Tanya Cohen redux

James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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38 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    Seems serious to me and not a hoax. It’s poorly written and she doesn’t seem to understand what some words actually mean. She doesn’t seem to get that “hate speech” is a type of speech while “free speech” is a theoretical concept regarding who can or cannot say what they want.

    Is there a reason we should care about what she says? Other than the fun of mocking someone unclear on her concepts.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

      No particular reason to care what she says, over what anyone else says. But I was accused of being taken in by a hoax, in one comment clearly as an attempt to delegitimate my argument.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    The stupidity in the essay, its palpable. Anybody who pays even fraction of attention to the news, knows that the rest of the world does not embrace human rights. Many countries talk a good game on it but they don’t really embrace them.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    Isn’t Thought Catalog just a publishing place that is mainly populated by navel-gazing twenty-somethings and anyone can publish there? I’ve never seen anyone say anything positive about the website and it is usually subject to much mockery of the “Guess what someone said on the Internet” kind.

    It is highly possible that there could be a person named Tanya Cohen and she is an overly sincere and navel gazing twenty-something and this is what she believes. The big reason people wonder whether it is a hoax or not is the seemingly lack of web presence/net print for anyone named Tanya Cohen. This is a quite an accomplishment.Report

  4. dhex says:

    i vote hoax. it’s a little too obvious, a bit too pat. there are certainly plenty of people who think like that, but they generally don’t weave this kind of concerto.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to dhex says:

      I’m with dhex. The pieces are plausible, but as a whole it’s just too on-the-nose.

      In parts it kind of reminded me of one of the semi-regular lefty commenters around here who’s always citing the U.N. as a moral authority, but this just takes it to a whole new level.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    That being said, she is not completely wrong (hoax or not) American jurisprudence on free speech is radically different than most other countries in the world. The UK still has fairly enforceable libel laws. American law on what counts as on obscenity is probably much narrower than many other places in the world.

    There was an op-ed in the Times on Sunday with the great observation that America came up with its own clever way of dealing with provocative or dissenting artists. They are either ignored and need to tend bar or learn graphic design or they are lavishly financially rewarded and just eased into the system and the upper-middle class or above. After all, they are making a Hollywood movie out of N.W.A. and Dr. Dre went from causing moral panic to becoming a billionaire by making a business deal with Apple.Report

  6. Tod Kelly says:

    After a quick overview of some of the recently published works — such as 8 Types of Women That Are Horrible Monsters, 9 Arguments Every Boyfriend Should Just Let their Girlfriend Win, Sex Workers Can Be Moms Too, 8 Things You Just DOn’t Say to an Asian, and 5 Ways Feminists Are Literally Like Nazis — I am going to say that it is probably not a hoax, and then I’m going to ask where the Hell did you find this site?

    Since everything I have read here so far looks like it was read by a seventh grader trying too hard to sound deep, I’m not sure what exactly this is supposed to be indicative of… maybe this is because I missed the first part on the other thread.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      And now that I’ve gone back and figured out where Tanya first appeared, I’m thinking we got punked whether or not this was a hoax.

      I think when I read your post earlier, James, I had assumed that this was a well-known blogger/pundit/talking head, or was from a well-known blog or outlet. I now have the very uneasy feeling that we have been having a multi-day argument framed around something a 16-year old girl no one has ever heard of wrote one day. That, or we fell for a hoax.

      Either way… yikes.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Little further down the webpage, I see that links to four other articles on that website one might wish to follow. All four of those articles are described as focusing on a particular kind of sex act. That sort of prurient focus does not recommend the site as a serious participant in the marketplace of ideas.

      Ms. Cohen’s article, for its part, does not demonstrate even a superficial awareness of five generations of jurisprudence in this country wrestling with the inherent problems constitutional guarantees free-speech in a complex, multifaceted society. As an example, the only reference to American law that I could find was a generalized complaint that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not restrictions against racist speech.

      But I don’t think it takes a lawyer in this day and age to know that the law does indeed prohibit something called hostile environment harassment. Perhaps it takes a little research to know that this applies not just in the context of sexual harassment, but can apply to racial harassment, religious harassment, etc. but it is quite far from the truth to say, as Ms. Cohen does, American law does not regulate racist speech at all.

      Certainly she does not demonstrate any awareness of the rich intellectual history of the Supreme Court wrestling with troublesome speech. Well, no one said that she had to become a lawyer or a scholar. And I doubt she will be happy with what she learns should she eventually get to a point in her studies when she is tasked with studying First Amendment cases. Brandenburg v. Ohio. Phelps v Snyder. (I’m sure, though, that she will enjoy the chance to repeatedly say the word “fuck” in class the same way many people in my law school class did when we studied Cohen v. California.)

      Until then, her opinion seems remarkably uninformed even by Internet standards.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Didn’t anyone read my comment on Thought Catalog above? No? /…sniffs and cries

      I think the issue is whether young Americans are leaning more towards European styles of free speech vs. the more in your face American kind. This is about PC-wars redux.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I did. I assume she’s real and sincere: it’s not a hoax. As @james-hanley notes, it’s of a piece with a certain level of mental shock that comes from a good upbringing ing and sudden exposure to actual adult interaction, which is frequently disagreeable and unpleasant in addition to demonstrating the very ugly realities such young people well-meaningly are impatient to change.

        Ms. Cohen means well. She just hasn’t thought it all through yet. How could she possibly have, at her (presumed) age? It takes an accumulation of experience, which is something even the best-educated youth by definition lack. You really only start seeing the big picture at all in your mid-twenties. For some, not even then. You’ve got to catch them I. Their thirties for best results, I think: by the time someone gets into my age bracket, things start to look a bit more permanent and survivable as is, and the weary chore of compromise becomes integrated into the navigating-the-fucked-up-world toolkit.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        For the record, Ms. Cohen claims to have some years of experience working with human rights organizations. If so, she may not be as young as we might think from her writing; that is, maybe in her 20s, rather than teens.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        “Years of experience” could just be some high school or early college volunteering with said organizations, rather than “in the trenches” experience.

        Kids these days, always puffing up the resume…Report

  7. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Seems like Brain Droppings to me.Report

  8. James Hanley says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that none of you have ever been in a college classroom talking about free speech and having students be flabbergasted to find that hate speech is not illegal, and then argue that it ought to be.

    The Cohen piece may be badly written and argued, and ignorant of American law, but these folks are out there. You can dismiss her as a nobody, not the kind of person “we” would read, not an “important” person whose opinion “matters.” But for christ’s sake, even if she’s not real, it’s hard to tell because these folks are out there. That’s why Poe’s law works, right?

    Because what someone was trying to tell me on my piece was that nobody actually thinks this way, that it was a strawman. Maybe what they meant was nobody “important.” Because real not-important people’s opinions don’t count as real people’s opinions or something.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley says:

      I remember this type very well from college.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

      Oh, yeah. They’re definitely out there. So to speak.

      For one, they make up 80% of Tumblr’s user base. An Internet startup wouldn’t just make up imaginary bloggers to attract investment capital.

      And don’t think I don’t appreciate the sacrifices you make for our country. I do.

      If this is a hoax, it walks the line beautifully. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know. But it just feels too perfect to me.Report

    • Well said, James. In the business school this kind of stuff doesn’t come up thankfully, but I think there is definitely a generational divide over the value of free speech when it is distasteful.Report

    • j r in reply to James Hanley says:

      I don’t doubt the point of view, but the whole ought to be sentenced to re-education camps is a little too perfect. Generally speaking, people who think this way have just enough cognitive dissonance not to come out and say things like this.

      I also checked out Tanya Cohen’s Twitter and the history goes back to the time of the first article and is mostly just re-tweets of other tweets about hate speech. Maybe Tanya Cohen is real and has a separate social media presence, but that seems out of character for the SJW crowd. My money is on some sort of troll job.Report

    • RTod in reply to James Hanley says:

      @james-hanley FTR, I did not take your argument to be strawman. When you live in PDX, you don’t have to go all the way to campus to find this view. (Trust me on this.)

      That being said, my point above still stands. I don’t love the idea of this blog being centered around what somebody from that site wrote in the same way I don’t really want posts about the totally outrageous thing this one guy on reddit posted in the comment threads there. In an allusion that only Veronica Dire will get, I want this place to strive to write with the level of quality and wit of David Futrelle, without his dependence on trolling people who spend their days an nights posting comments on YouTube.

      And all of that’s assuming that it wasn’t a hoax, which also doesn’t make us look great.

      And to be clear, this is a very soft criticism. When I linked over to the piece you referenced here, my initial thought was, “Vox posted this crap?!” It is a very professional looking place, and I would have been fooled too.Report

  9. LWA says:

    Are people here expressing shock and amazement that ridiculous people abound on the Internet?

    I call this entire post a hoax.Report