More trouble about Bannon at the University of Chicago: students have class sit-in, alumni sign petition to rescind invitation

As I reported a few days ago, “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.”

The Bannon visit, not yet scheduled, will actually be a debate, not a speech, so there’s already counter-speech in the offing. (The debate is said to be on “the economic benefits of globalization and immigration.”) Despite that, students protested outside the Booth School of Business, the student government formally objected, and 86 faculty, much to my shame, signed a petition objecting to Bannon’s invitation. (It’s telling that nearly all of the factulty signatories at the time I reported—the number has grown—were in the humanities, and none were in physics, chemistry, or biology.) This is happening at the school with perhaps the best and most liberal free speech policy in American universities (and we’re not even a public university). The faculty’s objection to Bannon, on the tiresome grounds that he purveys “hate speech” rather than “free speech”, is reprehensible.

But the objections grow. As the Chicago Maroon (the student newspaper) reports, ten students, organized by the UChicago Democrats and two students, disrupted one of Zingales’s classes (photo below):

The protest, organized by UChicago Democrats member and second-year Madeleine Johnson and another student who requested anonymity, was publicized through a private Facebook event and came on the heels of other protests and organizing on campus against the invitation.

Around 10 students sat in, mainly situated in the back of the seminar room, and held up signs with messages such as “Rigorous Inquiry ≠ Hate” and “Tell my dead ancestors that reason can defeat hate.” UCPD officers were present outside the classroom and reportedly stationed in the area surrounding the Harper Center, according to a post on the Facebook event page.

That disruption of a class shouldn’t be tolerated, though the University didn’t intervene until later (see below). I’m ashamed that even a Jewish group is on board with the disinvitation:

Some of the posters included the logo of J Street UChicago, a student group usually focused on issues of Israel and Palestine. According to second-year Ruth Landis, co-chair of the UChicago chapter of J Street, “seven J Street U board members attended the sit in…because as Jews, we feel the urgency of ridding our institutions of anti-Semitism; as progressive students, we feel the urgency of ridding our campus of hatred and bigotry in all forms.”

Here’s the Maroon‘s photo of the sit-in:

The students utterJen the usual “we love free speech, but . . .” palaver, too:

“Many undergraduate individuals feel it’s unacceptable that Bannon has been given a platform at UChicago,” said Rikki Baker-Keusch, A.B. ’17, who is currently in the A.M. program at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and was one of those escorted out of Booth. “We understand the importance of free speech, but this is a private platform and [Bannon] has incited violence against many, and we could not stay quiet.”

Baker-Keusch doesn’t understand the free-speech meaning of “incitement” (it means an immediate, on the spot call for violence that leads to violence), and I doubt whether Bannon has ever called for violence against groups in the U.S. At any rate, Zingales has agreed to have a town hall meeting with the students (good luck to him, and I hope he wears Kevlar!), and his conciliatory demeanor has quashed further demonstrations in his classes. Further, the University police escorted the protestors (some of whom walked out of class) outside the building, as protests aren’t allowed inside. The administration is starting to enforce the “no disruption” policy, and enforcement is the only thing that will stop the disruption of classes and invited speakers.

As the Maroon reports in another story, various campus groups are planning protests when Bannon arrives, and one professor urged nonviolence. Such meetings are fine, so long as they don’t intend to disrupt or cancel the debate, but again we have faculty displaying arrant ignorance about freedom of speech:

Tyler Williams, an assistant professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations who spoke during the forum and also signed the faculty’s open letter to University administration opposing Bannon’s invitation, suggested that activists should host their own lectures and panels before Bannon’s visit.

Williams wrote in an e-mail to The Maroon that this will allow University and community members who have been “impacted by anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies engineered by Bannon” to explain why “giving white nationalists like Bannon more space in institutions of learning will only further legitimize white nationalist discourse.”

“This is not an issue of freedom of speech . . . but rather an issue of the University sending a message to the public (and to its own members) that it considers such white nationalist rhetoric to be legitimate intellectual and political discourse,” Williams added.

It’s amazing to me that virtually everybody urging Bannon’s disinvitation brings up and then dismisses freedom of speech. I think they make themselves look bad by even mentioning it, for it lets us know that they’re discarding one of the fundamental principles of American democracy because they don’t like its results—results which are part of the reason the First Amendment was enacted! And of course we have the usual problem, which I’ve discussed before, of how one defines “hate speech” and who is to judge when such speech should be banned.

Finally, the Chicago Tribune reports that over 1000 former University students have written a petition to the University president urging that Bannon’s invitation be rescinded. They tried to go into the Administration building to deliver it, but were stopped by University police. An administrator took the letter and promised to give it to President Robert Zimmer and the provost.  As one expects by now, the petition (see it here) argues that Bannon’s speech isn’t “free”, but “hate”, and thus deserves no platform at the U of C:

We would not have gone to the University of Chicago had we not sought out a richly rewarding educational experience with groups of diverse people of different ideologies and mindsets. However, amplifying Bannon’s hate speech does not align with these principles, and making space for Bannon necessarily drives out space and resources for other perspectives. We concur with our faculty’s assessment that condoning a visit from Bannon compromises that mission in and of itself. We do not question Bannon’s right to speak. We gravely question the University’s decision to give him a platform to do so.

And then they urge denying him that platform (and what does rescinding an invitation say except that Bannon has no right to speak?):

The Committee on Free Expression concluded, “[to] this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.” Stephen Bannon seeks to silence dissenting voices of large portions of society. Denying him a platform to speak at our university does not restrict our environment of fearless freedom of debate and deliberation; rather, it protects that environment.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think Bannon has advocated censorship, and even if he did he still should not be censored, for even those who want to suppress free speech—like the signers of this petition!—should be heard.  The double standard of “free speech but” was expressed by one of the alumni who spoke to the Tribune:

“Lately there’s been this idea that all free speech is good speech and that every side should be heard equally, but then we’re lending false equivalency to what could be very dangerous ideas,” said Marijke M. Stoll, who earned two degrees from U. of C. in 2005 and 2006. “This isn’t a matter of disagreement over economic policy. We know which side is wrong; we know which side is morally and ethically repugnant.”

“We know which side is wrong”! It’s never, of course, the speaker’s side. It is this feeling of absolute moral certainty that gives people like Ms. Stoll the arrogance to claim the right to be the censor—the decider. People like Stoll and the many others who call for disinvitation of Bannon should a.) read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, b.) listen to this speech by Christopher Hitchens, and c.) read these remarks made by Barack Obama at Howard University’s graduation in 2016.

Here are some of the Tribune‘s photos of the protests (all photos by Jose M. Osorio of the Chicago Tribune):

85 Comments

  1. Ken Phelps
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    “It is this feeling of absolute moral certainty that gives people like Ms. Stoll the arrogance to claim…”

    And their blinding lack of self-awareness prevents them from seeing that they are the flip side of the authoritarian coin.

  2. TJR
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Most of the students and staff will be upper/middle class so of course they know they are right.

  3. wendell read
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Please keep us posted as things at the University of Chicago develop. It is truly disheartening to see so many people associated with the University of Chicago being in favor of censorship.

  4. Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I’m an alum and I wholeheartedly agree with you on this.

    The University of Chicago community shouldn’t act like a bunch of scared kittens afraid to vigorously debate this jerk. Maroons have the education, the erudition, and the open mindedness to knock him down rhetorically. So, you anti-speech jerks: stop acting like babies and take the guy down in a public forum. With debate. “That’s the Chicago Way.”

  5. Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I thought you were making a joke in referring to “The Chicago Maroon” but I see it is true! Did they forget that it is a derisive term used by Bugs Bunny? “What a maroon!” The Urban Dictionary claims it is a deliberate mispronunciation of “moron”, which is what I always assumed. Some seem to think that it is racist as maroon is a brownish color. That seems a ridiculous reach to me.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Maroon (historically) used to be the official term for someone with a particular combination of white and black ancestry, with the black side usually coming from slavery. I can’t remember the combination. I don’t know if it was used in the US (I thought it was but may be mistaken), but it was in the Caribbean.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        There’s “quadroon” and “octoroon.” Randy Newman explains about his mama teaching him those terms as a kid in New Orleans in this tune.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        I just checked my source. White ancestry is irrelevant. It may or may not be there. Mostly not. It’s from 17th and 18th centuries. A maroon was a descendant from an escaped slave from the West Indies or Guyana, and referred to the skin colour.

        There were some major slave revolts in the Caribbean. Plantations were burnt, slave owners killed, etc and the slaves escaped into the hills to live off the land.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Maroon: Mid 17th century: from French marron ‘feral’, from Spanish cimarrón ‘wild’, (as a noun) ‘runaway slave’.

      • Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Right but I am still sticking up for Bugs here. It was “moron” mispronounced. Of course, that begs the question as to why that makes it funny. I don’t remember the color aspect occurring to me when I first heard it as a youngster, and certainly not the racial one.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I should have known better. You don’t need a test to determine these folks. All you need to do is invite some one to speak and they line up like little soldiers.

  7. glen1davidson
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “Error has no rights.” St. Augustine.

    I’m so glad that today’s Enlightened Class has discovered the truths of ancient persecutors. Bannon’s wrong, he can just be shut up!

    Who needs dialog and debate, the ideal core of university intellectualism? We already know who’s right, we’ll just chant the truth to each other from now on.

    Glen Davidson

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I was going to say something similar – that it’s not that long since it was the right using the “free speech but” line. A small number still do, and really they’re no different from this lot. But they’d be the first to argue against the idiots who say things like, “We can’t have same-sex couples as a normal part of society. End of.” All the valid data are on the side supporting same-sex marriage and adoption, which is one reason anti marriage equality groups want to shut down debate.

      So when the authoritarian left tries to shut down Bannon, many on the right interpret that as meaning the left’s arguments against him aren’t valid.

      And the far left has another problem too, because many of them agree with the anti-globalization message Bannon touts. They’re the same people who protest free trade (without understanding the economic arguments in its favour). If they’re going to argue against Bannon, they might have to learn some proper economics instead of parroting a few slogans.

      • Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        What would happen if Bannon focused on his anti-globalization message when speaking in Chicago? Would the outraged Left embrace him? Is that why they don’t want him to speak? My guess is that they haven’t thought that far but it is fun to imagine.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha! Fun thought for sure. I doubt any have had it though, as you say.

          But I also doubt that Bannon has the discipline to stay on message despite the fact people say he’s really smart. He’s got a lot of really weird theories too, that will trip him up even is he does well on the anti-globalization stuff.

      • Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        Heather, can we see the end of End of at the end of dissension? End of offends me.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Kiwi speak, though I assume others use it too. Here it means “End of story,” and it’s how everyone expresses it I’ll try to remember to write it in full.

          • Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

            It’s everywhere these days, I wasn’t having a pop at you as you were using it ironically, just couldn’t resist the daft comment.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

              No worries. 🙂

          • KiwiInOz
            Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

            Sweet as.

      • Posted February 1, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        So when the authoritarian left tries to shut down Bannon, many on the right interpret that as meaning the left’s arguments against him aren’t valid.

        Indeed and to an extent it is true, in my opinion. It’s not that the arguments against Bannon’s ideas don’t exist but these people don’t know what they are because they never have to articulate them.

        People of the left need to be engaging with people like Bannon so that they can practise and hone their arguments for when they need to be engaging with people that matter (voters).

        • glen1davidson
          Posted February 1, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          Indeed and to an extent it is true, in my opinion. It’s not that the arguments against Bannon’s ideas don’t exist but these people don’t know what they are because they never have to articulate them.

          That’s part of the basic problem with most of the outraged left, though, that they really have never really even considered why their beliefs should or should not be held. They’re just appalled that anyone would oppose their unquestioned beliefs because it’s evil to do so.

          Not for the first time, it’s the ones who most need to recognize that people who disagree with them could be right about at least some things who cannot bear the thought that they might have to hear an opinion contrary to their own. Or that anyone in their vicinity could hear anything contrary to their certainties.

          Glen Davidson

  8. Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    As you say, it is amazing that they all mention freedom of speech. Sounds a lot like racists who often say, “I’m not a racist.” One even says, “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      It’s amazing how many genuinely believe they’re not racist. They don’t even consider segregation a racist policy. They think “racial purity” for all races, not just whites, is what God wants. And they view their opinion that they’re protecting the superiority of the white race in this way as inarguable.

      Of course, they all need to take a few classes on evolution if nothing else. But they’re all able to quote those whose work “proved” white superiority, and dismiss the majority view as political correctness.

      • Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        When a bad idea like racism has been around for such a long time, its supporters come up with some pretty creative defenses. Besides the “racial purity” argument, I’m thinking of Intelligent Design argument against evolution.

  9. David Jorling
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    As reported in the Foundation for Education Freedom website about President Obama’s commencement speech to Howard University in 2016:

    President Obama, quoting his grandmother, said that “every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance.” Importantly, the president advised students to “[h]ave the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position.” He acknowledged that “[t]here will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice. But listen. Engage.”

  10. Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Since when is giving someone a platform to speak equated with endorsement of their ideas? The swirl of notions and counter notions circling the ivory towers should be utilized to sharpen own’s own stance. Life is one big debate, snowflakes. Deplatform him with counterargument; filet with rapier wit, not by running home with the only ball on the ball field.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Those students will get a shock when they leave college and join the real world. See how well it works to solo deplatform their racist neighbor.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Unless they get a job at Google. Then they can deplatform other employees.

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Quite so. Free speech doesn’t give false equivalency to what could be very bad ideas.

      Rather, it enables individuals to determine for themselves which ideas are equivalent or bad, instead of Ms Stoll deciding for them.

      What’s up next – do away with the defence in trials because some crimes are very bad and some defendants could be very bad people?

      • glen1davidson
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        What’s up next – do away with the defence in trials because some crimes are very bad and some defendants could be very bad people?

        Well, yes, that’s already been done. OK, not in the courts per se, but, in other venues that are supposed to dispense justice, the idea of due process has been watered down, or worse:

        The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy

        To too great a degree it’s an entire anti-Enlightenment campaign against listening to anyone but the “right ones,” who always “just happen” to be fairly privileged (but intend to be more so).

        Glen Davidson

  11. Jake Sevins
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It bothers me that people like Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, Jared Taylor, Stefan Molyneux, and other “far right” people who spend a lot of time on the Internetz never seem to debate smart liberals. I’d love to see someone like Stephen Pinker or Sam Harris take these folks on.

    Disclaimer: I am by no means equating the people above; they are all very different in ideologies.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      You know that if the speech squelchers win, they’ll be going after Sam Harris next for his purported “Islamophobia.”

      • Filippo
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        I wonder if any speech squelchers acknowledge the existence of Islamofascism.

    • Cate Plys
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Take a look at Sam Harris’s podcast–he recently did a public podcast with Ben Shapiro and Eric Weinstein. I didn’t get a chance to listen to much of it yet; I can say the beginning part I did hear was annoying because I wanted to hear Eric Weinstein, and it was mainly Shapiro, who did not impress me.

      • Jake Sevins
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        I listened to this podcast; it’s quite good. It’s mostly Harris and Shapiro, without much Weinstein however.

        Shapiro is a nut though… he’s very quick and lawyerly, but he operates from foundational beliefs that are terrifying and often really offensive. Same Shapiro quote: “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to live in open sewage.” (How well-thought-out do you think a statement like that really is? He didn’t say anything this bad in the podcast, however…)

  12. colnago80
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I agree that, having invited Bannon to speak on the Univ. of Chicago campus, it is a violation of free speech to rescind that invitation. However, having said that, the university, as a private institution, is under no obligation to provide him with a forum and would have perfectly within its rights to deny him such a forum. In fact, I am not sure that even a public university has an obligation under the doctrine of free speech to provide any random individual with a forum.

    When I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, there was a state law prohibiting a member of the Communist Party (and possibly any member of an organization on the Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations) to speak on campus. I don’t want to play Constitutional lawyer here but, AFAIK, this law was never tested in court. There was a debate between John Bircher and California Congressperson John Rousselot and the chairman of the California branch of the Communist Party, Dorothy Healey, which had to be held off campus because of that law.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      If a professor invites someone, a professor invites someone. That’s how it works at the U of C. He wasn’t endorsed by the University.

      I recommend the Chicago protocols highly.

      https://freeexpression.uchicago.edu/page/statement-principles-free-expression

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Of course they are under no obligation to provide him with a forum but that’s not the point.

      The UofC, appropriate to their stature as a world leading University, has drawn a line in the sand on issues of the free exchange of ideas. They cannot let neo-facists on either end of the spectrum undermine what is a first principle of what it means to be a University, not to mention what it means for our form of democracy.

      I hope they stick to their guns.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        +1.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . the university, as a private institution, is under no obligation to provide him with a forum and would have perfectly within its rights to deny him such a forum.”

      I perceive that right wing conservative types want to privatize as much as possible in the U.S. so that they can maximally so deny.

  13. DrBrydon
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I am very surprised by this, not because as a UC alum I think the student body or faculty is better than this, but because IT IS FOURTH WEEK. Don’t these people have exams to study for!? Next week is the mid-point in the semester. Get back to your carrels in the Reg!

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I hadn’t even thought of that! Mid-terms! They should be miserable and in the tenth sub basement of the Reg.

  14. Peter
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    A review on Amazon.com of philosopher Jeremy Waldron’s book “The Harm in Hate Speech” (Harvard University Press, 2012) summarizes one argument against the “I’m for free speech, but …” line of argument very well: it creates more problems than it solves

    This is the from this review:
    The author makes an argument against the broad traditional American view of Speech rights. He wants to create a legal and constitutional window for the censoring and suppression of certain speech which he groups under the catch-all title of “hate speech”. He invents a “group” right: the right to “dignity” which he then balances off against the right to speech in the system he describes.
    The limits of free speech under the current system do not themselves say anything about the wisdom of new limits on speech.
    The idea of dignity he presents both goes beyond just the issue of “hate speech” and raises difficult questions as a general principle. The book edges toward the logical consequences of applying “dignity” to images of women. Various advertising images and most especially pornography could well be argued as acting against the right to “dignity” of women. Waldron isn’t really very effective in terms of drawing the lines of where “dignity” ends. Political speech, by its very nature, often leads to speech that impacts the dignity of one group or another. What is to be done when two groups (let’s say Palestinians and Israelis) attack each others dignity as part of their politics? People on both sides of the gun issue assault each others dignity all the time. Was the campaign against the Koch brothers in recent years an attack on their dignity?
    The problem with “hate speech” is that while it’s easy to find examples that it would be good to suppress, coming up with a legal framework that touches only those easy examples and nothing else is not so simple. Waldron’s “dignity” approach didn’t do it as far as I’m concerned. If it is applied as a principle, its reach is far too broad. If it is applied in the exception, it becomes a very arbitrary sort of law which will be selectively enforced based on politics.
    In my opinion, exceptions created to open speech inevitably don’t work to the good. They are as often as not a means by which the powerful can crush the weak through the law.
    I personally think that hate speech should be dealt with through the concepts of individual harm and individual damage. I don’t think that inventing metaphysical “group” rights into the law as regards speech is a workable idea. Damages have to be measurable and cannot be abstracted. In particular, nobody in an open society has a right to be protected from having their feelings hurt.
    The harm done by trying to regulate hate speech seems as if it will be far worse than the status quo.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Something I’ve been wondering about: How’s Bannon manage to give speeches to college kids, if (per reliable reports from The Mooch) he’s constantly auto-fellating?

  16. Rob S
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Is this all just a free speech experiment or statement on the part of this professor? I’m sure he could have invited someone with conservative views who is more intelligent, knowledgeable, and accomplished than Steve Bannon and who isn’t already established as being a jerk. If he is invited then he should be allowed to speak, but I question whether his invitation was based on a desire for intelligent, academic conversation.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      According to the professor, it was a desire for fruitful conversation, and it may well be if it shows the weakness of Bannon’s views. You can say he’s lying, but I take him at his word, and at any rate he’s invited and the deed is done. All you’re saying here is that you don’t like Bannon and would have preferred somebody else–and that the professor is lying.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I was going to suggest the same thing. I think it is meant primarily to provoke rather than enlighten.

      • DrBrydon
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        Well, folks who believe in agit-prop would argue that provocation can be enlightening.

      • BJ
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        I don’t see why. He was the mastermind of the most recent winning presidential campaign and an extremely influential political personality. If he was someone other than Steve Bannon with those credentials, he would be considered an excellent speaker for a college campus, as he could offers insights into the process of running a successful campaign, political persuasion and strategy, etc.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted January 31, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

          He was. But now, horribile dictu, Bannon’s just such so much fresh roadkill on the GOP highway to hell. 🙂

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Bannon has a certain position as an individual and doesn’t represent all conservatives. There may be no substitute!

    • Taz
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      The fact that it’s a debate rather than a speech argues against this interpretation.

    • BJ
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      You can make up all sorts of reasons for why the professor invited him, but yours, as of this writing, have no basis in the evidence.

      As I said to mikeyc, if this was anyone other than Bannon with the same background (ran the most recent winning Presidential campaign, influenced US politics enormously), he would be considered a speaker who might have much of value to say, regardless of his politics. And that remains true.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      The professor is giving the honorable Mr. Bannon every generous opportunity to embarrass himself.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 1, 2018 at 1:10 am | Permalink

        Exactly what I was hoping was the reason for the invite.

    • Posted February 1, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      For almost any speaker you choose there is somebody more intelligent, knowledgeable and accomplished.

      However, I would argue that Bannon is at least quite intelligent, knowledgeable and accomplished. Whether he is a jerk or not, i don’t know, having never met him, but being a jerk shouldn’t disbar you from public speaking.

      I think Bannon was invited to represent a certain view point in a debate and was chosen because he is high profile and presently unemployed.

  17. Neil Wolfe
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Again, we need only look to Hitchens to learn how to deal with white supremacists.

  18. Jon Gallant
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The contrarian LSE philosopher John Gray argues that all shades of the ideological Left descend psychologically from millenarian Christianity, just worshipping idols other than JC. I’m not quite persuaded this is so, but Ms. Stoll (“We know which side is wrong; we know which side is morally and ethically repugnant.”) & Co. sure make it plausible.

    Gray goes further (as usual) to argue that ordinary liberalism is in the same category, taking the Enlighenment as its idol. Here I think he goes overboard, but as liberals we don’t need to deny him the opportunity to state his case.

    As for those twits who interfere with the classes of Professor Zingale just because he INVITED a disapproved speaker—that simply belongs in the sphere that Lenin defined as infantile Leftism.

  19. John Crisp
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    While I support your position on free speech Jerry, I have to say that I find most of the above somewhat underwhelming. I mean, seriously, if I understand it correctly, you were part of the 1960s civil rights movement, but are now outraged by the fact that “Around 10 students sat in, mainly situated in the back of the seminar room, and held up signs with messages such as “Rigorous Inquiry ≠ Hate” and “Tell my dead ancestors that reason can defeat hate…” to the point that you say that “disruption of a class shouldn’t be tolerated”. Wasn’t that pretty much what you all were doing and what the Man was saying in the 1960s? And is the presence of around 10 students at the back of a seminar room honestly a sign of the collapse of fundamental American principles?

    And then, you criticize Ms. Stoll for “absolute moral certainty” and “arrogance”, while expressing absolute moral certainty on the other side of the aisle.

    I tend to think that each generation has its absolute moral certainties, which prove to be less absolute, less moral, and less certain than we might imagine. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, do you think that there might once have been a case for deplatforming Hitler, or Goebbels, or Goering? Do you think that the Jews, Communists and Socialists were right to smash Mosley’s fascist movement in the East End of London in the Battle of Cable Street?

    I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I tend to agree that free speech is a core value, but I grew up in the shadow of the concentration camps and the gulags (witnessed and experienced by many members of my family), and I am not convinced that free speech is a value powerful enough to counter some of the darker tendencies of our species.

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I agree it’s a shanda on J Street. Bannon does, however, have the wiff of anti-Semitism about him. Hell, the right-wing fringe has long carried that stench; they beat the drum for Israel only because they hate the Palestinians even more, and because they want access to Mount Megiddo to get raptured from when the End Times come.

    • Craw
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Really, if they had any brains, the protesters would WANT Bannon to be heard, especially in a debate with some sharp adversaries. There’s a basic maxim of strategy: never stop your opponent when he’s making a mistake. Any Trump supporters embracing Bannon are making a mistake.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the “no disruption” policy to the extent no one should be permitted to impede the presentation. But the interests of free expression confer on the protesters as much right to lodge their displeasure as they do upon Bannon to speak.

    Free speech in these United States ain’t tea with the queen; there’s no need for Emily Post-style politesse. It’s a rough-and-tumble arena. Christ, if anybody understands that, it oughta be Bannon.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, platform denial is not free speech. I’m putting that on my placard.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Be that as it may, I gather that you agree that there should be an atmosphere of civil discourse allowing a speaker to finish at least one sentence before being (repeatedly) interrupted by protesters at a venue.

    • Posted February 1, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      Free speech entails not only the right to speak but also the right to be heard by those that want to listen.

      Disrupting somebody’s talk is not free speech, it is denial of free speech. You can protest a speaker from outside the building.

  22. Paul S
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    But the interests of free expression confer on the protesters as much right to lodge their displeasure as they do upon Bannon to speak.
    Absolutely.
    It is also quite right if professor Zingales tosses the disruptive protesters out of his classroom.

    • Paul S
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      That should have been a reply to Ken Kulec #21.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Even at state universities, a classroom (unlike the type of venue Bannon will be debating in) has never been deemed a “public forum” for free-speech purposes. No one has a right to disrupt teaching going on in such a setting.

      • Posted February 1, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        If, as it has been argued the University has the right to deny Bannon a platform, it also has a right to deny the protestors a platform.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 1, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          As a private university, UChicago isn’t bound by the First Amendment, so is under no legal obligation to provide a platform for either. If, however, it wishes to maintain its fidelity to the principles annunciated in its written free speech policy, it will deny a platform to neither.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 1, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

            “enunciated” — started to write “announced” and changed my mind half way through.

          • Posted February 1, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

            But the platform given to the protestors should be conditional on the basis that they do not infringe Bannon’s right to be heard by the people that want to hear him.

            They should be allowed to protest away from the room in which Bannon is speaking in any way they please that is legal and within the University rules or within the room within the framework of the debate format. i.e. by asking Bannon difficult questions.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 1, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

              You have a problem with the anti-Bannonites being allowed to attend the debate and being permitted to boo him to the same extent that the pro-Bannon crowd can cheer him?

              Any rule in this regard should be viewpoint-neutral — if silence is required of one side, it should be required of both.

              • Posted February 2, 2018 at 4:01 am | Permalink

                Booing and cheering are fine as long as they do not disrupt the proceedings, although as this is a debate held within a University, I don’t think either is particularly appropriate.

                What good would booing him do anyway? The debate will have a Q & A section in which they can demolish his arguments with rational thought.

          • Posted February 2, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

            It does have an obligation to stand by its own principles of free expression, nobly and eloquently stated here: https://freeexpression.uchicago.edu/page/statement-principles-free-expression

            Crescat scientia. Human life is enriched by building more knowledge, and in that vein, the more we know about Bannon, his people, and his style, the better people can combat him.

            The University of Chicago is obligated to stand by its professors’ invitations not because it’s the law, but these are the reasons alumni, students and faculty enthusiastically associate themselves with this community.

  23. Bob
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    RE: “People like Stoll and the many others who call for disinvitation of Bannon should a.) read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, b.) listen to this speech by Christopher Hitchens…” Boy, do I ever miss Hitch! This is an excruciating take-down of the hate speech hand-wringers.

  24. naveen1941
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    This protest is utter nonsense. Problem with left liberals is as bad as right liberals. Where as it is worse with left conservatives and right conservatives. Why can’t Bannon speak? To prohibit his speech is taking away his freedom of expression right fundamental to our democracy. In countries like India it is even worse. They have not let a Hindu speak for 70 years as the media, governments and universities were anti Hindu. Even today it is so difficult for a Hindu to have an opinion published in any form of media. If it was not for Social media, left would have had a field day with their mindless opposition. At Chicago University I see the same. What these left wingers are going to lose if he speaks? Mindless opposition.

  25. Vaal
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    ” Stephen Bannon seeks to silence dissenting voices of large portions of society.”

    More invidious “concept creep” there.

    Should someone voice an opinion you strongly disagree with, his voicing that opinion equates to “silencing” others.

    With that move, you then you get to say THAT person’s opinion shouldn’t be allowed a platform. While still claiming it’s the censored person who is up to all the censorship!

    Quite a semantic/conceptual trick they have going there.

    *(If it’s not obvious, that in no way condones Bannon’s views).

  26. Deni Pisani
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    What interests me is that he is Bannon is being labelled with ‘hate speech’ based on what he HAS said in the past. But there is no surity that his current speech will be hateful.
    Pre-punishment.
    Sure, we can decide it is probable that he will say provocative or hateful things.

    Germaine Greer was no-platformed for past sentiments when the talk she was to give was on a different subject completely. So to say that one needs to be no-platformed because of hate speech is disingenuous. You are NOT being judgesd on what you actually say, not even on what you MAY say, but what you have said in the past, on ANY subject – that disagrees with the views of those protesting.

    I would love for uber-right wing speakers to give a talk, and challenge the audience to listen, and feel free to shut the talk down if anything they say is ‘hateful’, and then give a bland, boring, non-controversial talk about Patagonion Sheep. Then they could argue that pre-emptive de-platforming is not warranted untilt he speaker ACTUALLY UTTERS speech that incites.

    Anyway, I think you get my drift…

  27. colnago80
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we are spending too much energy worrying about leftists on college campuses. It appears to me that right wing extremists are more dangerous.

    http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Antisemitism/ADL-White-supremacist-propaganda-escalating-at-staggering-rate-on-US-college-campuses-540445

  28. Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Hello! Marijke Stoll here. Just wanted to take a moment to respond to some pretty hilarious things you’ve written here, especially with regards to me and my viewpoints on free speech. First, I think it’s funny that conservative “free speech” advocates such as yourself only seem to agitate in favor of free speech when it’s discriminatory, hateful, or downright racist. I bet you are one of those people who whine over why white people can’t say the N-word.

    Second, conservative free speech advocates such as yourself never show any interest in the very real ways that the government restricts or denies our freedom of speech or assembly, whether in deference to corporations or to stop marginalized communities from accessing civil rights. For example, some 80 bills have been introduced alone in the past year to restrict freedom of speech and freedom to assembly, or increase penalties for civil disobedience. Many journalists have been arrested and are facing jail time for simply covering events. And yet! Not a peep from you or other so-called “defenders” of free speech.

    Recently the 50th anniversary of the murder of Freddie Hampton by CPD and FBI agents under CONINTELPRO just passed….I’m sure you’ll be posting about it on your blog soon, yes? Or perhaps Mr. Hampton was simply too black to have freedom of speech? After all, all he was trying to do was fight against systemic racism.

    Instead, you and other free speech “defenders” seem more interested in giving a platform to a white nationalist who advocates for a white ethno state. Are these the ideas you are interested in hearing, and why? I think we know.

    Finally, let try this from a different angle. How would you feel if a professor at the University extended an invitation to speak on climate change to a Flat Earther, or Young Earth Creationist? Would you be so eager to defend giving them a platform and the tacit endorsement of the University? Me thinks not.

    • Posted February 20, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Ah, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, here we have an ignorant person. To show that, just look at his last paragraph, saying that I would not defend the right of a flat earther or a young earth creationist to speak at a university (there’s no “tacit endorsement” implied in these things). Apparently this troll hasn’t read all the post I did defending Ken Ham’s right to speak at the University of Central Oklahoma in the past week. Case closed, troll gone.

      Next time, Marijke Stoll, do your homework before commenting.


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