Like Watching Paint Fly

Elsewhere (29)

Andrew Withers on the totalitarian roots of the Fabian Society:  

These ‘intellectuals’ regarded the working classes as something akin to livestock.

Further to this epic thread, Ann Althouse talks with Glenn Loury and notes how concern for “harsh language” and “violent metaphors” is not without class implications

I think that if we go too far in the direction of this civility and etiquette, we’re kind of privileging some people over others. We’re privileging people who are more educated, people who come from a background where politeness and niceness is the cultural style, and delegitimising people who come from a different sort of culture, where maybe exaggeration and harsh speech is the thing.

Greg Lukianoff on free speech and “dangerous speech”:

Any system that allows for censorship must place an actual, flawed human being in charge of deciding what can and cannot be said. Once the power to censor has been granted, it follows like night follows day that those in charge will be more likely to use this power to punish people with points of view that they simply dislike than those with points of view they favour.

And Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors, on the same: 

[Postmodernists] say... you should put in place the political system that most advantages the weak and minorities. I think that’s the wrong answer because what happens in practice when you do that is someone’s going to have to decide who’s the weak and who’s the minority, and who isn’t. And that means the Dean of Students or whoever it is at the university is going to have to be in charge of policing the boundaries of criticism and therefore policing the boundaries of thought... The University of Illinois system, to the extent that it fires people for offending someone, says the boundary of criticism in debate is wherever the most offended student can persuade the university to put it. And of course the next thing that happens is you have a campus offendedness sweepstakes to see who can get offended the most and thus become the gatekeeper for speech. 

 By all means add your own.



"The University of Illinois system, to the extent that it fires people for offending someone, says the boundary of criticism in debate is wherever the most offended student can persuade the university to put it."

Also known as the Just Shut Up argument.


“Also known as the Just Shut Up argument.”

Another possible shorthand, inspired by a dynamic I’ve seen more than once: “Ow, my feelings are hurt! See how wicked he is. I demand compensation. Now do as I say…”

Though by “feelings” what’s usually meant is ego, dogma or a piss-poor argument.

Peter Risdon

Re-reading The Blank Slate recently, I was interested to see that the Fabians trumpeted selective education as a means for bright poor kids to achieve their potentials. It's a shame they didn't stick with that idea.

Mr Eugenides

Are you familiar with this essay? It's a few years old now, but scarcely dated.



If you haven’t already seen it, Pinker’s TED lecture may amuse.

Mr E,

Thanks for that. Nuggets a’plenty. Rauch captures the puritan mania very well. Also tickled by the idea of “verbal shamanism.”


Here's one about Laurie Penny - "our favourite privately educated revolutionary who learnt about the hard knocks of life at Wadham College, Oxford".


Heh. At some point this “voice for a generation” may confound my expectations. Though not today, it seems.


Thought you'd like.


Althouse seems to believe that being polite and civil is the prerogative of the educated (against plenty of evidence). I find it impossible to avoid parallels between these patronising 'conservatives' and the lefty educationalists I've been exposed to. She even talks like one - all that pretentious academic dressing-up of language: 'privileging', 'cultural style'. I'm deeply suspicious of these people's motives.


I sometimes wish I was rich so I could give a kingly sum to Greg Lukianoff.


One day Laurie Penny will grow up... into Polly Toynbee.


“One day Laurie Penny will grow up... into Polly Toynbee.”

I know it’s shallow but I’ve been following some of the Twitter exchanges regarding Laurie Penny and her latest gaffe. Some of the language is a bit… salty. On her own website, where the offending item resides, Little Radical Laurie has posted the following: “Yet again, I’ve had to turn comment moderation on after an avalanche of abusive and/or trollish posting… So apologies to the vast majority of polite commenters: some fuckwits just spoiled it again. Fuckwits: you get your toy back when you learn to play nicely. I get to decide when you’ve earned it.”

Oddly enough, the words “hypocrite” and “generic cartoon leftist” do not appear in any of the three comments approved for publication.


C'mon, give the girl a break. Perhaps 'exaggeration and rough speech' is part of her 'cultural style'. Wadham's a rough old place.


"One day Laurie Penny will grow up... into Polly Toynbee."

@Anna, Owch! ;D

"I get to decide when you've earned it."

Spoken like a true socialist...


Can't put my finger on exactly why, but these civility arguments put me in mind of the saga of Missy the missing cat:


@WTP, heh.


NASA's Hansen prefers rule by decree to fight 'global warming'

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