Free Speech: why publish here?

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62 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Good on everyone all around on principle, but it is a nice benefit for people who are politically against the Republican party in New England (and anywhere else) that they will have this clown’s views to point to and be able to say “see, this is what Republicans actually believe”.Report

    • Avatar Notme says:

      Dont you mean what that one person believes? I thought i wasnt supposed impute one person’s beliefs to an entire group?Report

      • He appears to be a spokesman for the county GOP. If that’s not true, they can write a guest op-ed explaining that he doesn’t speak for them and laying out their actual views. More speech!Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Conservatives have recommended over and over again that blacks reform their culture from top to bottom by respecting marriage and the family and the law, returning to their churches

      And Mr. Nikitis also wins this year’s Gerald Nye AwardReport

    • Avatar Chris says:

      This, for sure. A guy believes this. Is he alone in his beliefs? Certainly not. Is he alone in his beliefs among Republicans up there? Probably not. Is he representative of Republicans up there? It’s not even clear that he thinks that he is, and he’s given us no reason to believe that he is.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Well, his op-ed was submitted at the behest of the Berkshire County Republican Association, which is the local GOP party organization. Since this was published under request from the county’s GOP party’s official group, how is it not representative of that group? And if it’s not, they clearly ought to say that it’s the author’s opinion, and not their own.

      More importantly, they maybe ought to back that difference with the author up with actual policy.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        As far as I can tell, BCRA is an independent group, not directly affiliated with the party. They in fact explicitly state that they are not affiliated with any candidates. It’s not clear to me at all how they relate to the party. Looks almost like a group.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        All I’m saying it’s not quite a slam dunk profile in courage because publishing Mr. Nikitis’ ‘work’ has some advantages. Regardless of whether Nikitis has his finger on the pulse of right of center politics in the Berkshires or if he’s just a kook, or somewhere in between. (but I am saying, good on Morin anyway)Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          Even if this is the case — that he’s a member of a ‘club,’ and not an official party organization; don’t you think that the official party org. garners some benefit from having this club’s views out in the open, so as not to cleave to closely via party signaling to stuff they the party actually might find objectionable?Report

        • Avatar LWA says:

          Regardless of whether Nikitis has his finger on the pulse of right of center politics in the Berkshires or if he’s just a kook,

          Objection- this is a false dilemma.

          He can be both, certainly.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “Weak Man” arguments, I think they’re called.

    Different from being a “Straw Man” insofar as that someone actually does hold them… but it’s different from tackling the best arguments against the proposition.

    An analogy, I suppose, would be to arguing against Feminism by tackling arguments put forth by Andrea Dworkin.

    I mean, it’s *FUN*. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing it too.

    But it doesn’t stop being weak-manning.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      In your view, @jaybird, who’s weak-manning? I’m unclear if the arguments you mean are those put fourth in the original editorial or the ensuing discussion on the paper’s printing the editorial in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, generally, if the argument is of the form “here are the big four arguments given by the opposition and we are going to go through each of them”, it’s not really weak manning to point out the bad one and tear it apart.

        If, however, the argument takes the form “Here’s what the opposition is saying!” and then provides one argument and proceeds to tear it apart, it might be a weak man argument (not necessarily so, of course, but it’s an indicator).

        To answer your question: the enthusiastic printing of the editorial was weak-manning on the part of the newspaper.

        But, again, this is not me saying “THIS IS MORALLY WRONG!!!! RARRR!!!!!” but me merely seeing “I see what they’re doing and they’re going to be having a lot of fun doing it.”

        Or, I suppose, they thought they would… the fact that there are enough people out there incensed that the paper would give oh-so-many column inches to the opposition to make the editors argue about how they wanted to have a debate about this could well bite these same editors in the backside.

        Which would be ironic.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          Jaybird: To answer your question: the enthusiastic printing of the editorial was weak-manning on the part of the newspaper.

          That’s not exactly how it went down; this was, at the county GOP’s request, an ongoing series of opinion pieces run every other week.Report

          • You know very well that it’s unfair to make the GOP explain their positions in detail.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Hey, if you want to win, it’s generally better to play with a stacked deck. If you can find someone who is more than happy enough to stack the deck in your favor and then call it a fair deck before you play, even better.

              How did Napoleon put it? “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

              “Fair” is really not relevant here.

              As I said: this is something that I enjoy doing myself.Report

              • Avatar LWA says:

                This is, I believe, an Alinskyite variant on the Cloward-Piven strategy.

                You select an official spokesman for the opposition, then give him a large public platform from which to speak without interruption or censor.

                The cunning wickedness of liberals knows no bounds.Report

              • Oh that’s a real thing. I though someone named Cloward did that to Ari in Entourage.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                So what would you have rather seen the paper do when it received this piece from the county GOP asking it to be run as part of the series zic describes?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I mean, consider the alternative: this (apparently) liberal paper says, “No… we won’t publish the GOP group’s piece… it is simply too ridiculous.” Is that really better?

                Or maybe they should have cherry picked a different GOP group with a different perspective?

                I suppose your contention is that they cherry picked this group, but I see no evidence to that claim.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Did I say that it should have done something else?

                Did I even say that it should *NOT* have done what it did?

                How’s this? “In its place, I would have done the exact same thing as the editors here. Up to and including the clarification post that Zic linked to.”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                You called it “weak manning” as if that was a bad thing. So I’m attempting to understand.

                You also inferred all sorts of things about the intent of the paper which seems a little unfair… unless you know more about this paper and its editor(s) than I realize.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I also said that it was fun and, since then, something that I, myself, would do.

                As for the intention of the paper… sure. I’ll cheerfully withdraw my statement about what they were thinking and agree that they were thinking whatever they say they were.Report

  3. Avatar aaron david says:

    Wow, one person has a different opinion about what would be best for the African American community and the left goes insane,calls for censorship*.

    Those comments don’t make the Berkshire Eagle readers seem very progressive. I sense a lot of anger and hate. It’s too bad they wont take the time to engage the opinion writer, show him how what he is thinking is wrong

    *Hyperbole folks.Report

    • Avatar gregiank says:

      That is likely because that is same opinion that has been discussed and rebutted a zillion times. It comes off more as insulting and filled with vitriol not the start of a discussion about remedies. Same ol racist crap.*

      * HyperboleReport

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I always find it interesting that libertarians often seem to rush to the defense of conservatives even though there is a lot of stuff that is not quite compatible.

      The letter was filled with racist clap-trap include the old and really incorrect observation that pre-Civil Rights era African-Americans were happier than post-Civil Rights African-Americans. So this is why lots of liberals get fed up. There is a difference between disagreement on policy and having rose-colored views of the past.Report

      • Avatar LWA says:

        Saul, have you read this Jacobin article about Locke?

        I’m not enough of a Lockean scholar to confirm or dispute Quiggen’s points, but I do recognize the sort of mental gymnastics that allowed the Founders to speak articulately about liberty while owning slaves.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          Now I have. It is largely correct. I knew about the anti-Catholic sentiments in Locke. Though the author neglects to mention that Locke (like Cromwell) had a soft spot for Jews. The Jacobin author also fails to note that the 17th-century definition of an atheist was very different than ours. There were probably modernly defined atheists in the 17th century but no one would be so careless as to admit this openly. Maybe Spionoza did?

          The difference between the Jacobin crowd and me is that the Jacobin crowd wants a complete rejection of Lockean ideas because of his hypocrisies, shortcomings, and sins. I would teach these but also stress that there is a lot of value in some parts of Lockean philosophy and he was among the first to give birth to our notions of civil liberty.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        Yes, and calling for SILENCE!!!! to all opposing views just speaks people whom actually want to get there point of view across.

        And we libertarians snork at the red meat(or blue) we don’t agree with just as much as you guys do @saul-degraw But we are libertarians, and thus have different motivators. In those comments I see a bunch of petty bullies and, as I hate bullies with all of my heart, I will always side against them.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          Here is an old Jewish joke:

          A schnorrer* is going around town and begging for money. He receives some money from a wealthy banker. A few moments later the wealthy banker sees the schnorrer eating an expensive breakfast of bagels and lox and whitefish and danish. The banker is outraged and goes to the schnorrer and starts yelling at him about how dare he order such a expensive meal on the money he was given in charity. The schnorrer responds “Nu? Before I had no money and could not eat bagels and lox and whitefish and danish. Now I have some money and can’t eat these things either. So tell me, when can I eat bagels and lox and whitefish and danishes.”

          I often feel like the perplexed schnorrer when dealing with people who are upset when liberals point out something they perceive as being racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted.

          I fully realize that free speech protects the rights of Stormfront and this douchebag as much as it does protect the rights of Karen Finley or Andre Serras or Robert Mapplethorpe. I also fully realize that civil liberties are often advanced by people who are not quite saints and often far from saints. I believe most liberals realize this.

          Yet it seems like many right-wingers and libertarians want to live in a world where they can say whatever they want without getting any pushback from liberals or the left. You doth protest a bit too much. No one is calling for this dude to be sent to jail. They are just calling it him out for being saying things that they believe are really bigoted and proven by history and various studies.

          But pointing this out just brings up some sort of fever dreams that liberals are out to censor all those who disagree. So I ask “Nu? When can liberals say that something is racist and wrong and how should they say it?” It seems to me that going after liberals for saying “I think this is bigoted because….” is just a form of censorship against the left.

          I have not seen anyone call for the writer of the letter to be sent to jail, fined, or put in the pillory. Not even close to it. The same thing is happening in the Confederate flag debates. A lot of people realize that it is an offensive symbol and shouldn’t be flown by States but some are still fighting for it because saying it should be taken down would be agreeing with something liberals and the left have been saying for years and that is just a bridge too far.

          Cleek’s law gets proven again and again with these kinds of things.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            I have this theory that it’s a response based in the fear that if liberals complain about something, they’re gonna pass a law. . .

            which is just silly, and pretty much a the essence of the ‘shutting down of free speech’ that we liberals are accused to committing with all our nasty PC ways.

            Ironically, on the comment thread that so upset, the real bullies seemed to be the conservatives trolling it and calling people stupid.

            @aaron-david I posted this because it was an example of a responsible editor actually supporting free speech, even if it’s repugnant speech, despite the distaste his readers had for that act. I posted it here because folk like you think that internet comments calling out hateful speech is, somehow, suppressing free speech. And all you can notice is the liberal bullies? Confirmation bias much?Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              I largely agree. I also think that a lot of people are attracted to libertarianism because they want to be left alone.

              Which I totally get. I also like being left alone. There are lots of times when I can imagine having a happy but fairly solitary life and have no problems doing things on my own. People are often shocked when I say that I go on vacations by myself, or concerts, or restaurants, etc.

              So people don’t like hearing that something they like is problematic because then they think they have to evaluate and do something about it but they are still going to like it. And I can be the same way with my entertainment and culture at times which does hew pretty heterosexual and also potentially White-European in that I predominatly read Western Lit (and not even popular stuff) and generally prefer Indie Rock over Hip-Hop. I do love Jazz though but there is something in Hip-Hop that just doesn’t speak to me and this probably has people thinking I just like white-boy music.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                “I largely agree. I also think that a lot of people are attracted to libertarianism because they want to be left alone.”

                and because we don’t want to be told what to do. 🙂Report

            • Avatar aaron david says:

              And I think the editor did the right thing in printing it, but those commenters want to shut down speech. Call out racism and sexism and homophobia wherever you see it, but if you try to stop speech, I will still call it bullying.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              “fear that if liberals complain about something, they’re gonna pass a law. . .”

              Less of a fear and more of observed behavior. Usually followed by the phase “but THINK of the children”. Areas of example: smoking, guns.

              Fair criticism: BSDIReport

          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            I think this is fairly universal. I often get into it with people who essentially take the position of, “I want to do X but I don’t want to get accused of doing X.”

            “I don’t want to make you angry, but I’m going to do this thing that angers you.”
            “I don’t want to disappoint you, but I’m going to do this thing that disappoints you.”
            “I don’t want to offend you, but I’m going to do this thing that offends you.”

            They want consequence free behavior. Sadly (or not), that doesn’t exist.

            From folks on the right, it may come across as, “I want to hold/express this offensive view but don’t want to be considered offensive, so why don’t you just stop considering it offensive?” But other groups have their own way of wanting cake and trying to eat it, too.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          Forgot my asterisk:

          *A schnorrer can roughly be translated as a professional beggar but it is so much more. There is a back-handed compliment in calling someone a schnorrer because there is an implication that a schnorrer lives by his or her wits. So it is like having admiration for the chutzpah and daring of a low-level con artist or street hustler. You don’t approve of the rigged game of three-card monty but you admire the showmanship of the person who can pull it the scam.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          Basically, as far as I can tell liberals and minorities are never supposed to say a statement is racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, or otherwise bigoted because that is censorship and would make the speaker feel bad.

          We are just supposed to do a “X has his opinion and keep quiet if we disagree” for some reason that is escaping me.Report

    • I know. If Reason had published a column about how libertarians are all rich white guys whose mantra is FYIGM, and what they need to knock some sense into their heads in a 90% tax rate, the commenters would all have been perfectly civil. (Honestly, the words “moocher” and “looter” wouldn’t have come up even once.)Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    It’d probably have been better if the explanation was run concurrently with the piece itself. That would have been a bit more forward thinking. That said, a fine response.Report

  5. Avatar ktward says:


    As a long-time reader of The Gents, I so appreciate that you’re finally an official OT front-pager. (Did I already say this elsewhere, earlier? I feel like I did. Crap, it sucks getting old.)

    Only occasionally do I actually find the time to commit to comment here, and even then I almost always fall short of time to graciously follow through. My bad, generally.

    Thing is, your integral presence at OT* serves to keep me a regular clicker/reader. Is basically what I’m saying.

    *amongst othersReport

    • Avatar zic says:

      Thank you, @ktward

      I remain ambivalent about my presence here, not sure that I’ve much to contribute that’s not laden with fireworks, so your kind words are welcomed that I bring something of benefit. Right now, it’s a time struggle — the vegetable gardens and insects and flowers and a certain nearby pond demand much of my attention.

      Plus, I promised to do a post on the Christian home-school publishing industry, and it researching it makes me feel ill. I may retract that promise; the more I find, the less I want to know. I pity the children so indoctrinated instead of educated.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I say bring on the fireworks, zic.Report

      • Avatar ktward says:

        Time struggle? Boy, do I hear you.

        You’re obviously the only one who can ultimately balance your many roles, including here at OT as a front-pager. Whatever you decide, it’s all good. Your insights were ever the real jewels, but your journalistic integrity and expertise are equally integral. Hope you know that.

        You’re a brilliant writer/journo, @zic, but I know you have some editing challenges. Once upon a time, I was a damn good copy/proof editor, professionally speaking. (Among other things I’d much rather be known for, but, whatever.) If I can help make your OT contributions a little easier, give me an email jingle. ktward61@hotmail.comReport

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Nothing wrong with fireworks, @zic

        Suggestion: just don’t make it every column.

        By the way, this is an excellent OP.Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:


    I will give you this. There are many times when it feels like liberalism can be contradictory and leaving me confused with a sense that we are willing to make the perfect the enemy of the good:

    This article criticizes facebook for not allowing adopted names because it hurts LGBT people.

    This is true but I am sure if facebook allowed anonymous names, there would be a ton of articles criticizing them for enabling bigoted trolls to abuse and stalk and not get called out on it.

    My thought is that you can have one or the other. You can’t have both. These are just the complicated moral decisions in being an adult. I get frustrated that a lot of people (on the left and the right) seem to have a politics of kindergarten where they don’t want to think about the double-edged nature of things. They want everything to be happiness and rainbows.Report