David Thompson
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June 05, 2013

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Joe

I even have a mug.

I want a mug too. I also want you to blog more frequently. There's a few bucks heading your way.

David

Joe,

Much appreciated. One day I’ll be doing this from my jewel encrusted yacht. Scratch that. I’ll be on my jewel encrusted yacht while minions do this for me.

Solomon Grundy

So universities now have special 'zones' where free speech is allowed –provided you give ten days notice in writing… [shakes head]

David

[shakes head]

And because harassment is so serious an offence it’s now being redefined in a tendentious and farcical way, thereby making it less clear whether any harassment actually happened. But you can still say it happened and punish someone anyway. For almost any reason. And so students face a vast and laughable catalogue of punishable sins ranging from “intentionally producing psychological discomfort” (at the University of North Dakota) and “inappropriate laughter” (at Sarah Lawrence College) to “eye contact or lack of it” (at Michigan State University). At Brown, any “verbal behaviour” that “produces feelings of impotence, anger or disenfranchisement” is no longer tolerated, while other campuses, including Colby College, have outlawed any speech deemed to result in a loss of self-esteem.

Progress!

Severian

And most striking of all, only 16.7% of college professors strongly agree with the statement that it’s safe to hold unpopular positions on campus.

There's the chicken in this chicken-and-egg problem. How is pedagogy even possible in such an environment?

It's by no means only the tenured radicals who are policing expression on campus. As you've noted, the studentry themselves are heavily invested, and patrol with the zeal of the converted. Take a subject like, say... picking at random.... modern European history. Any class that failed to explain the appeal of National Socialism to at least some of the populace would be worthless. And yet, the statement "at the time, and in context, quite a few voters felt the Nazis had a point about _____" is guaranteed to get some precious little snowflake upset. Which is, here in America at least, the death sentence for the un-tenured.

David

Severian,

the studentry themselves are heavily invested, and patrol with the zeal of the converted.

Some, absolutely. See, for instance, Mr Arun Smith, a textbook example. Such policies (and the atmosphere they can create) provide both license and leverage for certain personalities – say, people with weak arguments who don’t like being challenged. Or who just harbour a grudge they can’t otherwise justify. To say nothing of outright authoritarian wannabes.

Years ago, I was having a debate here with a left-leaning commenter named Dr Dawg (who, incidentally, isn’t like Mr Smith). We were arguing about the gender ratios of various academic fields and other occupations, and how this might be explained. Either during the debate or afterwards, someone pointed out that our discussion, which was vigorous but civil, would be regarded as rather scandalous on many campuses. Which, given what we were actually saying, is still a little shocking in itself.

AC1

Diversity tends to be a branding term for Politically Correct Apartheid policies.

rabbit

A robust libertarianism is often developed later in life, once we've shed the insecurities of youth and the totalitarian impulse to control, control, control. It's thus not surprizing that social engineers gravitate towards secondary education, where they can have at the most talented of society before their views mature.

I'm hoping that the cuts many institutions have been forced to make in recent years have resulted in a layer or two of administration -- and perhaps some "critical studies" departments -- being stripped off, but I'm not optimistic. Leeches are not easily removed.

WTP

critical thinking

Here's some critical thinking. From a certified Thinkologist, no less. Teaches others about thinking. The "critical" kind.

http://aphilosopher.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/the-phantom-menace-in-florida/

mojo

Where does one get minions, I wonder? Is there a minion placement service at the Stooge & Toady Academy?

Severian

David,

yes, it's shocking to consider that your conversation with Dr. Dawg would be verboten on many campuses. But skimming through Dr. Dawg's posts, it's easy to see why. He operates on the default assumption that there should be no differences, and if there are, it's because of culture... except when it's not, as in when girls outperform boys on reading tests, and then it's about eeeevil conservatives bailing out on those "innatist" (I think the word was) theories and blaming feminism, because girls being better at reading is exactly the same as, and yet completely different from, boys being better at math. Or something. And always the ascription of motive to data: "How do we explain that women are now enrolled in engineering in huge numbers? Are they being traitors to their biology?" (as if "being a girl" requires one to only study art history; as if "enrolling in a program" is the same as "being good at it;" as if there are no other huge, obvious causal factors -- like the push at all levels of the American educational system to get girls into STEM, because dammit, they should be -- that might account for this; as if.... et cetera ad nauseam).

I know hundreds of people like Dr. Dawg. They can do this kind of thing all day; they've practiced for umpteen years in grad school. At the end of the day, though, you either agree with them or fail the course.... or get kicked out of school.

David

Severian,

yes, it's shocking to consider that your conversation with Dr. Dawg would be verboten on many campuses.

Some of the most frustrating and/or entertaining exchanges I can remember have been with students or former students, or people who’ve spent too much time in academia. When people who are definitely not idiots cheerfully disregard logic, evidence and the scale of their own assumptions, it’s very strange indeed. There’s a kind of obstinacy, an imperviousness. If you’ve an appetite for ploughing through old threads, this exchange with Jean K rumbles on (and on) along not dissimilar lines.

Henry

Severian: "He operates on the default assumption that there should be no differences, and if there are, it's because of culture..."

This reminds me of the "debate" over psychological gender differences. Perhaps it is not so much a debate as a concerted attempt to pretend that insidious "conditioning" to conform to gender roles is causing, for example, more boys than girls to play with Lego.

There's even a "Liberate Lego!" petition. Barking mad.

The makers of Lego, would naturally be more than happy for girls to be asking their parents for it, and have tried on many occasions to introduce Lego kits that might appeal to girls. To no avail. Girls seem to resolutely stick to chatting and social games in general, boys prefer 'rough-and-tumble', cars, trains, guns etc.

There's quite a lot of research showing this, but you don't hear so much about it, just as you don't often hear about reputable work that was done on domestic violence that reached some surprising conclusions.

Severian

David,

Were I a linguist or rhetorician (with a professional death wish), I'd try to name some of the varieties of that peculiar academic twitch your conversations illustrate. Generalizing the personal is pretty much the name of the game in humanities (____ Studies), but personalizing the general works pretty well too ("traitors to their biology"). Call it the Marxist Tic -- acting as if class categories themselves somehow have agency and operate in the real world. I am Female (or Gay or Straight or Black or Transgendered or whatever); therefore I must _____. Seems awfully Calvinist somehow, as does their inability to link cause and effect when the effects are undesirable: "We do X, and every time it leads to Y? But we know X is the right thing to do; it must be God's will that Y."

Henry,

tedious, isn't it? I've always wondered where this "culture" comes from, that gives the fellas all the power... and how to get in on it. I guess past patriarchs had a much stronger whip hand than we do. Anyone who claims that men can boss women around at will because of socially-imposed gender roles has obviously never had a date in his/her life. Wait, you don't suppose.....?

dicentra

Hey, do y'all on that side have a whole gubmint agency that will destroy your enemies for you? If so, send them a thank-you card! http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=49570

David

dicentra,

Heh. I was just about to mention that, and their targets. If any of the people happily taking part later see themselves in the video, I wonder if they’ll register any unflattering precedents.

Rob

Henry, that link is blocked through my phone to over 18s only. What is the site?

Col. Milquetoast

Greg Lukianoff and theFire.org gives me a strange feeling that complete doom is imminent combined at the same time with the feeling that the censors can't win.

When I was a kid it seemed like people would argue to censor something by saying "well, but free speech does have limits" and then try to argue that their hobbyhorse should be one of those things considered outside the limits. Later I encountered a view where someone would want to censor something and they'd justify it by declaring "but, duh, that's not free speech, so it's ok if we censor it."

The presumption that almost everything is free speech unless there is a justification in making it censorable has shifted into almost everything being censorable and having to justify not censoring something.

This has the rhetorical advantage of allowing a book burning totalitarian to invoke Voltaire and proudly say "I disagree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it… unless I think it doesn't qualify as free speech."

Franklin

Having been irked to no end by the DOE/DOJ letter mentioned in the video, and encountering too much confusion for my liking in the circles in which I travel about freedom of expression, I have taken this and run with it: In Praise of Hate Speech.

David

Somewhat relevant:

Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.” […] Personally I would like to see Newport city councillor Majid Rahman arrested and thrown in jail, not because he offends me (although such views do indeed offend me) but because a politician threatening people with the police because of a T-shirt should be regarded as a crime.

And from Franklin’s article:

That hate speech is legal is the marker by which you know that your freedoms of expression are in good working order. By all means, ignore the message. Mock it with speech of your own. But call for its criminalization now, and one day you may find yourself marked a criminal for something you said or wrote or made. […] Repeat after me: you have a right to offend people, and they do not have a right to not be offended. They have a right to offend you in retaliation, but that is the extent of their right to retaliate.

The pitons by which hate speech restrictions climb the wall of legality is this notion of unwelcome verbal conduct. It’s a short step from there to the idea that persons or groups should be shielded from denigrating expressions. Thus we go from protecting speakers to protecting hearers. This is striking the First Amendment at the root. This is the pathway by which the most sensitive people, or the ones who can feign the most outrage, end up in control.

And so the passive-aggressive tendency gains more ground.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

The T-shirts should have been in Welsh.

pw

And so the passive-aggressive tendency gains more ground.

Also known as authoritarian shits.

David

Also known as authoritarian shits.

If you like, yes.

What’s interesting, I think, is where this tendency is increasingly concentrated – among tomorrow’s intellectuals. As Lukianoff says,

Suddenly, the bar for being offended has gone way down. We’ve all seen the feigned outrage as something that pervades our entire society and if it works as a trump card to shut down discussion, people are going to be attracted to using it. And what people fail to recognise is that feigned outrage is something that was first weaponised and perfected on college campuses.

The idea, then, is to be as prickly and reactive as possible, to cultivate a kind of hair-trigger intolerance, thereby discouraging any questioning or deviation. Though it doesn’t seem a good way to organise one’s thoughts or take on board new information. Some students who’ve embraced this fashionable attitude, like the participants of Occupy Cambridge, even say, quite plainly, that they don’t need any new information: “We no longer need to listen.” Being as they are so incredibly wise and clever.

In one of my very first posts, I wrote,

When I see attempts to stifle debate or to control the terms of debate, or to shut down thought before it can happen, I most often find those attempts coming from the left. This wasn’t always the case, of course; but right now I don’t see too many leftists standing up for free speech and the testing of ideas. Those that do are assailed from the left. And if a person doesn’t want an open debate to take place and wants to define in advance what kind of language is permissible and which subjects are off-limits, that usually indicates the weakness of their position and, more to the point, an awareness of just how weak that position is.

I don’t think much has changed in that regard.

Henry

Hi Rob,

I guess you mean the second link*, which is a piece on the "A voice for men" website (kind of a Mens' Rights Activist site - these can be hard work but there may be some sensible people involved on this one).

The piece is by Dr. Murray Straus, Professor of Sociology, University of New Hampshire, Durham. He's actually a self-avowed feminist and is rather mortified that other feminists have tried to suppress work showing quite a lot of symmetry between male and female perpetrators and victims in partner violence. The paper is here in PDF form as well.

Also on his personal site somewhere, among 100s of his papers on similar subjects. There appears to be quite a lot of evidence for what he's saying. Enjoy!

(there are also some crazy stories, about how DV/PV has been misused as a political tool by US feminists, on one of the GirlWritesWhat videos on YouTube)

*the 1st is a boring petition statement

David

The TypePad spam filter is still getting ideas above its station. If anyone has trouble posting comments, email me and I’ll rattle its innards with a broom handle.

Spiny Norman

Take a broom to it, David. Like this.

David

The comment I posted about the spam filter was, of course, caught in the spam filter.

The gods, they mock me.

dicentra

If any of the people happily taking part later see themselves in the video, I wonder if they’ll register any unflattering precedents.

"He lied to me!"

"Yes, he withheld the purpose of presenting the card for signing."

"He never told me he was going to show the video to everyone!"

"Did you do something wrong? Are you ashamed of being seen supporting that position? Didn't your parents teach you that right and wrong don't depend on who's watching? If they didn't teach you, you need to chastise them for their negligence, and if they behave that way themselves, you need to chastise them for being lying bags of steer manure."

dicentra

I am Female (or Gay or Straight or Black or Transgendered or whatever); therefore I must _____.

It's easier to form and enforce tribal affiliations if there's an immutable (or nearly so) trait involved. We get confused because this all started out as an exercise in color-blindness and genuine tolerance, when in fact they were gunning for erasing the old lines so that they could be in charge of drawing and enforcing the new ones.

David

Didn’t your parents teach you that right and wrong don’t depend on who’s watching?

Just thought that was worth repeating.

dicentra

that usually indicates the weakness of their position

Their position being "I ought to be in control," and therefore not very palatable.

Dr Cromarty

Meanwhile Laurie Penny is channeling Johann Hari

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/steerpike/2013/06/dear-laurie-penny-please-explain-this/

mojo

“Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
-Orwell, Politics and the English Language

TDK

Interesting that the MSM has been covering "check your privileges" recently

Dan Hodges (Blairite Labour supporter) jousts with Laurie Penny amongst others

Norm gets a word in

I only note that, a daughter of the patrician class fails to check her privileges, when confronted by the disconnect between her supporting an elitist ideology that has never commanded majority support from the working classes.

Stuck-Record

Hard to think of 'Check your Privilege' (snort) without thinking of this.

Considerably richer than you.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8Kum8OUTuk

The left really have jumped the shark.

Franklin

I rather enjoyed the Daily Mash's take on the CYP issue.

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/check-your-privilege-obviously-a-colossal-pile-of-twat-2013060570924

Rich Rostrom

dicentra @ June 06, 2013 at 19:03:
"I am Female (or Gay or Straight or Black or Transgendered or whatever); therefore I must _____."

It's easier to form and enforce tribal affiliations if there's an immutable (or nearly so) trait involved.

It also helps if one can point to actual history of the group being persecuted or oppressed (even if it is trivial or very old history). If the history was sufficient, it becomes part of the group identity. Professional XXXes flaunt such history on all occasions - pushing that button. Failure to support the current agenda of self-appointed group leaders becomes complicity in that historic oppression. (Note the frequent attacks on American black conservatives as "house ------s" - an explicit reference to slavery.)

It helps even more if there are still people who are conscious enemies of the group, even if they are insignificant in numbers or power. It's hard not to rally to the XXX banner when somebody wants to kill you for being one.

(Unless one is a really determined leftist Jew, apparently. No amount of explicitly murderous anti-Jewish rhetoric from Moslems will dissuade them from "solidarity" with "anti-Zionists" and "resisters of imperialism or get them to support Israel. Many women and homosexuals have similar blind spots.)

WTP

Say what you will, but I find this CYP thing rather intriguing. It hasn't penetrated too deeply on this side of the pond, so I'm curious as to how it works. If, and this is totally hypothetical of course, my one grandfather had been a coal miner and, in summer, a sod-buster, and my other grandfather a roofer who hung himself in the depths of the Depression, leaving my grandmother to raise 3 grade school children on her own, could this potentially qualify me to tell Al Gore and/or Nancy Pelosi to STFU? Is there some sort of privilege registry or ranking service? Granted, Bill Clinton would probably out rank me, but Hillary would definitely have to keep her trap shut. One wonders if they've thought this thing through.

Stuck-Record

Weird. That was not what I intended to post.

Supposed to be this clip. Monty Python miner.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLoVF7vcBtY

David

Rich,

Failure to support the current agenda of self-appointed group leaders becomes complicity in that historic oppression.

And what could be more edifying than watching various lefties denouncing an insufficiently deferential black neurosurgeon as an “Uncle Tom.” And an “Uncle Ruckus.” Not to mention a “puppet,” “a monster” and a “token.” The Daily Kos opted for the term “political Mandingo.”

John Henry

Losers must be made to believe they are winners, at all costs. So shut the coitus up!

To quote one left leaning genius ... "Winning!"

Ya ... Winning progressive style.

Stan

Liberal universities are full of close minded bullies?
Who knew?

That's all it is, bullying, but try to explain that to a liberal savage and you will just be wasting your time.

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