June 15, 2014
Franklin Einspruch on the new censors:
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.
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