And on what basis should we accept these assertions as fact? The author certainly offers no proof. Not even any supporting evidence.

    RonF, you do this often, I’ve observed.

    1) The original article, to which I linked, is heavily documented via use of internal links.
    2) It is impossible to prove a negative. “There are no well-funded outside efforts by liberals to take over university student governance.” “Show me evidence.” Well, the evidence is… this gap right here where they would be if they existed.
    3) You are essentially calling the author an out and out liar. The author carefully documents the affirmative assertions in their article with links to journalistic investigations, excerpts from interviews and Twitter conversations, etc. And you’re asking “well why should we believe them?” Because they’ve shown their work.

    If you think their claims are wrong, then YOU document them. Standing on the edge of the pool and griping that you don’t think water is wet is literally the laziest possible response.

  23. 23
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    It’s funny, I’ve looked over these student free speech poll results, and this is the first time it’s hit me that 19% of liberal college students would have the kneeling players fired. 19%?! I wonder if there were other political categories, and I wonder how they responded (I checked at Cato and couldn’t tell). If students could only choose liberal or conservative, then a full 84% of students would fire kneeling NFL players. This is terrible.

  24. 24
    Michael says:

    I think it’s misleading to say that there’s no left-wing equivalent of the Professors Watch list. There’s the SPLC Hate Watch List, which is not limited to professors but it includes several of them. It might have started out limited to violent hate groups but now it includes anyone the SPLC thinks is a bigot.

  25. 25
    Harlequin says:

    RonF, unfortunately, it appears the US is losing a lot of Holocaust knowledge.

    As a general link, here’s a very interesting article discussing how teenagers often lie on surveys. (So do adults– around 5%, as Nate Silver has discussed before, among others–but in an example in the paper the linked article discusses, 12% of teenagers admitted they lied when that was one of the questions!) The authors call them “mischievous responders” which probably captures their attitude well.

    Jeffrey Gandee, it would be 42%, not 84%, of the whole sample if the students were evenly split liberal and conservative. (65% of 50%=32.5%, plus 19% of the other 50%=9.5%, and sum.)

  26. 26
    Ben Lehman says:

    Jeff: That’s not how math works.

  27. 27
    desipis says:

    “Should” they be fired is a free speech issue.

    If your answer depends on the content of the speech or how much you agree with it, then you’re not arguing for free speech. Quite the opposite. For example, if a player showed up wearing a MAGA hat for the anthem, would you find issue with them being fired? What if they made a Nazi salute?

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Sports stars are professional public figures, and so part of their job requirement is to not be repulsive. For that reason, they can reasonably be fired for taking public positions like being explicitly pro-Nazi, or pro-child porn, or pro-puppy-kicking, etc. You don’t have to be a partisan to find these positions deplorable.

    But either taking the knee, or wearing a MAGA hat, are well within the bounds of the country’s current discourse. Neither one should be a firing offense.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    …but now it includes anyone the SPLC thinks is a bigot.

    I suspect this is an exaggeration. Is Trump on the list?

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    Michael, I assume you’re responding to this:

    There is no organized liberal mission to… track right-wing professors.

    So looking at the SPLC’s website, there’s no such thing as a “hatewatch” list of names. I think you must mean this list of extremists.

    I only noticed three professors – and of those three, one is deceased, while the other two haven’t been professors for years. It’s ridiculous to suggest that this comprises “an organized liberal mission to track right-wing professors.”

    The three former professors are Arthur Jenson, Michael Hill, and Richard Lynn. I think that all three are reasonably described as extreme racists (Jenson, who was pro-eugenics, is the least extreme of the three). All three are quoted at length in their own words, so readers can judge for themselves. But they’re not on the list for being conservative; they all take racist and/or anti-semitic positions that are extreme and out of the bounds of normal conservative positions, even for today’s GOP.

    In contrast, the Professors Watch List has 258 names listed. As far as I can tell, all are current professors. And just at a first glance, putting some of these professors on such a list seems indefensible. Breanne Fahs, for example, is on the list for being pro-fat-acceptance and using scary feminist words like “patriarchy.” She’s quoted only in fragmented sentences, and there’s no direct link to her paper that they’re quoting. Robert Jenson is on the list because he wrote that rape is caused by patriarchy. William Field is on the list because he supported a student protest against former Secretary of State Rice.

    On the whole, you’re making a false equivalence.

  31. 31
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    OMG, it was late when I wrote that, and I’m having coffee and reading my math mistake now and it’s making my stomach hurt.

  32. 32
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#30- I’m sorry- I meant the SPLC’s general policy of making lists of hateful individuals and groups.
    For example, look at the list of anti-Muslim extremists that was recently removed, allegedly because of legal action:
    https://reason.com/blog/2018/04/20/southern-poverty-law-center-scraps-its-h
    If you do a google search for “Journalists Field Guide to Anti Muslim Extremists” and use web cache, you can see some of the names- Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
    And hilariously, one of their criticisms of Horowitz was that he demonized Foner for quoting admiringly Robeson- they basically implied Robeson wasn’t an extremist even though he said things like “Anyone who lifts a hand against the Soviet Union should be shot”.
    Wikipedia has a list of all the groups the SPLC listed as hate groups:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_designated_by_the_Southern_Poverty_Law_Center_as_hate_groups#Anti-LGBT
    For example they listed the Family Research Council as a hate group, even though it’s arguably within mainstream conservative discourse. (And yes, I agree, sometimes mainstream conservative discourse is creepy. But so is mainstream leftist discourse sometimes.)

  33. 33
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think a thing that frustrates conservative is that, these days, they suck at moving and shaping the overton window in their direction (except when it comes to economics for some reason). A person on the right who expresses ethnic pride, racism, sexism, or an interest in eugenics has crossed a very clear line and may face serious consequences for those beliefs. In some circles, just being interested in IQ and genetics is enough, leaving race and ethnicity out of it completely. Walking down the street with a swastika on your shirt could result in a beating where I live. Crossing the line too far to the left seems harder and the boundary fuzzier. This is true in Ohio where I was raised, and definitely here in DC. There’s a guy at my local dive bar who wears a hammer and sickle shirt all the time. No one cares. A professor can get hired having been a Maoist, Leninist, or a even a left-wing terrorist in at least one case. I’m not embarrassed that I used to be way to the left of center (Edward Bellamy won me over) I am embarrassed about some of the super libertarian ideas I held at a later point in my life. I believed in an idea that killed 100 million people (full communism), but I’m petty sure no one would hold that against me. If I turned back to the the far left, I could keep all my friends and be employed. If I turned to the far right, I’m pretty sure I would be shunned by almost everyone in my life. It seems many of us have been vaccinated against the far right in a way we haven’t been to the far left. I think this results in a double standard and it’s amplified on campuses. It annoys the hell out of conservatives. Speech from the right that is deemed to “cross the line” is often much tamer than similar speech on the left. Sure, there are outrageous dickheads on the right who have been invited to campuses and been censored, but there are also some really reasonable people who have faced a left-wing hecklers veto. To give an example, I can’t think of a time when right wing activists have targeted speech as reasonable as that of Bret Weinstein- but maybe I just haven’t heard about it. Murray, Weinstein, Peterson, Shapiro, Condoleeza Rice, John Brennan, these are all reasonable people, even if you don’t like them and think they are wrong, but they have been shut down.

    Even if there are just as many cases of conservatives shutting down free speech, not one of them will be as exasperating as what happened to Weinstein at Evergreen. The incident and the response sound like an over the top parody.

    I’ve heard of calls by conservatives to defund Universities that employ far left professors or have minority studies departments (I think Peterson himself called for this). This is a wretched idea. If something like that passed and made it through the courts, it would be more chilling than any heckler’s veto of
    a Murray or Shapiro speech. It’s frustrating to be on the center or the left and see the news go crazy over some upset students at Yale, and then basically ignore conservative politicians calling for much more chilling censorship in this way. But these stories just don’t carry the same punch because they aren’t directly tied to the culture war over what is and isn’t acceptable discourse. Calls to change funding are policy prescriptions one step removed. “Those are my tax dollars and I don’t want to see them spent on Marxists!” sounds kind of principled until one thinks harder about the failure mode of such a policy prescription. But everyone intuitively grasps the overton window, even if they’ve never heard of it. We learn at a very young age about what’s acceptable to say when and where. We are aware of this window every moment we are in public. We get enraged when people are violating it or even worse, trying to position it in such a way as to exclude us.

    As more evidence that this is really about the overton window, look back to the infamous incident at Yale where Christakis was confronted by a group of students and specifically one very emotional student. I often hear the Yale/Christakis debacle mentioned in “free speech on campus” discussions. Was it really about that, though? Looking back on it, that was free speech in action for the most part. Sure, he was rudely yelled over, but he did get to speak. His wife’s email was sent out and read. Those students clearly had a different idea of what is and isn’t acceptable to Christakisa, and they were trying to tell him they thought he was out of bounds. I think they did a terrible job of it, but Christakis wasn’t silenced on that day, if anything he was amplified.

    I think the political disputes around free speech are mostly fueled by both sides desire to control the culture and the overton window. I’m not saying there aren’t real free speech violations, I’m just saying that those aren’t necessarily what drives the anger and all the column inches.

  34. 34
    Ampersand says:

    Michael, that still seems like a digression from the current discussion to me. You were (I think) responding to the claim “There is no organized liberal mission to… track right-wing professors,” by claiming the SPLC is a left-wing equivalent. But as far as I know, none of the names you just listed are professors, so this new comment doesn’t help your argument.

    * * *

    I think your spin on the Horowitz thing is a stretch. Here’s the document in question, and here’s the one paragraph in which the SPLC referred to Robeson:

    In just one example of the propaganda in his book, The Professors, Horowitz wrote of widely respected Reconstruction scholar Eric Foner, “Professor Foner participated in an anti-war ‘teach in’ at Columbia University, where he invoked Communist Party icon Paul Robeson as a model of patriotism.” In his attack on Foner, Horowitz also noted that another professor at the teach-in had maligned the U.S. military and said he’d like “to see a million Mogadishus.” But at the teach-in, Foner cited Robeson, who also has been honored on a U.S. stamp, only by saying, “The patriot is the person who is never satisfied with his country” — hardly a pro-Communist slogan. And Horowitz also failed to mention that Foner had criticized his fellow professor’s comment about the military on the very same day as the teach-in, calling it “reprehensible.”

    The case they’re making is that Horowitz’s book uses dishonest takes to smear Foner, and that seems fair.

    More importantly, this is the least reprehensible of the items against Horowitz in the SPLC’s brief, so focusing on it seems unrepresentative. Here’s another quote from their section on Horowitz:

    Horowitz’s center placed an ad in an April 2008 issue of a campus news­paper, The Daily Nexus, claiming that the Muslim Student Association was “founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the godfather of Al Qaeda and Hamas, to bring jihad into the heart of American higher education.” In fact, it had worked with Jewish campus groups, according to faculty members.

    Speaking on May 12, 2008, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, after running his April Daily Nexus ad attacking the Muslim Student Association, Horowitz said, “There is a movement for a second Holocaust of the Jews that is being supported on this campus by the Muslim Student Association!” He also described the traditional Arab keffiyeh headdress for men as a symbol of terror­ism, according to a report in the Santa Barbara Independent.

    You implied that including Horowitz on a list of anti-Muslim extremists is unfair. So how is what I just quoted not anti-Mulsim? How is it not extremist?

    Also, why do we need to use an internet archive to read the list, instead of reading it on the SPLC’s website?

    Because Nawaz threatened to sue, explicitly explaining that his goal was to create a chilling effect: “[I want to] create a precedent, and provide a warning to those who think they can throw around damning labels like ‘Islamophobe,’ ‘racist,’ and ‘Nazi’ without any evidence and simply get away with it.” (The SPLC report didn’t call Nawaz, or anyone else, a Nazi.) It is extremely unlikely that Nawaz would have won such a lawsuit – political criticism of political public figures is the most protected form of speech in the US – but he could easily have cost the SPLC millions of dollars in legal fees.

    I don’t really buy that a list criticizing 15 of the most prominent, well-known journalist sources on the subject of Islam constitutes “censorship” or is anti-free-speech. But using the court system in this way is a form of censorship. Unsurprisingly, many of the self-proclaimed free speech advocates – including Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Bill Maher, and Christina Hoff Summers – praised the lawsuit.

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    Curiously, although a bunch of sources have said that SPLC took down the “Field Guide” list – sources that are not at all pro-SPLC – I just came across it, still on their site in pdf form. My guess is that they took down the links leading to the pdf file, but not the pdf file itself? Weird.

  36. 36
    Tatterdemalion1983 says:

    A couple of caveats about the article arguing that there’s a publication bias in minimum wage studies:

    Firstly, it dates back to 2009, which I think is quite a long while in terms of the minimum wage -there’s been a whole bunch of new data from e.g. Seattle since then, which lots of people have interpreted in lots of different ways.

    Scondly, it may have been right then, and it may still be right now, but I can’t get at it to read it – I think it’s behind some kind of paywall or registration wall, (although it’s embarrassingly plausible that I may just be using the website wrong – can anyone else get at it)

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t see any reason to suppose that publication bias would have existed until 2009 but not since 2009? I can’t see how the competing Seattle studies would change that.

    I can’t deny the possibility, of course. Even if so, that there was publication bias prior to 2009 is still interesting.

    Here’s a link to a pdf of the full article. (I’ve updated the link in the original post, as well.)

  38. 38
    Kate says:

    If your answer depends on the content of the speech or how much you agree with it, then you’re not arguing for free speech.

    You’re totally wrong on that. The content of speech absolutely matters. Yelling fire in a crowded theater is not free speech. Credible threats and harassment are not free speech. Nor is slander.
    In work places, greater restrictions are acceptable. Speech which creates a hostile work environment is not protected in those contexts. Nazi salutes create a hostile work environment for people from groups targeted by Nazi violence. So, firing is acceptable.
    MAGA hats are free speech, and I’d object to football players being fired for wearing them.

  39. 39
    Jokuvaan says:

    Plenty of useful stuff one can do while listening to podcasts like say sports, cleaning or cooking.

    But I think you’re wrong to think this is typically a willful misunderstanding. It’s more a matter of which echo chamber each person is in. Did you read the link about echo chambers?

    But someone had to bring this misunderstanding into the echo chamber.

  40. 40
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Jokuvaan, I agree that individuals will sometimes willfully misunderstand someone in order to demonize them, but echo chambers will allow these misunderstandings to go viral in the memetic sense because these misunderstandings will appeal to people through confirmation bias. So now hundreds (thousands? Millions?) of people accept the misunderstanding, even if they would otherwise be more charitable outside of their echo chambers.

  41. 41
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#34- First, I agree that he should have mentioned that Foner denounced the million Mogadishus remark the same day but I think that the rest of his depiction of Foner is fair. Foner came from a family of Communists. He portrays the American Communist Party during the period of Stalinist rule positively in his book “the Story of American Freedom”. Horowitz isn’t the only person to portray him negatively- John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr portray him very negatively in their book “In Denial”.
    And the reason I’m focusing on it is because it shows that the definition of an extremist lies in the eye of the beholder. The SPLC thinks that Horowitz is an extremist. But a conservative would view Robeson- and Foner himself- as an extremist.
    And that’s my point. Watchlists of extremists are free speech if you think the people being criticized are bad and attempts to suppress free speech if you think the people being criticized are good. (Your other argument- that it’s ok to criticize media sources but not university professors- is also subjective. Neither list targeted janitors or truck drivers.) It all depends on whose ox is being gored.

  42. 42
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    And that’s my point. Watchlists of extremists are free speech if you think the people being criticized are bad and attempts to suppress free speech if you think the people being criticized are good.

    Bingo. If only I could make points so succinctly! This is why I’m starting to think that these conflicts are about the position of the overton window, and “free speech” is just a rhetorical device to advance one’s position.

  43. 43
    Ampersand says:

    …but I think that the rest of his depiction of Foner is fair. Foner came from a family of Communists. He portrays the American Communist Party during the period of Stalinist rule positively in his book “the Story of American Freedom”. Horowitz isn’t the only person to portray him negatively- John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr portray him very negatively in their book “In Denial”.

    Okay. I have no idea if these things were mentioned in Horowitz’s book or not. I don’t have a take on if Foner is an extremist or not, and frankly, I’ve never heard of Foner before this discussion. :-p

    It’s possible that the two items the SPLC picked out to criticize from Horowitz’s book were unrepresentative, and Horowitz’s book had much stronger arguments to make against Foner, in which case the SPLC cherry-picked in an unfair way (just as your criticism of the SPLC’s criticism of Horowitz cherry-picks in an unfair way).

    But if the two items that the SPLC mentions of Horowitz’s criticism of Foner ARE representative, then the criticism Horowitz makes of Foner is very weak. You’ve already admitted that the SPLC was right about the Mogadishus remark. The other anti-Foner argument that SPLC mentions, is that Foner quoted a anodyne remark by a celebrity, and that same celebrity has extreme opinions which Foner did not quote or cite. If that’s the case that Horowitz made for Foner being an extremist, then Horowitz’s case was ridiculous, even if the claim “Foner is an extremist” is not.

    But, again: I don’t know if the arguments the SPLC picked out were a fair representation of Horowitz’s argument. Perhaps they are guilty of cherry-picking Horowitz’s two weakest arguments, and all of Horowitz’s other arguments were stronger.

    * * *

    I think you’ve moved your goalposts. You seemingly brought up the SPLC to refute the claim that “There is no organized liberal mission to… track right-wing professors,” saying their list “includes several” professors. But although you’ve been refusing to comment on this, the fact is, there is no reasonable way any SPLC list could be take as being about right-wing professors; I haven’t found any current professors listed, although of course I haven’t exhaustively researched every name. The list you focused on, “Journalists Field Guide to Anti Muslim Extremists,” doesn’t include include any professors, afaict.

    Now you’re making a different case – and one I agree with. Whether or not these lists seem like censorship depends a lot, I agree, on viewer’s partisan perspectives.

    I have mixed feelings about the various lists. It’s obvious people have a free speech right to make lists of people whose views they criticize, and in and of itself, that’s not censorship.

    I also think that it’s possible that a list can have a chilling effect on speech, especially if people’s ability to earn a living is destroyed by their inclusion on a list. (McCarthyism is the obvious precedent.) Both are true.

    * * *

    The way you brought up Horowitz’s name implied that it was unreasonable for SPLC to include his name on their list. Here’s a bit from SPLC’s case against Horowitz:

    Horowitz’s center placed an ad in an April 2008 issue of a campus news­paper, The Daily Nexus, claiming that the Muslim Student Association was “founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the godfather of Al Qaeda and Hamas, to bring jihad into the heart of American higher education.” In fact, it had worked with Jewish campus groups, according to faculty members.

    Speaking on May 12, 2008, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, after running his April Daily Nexus ad attacking the Muslim Student Association, Horowitz said, “There is a movement for a second Holocaust of the Jews that is being supported on this campus by the Muslim Student Association!” He also described the traditional Arab keffiyeh headdress for men as a symbol of terror­ism, according to a report in the Santa Barbara Independent.

    Let me ask you again: Does this seem moderate or extreme to you?

  44. 44
    Jokuvaan says:

    A movement for a second holocaust does kind of exists but its not really going to happen because this time jews are gradually getting the hell out of dodge.

  45. 45
    Tatterdemalion1983 says:

    Kate @38:

    You’re totally wrong on that. The content of speech absolutely matters. Yelling fire in a crowded theater is not free speech.

    This line is from a judicial decision that ruled that encouraging young men in WWI to resist conscription was a criminal offence, and that large parts of were subsequently overturned on the grounds that they represented an unconstitutional and unethical restriction on free speech.

    Moreover, you’re misquoting it so as to completely change its meaning: what Oliver Wendell Holmes actually said was that “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater” (emphasis mine); the right to yell fire in a crowded theatre is one anyone who doesn’t want to burn to death should cherish.

    Ken White of Popehat puts it better than I can here, and also makes a number of other points about what is and isn’t free speech in his customary… vigorous, shall we say politely… style that I think are worth reading.

  46. 46
    Sebastian H says:

    The “there is no college free speech crisis” people seem unconvincing to me, largely because of two major issues. They are treating their statistics as if identical questions are measuring the same thing when they aren’t, and they are misusing the statistics that they have. I’ll take this post as an exemplar, since nearly all of the posts I’ve seen on the topic reference it or the studies it references.

    First, free speech measures are only important regarding things that the interviewee disagrees with or is threatened by. Otherwise you are just measuring agreement. So when the questions chart a change in “should homosexuals be allowed to be a speaker on campus” you aren’t currently measuring a free speech change AT ALL. You are measuring an ‘acceptance of homosexuality’ change. Which is a great thing! But not pertinent to the question of free speech. Similarly atheists–religion among college educated people is way down over the period, so letting someone speak out against God isn’t even disagreeing for a lot of respondents.

    The author characterizes it as:

    But since then, the left and the right have become more tolerant to the free speech of many groups. Except racists. What’s unique about today’s fashion of “no platforming” racists (really, anyone deemed racist) is not that it’s new; what’s unique is that this specific type of speaker was exempt from the generally rising tide of speech toleration over the past few decades. Today’s vaguely leftist fashion of “no platforming” anyone deemed racist does not reflect a sudden, massive shift of opinion (although there’s some shift); it seems more to reflect a quite traditional tendency of aversion to despised speakers, which only now appears peculiar because most other despisable speaker types have become tolerated by most other ideological factions. The general, national puzzle, therefore, is not “Why do leftists suddenly seem so opposed to racist speakers, or speakers deemed racist?” This is a puzzle, which we’ll address next, but it’s not the over-arching puzzle. The most general puzzle is “Why have racist speakers, or speakers deemed racist, been exempt from the rising tide of speech toleration, for liberals and conservatives?”

    He alludes to the problem when he says “What’s unique about today’s fashion of “no platforming” racists (really, anyone deemed racist)” but doesn’t see how the change in what counts as deeming someone racist could drastically alter the free speech balance. He also doesn’t capture in the data a number of other things that have come to the fore in campus debates–being deemed anti-feminist, being deemed anti-homosexual, being deemed anti-trans, etc.

    If the threshold of being deemed anti-whatever and THEREFORE out of bounds from protected free speech got lower in the last fifty years, that strongly suggests that something really has changed about how free speech plays out. Now, instead of trying to censor a tiny percentage of the population with very extreme views, you are trying to censor a very large percentage of the population with only somewhat off the center-of-college-accepted views. Once you put it that way, it is difficult to suggest that the threshold has not changed. You can either call nearly everyone racists/sexists/anti-whatever OR try to censor the views of a narrow percentage of racists/sexists/anti-whatever. But you can’t call nearly everyone racist/sexists/anti-whatever AND try to shut all them all up.

    This also plays in to the over-labelling problem that Trump capitalized on. A bunch of people think “I was called racist for noticing Anabelle’s hair in the wrong terms, so when they say Trump is racist who knows if they are just being whiny again”.

    Again, they were clearly wrong to fail to realize that Trump in 2016 wasn’t just “stumbled into the racist label” kind of racist. But we set up that misunderstanding when we try to over-suppress.

  47. Watchlists of extremists are free speech if you think the people being criticized are bad and attempts to suppress free speech if you think the people being criticized are good.

    I don’t know. It seems to me that they are free speech either way.

    As someone who has been teaching in higher education for almost 30 years, and who has, for a variety of reasons, followed this question of free speech on campus pretty closely, I find the language of “crisis” hyperbolic and agenda-driven. Sure, there are cases that raise important and serious questions, and, sure, there are cases in which one side or the other—assuming there are only two sides—goes too far; but if you consider how many college campuses and classrooms there are in this country, and you consider how much teaching and speaking of all different kinds of viewpoints goes on in those places without incident, then the people who invoke the language of crisis end up seeming to me more interested in turning a non-crisis into a crisis than in addressing one that actually exists.

  48. 48
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#43- Well, the SPLC does make lists some professors- for example, here:
    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2015/professors
    Although there’s only five on the list and one is a black supremacist.
    And they list, for example, Michael Levin here:
    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/michael-levin
    And I fully agree that these are all beyond the bounds of mainstream conservativism.
    But I’ll concede your point that they’re more concerned with fighting hate in society than on the campus.
    And yes, I do agree that David Horowitz’s works are anti-Muslim and reprehensible in comparing liberals to totalitarians.

  49. 49
    Tamen says:

    This 2017 article, while focused on the 1-in-5 statistic, is also a useful summary of much of the current state of sexual assault prevalence research.

    This is regrettably pretty accurate. This paper’s title and content only talks about prevalence among women and it only mention male victims in a rather dismissive way.

    The current state is that the prevalence of male victimization is poorly served by both the design of the survey questions (unique forms of male victimization is rarely explicitly included) or in the sampling design (very often the female sample size is much larger than the male sample size or there were no male in the sample at all).

  50. 50
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    When it comes to free speech debates, it’s common for both sides to just talk past one another. This confusion makes conversation impossible. There’s a script for what happens when conservatives and liberals fail at discussing free speech. It goes like this (flip political orientation if necessary):

    1. A conservative is, in their mind, unfairly accused of being a racist/biggot/asshole/unamerican or something similar. It happens in public, on TV, or on social media.

    2. He or she will complain that they’ve been “silenced,” or “censored,” or “dragged.” It’s definitely “unfair.” Allies come to the defense with similar language.

    3. Predictably, a liberal will point out that being called a racist (or whatever) isn’t the same thing as being silenced, and that those people demanding that the word “racist” be tabooed are the real censors.

    4. The conservative and his or her allies describe the real world consequences of being labelled so harshly.

    5. Someone uses the phrase: “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.”

    6. Steven Pinker is saddened, and appeals to “a cultural of free speech”

    7. No minds are changed.

    I’m on team Pinker, but I think the term “culture of free speech” is just confusing. It’s trying to encompass too much, and when most people hear “free speech,” they start thinking legalistically, rather than considering healthy cultural norms. The fact that people can’t agree what “the culture of free speech” entails, and the people here can’t agree whether or not watchlists are a threat to speech, suggests that it’s not a very useful term for this discussion.

    What’s being discussed is the downstream effects of an intolerance of ideological diversity. That’s the central issue. It’s effects on academic freedom, freedom of speech (in the legal sense), workplace politics, student expression, and everyday discussions at the dinner table are how we experience it, and both the right and left value these effects differently depending on who’s being harmed the most in any given situation. I think it’s pretty obvious that ideological tolerance is a healthy norm for any group that seeks to improve on knowledge, we abandon it at our peril.

    Most people admire tolerance, or think they do. I imagine most people share the same warm feeling I experience when I watch two people with wildly different views discuss their disagreements respectfully and productively, each of them looking to learn something from the other. This general admiration of tolerance is great, but these days it has become overpowered by a desire to gain status among one’s allies with loud displays of intolerance. People I know who I otherwise respect and admire will seek out the worst words and arguments from their out-group, and then repost these on social media with a mean-spirited rebuttal. These posts get showered with “likes.” Misrepresentations of an opponent’s position spread like wildfire through the various tribes. It’s all a terrible waste of time.

    I have no idea how to change any of this, and it doesn’t help that my instincts are to be generally tolerant of the intolerant when I see it. On an individual level, I do think it helps to find thinkers who can have productive discourse with their adversaries. I also think that anyone who’s supposedly “pro-free speech” should reflect on just how tolerant they really are and how they are shaping the discussions around them. The attitude of tolerance is contagious.

    Some people will read this and think, “Nope. My outgroup creates too much pain and suffering, I can’t afford to tolerate them, and neither can my friends.” To this, I say, are you 100% sure about that? You better be really damn sure, because the intolerance you embrace makes it almost impossible to tell if you’re wrong. In my mind, we’re all wrong about everything all the time, and it’s only through constant dialogue that we can become a little less wrong than we were before. So I’m really really skeptical of anyone who works to narrow the window of acceptable discourse.

  51. 51
    Sebastian H says:

    “I’m on team Pinker, but I think the term “culture of free speech” is just confusing. It’s trying to encompass too much, and when most people hear “free speech,” they start thinking legalistically, rather than considering healthy cultural norms.”

    I think this is definitely a problem. I wonder what types of norms we should be aiming for? One is something like ‘you shouldn’t be fired from most normal jobs for off the job legal speech’. There are certain exceptions like for any norm. Positions like ‘spokeswoman for X’ probably can’t be protected as strongly in that way. But that isn’t a norm we have now, and it would go a long way to protecting public discourse. You shouldn’t be able to fire someone for being a Communist or talking to Communists or whatever. (Note in most states, firing you for most legal off the clock speech is TOTALLY legal).

  52. 52
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    The norms should vary, and reflect the requirements of the space, but in general, I think we all benefit from increased tolerance and thicker skin. I’m sort of anti-radical, but I’ve learned tons from listening to radicals on all sides. Even if the only thing I learned is “so that’s what a KKK leader actually looks and sounds like!” I’m better off for learning it.

    I agree that speech outside of work shouldn’t result in firing. That sort of norm seems ideologically left wing to me on worker’s rights grounds, but right now I think people on the right are more likely than ever to go along with it. Amp seems to agree and champions the rights of employees to speak freely outside of the workplace as well as anyone I read. I’d love to see more voices on the left echo the sentiment.

  53. 53
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    Sports stars are professional public figures, and so part of their job requirement is to not be repulsive. For that reason, they can reasonably be fired for taking public positions like being explicitly pro-Nazi, or pro-child porn, or pro-puppy-kicking, etc. You don’t have to be a partisan to find these positions deplorable.

    But either taking the knee, or wearing a MAGA hat, are well within the bounds of the country’s current discourse. Neither one should be a firing offense.

    Wearing a MAGA hat has gotten people assaulted, their property stolen or damaged and thrown out of public places. And a player taking a knee when the anthem is played at an NFL game has caused a massive furor; a great many people find it repulsive.

    Don’t forget the distinction. It’s one thing to take a given political or social position and publicize it outside of your place of employment. It’s another to take that position and publicize it at work, in front of the customers. When you do the former it is a free speech issue. When you do the latter you’re alienating the customers and – since people know your employer could stop you from doing so – you are associating the organization with your statement. On that basis your employer has some very excellent reasons to either stop you from performing such expression or for firing you if you do.

  54. 54
    RonF says:

    Here are 11 instances in the last few months where left-wing oriented groups of people interfered with the free speech rights of others. I’m not talking about people who were “no-platformed”. I’m talking about people who showed up to speak and were physically interfered with to the point that their talk was delayed, truncated or cancelled.

    Here is an instance where a conservative group seeking to schedule a conservative speaker was saddled with a “health and safety” security fee that was impossible for it to pay and that has not been imposed on other groups.

    Here is an example where someone pulled a fire alarm to cancel a speech.

    Here is an example where a Federal judge is trying to get UC-Berkeley to justify why a conservative speaker’s sponsor is being charged 3x more to host a high-profile speaker than a liberal group sponsoring a high-profile liberal speaker.

    Here is another speech that was disrupted by protesters at a law school where the protesting students, upon being informed that he had a right to speak, shouted “Fuck the law!” Some of the protesters actually stood next to him while he tried to speak.

    There is a crisis on campus regarding free speech. Statistics may show that those who oppose it are the minority – but they are an active minority and seem to be able to operate without negative consequences either during or after the fact.

  55. 55
    Kate says:

    There is a crisis on campus regarding free speech. Statistics may show that those who oppose it are the minority – but they are an active minority and seem to be able to operate without negative consequences either during or after the fact.

    Ron, 15 cherry-picked anecdotes (some of which you and/or your sources inaccurately characterized, as I will outline below) in which speakers may have been prevented from speaking on one occasion, is not a crisis. All of them combined do not have the power to chill free speech that the Arizona law I linked to does. In case you didn’t even bother reading the linked article:

    The bill, from state representative Bob Thorpe, would prohibit “courses, classes, events and activities” in public schools that promote “social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people”. Courses and events that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or advocate “solidarity” based on ethnicity, race, religion or gender would also be banned.

    Silencing thousands of teachers in Arizona’s public school, college and university systems, not for one day, but systemically for the foreseeable future.

  56. 56
    Kate says:

    I’m not talking about people who were “no-platformed”. I’m talking about people who showed up to speak and were physically interfered with to the point that their talk was delayed, truncated or cancelled.

    Five of the events cited in your linked articles actually strike me as model protests, which caused at most slight delay when one tracks down more objective sources:

    The protest of John Yoo at UC Berkeley did not silence him in the slightest. It involved silently holding signs and did not prevent him from speaking. Yoo himself approved!!!! From the article I linked:

    Yoo offered the following account of his experience Thursday: “Some people held signs and stood silently for what struck me as a very long time. But it didn’t interfere with the panel presentations or the discussion. I couldn’t think of a better way to educate people who need it about the Constitution!”

    The calls for Yoo to be fired are a separate issue (not all people who protest his views agree that he should be fired). Those calls are based on his support of torture, not the mere fact of his having worked for the Bush administration (as the article Ron linked to wrongly implies). I do not support the firing of John Yoo, however I think whether his views on torture should be part of mainstream discourse or out of bounds is a reasonable conversation to have. In any case, it is wrong to characterize it as “people who showed up to speak and were physically interfered with to the point that their talk was delayed, truncated or cancelled”

    At the University of Michigan, Charles Murray chose to engage with protesters, in what looks to me like another excellent model of how these things can be handled.

    After Murray took some questions and engaged in dialog with UM student Bryan Ransom, who took the stage to debunk findings from “The Bell Curve,” a number of protesters began to disperse from the event shortly before 6:45 p.m. Murray was able to complete his speech and moved on to questions from the audience to conclude his appearance at UM.
    There were no incidents of violence nor ejections from the venue during his visit.

    James Damore (fired from Google) at Portland State University. Two protesters unsuccessfully tried to unplug the sound system. “The microphone cut out for about 30 seconds. One woman was detained by campus security and charged with a misdemeanor.” Otherwise, this sounds like a model protest to me.

    Christina Hoff Sommers at Lewis & Clark Law School

    On March 5, Christina Hoff Sommers, invited to Lewis & Clark Law School by a student group as a speaker, was disrupted by a few protestors at the beginning of her speech. After a few minutes, she was able to continue and students engaged in a vigorous discussion during the question-and-answer session.

    Duke students interrupted an alumni event at which the university president was speaking for 15 minutes to get attention for a variety of issues. The audience had a mixed reaction. Some attendees actually enjoyed it:

    “I think it’s terrific, it’s absolutely terrific,” Friedman said of the demonstration. “It’s what the university is supposed to be. They handled it well. It’s a tribute to Duke that they were allowed to speak. There’s been too much speech suppression on both the left and the right.”

  57. Ron,

    For starters, everything Kate said and linked to in her comment. Apart from that, though, I am curious how you define “crisis” in this instance?

  58. 58
    Harlequin says:

    I imagine most people share the same warm feeling I experience when I watch two people with wildly different views discuss their disagreements respectfully and productively, each of them looking to learn something from the other.

    I’m not sure this is a direct response so much as it’s inspired by this part of your comment, but: I don’t think the ideal of rational debate is the core of why we should support free speech, or is the goal of a culture of free speech, really. Most free speech isn’t rational debate, and there’s nothing wrong in a moral sense with being emotional, or making bad arguments, or not liking academic-style or legal-style debates. We should support free speech because the other option is to have somebody empowered to restrict it, and who do you trust to do that? We have the courts, who are very limited about what they’re willing to restrict (and their level of acceptable restriction has sharply decreased in the last century and, I think, should continue to move in that direction–as some of you discuss above, workplace speech restrictions are a serious concern). But I don’t think we should restrict booing the president, for example, even though that is nowhere close to a reasoned debate.

    That being said, responses to speech by other people (as opposed to official government bodies) is a different beast. I do understand arguments about the danger of things like watch lists because their universal applicability would be a negative–and I think watch lists are the kind of long-lasting, documented, easily-spread techniques that can be the most harmful to the exercise of free speech in a cultural sense. But at the same time…sometimes certain kinds of social pressure ARE helpful to reduce harmful beliefs, or at least actions derived from harmful beliefs, and in that case, I think the correct argument isn’t “social pressure is always a bad idea because it could be used against me,” but rather “the reason you shouldn’t use it against me is that my ideas are not that bad.” Reversing your positions with your opponent is a useful mental tool, but it’s not the whole story: some things really are worse than others. Please, let’s apply social pressure to Nazis! Let’s have a good debate about whether certain beliefs are bad enough that more stringent tactics are okay. I think that’s a much more interesting and useful debate than the one about whether applying social pressure to any group, no matter how extreme, is too far. Every time I see a debate that goes:
    – Belief X is a problem
    – Well, does that mean people with belief X should be SHUNNED?!
    (admittedly, a large comic exaggeration) I get annoyed by the lost opportunity. Well, maybe? How bad is belief X? That’s the interesting point. The responder there has often chosen an easier-to-defend point (moderately bad beliefs don’t deserve the most stringent social pressure tactics) rather than a harder-to-defend point (exactly where belief X falls on the scale of not-so-bad to really-bad).

    Bah. I don’t know. I get annoyed with the current level of discussion of free speech the way I get annoyed about discussions of campus free speech: it’s not that there’s nothing to talk about, it’s just that it sucks up so much air relative to other things I’d rather be talking about. But, I’m glad people can disagree with me about that.

  59. 59
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think that some ideas and he speech that support them fall outside the norms of acceptable discourse. I also think these norms should change depending on the space. So I’m ok with social pressure against Nazis in general, though I do think there should be spaces for Nazis to speak where people would like to hear that. The best class I ever took was a political radicalism class, and I’d have been pissed if any of my time there was spent listening to students chant rather than the invited speaker. The purpose of the space needs to be taken into account, and this is why I think universities need to adopt healthier discourse norms- they aren’t supposed to be publicly funded advocacy group, they are places of learning.

    I think the left should look a little harder at the way far left speech is handled compared to far right speech, and then ask “is the purpose of this social pressure to limit the spread of dangerous ideas, or is my side using this as a weapon against the other tribe?” I say this because I see hammer and sickle flags at almost every left of center protest in DC, and no one seems to mind marching next to those.

    I get that the whole Nazi/commie dichotomy isn’t quite symmetrical. For some people meeting a Nazi means meeting someone who hates them. The fear and disgust we feel when encountering fascists is personal. That said, people are way too cool with communists in comparison. It’s a deadly ideology, and in many ways, more seductive than fascism because the story about communism and the millions of deaths it caused is a harder story to tell than that of Nazi Germany, Franco’s spain, or Chile under Pinochet. The right does a much better job of denouncing authoritarians in it’s ranks than the left does in it’s own.

  60. 60
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I should add, Harlequin, that I really appreciate and agree with the reasons you value free speech, and maybe your reasons are actually better than the one I pointed out. I’ll have to think about it.

  61. 61
    RonF says:

    Kate, those State laws are interesting and thanks for the links. There’s multiple components to them. The main part of them seek to control the curriculum presented in State-operated schools. I don’t see how that’s a violation of free speech at all. Since when does free speech mean that teachers in a State-operated school can present any curriculum they want and say anything they want about it in a classroom? It is the State’s job to define the curriculum and it’s manner of presentation in their schools. That’s one of the main reasons public school boards exist. Again – your employer has every right to control your speech at your place of employment, especially when what you do is to present particular speech to gain a particular end. It is the employer, not the employee, who gets to define what the particular end should be and how it is to be attained.

    The restriction on the kinds of events that the schools can sponsor outside of the formal curricula is a bit more problematic. But I’d draw a distinction between events the school sponsors and events sponsored by student groups at the school. Left to their own devices colleges and universities tend to sponsor leftist-oriented speakers far, far more than they tend to sponsor conservative ones. My guess is that the restrictions shown in some of those bills is a reaction to that. Certainly a public school should seek to balance the various kinds of viewpoints presented in events they sponsor. But they don’t.
    Ideally I’d say that colleges should adopt the policy expressed by University of Chicago, wherein the school itself simply takes no side at all in social issues and leaves the debate on them to their scholars, while protecting the right of all groups at the school to invite speakers and have them heard. As you can see by the examples I gave that right is by no means being symmetrically (took two stabs to spell that right) defended. That needs to change. Again – the school administration is an arm of the State. They do not have free speech when it comes to how they run the schools.

    The students, OTOH, are NOT an arm of the State. If the State told the schools that on-campus groups (such as either Turning Point or Young Socialists) could not invite certain kinds of speakers for presentations outside the curriculum (talks/presentations/etc. that were not required as classwork and/or did not count towards a grade), then I think that would be a restriction on free speech. But if those groups are supported by the schools then they must treat them all equally as far as funding and access to school facilities, staff, equipment, etc. go. That doesn’t seem to be the case at many schools.

  62. 62
    nobody.really says:

    In 1994 Charles Murray (and psychologist Richard Herrnstein) published their controversial work The Bell Curve. I never read it; I have no comment on it; I’m not talking about that.

    But I value the idea of the bell curve as a depiction of a population—of society. Much philosophy/economics/social theory (at least since the Enlightenment) is formed around a stylized idea of how individuals behave, and acknowledge only in passing that some people are exceptions, but they are too rare to worry about. Traditional Social Contract Theory rationalizes the relationship between individuals and the collective by suggesting that individuals would consent to surrender only those powers to the collective that are necessary to promote each individual’s interest in autonomy. Thus, the theory justifies state intervention to defend citizens against fraud and coercion—but not illness or poverty.

    In contrast, a bell curve explicitly acknowledges that people vary. If we’re going to devise a theory about society, it needs to account for ALL of society—including the sick and the poor—not just the midpoint. John Rawls’s Theory of Justice seeks to modify Social Contract Theory in this manner.

    So—what about society’s marginalized? What about the sick? The poor? The immigrants? The undocumented immigrants? The disabled? The criminal, and the formerly criminal? Should society acknowledge their existence, and make explicit provisions for them?

    What about sexual predators?

    “At first I thought they didn’t want me to participate in campus activities,” one told me. “Then I thought they didn’t want me to graduate. Now they don’t want me to have a job or be part of society. Do they want me to commit suicide? Is that what they want me to do? What is the endgame?”

    This is a quote from today’s New York Times Op-Ed What Do We Do With These Men?. Yes, people have a justified and visceral response to sexual predators, and want to see society condemn them. But this fact doesn’t result in sexual predators evaporating, any more than condemning people who commit other crimes causes those people to evaporate.

    Once upon a time, society has explicit means for dealing with outcasts: ghettos. These were harsh places—but they were at least places. They were social institutions that explicitly acknowledged that marginalized people exist and live among us.

    In the absence of explicit ghettos, we often get tacit ghettos. The police in every community (Grace, you wanna jump in here?) acknowledge the neighborhoods in which drug deals occur, where prostitutes work, where the [pick a deviant group] hangs out, etc. I may or may not approve of these facts, but my opinion does not change the facts.

    Why do so many stories culminate with the death of the bad guy? Supply and demand: Audiences demand a cathartic ending. And the supply of viable alternative endings is small. In the real world, defeated bad guys continue to live in our neighborhoods. To quote Schmendrick from the seminal film The Last Unicorn (1982), “There are no happy endings … because nothing ends.” Not very cathartic—but very real.

    We may succeed in condemning deviants, but that doesn’t mean we end them. We may hate acknowledging that deviants exist and live among us, but they do. We need social norms for dealing with this fact. Righteous indignation is not a substitute for social policy.

  63. 63
    nobody.really says:

    Follow-up to #62—

    Since Amp has now shown a taste for superhero comics, I now pitch a concept for his next project: Depicting the life of ex-cons via the story of The Riddler. That man, a precocious criminal in his youth, caught by the even more precocious Batman, has now served his time and is back on the street. Is he seething with resentment? Does he acknowledge his guilt and try to move on? Did he suffer abuses in prison? Did he make friends in prison—friends that are at the mercy of gangs that are now trying to manipulate him? Can he find employment? What is his relationship to his ex-girlfriend, and their kid?

    And most importantly (for book sales), what is his relationship to Batman? Is this a Jean Valjean/Javert relationship? Has the aging Batman grown weary of simple retribution, and joined efforts to seek re-integration of ex-cons into society? Or….

    …has Batman grown cynical of the criminal justice system, and begun (returned) to seeking secret vigilante justice?

    So Batman and The Riddler meet in some public-ish setting. Batman makes a display of looking with distain on The Riddler. Later, Batman tracks him down in private and reminds him that The Riddler got sent to prison because The Penguin had turned state’s evidence against him—and as a result, The Penguin got off scot-free for all his crimes. Together, they take revenge on The Penguin.

    Thereafter, Batman proposes that they do the same thing with Catwoman. The Riddler demurs, trying to move forward and get his life on track. But now Batman can blackmail The Riddler by threatening to expose his role in what happened to The Penguin. So now The Riddler becomes an unwilling accomplice for all of Batman’s vigilante plans.

    In short, we provide an exposition for sociological studies about the plight of society’s discarded members with a catchy hook to drive book sales.

    (But Amp, you may want to jump on this idea fast: I long ago predicted that Grace would publish a crime novel. Who knows what she’s got in the works? Just sayin’….)

    [Edited to add: Ok, I’m no connoisseur of superhero comics, but it now occurs to me that this may have been Wolverine’s story arch. Although I never understood what grievance Wolverine had against The Penguin….]

  64. 64
    Kate says:

    As you can see by the examples I gave that right is by no means being symmetrically (took two stabs to spell that right) defended. That needs to change.

    No, your examples establish no such thing. You do not link to any systemic analysis establishing greater restrictions on people with right wing views in universities. You link to a total of fifteen incidents occurring over the course of a whole year in two countries with thousands of colleges and universities. Moreover, I wrote a whole post @56 about how at least a third of these incidents are not examples of restriction of speech at all. That tells me that even with only fifteen examples, you’re scraping the bottom of a very small barrel.

    You’re a scientist, an engineer, right? You ought to know that data doesn’t work that way. I think you DO know that data doesn’t work that way. Why are you playing dumb?

  65. 65
    Kate says:

    Ideally I’d say that colleges should adopt the policy expressed by University of Chicago, wherein the school itself simply takes no side at all in social issues and leaves the debate on them to their scholars, while protecting the right of all groups at the school to invite speakers and have them heard.

    I agree. That is also precisely what the proposed Arizona law prohibits. It prohibits scholars from even discussing a huge range of cultural and social justice issues in classrooms and public lectures at state funded schools. On the university level, it is most certainly a violation of academic freedom, which is an important aspect of speech in a free society. The state funding decisions I linked to were not curriculum decisions. They were retaliation against professors who had already been hired to teach in certain areas speaking out in ways the legislators didn’t like. Just because it may be legal for them to do so (motive probably matters here, so it may not be), that doesn’t mean it isn’t an onerous restriction on their freedom of speech. You have a problem with a bunch of professors who have no power to do anything calling for the firing of John Yoo and silently protesting his extreme views on torture in ways that he himself approved of. Both things are certainly legal. Yet, you are fine with legislatures effectively firing entire departments of scholars because they disagree with their views.
    On the primary and secondary school level, the state should guide curriculum by choosing experts to make the decisions on basic material which must be covered. But, outright bans on the teaching of huge areas of knowledge, even as electives, are onerous restrictions of free speech. Arizona has outlawed the teaching of Mexican studies in all public schools and universities. The new law will expand the number of cultures which cannot be subject of discussion in classrooms. This is absolutely a violation of academic freedom and the freedom of local communities to have some say over what their children learn. It may or may not be legal. The case is still going through the courts. It is certainly the wrong thing to do.

  66. 66
    Kate says:

    A summary with links to actual science on the degree to which university faculties skew liberal (they certainly do):

    Faculty members were more likely to categorize themselves as moderate (46.1 percent) than liberal (44.1 percent). Conservatives trailed at 9.2 percent.

    The professors approaching their emeritus years were significantly to the left of those coming into academe. Among those aged 50-64, 17.2 percent identified themselves as left activists, while only 1.3 percent of those aged 26-35 did so.

    This doesn’t mean that the faculty are discriminating against conservatives. They cite one anecdote that suggests discrimination, but more systemic studies suggest otherwise:
    One study used a “secret shopper” approach:

    Posing as undergraduates getting ready to apply to doctoral programs, they sent email messages to graduate program directors in top sociology, political science, economics, history and English departments. The inquiries were similar in describing their academic preparation, their undergraduate institutions and their interest in applying. Some of the emails made no mention of politics, but some mentioned having previously worked on either the Obama or McCain presidential campaigns.
    The researchers then had independent (and politically mixed) observers rate the responses from the graduate directors on frequency, timing of replies, information provided, emotional warmth and enthusiasm. In a few cases, the researchers found “traces” of a political impact, but “no statistically or substantively significant evidence of bias.”

    Why might there be such imbalance in the absence of discrimination? That study suggested:

    These findings have generally been used to suggest that professors’ political lopsidedness reflects self-selection (much like the way those in finance may be more conservative than the public at large).

    Another study:

    They argued that 43 percent of the political gap can be explained because professors are more likely than others:
    To have high levels of educational attainment.
    To experience a disparity between their levels of educational attainment and income.
    To be either Jewish, nonreligious or a member of a faith that is not theologically conservative Protestant.
    To have a high tolerance for controversial ideas.

  67. 67
    Harlequin says:

    The main part of them seek to control the curriculum presented in State-operated schools. I don’t see how that’s a violation of free speech at all. Since when does free speech mean that teachers in a State-operated school can present any curriculum they want and say anything they want about it in a classroom?

    As I’m sure you know, things that are normally legal can be illegal when done for discriminatory reasons or with discriminatory results. For example, even in right-to-work states where a worker can be fired at will, it is still illegal to fire somebody based on their race.

    ***

    A couple of points on possible discrimination against conservative students or scholars:
    – I can’t find the link right now (but if someone else knows it, please supply)–but the fraction of conservative students who continue to graduate degrees is roughly the fraction of conservative students who say they want to seek graduate degrees…when they enter college. So if there is discrimination that turns conservatives away from higher education, at least some of it is happening before the students ever experience university education. (I don’t know if the same is true for liberal students.)
    – Most studies don’t show explicit discrimination against conservative students broadly. However, I think it’s worth noting that “if somebody applies, they are treated equally” isn’t the whole story: if some other effect is suppressing applications, there would still be a problem, just one that couldn’t be seen by those studies. I don’t know if that’s the case, but I think it’s worth considering.

    I also wonder how much of the gap in political affiliation in universities is caused by the very disruptive life path one normally has to take to get a permanent job: you generally have to move several times and/or suffer through a series of dismally paid, zero security temporary jobs before you’re eligible for competitive faculty positions, and those choices are much more difficult if you have a partner and children, as conservatives are (in my experience) somewhat more likely to do at earlier ages.

  68. Some people here might be interested in one New York State public higher education union’s take on the Janus case, the ruling on which should be out soon. You are welcome to comment on the blog posts themselves, of course, though I am unable respond there. I am on the union’s executive committee and since the posts go up as “corporately authored,” it is our policy not to respond to comments as individuals.

    Preparing for Janus 1: Understanding Agency Fees & The Taylor Law
    Preparing for Janus 2: The Value of Membership
    Preparing for Janus 3: What We’re Up Against
    Preparing for Janus 4: Keeping the Union Busters at Bay in New York State
    Preparing for Janus 5: Why NYSUT Matters

  69. Ron, you wrote:

    Since when does free speech mean that teachers in a State-operated school can present any curriculum they want and say anything they want about it in a classroom? It is the State’s job to define the curriculum and it’s manner of presentation in their schools. That’s one of the main reasons public school boards exist.

    I think—but I am not sure, since I’m not 100% clear on what you’re referring to—that this statement shows a lack of knowledge first about what academic freedom is, how it operates, and its relationship to the First Amendment and, second, about how curricula are developed in higher ed, where, at least where I teach, the authority to develop curricula, etc. is explicitly assigned to faculty, since they have the expertise in both their fields of study and in what will and will not work in a classroom pedagogically.

  70. 70
    Kate says:

    Richard,
    The Arizona law I linked to refers to all state funded schools in Arizona, primary and secondary schools, as well as institutions of higher learning. States vary in whether curriculum control is in state hands or in the hands of local school boards. However, even in states with strict oversight of primary and secondary school curriculum, those decisions (as Ron himself points out) are made by school boards, ideally composed of educators who know a lot about both child development and the subjects being taught, not directly by legislators. They also tend to focus on what teachers should be teaching, not making up lists of banned topics.

  71. 72
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think the word “crisis” is a bit much for what is going on at campuses across the country, but I have to wonder, do people here really think the right is just as censorious as the left on campuses across the nation? If you asked an expert- someone who actually works to defend people or groups who have been silenced in some way, like I don’t know, Greg Lukianoff from FIRE, do you think he’d agree with that? I don’t.

    People here keep dodging the obvious- the people getting no platformed/fired/dragged by left are much more moderate than similar cases from the right- in fact, there are plenty of examples where people on the left are being silenced by people who are even further on the left. Any examples of moderate right-wing students or faculty being silenced by people even further right? One example even?

  72. 73
    Kate says:

    do people here really think the right is just as censorious as the left on campuses across the nation?

    I don’t think either left or right has a problem with being censorious on campuses. The right is now trying to use legislatures to roll back academic freedom on the campuses of public colleges and universities in some conservative states. I am not aware of any parallel efforts to stifle conservative teachers and scholars coming from Democrats. Try Googling “Democratic legislation state colleges” and “Republican legislation state colleges” and see the difference.
    My impression of the state of affairs on campuses, supported by the overview of studies I link to @66, is that most campuses are controlled by some mix of liberals and moderates, who do a pretty god job keeping the excesses of both the far left and the far right where they belong, at the margins.
    However, we’re talking about institutions largely serving people in their late teens and early 20’s, who are just learning to become adults. Age 15-25 is when people are most likely to do stupid things, like get in car accidents, use drugs, commit crimes, and so on. They are more likely than the general population to act impulsively and not think things through. That’s why they are learning how to debate, and disagree and stand up for themselves on campuses and not actually put in charge of anything important yet. That process is never going to be drama-free.

  73. 74
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Yeah, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about they way I thought, spoke and write as a younger person, lately. I was an embarrassment to my current self. I’ll probably say the same thing about current me when I’m in my 50’s.

    I think you’ve probably hit the nail pretty squarely. I rewatched that Yale/Christakis video over the course of commenting on his post, and the thing that is most annoying about it is how the students seem to be completely unaware of how childish they look next to the near saintly patience and charitablitiy of Christakis. They cheer and snap for really dumb arguments, and jeer when Christakis carefully articulates his point. What I’m getting at, is that they seem to think what they are doing is not only normal and acceptable, but just and good. The least knowledgeable are always the most certain, it seems, so naturally, young people tend towards certainty ( I know I did). As a result, the already poor discourse around this topic often comes with a large helping of righteousness. That can be infuriating, and a strong negative reaction to that likely drives much of the “crisis” language.

    The truth is, young people do need to have room to make mistakes and self correct with dignity, like everyone else. So showing them some tolerance is probably a good idea- I just worry that if we go to far towards intolerance of oposing ideologies, no one will ever feel like self correcting is possible, and polarization will increase.

  74. 75
    Ampersand says:

    I agree with Kate.

    Any examples of moderate right-wing students or faculty being silenced by people even further right? One example even?

    Liberty University’s administration has blocked conservative speakers and protestors for not being sufficiently conservative – for criticizing Trump, or Hobby Lobby. They also censored an article in the student newspaper for criticizing Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” comment. All of these censored views are pretty moderate. There are any number of people who have been disinvited from Christian colleges for pro-gay views; I’d argue that being pro-gay is a moderate position nowadays.

    You mentioned people being fired. It’s worth pointing out that most professors and Deans who are fired for political speech, are fired due to objections from conservatives.

    (Of course, that’s not an unexpected result, since there are more liberal professors than conservative professors.)

    I don’t know that I’d accept Lukianoff as an objective, unbiased source. He’s an expert and I’m glad he’s doing the work he does, but that doesn’t require me to agree with his priorities. For instance, he’s clearly a lot more heated up and engaged by issues like Condezella Rice being disinvited to be a commencement speaker – which led to Lukianoff appearing on the media constantly to object – versus things like legislature passing laws to limit academic freedom or punish student protestors, which FIRE will object to on their website, but without a big media push.

    My point is, I suspect Lukianoff would agree with you, but I think that would be due to Lukianoff’s own subjective priorities, rather than due to some objective truth about campus speech.

    Interestingly, some FIRE staffers seem open to the argument that there’s a problem with how campus free speech issues are discussed. For example:

    Is speech suppression at religious colleges “the invisible free speech crisis?”

    FIRE staffers offer commentary on Jay Caspian Kang’s tweets regarding campus free speech

  75. 76
    Ampersand says:

    Incidentally, although I don’t think this is deliberate on FIRE’s part, I think there’s a bias created by the fact that they have a “disinvitation database” webpage – a single page that anyone can go to to see a list of every disinvitation event known to FIRE – but no such database for legislation. The disinvitation database is referred to often in the media, and shapes a lot of how campus speech is discussed. But there’s no comparable page I can link to compiling legislative attempts to limit campus speech.

  76. 77
    Ampersand says:

    (Note: My previous two comments were written before I read Jeffrey’s comment beginning “Yeah, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about they way I thought,” and so were not a response to that comment.)

  77. 78
    Kate says:

    Thanks for those links, Amp
    On the first one:
    Religious colleges and universities have the right to run things in accordance with their values. We have robust systems of non-religious colleges and universities (private and public) for students who don’t want to mix their education with religion.
    On the second one,
    Note that Marieke’s third statement links to four examples of art exhibits with progressive themes (one anti-lynching, one street harassment and two anti-Trump) being taken down by universities. Nonetheless, I’ve seen nothing that leads me to believe that more than a fraction of a percent of lectures, talks, exhibitions, etc. are silenced on left, right or center. Nor do the people who have been silenced on occasion seem to have a problem finding other venues in which to exercise their speech. To the contrary, some have achieved even greater notoriety than if they had just been allowed to speak.

  78. 79
    Ampersand says:

    Kate, I agree that religious schools have a right to do what they want – as do private colleges. But I think, in both cases, it’s still legitimate to criticize their behavior.

  79. 80
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Including private schools in this debate is silly. People go there because they are making an explicit choice to shut themselves off from free speech. Fact-finding isn’t their business. It’s a safe space. I’m no fan of religious schooling, but I’m OK allowing those who want it to create a space for it.

    I already mentioned how I thought legislation limiting certain kinds of teaching on campus (Peterson called for this, right?) was more chilling than any dis-invitation or the like. I was asking about the anti-free-speech behavior occurring literally on campus. We’re mostly talking about student/professor/administrator attitudes, right? I mean, I already would have guessed that older people, a demographic that most congresspeople belong to, are more likely to be conservative in their censorship across the board.

    It may be true that “both sides do it,” but the free speech debate on campus is not at all symmetrical across party lines.

  80. How a “campus free speech crisis” that didn’t have to be one became one, from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

  81. 82
    Ampersand says:

    Including private schools in this debate is silly.

    Did you mean to say “religious” schools? Because there are private schools in this debate all the time. Yale is private, for example. So is Reed.

    People go there because they are making an explicit choice to shut themselves off from free speech.

    One of the FIRE links I posted quoted Sarah Jones responding to this argument:

    We all knew what we had signed up for when we paid our deposits, or so conservatives reminded us at the time. This is both technically true and irrelevant in practice. In reality, the children of insular subcultures don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to academics. For many of my classmates, Cedarville or a school like it was the only guaranteed route to a higher education.

    I don’t think we should talk about decisions kids made (or their parents made for them) at age 17 as if they were well-informed consumers who had consulted with lawyers and made a fully informed and independent choice.

    The same link points out that many of these schools explicitly agreed to support free speech on their campus in order to get accreditation, and then ignore this commitment (there’s usually no enforcement mechanism).

    Given all that, I don’t think it’s “silly” to criticize these schools for censoring their students, or to criticize their campus environments for being intimidating of dissent, in the same way we’d criticize the campus environments of secular private schools. (Although I have a concern with the “environment is intimidating of dissent” issue, which I mention below).

    I was asking about the anti-free-speech behavior occurring literally on campus.

    I think this is true (especially if the overwhelmingly right-wing culture of religious schools is given a free pass from criticism).

    But it may not be as true as you think. You didn’t comment on the graph I posted earlier, but even ignoring religious schools, it seems that more left-wing than right-wing professors are fired for their views. I’d assume that the people who are doing the firing – college presidents and the like – often are “literally on campus.”

    I’d also wonder what you call “anti-free-speech behavior.” Some things I’m sure we’d agree are anti-free-speech behavior – violence against speakers, continual yelling so that a speech has to be cancelled, etc.. But, as Kate points out, those events are extremely rare, when you consider how many campuses and how many speakers there are.

    But other things, I’m not sure if we’d agree or not. (My apologies if you’ve already said and I’ve forgotten.) If students create a petition asking for Milo to be disinvited, is that “anti-free-speech-behavior”? If the culture on campus intimidates some students from stating their views, for fear of being criticized or unpopular, is that “anti-free-speech-behavior”?

    These seem like edge cases to me. I do think there’s a problem in which students are afraid to speak out against the prevailing ideology on campus (and on most US campuses, the prevailing ideology will be left). But I’m never sure what solution is possible – after all, students have a free speech right to criticize what other students say.

  82. 83
    desipis says:

    If students create a petition asking for Milo to be disinvited, is that “anti-free-speech-behavior”?

    If the Republican party were to follow the process in article five of the constitution to ratify an amendment to appoint Trump as president for life, would that be “anti-democratic”?

    In your case the means might be pro free-speech, however the ends certainly aren’t.

  83. 84
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Desipis @83 –

    In your case the means might be pro free-speech, however the ends certainly aren’t.

    So, you don’t support speech when its ends are not pro-free speech?

    Because that sounds a whole lot like judging whether speech should be allowed based on its content. And if you’re willing the cross that line, how does that make you different from the students with the petition in the first place?

  84. 85
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Whoops, yeah I messed up there, Amp. I meant: “Schools that don’t claim to embrace freedom of speech, and don’t have to because they are private.” This is basically just religious schools I suppose. My understanding is that many private schools claim they tolerate free speech on their campuses, and that these schools need to deliver on that promise to their students- whereas religious schools often don’t make such promises.

    We likely agree on what is and isn’t “anti-free-speech behavior.” We also agree it’s rare. As I said upthread, I actually don’t think “free speech” is central to this discussion much of the time. Students demanding that Ben Shapiro not speak on their campus are speaking. People demanding that certain books be removed from shelves (or be burnt in a bonfire on the town square) are speaking. People who level mean spirited accusations against those they disagree with are speaking. To me, the problem isn’t a lack of free speech, the problem is ideological intolerance, and how it increases tribal divisions and keeps us from learning.

    There’s this point I’ve seen on Facebook and Reddit, and it goes like this “Students demanding a speaker be no-platformed aren’t doing the no-platforming, the school’s administrators, who actually hold the power are doing it. These young people are just exercising their speech rights” This is a terrible argument for anyone who values consequentialism- and that’s most of us even if we don’t know it. I think I heard Angus Johnston say something like this during a debate with Lukianoff at Princeton, and I was embarrassed for him. I’m trying to imagine a reactionary argument that sounds like this… “People who demand that schools stay racially segregated aren’t actually doing the segregating, they are just practicing their free speech rights,” or perhaps, “People who demand that all alleged communist be fired and blacklisted aren’t practicing McCarthyism, they are just speaking freely. It’s the actual creators of the list we need to do something about” These arguments are technically true, but totally unpersuasive because they ignore the consequences of large groups holding these beliefs. Like, this isn’t how culture, society and democracy even works. These arguments would be laughed out of town, even if we recognize people have a first amendment right to make them.

    So I think that students demanding disinvitations are perpetuating bad cultural norms by demanding ideological intolerance. I thing this sort of thing is pretty common. I experienced it myself in my brief time at university, as well as in the workplace. In a Womens Studies class at Ohio State, on the first day of open discussion with the TA, I questioned a blank slate hypothesis with a sound argument (I had just re-read The Selfish Gene, so sexual dimorphism and its evolutionary origins were fresh in my mind) and I was accused by my TA of harboring misogynistic views and trying to reinforce my own privilege and power as a white man. This was after she tried explaining it and failed: “well, how can we be sure ants don’t have culture,” is a direct quote I’ll never forget. (I swear I wasn’t overly mean or confrontational- all I did was point out that almost every vertebrate on earth, including ants and apes, exhibits sexual dimorphism in behavior and that it would be really strange if we didn’t) She moved on to someone else after dismissing me, but she was visibly upset and avoided discussion and eye contact with me through the duration of the quarter. I was tempted to go to the professor and lodge a complaint- the stated goal of the discussion classes was to discuss, after all, not be accused of malice. If she didn’t have an answer, she could have said, “I’ll talk to the professor and get back to you,” but instead, I was labelled and dismissed. After hearing the very first full lecture, I realized that going to the professor would be an even bigger mistake, and that certain POVs where out of bounds in this class. I just kept my mouth shut and wrote weakly argued papers that agreed with the TA’s views instead. This was the first time I had encountered that sort of thing, and I was horrified. Lively but productive political discussion was the norm at my dinner table growing up. Civil debate was encouraged in my high school. Name calling was frowned upon in my community pretty much everywhere. Suddenly, I was in an environment where certain ideas were not to be tolerated, and this intolerance had little to do with predictive validity, and mostly to do with politics. I think campuses are the last place on earth we should see that sort of thing, but I saw it in other classes to, notably Psych. University should be a place where ideas are engaged with, not villified. Radical voices, though often very wrong, are among the best sources of criticism of the status quo, and this includes people way over on the right, as well as people far to the left. It includes people who mostly belong to one tribe, but have a sharp disagreement with their own side and mostly argue against their own. It includes people on all kinds of fringes, some of whom hold dangerous ideas. A healthy culture is one were people feel safe hearing and repeating a wider range of ideas. Instead, we are inching toward a world so intolerant, people are often completely unaware of the ways in which their outgroups see the world. The result is frustrating arguments where both sides talk past one-another, and neither side is willing to open their mind and understand how it is they may be wrong. The result is more moral certainty, even when the person arguing is almost completely ignorant of the subject- like my womens studies TA who somehow didn’t learn about dimorphism for the 6 years she spent studying women. That’s embarrassing, and it’s the result of a culture of intolerance within that department.

    It is this environment that fosters disinvitations, shouted down speakers, harrassment campaigns, whatever you want to call what happened at Yale, etc. I’d like to see more people speak out against this kind of intolerance.

  85. 86
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Because that sounds a whole lot like judging whether speech should be allowed based on its content.

    No one said anything about what is and isn’t “allowed.” I’m against all kinds of things I don’t want to see banned outright.

  86. 87
    desipis says:

    Eytan Zweig:

    So, you don’t support speech when its ends are not pro-free speech?

    I support the right of people to say anti-free speech things. I’m just going to call them “anti-free speech”, and disagree with them. I disagree with a lot of the things that Milo says, but he should still be able to say them.

  87. 88
    desipis says:

    There are several examples of Republican state legislatures trying to limit speech at public colleges, both through cutting funding and outright bans.

    I’m wondering if there is any role for the legislature to limit what is taught in publicly funded colleges. Imagine the academy at a particular state university fell under the control of white nationalists. A significant number of humanities courses such as “The problem of blackness” and “The Jewish question” were being taught and speakers supporting anti-racism initiatives were being disinterested by the administration. Should the state legislature intervene, or should they respect the academic freedom of the university?

  88. Jeffrey Gandee wrote:

    University should be a place where ideas are engaged with, not villified.

    This is true, of course, but it made me think about the fact that most academics do not get any actual training in how to teach not just their own subject matter, but also precisely the kind of engagement with ideas that Jeffrey is talking about. Imagine a class of twenty people. It is very unlikely that all twenty of them will have the same politics, the same beliefs, etc. on any given topic. More to the point, some portion of those students will already, before they ever walked into the class, find some subset of opposing/different viewpoints deeply threatening. Add to that the fact that the professor is also human, her her or his own sets of beliefs, and also finds some subset of opposing/different viewpoints threatening. None of those people actually leaves their feelings, their fears, their convictions, identities etc. at the door when they walk into a classroom.

    The responsibility for making the classroom a place where all of those differences can coexist is primarily the professor’s, but, if real learning is going to take place, that coexistence cannot be understood to equate with comfort, and the professor her or himself needs to be willing to accept at least the possibility of his or her own discomfort in the classroom as part of the learning process. To manage that is not a simple thing. It takes, in my opinion, and in my experience, at least some training, some chance to watch people model that kind of management, to practice it, to discuss it, engage with it.

    I am reminded of something that happened a while back at the college where I teach. I only have time to tell not comment on, so I’ll be interested to hear what people make of it. A Jewish professor in my department had a student in her class —who knew the professor’s identity—who wrote an essay in defense of Nazi ideology. This was not an exercise in trying to present the argument of someone you disagree with; the essay was presented as the student’s actual beliefs. The professor felt not just offended, but personally attacked by the essay, since the student knew she was Jewish, and brought the essay to the attention of the department chair, who brought it to the attention of the dean, suggesting that, at the very least, someone else should grade the essay, since she did not feel like she could grade it fairly. The dean said that since the student was in her class, the professor had to grade the essay, treating it like any other assignment.

    Okay, I need to stop there, but I wonder what people make of it.

  89. 90
    Dee says:

    Richard Jeffrey Newman:

    Just grade the thing as objectively as you can, not get emotionally manipulated by people much younger than you (that you are supposed to be teaching), and knock off all the drama? I promise the world will just keep turning.

  90. 91
    Sebastian H says:

    Richard, that link you provide is both depressing and illuminating.

    What really struck me was how the dynamic of the free speech debate ends up spiraling out of control as soon as you start to dismantle societal norms. It was also interesting to see how neither side wanted to admit how they were feeding into the dynamic. How the academic officer’s statement “Frankly, campuses have to become more tolerant and welcoming to conservative students and faculty. This has worried me for years. I don’t think it is ‘safe’ to be conservative on our campus.” was treated is also interesting.

    The article didn’t exhibit any interest in that statement EXCEPT in how the legislators found out about it and then used it as a cudgel against the university. Strangely absent was any journalistic interest about why the former chief academic officer and teacher of forty years would say such a thing. The article only explores how one side used the statement, and how the other side tried to hide from the statement. But nothing about WHY she would make that statement (in private as part of advice to her successor).

    Throughout the piece what I saw a number of dynamics that are worth discussing. First there is an escalation dynamic. It started at the individual level. A student attempts to organize for her less-government cause in a typical fliers and table-in-quad fashion. A graduate student and teacher (Lawton) dramatically escalates into trying to interrupt her by screaming that she is a fascist and screaming “fight white nationalism”, “fight white supremacy” whenever she tries to speak. That is a huge raising of the stakes. I wonder what Lawton hoped to do by raising the stakes in that way. Labeling someone a white supremacist or a white nationalist is an ostracism/silencing move (much like labeling someone a ‘communist’ was in the past). We shouldn’t feel that it is never appropriate, but neither should we use it too freely, because people fight back hard against ostracism moves. And push back she did.

    You also see an ally dynamic, Professor Gailey joins the protest against Mullen. She protests silently, but next to the person who is calling Mullen a white nationalist. So now we have a dynamic where it seems that to two people with institutional power are acting together in concert to ostracize a student. Now Gailey apparently doesn’t agree with Lawton, but she protests next to her.

    Being called a Nazi, white supremacist and white nationalist eventually publicly reduces Mullen to tears, which considering the high level ostracism of the labels being screamed at her isn’t shocking. In the long run this doesn’t have the (desired???) effect of causing her to reevaluate her political associations, but instead causes her to buy in deeper into her tribe. This makes sense because she knows she isn’t actually a Nazi or a white nationalist, so she correctly identifies that she is being attacked using out of proportion tactics which causes her to think that she doesn’t need to listen to someone so unhinged.

    It is worth considering how certain tactics work to reinforce tribalism when they are allegedly attacking it.

    This takes place in an academic culture where the utility of free speech is publically questioned.

    Then the legislature picks up on it. Counter-escalation. Lawton wanted an escalation, and by God she got one. This lets the whole thing get diverted into political grandstanding about how the academic world isn’t interested in letting the conservatives have their voice on campus.

    The legislators try to escalate nationally by inviting FIRE to come in and investigate. FIRE, which is often attacked for being too conservative, actually does its free speech job and points out that trying to fire Lawton is an attack on free speech. The legislators go in various directions on that and settle on a bill which is much watered down, but which I would interpret as a shot across the bow.

    There are a lot of dynamics there which people don’t look at in ‘free speech’ debates. I’m not sure I have a definitive thought on all of them, but I wanted to point them out. My initial thoughts are that escalation begets escalation, which is rarely good; allies and associates need to be aware of how they look to outsiders; and it is too bad that no one wanted to explore why the experienced and recently retired academic chief thought that conservatives weren’t ‘safe’ at their institution.

    Mild digression about academic language, ‘safe’ here is a classic case where she almost certainly meant it in the hyper-academic-feminist definition of something like “feels free to speak up which allows better learning” sense but for a non-specialist it sounds much more ominous. It would be better if academic jargon didn’t use words in a way that are so liable to misinterpretation. If academic feminists had invented the word zpistd to cover that idea people would read it and immediately know that they didn’t know what she was talking about. They would look it up or something. But by using common words in hyperspecialized ways, you invite sometimes disasterous misinterpretations. Though even knowing what she meant, it would have been interesting to explore why she thought that conservatives weren’t ‘safe’ at her institution (note that she specifically said students AND faculty).

    My biggest takeaway is that free speech norms are weakening, and that won’t be good for progressives in bluish states. I don’t see any practical way for free speech norms to get weakened in a way that won’t quickly rebound against progressives in blue states. People try to make hyper-technical distinctions which allow for weakening free speech while protecting academic freedom. In practical reality that just isn’t going to fly. In a weaker free speech environment, Lawton would have been fired and put out of the graduate program. That isn’t an environment we should be complicit in fighting for.

  91. 92
    Sebastian H says:

    Richard, regarding the Nazi essay: I think it would be great if there was a norm which allowed a professor to say “I can’t be objective enough in this case so I’m going to let an associate grade it”.

    Now like any norm it is subject to abuse. If you find yourself saying that about a majority of cases you aren’t doing a good job. But there shouldn’t be any shame in, once or twice a year, saying that.

  92. 93
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I think that asking another professor to grade the essay was a reasonable request. Humans can’t be perfectly reasonable/rational or even fair all the time, and your example would push anyone’s limits. While working as an academic, a professor should strive to be as open to discussion as possible, and we’re a long way from that. I think that yours is the ultimate edge case, so naturally it’s harder to solve, but ideological intolerance isn’t reserved for fascists.

    A really great example of ideological intolerance can be found here in Rebecca Tuvel’s story:

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/transracialism-article-controversy.html

    Hundreds of academics sign an open letter, demanding the retraction of a published paper by an academic feminist philosopher.

    It’s not like you or I can’t find instances of universities and/or academics trying to silence left wing voices, surely we all could do it with a few minutes of googling, but you’ll find nothing this ridiculous. This is not a nazi paper. There shouldn’t be 800 signatories on that open letter calling for a retraction, but there they are.

    And then there’s the story of TA Lindsay Shepherd, and her recording of a confrontational meeting with 2 professors an and administrator over a video she showed in class. Most who takes the time to listen to the recording will be disgusted. You can hear these 3 articulate their ideological intolerance overtly in that recording. I wondered, “How the hell does something this bad happen even one time?” Why did 3 rational adults all agree that such a meeting was justifiable? I think it must be a norm specific to that campus, and more likely a particular department on that campus. These norms are not healthy.

    This sort of thing isn’t happening symmetrically, and it’s not happening in all departments. I brought up discussing biology in a women’s studies class. Imagine that instead of a women’s studies class, I was in a Physics 101, and learning about the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, that entropy never decreases over time. So while attending a discussion class with a TA, I bring up evolution and life on Earth, and how it sorta looks like entropy on Earth is actually decreasing over time. Am I going to have my motives questioned? Will I be rudely dismissed and my point ignored? Almost certainly not. It’s more likely the TA will explain to me that the Earth isn’t a closed system, and that if I would only zoom out, I’d see a system where entropy is increasing. On the off chance the TA can’t answer, he or she would likely ask the professor. Ideally rather than hold my question against me, the TA would applaud the fact that a freshman is thinking critically and actually applying knowledge across disciplines and truly enaging with the material. If a TA in a physics class was observed acting like the TA in my women’s studies class, I’d hope there would be a reprimand, followed by a sense of shame. But that doesn’t seem to be the way it works. I think this kind of intolerance has become so normalized, the academics involved have no idea how terrible they look from the outside looking in, and their intolerance will only make this dynamic even worse over time.

    This is a problem. I think that universities require public funding so long as they are indeed places of learning and advancing knowedge. I think that such places require academic freedom, and freedom from government meddling. But once universities cease to act as places of learning and fact-finding, they no longer are deserving of public funds- this creates a sort of paradox, where academic freedom includes the freedom to change the role of the university to one of advocacy, and upon doing so, destroy the justification for academic freedom. I don’t know how one solves this, but I do know that in a future world where Tuvel’s treatment is the norm in certain departments, those departments are no longer fulfilling their mission to the public.

  93. 94
    Ben Lehman says:

    I absolutely think that asking someone else to grade the essay was a reasonable request and should have been honored. It is fairer to both the professor and the student.

    (It may not be what the student wanted, based on the reasonable assumption that the student was trying to get a rise out of the professor and push their buttons. But it is fair to them, regardless.)

  94. 95
    Kate says:

    In a Womens Studies class at Ohio State, on the first day of open discussion with the TA, I questioned a blank slate hypothesis with a sound argument (I had just re-read The Selfish Gene, so sexual dimorphism and its evolutionary origins were fresh in my mind) and I was accused by my TA of harboring misogynistic views and trying to reinforce my own privilege and power as a white man. This was after she tried explaining it and failed: “well, how can we be sure ants don’t have culture,” is a direct quote I’ll never forget. (I swear I wasn’t overly mean or confrontational- all I did was point out that almost every vertebrate on earth, including ants and apes, exhibits sexual dimorphism in behavior and that it would be really strange if we didn’t) She moved on to someone else after dismissing me, but she was visibly upset and avoided discussion and eye contact with me through the duration of the quarter. I was tempted to go to the professor and lodge a complaint- the stated goal of the discussion classes was to discuss, after all, not be accused of malice. If she didn’t have an answer, she could have said, “I’ll talk to the professor and get back to you,” but instead, I was labelled and dismissed. After hearing the very first full lecture, I realized that going to the professor would be an even bigger mistake, and that certain POVs where out of bounds in this class. I just kept my mouth shut and wrote weakly argued papers that agreed with the TA’s views instead. This was the first time I had encountered that sort of thing, and I was horrified.

    So, gender aside, what I’m seeing here is that you went into a course arrogantly assuming that you had more to teach the class than the person with a degree working on a doctorate because of this one book you read.
    Then, you heard the first lecture and assumed that your views were right and the professor was wrong. So, from day one, you didn’t even try to engage with the course material as if it might have something to teach you.

    It never even occurred to you, that you may may have failed to understand, because you were trying to argue, not learn. You seem to never even have entertained the possibility that you might have been the one who was wrong.

    Then, this particularly stood out to me:

    She moved on to someone else after dismissing me…

    What was she supposed to do? Continue to let you dominate the entire discussion group? Not let anyone else in class speak until she either submitted to you or changed your mind about what you were clearly determined to continue believing? The other students in the class came to participate in a discussion led by her, not you!

    Now, lets bring gender back into it. When a male student brings up sexual dimorphism in a class being taught by a women, because of our stereotypes about what men and women tend to be good at, he is implying (whether he intends it or not) that he is more objective, rational and, ultimately, capable of teaching the class than she is. Add to that, by your own description you were behaving that way as well.

    I was accused by my TA of harboring misogynistic views and trying to reinforce my own privilege and power as a white man.

    Yup. Sounds spot on to me.

  95. Two quick responses for now, before I go grade my own papers:

    First, I realize that my point about the necessity of training about how to teach opposing points of view and my example of the student who wrote the Nazi paper, while free-associated in my mind, are actually two different discussions.

    Second, I think it’s important to keep the discussion of the Nazi paper and what to do about it focused in the classroom environment. The examples Jeffrey gave above exist outside that environment and, especially in the example of the transracial paper, are therefore not quite parallel. The relationship between teacher and student, and the nature of the classroom as a space for teaching and learning, while it may be parallel to employer-employee relations in the academy or to the kind of peer-to-peer dynamic that took place in the case of the article on the possibility of a transracial identity, is also very different—if only because of the giving of grades.

    So, in that light, here are two questions that go through my head when thinking about the pro-Nazi paper: What would it mean for anyone to grade a paper that argues in defense of a white supremacist racial and demonstrably genocidal ideology fairly—especially when the author of the paper represents that ideology as his truly held belief? Is the classroom/can it/should it be a truly value neutral place? Do/should/can we expect teachers to check their values when it comes to evaluating student work that takes a demonstrably offensive and even dangerous position, not only (in this case) to the teacher, but to other students and members of the campus community as well?

    Okay, now I’m off to grade papers in a class called The Psychoanalytic Approach to Literature, none of which, thankfully, should confront me with these kinds of questions.

  96. 97
    desipis says:

    Kate:

    So, from day one, you didn’t even try to engage with the course material as if it might have something to teach you.

    I see the opposite. I see someone willing to engage with the course material to such a depth that the TA was unwilling or unable to engage with the student. Instead of simply admitting that the inquiries were beyond the scope of either the course material, the time allocated for the class or the TA’s own knowledge, the TA resorted to simple ad hominems.

    It never even occurred to you, that you may may have failed to understand, because you were trying to argue, not learn.

    It sounds like you’re expecting college to be more of a process of indoctrination rather than a process of education.

    When a male student brings up sexual dimorphism in a class being taught by a women, because of our stereotypes about what men and women tend to be good at, he is implying (whether he intends it or not) that he is more objective, rational and, ultimately, capable of teaching the class than she is.

    This is a ridiculous assertion. There are plenty of ways sexual dimorphism can be relevant to a class without drawing that conclusion.

    RJN:

    Is the classroom/can it/should it be a truly value neutral place?

    In a publicly funded college or university (or simply any institution dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge), absolutely yes.

  97. 98
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    We shouldn’t build the classroom environment to withstand edge cases like nazi students writing nazi papers. We shouldn’t do that for the same reason we shouldn’t build airline jets to the same level of indestructability as the black boxes they carry. In one case the plane would never even get off the ground and in the other, your classroom will fail at creating a healthy environment for healthy discourse and fact finding.

    Having a classroom environment that fails when a nazi enters and submits a paper is acceptable for the same reasons we accept an airline jet that can’t withstand a collision with a Cesna. Nazi’s are really rare and aren’t disrupting classroom environments very much.

    Attempts at preemptively making classrooms safe from dangerous ideas are probably more dangerous to the educational environment than a couple nazis.

    There’s no need to read “Hey lets expand the overton window, it’s getting kind of smal,” as “Hey, let’s expand the overton window to include all possible discourse.”

  98. 99
    Harlequin says:

    I’m wondering if there is any role for the legislature to limit what is taught in publicly funded colleges. Imagine the academy at a particular state university fell under the control of white nationalists. A significant number of humanities courses such as “The problem of blackness” and “The Jewish question” were being taught and speakers supporting anti-racism initiatives were being disinterested by the administration. Should the state legislature intervene, or should they respect the academic freedom of the university?

    Imo, the legislature should stay the heck out. If the university is violating existing discrimination laws it should be sanctioned under existing processes, of course.

  99. 100
    Kate says:

    I see the opposite. I see someone willing to engage with the course material to such a depth that the TA was unwilling or unable to engage with the student.

    It sounds like you’re expecting college to be more of a process of indoctrination rather than a process of education.

    He read one f**king book on the general topic and thought he was an expert. By his own account, he literally stopped trying to engage with the course material on.day.one.

    I expect students to go into a course assuming that the teacher knows more about the subject than they do, and to question their own assumptions before they assume that the teacher is just stupid. That’s not indoctrination.

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