Quote of the week

A thought from Brian Leiter, a colleague in our Law School who runs the popular online philosophy site Leiter Reports:

Marcuse himself wanted to suppress speech advocating for actual violence against and silencing of human beings:  murdering their political leaders, dropping chemical bombs on their country, destroying their society and livelihood through military violence.    But neoliberalism—the idea that the preferences of the consumers of products, including education, determine the value of what is offered—now rules in the capitalist universities too, with the result that some self-styled “progressive” faculty and students–even in institutions of higher education that protect expressive rights quite resolutely–believe that denigrating and offensive ideas “silence,” “marginalize” and “do violence” to them.   (Ironically, one need only watch videos, easily available on-line, of minority students challenging and ridiculing the pathetic NeoNazi Richard Spencer on various campuses to realize that no one was “silenced” and no one suffered actual “violence.”)  In both research and teaching in the human sciences, such metaphysical flights of fancy deserve no consideration at any university committed to academic freedom.   The dismissal of this melodrama is, of course, compatible with full commitment to laws, common in most Western democracies these days, prohibiting racial, gender, or sexual orientation discrimination.

Thank Ceiling Cat the the University of Chicago, where both of us reside, isn’t prey to this kind of stuff. But this quote does remind us that the Regressive Left is trying to change the meaning of words. Two examples:

“Silencing me” (same as “erasing me”) is the new equivalent of “criticizing someone”.  Linda Sarsour is a big user of the “erasing me” trope, except that she’s the person farthest from being erased that I can think of. She’s always in the media and constantly quoted.

“Violence” is the new equivalent for “criticizing my cherished ideology”. It need not involve any real violence.


h/t: Greg Mayer


  1. Posted December 7, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious about people’s opinion; does anyone think the Regressives will (or already have) “jump(ed) the shark”? If not, are we doomed to a Regressive future?

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Professor Jonathan Haidt suggested a few months ago that the progressive regressives have already “jumped the shark”, and that the wave of their campus antics would soon recede. I think he based this prediction on a few cases where university administrations displayed a little rationality and backbone. There have been only a few such cases so far, to my knowledge, so the accuracy of his prediction remains to be seen.

    • Christopher
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      No, I’m afraid we’ve got a long road ahead of us until the regressive stupid-mobile runs out of gas. I would suggest it will require more self-harm to the inner sanctum of leftists, more bang than whimper, than has thus been observed. It was, however, quite enjoyable to read about CTRL Leftist Mayim Bialik being attacked by fellow thought-fascists for her comments about pretty women in Hollywood and fellow jackbooted leftista Lena Dunham being pilloried for her defense of writer friend and alleged rapist. But they are probably just the dim witted tip of idiotberg.

    • danstarfish
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      I think the regressive left is losing influence.

      Though I have a lot of caveats. I can’t say it with confidence and I have no idea where the new equilibrium will lie. Even though I think they are losing influence, I don’t think they will collapse anytime soon.

      • Craw
        Posted December 7, 2017 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        But today Regressive leftism drove Franken from office, despite his denial, despite the lack of any investigation. Gillibrand and her posse did not examine evidence before saddling up with a bible and a rope.

  2. Posted December 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    If I would quote my father (slightly paraphrased) “you want violence, I will show you violence.” It is a form of bluff calling when raising children, which apparently is now being extended into the collegiate years.

    On Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 1:35 PM, Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “A thought from Brian Leiter, a colleague in > our Law School who runs the popular online philosophy site Leiter Reports: > Marcuse himself wanted to suppress speech advocating for actual violence > against and silencing of human beings: murdering their politi” >

    • Posted December 8, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      The Inuit used to do this too – if their children got too out of hand, parents or other caregivers would illustrate that “there is always someone bigger and stronger”.

  3. DrBrydon
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    “Metaphysical” and “melodrama” are both good words to use when discussing the assertion that speech is violence.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted December 7, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      I had not encountered this definition of melodrama before (Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017):

      [A] dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization.

    • Posted December 7, 2017 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      I guess the term ‘metaviolence’ needs to be invented by someone.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    A well-known word for “changing the meaning of words” is “Orwellian Newspeak”. (A good right-wing example is Ann Coulter’s bizarre re-definition of “treason”.)

    I actually like a little-known one coined by Edmund Cohen: “logocide” in his book “The Mind of the Bible Believer”

  5. Posted December 7, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I really hate those that try to change the meanings of words to advance their argument. They are purposely trying to mislead their audience. Throw the bums out! Literally!

    • Posted December 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      I also hate the ones who misuse words in ignorance because they’re too lazy to make certain what the word actually means. Sometimes other ignorant people continue the misuse of such words.

  6. Posted December 7, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    It will probably last as long as the current generation and sympathisers whose brains have been mushed by progressive regressiveness.
    IIRC there was a post here that explained how and why it arose to it’s dizzy heights…

  7. Posted December 7, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Whatever happened “to words can never hurt me!”? When did “free speech” get incarcerated? Why have we let some ideas continue to be given free expression, and others not? I, and you, should be able to say anything without either of us mischaracterizing the other’s verbal expression as violence. Grow up, folks!

  8. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 8, 2017 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    My sneaky malicious side says:

    Would that those who babble about being ‘silenced’ or ‘erased’ really saw their rhetoric fulfilled.



  9. Posted December 8, 2017 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    The erasure thing is still quite fresh on my mind. I was speaking my views on an online forum and I suggested that we could use CRISPR-Cas9 to edit out the genes in an embryo that led to disabilities if we lived in an equal society where everyone had access. Someone said that I’d be “erasing the disabled identity”.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 8, 2017 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      Yes, how dare you deprive the disabled of their right to suffer disabilities. Oh, I forgot – they don’t have disabilities, they’re ‘otherwise abled’. And nobody is allowed to oppress them by enquiring what these mystical other abilities are.


      Reminds me of the wallies in the Downs Syndrome association (almost certainly being used as sock puppets by the ‘pro-life’ religious freaks) who rail against pre-natal screening for Downs.


      • Posted December 8, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Well, she did say “If only you people made more accessible stuff we wouldn’t suffer.” I personally think that’s post hoc rationalization.

        • Posted December 8, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          That’s only true in the asymptotic sense.

          What is more interesting to me is how careful one has to do determine cause because of “common origins”.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 8, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          “If only you people made more accessible stuff we wouldn’t suffer.”

          I think that’s balls.

          Leaving completely aside the economic debate about how much resources we should divert to catering for a small percentage of the population – AND the one that says, since resources are finite, the *fewer* disabled there are, the bigger the share each disabled person has of the available resource –

          The natural world is not wheelchair-friendly. Nature is not blind-friendly. Regardless of what resources we throw at it, or how much we compromise our environment to cater to their requirements, the disabled will still and always be at a disadvantage compared with an able-bodied person. They will still suffer by comparison.


          • Posted December 8, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

            Oh right, totally forgot about nature.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted December 8, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

              By ‘natural’ I mean – well, everything. How do you make changing a light bulb ‘accessible’? Or working on your car?

              To address that woman’s statement – maybe *some* things can be made ‘accessible’ to varying degrees, but very far from all.

              I do have enormous sympathy for disabled people. I’d hate to be seriously disabled myself. Where I disagree is the ‘disability is [only] a social construct’ trope.


              • Posted December 9, 2017 at 12:36 am | Permalink

                I’ll bring it up next time I talk to her, although I doubt I would talk to her about issues like this again.

                By “issues like this” I mean anything serious. She went full apologetics when we were discussing Christianity on the forum.

      • Harrison
        Posted December 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Gene editing does come with some real moral quandaries that we’re not gonna have solved by the time it’s a reality, but that aside, if you want a really monstrous example of identity politics harming children, look to the examples of deaf parents openly wishing to inflict deafness on their offspring who are at risk of being born healthy.

        Someone making an argument in favor of not screening for disabilities might provoke some strong disagreement, but I think actively screening FOR disabilities is downright evil.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 8, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          “I think actively screening FOR disabilities is downright evil.”

          Could you clarify that?

          I think – from the context of your comment – you mean “actively screening with the intent of promoting disabilities is downright evil” (with which I would concur).


        • Posted December 9, 2017 at 12:29 am | Permalink

          I would ask though, what is the difference between making a child disabled and not editing out disability genes?

      • BJ
        Posted December 9, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

        “Oh, I forgot – they don’t have disabilities, they’re ‘otherwise abled’”

        The boy in this movie has “facial differences.”


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 9, 2017 at 4:22 am | Permalink

          Well, I suppose you could say he’s a bit disfigured, but not really badly. But not disabled.

          I suppose any handicaps he suffers are genuinely social constructs.

          But I’m not sure of the point you’re making there.


          • BJ
            Posted December 9, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

            Just the point that, by any standard, what he’s suffering from is a deformity, not a “difference.” We have always called being born with an improperly developed area of the body a “deformity” because that’s exactly what it is.

            I have been wondering for a few years now when we would be told we must act as if things like deformities are simply perfectly normal differences that aren’t the same as the (99.999999%) majority of people. Apparently, we have reached that point.

            • BJ
              Posted December 9, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

              To be clearer, it’s the same thing as the switch to a phrase like “otherwise/differently abled,” in that it’s a purposeful change in labels to something less accurate in an attempt to make others feel better (when it really only makes the non-disabled people using the label feel better, and many disabled people find it patronizing).

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 9, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

                Okay, then you’re on exactly the same page as me 🙂

                It’s intriguing that on the one hand, real differences are minimised, while on the other we have pomos claiming that mere verbal disagreement is “violence”. It’s like reality is irrelevant and the imaginary is all-important.


  10. Rich
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    At this point, these few, sane, statements look like tiny candles in a great, windy, darkness threatening at any moment to snuff them out.

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