Thoughts on Platforming

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393 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Part of the problem is that bad people tend to congregate together and platform each other in areas that we don’t control. Next thing you know, you’re saying something like Pauline Kael:

    “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”

    You wake up and, next thing you know, Trump is president. How many of us know someone who voted for Trump? I mean, like, In Real Life?

    How many of us have shared a meal with someone who voted for Trump?

    Are people who don’t agree with us outside of our ken? That would be bad. Even if we know that they’re the problem and not us, that still creates a problem on our part even though we’re the good ones.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

      But this is the part of the article that is undefined: Where and When? Always and Everywhere is the implication… and that’s clearly wrong.

      The thing is, prudentially, we ought to be able to distinguish where and when platforms may be available and when they are not. And, my counter-intuitive thought for the day is that Universities, properly understood and properly oriented ought to be systems of inquiry and not market-places of ideas. Or at least Private Universities.

      There’s a problem with all things Public… universities, fora, market spaces, etc… in that to the extent that they are Public, we have constituted ourselves around a certain truce on metaphysics that was practiced as a preference of a shared metaphysics, but was understood as neutral to all metaphysics. It turns out we aren’t that neutral… but we discover that in the break down of the shared metaphysics. So, shit… we’re experiencing that as a zero sum game.

      But this comes back to the Divorce/War theory… maybe if we don’t wan’t war, and can’t quite divorce, then a separation/fences theory might work.

      I have no problem if Harvard (where) wants to de-platform Ideology X from Discussion Y (when) on account of Harvard being a private university. In my circles “Harvard” already has Zero cache… it has negative cache in the sense that If you tell us that Person A is a Harvard grad, we’ll recognize the many deficiencies in that person’s education and start from there. We’re neither impressed nor afeared.

      What I think folks sometimes forget with regards Harvard (as a stand-in for the Ivies, and all their ilk)… and why some people are concerned and upset about Harvard is that they were once shared assets. We’re experiencing some of the pains of divorce… one side (my side) has “lost” Harvard; in some circles, that stings and some want it back. Plus there are still assumptions that Harvard validates certain things – things it doesn’t really validate anymore… and that’s the reverse sting of losing Harvard as some sort of Arbiter.

      So let Harvard and all Universities pursue a unified synthesis (the point of a university) … but let us recognize that not all Universities will pursue the same synthesis… and there will be multiple platforms and conflicts between and among platforms. If there’s a marketplace of ideas, it’s at the platform level… we have to allow for multiple platforms, not force all platforms to hew to one idea.

      So, if you can’t answer the Where/When question about de-platforming, you are assuming a universalism that won’t lead to de-escalation, but assuredly war.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Well said!Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I think this sounds good but in practice just isn’t right. The only way to prevent the hypothetical ‘war’ is through give and take, mutual understanding and a certain appreciation of the universality of the human condition, as experienced by individuals.

        That isn’t possible through segregation of public spaces or even private spaces of public accommodation.

        Where you see a fence, too many people will see a battlement, with faceless, and no doubt evil people on the other side.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

          I’m not sure that framing this as “segregation” and “public accommodation” is appropriate. After all, the purpose of building and maintaining multiple platforms is to engage, invite and participate in the public sphere. If we switch from Harvard and instead look at, say, St. John’s College, all are welcome to join their project of inquiry… the “fence” isn’t to keep people out, it is to defend the integrity of the platform. It is certainly possible to think St. John’s has a terrible program, that it teaches its texts all wrong, and even that the texts themselves are wrong. But, attempting to de-platform St. John’s from outside St. Johns is the path down which we are heading, and defending platforms from the One True Orthodoxy is foundational to this particular political experiment.

          What we’re suggesting is that your ability to de-platform *my* platform is inappropriate. If your platform is not interested in engaging some arguments for reasons specific to your systemic inquiry, that’s fine… there are many good reasons for that.

          But what I’m seeing is the “we’re watching what *you* are doing” kind of threats which isn’t any sort of rational inquiry, purely power based threats platform to platform.

          Regarding Public institutions, if we can’t agree on an American Ideology, then it would be prudent to de-escalate to a “Mere Ideology” of the lowest common point of agreement. But on this, I’m less sanguine… so I expect we’ll see increasing defections from certain fields (an understated issue impacting Liberal Arts) and certain paths… and possibly different public “ideologies” influenced at the state level and “enforced” in new hiring policies. The thing I learned beyond the tiniest doubt is that in Academia, personnel *is* policy.

          Perhaps its a little odd to hear a Catholic defending multiple systems of inquiry; but that’s the price of admission to this Political project… I’m perfectly happy to say that I think the Political Project is failing, and its failing in just this particular way… but using terms like segregation and public accommodation in this context strike me as mis-diagnosing the failure mode. I appreciate your comments and your critique of mine, hopefully this helps redirect.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

            I’ve sat and pondered your response. My initial framing was clumsy and failed to make my own point.

            I see the kind of marketplace of platforms idea as good in theory but bad in practice. Way (way) down below there are references to places like Liberty University, and the poor regard it has when compared to traditional universities. There’s a reason for that, and the reason is that the closure at places like Liberty to certain types of inquiry renders it materially unable to fulfill the mission of the university (unencumbered learning).

            You might respond that Liberty has a different mission, and people are free to chose another platform. My, perhaps overly emotional, concern is that such an approach gives the game away to the post modernists and deconstructionists. It’s to concede that nothing has meaning beyond what people feel it does, which is directly in conflict with our own advances as a civilization and as a species.

            I think that the mission of the university is inherently a liberal one, at least in the classical sense. The larger system can therefore survive some conservative defection from it in a way it can’t survive liberal defection, which is realistically what we’re talking about.

            My vision of a multi-platform world of higher education resembles less a marketplace and more an echo-chamber. Chose your own indoctrination instead of chose your own adventure. The longer term ramifications of that are among the factors that will contribute to failure of the Political Project.

            Again, maybe this is me being emotional, but I don’t think the Political Project has to fail, and can still be salvaged if enough people want it to be. Part of saving it is resisting the temptation of the marketplace of platforms, and fighting for the ideas that if nothing else at least have a track record of improving the human condition.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

              The problem with a marketplace is that it rewards people good at selling more than it rewards people with quality products.

              There are, of course, many solutions to this, but limiting the number of products to sell is a sucker game, because you’ve still got a marketplace — it’s just a pre-marketplace, the marketplace where your product has to be “purchased” by the gatekeepers of the big marketplace.

              Better, instead, to teach everyone how to be a better seller, and how to recognize when someone is peddling bullshit.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

                But where does that teaching happen? I would say it needs to be done somewhere that isn’t subject to the bad incentives of the market.

                This was once and I think in many places still is the domain and the mission of public institutions. Turning those institutions into just another platform is a mistake, as is believing any kind of marketplace would produce institutions of that quality and character. Maybe in the past the culture allowed for that but I don’t think it does now.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Doesn’t this multi-platform approach to higher education depend on some sort of truth in business? If Harvard is actually serving function B, while holding itself out as serving function A, it is a sort of misrepresentation on one hand, but on the other hand, it undercuts the notion of separate functions.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to PD Shaw says:

          Certainly…In some ways this is the surprise reality that folks are beginning to recognize in some (many) of the private institutions we thought were shared institutions. And that’s partly the problem, there’s no earthly argument to make that Harvard ought to serve Function A when it is busy serving Function B. The original Function A was Protestant Theological Seminary… is Harvard misrepresenting their function or have we caught up to the fact that Harvard isn’t a Protestant Theological Seminary?

          What is Harvard and what is Harvard’s mission is a right and proper discussion for Harvard. The way in which they answer those questions will determine whether I encourage folks to attend.

          More recently, and by way of full disclosure, I was a witness (participant? bystander?) to just this debate at the University of Notre Dame and my takeaway (in defeat) wasn’t that the debate was had, but that the debate was mostly suppressed; and that suppressing the debate as a sort of passive aggressive de-platforming.

          The thing is, all universities pursue missions… whether they articulate them or are articulated by them… so yes, I’m very much in favor of being explicit about the system of inquiry a University pursues.Report

          • I agree with most of this. I’m less concerned about deplatforming at private schools that are some degree clear about it (whether BYU or Antioch). Public universities… well that’s extremely tricky to say the least. Harvard is also tricky, but for different reasons (I get what you say above about the divorce, but I’m not quite where you are on that… yet).Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

              I don’t see the reason that Harvard is tricky.

              Public institutions is very tricky, tricky enough that I don’t know whether we’ll actually be able to sustain policies where student groups (at least) get to invite speakers from off campus.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to pillsy says:

                Harvard is tricky because, while it’s a private institution it’s an extremely important one, so I have a much stronger vested interest in what they do than I do Oberlin.

                So even if there is (or shouldn’t be) a legal question, if they’re aggressively deplatforming, I can’t shrug it off.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Marchmaine says:

        If someone wants to “de-platform” someone, I actually don’t have a problem with that.

        My problem is when someone tells me this isn’t their choice, but is in fact about Objective Reasons Of Quality, or Out Of Concern For Others, or Because The Matter Is Settled. Like, it’s not me doing this, you can’t say that I’ve got any responsibility for this, it’s just…there’s this outside factor that’s leading to this outcome. Go talk to them if you’re so upset.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    The Death Laser will never be used against the Good Guys! For one thing, there’s a sticker right above the trigger that says “NOT FOR USE ON GOOD GUYS, WE MEAN IT”. And besides that, it’s obvious that it only gets used on Bad Guys, so if you got zapped by the laser, well, I guess you were a Bad Guy all along and you were just pretending.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      The Death Laser may well be used on us Good Guys.

      The Death Laser is out there in our freedom of speech, our freedom of association, and our freedom to use our property [1] and time as we choose.

      Now none of these freedoms are all-encompassing, and some our more encompassing than others. But they’re more than enough to provide for at least 80% of what people call “de-platforming”. Pretty much everything short of actual or threatened violence, or protest so disruptive someone can’t speak at all, will fly.

      So the Death Laser is out there. We can’t stop anybody from using it.

      Why not use it ourselves?

      [1] It’s an interesting side question whether the post-Citizens United view sees a clear distinction between speech and property rights, and for that matter whether the liberal tradition really ever has.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

        You’ve, ah, committed yourself so hard to being That Guy Who Says Well Actually that you’ve totally missed the point.

        The Death Laser is not “freedom”, bro, the Death Laser is the denial of freedom in the name of security. Because even if you’re at the controls of the Death Laser for a bit, you won’t be there forever, and you’ll find that there’s always a bigger guy who can slap your hands away and use it on people you didn’t intend it to be used on.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I absolutely disagree. Mr Maeli describes platforming thusly:

          To save us all further confusion, I’ll define platforming as an institution/organization/individual with a sizable influence/audience giving an individual access to their audience for the purpose of discussion, debate, entertainment, etc. The platformer does not need to agree with the individual. The environment, and the relationship between both parties, however, must be civil.

          Private institutions[1], organizations, and individuals all have freedoms. Those freedoms include, for instance, not sitting on a panel with someone they dislike (for really any reason), not attending a conference, not inviting an attendee to speak, dis-inviting an attendee from speaking, writing an angry letter saying an attendee should be dis-invited, tossing submitted articles in the trash[2], and even retracting already published articles.

          They have the freedom to do all these things for good reasons.

          They have the freedom to do these things for bad reasons.

          [1] Government institutions are another can of worms, but are much more limited in what they can do, and appropriately so.

          [2] Whether a proposed wedding cake is enough like a submitted article for similar considerations to apply is an open question. I don’t have strong beliefs about the question one way or the other. I’d guess SCOTUS will rule in favor of the bakers, though.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Must a discussion of racism, white supremacy, or the alt-right necessitate the presence of racists, white supremacist, or alt-righter?

    This will echo Jaybird up above a bit, but yes. If we are talking about racists, and racists are not part of the discussion in some meaningful way, then we might as well be talking about Unicorns or Dragons. If you do not allow the unsavory to step into the light, then you can not know what you are working against.

    And honestly, the rest of your points follow from this first question, so the whole post kinda falls apart unless you accept that we should not allow such people to have some kind of platform.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      So if we are hosting a discussion of child trafficking and molestation, should we include a representative from NAMBLA?

      Whoa, that’s a pretty trollish comment, Chip. Terribly exaggerated and hyperbolic.

      Except…Lets consider for a moment what that means.

      A guy who posts meme (just for the luls, y’know) about gassing children and incinerating them?
      He should be given a polite hearing and engaged on the battlefield of ideas.

      His companion who suggested fondling the children before gassing them?
      Out of bounds, the subject cannot even be spoken and frankly, he should not be allowed to live anywhere near families.

      It says a lot, that racism and genocide are seen as nonthreatening, abstract things that have no actual menace, while child molestation holds a powerful and terrifying threat to everyone.

      I think its because for people like Us, that is, white Christian middle class folks, Nazism and white supremacy don’t hold much menace. None of us are terrified of it, none of us feel like it holds a personal and imminent danger.
      But we are frightened of the stranger at the mall.

      Maybe we should consider the perspective of people who do see the white supremacy as a real viable threat, and who see a Pepe meme about pushing George Soros into an oven not as something to be politely debated, but as a terrifying real menace.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        “if we are hosting a discussion of child trafficking and molestation, should we include a representative from NAMBLA?”

        Why not?

        If the whole idea is as prima facie ridiculous as you suggest then it shouldn’t be that hard to talk it into the dirt.

        Of course, that assumes that you aren’t an idiot who depends on everyone agreeing with you to win a discussion.

        Which is where a lot of this “de-platforming” thing comes from. It’s not that debating someone is bad in itself, it’s that lots of people are really shit at debate when the audience isn’t already on their side.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Yes, that’s a very good point.
          That an idea, lets say Creationism, is so ridiculous that it can easily be defeated with facts and logic.

          But consider- why are things like racism and child molestation and assorted Awful Things so persistent in society?

          Isn’t it possible that they aren’t in fact ridiculous, but the result of very deep and primal human behaviors, that pre-exist in every person?

          And it is that very fact that makes them so troubling because they are completely impervious to facts and logic.

          Those ideas can in fact defeat facts and logic and win acceptance.

          We know that because they have before. Our modern taboos of them are relatively recent, and were hard fought.

          Yes, I know how powerful and easily abused the death ray of taboo is. But powerful threats sometimes require powerful responses.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Or perhaps it’s less about the perniciousness of the idea, and more about the fact that most people are really bad at picking apart the flaws in arguments.

            Take child sexual molestation. The first writings against the idea, from a psychological damage standpoint, were in the late 1800’s (IIRC). Once it became accepted that molesting kids did them grievous harm, the norms against it were not that hard fought, because most people were already not inclined to be sexually attracted to prepubescent children (the work for norms against sex with teenagers is still ongoing, precisely because teenagers are nearly grown and sexually attractive, so in that yes, you are fighting against a powerful primal behavior).

            Norms against hating on the other… EVERYONE has an issue with this, it’s just a question of how one defines ‘the other’. Race, class, nationality, religion, ethnicity, etc. That norm is going to be even more hard fought, and it needs to be out in the open, and we need to be better about teaching the young not just to reject the known arguments, but to spot the new, more subtle ones that they haven’t be trained by rote to spot and reject.

            To echo DD (again), it’s not enough to just tell the kids that Holocaust denial is BS, you have to bring those arguments into the light and teach them the how and why that those arguments are BS. You have to develop Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit in each and every one of them, which is something we don’t do, as evidenced by how many people think those arguments are inspired.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Those two ideas intertwine.

              Age of consent has always been around, for those who were protected by the law.

              But there have always been a class of people who were placed outside the protection of the law, who were classed as Unpersons, and to whom any manner of horrible treatment was justified.

              We see it right now with Gitmo detainees and immigrants under detention who are not given the full protections of our Constitution and law because reasons.

              For example, immigrant girls are having their menstrual cycles tracked so as to prevent them from accessing reproductive services which are lawful for any Real Person, but since these are Unpersons, such a violation of their privacy and bodily integrity are acceptable.

              One idea flows into another. If a person can be waterboarded or tortured for reasons, why should their body or sexual integrity be respected?

              Again…this is not some historical debate. Its happening right now, at this very moment, in America.

              You and I live under the protective shelter of the law. Unpersons…not so much.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Sure, that’s all true, and as you so often like to remind us, the US has no immunity from arcing away from Justice, and returning once again to a place where minorities are unpersons.

                So yes, please, let’s further cement a societal norm of not giving a platform to people we’d all rather be unpersons.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                If your logic is “This is a dangerous tool which may be used against the innocent” I very much agree.

                But then, so is the power to arrest people, even kill them.

                And I’m not advocating that the power of law be used, or that the power to publicly pressure platforms to deny certain viewpoints be given indiscriminate power.

                I’m just saying that in some circumstances, a social norm which states that certain ideas are not acceptable to be presented, can be a good thing.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                @Chip:

                I’m just saying that in some circumstances, a social norm which states that certain ideas are not acceptable to be presented, can be a good thing.

                Good thing or not, I think it’s almost guaranteed to be a thing.

                It’s just hard to widely disseminate incredibly unpopular ideas. It may even be a tautology.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                “[I]n some circumstances, a social norm which states that certain ideas are not acceptable to be presented, can be a good thing.”

                (sound of the Death Laser warming up)

                “but don’t worry, guys, THIS TIME it won’t be used on the wrong pe–” (sound of vaporizing)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

                “In some circumstances, arresting someone may be necessary to prevent terrorism”.

                (Sound of the Death Laser warming up)…

                See, this isn’t actually even hyperbole. “Terrorism” is widely used to catch actual terrorists, as well as political opponents.

                But I don’t see anyone making a cry for stripping the state of this power. I especially don’t see anyone demanding that ISIS be given a slot at the next TED talks.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                “I don’t see anyone making a cry for stripping the state of this power.”

                (Libertarians raise their hands)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Oh, yeah, shit, totally missed that.

                (Raises hand, both hands, starts jumping up and down…)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                The “Appeal To My Own Ignorance” form of argumentation is one that I don’t understand.

                Wait.

                AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                But even a social norm can be used against the innocent.

                Let me put it this way, if we were to have a social norm, it should not be to remove the ability of a person to speak publicly, it should be that they speak to an empty forum. If the next R. Spencer gets up to say a few words, and going to hear him speak was socially unacceptable due to the topic, would it matter?

                But that’s the rub. It’s easier to try and de-platform the racist at the podium, then it is to confront your peers in the audience with the fact that they think he had something worth hearing.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Very true, and you could also point out that deplatforming signals a lack of faith in the power of reason to defeat evil ideas.

                Which is where I’m at right now.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                and back to the beginning: the fundamental idea here is that people are, in general, too stupid to recognize Obviously Bad Ideas as bad, and therefore they need to be protected from hearing bad ideas lest their brains be irrevocably contaminated

                which is kind of funny because I don’t think you’d say you were a fan of Warhammer 40K but that’s pretty much exactly how the Empire operates, although IRL there’s less chance of you turning into a snot demonReport

              • Avatar Murali in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I think we tend to be more Slaaneshi or even Khornites. Well, given what’s on the internet, Slaanesh would blush. And twitter was created to feed KhornReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

                @DD

                I agree with you, but I will make this point.

                If we have a problem with ‘obviously bad’ ideas being too attractive to too many, then we have a clear problem with our public education system not doing a good enough job teaching our kids to spot crap arguments[1].

                This means we should dedicate more resources to public schools, or accept that we need to rework the curriculum to focus less on something else, and more on logic and reasoning.

                The problem, as it stands, is no one wants to spend more on schools, or re-work curriculum. And conservatives, given the current political attitudes of “Liberals are evil” don’t trust public schools to teach such skills in an even handed manner[2] (i.e. teachers will always use conservative arguments as examples of bad arguments, and never use liberal ones, even when the liberal ones are equally bad).

                So we get to an impasse where the kids are dumb, and must be protected.

                [1] This needs to start in High School. We can’t leave it to college because not everyone goes to college.

                [2] Personally not persuasive, if you think the curriculum isn’t even handed, talk to your kids, get involved with your school and PTA, make sure it is.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “Use Critical Thought” is not compatible with “Use Critical Thought But Only On Bad People”.

                And it’s safer to just not teach critical thought than expect the tools to not be used against, shall we say, ideologies that might benefit from critical thought being applied to them.

                And if “safer” is your goal, there you go.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s certainly true that if you don’t let people have guns then they can’t shoot you by accident.Report

        • Avatar Pat in reply to DensityDuck says:

          “If the whole idea is as prima facie ridiculous as you suggest then it shouldn’t be that hard to talk it into the dirt.“

          I will reiterate two points I make often:

          (a) 20% of America will believe any damn fool thing

          (b) There is precisely zero evidence that the marketplace of ideas exists, in that bad ideas will die out of the marketplace. In fact, most evidence points the other way: humans routinely resurrect incredibly stupid ideas. Even ones that are trivially shown empirically to be so (see (a) for one reason why)

          So yes, there is certainly an argument to be made that “this idea is gobsmackingly stupid” is insufficient to decide “ergo we can just debate it away”Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Pat says:

            The marketplace of ideas is not the animating model of the free, fearless, vigorous discourse culture of the university that is now dying.

            Instead, the model was to be free, fearless, vigorous discourse. We were going keep talking about the ideas that are about in the public discussion (as well as in the specialized intellectual streams of the individual disciplines).

            The university was to be the place where we were going to preserve, model, and perfect the art of arguing down bad ideas, not so that they go away (though if they did, great), but because they stick around. Bad ideas stick around, and in the non-elevated intellectual petri dish of un- or poorly educated humanity they become very powerful. The university was to be where the methods of discrediting (however temporarily) such ideas were kept and preserved and perfected.

            In music they are called conservatories, and that is because no one has any intention of letting the music die.

            Yes, the marketplace of ideas is false. Bad ideas run rampant, and need to be held in check by the skillful deployment of good ideas. They don’t lose their power by the elect deciding to stop talking about them – or by refusing to talk to anyone who actually espouses them. Rather, they gain power that way.

            This was the reason that we were going to preserve the culture of free discourse in the university.

            But then, we didn’t, as this piece confirms.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Concur with DD. All of your examples are of things that were already talked into the dirt and, you know, made illegal.

        Hell, the physical aspects of racism, the lynching, the rapes, the beatings, etc. are all technically illegal*.

        But just like all of your examples, the problem is not what we permit through law, but what is in a person’s heart. You can make child molestation illegal, but you can not prevent a person from wanting to molest a child. All you can do is let them know that society at large frowns upon that kind of behavior and if we catch you doing it, we will attempt to prosecute you (and you should probably get some psychological help).

        Also, all of your examples have long histories of societal conditioning against such behaviors.

        Racism, not so much history. Lots of work left to be done. Can’t do that work unless we know how racism is currently manifesting, and that requires giving it some form to be manifest. And since we are trying to create societal norms against racism, then all of society must be a part of that , which means racists need a public way to be manifest.

        You shove it into the dark, and we’ll be developing norms against Dragons. not racists.

        *I know ‘illegal’ is doing a lot of work for me here, and that our CJ systems are less than perfect and often miss finding justice for victims. But that is besides the point. In ALL of your examples, society has deemed such behavior beyond the pale, and has codified such in law.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Are we ever allowed to be just like, “Nyah, let’s not debate that, it’s a settled question?”Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

            Man, that would be nice. Good thing we didn’t do that back when lots of people would have liked the idea that black people were only 2/3 rds human to be a settled question.

            But seriously, one would think something as simple as the Golden Rule should be a settled question. Too bad so many people, from all walks of life, work very hard to rationalize exactly why they should be allowed to violate the Golden Rule, in this specific instance, because of X, such that it’s not really ever a settled question.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Man, that would be nice. Good thing we didn’t do that back when lots of people would have liked the idea that black people were only 2/3 rds human to be a settled question.

              People absolutely did that.

              They did a lot more than that.

              Abolitionists were subject to all kinds of violence during the days of slavery, explicitly aimed at silencing them.

              Not, “Hey, I’m not going to invite you to speak at my college,” or, “I’m going to write a letter saying the local bookseller shouldn’t sell your publication!”

              Like, printing presses thrown into rivers and the like.

              Not to mention all the actual black people who were deprived of their right to speak up in defense of their own rights along with all their other rights.

              So yeah, I have to disagree. It would have been much better if the defenders of slavery had just said, “Nyah, let’s not debate that.”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

                oh, pillsy, you are so close to understanding our position on thisReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Facetiousness is lost on you, isn’t it? Sigh…

                Calling back that I saw Missing Link over the weekend, the main antagonist is hell bent to stop the hero precisely because he does not want to brook any thoughts upon the idea that man is descended from lower primates.

                He wants that to be a settled question, with no further debate, and in his mind he is absolutely, 100% by the hand of god correct in that.

                Being certain that the debate is settled is exactly how shit gets unmoored. If you’ve stopped entertaining the questions, people just sneak around those calcified positions and come up with new ways to fall back on old bad habits.

                The question can never be settled as long as someone, somewhere, disagrees with the answer. The debate may wane, but it will never be over.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Someone else wants to debate them they can go right ahead.

                But really there are 7 billion people in the world, most of them probably have one or two off the way ideas that are ridiculous and off the wall and you aren’t gonna have time to debate them all.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                And that someone should have access to a public forum.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Absolutely. They want to find a soapbox at the local park they can knock themselves out. They’ll probably have a lot of company.

                But if they want access to private platforms, well, that’s up to whoever owns the private platforms. Honestly it’s cheaper than ever to self-publish.

                A corollary of this is that I’m vastly less comfortable about deplatforming by going after ISPs, name servers, and banking services. Dunno what to do about it, though.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                I thought we all kinda agreed that private institutions can do what they want? It may not be a good idea and may reflect poorly on the institution, but private is private.

                Was this not understood by all?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I can never tell with conversations about no platforming. It’s one of the things that drives me a bit batty about them.

                The whole issue seems so simple to me: no matter your position you should get the same access to the public square as anyone else but if you want to take advantage of freedom of the press you better buy one, buddy.

                But then there’s a strong negative reaction to an article like this one and I don’t get why.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

                I am not trying to snarky, but maybe you are getting stuck by what is a public vs. private platform?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

                I don’t think so, because suggestions that (say) there’s nothing wrong with Twitter banning people for offensive speech, or advocating for same are met with stiff resistance, and Twitter is unambiguously a private platform.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                The Twitter thing is an interesting example. Yes, it’s a private platform but it’s also important enough to the national dialogue that it seems to transcend beyond the private. I mean, as much as we are appalled by the nonsense out of Trump, it’s sort of reassuring that it’s there so we can continue to confirm the righteousness of our disgust. The Left hated Bush just as much but they had to work a bit more for confirmation of that hatred.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Yes, it’s a private platform but it’s also important enough to the national dialogue that it seems to transcend beyond the private.

                Historically the New York Times and Washington Post have been extraordinarily influential to debate, and not coincidentally the government tried on multiple occasions to control what they could print, generally without much success.

                I’m not sure I see a way to guarantee access to Twitter that works, and without one we’re left with them making a decision based on their business interests, and people trying to argue that their business interests align with whatever we want them to do.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

                There is a way to guarantee access, and that is to treat them in much the same way as we treated Ma Bell. Many don’t like this as it is a massive market distortion, but it would allow free and open use.

                Trade-offs, yo.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

                Unlike Ma Bell, though, they aren’t really a common carrier. Their entire business model is based around on putting specific Tweets in front of your eyeballs and/or seeing what Tweets you engage with and using that information or selling it.

                And if you stop looking at it because you find the Tweets to be consistently offensive, well, what are they going to do? It’s not like you need a Twitter account the way you need a phone. I’ve heard rumors that there are even people (some call them “normal” or “well-adjusted”) who don’t want Twitter accounts.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                I’ve heard rumors that there are even people (some call them “normal” or “well-adjusted”) who don’t want Twitter accounts.

                I’ll get a Twitter account when you use my cold, dead hands to create the account.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I wouldn’t suggest the government step in, but I also think they are being disingenuous when they give the president an account but then claim private company privileges whenever they decide to ban someone.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Hmm. I’m not sure why. I’m betting he’s one of their more valuable products (remember, on Twitter, users are the products, not the customers), so giving him an account makes perfect business sense.

                So does not enforcing their Terms of Service against him despite the fact that he repeatedly breaks them.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                I took the article to be a general discussion on (de-)platforming, so both public and private spheres.

                Maybe I assumed too much.Report

          • Avatar Dave in reply to pillsy says:

            Yes. Next question.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I will restate again what I posted on Sunday from Jean-Paul Satre:

      “Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument has passed.”-Anti-Semite and Jew.

      This paragraph was written shortly after the liberation of Paris, 75 years ago. I think it is describes shitposters and 4chaners very well. The perception among Democrats, liberals, the left, whatever you want to call us is that the right-wing is filled with lots of adolescent miscreants who refuse to debate or argue policy in good faith. Instead they like absurd stunts and things which they perceive as “owning the libs.”

      I’m seeing this a lot with the right-wingers that Jason lets hang out on his facebook feed. Donald Trump wants to release asylum seekers to sanctuary cities and lots of Democrats more or less said “Fine. We will be happy to take them.” But the right-wingers would rather believe Donald Trump’s tweets about how even the liberal mayor of Oakland doesn’t want asylum seekers because anything else would mean saying nice things about liberals and saying nice things about liberals is worse than surgery without anesthetic.

      I suppose there might be some value in letting racists have a platform to know the enemy but that means really pushing hard against them. Our media doesn’t seem capable of doing that because of their obsession with “objectivity.” So they think anti-racism’s counterbalance is just a racist.

      A few years ago there was a story about a middle school in California that was trying to teach students how to evaluate and weigh sources. All fine and good. The problem is that the example they choose for the test on this was Holocaust denial. This is really stupid. Maybe the teachers were thinking highly of their students and thought this was an easy one but you don’t give kids Holocaust denial literature on purpose.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “Maybe the teachers were thinking highly of their students and thought this was an easy one but you don’t give kids Holocaust denial literature on purpose.”

        Maybe they shouldn’t have just assumed that the Bad Stuff would be rejected out of hand by people who hadn’t been primed to know it was Bad.

        Y’know, they could have done some actual teaching, said “we all know this is bullshit but a lot of it looks plausible, let’s learn how to investigate these claims and find out whether they’re true, we can look at historical evidence, we can interrogate the logic in their reasoning, these are all tools you’ll use later on so let’s find out how they work on something where we already know the answer…”Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I do appreciate this post because it’s a good codification of all the bad ideas presented as justification for why the superior intellectual galaxy-brain take is that you should never talk to anyone you disagree with because their rotten ideas might poison your precious bodily fluids.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Here’s a link to the Wikipedia entry for “Gag Rule“.

    It’s pretty interesting!Report

  6. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Co-signing with DD and some of the others that disagreed pretty strongly with this post. It’s a bit concerning that within one week there was a post celebrating virtue signaling and another basically endorsing de-platforming, but these are the times we live in…

    The point I would make is that yeah, we might decide not to give a platform to someone who advocates for a second Holocaust, but then they pay their $10 per month to Squarespace and start a website, pump it up on Twitter and now they can say whatever they want and no one really gets to rebut them. That was the whole reason that many of us started blogs once upon a time because we wanted to ‘own our platform’ so we couldn’t be censored by a moderator. On the other hand, as DD says, what if we put them on a stage and debate them into the dirt?

    As many of us keep pointing out, this regressive thing on the Left these days to limit speech from voices they find problematic should concern everyone. I just heard this morning that feminist Roxane Gay’s two-night debate with Christina Hoff Sommers in Australia didn’t go as she planned and she is now trying to stop the video from being released.

    Last point I will make (for now) is that even if I agreed that some voices are so despicable that we should silence them, who decides that? Sure, the Holocaust aficionado seems like an easy decision but what about the person who just holds a weird view that makes people uncomfortable? I certainly don’t trust myself to find that line and make those decisions and de-platforming seems like a very slippery slope.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Well it’s pretty obvious that those who have media platforms and social status (ubermensch) shouldn’t allow people of lesser status (untermensch) to speak on equal terms. That would lead to chaos and the bubbling up of bad ideas from unwashed deplorables, who frankly should be forced to work in the mines where nobody has to hear them.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Of course she is. First hand accounts described the mess and those sympathetic to Gay were twisting themselves into knots trying to defend her.

      Assuming it’s true, it says a lot since people are generally hostile to Sommers which is why I would have preferred a Martha Nussbaum and her liberal feminism to blow holes into the fraud of intersectionalismReport

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      “what if we put them on a stage and debate them into the dirt?”

      Then idiots who can’t tell what a good argument is will see them as martyrs and they’ll be EVEN MORE POPULAR than if they were just sounding off on their own.

      Welcome to the internet age.

      Do you not see this happen all the time? I see it happen all the time.Report

  7. Avatar pillsy says:

    A year or so back, @Jaybird posted this article. At the time I thought it was a bit annoying and obtuse.

    In hindsight, I think (and hope) it was a brilliant prank he played on the local commentariat. I have actually a kind of goofy grin on my face now thinking about how everybody always runs into the same traps when they try to argue with Creationists, and then a Creationist showed up, and a bunch of us (including my) charged right into the traps.

    And folks, Creationism is super wrong and super dumb. It doesn’t horrify most people the way some of the other examples Chip et al. have given, but it is like the go to example of supposedly easy to debate into the ground.

    But people fail to do so all the time. Sometimes the people who fail to do so are scientists of one stripe or another who have relevant expertise.

    I’m seeing a lot of overconfidence of the ease with which one can just break a bad idea. It can be hard, tricky work. And smart people who have a lot of relevant expertise are often extra susceptible to think they know how to do it when they really don’t.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

      I yelled at my monitor several times during the comments. “I TOLD YOU HOW THIS GAME WAS PLAYED!”Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

      From my perspective, the angle of rebuttal is not Creationism. If someone has arrived at that as their belief system, it’s just not worth my time to try to persuade them otherwise. For me the angle of rebuttal is teaching it in our public schools. That’s a hill I will die on (and in some file somewhere there is probably still a very strongly worded letter to my daughter’s sophomore biology teacher because she allowed some kids to drag Creationism into her class for about a week.) You can believe whatever nonsense pseudo-science you want but you don’t get to teach it to my kids and I think that’s a debate that is easier to have.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        That sounds… kind of like no platforming.

        I can kind of see where your objections might go, and some of them have some real force (since public schools are public we should all get a say in them), but there are contexts where some arguments just shouldn’t be allowed or presented.

        It’s not easy to parse those out.

        But simply labeling a huge set of contextual considerations out-of-bounds to prevent “no platforming” seems to be very much a non-solution.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to pillsy says:

          Its not so much no-platforming as public reason. They are very different things. The theory of evolution is the best explanation of biological diversity available to us given the publicly available reasons. Creationism is at best only supported by privately accessible reasonsReport

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Murali says:

            OK, let’s sort of cut to the chase:

            Say a history conference invites a Holocaust denier to give their keynote speech. “The Holocaust actually happened,” is the best explanation of the incredibly extensive evidence we have that, well, the Holocaust actually happened.

            Would it be OK for:

            1. other scholars to refuse to attend if he does?
            2. other scholars to write a strongly worded letter indicating the invitation should be withdrawn?
            3. students at the hosting university to protest in front of the building?
            4. the conference to bow to public pressure and rescind the invitation?

            Because all of these seem to be obviously legitimate exercises of various people’s freedoms, and justified responses to such an incredibly misguided move on the part of the conference organizers.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to pillsy says:

              This is a bit tough. Its like inviting michael behe to a molecular biology conference. I’m going to suppose that he knows his molecular biology even though his Irreducible complexity argument* has been conclusively debunked. To the extent that we can’t separate his kookiness from an assessment of his professional competence, then a conference with such low professional standards is not likely to go very well.

              The same goes for the Holocaust denier. Insofar as we can’t separate denying the holocaust from his competence as a historian (or lack thereof), 1 and 2 are acceptable since 1 is a matter of whether the conference will be professionally useful and 2 is a matter of reminding the organising body that they are violating professional standards.

              3 and 4 are legitimate exercises of people’s freedoms in the sense that they are exercises of freedoms that ought to remain legally protected. But that is a low bar to cross. By that measure, inviting holocaust deniers and creationists are also legitimate exercises people’s freedoms. Regarding 3, non-experts should shut up and not get involved. Regarding 4, the conference organisers should bow to the professional opinions of their peers and not to public pressure. The fact that the two coincide in this case does not mean that bowing to public pressure is something they should do, except in a kind of coincidental de re sense.

              *does holding on to a debunked hypothesis make you a bad researcher? Is it a probable indicator of such? For instance should we never invite Stephen Jay Gould to speak about evolution just because he endorses group selection which we now know to be false? Assessment of competence is really important here, as well as the content of the talk. If the talk is only going to rehash disproven kooky ideas, then he should be disinvited. If it is going to introduce new material, then the calculus is different.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Murali says:

                If you can get Stephen Jay Gould to speak about anything at your conference, I definitely think it would be worth your while to invite him. Though seriously I think I’d rather hear from him about life after death.

                Anyway, yes, I believe that Holocaust denial is completely discrediting. It’s not just debunked, it requires endless active dishonesty, and the motives are almost always actually evil.

                As for Behe, maybe it makes sense to invite him. Doesn’t make sense to invite him to talk about Irreducible Complexity, though.

                I just don’t think, “Look this person is actually horrible and we don’t want anything to do with him,” is an unreasonable position to take. Most people don’t want anything to do with people they think are horrible.

                The main objection seems to be that we’ll be setting a bad precedent, but… people already avoid people they don’t like pretty much as a rule. Not sure why we want to drag them into this spherical horse world.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

              I agree with Murali that something would like that would mean that the conference was not a serious intellectual undertaking but some kind of bizarre weirdfest. At that point I would assume they would implode under the weight of their poor decision and that would be the end of it.

              Now, if they held a special symposium where they made it clear they were willing to host a conversation and put a capable counter-point on the other side, I’d be okay with it. I’ve been to some weird symposiums at archaeology conferences that strained credibility, but Saturday mornings were usually reserved for the fringe stuff and you knew that going in.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

          I would be happy to debate any Creationist in the context of a Humanities or Theology class. If they want to have that discussion in a science class we’re going to have a problem, unless they can present some scientific evidence of the divine.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

      Creationism is wrong, but it’s a tough nut to crack because it comes from deeply held religious beliefs that people are conditioned to as children.

      My son (who is, mind you, 6 3/4) is trying to understand the concept of evolution (we saw Missing Link over the weekend – cute movie by the way). It’s not an easy thing to explain to a 6 year old, who has trouble imagining and understanding the mechanisms and time scales involved[1]. Mom and I, however, are willing to take on that challenge. Now imagine his peers whose parents don’t accept evolution, who quickly squash that idea with creationist pap, or straight up Genesis explanations from the word go, or even before the kid has even an inkling of evolution.

      Now couple that to a population that has trouble understanding the scientific process to begin with, and even more trouble understanding how Anthropology works…

      [1]Something many adults have trouble with.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        The thing that’s tough to explain about evolution is that it’s a result, not a choice. You don’t have, e.g., animals sitting around saying “hey, let’s get bigger brains, let’s get binocular vision, let’s get a cell chemistry habitable for mitochondria”. You have all the animals that haven’t got those things DIE. Evolution is like that Japanese game show where they throw walls with increasingly-complex holes at you, and anyone who can’t fit in that hole gets knocked off.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I swear, that was Bug’s first question, “Well, who was the first person to stand upright?”Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            If you could stand on your hind legs a little bit longer than the other hominids, then when all the low-hanging fruit was picked, you could reach up a little further, and that meant when everyone else starved to death you were still alive and could have babies.

            And all those babies could stand on their hind legs a little longer, and everyone got used to the amount of fruit they could pick. But then someone else had a mutation that let them stand even further up, and they had babies after everyone else starved, and after a while of that you’re standing upright.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Teleology, man. It explains *EVERYTHING*.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

      Those of you who enjoyed the comments to the essay need to join our Bookclub where we’re reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality!Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to pillsy says:

      @pillsy Are you saying this militates for keeping topics open and being willing to defeat them in debate over and over again as needed as public interest or acceptance of the ideas persists or surges? Or are you saying it militates for purporting to declare such ideas defeated and for discouraging continued debate of them at a certain point?Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I think in practice it will mostly be the latter.

        Sometimes it won’t work and you’ll have revise your decision and go back re-open them, but yeah. There’s lots of stuff that’s dumb and wrong and being too eager to jump in and re-litigate it can backfire and lead to more people believing the dumb thing.

        I’m not saying that you should never debate an idea you believe has been correctly and thoroughly discredited. I am saying that if you do decide to debate it, you’d better know what the hell you are doing, and why.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to pillsy says:

      @pillsy Just for the record I really really really wanted to point this out to you all at the time.

      AND JAYBIRD WOULDN’T LET ME.

      He commits to his pranks.Report

  8. Avatar Aaron David says:

    I grew up in a small, left coast college town during the late seventies. The local community college, not the university mind you, hosted the local KKK grand dragon. Not to promote his ideas, but to debate with him. To show the world that his ideas were stupid and wrong. Also, to bring them into the light and show everyone this. Students, people, need to be aware of those arguments and ideas, see with clarity how wrong they are, to build up an immunity to them. To know why there has been a fight for civil rights. To see the need.

    Yes, there was a risk that he would win converts. But if that were the case, then there would were severe issues with the arguments of the other side. And those would need to be addressed post haste. And this would be the best way to find out.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

      I’m not saying this is wrong. It isn’t; such things definitely have their place.

      But they actually require work and care to pull off right. Not everyone has the time, inclination, and ability to put in the work. And in a lot of circumstances putting in the work would actually be a burdensome distraction from the real purpose of whatever the platform owners are actually trying to accomplish.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

        Of course they require time and effort. I rather doubt the grand dragon has very many holes in her schedule.

        Hosting anyone takes time and effort to pull off. Doesn’t matter if its a band like Fishbone or a speaker like Naomi Wolff. This is why universities have entire departments devoted to things such as this. And those people don’t get paid chicken scratch.

        But, it kinda gets down to the whole point of what universities are about. Not just free inquiry, though that is intensely important. No, its about learning. And learning covers a whole lot of ground. And that ground isn’t solely stuffed with things you like and think are cool.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

          OK so I’m still not getting what your objection to what Mr Maeli describes as “no platforming” is. Are you objecting?

          Or is the issue that you regard the argument as a categorical indication that someone like the Grand Dragon of the KKK should never be allowed to speak anywhere under any circumstances?

          I didn’t read it that way but I could be mistaken about either the obvious or intended meaning.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

            I am very much against no platforming. It takes away reasons to use and sharpen logic.

            The very reason and purpose of a university are to expand knowledge and reinforce logic and reason. One cannot do that if all one sees and experience are ideas that a student finds pleasing. And it needs to be said (sadly) that a public university should not choose sides. And yes, that can mean odious subjects.

            As far as a grand dragon speaking, they should be allowed to speak in any public space. Indeed, this is what the first amendment is truly about.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

              Do you think it would be inappropriate for students to stand outside waving signs saying, “KKK NOT WELCOME HERE”?

              Or decline to attend the lecture because they don’t want to listen to the Grand Dragon because they think he’s horrid?Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

                I don’t think it is inappropriate at all. If they assault her, then they need to be punished.

                Declining to attend is absolutely an option. Unless it is for a grade. But in any case, they would be losing out on an important part of being educated.

                ETA; neither of those actions limits her ability to speak nor for other students to learn. I don’t feel a private space, such as Harvard or similar should be made to allow her to talk, but I do think they would be poorer for not allowing that.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

                What about writing an angry letter to the people inviting her saying, “She sucks, don’t invite her!”

                I just think it’s terribly hard to draw a clear line that doesn’t crimp some other key aspect of discourse.

                Also, gotta say, most white supremacists are obviously stupid assholes. Sure they say offensive stuff, but it’s rarely interesting stuff that is educationally valuable to hear and refute.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

                I’ll say it again: neither of those actions limits her ability to speak nor for other students to learn.

                Trying to draw ever sharper lines doesn’t change the basic fact. And yes, it is very easy to draw that line.

                I don’t care whether or not they are stupid assholes. I simply do not trust anyone to make that decision for me. And I massively disagree about its educational value. I want to know what people are thinking across the board. I want to know the bad arguments as much as good arguments.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

                OK, but what if, upon receiving the letter, the person who invited her slaps their forehead and says, “Oh my God she actually does suck. Time to disinvite her!”

                I just think that every step in the chain is clearly within the grounds of legitimate discourse and the end result is exactly the one you object to.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                “Oh my God she actually does suck. Time to disinvite her!”

                There is a difference between someone making an effective plea against inviting a certain speaker, and a some group basically announcing that they are going to make a colossal nuisance of themselves until the invitation is rescinded.

                Granted, there is a lot of room between those two lines, but still…Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “here is a lot of room between those two lines”

                This, I think is the best point.

                We live in and always will live in, a world where we disagree, sometimes to the point of violence.

                The purpose of our structures isn’t to make the disagreement go away, but to find ways to limit the level of violence.

                There isn’t some clean tidy algorithm that says “This Thing is obviously not fit for discussion, whereas That Thing is.”

                Yet we know that speech has power, even the power to incite and panic.
                So instead of an algorithm, we only have politics, the constant push and pull and negotiation of us as a community.

                And no, there is absolutely no way to assure the outcome will be just or fair, however we want to measure those things.

                We just don’t have any better alternatives.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                And no, there is absolutely no way to assure the outcome will be just or fair, however we want to measure those things.

                Discussions about the discussions over which discussions we want to discuss. If this gets any more meta, I’ll need to have a sit down…

                with a beer…

                probably more than one.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                OK but I have definitely seen people inveigh against the first as “no platforming”.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Those people are wrong.

                One is a person deciding for their own reason to not provide a forum*, the other is a heckler’s veto.

                We should stay away from the heckler’s veto.

                *Note that public forums should not be so free to pick and choose who can speak, just as they can’t pick and choose what religion to display on public grounds.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “There is a difference between someone making an effective plea against inviting a certain speaker, and a some group basically announcing that they are going to make a colossal nuisance of themselves until the invitation is rescinded.’

                Agreed and this is happening far too often. One of the dynamics you hear a lot lately among higher ed professionals is whether the students are customers and if so, what that means. Really good essay on that topic here:

                https://www.chronicle.com/article/Students-Are-Customers-but/130254

                One article I read said that the benefits of the college are ultimately not the students but the public. I liked that a lot.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                It’s not that students aren’t consumers, they are. The real answer, to me at least, is what they are buying. Ie, not dorm room climbing walls and a prof who answers her phone at 1 am, but a solid, rigorous education. And the value therein.

                The problem, it seems to me, is we have worked toward the first while neglecting the second.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

                But they want climbing walls more than solid, rigorous educations. And really their future employers probably don’t really care if they have a lot of the critical thinking skills and tolerance for disagreeable ideas that folks are advocating for.

                Like, the issue here is that part of the training you want them to have has gotta be convincing them that ideas they find off-putting and even repellent are worth their time.

                Maybe the schools aren’t doing a good job of that any more.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Like, the issue here is that part of the training you want them to have has gotta be convincing them that ideas they find off-putting and even repellent are worth their time.

                This isn’t the problem.

                The problem is the schools are teaching (or maybe not adequately teaching against) the idea that the students should decide for others who is and is not worth their time.

                If young Mr. Activist doesn’t think that a speaker is worth their time, or finds them repellent, that is fine. They can stay home and watch Netflix, or go drinking, or whatever. But they don’t get to be the arbiters of taste for me. And hey, I might actually agree with them, and decide to stay home as well. I might even spend some effort convincing others to stay home.

                Why?

                Because an empty forum is a far, far, FAR stronger condemnation of a persons message than de-platforming them. De-platforming gives them the opportunity to play the martyr.

                Now, personally, if I was feeling really strongly about a speaker getting my point, I’d have all my like-minded friends snatch-up as many tickets to the event as we could, wait until the door closes and they stop admitting people, and either have a mass walk-out at a pre-designated time, or just have everyone put on noise cancelling headphones and tune the speaker out.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “The problem is the schools are teaching (or maybe not adequately teaching against) the idea that the students should decide for others who is and is not worth their time.”

                This. One of my core complaints about the SJ Left is the sense of paternalism. Deplatforming is an extension of that and it was the point I was trying to make with Pat. If he is immune to bad ideas but still wants to deplatform a speaker, then he’s doing it out of some duty to protect them. It reminds me of the Parental Advisory labels from the 80s. All that did was make me want to go buy the album.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                My professor for my Ethnicity in America class would disagree with you. Back when I worked as a stone cutter, one of my co-workers gave me a book that was a rather nasty bit of racism disguised as academic thought. I showed the book to my prof and she asked if she could keep it, as she found such reading to be the best means for sharpening her rhetoric against such arguments.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                When I am teaching Quality classes at work with our management teams one of my favorite points to make is that if they embrace continuous improvement they will learn far more from bad decisions than they ever do from good ones.

                I kind of feel that way about ideas. When I hear a bad one and it triggers my spidey sense, but I can’t articulate why it is bad, I know I need to level up on my intellectual game.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Or worse, it doesn’t twig your spidey-sense, but it does for someone you respect and admire.

                Then you know you need to up your game.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar

                Agreed.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Aaron David says:

                I don’t disagree, but what if she is getting a fee for speaking? It feel like the students have a legitimate reason to object to money they pay the university going to fund that.

                As to losing out on an important part of being educated, okay, but how many contrarian speakers do you have to go listen to? How much time that could be spent studying subjects that matter for my major should be sacrificed to go listen to opposing views from the KKK Grand Dragon and Young Earth Creationists and Flat-Earthers and Anti-Vaxx Advocates, etc. etc…?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to bookdragon says:

                If a bunch of engineering students demanded a say in the performing arts curriculum because some of their tuition money went to fund it would that be taken seriously? Of course not. The teachers set the curriculum, not the students, and rightly so.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to InMD says:

                I wasn’t talking about curriculum. I was referring to guest speakers not there for a class that relates specifically to that person’s pov, but to general assembly/university event invited speakers.

                In the latter case, I think students should be allowed to protest the use of their students fees to pay someone to come say things that are abhorent.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to bookdragon says:

                For whatever reason Justice Scalia had a soft spot for the law school I attended, and he would speak there every few years. Lots of people hated him. Hell I have/had, at best, a grudging respect for him, but only after reading a whole bunch of his opinions. Suffice to say he was not popular.

                Should a bunch of pissed off students have been able to run him off or ruin the event? Some tiny percentage of their tuition went to pay the electricity and the catering and whatever else but I’d still say no. Protest is one thing, a veto is another. If anything earns you the latter a few bucks towards keeping the lights on isn’t it.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

                That depends a lot on where such fees came from.

                Is the money from the school general budget, or even a budget earmarked for speakers, but which is funded by tuition and/or state funding? Then no, students don’t get to have a voice over those funds.

                Is it from an account funded by student fees and controlled by the University? Then perhaps they have a say. Kinda depends on how things are disbursed, such as…

                Is it from funds from a student group? Then no, even if the group is funded by student fees, they don’t get to object (at least, not without opening themselves up to similar objects should they invite someone others find unacceptable).

                ETA: Personally I object to any and all speaking fees paid for out of public monies.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                From what I’ve seen the objections aren’t to a few bucks to keep the lights on, but to thousands in speaking fees.

                But even if the students have no say on how money is spent, is it out of bounds for alumni to speak up and use their ‘you keep coming to us for donations’ card to object to say, bringing Fred Phelps to campus under the argument of ‘hearing all points of view’?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

                Alumni? Alumni can play that card all day long, as long as they are actually contributing to endowments and such. Dropping a $100K to a University as an Alumni is very different from a student paying tuition.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to bookdragon says:

                Should conservative students demand university fees not go to any diversity, feminist or cultural speakers?

                Should I be able to demand a refund for any monies spent by my gov’t for things I don’t approve of?

                As for time spent going to events, I would really have to do with what the curriculum states. If there is nothing in the curriculum saying you have to go, then you don’t have to go. If something says you have to go, well there you go.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Aaron David says:

                You seem t think diversity, feminism and even culture are things conservatives would deeply object to…interesting…

                But if the speakers the conservatives object to are objectionable on the level of a KKK Grand Dragon, then yes.

                Various conservatives, like anti-abortion groups and Hobby Lobby owners, seem to think the govt can’t spend or require money be spent on things they object to and have lobbied and taken those cases to court.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to bookdragon says:

                And they are every bit as wrong as the students who freak out at campus money being spent on thing they don’t like.

                And as for your first sentence, they would probably object to those things as they have become thinly veiled anti-conservative propaganda. No culture. No women’s rights, and no true diversity involved.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Aaron David says:

                I haven’t seen that, but then I haven’t been involved in anything but engineering in working with universities for some time. Are the feminists, diversity and/or culture speakers calling for conservatives to be rounded up and killed or removed from the US? Are they even claiming (as I’ve seen quite a few conservatives on this board claim about liberals) that being conservative is a mental illness or defect? If so, I can understand objections.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to bookdragon says:

                Well, it is a conservative viewpoint, not mine, but this will give you an idea of the issues they feel are important in this field

                https://www.mindingthecampus.org/

                That being said, I come from a very liberal academic family, though I am not an academic, and even I can see the problems in this regard. I don’t necessarily agree with the solution, but the issues are real and very destructive.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Aaron David says:

                Okay, thanks.

                It’s not that I don’t agree that some of those things are problems, but honestly, I’m pretty sure I could find the mirror reflections of all those complaints and concerns from more leftward college sites.

                I’m not seeing much that rises to the level of KKK Grand Dragon or speaker advocating the cesspool of anti-Islam that influenced the NZ shooter or speaker likely to out trans students on campus for abuse. (My bar for protesting is fairly high and despite the side I’m arguing here, I have gotten a student I was mentoring angry with me because I argued against a knee jerk reaction to pro-Trump campus police chief).Report

  9. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    As if on cue, this piece over at LGM on Flat Earthers:
    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/04/a-lot-of-people-are-saying

    “One of the more jaw-dropping segments of the documentary comes when Bob Knodel, one of the hosts on a popular Flat Earth YouTube channel, walks viewers through an experiment involving a laser gyroscope. As the Earth rotates, the gyroscope appears to lean off-axis, staying in its original position as the Earth’s curvature changes in relation. “What we found is, is when we turned on that gyroscope we found that we were picking up a drift. A 15 degree per hour drift,” Knodel says, acknowledging that the gyroscope’s behavior confirmed to exactly what you’d expect from a gyroscope on a rotating globe.

    “Now, obviously we were taken aback by that. ‘Wow, that’s kind of a problem,’” Knodel says. “We obviously were not willing to accept that, and so we started looking for ways to disprove it was actually registering the motion of the Earth.”

    In a world where there are websites devoted to proving that Galileo was wrong, I have lost faith in the power of logic and reason to defeat the deeper ugliness in human nature.

    I think there is a persistent desire and ability to waive away all facts in pursuit of the age old desires of power and dominance over other people.
    Because that’s what it comes down to. No one is innocently asking questions about race and IQ, no one is sincerely trying to determine if the Holocaust happened.

    These people start with the premise that other people are Unpersons, and work backwards. Your polite and reasoned interrogation only fans the flames of their desire.Report

  10. You will not be surprised to learn that the Flat Earth movement includes all sorts of theories about what the Earth is other than a globe spinning around the Sun. The most popular is that it’s a disk, surrounded by a high wall of ice, aka Antartica.

    Assuming Campos is right that this is the most common belief, I hate to point out to them that the measured geometry doesn’t work out for that either.Report

  11. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Note Dame is in flames and the damage looks really bad. The fire appears to be completely accidental and started during restoration work. One of the great buildings of the world might be no more or take years/decades to rebuild.Report

  12. Avatar pillsy says:

    I have two other things that are worth considering when debating whether to grant someone a platform:

    1. Opportunity cost. I don’t think anybody has ever reached the end of a day and thought, “You know what my day needed? More horrible people saying horrible things!”

    If you think someone is obviously horrible, and expect your audience will too, are you really serving a useful purpose by granting them a platform? Even if your goal is to challenge them with ideas they’ll find disagreeable, you may well serve your audience and your own goals better if you find a smart person to expound on a defensible idea that they’ll disagree with.

    They may still react the same way: with outrage and protests and angry Tweets and just tuning out. But if they don’t, it’s a lot more likely they’ll get something good out of the experience. You’re asking for their time, attention, and a good deal more of their patience than usual. Maybe offer something in return more valuable than, “Some people are awful and say awful things that actually aren’t very hard to refute.”

    2. Are you, in fact, just being a jackhole? There are many reasons to invite speakers, even ones who espouse unpopular ideas, and some of those reasons are extremely bad. One reason that is generally going to be extremely bad is that you want to deliberately antagonize the audience for its own sake. That isn’t good for debate. It is extremely bad for debate. It will tend to convince your audience something that they are already inclined to believe: that people who disagree with them are mean jerks who are just saying mean things to get a rise out of them. They’ll be more, rather than less, likely to tune out or react angrily to people they disagree with in the future.

    If you are bringing in a guest just to trigger the libs/SJWs/snowflakes/et c., you are doing something bad and you should feel bad.

    No, these aren’t going to give you rules you can mechanically apply. You’ll have to apply your own judgement about the speaker, the topic of conversation, the intended audience, and the purpose of having the discussion at all.

    But you were going you apply your own judgement about all of those things anyway.

    Right?Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

      Even if your goal is to challenge them with ideas they’ll find disagreeable, you may well serve your audience and your own goals better if you find a smart person to expound on a defensible idea that they’ll disagree with.

      Yes, but be warned that even eminently intelligent and reasonable people with who you disagree will probably rile up somebody, especially if they think they can successfully de-platform the speaker.

      One reason that is generally going to be extremely bad is that you want to deliberately antagonize the audience for its own sake

      Unless attendance of the talk is mandatory, I’m not sure how this is a problem? I’ve somehow managed to avoid ever attending a talk by someone who I think is a Troll or other provocateur. If people attend the talk, they either want to hear what the person says, or they want to be antagonized (or wish to antagonize the speaker and/or the audience).

      Now if you have a captive audience, then we can have a discussion.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I’m not saying you should never invite people who will inspire outrage, I’m saying you should think about why you’re doing it and decide if it’s worth pissing people off. Because seriously a lot of the people being invited that inspire controversy are being invited solely to inspire a negative reaction from the other students, often to grind unrelated axes.

        College conservative groups who invite someone like Ann Coulter to speak aren’t inviting her because they think she has something worth hearing (come on it’s Ann Coulter), but because they think she’ll antagonize their fellow students.

        They’re just being assholes.

        If no one taking the bait, well, I suppose it’s good that they’re ineffective assholes.

        But seriously, I think “try not to be an asshole” is a reasonable position to take.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

          You know how you complain that conservatives love to decline their own agency and blame everything on whatever liberals are doing this week?

          How are you not making the same argument?Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I’m blaming them for being deliberately antagonistic, which is, I believe, blameworthy.

            Whatever the Leftward activists does in response is on them. Best to ignore the provocation. If they wreck up the place the fact that other people were being dicks is no excuse.

            But if the do and they throw a trollfest and nobody comes? It’s a waste of money and time. Woo go them.

            And no matter how the trollfest works out, their claims that they just want to have an open debate are laughable.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

              Good, because you were sounding like the leftward activists just couldn’t help themselves.

              Although to be honest, for a lot of those activists, I think their protests are less about confronting a terrible person and more about calling attention to themselves. It’s a twisted symbiotic relationship of assholery.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                There’s something to the thing where it’s a vicious circle.

                But I think if you’re overreacting to deliberate antagonism and obnoxiousness, well, the deliberate antagonism is a mitigating factor. And because of that, the overreaction is less likely to be diagnostic of a serious problem.

                If College Republicans invite Ann Coulter to spew her vile spew, and the other students get extremely mad, red, and nude over it, that’s not great but it’s not really saying much about their openness to reasoned debate.

                If the College Republicans invite Tyler Cowen to argue against, say, the minimum wage, and the other students react in the exact same way, well that shows there’s a serious problem and they really aren’t willing to tolerate different ideas.

                Am I saying I can’t imagine that the students would react the same way to both speakers?

                No, the second scenario is more plausible than I’d like.

                But I’m not going to conflate the two, because I think that would lead to serious errors.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Fair point.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to pillsy says:

                It’s important to remember that of the (relatively few) serious attempts to de-platform people, the vast, vast majority of deplatforming attempts were for 4 people – Milo, Coulter, Shapiro, and Charles MurrayReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse says:

                I totally get why there was a damn near national effort to get those first 3 off the stage, but what the hell did Murray ever do to anyone?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Being super racist.

                Like, he’s not in the same class as the other three because he’s actually not just a professional bilge harpy and I think treating him the same is a huge error, but he’s still super racist.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Racist, like he’s marching with Nazi’s, or racist like he’s an old white guy with dated ideas? The Wiki page on him doesn’t give the impression that he’s ‘super racist’, just an old white guy.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Neither, really. He’s not just old white guy racist, and he’s not an extremist, but he advances a lot of theories (couched in academic language) that dance right up to the line of saying that some races are genetically superior to others, in ways that a lot of people (including me) think suggest that he’s either being coy or intellectually dishonest with his true intent.

                He’s not an academic, but he’s also not just a shit stirrer. He’s a think tanker (been at the AEI for ages) and before that he was a policy type in the Reagan Administration.

                So this is one guy where I think the racism charge is very strong, but the deplatforming and refusal to engage is (in addition to everything else) very probably counter-productive. His arguments are much better known than the flaws in his arguments, it seems.

                It’s tricky, but I think this is one case where the, “Bring him in and refute him,” is actually the correct approach to take.

                (If you disagree that this qualifies as super-racist, that’s fine by me. But I think the judgement makes sense, even if the actions that judgement inspires do not.)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                I do disagree that ‘super-racist’ is correctly applied here, but then, this is part of the problem.

                We don’t have objective qualifiers for this kind of stuff, so your ‘super-racist’ is my ‘meh-racist’, and that disconnect is a fantastic way to erode trust. That trust is further eroded when actions taken or desired don’t align with our internal qualifiers.

                So, you and I disagree on the quality of the man’s racism, but we do agree that he should be engaged, not shunned. So some erosion of trust that we are not on the same page, but we are probably in the same chapter of the book.

                But when someone else calls him super-racist and demands he be shunned/de-platformed/etc., that person and I aren’t even in the same book. And not only can I not trust that such a person is, IMHO, reasonable or rationale, I also can’t trust that they won’t view me as equally worthy of such condemnation[1], because I don’t share their views on the matter.

                This is why I push that we need an objective standard before we shut people down[2]. And I do this knowing full well that assholes will game such standards as much as possible. And to that, all I can say is ‘stop feeding the trolls’.

                [1] Commenters on this very blog have expressed such sentiment, that if a person does not equally share disdain for some public figure, then that person is equally horrible.

                [2] In case I haven’t said this before, I do agree with @Patrick that no one, not even a public forum such as a state university, is obligated to invite anyone to speak. But once the invitation is made, and the rules adhered to, you can’t shut them down just because some people in the community object to the message or messenger. You need something more concrete that that.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “[1] Commenters on this very blog have expressed such sentiment, that if a person does not equally share disdain for some public figure, then that person is equally horrible.”

                Yep. A lot.Report

              • My view is that if you are the one that extended the invitation (or are over that person) you certainly can rescind it. But (a) People outside of that chain of authority can’t and (b) People within that chain should be very careful about what they’re incentivizing. I would stick by invitations I wouldn’t have issued in the first place for the sake of (b).Report

  13. Avatar pillsy says:

    Should a bunch of pissed off students have been able to run him off or ruin the event?

    Absolutely not.

    Because he was a goddam Supreme Court Justice speaking about the law. Even if you hate his guts (and TBH I didn’t have a very high opinion of him myself) his opinion on the law is important. Hell, his opinion on the law is actually going to shape the freaking law.

    And it’s not like he was a ninny who was likely to get up there and say a lot of utter nonsense.

    So the administration should definitely put its foot down and say, “This guy’s talking because what he has to say is actually important no matter what.” The students can lump it.

    But I don’t think schools should abuse that power (nor should the various student organizations and the like) by inviting antagonistic marginal asshats who aren’t going to teach the students anything but, “Mean people suck and this guy sucks but you should listen to him because fuck you, that’s why.”Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

      Maybe my opinion is kind of skewed on this because my undergrad alma mater had something like 30k students, not including grad students. Someone was always there talking about something. There was a huge contingent of no joke Lyndon LaRouche supporters who would have events. Periodically anti-abortion groups would show up with giant grisly posters and one time even Fred Phelps came. The Phelps thing did (rightly IMO) provoke a response but him and his 3 or 4 relatives were allowed to stand there glowering at a few hundred counter-protesters until everyone got bored, declared victory, and left to get drunk.

      Point being it was pretty easy to ignore or avoid things you didn’t care about or want any part of, university sponsored or not. You kind of had to because there was something literally every day.

      Maybe it’s harder to just roll your eyes and go about your business at smaller schools? I’ve never understood why that approach is so out of the question. If a university really gets it wrong the empty auditorium will speak for itself.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

        Yes, at smaller schools it can feel more like a community, and also feel more like, well, home. And a lot of the schools really push that sense and try to foster it and market themselves that way.

        Given that, inviting a speaker can generate a perception that you’re inviting a guest. That, on some level, the community approves of what they have to say, at least to the extent that it’s worth listening to what they have to say.

        This is going to really bug a lot of people if they believe that speaker is hostile towards them. I’m not wholly convinced they’re wrong to feel that way if the speaker is hostile.

        Is that the end of the story? No, but you should at least be able to give a reason for why they’re coming beyond, “Well, everything should be considered.”Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

          I think your last point hits something that can too often go under-remarked upon. After one of the many Milo conflagrations someone here shared an article by a conservative writer asking if this was really what right of center students who invited him wanted to be about as a movement. It was very good.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

            Yeah that’s exactly what I’m trying to get at. They have a right to invite whoever they want and I really don’t want to take it away from them.

            But man I wish some of them would figure out something more useful to do with it.Report

  14. Avatar pillsy says:

    @Oscar Gordon:

    My professor for my Ethnicity in America class would disagree with you. Back when I worked as a stone cutter, one of my co-workers gave me a book that was a rather nasty bit of racism disguised as academic thought. I showed the book to my prof and she asked if she could keep it, as she found such reading to be the best means for sharpening her rhetoric against such arguments.

    I mean sure but that’s literally her job in a way. And there are texts and texts.

    Also, and maybe I’m weird, I think it’s very different to present a text to students then a speaker. It’s routine to study texts that are full of awful stuff because they have historical importance, or important and influential ideas, or any number of other things, and they can be read critically, placed into historical context, and contrasted easily with other texts.

    Much different from a person.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

      Is college not a place of higher learning, where students are trying to get better at making and countering arguments (through exposure to the arguments)?

      Or is it just High School part 2, and students are just supposed to learn by rote?Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        It is but it’s still training.

        If the prof wants to assign the task that probably makes sense.

        Or don’t. I spent a ton of time arguing with truly awful people online in college. (And not a few not so awful ones.)

        I didn’t learn a hell of a lot from the truly awful ones other than that they were awful and would maybe try to get you kicked out of school for saying so. (Didn’t work because the Nazi in question was thick as pig shit.)Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

          To be honest, I think they need more such exposure, because when it comes to identifying truly awful people, folks are getting a lot of false positives, because nuance is dead.Report

    • Avatar The question in reply to pillsy says:

      I think this is a really solid point they would be a distinct difference between the signing of the students to read mind Kampf because Hitler was a bad guy but undoubtedly important to history.
      inviting Adolf Hitler to speak to your class would be let’s just go with unwiseReport

  15. Avatar Pat says:

    One other note:

    A great many folks who, in the absence of civil society, would be the first guys to be fed feet-first into a wood chipper by somebody (not me, I am a pacifist) are precisely the folks who argue most strenuously against civil society’s idea of discourse with the good faith intention to get closer to the truth.

    Now, although I am certain again not advocating wood-chipperizing, it is also the case that a subset of those folks would *gladly* use the power they would gain through widespread acceptance of their ideas to do a number of risible or horrible things to folks who disagree with them, up to and including mechanizing the woodchipperizing process.

    But we don’t have to get all the way to Hitler before we have all already passed several goalposts we all agree are bad, right?

    Given that we agree that these folks are arguing in bad faith, have designs on outcomes that are unacceptable, and that continued access to platforms allows them to increase the likelihood they can achieve some goalpost, don’t we collectively have a duty to respond to these bastards?

    I can’t chase Steve Bannon around the world with a bullhorn. I don’t have the resources to do it. But why would I be obligated to allow him to speak – at all – anywhere, anytime, if I can apply the heckler’s veto?

    If your answer is, “well, the heckler’s veto won’t work”, note you are conceding the point that he’s terrible and should be silenced. Do you suggest woodchipperizing (which I have already rejected)…

    …or something else…

    … and if so, what the actual f$&k is it?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

      @pat

      Are you concerned that if you listen to Steve Bannon speak he will persuade you?Report

    • Avatar Pat in reply to Pat says:

      I will assume that you are in a very bad mood and not reply to this comment with the response that it deserves, because Jesus Christ, Mike, it’s both in incredibly poor taste and does not address a single goddamn thing I said.

      If you don’t think Steve Bannon is capable of producing bad outcomes as a political actor, you go ahead and say so.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

        It’s a serious question – if you are immune to his evil persuasions, what are you trying to accomplish by vetoing him?Report

        • Avatar Pat in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Yes, clearly, the only two people on Earth are me and Steve Bannon.

          Nobody should ever worry about anyone advocating for policies they dislike if they think they can take that person in a debate-off.

          That’s seriously your position here?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

            So what you are saying then is that you are too smart to be fooled by Steve Bannon, but it’s your civic duty to de-platform him for the good of the people that are dumb enough to fall for his agenda?Report

            • Avatar Pat in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              No, Mike. I’m saying it is our civic duty to prevent him and people like him from gaining power.

              And I am explicitly asking *you*, who don’t agree with deplatforming him, what *you* think we should do about him.

              Is there a particular reason you are so uncomfortable answering that fairly straightforward question?

              Your response is to be staggeringly obtuse, so I guess your answer is “I don’t think Steve Bannon is part of my civic duty to worry about” or “nothing”?

              Okay, if you insist on taking umbrage at that particular choice, how about Richard Spencer?

              How about someone like Duarte?

              Someone who explicitly advocates for the genocide of folks that don’t match his preferred ethnostate makeup?

              Anybody?

              Is there nothing between “arguing politely” and “grabbing your gun and going into the street”?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Pat says:

                Well why don’t you just throw him in the Tower of London? That will shut him up too, and save all the uncertainty of those election things we have.

                It’s amusing that the left has become the philosophical embodiment of the 18th century British and French aristocracies, using the same arguments and reasoning. The unwashed masses must not be heard.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Pat says:

                Woa, so there aren’t a bunch of things short of silencing, up to and including protest, counter-speech, and, voting one can do to prevent Bannon et al. from taking power?

                Maybe someone better versed on Foucault should jump in but I’m wondering if this (huge IMO) goal post shift isn’t the crux of the debate. Those who think speech itself is power versus those who see it merely as a (very important) tool.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

                waitwaitwait there’s a difference between tools and power? nobody ever told me that!Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

                I would say the difference is pretty self-evident. Speech is one of the tools a person or movement can use to obtain power but it isn’t power in itself and effective use of the tool to any particular end is very far from a given.

                The guy I used to see at Union Station every morning passing out fliers about chem trails was using the tool but quite obviously had no power. Anyone can get a hammer and chisel, but not everyone can sculpt David.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

                Oh OK I get your point.

                So what about Bannon, who clearly has the tool and has demonstrated a past ability to use it with unnerving effectiveness?

                Not saying I agree with Pat’s proposed answer (which seems unlikely to work, among other things), but I still think the question is very valid.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

                I really think that the best solution is how the students at my alma mater handled Phelps, or the way people handled Unite the Right 2 in DC last summer.

                They can have their sad little rally and say what they want to say while a group 40 or 50 or more times as large peaceably demonstrates just how small and insignificant the wack jobs are. Even better is to use their events as an opportunity to get those who oppose them registered and motivated to vote. Much like cochroaches it sucks that you can never quite get rid of all of them but motivated people can keep tiny infestations from becoming a major problem.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

                This seems only slightly different from exercising a heckler’s veto to me, and people often did that with Phelps (drowning him out with motorcycle noise frex) and ISTR everyone being mostly fine with it.

                Not sure where I’m going with this, except maybe that the boundaries here are pretty fuzzy.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

                To me the basic distinction between protest/counter-speech and the heckler’s veto is whether or not the original event and speech actually occurs without more than minomal disruption. For Unite the Right 2 for example Kessler and his merry men got to do their march and he still got to make his speech to those who were there. I would contrast that with incidents where the event/speech is totally prevented from occurring at all.

                But yes, that said, I agree there can be some fuzziness especially on the margins.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

                Exactly. Let them speak all they want, let them be ‘heard*’, but do everything you can to make sure very few people are listening.

                *Don’t try to drown them out, it just gives them the martyrdom they want.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

                Heather MacDonald was giving a speech at Claremont McKenna College in 2017, in which she was going to be critical of Black Lives Matter, and 250 protestors blocked access to the building. She gave the speech to an empty room and campus police escorted her out of a back entrance afterwards.

                https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/04/10/she-wanted-to-criticize-black-lives-matter-in-a-college-speech-a-protest-shut-her-down/?utm_term=.a0d2039d114a

                For the record, that is NOT the way you should respond to ideas you do not like.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Consider an alternative case, because I absolutely agree in this case that the reaction was both normatively terrible and counter-productive.

                Suppose that instead of Heather MacDonald, it was, oh, let’s call him Yilo Mannopoulos, and it was justifiably believed, on the basis of his past engagements, that he would out one or more trans students during his speech, violating their privacy and subjecting them to harassment from his sewer goblin fans.

                Would you still be so certain that the student response was inappropriate?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                I’d say that even there was a reasonable belief that he was going to out someone, that should get him cancelled.

                Question for the legal eagles? Why is publicly outing someone not an action you can sue over? One would think, given HIPAA and the like, the public release of personal information by a third party, for any reason, would be something you could sue over.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Just to give you an overdo answer HIPAA is enforced by HHS OCR. There is no private right of action under HIPAA (the government can fine you but individuals can’t sue for HIPAA violations).

                HIPAA applies to ‘Covered Entities’ which means the vast majority of healthcare providers, health insurance plans, and claims clearinghouses. It also applies to certain contractors of CEs called business associates.

                As long as the information about the person being ‘outed’ is true I think you would be hard pressed to find an avenue of suing over the disclosure in itself. Certain states might have common law violation of privacy torts or statutes one could attempt to sue under for an ‘outing’ (not aware of anything like that in my jurisdiction, and even where there is something I would suspect you would have to prove damages). HIPAA is completely inapplicable because Milo isnt a CE or a BA.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

                Perhaps you could claim that it’s libel or defamation, so long as there doesn’t exist clear publicly-accessible evidence that you’re gay.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If it’s a lie you could sue for slander but truth is a defense to slander. Someone who isn’t gay could successfully sue for a false outing but someone who is in fact gay (or trans) could not.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

                Thank you. I knew HIPAA wasn’t applicable law, I just see it as somewhat in the spirit.

                We all have information that we do not wish to be public, and while this is probably too fine of a needle to thread, there should be a cost to the act of publicly releasing information about an individual when that information serves no public interest.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I think if he has a habit of harming students then A) Why is the university inviting him? and B) Concerned students can use a bunch of different tools to try to spread the word. Social media, flyers, standing outside the venue and telling people. I don’t have a problem with any of that.

                As I said, you can always cite some extreme example where almost anyone would agree that giving them a platform is a bad idea. The problem is that when it comes to deplatforming, as the MacDonald example shows, it becomes subjective and especially in the case of colleges, a bunch of kids shouldn’t be trusted with making that call. Personally I would rather we have the occasional Milo get to speak if it means we get to hear a lot of well-intentioned and intelligent people like MacDonald too. I feel like the Founding Fathers pretty much felt the same way.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The university isn’t.

                Student groups are. Student groups actually usually have the right to host speakers of their own choosing, and at public institutions (which are restricted by the First Amendment from uninviting those speakers).

                The problem is that when it comes to deplatforming, as the MacDonald example shows, it becomes subjective and especially in the case of colleges, a bunch of kids shouldn’t be trusted with making that call.

                Maybe they shouldn’t, but they often are. If you want to prevent student groups from being able to invite speakers (since it has to be content neutral), you can go ahead but I’m gonna suggest that you’re proposing clamping down on speech much more than I am.

                As for the lines blurring, I agree that blurring the lines between the two is bad. But just as much blurring goes on among the anti-SJ Left types as it does among the SJ Left types.

                And by articulating the same reasons for Milo speaking as MacDonald speaking, you are either (a) building up Milo, (b) tearing down MacDonald, or (c) both.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

                @Pat

                I think you counter Steve Bannon by fighting bad ideas with better ideas, not by trying to silence them. Tring to protect the ignorant from dangerous ideas is one of the worst ideas I can think of. They make movies about misguided attempts at doing just that. Seriously, it’s not a far leap from that to being the preacher in Footloose.

                Your approach reminds me a lot of what I called the ‘Drug Talk Part 1’

                https://ordinary-times.com/2012/07/19/advice-for-my-college-freshman/

                You are essentially saying, “Trust me, dumb citizens, I know what’s best for you. I will silence this heretic so you are not exposed to his evil persuasions.” All that does it make him a martyr and create a taboo that young kids are going to be curious about.Report

            • Avatar Pat in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              It isn’t clear to me at what point which of these interventions are suitable to whom.

              Because truly it seems to me that the question is always inverted, and it isn’t in good faith.

              It’s always “you shouldn’t do *that*, that is an unjust use of *your* speech/association rights, cutting down folks you should be debating” (pillsy alludes to that above)

              At what point are you obligated to respond in what way and when does that escalate? Plant some goalposts here because they seem awfully flexible and mostly moved around to make somebody look bad.

              As for the speech/power distinction, I think it’s just hugely bizarre that this is yet another place where people forget the ground we are playing on here.

              This is not a distinction we should be making. The whole reason why we have a first amendment was *because* these guys who started a revolution thought speech *was* power. They killed each other over what they thought was misuses of it, so let’s not suddenly pretend that speech is this abstract thing we protect for some ideological commitment to philosophy.

              It *is* power (at least in our political/legal history).

              For the record, I don’t think the hecker’s veto or deplatforming is often *effective*, and there are reasons to argue with both as tactics. I just don’t normally see folks do that, I see them instead decry kids these days as being lost to intellectual honesty.

              Which is just not a great take and I am losing patience with it. If we were still in the days of Patrick Henry some leftist would just challenge Steve Bannon to a duel and put a bullet in his brain pan (assuming Bannon didn’t destroy his credibility by backing out) and that would be considered normal and acceptable resolution to the debate of whether or not he should allowed to speak.

              That’s the context we started this political experiment in. We are under a cyclical, historical pattern of folks realizing that they are mostly immune to that response and using this “everyone has an obligation to hear me out” drivel to undermine the entire project by undercutting folks’ belief in discourse.

              Which is their whole damn point.

              I don’t claim to have all the answers here but goddamn it I am tired of these conversations where we pretend that those answers are obvious and somebody’s response in a particular case is based wholly on bad faith towards ideals rather than being a pretty important question of how we should deal with folks who intentionally and with malice aforethought attack this whole civil society thing we have got going on.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Pat says:

                Amen.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Pat says:

                “If we were still in the days of Patrick Henry some leftist would just challenge Steve Bannon to a duel and put a bullet in his brain pan (assuming Bannon didn’t destroy his credibility by backing out) and that would be considered normal and acceptable resolution to the debate of whether or not he should allowed to speak.”

                just so we are all on the same page here, pat is claiming that when you don’t like someone’s speech an appropriate response is to SHOOT THEM IN THE HEADReport

              • Avatar InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

                This has gone down the rabbit hole that is for sure.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Pat says:

                It seems like you’re the one over complicating this.

                You can picket. You can chant. You can march. You can vote. You can write. You can have your own rally and your own speeches and podcasts and tv shows and blogs. Hell, you can laugh at them and/or totally ignore them which in itself can be quite effective.

                What you can’t do is storm someone else’s event to prevent what they’re doing from taking place at all. You can use the tool but you can’t take it away from someone else no matter how awful they are.

                As for when it’s time to do one of those things that’s a call every individual has to make for themselves. Everyone has their own line. Having spent my early adulthood being accosted by LaRouche-ites, or Black Hebrew Israelites, or Right to Life protesters, and all kinds of whackadoos on the DC metro my bar is pretty high (though I absolutely will and always do vote). Truth be told as much as I think Neo-Nazis suck I am not convinced they are the threat you think they are. I do think that the one thing that could actually make them a threat is heavy handed tactics that allow them to cast themselves as victims.

                But obviously your opinion on the relative threat differs. Fine by me, pick up the damn tool. It’s yours too.Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to InMD says:

                “What you can’t do is storm someone else’s event to prevent what they’re doing from taking place at all. You can use the tool but you can’t take it away from someone else no matter how awful they are.”

                Why?

                I am not trolling you here and I very much want folks to explicate this clearly because *this* is where you draw the line between speech, association, and what constitutes a just claim to the commons of the discourse.

                Folks have got to flesh this one out. This is where the rubber meets the road.

                Under what set of principles of intellectual discourse is anyone obligated to allow everyone – no matter how vile – an opportunity to proselytize?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Pat says:

                Because the moment that’s allowed is the moment we have abandoned essential foundational principles for our big multicultural society.

                The free speech concepts in our constitution and culture didn’t arise because all was well and peaceful back in the old country. They evolved out of the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, when people did believe certain statements and ideas must be silenced by any means necessary. Reprisal begat reprisal to the detriment of everyone.

                Free speech is one part of the technology passed to us to prevent that from happening to us. We abandon the simple limiting principle at our peril, and the first step to abandoning it is to equate speech with violence and use force to silence it.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pat says:

                Under what set of principles of intellectual discourse is anyone obligated to allow everyone – no matter how vile – an opportunity to proselytize?

                Define ‘vile’. Seriously, do it. Define it in an objective, quantifiable way that it no way smacks of “I’ll know it when I see it”, and that you could get enough votes on to get it written into the constitution.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pat says:

                Because truly it seems to me that the question is always inverted, and it isn’t in good faith.

                Really? Are people here suggesting we should play civilly with the Alt-Right, but we can go to town on the Marxists? Because I am all for letting everyone speak. This recent trend of inviting assholes to speak is, quite evidently, all about evoking a reaction from political opponents. If you want to hamstring the likes of Bannon or Spencer, you ignore them. Make them pay for every second of air time and every inch/pixel of print. Don’t give them free advertising on the local or national news by talking about the ‘controversy’.

                They killed each other over what they thought was misuses of it, so let’s not suddenly pretend that speech is this abstract thing we protect for some ideological commitment to philosophy.

                If we were still in the days of Patrick Henry some leftist would just challenge Steve Bannon to a duel and put a bullet in his brain pan…

                We’ve pretty much stopped killing over it, which is when it went from naked power, to merely a tool for exercising power. Dueling is illegal, using speech to incite violence is illegal, etc. We work hard against mob violence and those that agitate for it.

                If speech is power, it’s a lot more dilute than it was before, since it doesn’t cause nearly as much violence as it used to. Charlottesville was so shocking precisely because it was such an outlier. Most of our riots these days are over sports events, or naked abuses of government power, and not because some speaker got a mob riled up and gave them a target.Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “If speech is power, it’s a lot more dilute than it was before, since it doesn’t cause nearly as much violence as it used to. ”

                If I assume this characterization is correct, then why do we care, exactly? Why do we wring our hands over someone being deplatformed if speech is unimportant?

                “Charlottesville was so shocking precisely because it was such an outlier. ”

                Two things. First, assuming it is just an outlier, isn’t this the place these folks want to go, Oscar? This is their actual goal, right? Why should we treat this as an outlier when this is pretty much what these guys are agitating *for*?

                Second… there have been white nationalist rallies in San Diego, Orange County, Utah, Florida… Charlottesville is just about *this* close to *not* being an outlier at all. This also ignores things like Ferguson, where the question of speech and association and the leverage of power against it were kinda a big deal.

                As for the question of whether or not deplatforming works… anybody hear about Milo recently?

                If we assume, a priori, that Milo is a bad faith actor and thus the tactic was justified, it’s kinda hard to argue that deplatforming him didn’t workReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pat says:

                If I assume this characterization is correct, then why do we care, exactly? Why do we wring our hands over someone being deplatformed if speech is unimportant?

                Really, Patrick? Speech is still a tool for the exercise of power, and the public should have access to that tool, just as it should have access to the other tools of expressing power. De-platforming in the public space robs the public of the tool.

                First, assuming it is just an outlier, isn’t this the place these folks want to go, Oscar?

                Is it where they want to go? I’d say in the long run, no, it isn’t. In the long run, they want their hands on the levers of power. In the short run, however, they want to be seen as victims of oppression, and any actions taken against them are evidence of that oppression. They are trying to co-opt the Civil Rights playbook, except they lack any actual oppression, so they have to do all they can to manufacture that oppression. The more heavy handed we treat them, the easier it is for them to manufacture that oppression.

                As for Milo, I am pretty sure his remarks on child abuse and sex (among so, so many other remarks) did him in. That’s the thing about these kinds of firebrands, letting them speak is just handing them rope, soon enough, they will hang themselves with it.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Pat says:

                Deplatforming certainly accomplished the goal of depriving specific persons of their platforms. Sort of like how Prohibition did, in fact, reduce the amount of drinking happening.

                “Charlottesville is just about *this* close to *not* being an outlier at all.”

                So there’s lots of cases of people being run over in the street by white nationalists? (checks news) Maybe you could find some for me.Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to DensityDuck says:

                “Just so we are all on the same page here, pat is claiming that when you don’t like someone’s speech an appropriate response is to SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD“

                Just so we are on the same page here, Duck yet again reveals that he’s the standard-bearer on this site for re-writing folks’ arguments contra what they actually said.

                Because that’s not what I said.

                Also y’all can just never, ever respond to anything I write, Duck. It will save us both some timeReport

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

                @pat

                I read your comment as, “Look, in the old days we would have just shot people with opinions we disagreed with. In light of that, deplatforming is no big deal.”

                Am I wrong on that interpretation?Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to Pat says:

                “Speech is still a tool for the exercise of power, and the public should have access to that tool, just as it should have access to the other tools of expressing power. De-platforming in the public space robs the public of the tool.”

                You need to make up your mind, dude.

                If speech is important, as a tool to access power, then it absolutely is an important discussion to discuss how that principle comes into conflicts with other principles.

                It can’t be not important enough that we can only consider “all ideas are acceptable” while still being important enough to require bedrock legal protection.

                Part of the other frustrating thing about this conversation is how muddled people make their principles vs. the legal arguments. “De-platforming in the public space robs the public of the tool.”

                This is not exactly what we’re talking about, is it?

                Because “the public space” is carrying a whole lot of water, here.

                It’s one thing to say we should be able to punch Nazis.

                It’s another thing to say Nazis should be able to pull a permit and have a parade and the government is required to provide security for them.

                It’s another thing to say that the Nazis should be able to pull a permit and have a parade and that other folks should be able to pull a competing permit and have a simultaneous parade, and the cops should provide security for it.

                It’s another-another thing to say Nazis should be able to have a permit and a parade and counter-protestors should be able to pull their own permit but we shouldn’t allow them to happen simultaneously because the civic can’t afford the security.

                It’s another-another-another thing to argue that Nazis should be allowed to speak at a public university, because a public university is *not* actually a public space in the same way that a park is.

                It’s another-another-another-another thing to say that Nazis should be able to be disinvited from a public university.

                I can keep going.

                These are all *conflicts* of principles; accessibility to appropriate venues to have representation in the commons is not all as cut and dried as “whelp, 1st amendment, I win!” when it comes to the discussion of what we should promote/condone, which is an entirely different conversation from the legality of it, and we mash all of this stuff together. Case in point:

                “Define ‘vile’. Seriously, do it. Define it in an objective, quantifiable way that it no way smacks of “I’ll know it when I see it”, and that you could get enough votes on to get it written into the constitution.”

                I’m not trying to implement legal code here, dude. I’m not suggesting that any public entity should be able to refuse a permit to the Nazis just on grounds that they’re Nazis.

                I’m asking you to admit that this entire conversation is actually a whole lot more complicated than that, and that it’s very difficult to reduce this to a first-principles argument.Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to Pat says:

                “I read your comment as, “Look, in the old days we would have just shot people with opinions we disagreed with. In light of that, deplatforming is no big deal.”

                “Am I wrong on that interpretation?”

                Yes, absolutely.

                It needs to be said?

                I think this was a dumbass way to solve dilemmas of ideals conflicts, which kinda should be self-evident from, you know, literally all of the other things I’ve ever written here…

                … including the opening two paragraphs of the comment that started this part of the subthread off!

                What I am asking YOU, Mike (and Oscar) is that you recognize that there are a subset of folks out there who are openly advocating the dismantlement of civil society (one of whom is the President of the whole country, it should be noted, who has actively and on multiple occasions advocated violence against political opponents), and that this question of “who should be allowed to be part of the discourse” is actually a complicated question when some of the folks demanding to be part of the discourse are demanding it for the sole purpose of destroying the discourse.

                That’s their whole gig! Attacking the system by ignoring the implicit norms of the system and demanding the explicit rules accommodate them!

                If you do not agree that this is a problem, and you don’t understand *why* folks are starting to just say, “Well, screw it, let’s punch Nazis”, I just…

                … I don’t get it, dude. I don’t.

                This isn’t just a discussion in a salon.

                Again, don’t confuse my position that “Hey, there is a problem here” automatically translates to “… and I know what the solution is”. You guys are arguing against a motte I’m not even constructing here. I’m not even *for* deplatforming.

                I’m just trying to get you to admit that there’s a problem here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

                I think there have always been people that try to disrupt the system with ‘dangerous ideas’. I guess I’m just not worried that the system (or the people in it) are so fragile that we have to protect the system from their influence. I think I pretty much always am going to err on the side of letting more people have a voice than less.

                And it goes without saying that all of the examples we typically hear about of dangerous ideas seem to come from the Right. If I am being honest, there are a LOT of people on the SJ Left that I find appalling. I truly believe some of them are damaging the country and I think they actually affect policy more than anyone in the Alt-Right. But they still get to have a voice and I would punch a Nazi to make sure they did.

                P.S. I would also suggest, in retrospect, that you not reference dueling as a ‘things could be worse’ example.Report

              • Avatar Pat in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                “I guess I’m just not worried that the system (or the people in it) are so fragile that we have to protect the system from their influence.”

                I consider the current Administration to be such a major departure from norms that his party ostensibly considered important (until Obama was elected anyway) that yeah, I think this is a much bigger problem maybe than you do. On the other hand, you’ve been critical of Trump and the GOP’s support of him here on OT so maybe I’m not the one who needs to rethink my worry level here?

                “And it goes without saying that all of the examples we typically hear about of dangerous ideas seem to come from the Right.”

                How much of this is projection from “the Left disagrees with this so it’s coming from the Right” vs. “this guy is actually Right, right here in my tribe, and that’s why they’re against him”, Mike?

                I mean… you don’t *like* Milo or Richard Spencer, right? You wouldn’t consider them good members of the Right in good standing with what you think conservative principles are, do you? I dunno, maybe you do.

                “If I am being honest, there are a LOT of people on the SJ Left that I find appalling.”

                Hey, same!

                ” I truly believe some of them are damaging the country and I think they actually affect policy more than anyone in the Alt-Right.”

                Hey, totally not same.

                Steven Miller is driving immigration policy, my friend.

                Medicare for All is currently just vaporware, and it will be for quite some time now. I think you dramatically underestimate how much weight is on the scales from right-leaning defaults in our legislative process.

                “I would also suggest, in retrospect, that you not reference dueling as a ‘things could be worse’ example.”

                One would think that all of the other things I write here, again, including in the opening paragraph of that actual comment, should establish a much more charitable reading than this is Pat’s “things could be worse” example.

                (shrugs)

                Maybe not.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pat says:

                @Pat

                I was also critical of Obama before Trump and will most likely be critical of whomever comes after Trump. That’s sort of what I do. Do I think Trump is a horrible POS while Bush and Obama were at their core good people? Absolutely. Do I think the Trump is worst than Clinton or Obama from an existential level? Not really. Maybe that makes me partisan or naive but I’m more than ready to state otherwise if I see it, I’m just not there yet.

                As for immigration policy, it’s really unfortunate what he is doing but it’s also not reducing the amount of people seeking to immigrate here and it’s all stuff that is easily reversible when he leaves office. Our immigration policy has changed dozens of times in the last 100 years. Par for the course and not something I get worked up about over a two year span.

                “One would think that all of the other things I write here, again, including in the opening paragraph of that actual comment, should establish a much more charitable reading than this is Pat’s “things could be worse” example.”

                Pat, I’m going to be honest with you here. When I read your comments on this thread I truly thought we had a new commenter named Pat who was saying some wacky things. I only clicked on your avatar this morning and realized it was the same Pat I have interacted with for the better part of a decade and known to always be a level-headed guy. Take that for what you will, but these times are definitely changing people.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pat says:

                that you recognize that there are a subset of folks out there who are openly advocating the dismantlement of civil society

                Recognize it? Sure, absolutely. Hell, I’ve complained about it.

                Give me a nice objective way to identify such folks, and we can talk about shutting them out of the public discourse.

                Keep in mind that people commenting on this very site have complained that the desire to enforce civil discourse is a tool of oppression that allows those in power to discredit and ignore voices that struggle to be heard and are righteously angry about it.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Pat says:

                “I’m asking you to admit that this entire conversation is actually a whole lot more complicated than that, and that it’s very difficult to reduce this to a first-principles argument.”

                Counterproposal: It isn’t, for us. It’s complicated for you because you never imagined that you’d be the one forced to sit there, seething with frustrated rage, while someone said bad wrong things and got away with it. While some vile, immoral filth-spewer just said these horrible, horrible things and nobody did anything at all about it–why, some people even nodded along! They agreed! They agreed. You don’t know how they could possibly think that this–this spew is anything that makes sense, but somehow they’re swayed by it, the morons, the gullible fools, going for the ease of immorality and comforting hedonism instead of the upright path of temperance and prudence and wisdom. I mean, this is clearly a dangerous situation here–eventually all of society is going to go around believing these people are right. And there’s these grinning jackals laughing at your pain, mocking you, chortling, snarking about “freedom” and “rights” as though there’s some kind of right to be an immoral piece of slime.

                Right? You never imagined that you’d be the one hearing someone say that homosexuality isn’t immoral and realizing that you didn’t actually have an argument other than “well it is, isn’t it?”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Pat says:

                And exactly where did I come off suggesting that this isn’t complicated? Of course it’s complicated! If it wasn’t complicated, we wouldn’t be having this fecking discussion, now would we?

                What I don’t want is for persons to be de-platformed because someone (or some group) doesn’t like the content of their message, or just doesn’t like the person(s) delivering it. I don’t want people to endure a heckler’s veto just because someone got a few friends with some bullhorns and the desire to be a public nuisance.

                If your aforementioned Nazi’s have a history of inciting violence, then yes, the public has an interest in not allowing them a public forum, because they’ve demonstrated bad faith. But if the Anti-Fa show up and start busting heads while the Nazi’s are being peaceful and civil, then the problem is with the Anti-Fa, not the Nazi’s. I mean, wasn’t that a tactic the KKK used at Civil Rights rallies?

                I’d even allow a community to say no to a public gathering just because the expected size is beyond what they can handle. And yes, I recognize this is still vulnerable to a heckler’s veto[1], but it’s one I can live with.

                You want to prevent someone from using the public forum, you need an objective reason, not a subjective one, and right now it seems you are arguing hard for subjective justifications.

                As for public universities, no, the University doesn’t have to invite a Creationist, but if Biologists for Jesus invite one, then Biologists for Reason should not be permitted to shut that down just because they object to the speaker or the message, nor should they be permitted to overtly interfere in the talk (blocking access, or making it impossible to be heard by creating so much noise, etc.). They have to be content neutral and thus require objective reasoning to prevent an invited speaker from coming onto campus.

                [1]E.G. if a city puts a hard cap on public gatherings at 15K, the Nazis predict they will have 5K, and if I apply for a counter protest and can show good cause that I’ll have 10+K counter protesters, then the city has a solid out for both, as it exceeds their logistical limit.Report

  16. Avatar pillsy says:

    Another point (which is kind of related to the one I made last night) is that college students, at least traditionally aged ones at residential schools, are something of a captive audience. They live on or right next to campus, their off-hours socialization is almost certainly with fellow students, if they’re in a romantic relationship it’s very likely to be with a fellow student, and changing schools can be an incredible ordeal.

    Also dropping out can severely bone you, especially if you have a lot of debt.

    It’s not an absolute thing, but it’s less easy to get away from things you find offensive, and I think that matters.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

      They are only captive if they are forced to attend the talk. Even small campuses are big enough that a student can avoid hearing a disagreeable person speak.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        It’s a matter of degree. It’s more intrusive and less easily avoidable.

        And really by not really acknowledging the different realities, I think we end up holding college students to rather higher standards than we hold non-student adults.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

          Luckily, most such small campuses are private, and thus can do whatever they want.

          As for the smaller public campuses… well, if such things are so intrusive to your psyche, then perhaps a small public campus is not for you.Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to pillsy says:

          Pillsy,

          I watched the students protesting Christina Hoff Sommer’s speech at Lewis and Clark. It was in a typical classroom type, not in a high profile or high traffic type place that could have created a captive audience situation. There were maybe 30-40 people attending at most?

          I’d have to think about your point as applied to more high profile people but I have bigger fish to fry.

          Kind of bummed that the other comments section was shut down before I could respond. It’s like we were bonding…you may even lift after all 😀Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Dave says:

            Yeah so I think there are definitely cases where students behave in a manner they shouldn’t, and it sounds like that might be one of them.

            I basically have two questions:

            1. Is this a problem that needs additional effort to solve, or is it more-or-less contained and this is just the students blundering their way through their education the way they always have and screwing up along the way?

            I haven’t seen a persuasive argument that it’s the former. If it is I’m not going to worry to much about it. If it isn’t, then:

            2. We have a problem. How do we solve it?

            My position is that the people we need to convince that it’s bad for the students to treat Christina Hoff Sommers that way isn’t our fellow forum goers [1] or people who generally already have a pre-existing commitment to (broad) liberalism.

            It’s the actual students. They aren’t learning what they should!

            In order to teach them the right answer we’re probably going to have to understand why they’re getting the wrong one. And that means at least meeting them where they live.[2]

            PS: To my discredit, I do not lift. I used to in the past and agree that it has many benefits, and need to start doing so in the near future.

            [1] I am firmly convinced the best way to respond to a CHS talk is to not attend it.

            [2] One of the reasons that I like Haidt/Lukianof and Conor Friedersdorf a lot more than many other critics of the campus Left is that they seem genuinely interested in understanding where student activists are coming from while they criticize their approach.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to pillsy says:

      Then it really is a problem with the teaching/leadership of the campus. If schools are not teaching true, rigorous critical thinking, then it matters not a bit how large or small the school is. It is no longer an institution of higher learning in the grand sense.

      If a school is simply teaching one how to be outraged, then isn’t a very good school.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

        This is why it really matters what is outraging the students, I think.

        Also, the learning process may well involve being outraged and getting over it. It’s almost axiomatic that people are going to make mistakes while learning how to do something.

        As a very mild example of this, I remember helping a friend with Intro Econ homework. She was, like most of my college friends, very left wing. She kept getting mad about the material [1] for essentially Marxist reasons. Everything was unfair and exploitative.

        I just had to periodically point out that she didn’t have to agree in order to follow the material to its conclusion, and she eventually told me that she was able to do well in the class because she kept remembering her telling that.

        It seems weird to suggest it was a problem that she hadn’t yet acquired the very skill she was supposed to learn.

        [1] In a related note, when I’d taken the course the previous year, the professor was talking about how we tolerate a certain number of avoidable deaths because it costs so much to avoid them. A student indignantly asked how he could place a price on human life.

        He replied, “I don’t place a price on human life. The market does.”Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

          @pillsy

          “Also, the learning process may well involve being outraged and getting over it. It’s almost axiomatic that people are going to make mistakes while learning how to do something.”

          I absolutely agree that college should be about challenging ideas. If you are conservative, you should try to expose yourself to really liberal ideas and vice versa. One of my professors in my very first semester of college loved playing devil’s advocate, especially around ideas about religion. He would really get his students fired up sometimes. I later found out he was an ordained Christian minister. It blew my mind and made me realize that college, when done right, is like heroin to the curious mind.

          “I don’t place a price on human life. The market does.”

          A good line to remember the next time Sam posts something.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

          Also, the learning process may well involve being outraged and getting over it. It’s almost axiomatic that people are going to make mistakes while learning how to do something.

          And this is where college administrators utterly fail when they give in to demands to decline a speaker. They are just wrapping minds in bubble wrap.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Are they?

            There are demands and demands, as I see it, and reasons for giving speeches and reasons for giving speeches.

            If I found out my employer was bringing in, I dunno, Jerry Falwell Jr. to give a keynote speech at one of our corporate events, I’d be flabbergasted. And then I’d ask someone what the hell was going on.

            And if I didn’t get a good answer I’d escalate it because we would be making an incomprehensibly huge mistake.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

              Or if your union was using your dues to support a political candidate that you didn’t like. Can you imagine?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Huh?

                What does that have to do with anything I said? Like, even remotely?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                Sorry, that was a sidebar. I can just imagine how frustrating it would be if an organization you belonged to endorsed someone you didn’t like.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Yeah I’m just saying that outside of the academic environment we don’t have anything like those norms, and even within the context of campus life there are a lot of reasons to invite someone to speak, some of which are more appropriate targets for both student ire and administrative reconsideration than others.

                (Also as to the sidebar, I think Janus was correctly decided, my partisan sympathies aside.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                @pillsy

                “Yeah I’m just saying that outside of the academic environment we don’t have anything like those norms…”

                I would add nearly all religions in to that. My wife was raised a Methodist in a very progressive congregation. Needless to say they are a bit unhappy with the church leadership these days.

                And even beyond that, there are plenty of elected officials that I voted for and then they do things I disagree with. I guess my larger point is, we all participate in systems where we cede a certain level of decision making to other people. We can voice displeasure when they do things we don’t like or even try to get them removed, but in general the system works because we accept the basic premise of granting them that power. With regards to college campuses, these kids are mostly saying that they should call the shots and they enforce that demand with threats. That isn’t really a great way for them to start adulthood IMO.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

              As we’ve said, private is private.

              If my Alma Mater was hosting Falwell to speak about Evangelicals in America, I wouldn’t blink. I wouldn’t attend (because agnostic), but I wouldn’t care. If he was coming to speak about Women’s Reproductive Health, THAT I would take notice of, and wonder WTF?

              But, if one student group invited a speaker, and another strongly objected and demanded the administration cancel it, I would insist the Administration tell the objecting students that life is full of objectionable people, and they are not obligated to give them any of their attention.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah that is not an unreasonable position, at least without some extreme circumstances like the speaker is coming to out closeted LGBT students.[1,2]

                But I do think it’s important to distinguish the lessons being taught here.

                “Yes, they have a right to invite this person and you have a right not to go,” is very different from, “We have invited this person because we believe they have a valuable perspective that you might well want to give time, attention, and thought to.”

                [1] I keep coming back to this because I can think of at least two cases where conservative activists have done this to gay students for no reason other than being complete fucking assholes, and in one of them it was actually one of the things that launched him to prominence in movement conservatism that he retains to this day.

                [2] In cases of public institutions even that may not be enough. Not a lawyer, but it smacks way strongly of prior restraint to me.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

                Regarding Footnote 1: Anyone who does that needs to be hit with a brick. As I said before, I’m not entirely sure how that isn’t legally actionable.

                ETA: As for you distinctions on the lesson, I would be interested to see a list of people schools (not student groups) have invited to speak in forums that students are encouraged to attend, and then see how many of those speakers got any kind of pushback beyond a few angry letters to the administration or faculty.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Not a perfect fit, but I saw something go by recently (can’t find it atm) about students, faculty, and alumni at Taylor objecting to having VP Pence as the speaker at graduation. Now, Taylor is private and founded as a Christian university, but it seems a large-ish number of past and current students feel that Pence’s defenses of Trump are so contrary to the teachings of Christ that he represents the opposite of what the school is supposed to stand for.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

                Seems like a good example, and right of center to boot.

                But I think a larger data set would be interesting, help flesh out the whole, “is this actually a problem, or is it just the result of the fact that the media is constantly starved for content, and some of us have a selection bias”.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Aaron David says:

        Often I wonder if the real issue underlying all of this isn’t the consumerization of education, or at least if that isn’t as much the cause as all the Marxist grievance studies stuff.

        Like they’re freaking out not only because of the ideology but also because they’re getting a ticket to a different movie than the one they thought they paid for. And there’s of course a whole bought-in administrative apparatus supporting that reaction instead of pushing against it.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to InMD says:

          There never really wasn’t anytime where higher education wasn’t a consumer good except maybe a few decades in the mid-20th century. It’s just that previously, higher education was a luxury consumer good for the upper middle class and wealthy. Now it is a mass consumer good. Still, you might have a bit of a point. The students believe they purchased Product A and when it really turns out they are receiving Product B instead, they rebel.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Aaron David says:

        ” If schools are not teaching true, rigorous critical thinking, then it matters not a bit how large or small the school is. It is no longer an institution of higher learning in the grand sense.”

        You say that like this is a standard that *any* institution of higher learning has *ever* thoroughgoingly achieved, rather than aspired to and struggled with….Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

      @pillsy

      I didn’t live on campus but I was there a LOT. I avoided pretty much everything that I didn’t want to be a part of. I’m sorry but suggesting that students somehow can’t avoid things that might upset them is really creating a sense of victimhood around them, which they are already doing now.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        So, out of curiosity, if a group of Neo-Nazis or Antifa (take your pick for group that upsets you more) decided to hold a rally in the neighborhood where you live, you’d just shrug and leave for the day?

        There is a factor involving scale here. For big universities, avoiding stuff is easy. For small (<2000 student) campuses, it's not quite that easy.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I’m saying it places more of a burden on them than it does on many non-students.

        And I don’t know where you get the idea that non-students are tremendously resilient in the face of offensive and obnoxious speech, but I don’t see any evidence to that effect.

        Anyway, I may be mistaken, but I sense a theme in a lot of these conversations around students in situations like this where considering any sort of mitigation, or even treating their concerns empathically, is, in and of itself, bad.Report

    • Avatar Pat in reply to pillsy says:

      The point that actually matters here is that public universities are not public spaces in the same way that public parks are public spaces. The commons is not an amorphous blob.

      Public institutions exist for explicit purposes. A public university is not a place that is obligated (under any stretch of the definition of “university”) to enable access to any idea. It’s just not. Your science department is not obligated to give equal time to a Creationist because they teach Bio in a class.

      What a public university *is* is a public institution that has to have reasonable rules that are equitable.

      If they’re going to allow campus clubs to exist, and allow campus clubs to have bylaws, and allow campus clubs to have budgets, and allow campus clubs to make decisions independent of university administration within the framework of those bylaws to invite speakers, then they’re stuck with those rules and the consequences of those rules until they change those rules.

      That means if some dumbass troll looks at the university club-construction rules, finds a loophole that allows him to create a new club, set his own bylaws, and vote on an action item without a reasonable quorum to invite anyone from Dave Rubin to Ilhan Omar to Bernie Sanders to Literal Hitler for the express and sole purpose of getting his name in the national conversation as a martyr or a victim of Big Administration, the university screwed up royally and needs to fix it. They own their screwup and they can’t just wave their hands and undo it.

      At the same time, when administrations then implement rules about how you need to invite speakers, which require campus groups to have meaningful bylaws and meaningful action item voting rules so that it takes some critical mass of folks to make an invitation in the first place, that’s not *shutting out legitimate voices*. It’s actually the opposite: it’s *forcing* groups to be actual groups with aggregate decision-making that reflects, meaningfully, the collective will of the group.

      In the meantime, other groups of students saying, “this guy is a troll for inviting that speaker and we oppose this with our own right of assembly and association and speech” that’s, you know, an actual legitimate expression of the principles behind the 1st amendment *too*, **even** if I disagree with their principles **or** their specific chosen tactic. Because the first group might invite a speaker for a closed session (if they want to hear from Milo, well, that’s one thing) or they might invite a speaker to an **open** session, but if you make the open session **open** – even in an environment where there isn’t the whole “purpose of the institution question – then folks are *absolutely* (from a rights perspective) allowed to behave in any way that’s covered under the rules that govern open sessions. If those rules are *bad*, that’s **another** screw-up of the university.Report

  17. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    As a bit of a counterpoint, for those concerned that private Universities are de-platforming conservatives, how many electrons are spent worrying over the lack of liberal speakers at places like Liberty University, or Bob Jones?Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      None, because virtually nobody really expects them to hold to any intellectual or academic standards.

      The lack of concern is far more damning than any outcry could be.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I think it is a matter of scale. How many Liberty U’s are there? How respected are they on a policy/career/cultural level?

      Indeed, they have been deplatformed in the ideological sense.

      We (rightly) make fun of those schools for being closed minded, but we have allowed that close-mindedness to seep into our shared cultural institutions.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:

        If we aren’t concerned that Bob Jones is a conservative bubble, then why are we concerned if Oberlin or Wellesley become bubbles?

        Personally, I would prefer no colleges be ideological bubbles, but as long as being a bubble is taken as a sign that the degree is worth less, I’m OK with that.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          With more and more stories of people graduating with debt the size of a mortgage with a degree that cannot be relied upon to provide a mortgage payment, we’re already swimming in a sea of stories that the degree is worth less.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          My theory?

          Because no worries that if their kids go to Liberty U they’ll be in an ideological bubble where they learn things their parents disapprove of. The ideological bubble is the point.

          People who send their kids to Oberlin are different. People send their kids to selective and high profile schools to help them get ahead, not put them into an ideological bubble.

          Or at least not a bubble of ideology they disagree with.

          And consider the various high profile pundits, writers, journalists, and the like who work the campus culture war stories.

          How many of them do you think want to send their kids to Liberty U?Report

  18. Avatar pillsy says:

    @Mike:

    We can voice displeasure when they do things we don’t like or even try to get them removed, but in general the system works because we accept the basic premise of granting them that power. With regards to college campuses, these kids are mostly saying that they should call the shots and they enforce that demand with threats. That isn’t really a great way for them to start adulthood IMO.

    Is it possible that sometimes the students are right to object to the speaker, and that their objections are sufficiently well-founded that the university should reconsider?

    Not is it the usual case or even a reasonably common one.

    Is it possible even in principle?

    Because if it is, your suggestion that college administrators should never give in to student demands to disinvite a speaker strike me as very strange.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

      Sure. College administrators are not infallible, but if was me personally they would have to make one hell of a case. They would have to demonstrate abject harm beyond hurt feelings and being triggered.Report

  19. Avatar Dave says:

    This is going to be a long reply to the OP and maybe a few comments in between. I skimmed the comments and I thought it necessary to pull everyone back, refocus on a few things and see this post in a more appropriate light – Grievance Politics.

    Loosely named after the recent Grievance Studies Hoax, Grievance Politics employs a form of critical theory to “problematize” an issue, which in this case is giving speaking platforms to “unapproved” persons. The problem with this kind of critical “analysis” is that it lacks the analytical bite of real analysis as well as the direct recommendation of a solution. The idea is that the critical analysis leads to changed minds leading to social change – like supporting no-platforming people.

    Personally, I’m the kind of guy that cuts through the bullshit and makes the argument straight up so this “critique” amounts to whining and bitching. The game goes a little something like this:

    – “I the author am going to give you thoughts that I think are lacking in the discussion” only to follow up with things we already knew – kernels of truth blown up and exaggerated in order to make it fresh and insightful.

    – “I the author demand we have boundaries, boundaries I say!” ignoring that there are already boundaries in place, and pertaining to this particular discussion, quite good ones. In fact, where issues could arise has more to do with legality something not even introduced.

    – “I the author will help us do away with “banal” perspectives” by ignoring them, dismissing them out of hand or just by being a dishonest hack. Read the fourth paragraph carefully and tell me if this is not what’s going on here:

    “Current controversies surrounding platforming have included everything from hosting prominent white supremacists and alt-righters, to hosting figures with connections to them. Other issues involve trolls, sketchy research, Assad apologists, militancy, and dubious relevance. I will avoid any clear examples for the sake of the conversation, as I am attempting to address overlooked point, not highlight current (or overlooked) controversies. Plenty of people have done great work discovering and condemning said incidents.”

    To translate – current controversies surrounding involve very bad people that don’t deserve a platform but I’m not going to name names because I want to address the overlooked points that aren’t actually overlooked while overlooking that the points that aren’t actually overlooked involve current controversies and the people involved in them. The reason? They are bad people – and the cycle goes around and around.

    Sorry readers, it made my head hurt too.

    When someone makes extravagant claims and conveniently shifts away from the dirty work of defending or clarifying one’s position with specifics, my bullshit detectors are going to go off. I’ll dispense with the guessing game and put forth a list of the people that I am confident would be on his list and to hell with it if they aren’t because they fit the profile:

    Jordan Peterson
    Dave Rubin
    Sam Harris
    Charles Murray
    Ben Shapiro
    Christina Hoff Sommers
    Milo Yiannapolous
    Ann Coulter
    Charlie Kirk
    Candace Owens

    I’ve seen plenty of people of John-Pierre’s SJ ilk refer to these people as “detestable”, “mean-spirited”, “extremist”, “bigoted”, “malicious” and other colorful labels. Not a fan of most of them myself but at the very least, let’s not think we’re talking about Nazis, pedophiles, Holocaust deniers, flat earthers and other speakers and ideas outside of the Overton Window.

    Like I said, there are no overlooked points, just overlooking the fact that people have made the same points only much better. To demonstrate:

    1. “Hearing both sides” is not a virtue – Correct, there are cases where it isn’t. Any astute reader of Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors will point to the Afterword section of the book where this very point is stated – some things aren’t up for debate. We don’t need to re-litigate ideas after they’ve been thoroughly debunked and pushed outside of the Overton Window. We need not get both sides of racism, white supremacy, sexism, the Holocaust, 9/11, President Obama’s birth certificate, etc. That’s non-controversial to me.

    2. What platforming communicates about the host – This is very common sense and reputation is very much a concern for any university especially those that don’t want to piss off their alumni that donate. However, there’s a wrinkle with respect to public universities – if public universities offer limited public forums for speakers and student groups can invite speakers to use those forums, college administrators can not discriminate based on viewpoint, as it violates the First Amendment.

    3. Platforming as a function of the Overton Window – this is a bit of a fancypants way to describing the epistemology in Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors. Criticism/acceptance matters as it contributes to the ability of ideas getting mainstream acceptance or tossed outside of the Overton Window.

    However…there’s a problem with this…

    “By platforming malicious voices the respect and seriousness of thought you have garnered rubs off on them.”

    The use of the White Supremacist as an example doesn’t jive with the reality of the types of speakers in these controversies. Therefore, the people you tag with the “malicious” people mean people you disagree with and still fall within the Overton Window. That’s where you’re going with this. You claim to talk about these “malicious” people and use cover like white supremacists but you leave openings wide enough to drive a truck through.

    Also, in the environment like a public university, the respect and seriousness label isn’t a necessary condition for university administrators especially since the students tend to do the invites.

    The one thing about a right to a platform – no such thing. I described a privilege. That’s the way to look at it.

    4. A voice’s ideological bent is not the sole basis of judgment: include rhetoric, personal behavior/tone, associations, etc

    To a point but a smart person that comes off like an asshole to people that disagree with them with bad intentions are the people I most enjoy seeing because they don’t put up with people’s crap. My problem with this is that it allows so much subjectivity that the most squeamish among us can use that to deplatform speakers they don’t like – just ask Christina Hoff Sommers, hardly a white supremacist that one.

    5. Actions, not words, should guide our judgment of platformers – See this is where naming names would help but I’m sure that’s asking too much so I’ll just assume this whole point was made in bad faith despite there being some common sense to it but I wouldn’t go as far.

    6. Platforms as gateways – Totally. Someone could come to our platform here at Ordinary Times, read a post about platforms and complicity and unconscious bias, take a few hits from the SJ crack pipe and before we know it he or she will be singing the praises of Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility and will be ready at moment’s notice to deploy Allison Bailey’s privilege preserving epistemic pushback as the Kafka trap to show that protest is evidence of the very claims it makes.

    Holy shit, come to think of it, I think it’s irresponsible for the editors to allow this platform to be used as a gateway to crackpipe epistemology. How can we tolerate people to spend their time learning how to make their views impervious to argument by ignoring criticism rather than learning how to engage in good faith. I better make sure that we remove the offensive content immediately!!!

    Joking aside, if this were the 1980s and you were talking about heavy metal, you’d make the PMRC proud and Dee Snider would have to whoop some ass.

    7. Platforming for “entertainment?” – I’m entertained. If I wasn’t entertained, I wouldn’t have written all of this.

    Seriously, there’s nothing here I didn’t already know and the “problematic” aspects of platforms aren’t being described by people of John-Pierre’s ilk for the people outside of the Overton window but rather the kind of people John-Pierre wants out of it. It’s all there laid out and easily discernible to those that can get past the window dressing and the perfume hiding the smell of the bullshit.

    Political activism like this rubs the wrong way. Makes me want to tear it apart to show what little is behind it. If I have to take an author down a few pegs, so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done it.

    If this is a bit much for a comments section, I’ll be glad to publish this is a response post.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave says:

      Lotta good points in here.

      The main point that I’d take is that we’ve had several periods in history where the people on the right side of history have wanted to silence dissenters.

      It’s just that, now, we look back see that those people weren’t on the right side of history. They were on the wrong side of it. How could they have been so wrong! How could they have not seen it?

      Not like us. Since we’re on the right side of history, it’s important, now, to silence dissent.

      Or else how will our descendants look at us?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        although if those people on the wrong side had been rightly silenced first then we’d have never gotten the wrong idea that they were on the right side :rolleye:Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

        <emThe main point that I’d take is that we’ve had several periods in history where the people on the right side of history have wanted to silence dissenters.

        It’s just that, now, we look back see that those people weren’t on the right side of history. They were on the wrong side of it. How could they have been so wrong! How could they have not seen it?

        Not like us. Since we’re on the right side of history, it’s important, now, to silence dissent.

        Agree 100%. For me, this is the entire crux of the debate on platforming. The examples throughout History that we point to as most problematic are almost always when someone was denied a platform and it later turned out they were right. And when you deny someone a platform to discuss ideas, you end up with the Protestant Reformation (like seriously, I bet several of the popes after Leo X really wished they had listened to Luther).Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird

        I don’t want to silence it. I just don’t want to be expected to coddle it and make coffee for it and call it “Sir”.

        Literally or metaphorically.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Dave says:

      @dave

      It’s not that it’s too much for a comments section; it’s that if we’re gonna run a site, responding to new-ish authors by calling them a bunch of names and talking about their “ilk” isn’t how to fishing do that. AT ALL. Nor is it a way to make people who kinda *think* you want to talk to them and actually come to common understandings feel confident in that belief.

      I wish you *would* write more posts – we’d love to publish them – and call fewer names, but publishing stuff that’s half fair points that are worth arguing and half bullshit emotional personal drama-mongering and braggadocio is really not the way for us to go about it.

      You are *way* better than this.Report

  20. Avatar Ozzy! says:

    I didn’t plan on commenting on this thread, as there has been so much discussed, very adroitly and honestly I will add, in the 200+ comments above. I enjoyed reading all of your thoughts. It was helpful to read through them as so many engaging interactions occurred.

    I just had this article come through my feed and it angered me, for many various reasons. Framing. Implications. Transitive properties. Assumptions. My own knowledge of the locale. If it was up to me, personally, this would be ‘deplatformed’, just for the falsities it trumpets. That made me think of this post and it’s conversation.

    It’s not up to me though, just like everything you all read and love, shouting out for people to read, or disagree with, hate, and downvote. I guess I ask you all, after going through the conversation you have had on platforming vs. deplatforming voices: I think this is a horrible article and would want it gone. What’s ok for me to do to enact this?

    https://www.theroot.com/white-people-dont-live-in-flint-or-puerto-rico-so-pres-1834097106Report

  21. Avatar JoeSal says:

    InMD commented above:

    “The free speech concepts in our constitution and culture didn’t arise because all was well and peaceful back in the old country. They evolved out of the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, when people did believe certain statements and ideas must be silenced by any means necessary. Reprisal begat reprisal to the detriment of everyone.

    Free speech is one part of the technology passed to us to prevent that from happening to us. We abandon the simple limiting principle at our peril, and the first step to abandoning it is to equate speech with violence and use force to silence it.”

    I didn’t consider free speech as technology. I do now, many thanks InMD.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to JoeSal says:

      I stole it from a Scott Alexander post so credit is to him. I think technology that requires constant fine tuning and calibration is the right way to look at enlightenment ideas. Its purpose is to allow for pluralism without everyone killing each other, and when used well it can work.

      It’s important to remember this stuff did not come out of nowhere.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to InMD says:

        Indeed, and the interesting thing about good technology, is that it will be as useful tomorrow as it was back in the 18th century.

        It’s as if those classic liberal folks were on to something important.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

      It’s an exceptionally good point.

      Also, free speech as we inherit it is much less about debate to winnow and sift out the truth through unfettered free inquiry. It helps protect that, but that’s more of an added bonus, I think, than the central purpose when it was codified.

      It’s about making sure that people retain the ability to organize, protest, and assert their presence and preferences. It’s about power. And it’s about blocking one of the first tyrannical moves undertaken by tyrants when their power is threatened.

      A lot of liberals (in the really broad sense, as folks who trace their lineage back to classical liberalism) seem to get super squidgy when people start discussing collective rights, maybe because they’re afraid that acknowledging the existence of collective rights disparages individual ones. The last seems clearly fallacious to me, but you still hear (often the same) people arguing that the Constitution doesn’t protect any rights that it doesn’t enumerate, so what do I know.

      You can’t peaceably assemble alone. You can’t bear arms to secure a free state alone.

      I spend a fair amount of time on Twitter talking politics with people who range from what I regard as the Far Left to the Near Right. A lot of the Near Right tend to be soi dissant originalists, and I noticed that as I became more sympathetic to their views on free speech (focused around money as speech and the right to resist compelled speech) I also became more sympathetic to the Leftist view on free speech (focused around protest, boycotts, and the like).

      That’s because they’re basically the same view of the underlying right, except (to borrow a Marxist hat from one of my Leftward friends) the Right focuses on the parts of the right that favor capital, and the Left focuses on the parts of the right that favor labor.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

        “You can’t peaceably assemble alone. You can’t bear arms to secure a free state alone.”

        Are you sure about that? I’m not asking if it would make sense to you, but whether you think it is a impossible thing? From a individual sovereignty position this is in total, all that can be done.

        As to the capital/labor rights, do individuals have a right to free exchange without social entanglements? Even many ancoms eventually cede that rule by force is not the answer and forced entanglements are not legitimate.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

          I’m not asking if it would make sense to you, but whether you think it is a impossible thing?

          I do.

          Assembling requires at least one buddy to assemble with; bearing arms in defense of the state presupposes the existence of the state.

          As to the capital/labor rights, do individuals have a right to free exchange without social entanglements?

          I don’t see how they could. Who would they be exchanging with?

          Isn’t commerce definitionally a social entanglement?Report

          • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

            We may end up in talking past each other on a semantics basis, but in individual sovereignty, peaceably assemble, means you bring yourself with a condition of peace as the intent.

            The context of state was a ‘free state’ and in that context there is room for individual sovereignty as it’s own self governing free state. In that context no one else is relied upon to defend individual sovereignty other than the individual.

            I guess we need to discuss the differences between commerce and individual exchanges. Are they both social constructs? How are they different?Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

              Yeah, but you bring yourself where there are other people. You can specifically infringe on that right by saying that, say, no more than three people can congregate for a protest, right?

              As for the free state thing, whatever else they may have been, the Founders were simply not anarchists. They were looking to actually build a state (or as they saw it at that point, a collection of states) that was actually secure against rebellion, but they were afraid of the threat posed by a standing army.

              As for individual exchanges, they still posit at least two people. But commerce generally goes better, and provides more benefit, the more people you have involved, the more agreement you have on media of exchange, the more you have shared conceptions of property, and so on and so forth.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

                I didn’t say that the founders were anarchists, just maybe pointing out that the pluralism of the past had room for individual sovereignty.

                Enough so that back then the idea of ‘regulation’ was in the context of regulating AGAINST institutional government, instead of, as a tool of institutional government.

                I just wanted to see if you could see that in the pluralism. Some people can, some people don’t, it’s not anything more than my own curiosity.

                I suppose that is somewhat accurate, until commerce starts to have problem with stuff like shared conceptions of property, or a whole host of other things that can cause cascade failures of the construct. Individual exchanges don’t have the same types of failures.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                Sort of. I’m not actually persuaded that there was more room for individual sovereignty then, just that the control was asserted at the state rather than federal level. But the states placed a lot of infringements on individual liberty that we’d never accept today.

                And for the most part you’re right, individual exchanges don’t have the type of failures. But we don’t want individual exchanges. We want capitalism, which requires a lot more than that.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

                When ‘free state’ was first written there wasn’t a federal government, there wasn’t a confederations of states, there wasn’t even a governor of Virginia until after. That is why I hold that ‘free state’ is more a regulation against the formal government that was to come, than what existed at the time. The infringements were a failure of upholding a free state, at the county, state and federal level.

                What better service can be found in capitalism than stable, distributed, individual wealth formations?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                Specialization, low transaction costs, stronger incentives towards investment (accelerating that wealth formation), a wider variety of products allowing for more choices, and more efficiency as competition drives innovation.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                Right, but the way I see it all those things (which are why we tend to like capitalism) require not only large numbers of other people, but a ton of reasonably reliable information about them.

                Also, sometimes you talk about individual sovereignty in a way that makes me think you view it as an end to itself. This seems very strange to me, as I usually view liberty as valuable as an ends: it allows people to be happier because it allows them to choose things that make them happy. (I.e., I don’t have to know everybody’s utility function if they have the power to act on their own utility functions.)

                Am I reading you correctly?

                PS: My assumption is that folks with a right-libertarian bent might actually be pretty suspicious of utilitarian justifications/ethics because they let the collectivist camel’s nose under the tent. Which is definitely true since I’m distinctly left-of-center.Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

                We could kind of get into the weeds about distributed manufacturing, both in the past but also in the future, and it does take, maybe not large numbers of people but enough to have localized skill sets to meet the specialization involved.

                But that isn’t as big a hurdle as it once was. Also as things scale to more human size instead of industrial size, we may see some gains even above what we are seeing now.

                I think of Individual Sovereignty as a tool (maybe tech) that kept the concept of self governing untangled at least enough that we could pursue our own happiness.

                In addition to that we would have to resolve the two freedoms problem, because the new entanglement is associating social needs(provisioning) with freedom. Which in the days of old it was understood that “liberty(is), not the daughter but the MOTHER of order”.

                I think from individual sovereignty that social constructs could be built, but they would need to be voluntary, and not forced based. This would allow for a place for those that are happier and more comfortable in social constructs to have what they need. I think this makes available all known utility functions without knowing them.

                In a way I think america had this pluralism going for awhile, but it didn’t survive the church of needs.Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to JoeSal says:

          Individuals aren’t sovereign in the constitutional framework. Sovereignty is a collective people hence the reason why collective rights make more sense in the federal constitutional framework than individual rights, which, to the extent those existed, were simply limitations on federal power.

          This is what I like to call Madison’s originalism, especially since the whole Madison-based compact theory best explains the original Constitution and why any originalist-type interpretive structure fails.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Dave says:

            To quote Justice Wilson:
            “To the Constitution of the United States the term Sovereign, is totally unknown.”

            (Which is probably why the pluralism thing somewhat worked, until it didn’t)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to pillsy says:

        The Far Left and the Far Right have criticized broad school liberalism as favoring bourgeois freedoms like freedom of expression in its’ various forms, speech, religion, press, and assembly, and due process of law over the real needs of the people varyingly defined. The Far Left sees bourgeois freedoms as meaningless when your wondering where your next meal is coming from. The Far Right things that due process is stupid if your society ends up as a crime filled war zone, people need to be able to get up and know that they will be secure in their bodies and possessions. In response, broad-school liberals tend to not like collective rights for the reasons you stated above, we believe that (1) collective rights erode individual rights because groups can impose themselves on individuals that want something else and (2) there isn’t a way to balance the collective rights of every group, some groups are going to get the short shift out of necessity because their collective rights conflict with another group’s collective rights. See various national conflicts over self-determination as an example. Individual rights tend to involve less conflict between different individuals.Report

        • Avatar JoeSal in reply to LeeEsq says:

          “Individual rights tend to involve less conflict between different individuals.”

          It’s almost as if individual rights have their own adaptive subjective value.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I’m not talking about either of those things here.

          For our purposes, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and the rest may be extremely annoying in many ways, but they aren’t Far Right. They’re just ordinary boring old conservative Right, but they still see the issues in terms of power and organization.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to JoeSal says:

      The modern day conception of free speech began in the early 1960’s with NYT v Sullivan followed by Brandenburg v Ohio and the Pentagon Papers case. However, these are legal constructs not social constructs. From a socio-cultural standpoint, this debate gets messy…real messy.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave says:

        I kinda think that, to some extent, there were some underbubblings during the Red Scare.

        Communists ought to be allowed to peacefully assemble, after all.
        Stalinists should be allowed to write treatises on why we ought to live under his watchful eye.

        And there was a blacklist that was, for some reason, seen as bad (even though it was a private company) and there were people who outed other communists and they were seen as bad, for some reason.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Dave says:

        To be clear I’m not making a legal argument or even an argument about what people hundreds of years ago thought they were doing. They couldn’t envision our society. Their motives were their own and almost as a rule very different from ours.

        Back above there was a question about why the classical liberal approach to these questions is the right one today. That’s the context of the original comment.Report

  22. Avatar pillsy says:

    @Oscar:

    We don’t have objective qualifiers for this kind of stuff, so your ‘super-racist’ is my ‘meh-racist’, and that disconnect is a fantastic way to erode trust. That trust is further eroded when actions taken or desired don’t align with our internal qualifiers.

    You know what? You are absolutely right here, and I generally use the term super-racist in a somewhat hyperbolic way to mean, “More racist than you would expect based on the esteem the relevant person is held in.”

    This muddies the waters though, and you’re right to call me on it. I’ll try to be clearer about it in the future.

    With that, I think “surprisingly racist” (much more precise, and I expect easier for you to accept as a reasonable description) actually explains (and to my mind justifies) both the desire to protest and the desire to present for debate and refutation.

    Both are ways to inform people who aren’t familiar with him about how racist his views are.

    However, it does not justify deplatforming or exercising a heckler’s veto so he cannot be heard. That’s actually really counterproductive.

    And I do this knowing full well that assholes will game such standards as much as possible. And to that, all I can say is ‘stop feeding the trolls’.

    I definitely agree that feeding the trolls is bad. But!

    Feeding the trolls in practice has two sides, and I always like to emphasize the other side of feeding the trolls.

    Inviting trolls to speak on campus feeds them. Being extremely exacting when defending their dogwhistling speech feeds them. Insisting their critics treat them with the assumption that they’re speaking honestly and in good faith feeds them. And generally speaking, closing ranks around them like they’re part of your in-group and an attack on them is an attack on you feeds them every bit as much as throwing a bottle of salad dressing at them.[1]

    And that part can be every bit as hard to do as the “not losing your shit in response to their provocations” part.

    [1] Largely forgotten now, but this was a favored tactic of what we would call “deplatformers” in the late ’90s/early ’00s.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

      I think this is very fair and fits within the technology metaphor above. Constant bad faith provocation by the right is one of the many ways the priceless and carefully crafted machine we have is being tossed around in the yard like a dog’s chew toy.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

        Yeah. I like Alexander’s technology metaphor, but when it comes to open debate, I like his commons metaphor even better.

        ETA: And while the Right is definitely way worse on this I don’t want to paint it as a purely Rightward thing because it’s an easy trap to fall into. While I don’t really regret the substance of anything I said during the Great Sarah Jeong War of 2018, I was very much defending her because I viewed her as a member of my team.

        Shouldn’t have done that.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

        “Constant bad faith provocation by the right is one of the many ways the priceless and carefully crafted machine we have is being tossed around in the yard like a dog’s chew toy.”

        Ah yes, the nice old “rights used responsibly” thing.

        Like when we say that communication has to be used responsibly if we want it to be free of interception and analysis. Or when we say that the right to assemble has to be used responsibly if we don’t want the cops to send in the tanks.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Look if you just want to talk about what’s a legal right than, yes, you have extensive legal rights to be an asshole. Go be as big an asshole as you want.

          But if you want to come back and enjoy a culture where non-legal norms depended on people not just being huge assholes for the hell of it all the time, well, don’t act all surprised if it isn’t there any more.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Show me where I’ve ever said anyone had an obligation to exercise rights in any particular way. You can’t, which is why this straw man you’re throwing out here is so stupid.

          Outside of some really narrow exceptions like libel and slander people should have the freedom to say provocative and even foolish or crazy things if they want. Those who use force to stop speech they don’t approve of are wrong, end of story. I’ve spent most of my energy on this post arguing just that.

          However people singing America the Beautiful to avowed Neo-Nazis making Nazi salutes are not defenders of civil liberties and the liberal tradition. Anyone who thinks they are has either been bamboozled or is remarkably stupid (maybe both). Most people who deploy them know this, and are doing it specifically because it is so often successful in provoking a really stupid and illiberal reaction from people they don’t like.

          And they have the right to do that. And the reaction is wrong. But what this shit with Milo and talk radio and the rest of these right wing bomb throwers does to our discourse is owned by the conservative movement, and the ugliness is owned by them too. It doesn’t matter that liberals do ugly things or what its responding to (that’s for them to own).

          These people aren’t principled or saving democracy, they’re cashing in, and taking advantage of people. They deserve scorn and it should be heaped on them by those who do value civil liberties and an ordered, functional system of government.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

            “Show me where I’ve ever said anyone had an obligation to exercise rights in any particular way.”

            and then you say

            ‘These people aren’t principled or saving democracy, they’re cashing in, and taking advantage of people.”

            so

            i guess you said it right there in the same commentReport

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

      Isn’t the charge of racism often based on assumptions of outcomes? You know how Sam does that thing where someone supports policy A and he says that it’s obvious that policy A will lead to bad outcome B and therefore the person advocating policy A wants bad outcome B to happen and they are therefore a monster? I’m sure there’s some term for that kind of argument that someone else here can provide (I just had to Google Overton Window yesterday – you all are so smart).

      Anyway, in the old days a racist was pretty obvious. They called people terrible names, wore white robes, hung up signs that read ‘No Blacks Allowed’ or ‘Irish Need Not Apply’. Or they might have subscribed to the superiority of the Aryan race. Today it’s a bit harder to parse out, especially in academic circles, but so many on the Left still feel comfortable making those charges. I listen to a lot of the people that Dave mentioned in his comment (Rubin, Sommers, Peterson, etc) and while I don’t agree with them on every point, I certainly don’t think they are racist, but so many people are making that same logical leap that Sam does. For lack of a better word, it almost feels arrogant to me.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Isn’t the charge of racism often based on assumptions of outcomes?

        Sometimes, but not here. Here it’s based on Murray’s position (or at least extremely strong implication) that some races are better than others, and specifically that whites and Asians are smarter and more culturally productive [1] than blacks.

        This isn’t about policy implications, though many of the ones Murray argues for [2] are also bad.

        Seriously, sometimes the SJWs are actually right about who is and isn’t a racist, and the way the IDW and Quillette crowd dig their heels in on Murray is an extremely bad look and does every bit as much to degrade trust as hyperbole from the Left.

        [1] Yes, on average, but racism hardly depends on treating members of a given race as an indistinct mass.

        [2] Murray’s background is as a political advisor and advocate, remember.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

          That’s not my read on Murray or similar ideas from other IDW voices (Coleman Hughes writes a lot about this kind of stuff).

          To say that Asians are more culturally productive than blacks is not racism, it’s a cultural observation. There was a time when social scientists were actually allowed to make those kinds of observations about CULTURE and not be charged with racism. What is always such a hard hurdle for the Left is separating race from culture. Especially with blacks, they see the two things as synonymous. They simply aren’t.

          (For the record, way off topic, but Murray is IMO absolutely right about Asians disproving the claims that systematic racism is the root cause of black underachievement and poverty.)Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            @mike-dwyer At the point in time where social scientists were allowed to make that claim without serious challenge, they *also* were systematically in favor of things like eugenics.

            There’s a reason why it *should* be a hard hurdle, and one proved by the claimant, not the receiver, to separate those two claims, especially in cases where they are traditionally intertwined to the point of symbiosis.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

              This is a solid point. Race and Culture can be separate, but they can also be deeply intertwined, thus it is incumbent upon the claimant to be diligent about how they go about separating the two in their work.

              I have no idea if Murray was or was not so diligent, but it would certainly be a valid criticism of his work if he wasn’t.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I would posit that they are only intertwined if someone is being really intellectually lazy. For example, I have two neighbors who are both Asian. One is from China and one is from Okinawa. By contemporary definition they are the same race but could not be more different culturally. That dynamic exists within every ‘race’ we define today. Our inability to escape the linkage of race and culture is an intellectual fault that does huge amounts of damage to our discourse.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                ” they are only intertwined if someone is being really intellectually lazy.”

                That’s tarring most of Western science around human biology for the entire 19th century (actually quite a bit longer on either side) as ‘intellectually lazy’.

                Which… sounds a lot more like something a careless and stereotypical SJW would say than something you want to get attached to saying.

                I mean, there was a LOT wrong with eg Galton or Alfred Russel Wallace (one of whom was kind of terrible and the other one it still breaks my heart to see his racism on the page)…. but intellectual laziness was not, at all, the problem.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

                Point being, it’s profoundly ahistorical to pretend that these *concepts* in our own shared culture have anything like clear boundaries. They spent a long time being very very muddy and many people – including some very horrible but intellectually diligent people – don’t separate them well at all, even today. And, many would argue, even those of us who DO clearly separate them are still subject to the systematic bias toward melding them that governed the European imperial cultures’ (and for that matter Japanese imperial culture’s) attitude toward so-called “lesser” races for a very very long time. That hasn’t just evaporated.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            It is racism if he attributes the difference in cultural productivity to genetic differences in IQ. Which he flits between doing and just strongly implying without sufficient justification.

            The argument about Asians disproving claims about systemic racism being the root cause of black underachievement is also just incorrect. It only flies if you believe that systematic racism as experienced by Asians was identical to systematic racism as experienced by black people, and that’s just not true.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

              Yeah, yeah, I’m familiar with the IQ thing. I do think there is a lot of reason to look closer at test gaps, but not necessarily on the IQ side (I’m somewhat dubious of IQ being a primary factor in positive outcomes).

              I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the Asians and racism thing for today, so as not to derail this comment thread. It’s an interesting conversation I would love to have another time.Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to pillsy says:

          This is one of those issues where I’ve never understood the need to use as a hill to fight on if only because there’s almost no upside and all downside, even with articles I’ve read that treat the material and subject fairly.

          Seriously, it’s to the point where I disagree with your characterization but don’t see a point in engaging it. We probably have more important things to discuss.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

      “Inviting trolls to speak on campus feeds them.”

      So don’t invite them.

      Oh, that other guys invited them? Don’t go see them speak, then.

      That other people are doing a bad thing doesn’t implicate you in that thing being done.Report

  23. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    ‘Surprisingly racist’ is way better, thank you. It implies the necessary nuance.

    As for feeding the trolls, it’s something of a chicken and egg problem. Dumb kids invite trolls because they know it’ll rile up other dumb kids, the other dumb kids get riled up and make a huge scene, and the trolls are happy to oblige. If kids didn’t get riled up, other kids wouldn’t have an incentive to invite a troll.

    But, at the far right end of the timeline here, it would be best if an adult stepped in and suggested to the first group of dumb kids that mature, RESPECTABLE people don’t invite trolls just to stir shit. And it would also be best if other adults reminded the other group of dumb kids about the truth of wrestling with pigs.

    In all of this, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the adults?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      In all of this, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the adults?

      They get paid no matter what.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

        Not only that but there’s a consumerist aspect to all of this. You correct a student, but not a customer. I think there’s growing confusion over exactly what type of relationship this is.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      In all of this, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the adults?

      Bear with me, because I’m gonna not even going to try to avoid my partisanship here:

      The adults are the ones making it happen.

      Look, I think we all know that there are way more Leftwards than Rightwards among faculty, and it’s faculty who generally wind up in these advising roles. And really faculty usually aren’t intensely interested in that part of the job (though there are important exceptions).

      The adults who are most in a position to influence conservative students are off-campus movement conservatives, and they are involved in a campaign to actively degrade the university commons. One route to fame and fortune on the Right is to be one of these fuckhead rodeo clowns like Milo who go from campus to campus stirring up shit. You’ll get high profile jobs, tons of money, respect, fame, and a shot at the big time either in the form of a political career or, more likely, a Fox News gig.

      Milo got gigged for defending pedophilia, not for being a staggering asshole or a crypto-Nazi.

      Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza both got to the top this way. I think Ann may be on the outs over her attacks on Trump from the Right on immigration [1], but D’Souza has gotten reprieves from pretty much every sort of disgrace and scandal imaginable because he’s just so good at owning the libs.

      D’Souza was the other person who outed a ton of students, when he was working on a “conservative” student newspaper at Yale. Outing anybody is a despicable move, but this was in the ’80s when shit was much, much worse.

      One of the reasons I get so testy about all the focus on students being dumb and impulsive and blundering and illiberal is that the conservative movement is malignantly destroying the commons people are mad at the students for not respecting.

      [1] Yes, you read that right.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

        I was about to say something similar. I think administration has a big role in failure to correct (and really enables) the leftward side of this. Conservative students are taking their cues from a movement thats put charlatans and idiot media personalities in its vanguard and now official leadership.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

        @pillsy

        Accepting your premise that there are ill-intentioned forces on the Right outside of the campuses that are trying to stir things up, aren’t there also forces on the Left inside of campuses that are stirring things up? Professors who are the preachers of wokeness? That goes back again to the Port Huron statement and the intent to populate college campuses with liberals to educate future generations.

        And then you have a lot of trained academics like Heather MacDonald or Eric Weinstein or Debra Soh that are appalled by what is happening on campuses for the right reasons and they are trying to fix things but they are also subject to charges of nefarious intent.Report

        • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Studies show that professors actually moderate students political opinions

          https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/06/10/study-finds-students-themselves-not-professors-lead-some-become-more-liberal-college

          https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/01/10/students-more-liberal-but-its-not-because-their-professors-james-piereson-naomi-riley-column/1012622001/

          “The influence is coming from students themselves. In fact, the study says, the more engaged students are with faculty members and academics, the more their views moderate toward the center. But the more students become engaged in student activities, the more the liberals become more committed as liberals and conservatives become more committed as conservatives.”Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Accepting your premise that there are ill-intentioned forces on the Right outside of the campuses that are trying to stir things up, aren’t there also forces on the Left inside of campuses that are stirring things up?

          Shrug. Maybe.

          And then you have a lot of trained academics like Heather MacDonald or Eric Weinstein or Debra Soh that are appalled by what is happening on campuses for the right reasons and they are trying to fix things but they are also subject to charges of nefarious intent.

          Honestly they aren’t a hell of a lot better because they also close ranks around the trolls who are working to undermine the commons they’re defending.

          Seriously, if you want to preserve an environment of open debate and free inquiry on campus, guys like Ben Shapiro are your enemy. That doesn’t mean justifying or accepting anything that is done to fight them from the Left, but it does mean not treating them as part of your in-group, not having chummy little chats with them, and most importantly accepting that they are doing very destructive things for very bad reasons.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

            Is Ben Shapiro my enemy? Or do you just dislike him so you think I should too? I don’t really listen to him much, but I thought he was one of the best voices during the (brief) Convington Catholic thing and guess what, he was right about all of it. He was also one of the ones that was being most outspoken about Jussie Smollett from Day 1 and guess what, he was probably right about that too. I just don’t see him as even remotely a problem.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              I just don’t see him as even remotely a problem.

              I dislike him intensely, but that’s not the issue here.

              The issue is the way he goes to campuses to deliberately antagonize the student activists there with bullshit.

              Don’t look at how he comports himself away from those campuses.

              Look at how he comports himself on campus.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I’ve listened to audio of some of those appearances. A lot of the students that attend try to get him with zingers during the Q&A and IMO he almost always destroys them with basic facts. I like that. It’s character building. Is that a problem?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                He does not.

                You would have to be a moron to think that we determine what pronouns to use for a person based on their chromosomes, and you aren’t remotely a moron.

                But more to the point, gloating about how you’re “destroying students with basic facts” is degrading the commons, and posting videos of them for the delectation of your fans, is the opposite of engaging them in the kind of debate you say you want them to participate in.

                Seriously, he goes to schools with the deliberate intent of mocking the left-of-center students who disagree with him (even if he does it from behind a smarmy debate team facade). How is that not incredibly counterproductive to what you want to achieve?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I’m pretty in-favor of knocking college kids down a few pegs. My professors did it to me and while it stung at the time, I am so thankful for it today. As Oscar points out, there are very few conservative professors left to undertake that work. So colleges have basically outsourced that job to Shapiro and Co.

                And the pronoun thing is also another subject we should put a pin in for now.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m not saying there isn’t a place for knocking them down a few pegs.

                But are you knocking them down a few pegs so they can maybe reconsider that they aren’t as smart as they think they are, or are you knocking them down a few pegs to make them feel bad and give your fans some jollies by seeing their enemies humiliated?

                Because Shapiro is unambiguously doing the latter. He actually sells mugs that say “LIBERAL TEARS” on the side.

                And I could be persuaded to put a pin in the pronoun thing. Why do you think it’s another subject?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                Shapiro kind of wears two hats. He has the ‘liberal tears’ thing that pays the bills but he also has the ‘thoughtful conservative’ thing he does with the Rubin/Peterson tour.

                Because I don’t want to have a whole trans discussion here. I do think that’s a conversation that needs to happen though (although I also doubt it would get far at OT due to editorial stance – so maybe it’s not worth bothering).Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Yeah, and his insistence on the two hats severely undermines the second one, the thoughtful conservative tour.

                Especially since that’s the one that’s paying the bills.

                Students are people. They are often young, impassioned, impulsive, and inexperienced, but they aren’t dumber than anybody else, nor is it remotely cool to be cruel to them, make money off of being cruel to them, and then tell them it’s for their own good.

                That’s how you treat your enemies. And not just your enemies, the enemies you don’t fear because you have more power over them.

                Do you think treating students that way is going to advance the causes you want advanced?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I think liberal students that attend Shapiro’s events and try to play gotcha know exactly what they are walking into. Shapiro doesn’t necessarily want to have those conversations, but some kids like attention. If it becomes a teaching moment, I’m okay with that. You’re probably not going to convince me that he is doing anything wrong in those scenarios. The easy availability of information today makes it hard for me to believe these kids were duped into embarrassing themselves at these events.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                You didn’t remotely answer the question I asked, Mike.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                Yeah, sorry about that. No, I don’t think it hurts things because I can’t imagine any student that is on the ideological fence looks at a liberal kid picking a fight with Shapiro and getting their asses handed to them and decides they should move Leftward in response. But I’m also biased towards Centrist and see us as intellectually superior to all other political designations 😉Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to pillsy says:

            The reason for my “shrug” is believing that some things are true and trying to push the educational system to teach them isn’t an abuse of the commons. It’s just part of how the system works.

            This doesn’t stop being the case when the truths you believe have a strong political component.

            I’m not crazy about the ideas that the GMU Econ Department seems focused on promoting (deliberately, supported by external donors, AIUI), but neither the scholars there or the donors supporting them are doing anything illegitimate.

            I also think that applies to think tankers like McDonald (Manhattan Institute) and Murray (AEI).

            Shit, I’m a scientist working in industry.Report

      • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

        I think the ‘adults’ claim isn’t useful. I know I continue to go back to it, but social objectivity is a issue.

        The social truth components are a issue.

        There are two frameworks of social truth appearing to be in play:

        1.)There is a civil society where liberal/conservative utopia should be the ultimate goal. (That side over there is dismantling our civil society and preventing utopia!)

        2.)We live in a nation of rule by law. We live in a nation that has two parties on a slow rolling (non-shooting) civil war with each other, where no third party can exist because it threatens the balance of the two parties.

        I don’t really see the possibility of 1.) while 2.) is occurring.

        I don’t think there is resolved social truth between the factions to even start working towards a civil society, and with rule by force imposed on the loser, it’s a really nasty condition that will likely lead to a very bad place. If history has some lessons, it is that factions form to control other people. If it cannot control them, it will attempt to destroy them.

        I will add to Oscars credit, he appears to identified a important social truth:

        “We’ve pretty much stopped killing over it”

        And as long as we are not killing each other in mass, I think it is working to some degree. Although there is still the war, and there will be whatever war crimes look like for this particular type of war.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

        The adults who are most in a position to influence conservative students are off-campus movement conservatives

        One of the negative consequences of academia being openly hostile to conservatives is that you wind up not having many reasonable conservative faculty who be in a position to influence said students.

        But if you’ve lost your conservative faculty for whatever reason, then those who remain have an obligation to be the adults in the room. Just because one side has abdicated the responsibility doesn’t mean the other side can walk off to the pub.

        And really faculty usually aren’t intensely interested in that part of the job

        Along with the shift to thinking of students as customers, the academic shift away from faculty who are educators and researchers, and toward faculty that are primarily researchers who manage some TAs and adjuncts, enables this.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          One of the negative consequences of academia being openly hostile to conservatives is that you wind up not having many reasonable conservative faculty who be in a position to influence said students.

          I definitely agree. Contra what many of you might expect, I think the dearth of conservatives in academia is an actual, real, genuine problem, and one that does pose a certain degree of threat to the institutional purposes of colleges and universities.

          Now this one isn’t one I can lay at the feet of movement conservatism, but endlessly amping up the campus culture wars is very counterproductive if you want to turn the trend around.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

            Agreed on that last point.

            The short-sighted-ness of people disturbs me. Better to be able to count coup in the moment, than to refrain and work to build bridges instead.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Right. And I think there are enough real challenges without adding new ones.

              Conservatives tend to value other professions more than academia. That’s not a bad thing at all; other professions are valuable! But they’re always likely to be somewhat underrepresented.Report

  24. Avatar pillsy says:

    @Mike:

    No, I don’t think it hurts things because I can’t imagine any student that is on the ideological fence looks at a liberal kid picking a fight with Shapiro and getting their asses handed to them and decides they should move Leftward in response.

    ghzsfgdjawfhijezrdfughidfghu

    OK, that thing where you suggested that I take a break and do something else for a while? I just did that because this answer is really, really, really, um, not so great.

    Your target audience, based on everything you’ve said, every concern you’ve stated, and every criticism you’ve leveled, is the students who are on the liberal side of the fence.

    And, while this is not quite as heavily indicated by the other stuff you’re writing, you seem much less concerned that they are liberals, and much more concerned about how they are liberals. You complain that they are incurious, unwilling to consider alternative points of view, intellectually lazy, and far too quick to consider disagreement as a sign of immorality.

    You view all of these things as errors. You want the students to learn to do otherwise.

    If you want to teach them better, Mike, you probably need to take some responsibility for making it easier for them to stop making errors and start doing the correct thing. That’s why we have teachers, and texts, and homework, and all the rest.

    It’s sharing some responsibility. Hell, you even said as much when you were defending the propriety of the university administration to ignore their complaints about speakers:

    And even beyond that, there are plenty of elected officials that I voted for and then they do things I disagree with. I guess my larger point is, we all participate in systems where we cede a certain level of decision making to other people.

    The students cede this responsibility because they trust the university to better educate them.

    And that’s my question: do you think that what Shapiro is doing actually helps educate left-of-center students to learn how to meaningfully participate in debates and keep an open mind?

    I’ll even grant that the ones going to his debate have already made something of a mistake, since they aren’t just ignoring him.

    But they’re still learning—we all agree on that—and we want to help them avoid mistakes, not reinforce those mistakes when they make them.Report

  25. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    @pillsy

    (looks like the site ate your comment so I rescued it here – if you canceled it, please advise)

    “And that’s my question: do you think that what Shapiro is doing actually helps educate left-of-center students to learn how to meaningfully participate in debates and keep an open mind?”

    I guess I would put it this way: If we had some college kid come on this site, state their age and that they were just starting to get engaged politically, and then said a bunt of Far Right things that really bothered you (and were maybe a bit snarky about it)…would you go easier on them for fear you are teaching them bad habits about debate? And for that matter, what if they were 40 but had been apolitical for most of their life? Do they also get a pass?

    Shapiro’s events follow a predictable program. The liberal kids that get in line to ask him questions are all hoping they will be the one person that gets to him that night. Half of them have a smile on their face while they are doing it. Seriously, watch this video and tell me how he is damaging these kids:

    Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      @Mike Dwyer:

      I guess I would put it this way: If we had some college kid come on this site, state their age and that they were just starting to get engaged politically, and then said a bunt of Far Right things that really bothered you (and were maybe a bit snarky about it)…would you go easier on them for fear you are teaching them bad habits about debate?

      Probably not. Maybe I would be wrong to not. It becomes much easier, however, to not do that the more the norms of this place tend towards, “Hey, let’s all not actually tolerate Far Right talking points or trolling,”[2] and away from a free-for-all where we dunk on each other.

      So wouldn’t it be a better outcome if we had norms that shifted us away from that? So that the kid (or for that matter naive adult) actually gets straightened out?

      Maybe you think it wouldn’t because this place is more of a full contact sport and you don’t mind throwing some elbows. But I like throwing elbows way, way more than you do so that would surprise me.[1]

      Seriously, say one of the mostly apolitical but starting to be resentful of hostility towards white males buddies of yours showed up on this board and said something pretty bad but not really bad. Would you want me to go zero to sixty on the F-bombs and call him a Nazi, or would you want me to maybe slow my roll and push back more gently?

      I think you know what I’d rather do. But you’re allowed to have an opinion on what you’d rather have me do. Which is it?

      [1] Or maybe you love throwing elbows every bit as much as I do and but invest more effort in self-restraint. Which seems like it would be a very strong argument in my favor.

      [2] This forum has improved dramatically on both axes over the past few years. I’m not trying to deny it. The staff deserve a ton of credit.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

        “Would you want me to go zero to sixty on the F-bombs and call him a Nazi, or would you want me to maybe slow my roll and push back more gently?”

        I would think you can come at that person with both guns blazing, and I would be thankful you did, and you never have to name-call or label him. There’s a difference between defending your position vigorously and losing your temper.

        Do you see anything in that video that looks like Shapiro crossing some kind of line? He might chop them down pretty good, but I certainly don’t see him name-calling or screaming at them. Is what he is doing really problematic?Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          I would think you can come at that person with both guns blazing, and I would be thankful you did, and you never have to name-call or label him.

          But I might want to.

          I might decide that, since they are a nuisance and, frankly, being kind of shitty, I don’t, uh… what’s that phrase… care about their feelings and I might as well be mean to them for fun.

          Why not?

          It’s harmless, right?

          My intentions don’t matter, and their feelings don’t matter, and whether they’re a dumb college kid or a dumb 40 year old they might need to be taken down a peg.

          Right?

          Is what he is doing really problematic?

          I think so. Here’s an example: a link to him
          to Ben allegedly destroying a transgender argument
          .

          And I know you don’t want to address the subject, Mike, but the problem is that Shapiro doesn’t just argue against transgender identities being valid, he does so in a shitty way, both logically (he doesn’t actually answer the question, he begs it) and normatively: he says it mockingly for an applause line.

          And if you look at the girl he’s going after and think she’s enjoying this and the challenge, I want some of what you’re smoking.Report

  26. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    “But I might want to.

    I might decide that, since they are a nuisance and, frankly, being kind of shitty, I don’t, uh… what’s that phrase… care about their feelings and I might as well be mean to them for fun.

    Why not?

    It’s harmless, right?”

    My intentions don’t matter, and their feelings don’t matter, and whether they’re a dumb college kid or a dumb 40 year old they might need to be taken down a peg.”

    I think you and I probably fundamentally disagree what tools are needed in the toolbox to knock someone down a peg intellectually. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the impulse to name-call someone or drop F bombs to accomplish someone’s goals.

    Perhaps the girl in that video wasn’t enjoying the experience but surely she knew what she was getting herself into. And let me be clear here: I watch that video and find NOTHING objectionable about Shapiro’s behavior. I think you and I watching that video and having two very different reactions is probably proof that we’re not going to reach an agreement on him specifically. My question is, do you think Shapiro is so harmful that he should be prevented from speaking on college campuses?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I will also add, you’ve been honest before that you have a habit of insulting and cursing people you disagree with. I guess I don’t see the utility in that. I have seen this tendency a lot more among liberals in the last few years. Typically when someone challenges them on it their counter is that if someone makes an argument they perceive as bad faith or trolling, it’s the equivalent to an insult, so they are free to take the gloves off. I would suggest that ‘bad faith’ is subjective while name-calling is not. It appears they were really just looking for an excuse to behave that way.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        (To be really clear – this is me speaking as a person, a member of the community, not as a moderator in any way.)

        I counted three lies that Shapiro is more than intelligent enough to know not to make in the first 2 minutes of that video. Not just disagreements, but things I’m sure he *knows* are factually untrue.

        I’m not going to quote them because I have no desire to spread his hateful fake news.

        That’s what you see as “NOTHING objectionable”? It’s okay to lie all you want if it makes an earnest and worried college student look stupid to your hangers-on?

        How many offensive positions do you need to put a pin in to comfortably participate in conversation here, @mike-dwyer?

        And have you ever considered that maybe the reason you’ve run out of center-left and leftists who are willing to be endlessly patient and helpful in wooing you away from the temptations of the far right (as you referenced in a comment earlier this week, and kinda implied when being a real jerk to Pat over and over) is because *you wore us all out*?

        Come *on*.Report

        • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Maribou says:

          @Maribou
          I think if you are going to make a claim of untruth(factually untrue), you need to demonstrate the truth is resolved before you can leverage it against Mikes “NOTHING objectionable”.

          I’m asking this more as a running through the paces to make sure that social objectivity is resolved in these matters, when it is claimed to be resolved.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

            This places an unfair burden on @Maribou, IMO.

            Mike’s said he doesn’t want to have a discussion on the merits about transgender rights and identity.

            Mike also is claiming that there’s nothing objectionable about what Shapiro is saying.

            If supporting the contention that Shapiro’s arguments are objectionable requires a discussion on the merits, I’m not sure how we are supposed to proceed.Report

            • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

              Good point.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

              @pillsy

              I didn’t say I did not want to have that conversation. To the contrary, I said I think it would be a very interesting one. But I was also trying to not derail this thread with that side discussion.

              Regarding Shapiro, I don’t see much utility here for digging into the specifics of what he says. The question (for me) isn’t really about exactly how right he is but whether or not he is right enough to be worth listening to. I think he is and you have already stated he isn’t, so I’m not sure what more there is to discuss on him specifically…?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Can I ask you a different question about Shapiro?

                Why do you think he’s not only worth listening to, but so essential to listen to that of all the Rightward speakers, he’s the one who should be invited to represent the face of conservatism to a bunch of already suspicious and hostile college students?Report

              • Avatar JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

                What would be your top three conservative speakers you would invite to talk to a bunch of already suspicious and hostile college students?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                @JoeSal:

                Good question. I don’t have three at the top of my head, but I generally think libertarian-ish Econ profs will occupy many of the top slots.

                1. They’re academics and have experience (as teachers) interacting with such students in a hopefully constructive way.
                2. They are likely to actually address beliefs commonly held by left-of-center college students that are horribly wrong.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I don’t think I ever said Shapiro was essential. I said he doesn’t remotely deserve to be de-platformed. You also said that he shouldn’t be de-platformed, so what exactly are we disagreeing about here?

                If you are so concerned about who is on the invite list at all of these colleges and what kind of harm they might do to impressionable young minds, I would ask that next month, as colleges across the country hold their commencement exercises, you think about who they invite to talk and what those people say. Those graduates can only avoid that speech if they skip their own graduation and, unlike a Shapiro event, they won’t be given an opportunity to voice their own opinions afterwards.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                @Mike Dwyer:

                You also said that he shouldn’t be de-platformed, so what exactly are we disagreeing about here?

                That Shapiro is a bad choice and conservative student groups and the like should not invite him, and that by inviting him they are signaling contempt for the debate norms you are so concerned about.

                Those graduates can only avoid that speech if they skip their own graduation and, unlike a Shapiro event, they won’t be given an opportunity to voice their own opinions afterwards.

                So just to be clear, if those college students very strongly disapprove of commencement speaker invitations, they have a strong argument that such speakers should be disinvited?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                I’m not sure what else I can say about this. I’ve stated multiple times that I don’t believe Shapiro is problematic and I actually think he is a net positive for campuses because anytime a conservative voice actually gets to speak, it’s a net positive in 2019. Perhaps we should move on?

                “So just to be clear, if those college students very strongly disapprove of commencement speaker invitations, they have a strong argument that such speakers should be disinvited?”

                I’m not sure how you could have read my comments on this thread and arrived at that conclusion. Since you somehow missed that message, let me quote myself from upstream:

                “If I am being honest, there are a LOT of people on the SJ Left that I find appalling. I truly believe some of them are damaging the country and I think they actually affect policy more than anyone in the Alt-Right. But they still get to have a voice and I would punch a Nazi to make sure they did.”Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                @Mike:

                Because commencement speakers aren’t just getting a voice, but, as you said, they are getting a captive audience that has very limited ability to respond.

                That’s not about a right to be heard.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                The captive audience argument was yours, not mine. You made it here:

                https://ordinary-times.com/2019/04/15/thoughts-on-platforming/#comment-3040267

                It was refuted by Oscar (and Dave?) and I will cosign. I don’t buy that argument so it wouldn’t be a justification for limiting the speech of the commencement speaker in my book.

                It seems like you really want to try to lead me to a path where I endorse some kind of deplatforming or at least not allowing certain people to speak by simply not inviting them. I don’t think you’re going to be successful in that effort.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I don’t even understand the point of bringing up commencement speakers then.

                But fine. Let’s drop that.

                Anyway, I think various statements you’ve made along the way through this conversation are under a lot of tension with each other.

                So I am pushing to see if you have a coherent argument that resolves the tension (in which case even if you’re wrong at least I have something new to consider) or if you don’t maybe you can revise your argument and come back with a stronger one.

                The tension is actually essential in the context of this article, because someone has got to decide who to invite, and the article lists a bunch of things to consider when making that decision.

                But if people are making decisions, surely it is within the realm of debate whether they are making the right ones.

                So why can we debate everything but, “Was this speaker a good choice to invite?”Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to JoeSal says:

            @joesal Honestly I don’t care if social objectivity is resolved. I wasn’t trying to debate in that moment. There is an entire *corpus* of biological and historical knowledge that I am goddamn *tired* of trying to get people to learn when they can’t be bothered.

            It was a moral appeal to his common sense. Which he dodged by backing and turning rather than by sitting with, as far as I can tell. At least in what he commented, I only have the evidence of what he typed out, not what he thinks.

            Which fine.

            But I have no *need* to always try to live in some objective debating space and I’m not going to pretend that’s a requirement for engagement just because a bunch of folks who prefer to believe in objectivity think so.

            Ben Shapiro is a lying, malicious person and so are a lot of these so called “reasonable” speakers.

            There’s no value for me in pretending otherwise or in painstakingly proving it over and over and over and over and over.

            But sometimes there is some value in being blunt about being exasperated.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Maribou says:

          ” kinda implied when being a real jerk to Pat over and over”

          That you see Pat as reasonable and Mike Dwyer as a jerk says a lot.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to DensityDuck says:

            @densityduck I saw Mike as being a jerk in that particular conversation, continually and willfully misinterpreting things as part of that “persona” he keeps insisting we’re all playing here but that I often see him taking to much more of an extreme than I would… or at least that’s what I see if I give him the benefit of the doubt. (“Being a jerk” was very precise and you’re overgeneralizing to take out the behavior vs person modifier.) Pat is not only reasonable, but extremely thoughtful, and kept engaging despite being continually mischaracterized in implausible ways.

            I have plenty of so-called “objective measures” that claim my reading comprehension is startlingly above average, so it takes a lot more than saying my take on a series of comments is “saying a lot” to puncture my bubble or whatever it is that you think you are doing.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I have seen this tendency a lot more among liberals in the last few years.

        I agree. Liberals in general are much, much angrier than they were a few years ago. I think the reasons why are not tremendously mysterious, but whether you agree with our behavior, you are correctly perceiving it.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to pillsy says:

          Also, gotta say, when it comes to justifications: if I say I call someone an asshole, it’s because I think they’re being an asshole. There are a lot of ways to be an asshole, when you get right down to it. Many more, in fact, than there are ways to not be an asshole.

          It’s not some specific bad faith thing or whatever.

          And that’s one of the things that bugs me about what I saw in that Shapiro clip. He’s being insulting and dismissive, trotting out incredibly poor arguments that suggests he holds everybody’s intelligence in contempt [1], and then just hide behind some “technically didn’t name call” standard.

          It’s chickenshit. Ugh.

          [1] Most especially that of his fans who click through to that and think they’re watching someone being destroyed with logic.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

          It appears the Left/Right are locked in this arms race at the moment to see which side can be more despicable and both justify it based on the previous cycle. Republicans impeached Clinton and then ‘stole’ the election from Gore so that justified BushHitler for 8 years from the Left. Then Obama gets elected and the Tea Party did their thing and people questioned his citizenship, etc. Now Trump and we see where this is going. All the while people use the most vile language imaginable on both sides (though I must say the Left is a bit more fond of name-calling, but that is really just a personal annoyance for me). If a Democrat manages to defeat Trump next year I expect to see things ratcheted up even more. The question I keep having for people that are letting themselves become part of the cycle is really just…why?Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            OK, Mike, here’s the problem with your argument as I see it. I don’t know whether you’ll find it persuasive, and am happy to discuss further or let it drop.

            You are absolutely correct that the Left was extraordinarily angry about Bush. He made us spitting mad, and that was reflected in our rhetoric.

            However, after eight years of that, we nominated Obama.

            Now I hear a lot of Rightwards (not just you) say Obama was very divisive, but to most folks who are Leftish this seems like an incredibly weird perception. That guy? We thought of him as a deliberately conciliatory choice, and it seemed like a ton of people agreed with us.

            You (not necessarily you personally, but Rightish people in general) may have felt the same way with W, by the way. He had the whole “compassionate conservative” thing going [1], so I could see the backlash being pretty WTFy.

            Bush v. Gore really did not help at all, but he followed that up with ordinary conciliatory president-y stuff, as one should.

            So anyway to us, we elected Obama, he won by a lot both times, he had very high approvals entering office and pretty high approvals leaving office, so the argument that he was divisive never made much sense. It wasn’t a sign of true looniness or anything but it never seemed any more credible than any of the other partisan back and forth over any president.

            It was all in the game.

            The Birther stuff started bubbling up and it was absolutely foul, but I think a lot of people thought it was going to fade away as we moved towards the 2016 election and the GOP threw up an ordinary candidate like Rubio.[3]

            Of course that isn’t remotely what happened. The Birther mania did not, in fact, fade. Instead, the single most prominent Birther in the country was nominated by the GOP as President, and then went on to be deliberately confrontational and dismissive of every standard of decency that had, however tenuously, kept campaign rhetoric at least marginally sane.

            I belabor this a lot, but part of the reason why is that Trump was a massively disproportionate escalation following Obama, or for that matter Bill Clinton.[2]

            And I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone here who doesn’t identify as at least center-left acknowledge that it was a massive departure from what came before in terms of anti-Left backlash.

            I often feel like I’m eating crazy pills around here. This is one of the reasons.

            [1] This looked like a partisan dodge to partisan Dems, but obviously there would be disagreement between partisans Dems and partisans Rs or even non-partisans over this.

            [2] Yeah I said 2016. I still don’t really understand why anybody expected Romney to win in 2012. He was a mediocre candidate running against a popular incumbent with an improving economy.

            [3] Who, remember, the Republicans hated so much that they impeached him!Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

              @pillsy

              I think you are significantly minimizing the Left’s behavior during the Bush years. That was my most GOP-ish period and I thought the Left quite frankly treated him horribly. I actually thought the Obama years were an improvement on discourse form the mainstream conservative over the way that mainstream liberals behaved during the Bush years, but i will also acknowledge that may just be partisan blinders. I will also acknowledge that regardless of how mainstream conservatives behaved, there was also an insurgency from the Tea Party crowd that the right also has to own up to and their behavior was not okay.

              Anyway, my point was really just that it seems the rhetoric on both sides keeps escalating and no amount of anger justifies people behaving that way IMO.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      My question is, do you think Shapiro is so harmful that he should be prevented from speaking on college campuses?

      Prevented? No, I thought I’ve been pretty clear about that all along.

      I don’t think people should invite him. I especially don’t think people should invite him to foster debate. I think people who do that are making bad choices.

      People often have the right to make bad choices. In many circumstances, this exact bad choice that people are making is one they have the right to make.

      But really students are very justified in protesting other people making bad decisions even when those people are within their rights to do so. And I think it’s crap to simply hold the fact of objecting to a guy like Shapiro up as a sign of close-mindedness because they’re protesting as long as they do so legally.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Remember a discussion we had some time ago about the use of “Watch this person TOTALLY DESTROY that person!” and “Listen to so-&-so ANNIHILATE this person!”.

      The appeal of that kind of click-bait couldn’t possibly have anything to do with how such filmed events are conducted…Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Most of the videos are fan-made, but regardless, it’s just not something that bothers me. Shapiro has become the new Rush in terms of following, but he’s a whole lot smarter and tailored specifically to the modern-day Left. If I’m ranking my top 10 conservative voices, I don’t know if he even makes the list, but again, we were talking about platforming vs. deplatforming not a popularity contest.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Mike, in the argument I made I was specifically arguing that the reliance on Shapiro as an on campus speaker is harmful to constructing/restoring/preserving a culture where free and open debate is possible.

          He can be bad for that without de-platforming being justified.

          But, by relying on him as one of their ambassadors, if you will, the IDW/heterodox/whatever folks are undercutting their own credibility when they say they’re just interested in free and open debate.

          Finally, and this is another issue I may not have mentioned at all, just because he shouldn’t be de-platformed doesn’t mean it’s particularly bad or troubling for students to argue he should [1]. Using the fact that students are debating in favor of something to indicate they are unwilling to debate is silly.

          [1] Provided they don’t cross the line from arguing that he should be de-platformed to actually de-platforming him.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

            @pillsy

            “…the reliance on Shapiro as an on campus speaker is harmful to constructing/restoring/preserving a culture where free and open debate is possible.”

            If you honestly think that restoring free and open debates to college campuses is a problem for the Right to sort out, I don’t know what to tell you. Those things have been dying a slow death at the hands of the Left for 50 years now.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              I didn’t say it was a problem for the Right.

              I said it was a problem for the IDW-adjacent set (which is a group I include you in based on your past statements) because the IDW-adjacent set says it’s a problem! They want to solve it.

              The IDW is not, I think, coextensive with the Right. This is good news for them, because if were otherwise I think their job would be much harder.

              Now, in order to solve it they either (a) need to solve it or (b) convince other people to solve it.

              They can’t solve it on their own. They simply lack the relevant power.

              So that means convincing other people to solve it, and in particular that means convincing the Left to solve it.

              I will stipulate that it’s the Left’s fault that things have gotten so bad, even.

              You still have to convince the Left to help stop making it worse and improve things.

              Given all of that, do you think that the task can be made harder by selecting the wrong speakers to promote and highlight when making your case?

              It doesn’t even have to be Shapiro. Just as a general thing.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                For every Shapiro there is a bunch of other less confrontational speakers like Jordan Peterson or Sam Harris that are also regularly called lots of not-so-nice names. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a style thing. I think it’s a content thing and in the case of many IDW voices, they won’t be able to escape that because the Left really doesn’t tolerate dissent at all.

                Despite their own claims to the contrary how many of the IDW voices are told they are NOT liberals or in fact alt-right? A bunch. And look at what happened to Howard Schultz? I get that the Left is trying to circle the wagons in the same way conservatives do, but 1) they are actually being a lot more regressive about it and 2) they are trying to create unity in a party full of self-interested sub groups.

                So, again, you can try to kick this back to the Right or the IDW crowd but silencing opposition is a mostly Progressive project at the moment. I’m not sure why everyone else has to moderate their opinions to hope they don’t get added to the blacklist.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                @Mike:

                Despite their own claims to the contrary how many of the IDW voices are told they are NOT liberals or in fact alt-right?

                Yes, Mike. That’s because a lot of liberals believe those people are lying.

                You know, like saying something that isn’t true for personal gain?

                You don’t have to agree with the charge. You can argue the charge is absurd (in some cases it is completely absurd), but that is the fundamental issue here.

                And if you apply the same defenses to all of them, when they are clearly much stronger defenses in some cases than others, people are much less likely to believe you.

                Even if you are correct, the fundamental calculus here doesn’t change. You are trying to persuade the Left to change.

                Unless you don’t actually care if they change. In which case why even object?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to pillsy says:

                “You can argue the charge is absurd…”

                Yes. This 100%. Like, tin foil hat, Manchurian candidate absurd.

                “You are trying to persuade the Left to change…Unless you don’t actually care if they change. In which case why even object?”

                Of course I am not trying to change the Left. They have a long way to go before they hit rock bottom. I’m interested in the Centrists and moderates that don’t want to be any part of that fall.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Yes. This 100%. Like, tin foil hat, Manchurian candidate absurd.

                That’s the problem, Mike. For some of them it’s 100% tin foil hat absurd.

                For others it’s about 10%, mild hyperbole absurd.

                And then the same defense is used in both cases and it’s virtually impossible to credit any of it is on the level.

                Building a movement out of somewhat leftish to very conservative academics and a bunch of YouTube rodeo clowns who range from somewhat rightish to absolutely frothing mad was, perhaps, a mistake.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to pillsy says:

                Kentucky just signed into law provisions that make such campus deplatforming and “safe spaces” illegal, as they violate the First Amendment.

                It turns out that the left was not needed at all to solve the problem.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to George Turner says:

                Cool, so when will be Planned Parenthood be allowed on the campus of all private Christian colleges in Kentucky?Report

  27. Avatar pillsy says:

    @Mike:

    Good luck convincing people I guess.

    I mean you were right earlier. I don’t actually care about the Campus Culture Wars that much. I don’t really see any reason to believe there’s a crisis over free speech because I don’t see anything that suggests that this isn’t the same thing that happens with every generation of new adults as they step on half a dozen rakes figuring out politics and identity and sex and all the rest of it while the older adults gape in horror because they’re fucking it all up in some new way, instead of all the comforting old ways.

    And if the College Republicans think that Ben Shapiro is their boy, awesome. I hope they invite him to speak. I hope every group of campus conservatives invite him. I think every group of activists think “free speech” means pissing people off for no reason drops him a line.

    Because I want everybody to see that what they mean when they mean “open minded”. They mean a guy who smirks while his audience laughs because a girl is practically in tears because he’s backing up hateful crap with arguments that anyone with a pulse should be able to see are dumb as hell.

    Let them see him. Let them see the guy who says who wouldn’t go to a good friend’s wedding if that friend were gay. That’s the guy you say promotes open-mindedness while the SJWs drench everything in moralistic judgements: a guy who won’t get off his own dumb culture war bullshit long enough to join a buddy on the happiest day of his life.

    So like I said, good luck. It’s the only thing you’ll have.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

      your energy here says you think this is an own but in fact it’s what we’ve been asking for all along, so, thank you for owning us, keep doing it?Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I guess. I mean I think inviting Shapiro is dumb and counterproductive but I don’t think I ever said anybody shouldn’t be allowed to do dumb and counterproductive things.

        If I did, well, I was clearly in error.Report

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