In the NYT, NYU professor defends suppressing some speech (guess what kind?)

We find in yesterday’s New York Times’s “The Stone” column a professor defending the suppression of speech in a piece called “What ‘snowflakes’ get right about free speech“. It’s by Ulrich Baer, identified as “vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, and professor of comparative literature at New York University, and the author of We Are But a Moment, a novel.” Baer’s thesis: some speech contravenes principles that are beyond discussion because, by invalidating “the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good.” He’s referring to speeches on campus, not to expression everywhere.

I think Baer is wrong for the usual reason: people differ in what they consider “invalidating the humanity of people”, and thus someone has to decide who shall be censored. And who will the censor be? My view is that not everybody should be invited to give talks, as some people are simply crackpots and don’t express ideas worth hearing. There’s not enough time to hear everyone, so decisions have to be made. Not everyone deserves a college lecture spot. But, once invited according to university rules, no speaker should be censored nor any invitations rescinded.  But in the public forum, say at the Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner or in the U.S. town square (with a permit), yes, you should be able to say what you want—so long as it doesn’t incite immediate violence (physical, not mental) against people. Further, harassment of individuals in the workplace, or repeated harassment in other forums, should also be punished.

Baer begins by noting the change in sentiment that caused him (and students) to call for censorship:

During the 1980s and ’90s, a shift occurred in American culture; personal experience and testimony, especially of suffering and oppression, began to challenge the primacy of argument. Freedom of expression became a flash point in this shift. Then as now, both liberals and conservatives were wary of the privileging of personal experience, with its powerful emotional impact, over reason and argument, which some fear will bring an end to civilization, or at least to freedom of speech.

We should resist the temptation to rehash these debates. Doing so would overlook the fact that a thorough generational shift has occurred. Widespread caricatures of students as overly sensitive, vulnerable and entitled “snowflakes” fail to acknowledge the philosophical work that was carried out, especially in the 1980s and ’90s, to legitimate experience — especially traumatic experience — which had been dismissed for decades as unreliable, untrustworthy and inaccessible to understanding.

Not really true: personal experience played a huge role in, for example, pushing forward civil rights.  Think of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and the murder of Martin Luther King himself. Yes, philosophical arguments also played a role (“Am I not a man and a brother?”), but it was hearing and seeing how blacks had been brutally oppressed that galvanized the American public and their politicians. It is the same with many social problems ameliorated before the 1980s.

Baer is right, though, that the trope of “lived experience” is now bruited about more often than ever. But in some cases it’s harmful, as in those falsely believed to be rapists on the grounds that a purported victim must always be believed.  Lived experience doesn’t trump everything, especially when it goes to ludicrous lengths, as when students complain that their Asian dorm food isn’t authentic.  “Lived experience” (is there any other kind?) should always be combined with moral arguments to move society forward, but experience doesn’t make morality irrelevant.

In essence, Baer’s argument is not only that some topics are settled issues, beyond discussion, but that those topics involve “punching down”: criticizing or injuring the oppressed. In other words, “hate speech”. (My emphasis in all the following quotes.)

Some things are unmentionable and undebatable, but not because they offend the sensibilities of the sheltered young. Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.

The recent student demonstrations at Auburn against Spencer’s visit — as well as protests on other campuses against Charles Murray, Milo Yiannopoulos and others — should be understood as an attempt to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people, rather than censorship. [JAC: Is it not censorship to prevent an invited speaker from speaking? If not, what is it?] Liberal free-speech advocates rush to point out that the views of these individuals must be heard first to be rejected. But this is not the case. Universities invite speakers not chiefly to present otherwise unavailable discoveries, but to present to the public views they have presented elsewhere. When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good.

In such cases there is no inherent value to be gained from debating them in public. In today’s age, we also have a simple solution that should appease all those concerned that students are insufficiently exposed to controversial views. It is called the internet, where all kinds of offensive expression flourish unfettered on a vast platform available to nearly all.

Yes, ban all “hate speech” on campus but allow it on the Internet.  The problem is again that one person’s “hate speech” is another’s honest attempt to give an opinion that doesn’t stem from hatred, Muslims consider my criticisms of their faith as offensive hate speech. Should I not be allowed to criticize religion in a college talk? I have, in fact. It stimulates discussion. Baer continues:

The great value and importance of freedom of expression, for higher education and for democracy, is hard to underestimate. But it has been regrettably easy for commentators to create a simple dichotomy between a younger generation’s oversensitivity and free speech as an absolute good that leads to the truth. We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding, such as the one provided by Lyotard, of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. [JAC: Beware of the “more nuanced” or “more sophisticated” cards!]

I agree that some speakers want to rehash largely settled issues, such as whether women and minorities deserve equal opportunities, or whether people should have their hands amputated for robbery (advocates of the latter, by the way, are regularly allowed to speak on campuses); and there seems no point in inviting them to campuses.  But issues that, to Baer, represent “invalidating the humanity of some people” are worth discussing, even though some groups claim that those debatable issues invalidate their humanity. What is invalidation to some groups is debate fodder for others.

Here are issues that fall into that class: affirmative action, the dictates of religion, immigration policy, abortion, the destruction of statues of people who were bigoted in the past, Holocaust denial, and yes, the status of the transgendered, mentioned by Baer:

The rights of transgender people for legal equality and protection against discrimination are a current example in a long history of such redefinitions. It is only when trans people are recognized as fully human, rather than as men and women in disguise, as Ben Carson, the current secretary of housing and urban development claims, that their rights can be fully recognized in policy decisions.

I take the liberal position on every one of these issues, but have still learned from the debate. It is beyond doubt, for instance, that the Holocaust happened, and yet I wouldn’t want to censor a Holocaust denialist invited to campus. I have learned from such people, and from counterarguments which must accompany the kinds of speech mentioned above, about the kinds of evidence that unequivocally support the Holocaust and other issues. That makes me a more effective debater on this issue, and that’s a valid reason to hear a denialist out.  How do you hone your arguments without hearing (and debating) your opponents?

It’s not beyond reason to debate abortion (I favor it–on demand), if only to hash out what it means to say that “women should control their bodies” and “abortion is a right“. It’s worth debating whether we should continue affirmative action indefinitely after equality of opportunity is achieved (and how do we know it has been achieved?). To many feminists it’s worth debating transgender issues because some women feel that a transgender woman, lacking the experience of a biological woman, can’t fully speak as a woman. (I disagree, but it’s feminists fighting about this stuff, and they should be allowed to do that on campus.) It’s worth debating how much immigration any nation can tolerate or whether we should simply have fully open borders? It’s worth debating whether public criticism of Islam is allowable (many think not).

All of these cases fall under Baer’s rubric of things that, claim some groups, are personally offensive and “invalidate their humanity.” Who should be the judge of whether these topics are beyond the pale?  Nobody, I say. Were I running a college debate forum, there are some people I wouldn’t invite on grounds of lunacy or irrelevance, but others have invited such people, and those people should be allowed to speak.

Baer ends by emphasizing again that suppression of “invalidating-humanity” speech denies the marginalized the “right to public discourse”:

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.

. . . When Yale issued its guidelines about free speech, it did so to account for a new reality, in the early 1970s, when increasing numbers of minority students and women enrolled at elite college campuses. We live in a new reality as well. We should recognize that the current generation of students, roundly ridiculed by an unholy alliance of so-called alt-right demagogues and campus liberals as coddled snowflakes, realized something important about this country before the pundits and professors figured it out.

What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of President Trump, that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone.

This is wrong.  Can you seriously maintain, with minorities raising their voices at every turn, with Muslims, women, and blacks constantly weighing in in the public square, that minorities are being denied their right to participate in public discourse? On college campuses everywhere, the marginalized are speaking up, and more than ever. Those whose speech is suppressed are not the marginalized, but conservatives (see the FIRE list of disinvited speakers, which  shows that nearly all recent censorship is from the Left). If we listened to Baer, every offended group could demand the censorship of a speaker on the grounds that it denies their humanity, as people have done with many right-wing speakers.  All voices except for those coming from the clearly demented (but who is demented?) should be heard for the good of our democracy. That’s something that the Founding Fathers realized, but that Baer has apparently forgotten.

Expect to hear more justifications for censorship coming from liberal Regressive Leftist academics (diluting the First Amendment is truly regressive). That is my prediction.

Ulrich Baer, self-appointed censor

85 Comments

  1. Eric Grobler
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    “It’s worth debating whether we should continue affirmative action indefinitely after equality of opportunity is achieved”

    Today the radical left demands “equality of outcome” and because it is unattainable accusations of institutionalized discrimination will persist.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know whether institutionalized discrimination still exists, though it certainly did in my day. However, if it does, lack if equality in outcome would not necessarily be evidence of it.

      I would go so far as to say there’s too much equality of outcome in some cases. The greatly increased number of people who get As in some courses surely doesn’t reflect an increase in the quality of their work over their predecessors.

  2. Aelfric
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I wish I could support a position like this, I really do. Do some people get drowned out, and is speech sometimes weaponized? Sure. But giving anyone, no matter how good his or her intentions, the power to suppress speech is a recipe for authoritarianism. To crib from Churchill, we have the worst speech regime, except for all the others.

  3. Jonathan Dore
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions… Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old… Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish… The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire.”
    – excerpt from “The Massacre of the Innocents”, part of “For the Time Being”. W.H. Auden, 1942.

  4. Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.”

    Why can’t we debate illegal versus legal immigration? Mr. Baer seems to think we should just throw up our hands and not bother. Regardless of where you come down on this issue, clearly there is great value in discussing this issue as a nation.

    “Expect to hear more justifications for censorship coming from liberal academics.” I’d really not like to call them “liberal” because I hope that isn’t what liberalism stands for.

    • Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I’ll change that to Regressive Leftist academics.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      “Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.”

      I see this as a variation on the Sophisticated Theologian gambit. Or the Sophisticated Philosopher. Or Sophisticated Shaman.

      “Some things are too complicated for ordinary people and only the special people, like me, can understand the true nature of reality.”

      • somer
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Also someone like this professor takes criticism of the beliefs of specific groups to be denial of their humanity and equality as human beings – so criticism of a whole range of traditional beliefs is out of bounds.

  5. Zach
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Am I the only one who finds analogies between the fight for transgender rights today and the fight for civil rights half a century ago kind of flippant?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      There are similarities and differences. The bathroom situation has clear similarities, for example. It is natural to try to come to grips with a current issue by relating it to an older issue.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      I would tend to agree.

  6. peter
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.”
    – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153).

    I have come to understand that these ideas and their proponents will create a hell on earth.

  7. rom
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    A while back when asked whether Trump should be prevented from presenting his views my answer was something along the lines:

    Of course Trump may speak at Hyde Park Corner, but I should not be forced to rent out my soap box to him.

    • Jim Smith
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      Nice try. But no one is complaining about people not renting out soap boxes. They are complaining about the aholes who deny people the use of any soap box incouding the ones that have been legally rented to them by others.

      God I hate the crazy left doublespeak right out of 1950’s UUSR. It’s not a denial of free speech it’s just no-platforming.

  8. Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    What the heck are “cultural rights” as opposed to “legal rights”? Baer doesn’t clarify, but I can’t think of a reasonable definition of “cultural rights” that doesn’t chill me.

  9. Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    His argument completely misses the issue of prior restraint: censors seek to restrict anticipated speech on the basis of statements the speaker made in the past. This has been true for some speakers even when the topic is totally unrelated to the prior objectionable speech. His whole argument is a red herring, because the current wave of campus censorship is not protective of discourse, it’s merely punitive.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      +1.

  10. Taz
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.

    Judging, and especially pre-judging, the “inherent value of a given view” is not part of the idea of freedom of speech. It’s in direct opposition to it.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      He’s creating whole new classes of victims! Those who have been pre-judged. Those whose opinions aren’t considered worthy of discussion (to be fair, some aren’t, though judging that isn’t always as easy as it seems).

      Also, many of those who are being objected to, like Milo and Coulter, weren’t invited by universities but by groups within a university. Who does Baer think he is to force his opinion on another group?

      There seems to be an opinion that just listening to Coulter will promote her poisonous views. Personally, hearing her speak makes me want to speak out against such views. Therefore hearing her has a positive effect, not a negative one. Do Baer and his ilk think they are the only ones capable of making sound judgements on hearing a bad argument?

      Universities are the best place to air views because the people most likely to ferret out the flaws in an argument will hear it. And if that argument is, for example, anti-trans, it is also the place where a person hurt by the argument will get the most support and validation. When an anti-trans person speaks at a Trump rally, that’s not what occurs! Therefore, it’s better if those opinions are expressed at a university where they’re going to be countered.

      • Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        There seems to be an opinion that just listening to Coulter will promote her poisonous views.

        There’s a general increase in polarization, “with us or against us,” binary classification.

        I’m not overly familiar with Coulter, but I’ve no doubt she and I could find something that the two of us could wholeheartedly agree upon. It might be very narrowly scoped, but it’s there.

        As I like to observe, Hitler kissed babies, and there’s one or two noble elements to his infamous Nazi party platform — such as support for education and physical fitness.

        What people fear is that, if you identify some small point of agreement with somebody, you will somehow magically transform into an ideological clone of that person. I agree with Hitler that education is important in building strong, healthy societies; ergo, he must have been wise to murder millions.

        Not only is that bizarre and incomprehensible…why does it never occur to them to turn it to their advantage?

        “You, Mr. Nazi! We can agree that education is important in building strong, healthy societies, right? So, therefore, you must also agree with me that the Civil Rights Act is the foundational pillar of modern liberal society and that we must work to build upon its successes.”

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

        • Taz
          Posted April 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Say what you want about Hitler – at least he killed Hitler.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted April 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps true, but there’s been surprisingly little public attention given how some of Ann Coulter’s statements are either marginally incoherent or based on obvious logical fallacies, or are probably intended to be satirical with the problem that it’s hard to tell when she is transitioning from serious point to satire.

          Everyone focuses on her mean-spirited coherent statements, which distracts attention from that she often seems to be in Wolfgang Pauli’s words “not even wrong”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong)
          (Of maybe I just don’t get her sense of humor!)

          What does it mean to say the Scientific American is “dazzled” with carbon dating? Or how does she arrive at “Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars — that’s the Biblical view.”?
          I kind of know what she means when she calls Jerry Coyne an “evolution fundamentalist” on p. 236 of “Godless”, but some clarification would be desirable, but will not be forthcoming. (Coyne gets 5 mentions in “Godless” and that’s before the publication of WEIT.)

          My ‘favorite’: “[Niels] Bohr had not kept up his subscription to Scientific American so he did not know he was supposed to denounce Einstein for ‘filling the gaps with God’, Instead he responded, “Stop telling God what to do””, followed immediately by “If Eugenie Scott had ever found these letters, Bohr and Einstein would have been banned from teaching science at any high school in America”. (I think maybe that last remark is supposed to be satire, but her serious/satire quotient is way off. If she’s trying to be the right-wing twin of her old buddy, Bill Maher, I don’t think it is working.)

          You can’t make this stuff up.

          Of the few speeches of Adolf Hitler I’ve looked at, I always know exactly what he means and why.

          Coulter is like a quantum sub-atomic particle- the better I can measure her momentum, the less sure I know what her exact position is.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

          Ben Goren says “I agree with Hitler…”

          Punches on the way.

  11. Tom
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    “Invalidating Humanity” a completely meaningless example of snowflakery which is itself completely meaningless.
    Do Americans Professors really have so much trouble expressing themselves in plain english or are they all circumlocutionists?

    • Sastra
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      I’m puzzled by that, too. I can think of clear-cut examples of “invalidating someone’s humanity” — the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’ comes to mind — but at least some of the time those being accused of doing this are saying “you’re wrong,” not “you’re not human.”

      This tactic reminds me of people who insist that if there’s no god (or if they stopped believing in God) then every aspect of their identity would be wiped out. They wouldn’t care about anything or anyone; nobody would. The atheists’ “you’re wrong” is translated into “you’re not really you.” How can anyone even contemplate changing their mind – or even entertain an alternative view — when the stakes are that high?

      • Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        This tactic reminds me of people who insist that if there’s no god (or if they stopped believing in God) then every aspect of their identity would be wiped out. They wouldn’t care about anything or anyone; nobody would. The atheists’ “you’re wrong” is translated into “you’re not really you.” How can anyone even contemplate changing their mind – or even entertain an alternative view — when the stakes are that high?

        The ironing, of course, is that the self and the mind actually are as ephemeral and illusory and fluid and plastic as they fear — gods or no. And their great anguish results from denial of this simple, uncontroversial, incontrovertible observation.

        Are you the same person as you were when you were a young child? There’s a certain continuity, of course, but, by any reasonable measure, you’re as radically different a person today as any adult is from any child. Are you upset at the fact that you’re no longer a child? Does it bother you that the child “self” with whom you share continuity is long since lost to the mists of time? That the greatest concerns of your childhood (say, playing with a favorite toy) couldn’t possibly be of less significance to you today? That your current greatest concerns (perhaps, surpassing quarterly shareholder growth targets) are literally incomprehensible to that child?

        No?

        Then why fear the fact that your future self will also, of certainty, of necessity, of inevitability, be different from your current self?

        If it helps…the feeling of self, of self-recognition, is the same today as it was when you were a child, yes. Just as the perception of red or of chocolate or almost any other sense is the same. But that’s because the feeling of self is simply that and no more: the self feeling itself, and that cascade-of-mirrors sensation is what the self feels like. As in, your self feels the same to you as my self feels the same to me, even though we are as different from each other as you are from your childhood self who also experienced the self the same as you do today. It’s the constellation of sensory perceptions that’s the constant, not the self itself — much how the word, “self,” is still spelled the same today by all English-language speakers now and into the distant past and future.

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

        • Tom
          Posted April 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          To borrow a phrase “we all began as something else”
          Chronicles of St. Riddick

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

          Nice little essay Ben.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted April 26, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

          In that respect I’ve always wondered what anyone has to gain from reincarnation: if ‘I’ am good I get to come back as a good-looking, talented aristocrat…well, okay, but what does that even mean? That aristocrat would have none of my memories or my personality, no continuity with me at all. I’d be no less dead if ‘I’ was reincarnated than if I wasn’t.

          Memory seems to be the bedrock of my identity and to that extent I feel a kind of nauseating fear of death if I contemplate thought experiments that involve my memory being wiped or altered in some way.

          If I imagine being placed back a week in time, with exactly the same memories I had a week ago and none of the memories I have now, which seems like a fairy minimal change in relative terms(relative to reincarnation at least), I still get the fear. It seems like a kind of suicide. And the more of my memories that are wiped or lost the more akin to death it seems.

          Imagine a larger change – you are switched with an alternate you(a ‘many-worlds’ you, who happened to exist on a different branch of the wavefunction) who is enormously successful and happy and has an optimal life.
          The you in question is identical with you, except at the age of eighteen he found himself on a different path in the multiverse and has led a vastly more successful and enjoyable life than the current you ever since. Imagine that switch – the kind of switch that a lot of people daydream about – isn’t it suicide?

          Imagine any kind of time travel that doesn’t retain your memories as you go back in time; time-travel that takes you back to the same mental state you were in at the earlier time, with none of the memories you’d later accrue – again this is indistinguishable from death.

          The ‘folk metaphysics’ of identity and change seem to make no sense at all to me. The fact that reincarnation makes absolutely no sense is just a particularly extreme and silly example of the incoherence at the heart of it all.

          • Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            In that respect I’ve always wondered what anyone has to gain from reincarnation

            I’m starting to get up to speed on Buddhism. There’s great merit and insight in its long-distant descendant, mindfulness meditation. The ancient texts are brimming with bullshit, with reincarnation a perfect example. Basically, think of all the bullshit you’d pick off the top of your head in Christianity — Heaven and Hell, miraculous birth, prophecy, the perfect heavenly deity deigning to live a life amongst mere mortals, and so on…and it’s all there in Buddhism, in full force, right from the beginning, and in the oldest surviving texts.

            But there’re also at least the seeds for objective study of the mind. Allegedly, there’s a full user’s manual for the mind in chapters I’ve not yet read…we shall see.

            But the whole reincarnation thing? Pure bullshit.

            Memory seems to be the bedrock of my identity and to that extent I feel a kind of nauseating fear of death if I contemplate thought experiments that involve my memory being wiped or altered in some way.

            And, yet, it is the natural and inevitable course of existence that what you describe as your greatest fear is what happens always.

            Do you remember what you were thinking when you were eating breakfast a week ago? No? Those memories are already permanently wiped, destroyed.

            Do you remember me describing reincarnation as bullshit? But that memory did not exist even a minute ago. It is freshly created.

            Indeed, the entire totality of your existence is right now. The past and future are so inaccessible that, by any reasonable standard, they simply do not exist. You have memories of the past, yes, but you experience those memories now, not in the past. You can anticipate the future, yes, but your anticipation is happening now, not in the future.

            Understand these facts and you’ll be on your way to understanding that, whatever it is that you currently think your self is, it most emphatically isn’t. You might wish it to be what you think it is, but no amount of wishing will change it into what you think it is…and, indeed, such wishing will only cause you the existential angst you’re describing.

            You should not find in these observations cause to ignore the past or forsake the future. Rather, they should help you understand that the peace you yourself describe you desire (“I feel a kind of nauseating fear of death”) is not to be found in the manner in which you’re looking for it.

            Indeed, perversely enough, it’s by realizing that there’s nothing to be found that you find it….

            Cheers,

            b&

            >

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

              Okay. I think we talked past each other a bit there.

              Still, thanks for the reply.

              • Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

                If you think that, it’s because you’ve yet to objectively look for your self. That which you identify as your “self”; what is it? What is it you fear losing?

                Sit comfortably in a quiet place (so as to minimize distractions) and see if you can find it.

                You’ll almost certainly start with an internal monologue about how silly such a quest is — but where’s that monologue coming from? Who’s speaking those words in your head? “You,” superficially…but where’s the speaker who’s speaking? Who’s writing the script the speaker is reading from?

                It is the perspective shift that comes with such introspection that helps you understand that “you” don’t actually exist, not as you think you do. Instead, the picture painted by neuroscience, of a cacophony of disjointed signals that happen to be intertwined, really is correct, and viscerally so — with no Platonically idealized coherent master-controller “self” anywhere to be found in the mix. You have no more persistent “self” than a whirlpool in a stream does….

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

                I think you missed the point of what I was saying. It certainly wasn’t a cry of “existential angst” and I found that assumption on your part amusingly patronising.

                My post was meant to be a simple rumination on the nature of identity and change-over-time; the lack of connective tissue between the various ‘me’s that exist at different times. You seem to have taken it more as a kind of e-mail to the Samaritans.

                I could have gone into Julian Barbour’s conception of the universe, in which the flow of time is an illusion and nothing exists but time-slices, ie. timeless configurations of particles, or I could have delved into the fact that even my apparently inviolable belief that I’m thinking thoughts right now is an assumption that is unsupported by physics. Let me reassure you – I have thought about this a little more than you think I have.

                And it might have been well-meant but I really wasn’t looking for self-help guidance. I can think about death without flinging myself out the nearest window, and not just because I live on the ground floor.

                I thought this was funny too:
                “it is the perspective shift that comes with such introspection that helps you understand that “you” don’t actually exist, not as you think you do.”
                Well, thanks for that Ben. My brain ain’t too good at the ol’ thinkety-think an I do get awful flustered when the philosophising starts a flyin’.

              • Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                Sorry for misreading you. It was the repetition of phrases like, “I feel a kind of nauseating fear of death,” and, “I still get the fear,” and, “isn’t it suicide?” and, “this is indistinguishable from death,” and so on, that led me to think that you were expressing…well…existential anguish.

                I could have gone into Julian Barbour’s conception of the universe […]

                The basic point I’m driving at is that the lessons from physics and neurophysiology — the inevitability of the unfolding of events / the incoherence of free will / the accessibility of only the current moment / the nonexistence of self and so on — are all very much open to direct objective observation within the mind itself. This is despite the common perception of self and reality that’s much more closely aligned with the ancient Aristotelian superstitions. You don’t need to take the physics on faith; you can observe your mind, directly, and confirm that, yes, it really does work consistently with how physics and neurophysiology says it must — even as it subjectively feels supernatural.

                There’s also an overwhelmingly common experience, that those who manage to perceive their internal mental states with clarity and observe how they actually do align with physics…they tend to no longer experience the sorts of visceral existential angst and fears that others suffer from, and that your quotes I excerpted above would seem to be expressive of.

                My brain ain’t too good at the ol’ thinkety-think an I do get awful flustered when the philosophising starts a flyin’.

                This isn’t philosophy nor mysticism.

                It’s the exact opposite — it’s objective observation no different from what a physics student might do in the classroom to independently re-derive the acceleration of gravity.

                You know how we all look at a common visual illusion and agree that (for example) the lines look like they’re different lengths but actually are the same when measured against a ruler? We can hopefully agree that the common perception is of difference, but there are ways to perceive them more accurately — and that, though it’s important not to lose sight of the perceived difference, most tasks will be better achieved with the more accurate perception of equality.

                That’s all this is. The mind constructs symbolic representations of reality that are frequently useful but fundamentally flawed. But you can personally and objectively perceive the flaws just as well as you can personally and objectively perceive that the lines actually are the same length — and, as one would hopefully expect, there’s a lot of utility to be had from making such observations. (Plus a side benefit of a significant reduction in angst.)

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

  12. Rick Graham
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I am awestruck by the badness of these four sentences. Not even wrong.

    “As a college professor and university administrator with over two decades of direct experience of campus politics, I am not overly worried that even the shrillest heckler’s vetoes will end free speech in America. As a scholar of literature, history and politics, I am especially attuned to the next generation’s demands to revise existing definitions of free speech to accommodate previously delegitimized experiences. Freedom of expression is not an unchanging absolute. When its proponents forget that it requires the vigilant and continuing examination of its parameters, and instead invoke a pure model of free speech that has never existed, the dangers to our democracy are clear and present.”

    His educated stupidity is prominently displayed.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      I agree – they’re really bad.

      I’m not sure we have to worry about him taking the world by storm with his ideas though. Getting all those words into just four sentences! He clearly doesn’t teach writing for clarity.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 25, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        “Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”

        — George Orwell’s translation of Ecclesiastes 9:11 into academese (and that was before post-modernism reared its periphrastic head).

        • Colin McLachlan
          Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:40 am | Permalink

          “Shit happens”.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        The thing that is most apparent when you actually listen to the anti-free-speech apologists, the slew of illiberal-left academics and students who are so eager to censure their opponents, is how bad they are at debate.

        The last thirty years of absolute, hermetically-sealed reinforcement of all their ideas; the monopoly on conversation that has developed as the left has taken over the institutes of higher learning; the dearth of outspoken conservatives, or even genuine liberals, and centrists; all this means the ruling ideologues on campus don’t make arguments any more. Why should they? They know they’re right, and it’s a ‘waste of their emotional resources’ to ask them to justify their beliefs(that’s not a made-up defense – I’ve heard them say that).

        Everyone they interact with agrees with them and the opportunity for outsiders to challenge left-wing dogma on identity, relativism and free-speech is bordering on non-existent. The most exposure they get to counter-argument is Twitter, where both sides can snark their way into believing they’ve won. They can exist in a fantasy world of complete moral and political certainty, and they can do so because they have gradually constructed it for themselves over the space of decades.

        As a result, when you see these leftists in the media, on a mainstream news item or political debate show, they are routinely taken apart. So often they look utterly bewildered by the confidence and rhetorical skill of their opponents; they’re like deer in the headlights when some chippy nerd from Spiked online faces them down and unloads on them.

        It’s frustrating too: they’re not wrong on everything, and when they do(occasionally) stand up for actual liberal values they are equally bad at mustering a defense. In almost every way, almost every day, they are helping a recrudescent right get better and better. There are entire YouTube channels dedicated to clips of leftists floundering in the face of a new brand of conservatism that has been polishing its arguments for half a century. They have become one of the strongest PR weapons in the populist right’s armory. I’m sometimes given links to blogs like David Thompson’s(http://davidthompson.typepad.com/) and their stories of left-wing buffoonery make me physically cringe.

        When these people are removed from their academic comfort zone, and are essentially forced to put their arguments up for the inspection of the general public, it is almost always deeply embarrassing. Somewhere along the line a certain part of the left stopped trying to convince anyone, stopped debating with their opponents and let their rhetorical defenses rust and decay.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          I agree. And the arguments of the right on many of these topics are often easily refuted. It shocks me that a presumably intelligent person with a university education can’t present the opposing case. I’m often left yelling at the TV, telling someone what to say.

          It’s one of the reasons I watch Fox News. It makes me ready for any argument the right throws at me because I’ve heard them all before and thought about whether they have merit and why or why not.

  13. Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Do liberals who spout such pap realize that it is not supported by very many in their cohort, and may be off-putting to thoughtful young people who could be in the process of considering liberalism? I am sure Baer looks at Jerry’s response, and the majority of the top comments at his NYT article and thinks, “Well, they are not true liberals.”

    The good news, I think, is that there is so much liberal backlash when this truly bizarre reaction to free speech is brought up, that it will have a short lifetime – at least I hope so.

  14. Christopher Bonds
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    When I think about this issue I wonder why we don’t hear about the inverse situation of, say, advocates for LGBT… issues being invited to ultraconservative campuses like Biola, Liberty, BYU, etc. and being booed, picketed, heckled, and more. In the first place, there are most likely no student organizations at those schools that would invite anyone like that, and the schools wouldn’t, so the issue never comes up.

    Do the left-leaning student groups at “liberal” universities stop to think that their right-wing counterparts are there under the same auspices of a university that endorses a marketplace of ideas?

    Maybe the problem is that the art of dialogue has been lost, replaced by partisan yelling that is devoid of reason. A friend of mind pointed out that public discourse is getting more and more like professional sports, a zero-sum game. Makes sense.

  15. Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    When will the Unenlightened Illiberals realize that freedom of speech for all is no more and no less than a peace treaty, and to abrogate it is an open declaration of intent to commit violence?

    That’s the bargain our ancestors made some centuries ago: they’d stop fighting each other if everybody agreed to let everybody else be heard. Before then, the clan in power would forcibly silence voices it didn’t care for — and those who were silenced would literally fight, with swords and guns and bombs, to be heard.

    I’m horrified at the thought that we may yet again see the open warfare of the fight to be heard, and utterly baffled as to why today’s sowflakes think they’re somehow immune to the, frankly, overwhelming physical force in the hands of those they would silence.

    I mean…just what the hell are they thinking!?

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Historian
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      It is often the case that a people become psychologically vested in institutions that they strongly identify with. They tend to think that their institutions are the most important in the world. That is they fail to realize that the institution is but one star in the galaxy. An example of this is sports writers and sports radio hosts. In their minds they actually believe that the sports they report on has some sort of cosmic importance. They would find it hard to psychologically acknowledge that they and the games they report on are nothing more than one element in the entertainment industry. Likewise, some academics and college administrators view their institutions as cocoons. They can’t psychologically grasp that there is an outside world with many times more power to influence events. This is why they are immune to considering the outside world when they attack free speech. Perhaps they should leave campus more often.

  16. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    His argument for suppression of speech is the best one I have seen so far, but it is still wrong. As you emphasize: Who decides what speech is to be prevented? The problem is that the dividing line will be different for different people, and the line will change over time.

    I did see that he at least recognized there are “liberal free-speech advocates” that oppose his view. I elsewhere see the claim that opposition comes from the right wing, and it certainly not.

  17. TJR
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Its all so vague and waffly its hard to know what he really means, classic motte and bailey stuff.

    However, the basic message seems to be

    “There there, don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, we know what you should be allowed to hear”.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Because after all, nobody knows how things should be more than a young, white male, right?

  18. Stephen Barnard
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    It’s people like this guy who make Alex Jones’s and Rush Limbaugh’s listeners think that if the Democrats get control, they’ll be rounded up and sent to political re-education camps, and not without a (very) small degree of justification.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m a Democrat, and if I were in charge I wouldn’t do that.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I’m a Democrat too, but when I hear Orwellian bullshit like this from the left it makes me ill.

  19. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I wonder if anyone is getting nostalgic for the days when speech protest was Ann Coulter getting a pie in the face.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Youtube is the Dead Sea Scroll of our time!

    • Jim Smith
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      That was the old left. With the new crazy left it would be a bike lock to the head by a professor of ethics.

  20. eric
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    …traumatic experience — which had been dismissed for decades as unreliable, untrustworthy and inaccessible to understanding.

    [JAC in response] Not really true…

    I think he might be referring to brain research. AIUI there is some data that indicates stressful social conversations and interactions cause changes in the brain similar to more physical trauma. Words can hurt, IOW.

    In some respects, this is just common sense. Of course conversations can cause physiological changes associated with stress. Of course they can sometimes trigger a fight or flight reflex, or release adrenaline, or release stress hormones. Most of us can probably remember at least one conversation in their life that triggered some temporary mental paralysis, out of embarrassment or bad news or whatever.

    IMO what we say in response to these claims is that societal living requires learning how to deal with such responses. The is that such conversation-based trauma happens does not dictate the SJW ought that we need to censor speech to prevent it.

    Yes, we can limit trauma-inducing speech in some cases. Good examples include bullying and harassment, particularly of young people. But the censorship we use to eliminate the extreme cases is not suitable for normal adult conversation, even when that adult conversation might also produce similar physiological changes. My boss has to be free to dress me down for a crappy job. My co-workers must be free to critique my work (and I, theirs). Partners occasionally fight. And for an open democratic nation to work, we must be free to exchange political and social ideas, even if doing so makes someone feel bad.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I thought the writer was referring to sexual abuse. For a long time little girls were not believed (“Uncle would never do that!”) and women were not taken seriously (“You must have egged him on.”) This needed correction.

      Ironically, the same time period of the 80’s and 90’s also saw the rise of Satanic Panic and Recovered Memories of abuse. Those who attempted skeptical analysis of pseudoscientific therapies were accused on “invalidating” the lived experience of victims.

  21. GBJames
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    sub

  22. eric
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    …attempt to ensure the conditions of free speech for a greater group of people…

    …When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good.

    This makes no sense to me. They keep repeating it, but AFAIK freedom of speech is not a zero sum game; letting Coulter visit UC Berkeley does not restrict any other speaker (invited, student, or otherwise) from talking at UC Berkeley.

    As best I can tell, the far left is trying to claim that when someone issues an ultimatum like “if X comes to visit, I can’t stay on campus,” and then X comes to visit, the ultimatum-issuer’s right to stay on campus has been infringed. Sort of an uber-heckler’s veto. But that could never consistently work, and it simply isn’t true that the university or any other outside agency is censoring the ultimatum-issuer in that circumstance. They are censoring themselves in response to a perceived wrong. Which they are certainly allowed to do, but it’s not the same thing as being prevented from speaking by someone else.

  23. Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    The article’s author seems to believe that academics in 80s and 90s hashed out new cultural norms for American culture and we just need to accept them.

    I don’t accept Lyotard as an authority. I don’t accept any of the other French postmodernist philosophers as authorities. He is free to believe in them, but he can’t expect me to follow them any more than a Catholic could expect a non-Catholic to change their behavior based on the pope’s say-so.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      I am intensely triggered by your comment and I call on you to read everything by Foucault and Lacan and then tell deconstruct and unpack your previous statements in front of the class, young man, erm, woman, erm… it, erm… person!

      • eric
        Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Reading Focault invades my safe space. What are you doing reading literature from an enlightenment imperialist western power anyway? And on white paper no less!

    • Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      The Lyotard comment was a dead giveaway. The guy’s been part of academia all his life and he’s part of a discipline where he’s never had to test received knowledge against reality.

      • quidnunc
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        What’s sad is he managed to misinterpret Lyotard so don’t put the blame for his muddled thinking on him

  24. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    This is authoritarian speech suppression dressed in the sheep’s clothing of sensitivity to “suffering and oppression.” The “fixed star” in our First Amendment firmament, however, is that (as Justice Robert Jackson put it) “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” Accordingly, contrary to Baer’s assertion, nothing is ever “unmentionable and undebatable.”

    Baer’s argument is based on a false dichotomy — a choice between the testimony of personal experience and reasoned argument. There’s no reason why both cannot compete in the marketplace of ideas.

    Moreover, Baer misframes the issue: the question here isn’t whether colleges are required to invite onto campus controversial speakers whose viewpoints the schools disapprove of; the question is whether, where schools authorize student or faculty groups to invite speakers of their own choosing, the school’s administration can veto that choice based upon the speaker’s viewpoint. The answer is that, at public universities, it cannot, under the mantle of our First Amendment. And, at private schools, it should not, in the interest of promoting free expression and open public discourse.

  25. Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I think these people should be asked point blank who they think the censors should be, how they are accountable, and so forth.

    “In such cases there is no inherent value to be gained from debating them in public.”

    I actually agree with that. But it doesn’t follow from that one shouldn’t let the people I would claim fall under those categories (in my case, everything from Deepak Chopra to Nazis) say their bit if some student group wants to invite them.

    • eric
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Would-be censors always assume that the people in charge will be them or just like them.

      Its why I like to use the ‘cut the cake’ game in censorship discussions. Analogous to ‘you slice the cake, I choose the first piece’, it can be a learning experience to set up the question of censorship as: ‘you decide what power government has to censor…and I, playing the government, will decide on what speech I exercise that power. And oh by the way, I don’t like you.’ It tends to help people see that government power to censor only sounds appealing when they assume they are the ones cotrolling the government. Take away that assumption, and it no longer sounds so good.

  26. ladyatheist
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “but it was hearing and seeing how blacks had been brutally oppressed that galvanized the American public and their politicians” —
    Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin too! Millennial whiners aren’t the first people to feel for other people! Sheesh.

    As for “dehumanizing” trans people I call bullshit. Pre-Civil Rights southern states declared blacks to be 4/5 human. Nazis considered Jews subhuman.

    Trans people are people, even if they’re called “men or women in disguise.” What’s dehumanizing about that? It may be disrespectful or unsympathetic, but it’s not dehumanizing.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      Well said.

      That’s pretty much exactly what I wanted to say to a comment by Zach above, about the flippancy of such a comparison.

  27. darrelle
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    “The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.”

    Ensuring that all members of a given community have an equal right to free speech is not new to the concept of free speech. It is precisely what the people (one category of them anyway) that professor Baer is criticizing, that he is referring to in that first sentence, conceive free speech to be. People like Jerry, Christopher Hitchens and me.

    “What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse.”

    This is just plain wrong. First off the characterization “absolute” is hyperbolic. It is untrue. What is actually the case is that the conception of free speech that professor Baer is arguing against is merely more free, not unlimited, than his conception of what free speech should be.

    The claim that the rights of minorities are under attack when free speech is allowed is suspiciously contrary to reality. He either seriously misunderstands free speech, or something less charitable. The liberal conception of free speech that he is maligning here is precisely about the exact opposite of what he accuses it of enabling. It is about protecting the rights of all, especially minorities.

    “The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of President Trump, that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land.”

    Sophistry. None of this is new to human history and the snowflakes aren’t the only ones aware of the issues. Many people were aware that these issues were trending upward for much longer than the past 1-1/2 years. This is an example of circumstances in which free speech is more important than ever, again betraying professor Baer’s lack of understanding of what he is arguing against.

  28. Historian
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I think this is what you mean referring to slaves in the antebellum South. From Wikipedia:

    “The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise reached between delegates from southern states and those from northern states during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention. The debate was over whether, and if so, how, slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population for legislative representation and taxing purposes. The issue was important, as this population number would then be used to determine the number of seats that the state would have in the United States House of Representatives for the next ten years. The effect was to give the southern states a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free persons had been counted equally, allowing the slaveholder interests to largely dominate the government of the United States until 1861.”

    • Historian
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, replying to ladyatheist #26.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        I would also add that equality of vote by numbers of free vs slave state was constant for several years leading up to the War and just the likely hood that free states would overtake the slave state number assisted in the secession. They truly believed that slavery must expand or it would die but never had the guts to see if that was true.

  29. Randy schenck
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    This professor seems to justify this form of censorship because of events in recent times, the 80s or 90s that now calls for this new loss of free speech. This is nonsense and if he is any student of history himself, he should know this. The reverse is the truth. The more coddled and kept generations yet suddenly are in need of protection from harmful speech. Never in American history have we asked for less from our children and that is the truth of it. Wake up sir and take a look at your history.

  30. David Duncan
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    “Ulrich Baer, self-appointed censor”

    He looks like Sean Cassidy’s twin.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001027/

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 25, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      If Baer wants to complain about something, he should complain about the barber who gave him the same tonsorial styling that the Coen brothers inflicted on poor Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. 🙂

  31. Shaokang Yuan
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    When given these sorts of arguments, I think we should follow in Ali A. Rizvi’s path and remind people that if you want to ban hate speech, you should start first with the Bible, Quran, and Torah! Same applies to fake news, so it’s bipartisan! 😛

  32. Kiwi Dave
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    What does he mean by “in universities which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities”? Is this a function (major, minor, at all) of universities? What sort of community is he thinking of?

    • Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      There is something called a “scholarly community”. And engineering students often take courses in the social aspects of technology, etc.

  33. Posted April 25, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Who’s supposedly denying the humanity of transgender people? Some might disagree as to which gender they are, but nobody that I know of disputes what species they are.

  34. somer
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    All voices except for those coming from the clearly demented (but who is demented?) should be heard for the good of our democracy. That’s something that the Founding Fathers realized, but that Baer has apparently forgotten.
    I object to your whole tone of rank ableism. Why shouldn’t demented voices be heard, and where would we be without the creative contributions of the clearly demented adding to the diversity of our public sphere as they confront privilege and ableist notions of merit??

  35. dd
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    He was born in 1945. That is, ahem, not a recent pic…..

  36. dd
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, that was another Ulrich Baer….our subject was born in 1966. (I think.)

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulrich_C._Baer

  37. Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    ‘The great value and importance of freedom of expression, for higher education and for democracy, is hard to underestimate.’
    Freudian slip. Kind of giving the game away.

  38. sensorrhea
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Howard Dean recently tweeted that hate speech is not free speech. That worried me.


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