Another professor calls for censoring speakers

At the end of yesterday’s piece about a professor calling for censorship of speech that “dehumanizes people,” I predicted that we’re going to see more academics calling for censorship of invited speakers. After all, most professors are Leftists, some are Regressive Leftists, some Regressive Leftists (especially in universities) favor censorship, ergo you’ll probably find professors who favor censorship. This syllogism is mine and belongs to me. So did my prediction.

Well. after I wrote a draft of yesterday’s piece, reader Rodney called my attention to a new piece in the New Republic:Why colleges have a right to reject hateful speakers like Ann Coulter“. And it fulfills my prediction, with a college English professor calling for censorship.

The piece is by Aaron R. Hanlon, identified as “Assistant Professor of English at Colby College and advisor for Georgetown University’s MLA/Mellon Foundation ‘Connected Academics’ project.” And in his essay Hanlon argues that we should censor some speakers simply because there’s not enough time to hear everybody, and so we must choose judiciously. Who shall we choose? The speakers that should be censored are, of course, the ones that Hanlon considers to be purveyors of “hate” speech, like Coulter.  He doesn’t say who should make the decision, but argues that because speakers are chosen by clubs or subgroups within a university, that somehow makes their de-platforming or disinvitation not censorship:

Rejecting campus speakers is not an assault on free speech. Rather, like so many other decisions made every day by college students, teachers, and administrators, it’s a value judgment.

. . . But to understand these disinvitation attempts, we need to understand the unglamorous process by which speakers get invited.

When departments or groups arrange for a speaker, invitations are usually authorized by small committees or localized administrative offices without a campus-wide discussion or debate. Student groups, and even academic and administrative departments, operate with differing degrees of autonomy. Given the number and ideological diversity of these groups, they don’t typically hold a forum about whether to invite someone; they petition the appropriate offices for approval, put together a budget, and plan the event. A handful of people make judgment calls to authorize speakers before invitations go out. Hosting groups then advertise the event, at which point the controversy—if there’s destined to be one—begins.

Understanding this sequence of events is crucial, because no-platforming is as much a function of process as of politics. Instead of community-wide discussion and debate over the merits of bringing a given speaker to campus, the debate happens after the invitation, giving the misleading impression that no-platforming is about shutting down speech.

This is a distinction without a difference. Groups are allowed to invite their own speakers precisely to foster diversity. Why on earth should there even be university-wide debate or discussion about choosing a speaker? And why does the present process mean that no-platforming is not censorship?

Here we see an academic too clever for his own good, inventing superficially clever but ultimately stupid arguments about why de-platforming or disinvitation isn’t the same thing as censorship once a speaker has been invited. So when Hanlon says this:

Though the knowledge and skills we deem essential have changed over the years, the practice of curating and prioritizing them is still crucial to the mission of a classically liberal education. No-platforming may look like censorship from certain angles, but from others it’s a consequence of a challenging, never-ending process occurring at virtually all levels of the university: deciding what educational material to present to our students and what to leave out. In this sense, de-platforming isn’t censorship; it’s a product of free expression and the foundational aims of a classically liberal education.

. . .he’s engaging in classic doublespeak: deplatforming is an expression of free speech. How obtuse can somebody be?

If that wasn’t enough, Hanlon draws a false equivalence between deciding on university speakers and deciding whose work to include on a one-semester class syllabus and whose to leave out:

For my “Age of Revolution” course I have 14 weeks to cover the English Civil Wars, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Haitian Revolution, which means it’s incumbent upon me—and every other professor—to think very carefully about what students need to know, and thus what to prioritize and what to leave out. In making that decision, I consult other scholars in the field and review other syllabi. I consider my research strengths, as well as the gaps or needs in the broader curriculum. If I end up leaving off James Madison in favor of Edmund Burke, I’m hardly “censoring” Madison. And if I deem it important to bring underrepresented voices into my course—like poet and former slave Phillis Wheatley—I’m judging Wheatley more appropriate for that platform. Such decisions aren’t about “shutting down” points of view; they’re about finding the most valuable ways to use our limited time and resources.

Now there IS a difference between Hanlon’s syllabus and campus speakers. The former allows only a limited number of readings, while campus groups can invite an essentially endless number of speakers. The former reflects the professor’s viewpoint, the latter the diverse viewpoints of college organizations. If the College Democrats invite Elizabeth Warren, the college Republicans can invite Ben Shapiro.  Choosing one doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for the other. Doesn’t Hanlon realize that?

And he doesn’t really tell us what sorts of speakers should  be allowed; only that Ann Coulter should not. Of course if you leave such choices to a consensus vote of the entire student body, you’ll never hear a speaker that goes against Lefist sentiments, or that says anything counter to received ideology.

Near the end of his piece, Hanlon has the temerity to argue that no-platforming was crucial for the success of ancient Greek and Roman society (my emphasis):

But no-platforming is better understood as the kind of value judgment that lies at heart of a liberal arts education—“liberal” referring not to politics, of course, but to the kinds of knowledge the ancient Greeks and Romans believed were necessary for the flourishing of a free person, necessary for full and effective participation in civic life. This has always meant deciding what people needed to know, but also what they don’t need to know—or at least which knowledge and skills deserved priority in one’s formal education.

To which I can reply no better than did Claire Lehmann, editor of Quillette (which you should be reading):

Here’s the miscreant. He’s an English professor, and the professor who argued for censorship in yesterday’s post was in comparative literature. These are disciplines particularly prone to postmodernism, and that’s no accident. I doubt you’ll ever see a biologist or physicist calling for censorship, for we value the clash of ideas.

Aaron Hanlon: Wants moar censorship

 

h/t: Rodney

87 Comments

  1. Joseph Stans
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I am disapointed taht thisg roup of educator predominate in the procensorship strangeness.

    • Jim Smith
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      They aren’t educators, they are keepers of the gate. Like all regressives right or left are.

  2. eric
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    it’s a consequence of a challenging, never-ending process occurring at virtually all levels of the university: deciding what educational material to present to our students and what to leave out.

    As JAC points out, he seems to have missed the obvious and important difference between formal, university-run educational events like a class, and a student group event – which doesn’t have to have any educational merit at all.

    platforming is better understood as the kind of value judgment that lies at heart of a liberal arts education—“liberal” referring not to politics, of course, but to the kinds of knowledge the ancient Greeks and Romans believed were necessary for the flourishing of a free person, necessary for full and effective participation in civic life

    IIRC, the full and effective participation in Athenian democracy was limited to male citizens who had met their military service requirement. It also excluded freed slaves (unlike modern nation states, they didn’t have anything like ‘nationalized’ citizenship), and could sometimes exclude male Athenians who were in debt.

    I’m guessing that while Prof. Hanlon might meet the ‘male citizen’ requirements, he would probably not meet the ‘military veteran with no debt’ requirement (most of us probably fail that last bit). So no voting for you!

    • Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Appealing to the syllabus is also nonsense, since the content of a course is largely up to the professor. Once the course’s general description is approved, professors have the academic freedom to introduce materials and subtopics as they please. It isn’t decided by the campus community or the administration. The only censorship vehicle is to change the professor’s teaching assignment. There are certainly bioethics courses that cover the conservative side of the abortion debate, for instance, even though “communities” of campus liberals have targeted that topic for censorship.

  3. J.Baldwin
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    In Michael Shermer’s book, “Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things,” he asserts that the primary reason smart people believe nonsense is because smart people are really good at making clever arguments, thereby convincing themselves of dumb stuff. Hanlon’s piece is a good example.

    Habermas, I think, has it right when he characterizes the state of the social world as “irreducibly complex” (nothing to do with ID) and marked by “irreducible plurality.” To sort out the competing claims we need a public sphere wherein all have an unfettered voice and, crucially, a commitment to the “unforced force of reason” to cull the bad ideas from the worthwhile.

    Censoring voices will not take us to where we want to go.

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

      *Irreconcilable plurality. Why do we always catch our typos AFTER we post? Sheesh…

    • eric
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      I disagree that this is an example of a clever argument. 🙂

      • darrelle
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Agreed.

  4. Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    One point I keep trying to make to left-wing censorship advocates, but they refuse to grasp, is that there are many universities like mine where both the student body and and staff are highly conservative, so censorship will certainly be used to silence left-wing and minority speakers. Indeed, I’ve seen multiple student protests over speakers like Danny Glover who were deemed too liberal for our campus. If any formal policy device is adopted, be prepared for it to be used by the other side. And policies that protect “them” in your neighborhood also protect “us” in my neighborhood. If we fracture the academic values of open discourse and free inquiry, then there won’t be reliable protections for any of us.

    • GBJames
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      It is amazing how such an obvious point is ignored.

      • eric
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Particularly now. I would never have imagined that the far left would press for the right for institutional censorship at a time when conservative republicans control the white house, the senate, the house, and a majority in SCOTUS that looks to grow in the next few years rather than shrink.

        Its epic ‘shooting yourself in the foot’ if I’ve ever seen it. Just exactly what sort of censorship do they think the Roberts court is going to approve?

        • Michiel van Haren
          Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Good point. I guess many of these people do not look beyond their own little regressive leftist community and to the bigger picture. Also they have obviously convinced themselves that what they are doing is not censorship, but actually free speech! It’s only censorship when the other side does it. Just like it’s only sexism if a man does it, and only racism if a white person does it.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      When I read Prof. Hanlon’s piece, I pretended that the disinvited speaker advocated gay marriage. The argument works just as well — meaning it doesn’t work, and the flaws are just as apparent to me. Perhaps this might be a good exercise for the professor.

      • darrelle
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        I think the good professor would probably respond that the difference is that opposing gay marriage is very obviously wrong, or something similar. Thus demonstrating that he doesn’t understand your point or that he completely discounts it.

        That kind of response to points like your’s is common from regressive left censorship proponents in my experience. I’ve seen this type of response used to justify everything from no-platforming an invited speaker at a university to punching a Nazi admiring white supremacist who is talking to a reporter about his beliefs. It is similar to a belief in objective moral truths. No speech contrary to those Truths that they know is warranted and should be suppressed.

        • Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          I sometimes believe in objective (but not human independent) moral truths, and when I do one of them is to “let truth and falsehood grapple”.

    • Harrison
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      The simple answer is that for most of them the big picture doesn’t matter. It’s not even about advancing their own position. It’s about the petty exercise of whatever little power they have at the moment. I don’t care if I’m digging the grave of my own movement if I can feel like a big hero for a day for getting a speaker disinvited (which almost always leads to more people looking into what they have to say than would have ever been in actual attendance).

  5. J Butler
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    This makes me sick… and sad. I’m an old leftie (grad’d undergrad in ’75 – in Humanities, for chrissakes) and I hate that the best these kids can think to do about distasteful speech – distasteful to them – is to BAN IT. [I throw something at the screen – grampa is pissed again] This is progress?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      I know the feeling. I’m an Humanities graduate too (about a decade younger), and I hate seeing us being given a bad name by this modern cohort. We’re supposed to be all about classic liberalism, but so often that’s no longer the case.

      I always thought one of the things you got from a classical liberal education was the ability to argue a case after assessing all sides. That appears to have gone by the wayside in many places. The correct liberal position is now decided up front and winning the argument is decided by who yells loudest and longest.

    • somer
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      This fondness for insularity and authoritarianism in academia is making the late 20th century look like the good old days.
      I still reckon though, that its the logical culmination of the increasing teaching of or influence of critical theory, Gramscism, Habermas school, and post modernism thats been across all the humanities for a while now.

      • somer
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        Of course numerous interwar and post WW2 philosophers were part of this shift against science, particularly french philosophers Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Marcuse as well as others like Heidegger, Adorno, Horkheimer etc. Also symbolists and semioticians like Barthes, Freudians and other peddlers in arcane metaphysical jargon hostile to evidence from the wider world. Most of these things deride ideology but are de facto ideologies because they discount all evidence except the experience of particular groups deemed most oppressed and they ultimately assume everything is deceptively constructed by western capitalism and the west. They do this because they don’t subject human interests and those interests expressed in language “communication” to the constraints of nature – for them human morality precedes environmental and material constraints and how we might positively interact with this and each other towards more humane outcomes. Thus Morality is evidence in itself for them and that might as well be ideology
        When I said “Habermas school” I meant to say “Frankfurt school and Habermas”. Also anything Hegelian, basically relies on faith without evidence, but whilst many PoMos and Crit Theorists are hostile to Hegelian grand theory they wind up embracing their own version of grand theory – i.e. only certain experience is valid, and only an interpretion of the world that trashes the west.

        • Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Heidegger was, of course, a Nazi.

          I blame Sartre for getting a whole whack of people on the wrong track. See J. Fritsche’s book if there’s any doubt about Heidegger not being an existentialist or any doubt about how H.’s philosophy does not allow “any room” to criticize something like the NSDAP.

          Generally though the French pomos and the like were not terribly influential in Angloamerican philosophy departments. McGill, where I was an undergraduate, had a mixture of traditions, but it took until after 1999 (when I took my BA) for the presentation of Heidegger in the course on phenomenology to at least come to *some* grips about the first fact in this remark.

          • somer
            Posted April 28, 2017 at 5:43 am | Permalink

            Yes Heidegger was a nazi – but he still had influence in postmodernism – which had right wing as well as left wing influences. I notice an reworking of figures like Nietzsche as being liberating figures of anti christian truth acquainting us with grand existentialist issues. The taste for anti rationalist romanticism, glossing over totalitarianism and a type of radicalism that rejects existing order = any order – as corrupt. The link with crit theory is the criticism of rationality, although crit theory is obviously more concerned with social justice – it just happens to be an identity politics type of social justice. I feel some of this existed outside Europe earlier on but it really got going from the late 90s and bloomed in the 21st century in the anglo west. In many tertiary institutions there are fewer academics who don’t subscribe to some form of it. Also its the norm for people to have uni education now, and most courses require at least some arts units. And I suppose also young people are worried about their less secure work future and reject the certainties of the past (like their baby boomer parents) and this appeals. But I see echoes of these ideas now all the time in the older generation as well – like some acceptance of identity politics has become a condition of many work or social environments.

  6. Christopher Bonds
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Random thoughts: There seems to be a great fear that if controversial speakers are allowed to speak, more and more people will start to believe them, causing their misogynistim, xenophobia, prejudice, and general venom will become more widespread. Maybe it’s not the words the would-be censors are afraid of, it’s the possible consequences. There is a whiff of the slippery-slope fallacy there.

    Ideas should stand or fall on their own merit, but that only works if most citizens have the ability to listen with a skeptical ear. The long-term solution is to educate people in the art of thinking with reason and logic.

    Another problem with today’s speech is that it tends to contain a lot of name-calling and denigration of any opposing points of view. The attitude is that dialogue has become a zero-sum game, and the winner is the one who has the last word because they have managed to shut the other up.

    Certainly people have the right to present unpopular views, but it would be better if they would back them up with some sort of reasoned argument based on facts. I may disagree with Mr. Murray on just about everything, but he should be given a chance to present his case.

    As far as Ann Coulter is concerned, she is a noisemaker who should be a soft target for anyone capable of critical thinking. She exists for one purpose only: To be a mouthpiece for some people’s prejudices. Still, if she’s not breaking any law, she has a right to be heard. People who don’t like it can stay home.

    • Michiel van Haren
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      “There seems to be a great fear that if controversial speakers are allowed to speak, more and more people will start to believe them, causing their misogynistim, xenophobia, prejudice, and general venom will become more widespread.”

      Of course, whether we like it or not, this is not a totally unrealistic fear. Many people, especially in Europe, still refer to WWII and the rise of Hitler as an example of just that. If only Hitler had been deplatformed more, millions of Jews might still be alive, they might think!

      Of course this is an oversimplification of history. The rise of someone like Hitler was caused by many factors, and there isn’t really any guarantee that someone like that will come to power somewhere again.

      But one lesson history can teach us is that fighting one extreme with another is a sure path to disaster. The greatest adversary to Hitler’s Nazi Germany was Stalin’s communism, and we all know how many deaths communism has to answer for. At the same time, without the Soviet legions, it would have been rather doubtful if the western democracies would have been able to defeat Nazism in the end.

      • Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        One of the horrors of WWII (or any war) was precisely that it made one confront “the enemy within”, as Roddenberry used to explain. Not just the necessity of teaming up with a monster like Stalin, but the horror of realizing that you too may have to kill, destroy, etc.

        I find it heartening that the memorial to bombing victims in London is actually to *all* such victims (including Germans), not just the UK ones.

        Returning to the USSR: millions (I think some now say 20, if you count all the civilians) of Soviets died for freedom and to rid the world of Nazism. It may sound odd to put the first part there, but it is true all the same. (That they then “took it back”, is of course horrible, but neither here nor there as far as I can tell.) And don’t say *Russians*, here, either: Azeris and Armenians and Ukranians and Kazaks and others too.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 29, 2017 at 2:01 am | Permalink

        “There seems to be a great fear that if controversial speakers are allowed to speak, more and more people will start to believe them, causing their misogynistim, xenophobia, prejudice, and general venom will become more widespread.”

        Of course, whether we like it or not, this is not a totally unrealistic fear.

        Indeed. That pretty much explains the last election in the US. Which is pretty damned scary.

      • Christopher Bonds
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Some well-reasoned points here. What I don’t know is the extent to which Hitler was shaped to become the voice of the masses. Same thing for Trump. Of course here the Trump supporters account for less than half of the electorate, and I don’t know about Germany. But it’s the indifference of much of the other half that is a big problem as well.

    • Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      “Random thoughts: There seems to be a great fear that if controversial speakers are allowed to speak, more and more people will start to believe them, causing their misogynistim, xenophobia, prejudice, and general venom will become more widespread. Maybe it’s not the words the would-be censors are afraid of, it’s the possible consequences. There is a whiff of the slippery-slope fallacy there.”

      I think this is exactly how the reasoning goes. The would-be censors state as much: how much of their arguments are based around things like “safety” and “harm,” things which obviously have no relevance when it comes to hearing someone speak opinions they don’t like? The only way to make the connection is that speaking such opinions will lead to harm by seducing more people to adopt that opinion.

      Which I think is a reflection on how these would-be censors came to their own beliefs: through preaching rather than convincing; faith rather than reason. So they find it just as easy to believe that others would be seduced by other ideas even if the reasoning isn’t sound and the arguments are poor; after all, they didn’t come to their beliefs by reasoning, so why should anyone else? Furthermore, since they weren’t given the arguments to reason them into their ideologies, they’re not equipped to provide argument against ideologies they disagree with.

      In that situation, the most sensible thing to do would be to gain enough power to simply shut down and prevent any speech of ideology one doesn’t like.

      • BJ
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        I think when they use the words “harm” and “violence” with regard to speech of which they disapprove, they mean it is emotionally harmful to them to even have to hear (or know that there is someone somewhere on campus saying, even if they can’t hear it) opinions with which they disagree. It is emotional violence against them. I mean, most of these school offer counseling for emotional harm caused by hearing unwanted opinions. And where do you think the idea of the “safe space” comes from?

    • quidnunc
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      There is an analogy to immunology where the progressive view would be that bad ideas are a contagion in need of quarantine with the assumption that containment is possible through being a scold and censor.

      Whereas the liberal view is that good ideas inoculate against the bad, Exposure is important because it’s not possible to isolate the bad if engagement is an important part of making a well informed citizenry.

      • Christopher Bonds
        Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        I would offer that good ideas are produced through sound reasoning, and a big question for me is whether sound reasoning can ever ultimately prevail over groupthink (the “madness of crowds.”)

  7. Randy schenck
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I sure hope there are no History professors among this censorship group. They would have a lot of explaining to do, Lucy.

  8. Kevin
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    The argument for ‘not enough time to hear all interesting speakers’ fails miserably.

    At any university there are probably a dozen presentations a day. Not one person views them all and certainly most do not consider them interesting. Even within a subject like physics, there may be 50% of the talks that are not interesting other physicists. They have work to do.

    Ann and Milo are no different. If everyone was like me, they would be allowed to speak, but no one would attend their talks, because they are boring (to me).

    Protesting students and faculty would do much better, in the long run, to promote competitive ideas that make people like Coulter boring so that her books are not purchase on a campus and her presentations are to empty auditoriums.

  9. Jim Smith
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    So all of these cultural marxist professors and all of their regressive left allies will have no problem when Trump no-platforms them. Cause it won’t be firing them, it will be no-platforming them. Big difference. Can’t wait for it to happen.

  10. Robert Ryder
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Since we entered the age of Trump, I have been thinking that the postmodernists have now truly triumphed. This professor and others like him appear to confirm my thinking. In short, their thinking reflects the attitude that there is really no observable, testable reality but instead reality is only perception: “If I think something that makes it real.” No it doesn’t! When this sort of thinking is confined to journals that virtually no one ever reads, it’s not really a problem. When this thinking is imposed on “reality,” however, it becomes an enormous problem.

    • Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      A few years back, one of the prominent subjectivist “science studies” gurus Bruno Latour had an “epiphany” and realized what his left-critics were saying all those years before, when he heard the Bush administration using his ways of speaking and his (in my words) subjectivism.

      Denying that one can find out about the world is the biggest gift to the powerful that one can possibly give, since you effectively just give up the fight for whatever it is you want to do right there.

  11. Sastra
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Instead of community-wide discussion and debate over the merits of bringing a given speaker to campus, the debate happens after the invitation, giving the misleading impression that no-platforming is about shutting down speech.

    This demand for community-wide discussion makes good sense if Coulter was invited to give the graduation speech — or if she was being granted an honorary degree. As it is, all Hanlon is doing is disempowering minority student groups. Those with unpopular views are being treated differently than those in favor… the opposite of what Hanlon claims to want.

    When I hear an argument which doesn’t sound right, I find it useful to try to imagine a situation where it DOES sound right. That helps pinpoint the problem for me. THIS is like THAT, they think.

  12. jwthomas
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    While everything Jerry writes is true in theory, I want to raise other questions.

    The Cal Republican Club members who requested that she speak there must already be familiar with Coulter’s views and don’t need a speech from her to know what she believes. It seems obvious that their request must be a provocation designed to upset all those liberals in “liberal” Berkeley (25% registered Repubs) who disagree with her. She’s not there to deliver a message designed to enlighten the world but as someone to stir up the trouble she’s already stirred up.

    Everyone faniliar with the situation at Cal knows that
    bands of leftists from out of town (Antifa) roam the streets on weekends to meet and fight with right wing hoodlums in from out of town, some wearing Nazi paraphenalia and
    giving Hiter salutes to a
    whatever cameras they can find. Violent street fighting has become commonplace and the city cops and campus police can barely control it.

    All this costs taxpayers money for the city and campus to deal with, and Coulter’s appearance there at 4pm tomorrow is likely to lead to
    major violence. This in fact is what Coulter and her promoters want. It’s publicity for her and them and makes the University look bad.

    I’m not suggesting that Coulter should be prevented from staging her little putsch
    tomorrow; I’m saying that solutions to this problem are not simple issues of free speech and that situations like this willl continue to escalate unless Universities come up with something better than they have yet. Perhaps the whole tradition of campus groups being able to request whoever the want to campus need serious rethinking. I don’t know.

    • Denise
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      And the progressives aren’t already familiar with what their invited speakers are going to say as well?

      • jwthomas
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Of course. It’s all just a game to both sides.

    • mikeyc
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      This is a ridiculous reason to no-platform her or anyone else. It is nonsensical on its face for the reason Denise points out and the obvious corollary that you cannot assume that everyone is familiar with Coulter or what she has to say.

      Just yesterday I went to a talk by a visiting scholar who was presenting his lab’s work. Work I and everyone here are intimately familiar with. Did I waste my time?

    • GBJames
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      “The Cal Republican Club members who requested that she speak there must already be familiar with Coulter’s views and don’t need a speech from her to know what she believes.”

      How do you know that? Do you think that is true for me when I go to hear speakers like Jerry, or Dan Dennett, or Lawrence Krauss?

      (Although I agree that Coulter and her ilk are in fact playing the illiberal left here. But that’s a separate issue.)

    • somer
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      from what Craw said a few months ago about Berkely violence – the university, but more importantly the police directed by municipal authorities – simply will not punish them. If they threw them in jail for a few days or charged them it wouldn’t happen.

      • Craw
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Indeed 🙂

        And we are fast approaching a point where the “remedy” will not be the rule of law but counter vigilantes.

        This frankly is why I am cautiously hopeful about one Trump cabinet person, DeVos. She might have the guts to insist on a return to sanity, due process, and the rule of law on campus. Maybe.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 29, 2017 at 2:15 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Sounds like there are plenty of grounds to arrest for assault and battery, property destruction, etc. Of course this is far beyond what most campus police outfits are prepared or equipped to handle. The thugs are breaking the law and the city and/or state cops need to bring such activity to a quick end.

        Is there any wonder why black communities think they’re unduly policed when they see white college kids or even white street thugs get away with this behavior?

  13. Jim Smith
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Banning free speech – and effoff with the no-platforming canard – is dehumanzing. Just look at the correlation of free speech in a country and the level to which people are dehumanized in that country, like, let’s say, communist countries, which seems lost on these neo-Marxist professors.

  14. Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to picture a situation in which every speaker invited to a departmental seminar is subject to a “community-wide discussion”

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 29, 2017 at 2:17 am | Permalink

      That made me laugh. 😀

  15. Gary Yane
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    “I doubt you’ll ever see a biologist or physicist calling for censorship, for we value the clash of ideas.”

    Aren’t we scientist great. The trouble is that I doubt if the equivalent of Ann Coulter has ever been invited to speak at a science conference. What would she say? Darwin was a faggot or some other nonsense. Why waste the high tuition money?

    • Ned
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      She’d say Intelligent Design theorists and experimentalists have been systematically denied jobs, funding, and a platform to share their insights with the wider biology community, which is controlled by a regressive evolutionist ideology. As seen in the movie Expelled, …. 😁

  16. tomh
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    From the NYT, “Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she is canceling her planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley, because she had lost the backing of conservative groups that had initially sponsored her appearance.”

    • jwthomas
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank Ceiling Cat!

      NYT: ‘Berkeley has become a meeting ground for what the city’s chief of police, Andrew Greenwood, has described as politically motivated groups “armed and prepared to fight.”’

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    … there’s not enough time to hear everybody, and so we must choose judiciously.

    That’s a great reason for cultivating a sense of discernment and taste in choosing which speakers to go hear. It’s a piss-poor reason for denying anyone else his or her preferences.

    • Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      It’s amazing how many such “arguments” are really cover stories for “I don’t want other people to be allowed to listen to this”.

    • improbable
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Right, “not enough time” is just an amazingly stupid argument.

      Someone needs to compile for him a list of all the games of beer pong planned for the same evening.

  18. finderskeepers
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I hate to invoke this sort of modern farce, but the free speech issue on campuses is the best argument for white guys to step aside and check their privilege. Could it be that these white male professors are so comfortable with the idea of speech suppression because they can never conceive of a situation where their right to free speech would revoked?

    • mikeyc
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Is it only -or even mostly- “white male professors” who are calling for this kind of censorship?

      • BJ
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, all those white male professors from the departments of African American studies, Oriental studies, etc….

        Just look at the blog post after this for what group is calling for censorship in England. It certainly isn’t a group that one would think is made up of “white males.”

        Although I must admit, this is a very interesting twist on the “white males need to sit down and shut up” argument.

        • finderskeepers
          Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          “Although I must admit, this is a very interesting twist on the “white males need to sit down and shut up” argument.”

          This is what I’m getting at.

          Censors need to suffer under their own edicts to understand why they are wrong headed. It’s easy to call for a blanket ban on free speech if you believe you get to be the arbiter of said speech.

          • BJ
            Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

            Ah, I see. My apologies. I missed the sarcasm of your post.

          • GBJames
            Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

            I missed the sarcasm, too. My response was inappropriately directed.

      • finderskeepers
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Of course not, but all of those post-colonialist pomo professors don’t get highly publicized op-eds in the NYT.

    • GBJames
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      “Check your privilege”.

      Or, in standard English: “I have no argument, so STFU.”

      • Jim Smith
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        When ‘privilege’ means you cannot talk, it doesn’t seem to be a privilege to me. Seems to be a disability. And I am for the rights of the disabled. So anyone with privilege please walk to the front of the line and the rest of you wait your turn at the back.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    These [Literature and English] are disciplines particularly prone to postmodernism … I doubt you’ll ever see a biologist or physicist calling for censorship, for we value the clash of ideas.

    True enough, and I have great respect for the way science values the clash of ideas.

    But let us never forget that it has been men of letters — the Voltaires, and the Montesquieues, and the Lockes; the Rousseaus, and the Jeffersons, and the Millses; the Brandeises, and the Orwells, and the Hitchenses — that have given us our fundamental understanding of what free speech means.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      Heretic! All of us arts grads are “half brains”, haven’t you heard? I’ve heard it repeated ad nauseaum in not to many words here so often I’ve felt unwelcome because I’m such a dummy plebeian (oops that word might too big for my pretty little head).

      • Craw
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Sorry, but most arts grads are half-brains these days. Pomo rules in most arts disciplines. Check out the tw*tter account Real Peer Review for examples of doctoral work in the humanities.
        Watch some videos of campus protests at libraries. Arts students shrieking and wailing while STEM students work.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 27, 2017 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          And yep exactly why I’ve been spending a lot less time on WEIT because I’m not very smart it seems.

          See ya!

    • somer
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 5:09 am | Permalink

      well women weren’t allowed to comment at the time

  20. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    The arts values the clash of ideas as well but academics are deciding regresssives. Look at the whole issue with Charles Murray who said the students who attacked and silenced him were encouraged to do so by academics and the ones he mentioned weren’t arts professors.

  21. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    The line between hate speech and actual dissenting criticism is a slippery one. I’m willing personally to grant that Ann and Mile veer into the latter category, but who is to decide??

    I recall in the late 1990s looking at the website of Will Donoghue’s Catholic League. He had no ability to distinguish real cheap shot jokes about Catholicism (which shouldn’t be censored anyway) from principled criticism. On his list of recent examples of ‘anti-Catholic bigotry’ he had both listed some sportscasters slightly vulgar anti-Catholic joke, and Garry Wills’ recent book “Papal Sin”!!! Are these remotely in the same category???

    I’m not sure I trust the RegLeft to do a whole lot better.

  22. nicky
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    “This syllogism is mine and it belongs to me”
    With all due respect, it is much more obvious, nearly trivially obvious, than the liking of meat v fish.
    Does it not belong to, say, Claire Lehmann too?

    • Craw
      Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      It’s a Monty Python allusion. Google Ann Elk.

  23. Jim Smith
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    This idiot was on Tucker Carlson’s show. He was just awful. Apparently it’s the quality of speech that matters. I would have called him a low quality professor therefore he should be banned from college classrooms. Or called him a low quality idiot and no-patformed him off the show. What an idiot.

  24. ChrisB
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Well I think Aaron Hanlon’s deeply flawed ‘reasoning’ for censoring speakers he doesn’t like has been cut to ribbons here already. I just wanted to add that my initial impression was just that the argument consists of two self contradictory ideas and so the whole argument becomes incoherent.

    He start off telling us it’s ok to deplatform people after they have been invited because only a small number of people made the decision to invite them, and there wasn’t a campus wide discussion on whether or not to extend an invitation. When, in all the history of speakers at universities (or anywhere else) has this been an expected or reasonable criterion? The whole concept is just silly.

    He then goes on to compare inviting speakers to the decisions of what to put into his syllabi. This idea is contradictory to the first one, or at least a non-sequitor, so the two together fail to make anything like a coherent argument. Universities often have multiple concurrent events going on: there is little competition for limited time and resources in the way that he claims. And if anyone chooses not to attend Ann Coulter’s verbal defecation, they aren’t going to be marked down for it as if they missed a class.

    These two ideas, already individually weak, only become more illogical taken together. If his syllabi are such a good analogy for inviting speakers, Hanlon should be horrified that they are decided by a committee of one: himself. Why aren’t the syllabi for his classes decided by a community wide discussion, so the whole campus can decide what Hanlon should teach in his classes.

  25. Aaron Hanlon
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    I acknowledge that you make some compelling points here. For me, however, there are still a few things central to my argument that you’ve basically ignored. Briefly:

    Most importantly, you don’t seem willing or able to think about value judgment outside the terms of A) a judgment about whether someone likes a speaker or agrees with a speaker (affinity) and B) a judgment based on demand for a speaker (market). I grant you that these two forms of value judgment–do I like it/agree with it; do others want it too–are easy to make and easy to identify. But are you really convinced that these forms of value judgment you’ve countenance here are the only possible ways we can make value distinctions between speakers?

    I take critical thinking to be the ability to entertain the negation of one’s own view, and concomitantly the ability to make a value judgment while bracketing one’s self-interest. And my argument has been, rather explicitly, based on value judgments that are products of critical thinking, understood in these terms. I’ve expressly opposed political or ‘affinity’ tests for campus speakers, and I’ve expressly opposed ‘market’ tests for campus speakers (a mob-rule situation in which, e.g., a liberal-leaning campus would end up with only liberal speakers, which to me is totally unacceptable).

    So the question for you and your critique is: do you acknowledge critical thinking as a legitimate means of making value judgments about speaker quality? If you do, then your comment to the effect of “Of course if you leave such choices to a consensus vote of the entire student body, you’ll never hear a speaker that goes against Lefist sentiments..” is tilting at a straw man, because I’m not advocating ‘market’ judgments. And if you reject the idea that value judgment is a legitimate or necessary consideration for choosing campus speakers and giving them the legitimation of a campus platform, then would you support the rights of Neo-Nazis or terrorist sympathizers (or terrorists themselves), for example, to speak on campus? If you’d be OK with such guests, I’d be even more worried than you are about the future of higher education. And if you’re not, you’ve just made a value judgment.

    2) I think it’s an error to assume that the universe suddenly expands when a speaker is invited. That is, there are scarcity issues that affect speakers. Not identical to syllabi, I grant you (the syllabus analogy was meant to speak to the value judgment piece). Student groups have limited resources with which to brings speakers. Imagine how many conservative intellectuals a campus could host for the cost of one Ann Coulter. Further, as you probably experience at UChicago, many campuses are already over-programmed. Students do have limited time, and campus communities–not one person or one cabal or one administrative body–would be wise to have discussions about speakers.

    The stronger argument on this point, though, is that institutions of higher ed. give legitimacy to speakers when we give them a platform.

    3) The above aside, I’m pretty disappointed that someone of your stature would go so low with me, posting my picture (as if it has any bearing on my argument), calling me names, etc. You make a good case, enough of one to make me continue to evaluate my position. I wonder why you’d tarnish that with ad hominem? Maybe you don’t respect my field (though you should know I’m an 18th centuryist with a mainly historicist approach to literature, so I’m about as far from ‘postmodern influenced’ as can be). But you should ask yourself why you think it’s either prudent or professional to treat an untenured junior colleague this way on your considerable platform. If my ideas don’t stand up, and if I’m not intellectually honest enough to adjust to ongoing scrutiny and debate, then you don’t need to post my picture to have an effect.

    Thanks very much for your time and engagement.

    –Aaron

    • Posted April 27, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      As for the picture, I often post photos of subjects of pieces, both critical or approving, so there’s nothing particularly nefarious there; and the caption is hardly ad hominem. You DO want more censorship!

      I don’t understand why your being untenured is relevant at all. I didn’t know that, and I don’t care; you put your ideas out there and I criticized them. That’s what academics do, regardless of rank.

      As for the other arguments you make, I’ll let two others answer them for me; they’re far stronger than my piece, especially the first one from Mother Jones:

      http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/04/most-important-free-speech-question-who-decides

      and

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/04/27/lawyer-stop-using-censorship-to-protect-free-speech/?utm_term=.3cef64a0cd34

      • Aaron Hanlon
        Posted April 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        Hi Jerry,

        I’m not sure if there were technical difficulties with my last attempted post or if you made a moderator’s decision to censor it (if the latter, you’d have to agree the irony is rich).

        But while both of the articles you include are helpful and provide useful critiques of mine, neither one really answers the question I posed, which I think is the most important question for the absolutist position on campus speech:

        Suppose an ‘uncomfortable learning’ group wants to get really uncomfortable and invites a neo-Nazi or terrorist speaker? Suppose they invite a felon convicted of a violent crime? Are you OK with that? Should we all be OK with that? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say you are, but I also think this raises important further questions, such as what it means for an institution to give legitimacy to a speaker by providing a platform, and what it means if institutional resources have to be channeled increasingly toward security.

        I don’t mean this as a hypothetical question, because I do think the trend has been to invite speakers who are valued for their ability to provoke.

        Thank you for your time.

        –Aaron

        • Posted April 28, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I’m okay with that so long as they don’t try to provoke immediate violence. Now if I were in charge of invitations for a group I may not invite these people; it depends on whether I think they would stimulate thought, but that’s irrelevant to the discussion, as we both are talking about whom we should censor. If another group invited these people to speak, I would not urge them to be disinvited or “shut down.” I’ve said before why I think even offensive speech is of value.

          I’m a First Amendment absolutist on campus speech (for invitees), and I think you are wrong. And you haven’t found much support.

          This is the end of our discussion. I should give you one bit of advice, though, suggested by both Stephen Fry and Nick Cohen: don’t respond in comments when someone attacks you in another venue. It never helps your case.

        • Diane G.
          Posted April 29, 2017 at 2:49 am | Permalink

          Suppose an ‘uncomfortable learning’ group wants to get really uncomfortable and invites a neo-Nazi or terrorist speaker? Suppose they invite a felon convicted of a violent crime? Are you OK with that? Should we all be OK with that? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say you are, but I also think this raises important further questions, such as what it means for an institution to give legitimacy to a speaker by providing a platform, and what it means if institutional resources have to be channeled increasingly toward security.

          I can’t think of a better opportunity for free speech than the chance to challenge whatever drivel the lowlifes of your hypothetical speaker examples spout. College students should relish the opportunity to either eviscerate such speakers in the Q & A or, better, completely ignore the whole waste of time. When someone is obviously trying to provoke you, being unprovocable is punishment most cruel.

          Making a huge, hairy deal out of it, however, to the extent of deplatforming, is playing right into their hands.

  26. Merilee
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  27. tomh
    Posted April 28, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    There’s some background on the Ann Coulter invitation in yesterday’s Washington Post, “I invited Ann Coulter to speak at UC Berkeley. Here’s Why”, by Pranav Jandhyala. Jandhyala’s campus group was hosting a larger forum on immigration, with speakers from all sides, and Coulter was the conservatives’ choice to present their side. He worked with Campus Republicans to invite her. Knowing that, I wonder if Hanlon would still object to her.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 29, 2017 at 2:51 am | Permalink

      That is most interesting!

  28. Michael Benson
    Posted April 30, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    They should realize that their (the regressive SJW side) speech can also be seen as dehumanizing and reducing their victims of their humanity in favor of a perceived identity. They need to be silenced as well!

    • Ullrich Fischer
      Posted May 14, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, once the principle of free speech is gone, no one will be allowed to hear anything contradicting their current beliefs. Kinda like Facebook, but expanded to all areas where people might bump into each other.

  29. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted May 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Spot on analysis of this disturbing trend. Thanks for keeping up this essential fight.

    “moar”? Am I missing some neologism like “phat” here? Is that a more “more”-ish version of “more”? 🙂


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