Free speech survey: Leftists are generally more tolerant than conservatives

Justin Murphy is a political scientist who’s a lecturer  in “governance and policy” at the University of Southampton.  On his website he writes about politics and social phenomena from a left-wing viewpoint. His latest post, “Who’s afraid of free speech in the United States?” has some surprises for those of us—including me—who feel that the Left is especially censorious compared to the Right. His data, compiled from the U.S. General Social Survey, shows that that’s not quite right.

Murphy analyzed data reported over 45 years on American’s on political self-identification as well as willingness to censor those espousing a given view. Here are the questions people were asked about censorship:

For most of its surveys between 1972 and 2016, the General Social Survey asked a U.S. sample to consider the following types of potential public speakers. (They asked about a few others but the following are the ones they asked most consistently.)

  • “…a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior.” (Henceforth “racist.”)
  • “Somebody who is against all churches and religion…” (Henceforth “antitheist.”)
  • “…a man who admits he is a Communist.” (Henceforth “communist.”)
  • “…a person who advocates doing away with elections and letting the military run the country.” (Henceforth “militarist.”)
  • “…a man who admits that he is a homosexual?” (Henceforth, “homosexual.”)

For each type of person, they also asked, “If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community, should he be allowed to speak, or not?”

Note that First Amendment Adherents should answer 100% to the “allow speech” question for any topic.

Murphy’s first graph, below shows that the proportion of people willing to allow expression of these five views has risen over time across all speech categories except one: racism. As expected with the increasing acquisition of civil rights by gays, which reflects society’s views, those willing to censor homosexual speech has fallen from about 35% to 10%.  The label of “racist” is still one that demonizes a person for good, whether or not it be true, and thus the 60% of people who would allow a racist to speak has remained steady over time, with a hint that it’s falling (that, too, is unsurprising).

The graph also shows that in no category except gays would more than 80% of people allow someone holding the views given above to speak. Since the First Amendment bars any abrogation of this kind of speech, these censors are clearly abrogating the Constitution. But it’s heartening that the degree of censorship is generally waning.

Murphy is puzzled by why “racists” haven’t gained like the other categories:

 As late as the 1970s & 1980s, the Left & the Right were, compared to today, relatively ambivalent about letting people, especially their ideological enemies, speak freely. Many conservatives did not wish to give freedom of speech to groups they were inclined to dislike, such as homosexuals and atheists. Liberals were less willing to give speech rights to militarists than they are today. But since then, the left and the right have become more tolerant to the free speech of many groups. Except racists.

. . . The general, national puzzle, therefore, is not “Why do leftists suddenly seem so opposed to racist speakers, or speakers deemed racist?” This is a puzzle, which we’ll address next, but it’s not the over-arching puzzle. The most general puzzle is “Why have racist speakers, or speakers deemed racist, been exempt from the rising tide of speech toleration, for liberals and conservatives?” As Figure 1 shows, the relatively stable attitudes toward racist speakers are visible as nationwide averages, ignoring ideology. I won’t try to provide an answer for this question here, as clarifying the question seems worthwhile enough for the moment.

The answer seems pretty clear to me: society at large has become more accepting of gays and atheists, not many people worry about communists or militarists, but as people of color gain more power and become more vociferous about oppression, the stigma of being racist has increased.

Murphy also gives the data subdivided by people’s self-description on the political spectrum. The headline tells much of the story:

Now the graphs are small, and it’s hard to make much of this out by eye, but Murphy claims that “generally, on average, support for free speech increases as you move from conservatism to liberalism. That seems clear, and the shaded area of “allowable speech” moves from 0.6-0.8 among extreme conservatives to about 0.6-1 as one goes towards liberalism. These data hold over the last few years, too, so the idea that the left is more censorious than the right, at least on these important issues, is wrong.  It’s not a surprise to Murphy, though:

To any political scientist, this should not be surprising; liberals are known to be higher in openness than conservatives, and conservatives have always been more concerned with social control (law and order). This is only interesting as a corrective for claims that have become very popular in the alt-ideological indie media world. This is understandably due to the presence of high-profile left-wing ideologues opposed to free speech—and the presence of high-profile free speech defenders who happen to lean center-right/libertarian. I think I have heard on separate occasions people such as Bret Weinstein, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan and others, all talk about how puzzling it is that liberalism/leftism used to be the camp of free speech but now they’re the camp of speech suppression. This is not really true. I think what they should say, and maybe what they mean to say, is that “a puzzling minority of vaguely leftist activists, who happen to have gained media attention, wish to suppress free speech.”

What does surprise Murphy is that the highest tolerance for racist speakers seems to be on both the extreme conservative and extreme liberal side, adding “maybe for different reasons.” Well, I can understand the conservatives, because many of them are racists, but the extreme liberals? Maybe it’s just part of their general approbation for free speech.

I’m glad my side of the fence is less censorious, but I’ll continue to call out prominent leftists who want to limit free speech. I’ve given up on the right.

Finally, Murphy plots the political-spectrum data from four years ago for just two categories of speech: racist and militarist.

Looking at the blue “racist” lines, we see that those who are least willing to tolerate racist speech are liberals near the middle of the political spectrum (people around 4.0), while those more liberal (up to extreme liberals) are more willing. As one gets more conservative, the willingness to let racists speak also increases, but then drops strongly towards more extreme conservatives, something I don’t understand since those should be the most racist conservatives. These data are confusing to me, but in general one still sees that the average on the left side of the plot (liberals) is higher than on the right (conservatives).

The pattern differs a bit for militarism (red line). Again we find extreme liberals less willing than moderate liberals to let militarists speak—those who would let the military run the U.S. On average, conservatives are far more censorious than liberals of letting militarists speak, something that I wouldn’t have expected. Maybe these are the gun-toting Rightists who fear the army taking over the country, and think that they can constitute the preventive militia prescribed by the Second Amendment.

Murphy then finds one more surprise—to him:

The fourth and final interesting observation to be made here is that people who would “no platform” racists are substantially more willing to let speak people who preace [sic] literal military takeover of the government. The label “militarist” in the GSS data is somewhat understated. Militarist here means “a person who advocates doing away with elections and letting the military run the country.” It is fascinating, given that anti-racism is often rhetorically linked to anti-fascism, that while 60% of Slight Liberals would allow racists to speak, almost 80% of Slight Liberals would allow a speaker preaching military fascism. This suggests to me that the vociferous wish to suppress anyone labeled “racist” is driven by an underlying psychology distinct from aversion to fascism.

Again, I’m a bit confused. The people who are the most censorious of racist speech are those who are slightly liberal, yet those are people who, compared to other liberals, are also most censorious of militarist speech (those at about 2.5 on the scale).  The same holds for extreme conservatives.  I agree with Murphy that aversion to racism has different psychological wellsprings than does aversion to fascism (if “militarism” is equated to fascism), but I don’t see the same pattern as does Murphy.

Perhaps my brain is muddled today—a very distinct possibility—but to me the big lesson from the data is that the Left in general is less censorious than the Right, and that racist speech is the least tolerated form of offensive speech. The former is a bit of a surprise, but not the latter.

One note: deplatforming of college speakers, as judging by the FIRE “disinvitation database”, is being done far more these days by the Left than the Right. That doesn’t comport with Murphy’s finding that the left is the least censorious wing of politics. But this could reflect Murphy’s claim that the most censorious leftists are “a puzzling minority of vaguely leftist activists, who happen to have gained media attention.” It may be those activists who are responsible for the deplatforming.

h/t: Kurt

67 Comments

  1. Posted March 5, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Graph these against the two axis political compass and I bet you’d detect a pattern.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Yes, Left and Right are no longer the determinant axes.

      Also, these things aren’t equivalent:

      “…a person who believes that Blacks are genetically inferior.” (Henceforth “racist.”)
      “…a man who admits he is a Communist.” (Henceforth “communist.”)

      The first isn’t a self-identification, the latter is. A ‘racist’ might include anyone who believes that there are statistical differences between ethnic groups. Or, frankly, anyone who isn’t 100% behind whatever the current Left-wing orthodoxy is.

      ‘Self-identifying communists’ excludes people who are communist but don’t identify as such. Or anyone who isn’t 100% behind what the current Right-wing orthodoxy is.

      • Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        The regressive left has a soft spot for communism primarily because conservatives in the past have been adamantly anti-communist, and the regressive left’s zombie brains instinctively & unquestioningly embrace anything their political enemies oppose.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          Actually, you’ve just accurately limned the right-wing fascination with Trump — he gives voice to their ressentiment and inferiority complex toward the cosmopolitan Left.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure the distinction is quite so clear as you suppose, StA. During the last US Red Scare, there were plenty of people labeled “commies” (or at least “pinkos”) who had no actual affiliation with the Communist Party (members of The National Lawyers Guild, for example). Hell, in those days, even the CPUSA (which would’ve probably collapsed from economic want, had it not been for J. Edgar Hoover’s dues-paying infiltrators) was hardly hardcore Marxist, instead pushing things like civil rights, minimum-wage laws, and a 40-hour work week.

        Nowadays, soi-disant “Communists” are awfully thin on the ground around these parts.

  2. sensorrhea
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I’ve been trying to make this point in the comment areas of this blog for weeks.

    The right makes a lot of noise about free speech, but, as usual, they commit the very sins they often falsely accuse others of.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      They correctly accuse others, while committing the same sin.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        That’s why I qualified it with “often falsely.”

        Sometimes both sides do it, as reporters love to lazily reinforce, but often it’s not the case that both sides do it, as when Trump accuses Clinton and Democrats of collusion with the Russians or when the gun loving father accused CNN of scripting the town hall and then admitted he altered emails to make it look that way.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        “It’s not a crime if the President does it!” – Donald Trump to Jared Kushner, 2017.
        How did disgraced former President Nixon put it while Trump was just a jumped up slum landlord with small, grasping hands? “I gave them a sword – and they stuck it in.”
        Prescient? Or predictable?

        • Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          “It’s not a crime if I entirely consume the corpse”. — Jared ‘Nosferatu’ Kushner.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, the number of numbskulls who’ve fallen for the misbelief about there being a need for a “corpus delecti” (sp?) before a prosecution for murder … quite a large number. Of numbskulls. I could really envisage Kushner and Trump embarking on such a plan.
            you know, of the family, Melania has been considerably the least vocal in support of the rest of the incipient dynasty (no genetic stake – less than surprising) . I do hope that she is keeping her diary stocked up with public engagements months in the future.
            Does the White House have private kitchens in the apartments?

      • Posted March 11, 2018 at 6:20 am | Permalink

        + 1

  3. Posted March 5, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    I think the continued intolerance on the Left to ‘racist’ speech is due to identity politics and the unhealthy concern over not hurting the feelings of ‘already marginalized peoples’.

    Race, especially black is, one of the ‘protected’ identities against which no ill may be spoken.

    Further, the hyperbolic accusations of the regressive left make refuting the statistical lies of BLM = racism; rejecting the neologisms, pomo word salad & unfalsifiable reifications of radical feminism = misogyny; exposing the pseudo-scientific claims of extremist trans activists = transphobia. Or, to use the increasingly common and dangerously flippant rubric : ‘bigotry’.

  4. mikeyc
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Two comments before reading Murphy’s work – perhaps FIRE’s point that the left is more censorious of speech than the right is because FIRE is focusing on schools and universities but Murphy was querying the general population?

    As to you wondering why “slight left” is more censorious than “hard left”, I suggest we are seeing the effects of virtue signaling. The “slight left” (“soft left”?) may be more people desperate to demonstrate to their peers that they’re “woke”, so they take up fascist beliefs to signal to others. Just guessing.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      I would also guess that, since many of those on the left who favor censorship are college students, they later grow out of their virtue-signaling phase. College students are by no means mature adults.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      It might be that the ‘hard left’ are more preoccupied with actual redistribution while the soft left is largely about making sure minorities are better represented at the glutton’s table. The impression I get from Google, The Guardian, etc. is that they oppose inequalities but not inequality itself. As long as Google bump up their quotas of minorities they can continue to avoid paying taxes that would benefit more people by redistributing serious money. The Guardian is obsessed with female film stars and company directors. As long as they make as much money as their male colleagues it doesn’t matter if they pay their cleaners a pittance.

      • Posted March 5, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Brian Leiter has suggested that a failure to have “*class* consciousness” is what dooms a lot of the authoritarian left (and the liberal left-to-center, like Pinker).

        I’m somewhat of the opinion that the most class conscious in the US are actually the plutocrats in nominal power and *their* masters who are (temporarily?) on the outside.

  5. glen1davidson
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    That doesn’t comport with Murphy’s finding that the left is the least censorious wing of politics. But this could reflect Murphy’s claim that the most censorious leftists are “a puzzling minority of vaguely leftist activists, who happen to have gained media attention.” It may be those activists who are responsible for the deplatforming.

    Maybe, but unfortunately it includes a good many professors at U of C.

    More important may be the question of just what responses are elicited from polls. I think that leftists are more inclined to think that they’re supposed to favor free speech, so they claim to. But that’s easy to say. In fact, many of the leftist censors are trying to claim that free speech requires shutting down certain speakers.

    If you asked creationists whether or not they favor science, I suspect that the vast majority would say yes. But when evolution comes up, well, they just don’t, do they? People who “favor free speech” may be similar, at least some of them.

    Whether people really know what they’re answering in a poll is perhaps the better question.

    Still, the main reason why leftists are now much more likely to take action to shut down speech, or at least try to, would seem to be because they can. There are enough professors teaching authoritarian ideologies, and enough students who believe them, that they can organize toact against speakers that they don’t like. It’s hardly the same for the right on public campuses, so there’s not much opportunity for them to try to shut down speakers.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      It is hard to draw a good dividing line from the science friendly but enraptured by chance by a pseudoscience and those who aren’t really science friendly at all. IMO, in the creationist case in the US there are so many resources to correct the misunderstandings that it is the latter, but there may well be other matters where it is the former. For example, mathematicians who think that mathematical entities exist independently of human thought *might* be in some cases.

    • Posted March 6, 2018 at 4:35 am | Permalink

      I think that leftists are more inclined to think that they’re supposed to favor free speech, so they claim to. But that’s easy to say. In fact, many of the leftist censors are trying to claim that free speech requires shutting down certain speakers.

      Excellent point.

  6. Mark Reaume
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I’d like to see how this shakes out if you added a couple of more dimensions; age and level of education.

    My guess would be that younger, highly educated liberals would be more censorious. But I fear that I’m in an echo chamber which amplifies these types of stories. I hope that I’m wrong.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I’d like to see how this shakes out if you added a couple of more dimensions; age and level of education.

      For data recorded in the 1970s, it’s quite likely that age data was recorded, but I’m not anything like so sure about “level of education”. Or, indeed, if any measures they used in the 1970s are readily comparable with today’s systems and records. That’s the problem of trying to design longitudinal studies – it’s really hard to predict what questions people are going to ask of your data 20 years after you’re dead.
      What struck me while looking at the graphs was that the variance for most measures (that could be seen) increased in the last few years of data. That strikes me as odd, but what could be causing it, I don’t know.

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        “That’s the problem of trying to design longitudinal studies – it’s really hard to predict what questions people are going to ask of your data 20 years after you’re dead.”

        A very good point.

  7. sensorrhea
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    “One note: deplatforming of college speakers, as judging by the FIRE ‘disinvitation database’, is being done far more these days by the Left than the Right.

    I still contend that this is for two reasons:

    1. The left doesn’t support a cottage industry of speakers who are intentionally outrageous and offensive like Milo and Coulter.

    2. To the extent that such people exist (Kathy Griffin? Al Sharpton?) they aren’t invited to the small number of ultra-conservative campuses and therefore don’t even get the opportunity to be disinvited, which is actually more intolerant.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Yes; I think your point 2 is important in explaining why deplatforming seems to be more prevalent on the left.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      3. The termites have been gnawing relentlessly in the academy; there are few conservative voices at most universities and FIRE’s focus is on education. This translates to primarily leftist views that are tolerated.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted March 5, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Greater education correlates with liberalism. That’s the primary factor driving this.

        But then, when the liberal professors are unanimous, you tend to get this pressure we see to be ever more extreme and “correct.”

    • CJColucci
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Exactly. You can’t de-platform people who don’t get invitations on the first place.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      1. The left doesn’t support a cottage industry of speakers who are intentionally outrageous and offensive like Milo and Coulter.

      Surely that should be a “mansion industry”, if they’re doing the American Dream right.
      And I’d bet that a lot of the mansions have many undocumented illegal immigrant staff, because (1) Rich, famous (“reviled” is something you have bodyguards and a press office to deal with), people deserve the best things money can buy ; (2) illegals are cheap, and likely to tolerate abuse that a legal wouldn’t; and (3) what give the Little People the right to apply other people’s standards to rich, famous and universally loved me?
      At some point, there are going to be some highly entertaining trials. Of course, I wouldn’t support the death penalty for such crimes – I woudn’t let them off that easily. Decades in prison being much more protracted. Women’s prison for Milo, you wouldn’t want him to enjoy the experience.

  8. Paul S
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Hopefully the current spate of deplatforming students are a minority. On the other hand, if they’re the new majority we wouldn’t know from a survey that predates their inclusion.

  9. Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    When he refers to “vaguely leftist activists, who happen to have gained media attention,” he fails to acknowledge the disproportionate influence those activists have attained. The data seem to show that those activists do not represent the prevailing view among left-leaning people in general; but we should expect speech battles to occur mostly in intellectual spaces like universities. They may not represent the status quo, but will those vaguely leftist activists steer future trends in these numbers? The biggest worry, in my view, is that the censorious left will coalesce with the censorious right, perhaps initially around racist speech. Once the tools of censorship become available, they will certainly be exploited by the right against minorities (there are already numerous examples of this happening).

  10. Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    There may be another angle here: the very idea that racist speech is abhorrent.

    A new mores has appeared in the younger generation and treading this trodden path sickens them and so they react, much as their forefathers did with torches, nooses, and militias when change occurred in the past century. So a reactionary mindset occurs as did those of old. This is happening because most of the other attributes mentioned in the survey are “hidden,” the source of racist comments is not. And because the species itself hasn’t really changed at all; it’s a feature, not a bug. Censoring speech is always going to be with us.

    This is not to say that the position to not allow this speech is correct. I, for one, am wholly in the Camp of Professor Ceiling Cat. My point is that even as we track improvement of thinking/attitudes towards speech, we really are just watching censors slipping into new coats.

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I don’t find these data surprising, and I’m pleased to see them. I’ve often felt that the leftist authoritarians are not a majority on the left, they’re just the ones who make it into media more often. Amongst conservatives, authoritarianism is more common – law and order is a big part of what it means to be conservative.

    My explanation for the racism thing would be that pro-racism speakers are speaking against actual people. With the exception of the homosexual speaker, where allowing them to speak is a positive (rather than negative) move, the other things are about ideas and don’t target a specific demographic of people being targeted for something about themselves where they can’t be persuaded to change.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Of course the outrageously censorious are the ones who make it into the media. News about people being calm and reasonable does not make for great ratings.

      • Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Nevertheless there can be little doubt that in academia, if not in the wider world, there is a new ideological pogrom underway and it it being driven by the Regressive left.

    • danstarfish
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right that the leftist authoritarians are not a majority of the left. However, I don’t think the authoritarian left gets much media coverage outside of right-wing media. Most of the left-wing people I know have never heard of Evergreen or the no-platforming on campus. It really isn’t covered very often by the mainstream press in the US. They go out of their way to stay silent on the topic.

      Last week I had coffee with someone who follows political news regularly and knew all the details of Trump’s latest outrage. He hadn’t heard of Evergreen either and I’m no longer surprised that most left-wingers have never heard of it. This guy is very left-wing, but definitely not into political correctness.

      I think the issue is that many in mainstream media are either regressive left-leaning themselves or are afraid of upsetting the regressives. I’ve seen several instances where the NY Times has fired new hires when regressive twitter mobs show up. The latest was Quinn Norton. I can think of several other cases in the past couple years. Norton wrote an interesting piece about the New York Times firing her doppelganger. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/02/the-new-york-times-fired-my-doppelganger/554402/

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 6, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Interesting. Thanks. I’m often puzzled by how much space otherwise excellent papers give to extremists. That’s fine if they stick to opinion pages, but they need to think back to the first principle of being a liberal before they support it on the other pages. Any form of authoritarianism is against the principles of liberalism, and it’s not any more acceptable because it’s coming from the left.

  12. Warren Bailey
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I’m of the opinion that the extreme conservatives oppose racism because they have a slightly different and possibly clearer perception of exactly what racism actually is and they don’t see it as productive or useful. For them racism isn’t some sort of nebulous belief that has to be constantly looked for and denounced but something that they can correctly identify due to contact with genuinely hateful racists

  13. Ten
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I think that the questions are wrong. In my opinion he should ask different questions, such as:

    Should a person who believes that homosexuality is extremely immoral and that all ‘practicing homosexuals’ will burn in hell forever be allowed to give a lecture on that topic on a college campus?

    Should a person who believes that abortion is murder and must be punished by the law be allowed to give a lecture on that topic on a college campus?

    Should a person who believes that all religious people are deluded be allowed to give a lecture on that topic on a college campus?

    In that case, I doubt that ‘extreme liberals or people on the left’ would show more support for a free speech than people on the right (in US politics).

    Having said that, when looking at the big picture, I don’t think that the right is more in favor of free speech that the left. I think a majority of people are in favor of free speech only when they are being censored. When their ‘enemies’ are being censored, they are not anymore so big free speech advocates. Luckily, not all people are like that.

  14. Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    You’ve “given up on the Right” regarding free speech? Who on the right opposes it? Here and now, it is only the Left, seems to me, that is against free speech.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      “Who on the right opposes it?”

      *blink* *blink*.

      Didn’t you see Murphy’s data that Dr PCC(e) posted above? Depending on how you look at the data, the right IS more censorious than the left. I can only surmise that you forgot to read the post before you commented.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Who on the Right opposes it?

      I dunno, to take a couple examples from just the past week, how about the right-wing GA legislators who punished Delta for opposing the NRA, and the reactionaries at CPAC who booed arch-conservative National Review pundit Mona Charen off the stage for criticizing Donald Trump and Roy Moore?

      • Posted March 6, 2018 at 12:25 am | Permalink

        And speaking of the NRA, don’t forget CDC-funded gun research!

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Well, there’s also the issue of Leftists in one profession or community vs. another.

    Some wag in the 1990s made the claim (I have NO idea how true it is) that after the diaspora of the 60s Left, more rigid and dogmatic leftists were more likely to go into academia, while more flexibly-minded Leftists went into arts and/or journalism.

    I have frequently found some (though not all) Unitarians to be more rigidly politically correct in their thinking then either atheists OR liberal Christians.
    I suspect that atheists are heavily rooted in science and thus can see through the flaws in identity politics more readily than some, and liberal Christians are committed per se to some goodness in traditional Western thinking.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      My parents are UUs. One of the reasons I cannot stand hanging around some of their co-religionists is because they are *too* permissive about certain things (like pseudoscience).

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    No surprise here. Free expression has traditionally been a leftist cause, dating back to the person I’d describe as the first modern liberal, Louis Brandeis. There’ve been some conservative free-speech champions over the years, too, but they invariably come out of the “classical liberalism” tradition. The Hard Right has always been vociferously anti-free-speech — going back to the days of the first Red Scare and the Palmer raids and Anthony Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice.

    I think you’re more sensitive to lefty speech suppression, Jerry, since it happens in your own backyard (speaking figuratively of academe). If you keep an eye on the broader zeitgeist, you’ll see the Hard Right routinely striking out against free speech — as happened over just the past two weeks with Georgia legislators punishing Delta for opposing the NRA, and at CPAC, where a conservative speaker was booed off the stage for criticizing Trump and Roy Moore and French neo-fascists.

  17. Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    The most shocking thing about this survey is the treatment of “antitheism” compared to the other ideologies. Homosexuality is essentially neutral in its effect on humans, so there is no rational basis for restricting speech advocating it (and it’s not an ideology). Of the other four, three (militarism, racism, communism) have consistently demonstrated strong negative effects on human well being. Theism is a similarly well documented cause of human harm, and antitheism is simply a practical recognition of that fact (as opposed to atheism’s relatively passive outlook). It is the one ideology on the list which has potential for strongly positive effects on the human condition, and yet it is the most suppressed type of speech.

    Maybe “antitheism” is the wrong word. It describes people from their antagonists’ perspective. Anyone who is well informed and has decent critical thinking skills will almost certainly question, probably strongly oppose, religion. But they’ will also probably strongly oppose the three ideologies listed in the survey along with a whole host of other discredited ideas. Theism simply gets caught in any generalized nonsense filter, so to theists it looks like antitheism.

    • Gamall
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      > yet it is the most suppressed type of speech.

      Not according to those graphs, where it is the second-most accepted, after homosexuals.

      • Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Ah, yes, the makers of those graphs may want to research optimal design to account for the typical range of human color vision. Or maybe I could have looked more carefully to avoid getting trapped by my own preconceptions.

        • Gamall
          Posted March 6, 2018 at 3:59 am | Permalink

          Not an absurd preconception.

          I do recall surveys about prejudice where atheists were pretty much the least trusted population, even against muslims, homosexuals, etc. Perhaps even former criminals?

          I’m too lazy (or busy) to look it up; I’m sure PCC posted about it once or thrice.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      This one has been touched by the Noodly Appendage (sauce be upon It). Sithrak oils a spit for you nonetheless.

  18. CJColucci
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Dog bites man. Film at 11:00.

  19. Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Looking at this as a barometer of what POVs are becoming more tolerated in society, there is some good news. Homosexuality and atheism POVs are more tolerated, and racism is not. OTOH, it is concerning that the military dictatorship POV is becoming more tolerated.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I agree with the caveat that what is seen as “racist” is sometime quite debatable.

    • Posted March 6, 2018 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Not necessarily. Free speech absolutism increasing could also be the reason.

  20. fjordaniv
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I taught at a community college for many years when I lived in Pittsburgh. Though my degrees are in English, I’ve always been drawn to the sciences, and our Composition 1 and 2 textbooks contained sections the specifically addressed scientific issues.

    I often asked my students what they knew about evolution as we discussed the readings; some were knowledgable, but a surprisingly large percentage weren’t. Most had taken biology, but they claimed that their teachers hadn’t discussed evolution over the course of the class.

    As it turns out, many high school biology teachers quietly omit evolution from the curriculum as a means of avoiding the wrath of incensed parents. This was more true in rural districts, but it was more common than many might think.

    Many students also recounted instances where books were pulled from classes. These incidents received less press than the relatively quiet self-censorship among biology teachers, but it was likely even more pervasive.

    For every Evergreen, there are likely dozens of instances of public school teachers bowdlerizing their class content to appease parents, particularly conservative parents.

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      They are doing to to appease “liberal” parents, too. As an example, I refer you to recent posts here about the Duluth School Board.

      • fjordaniv
        Posted March 5, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        There’s a considerable amount of pressure from both sides in high schools. There’s also a push to repress information that might reflect poorly on sponsors or bring to light a college’s financial woes. These stories might not get the press, but they happen quite often.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Pittsburg? Buncha jagoffs n’at. 🙂

  21. Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    The “center left” being highly censorious, more so than the “far left” actually jibes with my experience. That mentality is typical of the hashtag #Resistance angry HRC partisans brigade, who seem to have a strong love of paternalistic government, as long as the right people are in charge. (You could also point to a center-left that’s much more libertarian on social issues, such as the more “social liberal” folks among online “classical liberals”, but that seems to be a small group, unfortunately.) As for the far left, the obvious answer is that they’re as mistrustful of our current system as the far right, and know better than to hand it increased powers to police speech. (Then again, there’s also the SJW brigade on the far left, but maybe they’re actually a minority that happens to be very vocal on Twitter, etc.)

  22. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I am a bit confused, as Jerry is:

    To any political scientist, this should not be surprising … and conservatives have always been more concerned with social control (law and order).

    But free speech is the law and the (less constrained) order of the land. Maybe it should be “conservatives have always been more concerned with illiberal social control (law and order).”

    I’ve given up on the right.

    Why? The trend parallels the liberal trend. It is just “conservatively” shifted towards historical times. (Or towards lower free speech acceptance, depending on reference frame, history vs enlightenment.)

  23. glen1davidson
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    One difference between censorship of the right and left is that the left has ideology that excuses its censorship. The faculty letter asking for Bannon to be banned has this to say:

    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.

    Of course it’s bad logic and conflation of Bannon’s purported positions with the fact that Bannon was invited to debate his positions. Maybe Bannon’s policies do diminish opportunities for debate and exchange, but, if they do, debating Bannon over his policies would seem likely to enhance opportunities for debate and exchange.

    So the mere fact that supposedly Bannon’s policies would diminish opportunities for debate and exchange becomes a “reason” to deplatform him, from a debate of all things. This seems to relate to Popper’s execrable notion that tolerance of intolerance is wrong (clearly self-defeating), except perhaps to some degree where it’s “safe enough.”

    Another ideological “reason” to censor is supposed “aggression,” and the notion that merely having Bannon speak means that there is no room on campus for various groups of people.

    The right might come up with rationizations for censorship, but they don’t typically have the sorts of ideology that leftist academics come up with to excuse and sanctify censorship.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted March 5, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      That faculty letter sounds very like prior restraint. Another reason to reject their position entirely.

  24. Posted March 5, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “As one gets more conservative, the willingness to let racists speak also increases, but then drops strongly towards more extreme conservatives, something I don’t understand since those should be the most racist conservatives.”

    Perhaps they don’t consider themselves racist. They’ve convinced themselves that the real racists are those (supposedly) oppressing the white males.

  25. First Approximation
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    For the graph comparing the allowance of racists and militarists to speak he should have added standard deviation as an error bar. That way you can see how the mean differences compare to the in group variations and thus whether the differences are likely significant.

    To be fair, he acknowledges this is a first look at the data and mentions putting error bars on the year graph.

  26. Tim
    Posted March 6, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Interesting that three of the five questions (communist, antitheist, homosexual) are issues which one would expect the left to approve, while only two (racist, militarist) are traditional areas of support from the right. I wonder whether the results would have been different if the 3-2 ratio had gone the other way.

    Also, I wonder what would have happened if the racism question had included speakers who claim whites are genetically inferior to blacks (Farrakhan, for example).


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