For a long while I’ve been trying to interest my friends in the art world to get behind freedom of speech in a bigger way, to recognise that the very health of the marketplace of ideas depends on its openness to entry and its freedom of transaction... This usually doesn’t persuade anyone who isn’t already liberty-minded to begin with. So next I resort to self-interest. We creative types rely on that openness to function. If we don’t stand in defence of hate speech — not the content, just the right to express it — any mechanisms for cutting it off will eventually be used against us. If injured feelings take on the seriousness of injured bodies, we will become a society that pulls art off of walls, cancels performances, and strikes essays from public view. Sadly, this usually doesn’t work either, because the targets of accusations of hate speech typically lean right, and the art community leans left.
Franklin also links to this Pew survey of social media use, which suggests that self-described progressives are statistically much more likely to ban or block people with whom they disagree. A finding that may not be entirely shocking to regular readers.
And somewhat related, Greg Collins on the unremarked privileges of the self-appointed privilege police:
The paramount privilege at universities is not race, class, or gender, but intellectual soft despotism… A student whose worldview clings to that of university administrators and professors has the advantage of accessing university resources, money, and time to drive his cause. These instruments are far more powerful in granting benefits to politically preferred groups in higher education than subconscious biases in favour of particular races or classes. It is a privilege when your views conform with those of more than 90 percent of your professors. It is a privilege when your worldviews are blessed by a proliferation of like-minded commencement speakers and guest lecturers. And it is a privilege when you have university resources, money, and time within fingertips’ reach to wield to advance your political cause.
As an illustration of this leverage, Collins mentions one of many sabotaged speaking events - a talk by the conservative writer Don Feder at the University of Massachusetts in March 2009, the subject of which was, or would have been, free speech. Within 20 seconds of opening his mouth, Feder had been interrupted, shouted down and called a racist, before being screamed at repeatedly and assailed with epithets about his daughter. Despite his pleas for civility, Feder was unable to speak for more than three minutes without further, often deafening interruption by members of the International Socialist Organisation and Radical Student Union. Footage of the disruption can be seen here. Despite the students’ prolonged attempts to intimidate Feder and prevent the intended discussion taking place – a goal they accomplished - campus officials later claimed that Feder “chose to discontinue his speech.” An interesting, and revealing, choice of words.
I’m reminded of what Robert Heinlein said about hippies: “Hippydom is not itself a culture (as the hippies seem to think) as it has no economic foundation; it can exist only as a parasitic excrescence to the ‘square’ culture.” So too with the academic humanities, which have largely squandered the moral and intellectual capital they once possessed by adopting the roles of adversaries to, rather than preservers of, the larger culture. This, too, turns out not to be sustainable.
And Ed Driscoll discovers there are no socialists in divorce court:
Michael Moore, who has spent his entire career attacking capitalism, wealth, and Wall Street, is suddenly very protective concerning the capital, wealth and investments he has amassed over the years. As Christian Toto writes at Big Hollywood, “Far-left filmmaker Michael Moore is divorcing his wife, and the looming court battle looks ugly already.” Christian links to this Smoking Gun report, which notes that “the couple’s combined assets are likely worth tens of millions of dollars,” including “multiple substantial residences and multiple companies.”
But America’s most outspoken socialist, being an outspoken socialist, deserves nine properties, including an agreeable Upper West Side apartment valued at $1.27 million and, naturally, a mansion. This, remember, is a self-described multimillionaire who told the world, quite boldly, “Capitalism did nothing for me.”
As always, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
Peter Risdon slaps Chris Dillow’s testicles. Metaphorically, I mean:
It’s more appropriate to talk of Marxists being indoctrinated than it is most people, who take less doctrinal, more experience-based and pragmatic approaches to issues. Marxism belongs with traditional religions to a bracket of improbable, dogma-based belief systems that require faith to maintain, in the teeth of what could politely be called conflicting data. As with traditional religions, you get ‘Why I am still a Marxist’ and ‘Why I am no longer a Marxist’ essays and columns – Chris himself wrote one – which are very similar to ‘Why I am still/no longer a Christian’ type pieces.
You don’t get ‘Why I am still a slightly conservative pragmatist’ essays in the same way.
Her paucity of ideas and her unwillingness to do actual research led Mary Daly to the crucial insight that consumers of radical feminist books didn’t really care about facts or logic or coherent argument. No, the feminist readership consists of disgruntled misfits who want someone to give voice to their inchoate rage. My theory, then, is that Daly discovered she could spend a few hours a week sitting in front of a word-processor, probably with a supply of whiskey and ice near at hand, typing any kind of stream-of-consciousness nonsense that popped into her head. So long as her rants were aimed at the phallocratic patriarchy, and invoked the celebration of radical liberated womanhood, the incoherent nature of Daly’s prose was actually a feature, not a bug. No one could refute her “arguments,” because no one could make sense of them.
I was alarmed but not altogether surprised to read that Marie… did not want [her assailant] to be locked up but rather that they should receive a punishment “so that they understand.” Understand what, precisely? That hitting a defenceless woman in the face ten times with a knuckleduster isn’t a nice thing to do? But they understood this already, only too well: It was precisely their understanding that impelled them to do it… Presumably Marie had in mind something such as psychoanalysis, perhaps mixed with a little compulsory social work or planting flowers in municipal flowerbeds. This is like trying to talk reason to Pol Pot at the apogee of his power, to get him to stand down by persuading him that what he was doing was wrong.
If Miss A suddenly finds herself being beaten by Thug B – repeatedly, ostentatiously, with premeditation and knuckledusters – and then insists her assailant should face only the most mild and inconsequential punishment, this looks an awful lot like moral preening. “See how lenient and saintly I am.” The next victim of thug B – and there usually is a next victim – may not appreciate this display of moral (self-)elevation.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
Among the items already bought this way are several books found on my own shelves, including Fabian Tassano’s excellent Mediocracy, a sort of devil’s dictionary of modern inversions and dishonesties; David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin’s One-Party Classroom, an eye-widening overview of dogma and question-begging masquerading as education; and Thomas Sowell’s no less marvellous Intellectuals and Society, which was discussed here and here. An extract:
If you happen to believe in free markets, judicial restraint, traditional values, etc., then you are just someone who believes in free markets, judicial restraint and traditional values. There is no personal exaltation resulting from those beliefs. But to be for “social justice” and “saving the environment” or to be “anti-war” is more than just a set of beliefs about empirical facts. This vision puts you on a higher moral plane as someone concerned and compassionate, someone who is for peace in the world, a defender of the downtrodden…
In short, one vision makes you somebody special and the other vision does not. These visions are not symmetrical. Because the vision of the anointed is a vision of themselves as well as a vision of the world, when they are defending that vision they are not simply defending a set of hypotheses about external events, they are in a sense defending their very souls – and the zeal and even ruthlessness with which they defend their vision are not surprising under these circumstances.
Should anyone feel compelled to make a direct contribution to the upkeep of this blog, and thereby boost my self-esteem, there’s a PayPal button top left. And by all means use the comments to suggest other items of possible interest. And thanks to Pierce.
Feminism is not an idea or a collection of ideas but a collection of appetites wriggling queasily together like a bag of snakes… A useful definition is this: “Feminism is the words ‘I Want!’ in the mouths of three or more women, provided they’re the right kind of women.” Feminism must therefore accommodate wildly incompatible propositions - e.g., (1) Women unquestionably belong alongside men in Marine units fighting pitched battles in Tora Bora, but (2) really should not be expected to be able to perform three chin-ups. Or: (1) Women at Columbia are empowered by pornography, but (2) women at Wellesley are victimised by a statue of a man sleepwalking in his Shenanigans. And then there is Fluke’s Law: (1) Women are responsible moral agents with full sexual and economic autonomy who (2) must be given an allowance, like children, when it comes to contraceptives.
Enrol in a college you can’t afford. Take really easy, fun courses [e.g., Politicizing Beyoncé, or The Sociology of Hip-Hop: The Theodicy of Jay-Z]. Don’t worry about marketable skills. Blame society for the consequences (unemployment) of your attitude problem. Then demand the government (or your parents) bail you out. We guarantee you all the misery you could ever want.
The extreme egoism of communist leaders is a trait displayed throughout the history of the movement since Marx’s ridiculous insistence that only his socialism was “scientific.” Yet such is Jesse Myerson’s egoism that he imagines himself superior even to Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. At least they had the integrity to admit that the abolition of private property — the expropriation of the bourgeoisie — could only be accomplished by violent revolution, and that the victors of such a revolution would have to employ the methods of violent terror to establish their dictatorship.
Ponder the graph above. Sixty-nine per cent of Labour supporters would want a top rate tax of 50 per cent even if it brought in no money… This is a blog about the mind-set of people who see taxation, not as an unpleasant necessity, but as a way to punish others.
Following this piece on the self-destruction of the humanities, Heather Mac Donald responds to accusations of “neoconservative pearl-clutching” by Slate’s education columnist Rebecca Schuman:
Is Schuman content with a situation in which a Columbia student rails against having been asked merely to listen to Mozart because Mozart is a dead white male? Where might that student have picked up that attitude if not from the academy and its offshoots? Whiteness studies, black studies, feminist studies, and queer studies are not a fever dream of the “neocons.” For decades now, students have been taught to search for an echo of their own “voices” in the books they read and to reject those works that they believe “exclude” them, a remarkably narrow approach to the arts. I don’t want to hear my own “voice” in what I read; it bores me.
As noted previously, you do have to marvel at a humanities student whose decisive criteria for music appreciation – criteria affirmed by her lecturers - are the composer’s pigmentation and the configuration of his genitals. As with many articles by Ms Mac Donald, there are several quotable passages, of which the following is a taste:
Schuman concludes by revealing the unbridgeable abyss between the academic hothouse and the outside world. Purporting to turn the tables on academia’s critics, she maintains that it is they who are playing the victim card: “Their gesture [of criticism] is itself a triumphant co-opting of the very manufactured, hyperbolic narratives of oppression they oppose.” Huh? Is Schuman admitting that academic “oppression narratives” are “manufactured” and “hyperbolic”? Who knows? Moreover, her purported gotcha is without any logical grounding: To criticise a trend is not, in itself, a claim of victimisation. Schuman then suggests the real motive for concern about the humanistic tradition: “It’s the [conservative] Manhattan Institute against a rising tide of literate poors who dare question the politics of privilege.” Schuman thus confirms the adolescent political pretensions that she claims conservatives are simply making up.
Those of you with artistic leanings may want to catch up with this ongoing thread at Artblog, in which I trade views with a couple of artists, chiefly on the subject of public funding. It’s informative and fun, if you like that kind of thing. I learned, for instance, that,
Art is for the people. But I would never leave it up to the taste of “the people” or “taxpayers” to get it done.