Steve Bannon invited to speak at my university; students and faculty protest; free-speech butters emerge

Well, the University of Chicago is about to go through the same tumult that afflicted Middlebury College in Vermont, Berkeley, Harvard, and all the other universities that have tried to ban right-wing speakers or those who are said to purvey “hate speech.”  For, according to the student newspaper The Chicago Maroon, former Presidential advisor and Breitbart editor Steve Bannon has been invited to speak here this fall, and has accepted . The person who invited him was a professor at the business school, Luigi Zingales. From the report:

The former White House chief strategist has not spoken at a public event since his departure from Breitbart.

Zingales told The Maroon that Bannon could provide some insight into the current political and economic climate in the United States.

“Whether you like his views or not, he seems to have understood something about America that I’m curious to learn more about,” he said. Zingales commented further in a Facebook post.

This, of course, immediately caused a fracas; as the Maroon reported further, many faculty and students have objected to Bannon’s presence here, and the faculty have signed and publicized a petition calling for Bannon’s disinvitation.

The University of Chicago, of course, has perhaps the nation’s most liberal (and I mean that both ways) policy of free speech, which you can read here. It basically states that anybody who has been properly invited to speak will be allowed to speak. Last year it also formulated a policy to discipline students who violate University regulations by trying to disrupt talks or prevent them from taking place. On Thursday, moreover, the University issued this statement, completely in line with its policies:

“Professor Luigi Zingales of the Booth School of Business is planning an event with the tentative format of a debate on subjects including the economic benefits of globalization and immigration, and has invited Steve Bannon, former chief strategist and senior adviser in the Trump administration, to debate an expert in the field, with Zingales serving as moderator. More details will be available soon from the Booth School of Business.

“The University of Chicago is deeply committed to upholding the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice.

“Any recognized student group, faculty group, University department or individual faculty member can invite a speaker to campus. We recognize that there will be debate and disagreement over this event; as part of our commitment to free expression, the University supports the ability of protesters and invited speakers to express a wide range of views.”

Good for the U of C! Would that its faculty would take those words to heart. Note, too, that this is a DEBATE, so already there will be speech opposing Bannon’s speech.

The second Maroon article shows all the objections from faculty and students to Bannon’s appearance, including tweets and a letter from the executive committee of student government that says, in part, this (their emphasis):

In our opinion, Professor Luigi Zingales has grossly misstepped in inviting Steve Bannon to campus. Professor Zingales has the right to invite Bannon to speak, but he should have known better. Professor Zingales has given an avowed racist and white nationalist an undeserved platform. We believe the goal of seeking to understand the backlash against globalization and immigration can be achieved through other speakers and means. Academia does not exist in a vacuum, and Professor Zingales should understand that what happens on our campus has outsized ramifications in the volatile national political environment.

You can absolutely predict what’s going to happen now. Bannon, who I consider more repugnant than Trump, is going to be protested, which is legal and proper, and the protestors will use the “we are in favor of free speech, but . . . ” trope. I also predict that students will try to disrupt the talk, both inside and outside the lecture venue, and I’m wondering then what the University will do in response. If it sticks by its guns, and I think it should, those students who violate the University policy on free speech should be disciplined. I’ll certainly report on this when Bannon arrives.

In the meantime, the number of faculty signing the petition has grown to 86;  you can see it and the signatories’ names here.  The wording of the petition is absolutely in line with the authoritarian Left, and of course raises the “we love free speech but this is not free speech; it’s hate speech” trope. A couple of excerpts (my emphasis):

Over the past couple of years, the University has made clear its commitment to free speech and has positioned itself as a national leader in defending freedom of expression. As academics, we understand that our work is only possible in a context where intellectual inquiry is afforded the space and freedom to push the boundaries of knowledge. At the same time, we believe that our mission of setting global standards for excellence in research and teaching is only possible in an environment where every member of our community is valued and hate speech that is meant to undermine their full participation is not tolerated.

The defense of freedom of expression cannot be taken to mean that white supremacy, anti-semitism, misogyny, homophobia, anti-Catholicism, and islamophobia must be afforded the rights and opportunity to be aired on a university campus. Bannon’s positions as articulated in Breitbart News and the policies he helped to promote during his tenure at the White House do not open opportunities for debate and exchange; they diminish such opportunities. These positions represent neither reasonable speech nor evidence-based and rigorous intellectual inquiry. [JAC: Many of the signatories don’t used “evidence-based inquiry!] He is cited as the most consequential proponent of a recent ban on immigration, which is currently embroiled in legal challenges for its discriminatory targeting of majority Muslim countries. He has unabashedly advocated for more general restrictions of historically legal forms of immigration, in ways inconsistent with generally accepted ideals of openness embraced here on campus. Moreover, he is a founding board member of and, until very recently, had been an executive at the media company Breitbart, espousing the most detestable facets of the so-called “alt-right” movement, including a blatantly racist “news” section explicitly devoted to associating black people with crime.

It goes on, but it’s the same blather we’ve heard so many times before. Yes, Bannon is a reprehensible man with disgusting views, and if anybody can be seen as “alt-right”, it would be him. But, as I and others have argued so many times before, we can’t simply prevent anyone from speaking who is said to proffer offensive speech or “hate speech” (they’re largely synonymous terms). And, of course, anti-Semitism is regularly purveyed on this campus by the usual groups, which is okay with Leftists students. Anti-Catholicism, though? That can’t be aired, either? I am an anti-Catholic!  Same for “Islamophobia”, which often means “criticism of Islam.” Those feminists who oppose transgender women being considered “women” would also be silenced, as would those who oppose gay marriage. There is a genuine debate to be had on immigration, too. It is not “hate speech” to call for stronger border controls while at the same time favoring legalization of DACA people, overseas family members of legal immigrants, and those fleeing oppression or danger. Free and open immigration may be “historically legal”, but these people should know that things have changed.

If students want a good education here, they need to hear those views that are most opposed to their own ideology, for how else can they learn to argue properly and cogently against them? It seems, though, that students and faculty—and faculty should know better—simply want to stop up their ears in the face of Bannon and shout “nah-nah-nah-nah.” It’s embarrassing, and a blot on our faculty.

I went through the signatories of the letter. Of the 86 faculty signers (not all are actually faculty), there is not a single person in biology, physics, chemistry, or engineering. There are 8 signers (fewer than 10%) who could be considered in science-related fields: five from anthropology, two from mathematics (one emeritus), and one in psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience.

I looked up the anthropologists, betting that they were all cultural rather than physical anthropologists. I was right. I doubt that scientists didn’t know about the petition, since news of it has circulated widely. It’s just that chemists, biologists, and physicists didn’t want to sign it; and good for them. (I don’t buy that we’re too busy, for it only takes a few minutes to read the letter and append your name.)

I won’t spend my time going through the numerous social scientists and other humanities professors who signed, but I bet if you do you’ll find a surfeit of postmodern and intersectionalist work, which is what I saw among the anthropologists. Apparently the termites have dined well at The University of Chicago.

Finally, one objection in the form of a Maroon op-ed from a student: “Fascism has a place on campus. Do I?” The author is a second-year history major in the College, and apparently Jewish. (I bring that up because she argues that “Steve Bannon might [unconvincingly] downplay his ties to Nazism, but his followers want me to die. They want to shoot me, set me on fire, choke me to death with Zyklon B, pour acid in my eyes and pretend it’s a science experiment.”)  And, of course, she also plays the “free speech but. . . ” card (my emphasis):

I took a class on the history of censorship last quarter and feel confident that what I advocate here is not censorship. Censorship is an attempt by the powerful to remain powerful. I cannot hurt Steve Bannon by writing an opinion piece for a student newspaper. He could easily retaliate by inciting a riot at the level of Charlottesville to personally target me, my family, and my friends.

The University of Chicago cannot maintain the cognitive dissonance of simultaneously claiming to stand for diversity and then inviting a neo-Nazi to speak. The administration of this school cannot continue to put me and other marginalized students in harm’s way and still pretend to care about us. Fascism cannot be given a platform to speak when fascism’s first order of business is the elimination of free speech, the elimination of freedom of expression, and the elimination of me.

I love this school with all of my heart. Everything I say here I say out of a desire to make this institution the best it can be. I recognize the necessity of engaging in dialogue, but I refuse to engage with someone who believes that me and my people and my cultural heritage should be silenced forever.

Yes, that is censorship, for Bannon is not going to incite a riot that personally targets the Jews, or anyone else. Further, we should not ban speakers who themselves want to ban freedom of speech. By all means let’s hear their arguments! How else will we know why virtually all speech, including very offensive speech, should be allowed. The First Amendment is here to stay, as nobody would be foolish enough to say that Bannon or anyone else could remove it from the U.S. Constitution. As for the student’s “refusal to engage” with Bannon, that’s exactly what she should do if, as she says elsewhere in her letter, his invitation gave her an anxiety attack.

The student is young, and perhaps will one day will temper her overreaction and learn why people like Bannon should not be deplatformed once invited. If she truly loved this University, she’d wholeheartedly support its free speech policy, which is one thing that differentiates us from the many censorious schools in America.

But the faculty, who are older and are aware of our free-speech policy, should know better. They should be ashamed of themselves, and I part company from my colleagues in the humanities who march under the banner of “Free Speech. . . But!” Apparently the signatories of the petition have arrogated to themselves the duty of judging which speech is “free”, and which should be censored. They want to be the “deciders.”


  1. GBJames
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink


  2. zoolady
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    This is lunacy. Let him speak. Listen. Then, when he’s done…stand up & walk out WITHOUT applause.

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      No, no, no.

      Yes, let him speak. According to the ad, this is not just Bannon, but is supposed to be a debate.

      Let his opponent, and his audience, come well prepared. Take his arguments apart. Ask pointed, hard questions, and force him to answer. If he sidesteps, call him on it.

      But, don’t walk out. Hammer him with razor sharp rebuttal.

      And, only then walk out.


      • Diane G.
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        Actually, both responses would be appropriate; let those disinclined to engage in argument express themselves by leaving and let those rubbing their hands together in glee at the opportunity prepare well in advance and nail him in the Q & A. (Preferably with rational rather than impassioned arguments, although a little of both can work.)

        • Filippo
          Posted January 27, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          And don’t anyone repeatedly interrupt any speaker in mid-sentence. (That’s hard for not a few self-absorbed human primates to do.)

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

          As Diane says, both responses are good, and as Filipo says, don’t interrupt either.

          The arguments of people like Bannon are very easy to pull apart. They do not stand up to scrutiny.

          And it is important that the arguments of people like Bannon are publicly destroyed. That is how those who think there might be something to them find out the truth.

      • Simon
        Posted January 28, 2018 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        And be prepared for the act that he may actually defeat some of your arguments. Going into a debate with an arrogant certainty can leave one looking awfully silly. One has to be prepared to graciously concede points where necessary.

  3. Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    ” Fascism cannot be given a platform to speak when fascism’s first order of business is the elimination of free speech, the elimination of freedom of expression, …”

    They simply have no self-awareness, do they?

    • Craw
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      If Bannon is smart, he will just let the protesters rage, and then say “see what I mean?” They hand him an easy victory, which he could not win on the merits.

      • mikeyc
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Absolutely. Bannon and his ilk are playing them. The useful idiots will oblige. It’s going to be ugly.

      • chris moffatt
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Is there some guarantee that the protesters would or could take Bannon’s arguments apart? Most of the leftists I’ve seen and heard aren’t too well acquainted with facts and arguments. Razor sharp rebuttal is in short supply hence the popularity of protest, violence and deplatforming. By actually listening to Bannon they might gain insight into alt-right arguments and provide themselves some good ammunition against them.

        I’m curious though how they know what he will say is “hate speech” before he’s said it.

        • Craw
          Posted January 27, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          Not the protesters. But this is a debate, so I assume he will face someone better than a screaming SJW.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. A fair number of students & faculty must also be aware of this and this would be an excellent time for them to unite and prepare the sort of rational, unemotional responses that might actually make Bannon at least momentarily uncomfortable.

        In the Viet Nam protest days we had some faculty allies who were just as attention-seeking and irrational as some of the students, but we had others who understood free speech and mentored us. Unfortunately, these tend to be the sorts of faculty who prefer (perhaps a better term would be, “have learned the hard way”) to just not get involved in the first place (understandably, of course!).

        Trying to involve whomever’s issuing the statements Jerry quotes as coming from “the University” would be a good place to start. Some pre-Bannon free speech seminars couldn’t hurt.

    • prinzler
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      I confess I missed (at first) the self-accusation of fascism in that statement against fascism that you quote.

  4. Merilee
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “…that ME and my people should be silenced forever…”??
    Pedantic, I know, but really??

    • Cate Plys
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      In the newspaper, which presumably has copy editors. Sheesh.

      • Merilee
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        It seems as though copy editors are as rare as hens’ teeth these days (making sure I’ve left no typos…)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Good to see there’s a word-detective on the “case.”

  5. nicky
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I think it would be very interesting to listen to Mr Bannon. A ‘Fallen Angel’ of the extremists in power now. He has basically become a ‘has been’, close to a ‘nobody’, but one with a lot of inside information. If I could, I would certainly have attended.
    How shortsighted of those who would like to de-platform him (in fact that goes for all de-platforming, IMMO), if only to get to know one’s enemy better.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Bannon’s become the political equivalent of “Philip Nolan,” set adrift with nowhere to call home.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        Can we be sure? A lot of people who’ve been ostensibly banned end up still exerting significant influence behind the scenes. (Such as, oh, being invited to speak at the University of Chicago?)

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 27, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

          Who knows? Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American life. As you-know-who says, “we’ll see.”

          • Craw
            Posted January 27, 2018 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

            A spectacularly silly comment from Fitzgerald too, since American life is full of second acts.

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

              Ain’t that the truth!

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted January 28, 2018 at 1:00 am | Permalink

              Fitzgerald’s comment is almost always misused (as it was by me here). He wasn’t saying there aren’t any second opportunities in American life. He was saying that, in the sense of a standard three-act dramatic structure, American public lives often lack the second, developmental stage — that they tend to rush from the early, introductory phase to a premature conclusion.

              That certainly turned out to be true of Scott and Zelda’s lives.

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 28, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                Thanks, Ken, glad to learn that–it makes much more sense.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    This should be quite the test for your school. I hope they can cut through the hysteria and just let it happen and then see that the world will not end because this guy speaks. Besides, he is kind of out of a job right now and needs the work.

    He will soon be talking to Mueller and his team and that is the one I want to hear. It will be far more important than anything he says at Chicago. Also, depending on how late this year he is suppose to speak there, we could see many changes happening about then. Remember this is an election year.

  7. glen1davidson
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Oh yes, Bannon could raise a riot. Not that he’s out to do so, not that he’s threatened to do so, not that he could do so without massive repercussions, legal and otherwise.

    Sounds like nothing but an excuse for the regressives to riot.

    Glen Davidson

    • Sands
      Posted January 30, 2018 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. I find it disgusting as does the University of Chicago; one of the few campuses where free speech is still encouraged.

  8. Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    It is deeply disturbing that even at the U of Chicago, the leading university in real free speech, a large fraction of the faculty and students don’t get it. This does not bode well for the future.

  9. Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    What seems to be a little lost on the free-speech-butters is that this event is planned to be a debate. If this happens, Bannon does not get an open mike to state his views without strong rebuttal.
    The audience can boo and applaud where and when they like, making their views well known.

    • Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I need to emphasize that it’s a debate. I’ll add a few words. Thanks.

  10. prinzler
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “The defense of freedom of expression cannot be taken to mean that white supremacy, anti-semitism, misogyny, homophobia, anti-Catholicism, and islamophobia must be afforded the rights and opportunity to be aired on a university campus.”

    The defense of freedom of expression MUST be taken to mean that *any* idea (short of a direct call to illegal action or shouting fire in a crowded theater) must be allowed to be heard.

    If we can institute policies to prohibit speech at a university, then why shouldn’t that be extended to the wider society as well (shudder). The same reasoning should apply.

    “Censorship is an attempt by the powerful to remain powerful.”

    Not only is this an attempt at re-defining a word, but not allowing even the powerful to have their say is problematic, because who gets to decide who is powerful, and in what way, in at what time, and how much?

    • BJ
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      On many campuses, it’s the regressives who are powerful, and the only reason they don’t have that same power on the UoC campus is because the school has taken a stand.

      • glen1davidson
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink


        Works for them to pretend it’s the other guys, as they attempt to increase their own power.

        Animal farm, etc.

        Glen Davidson

        • Sands
          Posted January 30, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink


      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes, there is more truth to the young Maroon op-ed writer’s statement of power dynamics than she is aware.

    • Harrison
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Regressives have a thing about taking words that have a precise and well-understood meaning and insisting they really mean something else. Bit like Creationists, that lot.

    • Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      So you are saying this is an example of bad usage of the word “censorship”? 😉

      • prinzler
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that definition of censorship is limited to when the powerful seek to censor. It implies that if the oppressed seek to censor, it is not censorship. Or, we can’t even say that the oppressed seek to censor, or that the oppressed censor in self-defense.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . and islamophobia must be afforded the rights and opportunity to be aired on a university campus.”

      I wonder if the writer has a problem with Islamofascism, or Islamofascismphobia.

  11. BJ
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It says quite a bit that people involved in fact-based fields almost never sign these petitions or express the views delineated in them. It says quite a lot that the people always starting these petitions and signing onto them are always from PoMo-ridden fields.

    It doesn’t really matter that someone as reprehensible as Bannon is involved in this particular event, as we’ve seen many times before that any conservative, Republican, or simply not-sufficiently-regressive person will have the regressive left on campuses attempt to shut them down (and they’ll usually succeed). I’m glad UoC has taken a stand against the anti-freedom people and for free speech, but how many other schools have not only enacted such a policy, but actually enforced it as UoC has? It seems UoC is the one island of beauty in the darkness.

  12. wendell read
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Students are often ideologues because they are young and inexperienced. A university education may possibly broaden their outlook on life. That some of the faculty at the University of Chicago are also ideologues is truly sad.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Bannon is the one guy from Trumpworld I’ve had a hard time getting a clean fix on. I don’t for a second buy that he actually believes the alt-right crap he promotes; he’s hardly a populist working-class hero himself.

    I mean, the guy’s a Goldman Sachs alum, fer chrissakes. And after that, he went out to Hollywood to make schlock, screed-like right-wing documentaries, which were always complete shite, yet always turned a tidy profit. So I was inclined to think of him as a simple greed-head who was spouting his far-right nonsense as part of a scheme to take the billionaire Mercers (big-dollar far-right donor, Robert, and his equally loony daughter, Rebekah) for a ride. But with the way Bannon’s burned all his bridges lately, I dunno.

    Anyway, I’ve gotta confess, down in a place I usually don’t admit to, a certain grudging respect for the guy. I have a soft spot for total non-conformists, even ones, like Bannon, whose nihilist politics I abhor. And I got a kick out the balls on the guy showing up like a complete slob in front of Trump, who (despite his own ill-fitting suits and ties) insists that those who work for him be turned out nattily. Bannon would regularly show up for work at the West Wing in a state of slobitude I myself can achieve only deep in the heart of a long holiday weekend when I’ve got no company in town.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Good observations, Ken. In some ways he’s like the odious Ms. Coulter; you get the feeling he’s more into it for the money and his ego than for conviction to the cause. I am probably wrong, but it seems that way to me.

    • Cate Plys
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Same. The professor who invited him has plenty of reason to be “curious” about Bannon, who clearly has plenty of support left beyond what he originally whipped up in support of Trump. I actually do have some comprehension of his stances because I come from a working class area and still have a wide-ranging sphere of friends, family and beyond. And I talk to the Trumpers among them, unafraid. But all too many “progressives” live in a bubble with no idea why anyone might support a Bannon, including I’m sure the professors and students who are opposing letting someone debate Bannon on campus.

      As a UC grad and Hyde Parker, I’ve been disturbed at the obvious regressive left stance of the student paper and the professors mostly quoted in it, so I’m not surprised at the list of professors hoping to suppress a campus speaker. I do wonder what percentage they represent of the humanities profs, and profs overall.

      And mostly, I so hope the university lives up to its positions and stops any student trying to halt or disrupt this event, which could mean arresting some people. Will they have the stomach for it? We will see.

      At least if there’s possibility of Antifa type activity, we can presume the Chicago police will be ready. And I’m thinking the Chicago police might be a tad more ready to deal with them than Berkeley.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        I come from a blue-collar prole background myself, Cate. And it pains me no end that it was people like the ones I grew up with who put Trump over the top in the last election.

        Mind you, there were plenty of political reactionaries in the working class of my youth — some bigots who went for George Wallace, some hard-hats who beat up on hippies protesting the war. But at least those people understood their own economic interests.

        I blame it on the decline of organized labor. Unions performed a politico-educational consciousness-raising function, flowing from the national offices to the locals, on down to the shop stewards to the rank-and-file, and filtering out from there even to folks working in non-union shops. Those people would’ve never fallen for an Orange Messiah descending from his palatial Fifth Avenue tower on a gilded escalator.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 28, 2018 at 3:42 am | Permalink

          I SO agree with that and am always amazed that their demise is so seldom even remarked upon! IMO the labor/management balance is as critical to our democracy as the three branches of government, probably more so now that the latter have become pretty indistinguishable from each other.

          It boggles the mind to see labor in as steep a decline as it currently finds itself. It’s flat-out scary.

    • pdx1jtj
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for succinctly explaining our morbid fascination with these unusual specimens.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      + 4.

      Paraphrasing the Cheeto-in-Chief, you (always) have the best words. Individually and assembled.

      • Merilee
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        But is Ken a “stable genius” (quoting my brother re: Cheetoh) shoveling out the horseshit? (My autocorrect did not like horseshit…)

        • Merilee
          Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

          Btw, @Ken, I hope you realize I was NOT calling YOU a stable genius like we-know-who. Just being a smart-ass, and I, too, admire your way with words😁

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 28, 2018 at 1:11 am | Permalink

            No need to explain to me from smart-asses. 🙂

            • Merilee
              Posted January 28, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

              Ya sayin’ ya literally know from smart-asses, like poisonnally??🤓

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 28, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                You are such a polyglot!

    • BJ
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Agreed on all counts. My guess is that he’s essentially apolitical, driven only by a desire for power and the thrill of living the life that comes with it.

      I don’t think burning his bridges was intentional. Bannon is in his current predicament because he pushed the strategy that brought him into the halls of the White House too far, rather than any intentional self-destruction. I would think that any man who’s smart enough to get Donald Trump the Presidency would experience an explosion of his ego, making him imagine his grip on the levers of power too tight to be loosened. That’s what happened to Bannon. If he had continued his strategy of stoking the far-right, but not pushed as hard as he did (as, for example, with the Roy Moore nomination), it’s likely his bridges would still be intact.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, you’re probably right. Hubris has been the tragic flaw of many a fallen character, in drama as in life.

  14. Jon Gallant
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    As BJ points out: “It says quite a bit that people involved in fact-based fields almost never sign these petitions or express the views delineated in them. It says quite a lot that the people always starting these petitions and signing onto them are always from PoMo-ridden fields.”

    In fact-based fields, we are well aware of the way experimental facts can refute a hypothesis. In the pomo world, there are no facts but only power relations, so hypotheses cannot be refuted by experiment; they can only be de-platformed—or, in a truly Progressive arrangement, sent to the Gulag.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I don’t dispute BJ’s and your ideas; they are likely true. I’ll only add that those of us in “fact-based” fields often don’t get involved in these kinds of things because we are too damned busy.

      I’m not joking (well, maybe a little). I say this as I am spending my weekend generating a GEO Omnibus submission because I haven’t the time during the work week to do this tedious but required-for-publication work.

      • mikeyc
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        I just note…when I said I agreed, I mean to the bit about hypothesis testing, not the Gulag comment even though I took it as a metaphor.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Really? The “truly progressive” want to put people in “gulags”? (And spare me any response about Stalin, who became as much a political reactionary as the pigs became indistinguishable from the farmers when the other animals peered through the dining-room window at the card game going on at the newly named “Manor Farm.”).

      If being in “a fact-based field” is such a guarantor of rationality, how to explain why so many engineers are to be found among the ranks of Creationists and far-right conspiracy loons?

      • Filippo
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        To take a poor, subjective, incomplete stab at an answer: I subjectively perceive that not a few engineers take scientific and mathematical truths and proofs as “givens” (engineering/materials research notwithstanding). (Not a few of them harp on engineering being about design, and that therefore they see design – by a supernatural entity – in nature.) I had an elementary/high school/college chum who was an engineering major and who I reasonably assume remains a steadfastly faithful conservative Southern Baptist who, so far as I know, never subjected his religious beliefs to scientific scrutiny and skepticism. Engineers apply engineering methods. Perhaps not so much the scientific method?

      • Posted January 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        My guess is similar to Filippo. They design stuff, so they see design. They are top-down, scientists are bottom-up.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 28, 2018 at 12:38 am | Permalink

          IIRC, chemists, too, tend to be over-represented in the fact-based-but-susceptible-to-irrationality-in-other-areas demographic.

          On the other hand, there are still plenty of areas in the liberal arts that haven’t fallen prey to pomo irrationality, and it’s equally important that we not throw them under the bus with the latter.

          • Posted January 28, 2018 at 12:56 am | Permalink

            What areas haven’t been infected by pomo yet?

            • Diane G.
              Posted January 28, 2018 at 3:29 am | Permalink

              I’m not the person to ask, but liberal arts is such a broad category that surely it hasn’t all been poisoned.

              And to be strictly accurate, the definition of a liberal arts education includes courses in the hard sciences as well! But in general parlance I think it’s assumed that most of what isn’t considered a “hard science” falls under the LA category. (The “soft sciences,” more properly called the social sciences, are kind of a gray area.)

              But when you consider classics, philosophy, art and music, languages, literature, economics, poli sci, journalism, history, etc.–surely many if not most of these disciplines and the faculty who teach them have not gone as batshit crazy as what seems to be predominant in the “gender studies” and other politically-charged areas. (Although it’s always possible that the more traditional LA faculty are as flummoxed and distressed as we are about the pomo phenomenon.)

              • David W.
                Posted January 28, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

                As a chemistry academic, I actually disagree with you, Diane. It’s just that chemistry has a few well-known members who fit your description (Schaeffer at GeoTech, Tour at Rice).

                Also, it might be better to style it as “PoMo”. In all lowercase, it looks too much like “porno”. But maybe that’s just me…

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 28, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

                Thought I’d heard of some data re chemists, and did manage to turn up this:

                The Pew Research Center poll of scientists also found that levels of religious faith vary according to scientific specialty and age. For instance, chemists are more likely to believe in God (41%) than those who work in the other major scientific fields. Meanwhile, younger scientists (ages 18-34) are more likely to believe in God or a higher power than those who are older.


                I certainly didn’t mean to tar all chemists, though!

                Re your second point–now that you’ve brought that up I can’t stop seeing it! Especially in this font (where are serifs when you need them?!). 😀 I’ll try to remember that. Actually I wish there were some other simple and apt word to use in its place but all the other possibilities seem too long and not as universal…

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 30, 2018 at 2:34 am | Permalink

                Late correction but I’m so anal I have to make it… “Although it’s always possible…” should have been, “Also, it’s always possible…”

            • Posted January 29, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

              Depends how how narrowly one cuts. Philosophy has largely been immune in the English speaking world, with a few exceptions, like the “science studies” end of philosophy of science, the “Critical Theory” stuff that is found in some places, what is called “feminist philosophy” and many of the even smaller areas like philosophy of race and such. Mainstream areas like metaphysics, epistemology, logic and ethics as far as I can tell only have a few attempts.

              Matters are a bit different in what is often called “continental” Europe and places like Ottawa and Montreal which are linguistically and culturally dual more generally.

              (The name “continental” philosophy is crazy, since it doesn’t do justice to those who are reasonably reason friendly like Jacques Bouveresse and whole swathes in Germany and Scandinavia, not to mention historically like the early Wittgenstein, the Vienna Circle, Popper and “transitional” figures like Marx, Kant and even Hegel, who spawned American and British neoHegelians)

              • Diane G.
                Posted January 30, 2018 at 2:29 am | Permalink

                I.e., it’s complicated.


                Thanks for that.

            • rickflick
              Posted January 30, 2018 at 6:24 am | Permalink

              Anality noted. 😎

  15. rickflick
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    It think Chicago is a great place to demonstrate the righteousness a good free speech policy. The debate format is perfect for that. The foolish “Free Speech BUT” crowd could learn from the experience. The lesson, I hope, will spread across the country.

  16. August Berkshire
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    How about these rules?

    1. Any one can invite any one to speak.

    2. Silent protests during the talk (signs, handouts) are okay but no verbal disruption. Vocal protests outside the venue of the talk are okay, but no blocking of entrances.

    3. If university funds are used, then the speaker must allow a time period equal to 50% of his talk time for Q&A. (So, a one-hour talk would require 30 minutes of Q&A). Questions may be live or pre-written and an attempt should be made to give equal time to supporting and opposing questions.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Sounds good to me! Nice and brief as well.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      I agree that there should be no “disruption,” in the sense of prohibiting the speaker from making his or her presentation. But any rule in this regard should be viewpoint neutral — opponents should have the same right to express their verbal disapprobation (such as by booing, or hissing, or blowing raspberries), as supporters have to express their approval by applauding, or cheering, or whistling.

      If you’re going to demand silence of from the protesters, silence should be required of supporters as well.

    • Posted January 27, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      I don’t like “silent protests”, like people standing up with placards and blocking the audience’s view of the speaker, or turning their backs on the speaker during the whole talk, because they’re distracting to both the speaker (who at least should be heard civilly) and the audience.

      • Craw
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        They also evince an unwillingness to actually listen and debate. The protesters went to the event with no intent to participate in good faith, and possibly, when an event is sold out, to deny others the chance to attend. Better a straightforward protest outside the venue.

  17. Charles Sawicki
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully the University of Chicago will confront and sanction all demonstrators who attempt to interfere with speech using violence or by shouting down speakers. If they act decisively in this case, there will more respect for free speech and less illegal disruptions in the future.

  18. Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    U Chi law professor Brian Leiter has also expressed his views on the matter. He particularly discusses the responsibilities of academic staff of the inviting organization (the Stigler Center), but also the more general issues raised by Jerry. Money quote:

    From an academic freedom point of view, it is clearly well within the rights of Prof. Zingales and the Stigler Center to host Bannon. It is well within the rights of other faculty, students and, yes, staff of the academic community to criticize Prof. Zingales for having invited him and to protest Bannon.

  19. Vaal
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Right on Jerry!

    The issue of what kind of what kind of ideas I’d want my kids exposed to came up in a recent family gathering.

    We were all gathered around the table, and one friend of the family, a smart, nice, generally agreeable man, somehow managed to turn the conversation to 9/11. It turned out he was a 9/11 truther! Had seen all the videos, and was highly suspicious that the government had arranged the destruction, no plane hit the Pentagon, etc.

    Basically I and everyone was in a sort of shock, but, after asking if he was actually serious, we engaged in some debate on the subject. (It really does seem true what I’ve read about the nature of people who tend to fall for way out conspiracy theories – a general underlying paranoia, with a negativity and distrust about human nature in general).

    So here was a good family friend my boys (16 and 19) liked, espousing insane ideas.

    I think the right thing was to engage in some debate right in front of my boys – giving “the other side” his chance, and countering it with better arguments. My boys were not persuaded at all by his arguments and clearly saw the non-conspiracy arguments as much stronger. And on the way home, they came up with their own reasoned responses to the conspiracy claims. This all seemed a better result to me than brushing it under the table, or slagging the guest and his ideas afterwards, which could feel more like pushing my own opinions on my kids rather than giving the other side a fair platform to present their view, and counter it.

    Both my boys are now that much more informed about the strange views some people hold, why, and now have thought of some actual reasons that make sense of and help ground for their own assumptions (the normal received wisdom that 9/11 wasn’t a conspiracy job).

    • Craw
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s sad when the modern Left is less tolerant than Christian fundamentalists, but it increasingly seems to be the case. I know pretty well two fundie families. Neither ever restricted what their kids could read or learn or watch. In one family the kids are now some fundie some not, but all believers. In the other none are fundies, some are atheists. And they all get along. There was never any punishment for dissent or thinking. No casting out, no censorship.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        I don’t doubt that some fundie families see the wisdom of free expression, including as to their children’s reading materials. But I question how widespread that sentiment is. A while back, for example, Jerry did a post here about the stink raised by Christian freshman students at Duke (and their families) over their being required to read during the summer preceding matriculation a novel addressing controversial topics.

        • Craw
          Posted January 27, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

          Agreed, there’s intolerance and close mindedness. But as in the example you give it’s mostly about their own kids being shown stuff (as opposed to their kids seeking it out on their own). Which seems at worst on a par with the endless tantrums we see from the Regressives. The fundies mostly object to themselves or their kids being exposed to certain ideas. Many leftists object to *me* or *my kids* being exposed to certain ideas. I think that worse.

  20. dd
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    The students and faculty will try their best to shut down the event-especially because the University of Chicago has been widely hailed for its free speech policy.

    If I were planning for a successful talk…well, a few thoughts:

    1. Only 1 ticket per student or university faculty/staff.

    2. Have assigned seats so you know who sits where. And give the seating arrangements to security and the host.

    3. Don’t permit transfer of tickets from one person to another. If someone doesn’t show up, then that seat can be given to someone on a waiting list.

    4. Be prepared to take proper action when the inevitable screaming starts inside the auditorium.

    It’s interesting that so petition many signers come from the School of Social Service Admin. I don’t know what that is, but I have the suspicions as to what is taught there and how.

  21. Max Blancke
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    At some point, people are going to have to accept the results of the election. All of this “literally Hitler” business was understandable as campaign propaganda, but after the election, we are supposed to get back to reality.
    Bannon is not someone that I have much admiration for, but he is someone who has run a large media group, and served as a campaign advisor for a successful presidential campaign. People who have achieved such things are normally invited to speak at all sorts of events.
    Also, keeping up this level of hysteria is taxing on everyone. And eventually someone is going to come along who has actually made anti-Semitic remarks. When people try to warn everyone about that person, they will be ignored. If everyone is just like Hitler, then nobody is.

  22. Posted January 27, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    For the humanities and similar branches of study, it seems a contradiction when they deprive a fellow human the right to speak.
    Group rights dominate individual rights seem to be at play with no thought to nullifying the threat by counter speech.
    What do they do in these lectures if they don’t talk about this stuff.
    Here’s my take:
    When the amygdala responsible for emotions, survival instincts (???) and memory coupled with pre loaded assumptions start to rise and form disparate frothy bubbles it is little wonder they feel confused and threatened.
    Bannon is the wrong sort of prick to burst these bubbles. Popping them with reason feels like more fun and certainly more productive, let alone, satisfying for ones amygdala.

  23. Craw
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Frankly I think protesting speakers, and more generally protesting *people*, is both stupid and indicative of intolerance and closed mindedness.

  24. ladyatheist
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with the guy but I’d definitely go to this if I could. He was portrayed as the strings behind the Trump victory and he didn’t go on the usual TV talk shows where we all saw what Miller & other trumpies are like. And unlike the rest of Trump’s insiders, he’s not stupid.

    If liberals want to win in 2018 & 2020, they would do well to listen to him tell them how he did it.

    • Craw
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      That’s easy. He tricked the democrats into nominating an appallingly awful candidate, probably the only Democrat who could lose to Donald J Trump.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 27, 2018 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        Well, there was also the little matter of Cozy Bear (FSB) and Fancy Bear (GRU) and Wikileaks, and the troll farms and bots, and all the rubles that poured into Facebook and the campaign coffers. But, Christ, I suppose they needed some help to offset the 3 million illegal aliens who gave Hitlery the popular vote victory. 🙂

      • Posted January 28, 2018 at 5:45 am | Permalink

        Really? Are you still doing that?

        Trump won because he focussed his campaign in the areas that mattered on the people with the most influence.

  25. Posted January 27, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I think that is censorship when students try to stop some students group (for example, the College Republicans) to invite some speaker; but, when it is the university itself that is inviting someone, is a bit more complex – after all, there is not any “natural right” to be invited by the Booth School of Business to a debate; the invitation is an institutional decision of the school (probably by the teacher that is in charge of the event), who decides to invite some people and not others. It is “censorship” to contest (and try to change) a decision of inviting someone?

    Imagine that you are a member of an association, and the leaders of the association decide to invite someone to make a speech in an event of the association? It was censorship if you and other members of the association are against this invitation and try to cancel it?

  26. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    All good, but who is inviting GOOD conservative speakers like George Will or Christina Hoff Sommers or John Kasich or Condeleeza Rice, etc?? Is anyone inviting them to any campuses at all???

  27. sensorrhea
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile conservative campuses never have these “free speech” problems because they never invite anyone controversial to their worldview to speak.


    • dd
      Posted January 27, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      Bernie Sanders at Liberty University…..note the reception he gets and the silence as he declares unfettered support of issues cutting totally against the student’s religious beliefs.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 28, 2018 at 3:03 am | Permalink

        W/o taking the time to watch it again…IIRC, there were times he was even cheered by the students. But surely this was the exception that proves the rule…

      • sensorrhea
        Posted January 29, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        He was a presidential candidate, and not the equivalent of Ann Coulter or Milo.

  28. Tim Harris
    Posted January 27, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I was struck by the hysterical infantility of that student ‘op-ed’, an infantility that is surely more a tactic than something genuinely felt – it has been found that such tactics work, so…

  29. Dale Franzwa
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Right on, Jerry! I hope other, more sensible faculty and students follow your lead and speak up in favor of free speech in both campus publications and elsewhere. Hit the Ctrl Left where they are most vulnerable, in their opposition to free speech and debate.

  30. glen1davidson
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Fascism cannot be given a platform to speak when fascism’s first order of business is the elimination of free speech

    So she doesn’t deserve a platform to speak?

    Glen Davidson

  31. tubby
    Posted January 28, 2018 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Day late, dollar short I know, but Bannon, as gross as he is, played a key role in the mess we have today. Hearing him speak and getting to ask him questions is an invaluable opportunity to see how he helped put together the alt-right sausage. These are things that we need to know and understand in order to address and fight back against. Crying that the grossness of his views means he shouldn’t be heard or that allowing him to speak erases the people he doesn’t like denies us this chance to hear him spill the beans in a moment where his precarious situation might allow him to be goaded into saying things he might otherwise not. And by that I mean valuable insights into what’s going on now, not things to quotemine to make a terrible man look more terrible. And worse, it makes the left look like the censorious children the right is making them out to be. This is a chance that shouldn’t be squandered over precious fee-fees. He’ll be heard no matter how much they try to shut him up, so why give him a chance to play martyr?

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      “And worse, it makes the left look like the censorious children the right is making them out to be.” Alas, the student op-ed, and many, many similar statements, shows that the campus Left IS exactly the way it makes itself look like.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 28, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Great comment!

      Yeah, I’d love to hear him speak!

  32. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 30, 2018 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    I think the letter is misguided, if the platform is open to all and especially has already registered opposing debate speech.

    However, I can not understand this: “Many of the signatories don’t used “evidence-based inquiry!” The signatories did reference Breitbart as evidence for Bannon’s racism, misogyny and homophobia. The claim is that “we can’t simply prevent anyone from speaking who is said to proffer offensive speech or “hate speech” (they’re largely synonymous terms).” That too seems misguided, since the signatories may have looked at nations outside US where hate speech is illegal.

    Hate speech is, in those nations [as here in Sweden], not to be confused with offensive speech but extreme cases of ” white supremacy, anti-semitism, misogyny, [and] homophobia” and is regulated by our procedures. If that is useful or not is another question, statistics I have repeatedly asked for to make an informed analysis. The law is not much used; at the same time public platforms seem to suppress extremists voluntarily for economical and moral reasons of their own.

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