Let’s Be Honest: We Just Don’t Want a Dialogue


Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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165 Responses

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Very related, seems to me. Back when I was the Disseminator of Propaganda and Grades (DOPAG) at the university level, I believed this was a real problem. I still do. And it’s probably worse now than back then. So it’s an ever more worser problem. Personally, I think an institutional logic which treats students as consumers (or customers) is a big part of this big problem. And a big part of that, seems to me, is the view, held by students and parents alike, that “all the children are above average” coupled with a lot of righteous whining when evidence is presented to the contrary.Report

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    The activist response is a sadly common example of the stance of some campus activists toward free speech these days, and deserves to be resisted as the professor does.

    That said, “BLM protests are a cause of police shootings. I am not a crank” is a sufficiently inane and backward viewpoint that I don’t think it’s correct to conclude that “we” (by which I assume we mean activists) don’t want a dialogue in general from their response to it. We shouldn’t want a dialogue around everything.. “Maybe the Nazis had some stuff right after all: let’s have a dialogue!” is not a position I can particularly get behind. (wWhich is not to say that, if that idea gained some currency, I wouldn’t have to engage in dialogue to try to shut down that idea, but I wouldn’t be happy at the dialogue having to exist in that instance.) This isn’t that, but, man, it is so far off base as to be not an insane analogy.

    The issue is not so much not wanting dialogue: there will always be certain points that some people can’t abide being given real consideration in a conversation in which they participate. That such feelings come into view sometimes doesn’t indicate that, in general, we don’t want dialogue.

    The issue is the illiberalism in seeking to prevent that dialogue from going on even while you (vocally and in protest) absent yourself from it. Destroying newspapers, in a word. Calling for the defunding of a student newspaper is a bit more of an edge case (it made it to the supreme court not that long ago), since in that case you are funding that speech with your own tuition dollars, but I’d say that’s still troublingly illiberal, since having a student newspaper that publishes a variety of views is a pretty core function of a university.

    The problem is not protesting against dialogue in certain instances (which doesn’t indicate general disinterest in dialogue). The problem is the illiberalism of having trying to shut down the dialogue you oppose with forceful methods (such as destroying reading material in order to destroy ideas) be among the tactics of your protest.

    I understand refusing to lend false legitimacy to points that you believe are completely out of bounds by refusing to dialogue on them. I don’t think observing that tells us we don’t want dialogue at all. But you have to bear the rhetorical cost of that choice, which is that you forgo the positive power of dialogue (discourse, let’s say) to crush those ideas. You can’t turn to burning books (shredding newspapers) to bail out the rhetorical cost of your refusal to dialogue. That’s the problem here.Report

    • At one point in time, I would have agreed with the proposition that some points of view are so insignificant and obviously unworthy of intellectual respect that they need not be engaged.

      Then, I realized how many young earth creationists there are in the world. How many anti-vaccine activists. I learned that the world headquarters of the flat Earth Society was less than 15 minutes drive from my own home.

      So then, it seemed to me important to rhetorically defend even the most obvious kinds of truths and moral propositions. I delved into trying to distinguish hard cases where both sides of an argument had waiting points and the answers were not obvious, from disputes where one side did nothing but spout nonsense wholly disconnected from reality. “Magnets? You can’t explain that!”

      But doing so is wrestling with the pig. And the endgame of that contest is out there in the culture right now: people shouting at one another, with no intention of listening to anything that is said back at them. All that they really want is to rally support amongst those who already agree with them, in order to win an election. Persuasion is not only not a desirable objective, it is a waste of time, effort, and money. Winning alone matters.

      This is not an argument. This is not a search for truth. This is not an effort to improve our society.

      One of the things that I wish to meditate upon is whether there is a way forward, a way to a cultural place where people engage in actual debate and argument.Report

      • It’s worse than that; over the weekend I clicked one link too many and wound up at AmRen, where there’s a debate going on about whether Jews are provisionally white or mud people. (The occasion being declaring a National Review writer a cuckservative for having adopted an African child.)

        I’m honestly not seeing an alternative to nuking the whole bunch from orbit.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Lovely. I think this is like whenever that one Uncle of yours has a few too many drinks at a family gathering and suddenly just gets incredibly racist? Like, he’s always thought it but never said it (it’s not polite to talk about) and then he’s drunk and back to assuming everyone really agrees with him so he starts busting out the racist crap?

          I’m not sure what they’re drunk on, but I’m pretty sure it ends with them finding out that not as many people agree with them as they think.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

        One of the things that I wish to meditate upon is whether there is a way forward, a way to a cultural place where people engage in actual debate and argument.

        Hmmm. Probably not. One of the things I’ve noticed is that people who fancy themselves as “smart”, and actually are according to some objective measure, are actually more inclined to think “everyone else” is a dumbass than actual, stone-cold dumbasses are. (Unless they’re conservative. Heh! I kid!) And as a culture we’re cranking out more and more people who DO fancy themselves as “smart” (seems to me).Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

          If just about everybody thinks he or she is smarter than average, then aren’t most of them just being dumbasses?Report

        • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Stillwater says:

          I’m not so sure this is true. If I recall the Dunning-Kreuger studies correctly, the incompetent thought they were more competent than they were while the competent thought they were less competent than they were. The mechanism for the former is easy enough to figure out. As for the latter, maybe the competent had inflated ideas of what “normal” levels of competence were and, therefore, felt themselves to be relatively less competent than, in fact, they were..Report

  2. Avatar Dand says:

    That said, “BLM protests are a cause of police shootings. I am not a crank” is a sufficiently inane and backward viewpoint

    I agree, but most of the people objecting to it have no problem using the same logic against their opponents(see the response to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting).Report

    • Avatar Dand in reply to Dand says:

      Just to make myself clear I agree completely with Kevin Drum. and don’t think they are in any way responsible for any cop shooting but blaming them for a cop shoot is no more crazy than blaming Bill O’Reilly for the murder of George Tiller and less crazy than blaming the John Birch Society for the JFK assassination.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Dand says:

        Yeah, this.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Dand says:

        lulz bsdi!!!Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dand says:

        Just to make myself clear I agree completely with Kevin Drum. and don’t think they are in any way responsible for any cop shooting but blaming them for a cop shoot is no more crazy than blaming Bill O’Reilly for the murder of George Tiller and less crazy than blaming the John Birch Society for the JFK assassination.

        Uh, no.

        If #BLM actually had any sort of national platform, and was actually *using* the language the right seems to think it was using, *and* police officers had actually been murdered under the justification they were ‘black people killers’ and had to be stopped, then, yes, it would be entirely reasonable to ascribe them some guilt for the murdered police, just like it’s entirely reasonable to give some of the blame to Bill O’Reilly for the murder of George Tiller.

        But, uh, *none of those things are true*. BLM barely has any platform at all, and what little platform it does have is not being used to spread hatred against the police. (There are, possibly, some parts of BLM doing that…but they *do not have a platform* in the media.)

        Likewise, almost *no* police officers have been killed in a targeted attack (As opposed to just being killed because of some unrelated criminal act.). I’m not sure, at this point, that we actually have any at all, despite the right-wing trying to make every killed cop into that.

        EDIT: I admit I have not been keeping up with this because frankly I’m sick of right-wing lies, but will someone please list any supposed ‘targeted’ cops that have been killed?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

          ” will someone please list any supposed ‘targeted’ cops that have been killed?”

          Darren Goforth, Rafael Ramos, and Wenjian Liu, obviously.

          Although I like the pre-moved goalposts. I guess if someone doesn’t stand up and say “I am 100% mentally competent with no issues at all and the absolute ONLY reason I am doing this is because of Black Lives Matter” then it doesn’t count?Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Although I like the pre-moved goalposts. I guess if someone doesn’t stand up and say “I am 100% mentally competent with no issues at all and the absolute ONLY reason I am doing this is because of Black Lives Matter” then it doesn’t count?

            Uh, no. I didn’t say that.

            The question is if BLM is to blame, even incidentally, for any cop shooting, and thus, yeah, the guy has to, at minimum, be killing cops because he doesn’t like cops, not because he’s in the middle of a robbing a house and they catch him. (Or, in an actual example, because at the end of a high speed chase tries to shoot his way out.)

            As for those three, Darren Goforth is exactly who I was thinking of when I said ‘The right wing is trying to make every killed cop into that’. There is no evidence *at all* that Darren Goforth was even killed because he was a cop, and much less any evidence he was killed because Shannon Miles was *looking for a cop*. (I.e., Shannon Miles, being mentally ill, might have thought ‘Hey, that cop is spying on me, let me shoot him’, but that’s not the fault of BLM…he’d had enough interactions with cops to have formed that paranoia himself.) We really have no idea why he did what he did.

            Meanwhile, both Ismaaiyl Brinsley and Scott Philip Roeder (The shooter of George Tiller) were mentally ill. But the shooters being mentally ill isn’t *any* sort of get-out-jail-free card for guilt. Mentally ill people exist, and people know they exist, and rhetoric that encourages them is, uh, cause for condemnation.

            The question then become: Who was feeding that rhetoric *to* those people?

            Scott Philip Roeder was part of the whole sovereign citizen anti-government nonsense, which has become very entangled with the anti-abortion movement….via right wing politics. Roeder had very clearly became unhinged at least a decade earlier, running around and threatening people for quite some time.

            Bill O’Reilly is (As far as I know) not the man that radicalized Roeder …but Bill O’Reilly *is* the man who kept featuring Tiller, and attacking him on the air. Bill O’Reilly pointed and screamed about how a specific person was murdering babies, over and over. Even *after* someone had tried to kill that specific person.

            And thus he deserves some blame for that. Statistically, some of his viewers were going to be unhinged, and repeatedly giving them a specific target is…well, statistical negligence, or whatever you want to call it.

            Meanwhile, I’m unaware of any actual rhetoric from #BLM of…well, anything, pointed at anyone, at anywhere near that level. It is, as I said, possible that such rhetoric exists, but that then leads into the other thing, namely, that #BLM does not actually have a goddamn TV show with millions of viewers.

            Oh, and of course, #BLM has never singled any cops out…well, except the ones that actually *have* killed people…which is not who Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed.

            Hell, even *if* #BLM was out there painting all cops as ‘black people killer’ and using the same terminology as O’Reilly did, *and* even if they had a TV show with his rating, (Which, I remind people, is not true) they’d *still* deserve less blame if someone actually killed a cop. Saying ‘All of group X are going to kill people’ (And crazy people hear, ‘but you can stop them’) is not the same thing as saying ‘This guy, *right here*, is going to kill people (But you can stop them)’.

            It’s basically the difference between someone making racist statements about how all black people are eventually going to rape white women, and someone stirring up a lynch mob to lynch that black guy, right there, because they claim he raped a white woman yesterday and is going to rape more tomorrow. Those…are not exactly the same thing. They’re both *bad*, but they sure as hell are not the same thing.Report

  3. Avatar SaulDegraw says:

    I think that college students should always be given some degree of charity
    for a variety of reasons:

    1. I always think that college should be a place where you can experiment with being an adult and hopefully not have too many disasters from bad decisions.

    2. College students are young and don’t quite know the difference between a sledge hammer and fine brush.

    3. Almost all of them spent their entire lives in very homogeneous communities. This is doubly true for the middle class and wealthy students. About 60 percent of my undergrad could be described as comfortably middle class or upper-middle class and educated in suburban public schools, probably in the New York, New Jersey, Conneticut, and Mass suburbs. The people most used to diversity grew up poor and were scholarship students at private schools for their entire educations. I know people like this and Wesleyan’s demographics are similar to my alma maters demographics.

    4. Michael Drew is right, some arguments are so inane that people shouldn’t be expected to argue with them.

    5. On the other hand, one person’s reasonable belief is another person’s “I can’t even” and some arguments are always doomed to high passion and heated rhetoric.

    6. A big issue is probably the cost of education. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years on whether college students were consumers or not. The high-minded argument is to say college is different but the reality is most students are taking out loans and graduating with debt burdens. Or there parents are paying and these huge payments do create a consumer mentality. Vox had an article a few weeks ago that argued trigger warnings were really about the consumer power of students and college professors and admin not liking this.

    But 65k a year in tuition is going to make students demand a lot. Would you pay 6 figures and not demand the 4 Seasons treatment?Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to SaulDegraw says:

      @sauldegraw @michael-drew “4. Michael Drew is right, some arguments are so inane that people shouldn’t be expected to argue with them.”

      I used to subscribe to this line of thinking but completely reject it at this point in my life. I was complicit in the rise of this current illiberalism by taking part in shutting down what I deemed to be “fascist” speakers at my university back in my college days. I helped make the current environment a reality by excluding some voices that I felt beyond the realm of acceptability.

      Only now, the realm of acceptability has been made even smaller. Far beyond what I would have tolerated, but I reinforced the same language and tactics now employed against ideas far closer to the center of public discourse.

      I agree with @gingergene below. You can personally say “I am not going to waste my time debating this with you” but that doesn’t mean the rest of the community should be limited to the parameters of conversation you have set for yourself.

      At this point in my life, I engage in debate with openly fascist/anarchist/communist types and it makes me consider what I missed in my formative days when I limited the actual ideas I was exposed to. Nothing is off limits in my current dialogues, but I also have a professional/personal life that requires that I simply walk away from said debate. However, I don’t want the conversation to end because I have left the room.Report

      • Avatar crash in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        “At this point in my life, I engage in debate with openly fascist/anarchist/communist types and it makes me consider what I missed in my formative days when I limited the actual ideas I was exposed to.”

        I try to be open-minded–but when I run across people who say “We don’t need to do anything about pollution/climate change because god gave us dominion over the earth, and anyway god wouldn’t let us ruin the earth”–this tends to end the conversation on my end. Why bother? I have limited time, too limited to “debate” something like this.

        Now I realize that your point is that others in the community can/should have this debate. But for religious arguments, I’m not so sure these “debates” are very productive.Report

        • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to crash says:

          @crash There is truth in this. I think one has to think the other person will actually respond to your points and not just regurgitate the same talking points. I don’t want to debate a sock-puppet either.

          As for the global warming topic, I am firmly in the “climate change is happening and we caused it” but I never debate said issue because I am not educated on the subject in any way that would make for a worthwhile discussion. I move right on to the important subjects, like philosophy.Report

          • Avatar crash in reply to Roland Dodds says:

            “I think one has to think the other person will actually respond to your points and not just regurgitate the same talking points. I don’t want to debate a sock-puppet either.”

            I tend to agree. The problem is that with religion (and with some other topics) it seems to me that the opposing side sometimes seems functionally equivalent to sock puppets, even if they are (ostensibly) trying to engage me. [Note: the opposing side might say the same about me.]

            Example: if I discuss gay marriage with a christian, and we are both trying to engage in good faith discussion, I still might get nowhere, just because religious beliefs aren’t really the type of thing you just change your mind on. There is no study I can show them that would make them say “oh, yes, I never saw that study, now I’m thinking the bible is NOT the word of god, and that the bible does NOT define marriage in this way.”

            This person is functionally equivalent to a sock puppet, in a way.

            I’d like to think that I am not equivalent to a sock puppet, because I’d change my mind on many issues if presented with enough data. So there’s an asymmetry there. Or so I think, anyway.Report

      • Let’s be very clear: the position Roland lays out here is precisely the one I laid out:

        Some people might deem certain viewpoints too extreme or inane to legitimize with engagement in dialogue. But it’s not okay to then try to shut down dialogue that others want to have on the issue.

        Where we differ, and what Roland does not reiterate in this comment, is in thinking that identifying those times when people feel that way should cause us to conclude that interest in dialogue is generally waning in the culture.Report

        • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Michael Drew says:

          @michael-drew Then we are in agreement. Dialogue wins again.

          If only there existed institutions where bright minds could get together and talk openly about issues of importance and concern without the fear of personal or professional reprisals.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        I would potentially suggest that you are able to debate far right-wingers openly because if they ever took over, you would probably be able to blend into the crowd. If you are a minority to be persecuted and discriminated against, not so much.

        I don’t see why I should engage members of the Aryan Brotherhood who have a propensity to violence and a dislike of Jews. I don’t see why I should engage with anti-Semites at all.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        “4. Michael Drew is right, some arguments are so inane that people shouldn’t be expected to argue with them.”

        I used to subscribe to this line of thinking but completely reject it…

        I’m not sure if I ever accepted that line of thinking in practice (I know I wasn’t hostile to it!) but now I definitely do not subscribe to it, for the following reason: if an argument is transparently inane it should be really easy to say exactly why it is.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

          if an argument is transparently inane it should be really easy to say exactly why it is.


          The fact that most people can’t properly point out what is wrong with the positions they disagree with gives me reason to think that a lot of people are far less rational than they think they are. I also tend to be more sanguine about certain forms of rationality, while at the same time being particularly critical of people who tout themselves as especially rational but engage in the same errorsReport

        • Avatar gingergene in reply to Stillwater says:

          The problem is with volume. Example: on Ta-Nahisi Coates’ blog, “states rights” arguments about the cause of the civil war are not entertained. He’s made a thorough case for why he rejects them, but you’ll have to go through the archives to find it. He spends no time answering them if the pop up on new discussions, he simply throws the ban-hammer. I think this is entirely appropriate: if he stopped to repeat himself every time the argument came up, he’d have a whole lot less time to spend on new stuff (as it is, the blog is a lot less active than it once was).

          So how many times do you knock down the same inane argument? Is there a limit?Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to SaulDegraw says:


      I’m pretty much with you. It’s college activists. By definition, they’re inexperienced, passionate, and in over their heads. I don’t get all into a huge worry about what college kids are doing, because by and large what college kids are doing is being REALLY PASSIONATE in ways that, 10 years from now, they will cheerfully pretend they never, ever, ever did.

      It’s a time to be angry, happy, sad, eager, and really, really, really dumb. Not in a “low IQ” but in a “in ten years, you’re going to realize how much that was dumb” sort of way.

      The only difference between them and us is we didn’t have our stupidities splashed across the internet.

      I think, culturally, we’re going to be slowly developing a new etiquette involving past transgressions — because they can no longer fade down the memory hole, they no longer remain isolated to a few years at college, they exist only the right search terms away….

      This? Part and parcel of it.

      (On a related note, I’ve been watching a few people my age — early 40s — already start into their “kids these days!” meltdowns. They’re hilariously unaware of the irony, and steadfastly refuse to even contemplate that “kids these days” aren’t any different than any other generation of that age. Nope, THIS one will end society as we know it. Unlike the past 100 generations who faced the same prediction).Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:


        This. I have no trouble with young adults learning to be mature adults while in college. I don’t even have trouble with seeing it splash across the internet. My problem is with faculty and administration that refuses to engage such folly, or worse, encourages it. The adults in the room are failing to be adults (a growing problem, I worry, given what happened in Irving, TX, as elsewhere).

        So good on the Wesleyan president for politely saying, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

        PS is the Wesleyan student population so small that 170 signatures is significant? At UW that wouldn’t even be a blip worth noticing.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Wesleyan University is a small liberal arts college that happens to have some graduate programs. Wiki says that the undergrad population is under 2900 and they have slightly under 200 grad students. This makes them only slightly bigger than Vassar which has around 2500 undergrads at any given time.Report

          • Avatar notme in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            That’s hilarious as my entire high school had 2000. I can’t imagine what kind of shock these poor dears are in for when they find themselves out of their liberal bubble and in the real world.Report

            • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to notme says:

              I lived just down the street from Wesleyan when I worked in Connecticut a few years back. Coming from California, I was shocked how insular some of the elite private universities were from the town around them. Trinity in Hartford and Yale in New Haven had similar issues. The university was a world to itself, surrounded by a poorer neighborhood (Wesleyan a bit less so, since Middletown was less urban than the aforementioned cities).Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Roland Dodds says:

                Town and gown relationships are often tense in the North East. Many college towns actually prefer to stymie the local students rather than take advantage of them economically.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Roland Dodds says:

                My college was insular. We called it the Vassar bubble.

                No college town area really developed around or close to us. There was a Deli, a Chinese takeaway place but the other restaurants were more expensive than a college student could usually afford. They were “My parents are in town” restaurants. Plus it was a wet campus at the time and there were bars on campus.

                Poughkeepsie is economically depressed except for Vassar and Marist.

                Vassar was on the edge and really mainly near freeway entrances and exits.

                That being said, I think Boston/Cambridge/Sommerville has a much different dynamic. About 25 percent of Boston-Metro’s population are college and graduate students.Report

              • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I was at UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate study and UC Davis for my graduate work. Although Santa Cruz is up in the hills around the town, I felt the uni was pretty well integrated into the life of the city. It may also have to do with the fact that both schools have large student bodies, and thus come to dominate the towns they are in.

                When I was a student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, it felt much more insular and separate from the town, but for different reasons than Wesleyan and its surroundings.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Colleges are less likely to say “Suck it up” for two reasons:

          1) Falling rates of tenure. It’s hard to say “Suck it up” when you’re an adjunct working three jobs that, collectively, mean you make so little you’re working out of your car.

          2) The college as consumerism model. It’s hard to say ‘suck it up’ if you’re viewing students as high-paying customers.Report

          • Avatar notme in reply to Morat20 says:

            The college may not be likely to say “suck it” for any number of reasons, however, that doesn’t mean that the poor children don’t need to hear it.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:

            1) Not really a problem for the President or tenured faculty. As for untenured, can they at least stop encouraging it?

            2) Boo-fricking-who. You want to run a organization educating young minds, then you had best figure out that it isn’t a traditional business. If the customer was always right, they wouldn’t need educating.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Don’t mistake me — I’m not defending colleges in general, although I do acknowledge they have several difficult lines to straddle.

              I personally think a return to robust tenure and reversing this idiotic slide to poverty-wage adjuncts is a wise idea on many fronts. The fact that it would lead to having some faculty who, to use common parlance, ‘give zero f*cks’ is just a small bonus. (Obviously you need balance here. Having a few hardcase profs is helpful. Having a faculty of them is pointlessly stupid).

              And of course, college is not a business but here in America we try to run everything, including government’s that way, because [reasons].

              I do think colleges should be aware of –and think about — stuff like trigger warnings (which, btw, the very existence of means that colleges aren’t coddling kids. They’re about to TEACH the thing that’s potentially upsetting. Coddling kids would be avoiding the topic entirely, rather than prefacing it with ‘We’re gonna talk about rape and torture today, kiddies, in the context of WWII. Fair warning’) and issues with sexual assault (a bunch of horny 18-22 year olds, many living on their own for the first time in life? Access to booze? Yeah, there’s gonna be problems) and all that.

              Of course, feeling your way through those minefields — nobody’s gonna get it right the first pass. Or the second. Or the third. Colleges up and down the country are trying to find something that works.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:

                I think we’ve had this conversation before (and were mostly in agreement).

                Regarding being run like a business, I think that started as a good idea (let’s look at how business does X & try to adapt that) that was screwed up by a bad idea (let’s hire business leaders to help us adapt X – except business leader doesn’t adapt, they adopt, because not all business leaders are very imaginative).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Morat20 says:

        To be fair, I have had plenty of kids these days reaction and written essays about it on this site.

        My friends in their early and mid 30s seem equally split on the kids these days or the kids are alright reactions.

        That being said, I know plenty of true believers who keep all of their 18 year old passions and furies well into old age. Sometimes my reaction to this is an eyeroll. There was an article about a long-time Sanders associate in Vermont. The Sanders associate at age 80 or so said something like “I haven’t really spoken to Bernie since he became mayor of Burlington. What can I say? I moved to the left and he moved to the right..” That caused me to have a kind of oh please reaction.Report

        • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          @saul-degraw I agree that kids really aren’t any different today than they were when I was at uni or 40 years prior to that.

          I do think our culture has changed however, and it is reflected in how universities and public institutions bend to the whims of a few. We have talked about it a great deal here, but I think some of that has to do with universities not having stable, secure staff like they used to and a move towards a consumer model in education.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Morat20 says:

        Early 40’s? On another board I’m on, I’ve got 25 year olds acting like their college experience was normal, but not all the SJW’s have ruined all of college education.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          The use of the word “SJW” in a non-ironic fashion makes me eyeroll.

          For a few reasons: For starters, the first person I heard it from is still fighting about ‘ethics in gaming journalism’ so I associate the word ‘SJW” with that idiocy.

          Second, in my personal experience, about 80% of the people using it are either talking completely out of their nether regions OR basically complaining that 14 year old kids on Tumblr are, in fact, 14 and have all the complexity and nuance of opinion you’d expect.

          The other 20% of the time? It’s been zeroing in one one person in one obscure journal nobody reads and calling it a Collapse of Western Civilization As We Know It level threat.

          The very vehemence of the usage of the term has ensured that I dismiss it as idiocy.

          It’s initial association with the Group That Dare Not Be Named But Really Likes Ethical Games Journalism makes me want to claim to be an SJW just so I’m 100% sure I’m not accidentally on their side, ever.

          So suffice it to say: I don’t think anything has changed. It’s just that, due to the internet, we get to see college kids right up front when we’re NOT college kids. We were just as flamingly stupid then. It’s just the folks ten or fifteen years older than us didn’t see it.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Morat20 says:

            SJW might have meant something 5 years ago, but the Internet has turned SJW into “anybody slightly to the left of me I disagree with.”

            The 15 year old posting about the weird things she’s into on Tumblr is not going to end Western society, even if she gets to her 20’s and is annoying in your Intro to Lit class.Report

            • Avatar LWA in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              I dunno.
              Seems kinda badass to be a Social! Justice!! Warrior!!!

              “Wherever there’s a crusty old fart of an uncle gassing on about immigrants, I’ll be there, Ma. Wherever there is a privileged frat bro leering at a passed out girl, I’ll be there…”Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              That’s for sure. Plus, of late, I had to listen to idiots blame SJW’s because they couldn’t comprehend simple things like “Your taste is not everyone’s taste”.

              When you’re blaming SJW’s for the fact that “good books are being ignored in favor of bad message fic” which you follow up by bitterly complaining that you literally “can’t judge a book by it’s cover” and then blithely talk about how Star Trek was never big on messages, well…

              It’s so much concentrated wrong that it formed a wrong singularity.

              Unsurprisingly, I later learned that they’d never actually read one of the big bugaboos of ‘Message Fic’ Ancillary Justice — which was, hilariously, exactly the sort of book they claimed to like. They just heard about the pronouns and went crazy.

              So yeah, I have a hard time taking talk about SJW’s seriously. My biggest exposure to the “We Hate SJW” crowd has been the Rapid Puppies and the Ethics In Games Journalism Crowd (with fun Redpill crossover crowd). In short, judging whatever the heck ‘SJWs’ are by their enemies (I’ve never met an actual person who called themselves an SJW. It seems like something you’re defined as by an angry person), I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the SJW tent with the sane people.Report

              • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Morat20 says:

                @morat20 I must have missed most of this. Is this that Gamer Gate thing I hear about from time to time?

                I always thought SJWs were just folks focused on little cultural battles that were tired and tedious. But I don’t really know what it means.

                The old man in me says: couldn’t they join a revolutionary communist party like I did in college? You’ll piss off lots of people that way.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Roland Dodds says:

                Don’t say the word. You’ll summon them.

                SJW basically evolved as a sneer. I first heard about it from the cesspools from which the Ethics In Game Journalism and Redpill folks crawled, and it was basically used towards people who didn’t agree with the aforementioned folks. You know, folks who didn’t like rape threats or thought that calling people ‘gay’ was not, in fact, a terrible insult but made the caller look like an idiot and a homophobe, etc.

                The Puppies, as a more recent example, like to call people “SJW” because they believe that nobody could really like Ancillary Justice, they only voted for it because it promoted a message of gender equality and homosexuality and the destruction of American manhood and because it was totally against what “real sci-fi” was.

                It goes without saying that Ancillary Justice is quite a good book, which you can tell by the plethora of other awards it won — unless the secret SJW minority controlling the Hugos somehow controls all those other awards, like the Nebula and Clarke awards — and does not, in fact, even contain those messages.

                The main character DOES, by default, gender everyone female. It’s a thing from HER society, and it causes amusement in other societies because she can’t tell men from women. And her society (the one that doesn’t bother to gender people in their language) is, in fact, a ruthlessly expansionary empire.

                You know, the bad guys?.

                So, um, there you go. That’s the brain trust slinging around “SJW” of late. People who hadn’t read the book. Literally. And who thought it contained a secret message of male emasculation by making the bad guy’s society drop gender identifications from language (not a new idea in sci-fi, btw) which led to, well, other societies finding it funny when she got it wrong.

                Clearly, the destruction of the world is nigh.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Morat20 says:

                Huh, I realized I just implied the protagonist of AJ is the bad guy. Nope. The ruthlessly expansionary empire is, sorta. In places. It’s complex.

                The protagonist is both a member of that society and, bluntly, under special circumstances that make her even less “in tune” with human social conventions in general.

                Anyways, yeah. I associate SJW with rampant a**holes and people who complain about books they haven’t read, and the most common target is teenagers on tumblr, so you can see why I fail to take it seriously.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to SaulDegraw says:

      But 65k a year in tuition is going to make students demand a lot. Would you pay 6 figures and not demand the 4 Seasons treatment?

      I can see the impulse to think that way, but I wonder how often people hire expensive personal trainers to get fit and then want rules written up that explicitly say that they won’t have to do any strenuous activity. I suppose the customer is always right, but if I were a personal trainer, I’m not sure I’d want a lot of those people to “graduate” from my fitness program and tell the world about the guy who didn’t whip them into shape. At some point, it seems like it would be better for my business to say, “Maybe you should find somebody else to hang out with at the gym,” and focus on people who will actually come out my program healthier than when they started.

      I can definitely understand the temptation to take the money and chill by the water cooler, though. Maybe there’s a real place in the market for personal trainers who are known not to make you do anything and who produce no real results. Seems like a pointless money sink, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a thing.Report

  4. Avatar Zac says:

    Henceforth, let’s just yell at each other from our own corners of the Internet, knowing it undignified to stoop to actually listening to a different perspective. As we build our own little worlds, we can look at our ideological neighbors with derision and suspicion, recognizing that to speak to them honestly would ruin the safe-space we crafted for ourselves.

    So…pretty much keep on doing what we’re doing, at least outside of the League? (Seriously, the reason I read this place daily is because it’s pretty much the only oasis of sanity I’ve discovered in the intellectual desert of the internet).Report

  5. Avatar SaulDegraw says:

    Of course the other big problem is that a lot of conflicting groups are paying a lot of money to attend the same colleges and this will cause tension because they all have the same consumer power.

    My alma mater had to send out a lot of e-mails because of tensions over Israel and Palestine debates last year.Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    “Henceforth, let’s just yell at each other from our own corners of the Internet, knowing it undignified to stoop to actually listening to a different perspective.”

    Yeah, I stopped “listening to a different perspective” a while back. Why? Because “I can’t believe you think like that!” and the total unacceptable-ness of my opinions/politics, and the personal demonization, by those same people. I can get along with anyone because I don’t define the worth or value of someone in my life by how much they agree with my politics. They can’t and more importantly, they don’t want to.

    “What could go wrong?” Yes, I’m looking forward to watching these special snowflakes wail when their world bubble collapses and the real world intrudes.Report

  7. Avatar Zac says:

    Michael Drew is right, some arguments are so inane that people shouldn’t be expected to argue with them.

    On the other hand, one person’s reasonable belief is another person’s “I can’t even” and some arguments are always doomed to high passion and heated rhetoric.

    Yeah, you seem to have a bit of the same internal tension over this as I do. I understand the “I can’t even” temptation, but at the same time it seems to me that if an argument is obviously risible it should be no trouble at all to point that fact out. I worry that folks are doing deep damage to their ability to engage with ideas other than their own when they decide to summarily dismiss whole realms of opinion as “inane”.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Zac says:

      Agreed, the best way to destroy a horrible assertion is not to flounce off in indignation but to pin it down and eviscerate it with sharp accurate arguments sweetened and barbed by a bit of humor. Cut it into its trembling oozing component parts like a Hostel movie sequel; that’s how you render it unappealing; not by clutching one’s pearls and shrieking like a fruit bat about how inconceivable and offensive said assertion is.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to North says:

        Generally I agree with you, of course. I just think we all probably have limits to this in practice (maybe not!), so when we run into someone who’s past their limit it doesn’t indicate that we might as well all just pack up and go home as far as discourse is concerned because our interest in dialogue has been revealed to be completely fraudulent.Report

        • Avatar Zac in reply to Michael Drew says:

          I agree we all have our limits: I’m not interested in debating fascists or dittoheads, but I think it’s worth trying to keep that limit as far out as we can each personally stomach.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to Zac says:

            I actually am interested in debating these people. Not necessarily related, but I debated a jewish woman about torture and extremist muslim religious. I got her to commit to a position of “what ever we have to do to ensure our safety, we need to do”. That included multiple invasions of Egypt to prevent the muslim brotherhood from assuming power.

            I dropped the bomb on her when I asked why her position was different from the German’s in the 30s and 40s. Sorry, you don’t get to say it’s ok for us to do genocide but not you. Logic folks.Report

          • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Zac says:

            @zac Agreed. I have actually enjoyed debating with some very committed fascists and Soviet-minded communists in the Bay Area lately. They haven’t won me over to their positions, but it has been refreshing to actually discuss points and ideas that are completely removed from the day-to-day political discussions I have with co-workers and family.Report

        • Avatar gingergene in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Right, each person gets to define what they will and won’t engage in. But just because you’ve hit your limit doesn’t mean you should be able to shut down the discussion for everyone else. But you should certainly evaluate whether you feel you could spend your time more productively, and respond -or not- accordingly.

          I’m pretty much in @sauldegraw ‘s camp, in that I don’t lose too much sleep about a bunch of college kids over-reacting. Popehat, f’rinstance, has been flipping out lately about the horrible long-term damage being done to the first amendment by hyperactive college kids, but I’m having a hard time getting worked up over it. It seems to me that colleges are pretty much in line with the rest of society (i.e. win some, lose some), with the understanding that kids tend to push boundaries more than adults, who are largely past that stage.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Well yes at some point one may need to stop arguing because it’s fruitless or has degraded to simple yes/no assertions slinging back and forth but that kind of write off shouldn’t be the first resort which is seems to be for a certain cadre of people.Report

  8. Avatar David says:

    The biggest issue I see in all these debates is that various sides want to “win” rather than to extend some empathy and listen for the relevant parts of another’s perspective that can be validated or appreciated. In conflict studies, this is not an atypical reaction when groups that have lacked power access it, or when groups conflict who do not feel part of a larger whole – they tend to view their own responses as reactions triggered by others’ actions, while the others have the ability to be proactive and to change. This results in spirals of escalation over issues as the two sides each perceive themselves as rationally reacting to the other.

    It would not be that hard to imagine this op-ed being taken as a well-intentioned and constructive contribution, even while disagreeing – but it requires a sense from the student activists that they should take that step and behave like the proactive ones who set the terms of the debate. At a moment when the activists perceive themselves to be of/representing the disempowered, asking them to act like the more powerful group is hard – although on college campuses, it may well be accurate. I think a culture of dialogue will return when it is “normal” enough that the activist perspectives are closer to default, and/or people more strongly separate the campus environment from the wider society in how they think about dialogue. Too hopeful?Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I think that a lot of people not only want to make their point but to have the other side acknowledge the righteousness of their opinions and concede the argument. The problem is that even if your position on a certain subject is the correct one, and I think that BLM is correct, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to get the reaction you want. This is a bit of an issue when it comes to social justice dialogue. Most people don’t like to think of themselves as evil. If your desired reaction after making your point is a confession of guilt from the other party because of privilege than good luck with that. It isn’t going to happen often. Attempts to get confessions of guilt are probably going to backfire and lead to the reserve of what you want.

    America and most of the rest of the developed world is a diverse place. Most people on the liberal side of the political divide think this a good thing. I do to. What I think liberal people get wrong a lot is what is necessary for peaceful and prosperous multicultural society to prosper. It requires the majority not to dominate, persecute, harm, or aggravate the various minorities. Liberals understand this. What many do not understand is that at a certain point generalized anger and rage of various minorities, religious, sexual, gender, or racial, against the minority is counter-productive. Its good for getting your rights established by damning all men, cis-gender people, or white people, Christians, or whatever majority group to hell as evil bastards forever is going to provoke a massive negative reaction at a certain point. People do not like being called evil or being treated as such. Even if generalized anger and rage might be appropriate, doesn’t make it a good idea.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The Gods of the Copybook Headings aren’t big fans of discussion either.

    The only real problems come up when people aren’t allowed to talk about things that The Gods have decreed. (There’s much less of a problem with forbidding discussion of things outside of the bailiwick of The Gods… but, for some reason, that happens a lot less often.)Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw says:


    I think @david is right on the end point. People want to win and for good reason. The SSM marriage crowd wanted SSM, if they got a broader understanding with the Kim Davis’ of the world that would be great but might not have even been secondary. And they were right to do so. Dan Savage invited a guy from NOM to his house for dinner and discussion. He later decided that this was a bad idea because the NOM guy did not change any point or his homophobia and Savage was forced to be polite and temperate in his own house. Dan Savage believed that he should have debated the homophobe at a neutral place.

    This raises the question of what is a neutral place.

    So we really do want silence and surrender from our ideological enemiesReport

    • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Dan may be right on a personal level but on a movement/battle/large picture level he’s incorrect. While he personally may have been annoyed by the outcome of his debate with the NOM guy and while the NOM guy himself may have remained obstinate in his position the third party viewers of their argument were swayed and in Dan’s direction. It was through millions of those kinds of interactions in all kinds of iterations that the SSM pendulum got swung even as the most dedicated SSM opponents never wavered in their opposition.Report

    • Avatar David in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Yeah, I guess this is the point – I’m all for winning, but if it had been Dan Savage’s aunt, or his next door neighbor, or someone else with whom he had a vested interest in getting along outside of the issue, I’m betting it would have felt much less difficult to a) have him in personal space, and b) have to be polite. And writ large, when we feel too much like the people with whom we’re arguing/debating are not simultaneously someone who we value for other reasons, whether kinship or shared quarters of some kind – when they are not part of our imagined community – then they are only enemies, and only relevant to the debate and issue, and there’s only winning.

      It is funny for me, as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, but I feel like the lack of sufficient emphasis on hallmarks of inclusive identity is a challenge to American society – an old conservative talking point. Fair enough, most of those potential joint identity markers are problematic (not just Christianity or Anglo-Saxon heritage, even seemingly-easier ideas like American exceptionalism, patriotic flag-waving, or holidays from Thanksgiving to Memorial Day seem to embed some concepts I take issue with) – but there is probably much more to value about them than to be bothered by, and anyway the lack of acceptable replacements is as big of a problem in its own right. We have to agree on something more than least common denominator – negative rights and law – or we’re just customers with Constitutional rights in the same market, not meaningfully co-nationals. And that in turn requires critically mining the American experience for shared values and ideals, and deriving our tolerance of intellectual diversity from some empathy for different ways to get at those values and ideals, even in moments when we disagree. So now I sound like my old conservative history teacher from high school, wishing we had a better sense of the country’s history…Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to David says:

        I feel that what we are trying to do in America is hard, very hard, and you are putting a finger on why it’s so darn hard. We’re trying to create a shared sense of purpose and identity in a group of 350 million people that doesn’t use any of the traditional markers of that identity.

        In the film Gettysburg, the Joshua Chamberlain character says, “America is a country based on an idea.” I see two monuments that we can rally around – the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving. My favorite of these is Thanksgiving, because everyone in America can participate in it with a clear conscience, and understands the value of being thankful, even if they don’t ascribe to the idea of “thanking God”.

        The Thanksgiving story touches everyone in the US, because most of us have people in our family history who got on a boat or a plane and came here. Some were forced, but through some miracle, they decided they liked it here and wanted to stay anyway. And there were those few who are the descendants of the peoples who had been here 10 thousand years. They were part of Thanksgiving, too.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to David says:

        @david, Americans have been fighting over what it means to be American before the ink on the Constitution even dried. Can you be non-White American, can you be non-Protestant and American, can you drink alcohol and be American, and can you be socialist and be American? If we could not agree on what it meant to be American when we were less diverse than I don’t see why we should be able to when we are more diverse.

        This isn’t only an American problem. Any nationality that is completely civil/legal in nature rather than based on the idea of shared on shared ethnicity is going to have these problems. One reason why European countries are having a difficult time incorporating their immigrant populations is that even those that define their identity civilly rather than on blood have thousands of years of culture. Can a tee-tollaing Muslim ever really be part of beer-drinking German culture even if they hold German citizenship? Can a religious Muslim that doesn’t believe in sex before marriage and modest culture really be part of secular, sexually liberated French culture even if they were born and bread in France? We might not like a lot of aspects of American disunity but it makes incorporating diverse and contradictory cultures from around the world a lot easier.Report

  12. Avatar LWA says:

    Echoing Sauls point about forgiveness towards young people, the reason we prize young people as soldiers is that they can reliably be whipped up into a murderous rage with a minimum of effort.

    Having said that, while it’s nice to imagine a world in which people gently and coolly debate issues, we should acknowledge the stakes.
    The things we discuss are literally in many cases a matter of life and death.

    I wonder how many gentle well bred young Ivy Leaguers in 1936 calmly debated Stalinism versus Nazism, and whether there was a moral obligation to intervene, or in 1859 whether the Negro was advanced enough to be deserving of freedom.
    As I’ve noted before, that sort of cool detachment offends me more than hot rage.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to LWA says:

      @lwa “I wonder how many gentle well bred young Ivy Leaguers in 1936 calmly debated Stalinism versus Nazism, and whether there was a moral obligation to intervene”

      Frankly, that sounds like the kind of thing you would want to debate in a cool and clear manner before one commits thousands of people to fight and die for a cause. If we ratchet every discussion up so that no one can come in with a point that works against the prevailing and acceptable narrative, we will find ourselves in a slew of quagmires we later regret.Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        That quote is kind of amazing in that it assumes that some people are born knowing what’s right, we can identify those people and if we just shut up and listened to them, we’d get it right every time without having to think about anything ourselves.Report

  13. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    Take a look at the comments on Roth’s blog post:

    The reason why students and alums are frustrated with the recent argus op-ed piece is not only because the article itself was bad (based on distorted facts), but also, because of the Argus’ inability to censor articles rooted in ignorance and hate.

    And who decides what is “rooted” in ignorance and hate and not in something benign or acceptable? Yeah, I thought so.

    This is a failure of imagination. Campus activists (and faculty enablers) are sufficiently sheltered as to think that there is no problem creating a precedent for censoring unpopular opinions based on the feelings of the loudest people in the room. What’s good for the goose and all.

    Like it or not, a lot of Americans trust the police and think that BLM is a bunch of race-baiters mostly interested in jockeying among themselves for re-tweets. As wrong as they may be, you can’t make a fairly widely-held opinion go away by throwing some student journalists in a struggle session.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LTL FTC says:

      And like it or not. a lot of Americans believe that BLM has a point and the point is very valid.

      The issue with living in a country with 300 million people is that it is not too hard to find a lot of people who believe in a position.Report

  14. Avatar Patrick says:

    I will dialogue with anyone that wants to dialogue.

    But that is a two-way street: they have to want to *dialogue*, not *yell their own viewpoints at the world*.

    I had a ultra-conservative person tell me that he didn’t think we could have a constructive conversation because “my logic was too linear.” Not “boring” mind you.

    I… just don’t have much of a response to that. That’s a critique that is just gobbledigook… it has no literal meaning in regards to trying to have an active dialogue.

    The only way I can interpret that is outside the framework of trying to have a discussion: he finds conversation with me unsettling because I challenge too many of his assumptions (most of which in his case were Cleek’s assumptions, so that might have something to do with it).

    He wants to have a discussion about the legitimacy of his feelings, not a dialogue about the actual problem we were trying to discuss.

    … and I think that’s a common symptom of the current misunderstanding about dialoguing. We’re not really talking about the legitimacy of someone’s *views*, if they hold views we find risible. We’re talking about the legitimacy of our feelings regarding their views, or the legitimacy of their feelings regarding their own views.

    It’s a discussion about why they are bad and should feel bad, not a discussion about what implications of their proposals are wrong and how to fix them.Report

  15. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Ignoring the fact that people have been saying radicals in higher education are going to destroy society since the time of Plato (and more specifically, a movie called PCU came out in the mid-90’s!), the larger issue is that in say, 1965, even campus radicals and the Young Republican’s at least agreed on the basic facts on the ground.

    Now, though, even somebody moderate like @north or @michael-drew, tossing my socialist ass out, is looking at a completely different world than conservatives, and I’m sure a commenter over at the National Review or The Federalist would say the same thing about us.

    I’d also point out that while I have less compassion about say, people protesting the campus Young Republican’s paying for Ann Coulter to speak out of their own pocket, I see no reason why people shouldn’t protest if their campus is going to pay six figures out of the campus funds for somebody they see as a war criminal (Condoleeza!) or for that member, I didn’t mind when some Notre Dame students protested when Obama spoke.

    As for the rest, I see no reason why campus newspapers that get student funding shouldn’t actually reflect the diversity of the campus, and in fact, give a voice to marginalized groups. Especially in response to right wing talking points about BLM.

    As for “uncomfortable statements,” let’s rephrase that for the truth – you want the right to say horrible things about entire classes of people without any consequences (ie. ignoring the systemic racism in America and instead blaming ‘black culture” or saying that “women are just biologically built for STEM to ignore the massive structural sexism in that sector.) It’s the ole’ Bell Curve argument.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      I don’t think anyone here has an issue with pushback. Hell, we all encourage it. It’s this part:

      The petitioners call for the paper to be stripped of its student group funding, and say they will remove copies of the paper from campus until certain demands are met, including:

      – mandatory once-a-semester “social justice/diversity” training for all staff members;
      – space on the front page of each issue “dedicated for marginalized groups/voices”
      – monthly reports on the paper’s funding and leadership structure.”

      That isn’t pushback, that’s killing the conversation by striking at the forum. That’s a bridge too far.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Their tuition money is going to help pay for that newspaper, so they have a right to question if it’s being run correctly.

        I mean, we’ve all gone through diversity training in RL. I mean, it’s a little silly, but not exactly a chilling of speech.

        As for marginalized voices having space, again, this isn’t a conservative alternative being published by the campus Young Republican’s or off campus – it’s school money going in, and as a result, there should be a diverse selection of voices inside that paper.

        That last bit, again, I don’t see the issue. I mean, the leadership structure and the funding of the newspaper should be open.

        Looking up on the story, the only problem I can really find is the idea that activists will steal the paper and make it so that nobody can read it, bu that’s a fine American tradition going back to the days of Jefferson and Adams of political opponents going after each other’s press. Not the best thing in the world, and I wouldn’t agree with it, but it’s not like its a new thing.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          From here:

          The Argus is completely, and importantly, independent from the University—we receive no University funding, and Argus workers do not receive academic credit.

          So that kills point 1 & 3 right there. Point 2 assumes there is no diversity training happening at all anywhere in the lives of the employees. If Wesleyan requires students to undergo diversity training (probably does in some fashion, I had to back in the late 90’s at Madison; but I didn’t find anything with a cursory search). So absent some indication that no diversity training is happening, additional diversity training just for the newspaper staff (who are all students) seems at best a waste of time & resources, and at worst it’s just penalizing them for an offensive op-ed.

          Finally, regarding leadership, it’s all right here, so I’m not sure what more could be had? Records of meeting minutes, all memos public?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            If they’re getting no funding directly from the University, then OK. I would’ve thought the Reason article I found would’ve pointed out as a point in their favor, so I assumed it must’ve been school supported. I do see something here about the Student Budget Committee funding the paper, so maybe it’s indirectly funded by that way?Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              According to the first link, the did up until 2013, then they stopped allocating budget to the paper.

              I suppose they could try to re-exert some control by offering to send funding, but given the current climate, that might now go over well.

              And just a reminder for those thinking about the Southworth case – that only applies to public universities.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                That doesn’t quite say what you think it says. That says that, *in 2013*, the newspaper said it wan’t getting *student workers* funded for the first time ever. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t had that fixed since then, nor does it mean that *other* parts of the paper aren’t being funded by the school.

                And, as Jesse said, not only would the Reason article point that out, but the *college president himself* would have mentioned ‘Uh, guy, we literally can’t do anything about the newspaper and what it prints’.

                The article specifically says the student council is considering the petition, which is, of course, impossible if the student council does not give them any funds.

                This entire thing can’t possible make any sense if what you are supposing is true. The entire *premise* is removing funds to the newspaper. Someone, *somewhere*, would have pointed out if these funds do not exist.

                Also, I think you’re making a assumption that the newspaper is some legally separate entity and thus the only way it can be influenced is via grants to it. The newspaper…almost certainly is not a legally distinct entity, but something under the actual corporate umbrella of the school, even if the school promises editorial freedom.Report

    • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      “Giv[ing] a voice to marginalized groups” is a stalking horse.

      The larger implication (as given away by the rest of the demands) is that marginalized groups can’t have a voice unless everybody else stays silent or limits themselves to repeating the approved shibboleths.Report

  16. Avatar Chris says:

    Without more context, it’s difficult to judge the spirit of the petition against the Argus, though the content is problematic, at least in this part:

    mandatory once-a-semester “social justice/diversity” training for all staff members

    Diversity training is a thing, though from what I can tell not a particularly effective one, but what the hell is “social justice” training? They gonna learn about Aquinas?

    If the paper has a history of excluding non-white people from its columns, that’s a pretty big problem. If it doesn’t have such a history, then the proper response to the Op Ed is to write a bunch of responses and send them to the paper.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Chris says:

      From what I know of HR, if it wasn’t cost effective they wouldn’t make you do it.

      Admittedly, I’m pretty sure it’s cost effective in the sense that if an employee is a racist or sexist idiot and sticks his/her foot into it up to the ankle, when fired the employer can point to said training and say “We told them not to do this, we’re not liable AND cause for termination”.

      And, hand to God here, the number of freakin’ idiots in the average workplace….and it’s WORSE with small companies. Big companies bring the hammer down on idiots sexually harassing coworkers or casually dropping racial slurs into conversations. Small companies can turn incredibly toxic on the subject.Report

  17. Avatar Chris says:

    I wonder, do schools still have “resident” street preachers like they always used to? I remember hanging out at the “Free Speech” (just outside the Student Center) during lunch, listening to the preacher (“Preacher Bob,” students had affectionately dubbed him), but even better, the students’ responses/heckling of the preacher.

    “And God says of fornicating… you know what fornicating is?”

    “It’s fucking!”

    “Fornicating is…”

    UT – Austin has never really had a street preacher that I was aware of. In fact, Austin seems to be pretty devoid of street preaching almost entirely, save the occasional clearly mentally ill person telling us all we’re going to hell. Back home, and in Lexington, KY, there were street preachers all over. Maybe it’s a Southern thing.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chris says:

      We had street preachers, but the street characters were so much better (Scanner Dan, Piccolo guy, etc.).Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Chris says:

      Our preachers were all of the communist-cult variety. We have members of the Provisional Communist Party about (a real crank group worth reading up on).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

      We had Brother Jed. The little local access cable channel used to interview him all the time.

      “Brother Jed, what did Jesus think of long hair?” (We were in the last gasp of long hair being a thing, you see) and Brother Jed would talk for five minutes.

      “Brother Jed, what did Jesus think of premarital sex?” and Brother Jed would talk for five minutes.

      That’s how the whole interview went. Made me kinda feel bad for Brother Jed for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on.Report

      • Avatar gingergene in reply to Jaybird says:

        Depending on the tone and reaction to the Brother Jed’s responses (does the host seem genuinely interested in the answers, or is he mugging for the camera?) it could be condescending, like those youtube videos where they give first graders a rotary phone and we laugh at their ignorant puzzlement. The Daily Show uses this technique to great affect, where the interviewer nods along as the interviewee rambles on and on and on…Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to gingergene says:

          Yeah, it was mugging. The host was one of the college students. This was around 1992 and atheism was slowly but surely becoming mainstream.

          There wasn’t really any reaction, per se. The host would just ask a question, then let Brother Jed ramble.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

      You make me wonder if UCSB’s Campus Crusade for Christ changed its name after 9/11. My guess is “no,” but I’m not sure. the CCC’ers didn’t like it much when other preachers came around and blasted out a more confrontational, inflexibly-toned version of Christianity: they liked being the good-looking, friendly college kids next door, finding that attracted more members (surprise!) than telling everyone else that they weren’t part of The Elect and were Taking Satan’s Side in the pre-Armageddon enlistments then-currently underway.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I remember several waves of witnessing groups seemingly timed not to overlap much. There were the beginning-of-the-semester little green New Testament folks, there were the Mormons, there were the Evangelicals who stood on the routes between dorms/parking lots and classroom buildings and tried to grab students headed away from the classroom buildings and witness them, and there were of course the student Christian groups, who had tables and booths and fun social events. I imagine every single one of those groups was better at attracting followers than the street preachers, which is part of what makes street preaching so funny. It’s something a street preacher does entirely for him or herself.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Burt Likko says:

        No they didn’t. I specifically remember some of my grad-school friends suggesting we start a Campus Jihad for Allah.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

      Vassar never had one but there is a guy at Cal who has been there for decades.Report

    • Avatar kenB in reply to Chris says:

      There was someone like that at my college in the mid-80s, though I’m not sure he was actually ordained in any particular church. This was in northern California, so the audience was really not receptive — the reactions ranged from hostility to ridicule to a (futile) attempt at rational engagement. I can’t imagine he won many converts, but he was impressively unflappable.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to kenB says:

        So it was a thing outside of the South (with Jay, Burt, and you chiming in from extra-Southern places), but is it still a thing anywhere?

        We need young people here!Report

        • Avatar kenB in reply to Chris says:

          I’ll ask my kids…Report

        • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Chris says:

          We had people come down a couple times a year in Colorado Springs when I was an undergrad, and, as Saul says, Cal definitely still gets some. As an undergrad, a DVD about the end times that one of the preachers had been handing out was favored viewing among the stoned set for a couple of months.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

          I went to a Jesuit school so we didn’t need street preachers, I guess…Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

            Pretty sure all of the street preachers are Protestant.

            Though there’s a Catholic dude here, been here for years in fact, who rides the bus and if I suffer the misfortune of sitting near him, will ask me if I’m Catholic. I made the mistake, once when I was riding with my son who was at the time maybe 7 or 8, that I had been raised Catholic but left the Church and was now an atheist. He then spent several minutes telling me how horrible it was that I had doomed my child to be raised outside of the One True Church, basically accusing me of child abuse.

            He also carries a suitcase everywhere, and for the last few years has taped a rather graphic anti-abortion photo to it. Fun guy.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

              I was going to say… “Preacher” is a relatively unfamiliar term for me, growing up Catholic in the northeast. I suppose the Black population of my home town probably skewed various Protestant denominations, but we never really talked religion much. And a Jesuit school in Boston is probably not rife with preachers.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

          A “god hates fags” type preacherman was a perennial fixture at CU-Boulder for all the years I was there. He’d spend the better part of the day for 3-4 weeks a year outside the student union doing, well, his thing. Militant atheists and others would gather round and antagonize him, challenge him, sometimes spit on him. It was ugly. But he wasn’t phased. He’d take a short break and be right back at it.

          And as I think back on it, we had a bunch of Westboro types who’d stand on corners of heavily traveled streets with “god hates fags” signs. And oddly, Boulder, for all it’s famed den-of-iniquity liberalism, still doesn’t have a gay bar, as far as I’m aware.Report

  18. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Well, that seems to be what we are going for here. No engagement. Just let one person yell and then tell anyone who disagrees to take it elsewhere.Report

  19. Avatar DavidTC says:

    I see no one has addressed the strangely circular discussion here.

    Yes, students are apparently ‘wrong’ to demand that the newspaper discuss things in a certain way…but, uh, the newspaper editorial was also suggesting that BLM had to discuss things in a certain way.

    So, uh, sorta sucks to have your own medicine thrown back at you. I’m actually sorta glad that, after all sorts of ‘tone policing’ that always happens against the left, we’re getting a bit of it back against the right. Yes, we’d be better with *none* of it, but people can’t stand there and say ‘BLM should only make their points a specific way’ and then whine when people complain about how *they* made their points.

    That said, uh, a lot of people focused on the fact the students were making demands, and didn’t seem to notice the students demands are fairly reasonable.

    Reports on the paper’s funding and leadership structure isn’t even a *political* demand of any sort, and sorta makes me think that there’s something *else* wrong at the paper which the students are complaining about. Like perhaps the newspaper is so opaque and incestuous, operated by such a small group of students, that most students feel they have no control over it at all. (And, this is something that *they* are paying for.)

    A mandatory once-a-semester diversity training session for all staff members is, uh, the sort of thing that happens in corporations all the time, and seems entirely reasonable.

    And space on the front page for marginalized groups/voices is, again, exactly the sort of thing college newspapers do all the time.

    Frankly, the *implied* demand that ‘the newspaper not run more editorials like this’ is much more troubling than the *explicit* demands.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:


      See my discussion above with Jessie regarding paper funding.

      You should also look at the paper & decide first if the paper is not already granting marginalized voices a forum (they claim to welcome & publish guest opinions from any student).Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        See my comment up there about funding, but, I’m pretty sure they have to be getting college funding, or *someone* would have pointed that out already.

        You should also look at the paper & decide first if the paper is not already granting marginalized voices a forum (they claim to welcome & publish guest opinions from any student).

        Well, yes, they claim that…and some percentage of students appear to think otherwise, not only to the extent of demanding a space for that, but also demanding information about the leadership, which could mean they want to know ‘Who is deciding that our editorials should not be printed?’

        It’s not really within *any* of our powers to know if marginalized voices are given a forum there. We’re not at Wesleyan, we have no idea what voices are there, and we don’t read the paper, so we don’t know if they show up. Clearly, *some* students think they aren’t well-represented at the newspaper.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to DavidTC says:

      Is there not a difference between making a public criticism, and making a public call for a mass boycott?

      I don’t feel like I have a pony in this race (and know jack squat about it anyway), but the two don’t feel the same to me.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Is there not a difference between making a public criticism, and making a public call for a mass boycott?

        Erm, howso?

        I mean, there clearly is a difference in that they are different actions, but one of them does not appear to be less *legitimate* than the others.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to DavidTC says:

          I dunno.

          If someone at my workplace is doing something I think is less than perfect and I criticize him or her and try to convince her to do it my way, is that really no different from me going to my boss and demanding he or she be fired?

          “I strongly disagree with you” and “you must not be allowed to speak” do not seem that similar to me.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            If someone at my workplace is doing something I think is less than perfect and I criticize him or her and try to convince her to do it my way, is that really no different from me going to my boss and demanding he or she be fired?

            If a guy cuts in front of me in line, is insulting his mother really much different than shooting him in the leg?

            If a guy makes random comparisons that don’t appear to be relevant at all, is responding in a satirical manner any different than committing genocide?

            What, exactly, is the point you’re trying to make?

            Someone *boycotting* something is not the same as demanding someone get fired. (Not that I’m entirely certain we should treat asking for someone to be fired as a horrible thing.) Someone boycotting someone is also not the same as complaining about something.

            “I strongly disagree with you” and “you must not be allowed to speak” do not seem that similar to me.

            No one has said anyone is not allowed to speak. Some people have said that if the newspaper does not make specific changes (Which does not include demanding a certain person is not allowed to speak, but merely that others are *also* allowed to speak), they will try to get the body that represents *them* and is in charge of distributing *their* money from giving that newspaper money.

            And, again, I did not use the word *similar*. No one gives a damn if they are ‘similar’ in whatever sense you’re trying to make them not similar.

            I said they are both *entirely acceptable behaviors*…and I pointed out that the latter is criticizing the manner of speech of the first, which itself was trying to ‘tone police’ BLM, so it’s sorta ironic he had people responding the way they did. To be clear here, the irony is that the *complaint* is sorta the same, not that the *demand* is the same…because it’s not.

            The students, in my opinion, have a much more rational demand they want, mainly because they have specific complaints they want addressed, whereas his demand boils down to ‘I don’t like BLM because some of them are rude toward police. (So I hear from conservative media.) If they’d stop being rude we could sit down to a nice rational conversations about how they keep getting murdered by police, but until then, I guess the killings will continue until the tone improves, and it’s their own damn fault.’Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

              Cutting the funding of the paper may not be silencing the speaker in the absolute sense, but it gets awful close to it.

              Ultimately this all boils down to a heckler’s veto. The petitioners (which represent a number that is less than 5% of the student body; especially since some of the signatories are faculty/staff) are attempting to enforce their dogma by:

              1) Boycott – which is permissible & acceptable

              2) Confiscating/destroying copies of the paper – completely unacceptable, some kids tried this crap when I was an undergrad & the police got involved

              3) Hit the funding – which is permissible , but I find unacceptable in this instance (because of the nature of the relationship of the paper to the university student body, etc.)

              4) create work study/course credit positions – not within the paper’s power, which tells me the petitioners have not done their homework or they are trying to establish a bargaining position dishonestly

              5) monthly report on how it’s spending money/assigning leaders – is this information obscured somehow, & to what end, other than creating punitive busy work for publishing something offensive? (hint demands for punitive actions are unacceptable)

              6) Diversity training per-semester? As I asked above, is this not already a requirement? If not, how does requiring everyone do it once a semester help, aside from being somewhat punitive? I can see offering it every semester & requiring it once a year (I had yearly training like that when I worked at Boeing – although it was mostly about the state of the law & company policy, not about trying to present a dogma, which is what I suspect the petitioners want).

              7) active recruitment and advertisement – huh?

              8) open space on the front page in the publication dedicated to marginalized groups/voices – umm, is this a newspaper or a social services pamphlet?

              All of this strikes me as demands for the paper to be something that this small minority wants, rather than a paper for all (which includes diverse viewpoints that may be disagreeable – suck it up, Buttercup), which makes me wonder, why don’t they start their own? (That is a rhetorical – I’m not actually looking for an answer). Hell, did they even write a rebuttal and present it to the editorial board for publication? If so, was it turned down for subject matter?

              As to the paper’s diversity, see here & here. Seems they are already aware & making an effort, which makes all of this seem like even more of a tantrum (“But I want it now!”)

              As to the article that caused all of this, I am at a loss as to what the issue is, and I haven’t seen anything that articulates what the problem was beyond a vague “he said unkind things about BLM”. To be honest, he didn’t even say anything terribly wrong. I think he’s overly critical about the BLM movement & their ability to influence or control radical members. Even the messages he was critical about (let pigs fry, etc.) are less threats than open expressions of anger, and thus something that should be allowed to a degree (better to vent with words than violence).

              All that said, this still returns to these are college kids, so while I think they are being silly & throwing an existential temper tantrum, they are still kids. It’s not an issue unless the adults fail to be adults and give in to the tantrum.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                2) Confiscating/destroying copies of the paper – completely unacceptable, some kids tried this crap when I was an undergrad & the police got involved

                …it’s a free paper. Taking unwanted copies of it to throw away is somewhat jackass behavior, but it’s entirely legal.

                3) Hit the funding – which is permissible , but I find unacceptable in this instance (because of the nature of the relationship of the paper to the university student body, etc.)

                Okay, I have no idea what *you* think the funding of this paper is, but they are asking the student government to no longer subside it with *their* activity fees.

                I am completely baffled as to you thinking this is unacceptable.

                4) create work study/course credit positions – not within the paper’s power, which tells me the petitioners have not done their homework or they are trying to establish a bargaining position dishonestly

                Uh, you don’t seem to understand what work study positions are. They are, in fact, created by employers. (How would they be created by universities when most of them *aren’t at universities*?)

                The university, admittedly, has to okay such things, but that’s not usually a very stringent process.

                That said, the Argus *can’t* commit to creating course credit positions…but, then again, we don’t now if that’s what’s actually demanded, or just something that was summarized poorly, or maybe the universe has, and has always, authorized such thing if the paper does it…and the paper stopped.

                5) monthly report on how it’s spending money/assigning leaders – is this information obscured somehow, & to what end, other than creating punitive busy work for publishing something offensive? (hint demands for punitive actions are unacceptable)

                Uh, what? Seriously, does it not strike you as completely surreal to be saying ‘Isn’t all this information publicly available?’ when we’ve *literally* been trying to find, for example, how much the newspaper is funded by the students? Perhaps the students *also* are unable to figure that out? Jeez.

                As I said, it’s their damn money. If they want to make the paper account for the spending, they should go ahead.

                6) Diversity training per-semester? As I asked above, is this not already a requirement? If not, how does requiring everyone do it once a semester help, aside from being somewhat punitive? I can see offering it every semester & requiring it once a year (I had yearly training like that when I worked at Boeing – although it was mostly about the state of the law & company policy, not about trying to present a dogma, which is what I suspect the petitioners want).

                First, it is entirely likely that ‘diversity training’ is not, in fact, a requirement at that college. In fact, colleges don’t generally have ‘training’ of any sort. And assuming there is some sort of campus session about diversity, that’s not actually the same thing as an *employment*-based training system, especially not at a paper.

                Second…uh, so you’d be *completely* fine with mandatory once a year stuff, but not twice a year? Really? That’s your issue? You don’t know how *long* these things would be, but you know once a year is exactly the right amount.

                Do you even know the *turnover* at the paper? For all we know, half the staff changes every semester.

                7) active recruitment and advertisement – huh?

                As I suspected…the newspaper and how it operates seems to be totally opaque to a bunch of students, and they’re demanding that stop if the newspaper wants to continue to get their money.

                8) open space on the front page in the publication dedicated to marginalized groups/voices – umm, is this a newspaper or a social services pamphlet?

                It’s a *college* newspaper, which, yes, makes it pretty much half a social services pamphlet…and the other half is an activities guide. That’s what college newspaper *are*.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to DavidTC says:

                “As I said, it’s their damn money. If they want to make the paper account for the spending, they should go ahead.”

                Actually, that’s the university’s role since they are the ones giving the paper the funding. Christ, it’s not hard to find out where you student fees go. The uni knows….they hand out the money.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Damon says:

                A lot of people seem to be making assumptions that seem quite reasonable to them, but literally cannot be true in the context of the story, unless the protesters are insane and *no one has bothered to point this out*.

                The protesters are demanding the student government cut off funding to the newspaper. This rather implies it is the *student government* that is funding the newspaper, or at least funding it to some extent. (And, in fact, this is *normally* how student fees work, so I don’t know why you think the college is in charge of them. I mean, yes, it’s the college that distributes all funds, but it’s the student government that decides where student fees go.)

                Perhaps people here should stop raising the possibility that the student’s demands are impossible until someone involved in this (The people who actually know these facts) at least *puts forward* that idea? Until someone says, *at minimum*, ‘Wait, that demand might not be possible.’.

                No one…appears to have said that. No one.

                Until someone says that (And there are plenty of people with an incentive to point that out.), perhaps we should stop making random guesses that these claims are impossible?Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to DavidTC says:

                It wasn’t the custom of the student gov’t to fund campus newspapers back when I went to college. Perhaps things have changed. Either way, the student gov’t is a quasi public institution. I’m sure there are records of funding.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

                On mobile device, so this will be brief…

                I meant to mention that I tried to find the relevant information regarding funding, etc. But the student government page is down.

                Since a lot of our points hinge on the reality instead of our differing ideas of what is what, I suggest we table this until we can get more information.Report

  20. Avatar Lenoxus says:

    It’s good to have something like the free-expression norm as a baseline in our society. It’s just that… I dunno…

    As long as we can have such a thing, why not some totally different set of norms?

    For example, a baseline pacifist norm against all use of violence. Sure, there are seemingly obvious exceptions like self-defense against someone else’s violence. But the idea is that it’s a fundamentally unquestioned norm, so violence is never initiated in the first place. Arguably, insisting that pacifism fails for this reason is like insisting that democracy (another baseline norm) is ipso facto wrong because of tyranny of the majority or the potential for an elected dictator. The fact of the norm has at least some power in letting it continue to survive.

    (“See, a republic would be great in principle, but in practice you need to use tyranny to prevent even worse tyranny. Also, you have to stamp down on freedom to assemble and freedom of religion, or else people could start a hugely popular religion that is incompatible with democracy. ” Note that I’ve now stepped into arguments that people make here in the real world.)

    I can think of plenty of other examples from all over the political spectrum. A pro-capitalist norm against interference with the free market. (Currently exists only in the sense that Communism is rightly considered off-limits.) A sobriety norm thay says no one should use any kind of drug, ever. A monotheist norm, atheist norm, polytheist norm…

    How about a civil-rights norm that would render opposition to same-sex marriage unquestionable? Okay, arguably we’re well on our way there. But what I’m getting at is something I’d discussed a while ago in these parts, my frustration with the line of argument that says “When I oppose marriage rights I’m just taking part in the great conversation, but when you label me a bigot you are violating sacred norms of freedom and next thing you know it’s 1984.” My point isn’t just the hyperbole, but the hypocrisy. Or perhaps I’m the hypocrite? I’m wrestling with these questions anxiously; I’m not fully settled.

    So why did we settle on our particular political-norm combination? And so long as we prioritize real conversation above all else — which I nearly do! — how do we deal with the possible drawbacks, the “tyranny of majority speech” problem? On the one hand, some claim boycotts are bad, illiberal, suppressive, regardless of their composition as the actions of individuas. On the other, what if an inevitable result of free-speech platforms happens a constant tirade of “but what about black-on-black crime, the problem is culture” stuff? Is thatnever oppressive, by definition?

    I’m talking from within modern liberal/SJW assumptions but I honestly don’t have an answer to this stuff. It makes me sick to think I could be on the “wrong side of history” because of my tribe’s apparent hostility to a free-speech norm. Yet I also recognize that such a norm probably never existed in the first place. Comparisons have been made between SJWs and the Red Scare (horseshoe-theory stuff), and I see the resemblance, but I also say, when hasn’t that been the case? When and where could you truly “get away with” saying absolutely anything? I don’t mean that rheoritcally because if there was such a time and place, maybe we should consider emulating it.

    My final thought is this: the ultimate suppression of an idea is to make it beyond the pale. Is that always bad? We aren’t even equipped to make that call because of the definition of “beyond the pale”. Few take seriously some modern-day advocate for eugenics or communism or repealing women’s suffrage. Those ideas were murdered, passionately. If conservatives in the 70s had said mixed-race marriage would inevitably lead to gay marriage, well, they can’t exactly say “I told you so” today, can they? And I’m glad about that. But still a little lost.Report