Free speech for me but not for thee

This article in the New York Times‘s philosophy section “The Stone”, is a mixed bag, but on the whole not a bag that’s so great (click on screenshot to read it). The author is a professor of philosophy at Wuhan University, Yale-NUS College and Vassar College, as well as the author of Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto. 

Click on the screenshot to read it:

Van Norden’s point is that not everyone deserves a platform to espouse their ideas, even if they deserve free speech in the Constitutional sense: freedom from government censorship. And I don’t think many of us would disagree with that. I am not, for instance, going to invite a creationist to speak to my department, though I didn’t try to prevent someone in physics from doing that a few years ago. I wouldn’t invite Alex Jones to speak here, either. But that doesn’t mean that I object to him being given air time. I just don’t bother to listen, for what I heard is deranged bawling into the ether.

Some speech, says Van Norden, is basically not only inferior in quality (and social justice!) to other, but is simply not worth hearing, and his examples are telling:

On June 17, the political commentator Ann Coulter, appearing as a guest on Fox News, asserted that crying migrant children separated from their parents are “child actors.” Does this groundless claim deserve as much airtime as, for example, a historically informed argument from Ta-Nehisi Coates that structural racism makes the American dream possible?

Jordan Peterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has complained that men can’t “control crazy women” because men “have absolutely no respect” for someone they cannot physically fight. Does this adolescent opinion deserve as much of an audience as the nuanced thoughts of Kate Manne, a professor of philosophy at Cornell University, about the role of “himpathy” in supporting misogyny?

From this we already know what Van Norden thinks: he’s an authoritarian Leftist who thinks that the best speech, and the speech that deserves a platform, is the kind of speech of which he approves.  In response to John Stuart Mill’s claim, in On Liberty, that all speech deserves a platform to help us winnow good ideas from bad, and to help us examine and hone our position, Van Norden disagrees, for, he argues, the Little People simply can’t do that kind of winnowing:

If you do have faith in a universal method of reasoning that everyone accepts, then the Millian defense of absolute free speech is sound. What harm is there in people hearing obvious falsehoods and specious argumentation if any sane and minimally educated person can see through them? The problem, though, is that humans are not rational in the way Mill assumes. I wish it were self-evident to everyone that we should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, but the current vice president of the United States does not agree. I wish everyone knew that it is irrational to deny the evidence that there was a mass shooting in Sandy Hook, but a syndicated radio talk show host can make a career out of arguing for the contrary.

Nope, most people aren’t as rational as Van Norden, who will assume the mantle of The Decider.

So, with people irrational and susceptible to the wiles of Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos, what are we to do? What we must do is decide what kind of speech is “beneficial” speech:

I suggest that we could take a big step forward by distinguishing free speech from just access. Access to the general public, granted by institutions like television networks, newspapers, magazines, and university lectures, is a finite resource. Justice requires that, like any finite good, institutional access should be apportioned based on merit and on what benefits the community as a whole.

At about this point in the article you begin to realize that Van Norden’s scheme requires that someone be the arbiter of who gets access to public platforms. And of course that’s what happens: newspapers don’t allow every crackpot to write a letter, televisions don’t put every tin-foil-hat-wearing bozo on the air. But Van Norden’s idea that publicized speech should be based on “merit” and on “what benefits the community as a whole” is not a way to resolve this issue. For what is the criterion of “merit”? And what does “beneficial” mean? Some people, like me, would argue that it’s beneficial to give a platform to Holocaust denialists, or anti-vaxers, just to hear what they have to say (and of course this comes with the ability to produce counter-speech).

But Van Norden’s view of beneficial, I think, means “promotes social justice and defends the oppressed”, and excludes people like Jenny McCarthy and Ann Coulter, as well as people like Jordan Peterson. I don’t know much about Jordan Peterson, and what I know makes me think he’s a very strange fellow, but I wouldn’t for a minute claim that his views don’t deserve to be on television. Van Norden:

What just access means in terms of positive policy is that institutions that are the gatekeepers to the public have a fiduciary responsibility to award access based on the merit of ideas and thinkers. To award space in a campus lecture hall to someone like Peterson who says that feminists “have an unconscious wish for brutal male domination,” or to give time on a television news show to someone like Coulter who asserts that in an ideal world all Americans would convert to Christianity, or to interview a D-list actor like Jenny McCarthy about her view that actual scientists are wrong about the public health benefits of vaccines is not to display admirable intellectual open-mindedness. It is to take a positive stand that these views are within the realm of defensible rational discourse, and that these people are worth taking seriously as thinkers.

Not necessarily. I suspect Peterson is worth taking seriously as a thinker in at least some of his claims, but someone doesn’t have to be taken seriously as a thinker—they can be used as vehicles to hone your own arguments, or to see what the “other side” is really thinking. Ann Coulter is a provocateur, and Jenny McCarthy a misguided ignoramus about vaccination, but wouldn’t it be useful to have a debate between Jenny McCarthy and, say, someone like Orac?  If we don’t know what the anti-vaxers are thinking, or what kind of bizarre rationalizations they use to oppose vaccination, then how can we oppose them, and what is our impetus to learn why vaccinations are safe and useful? And if Van Norden thinks that Jordan Peterson isn’t worth giving air time too, then a lot of people on this site, who have listened to his YouTube videos, will surely disagree. For even if they don’t like Peterson, they’ve found merit in his debates with people like Matt Dillahunty and Sam Harris.

No, Van Norden’s article comes down to him saying this: “I, Dr. Van Norden, am capable of deciding which speech is beneficial to society and which is not. I won’t bother to discuss that here, or even define ‘beneficial’, but take my word for it: the people I don’t approve of aren’t worth hearing.”

h/t: Tom

59 Comments

  1. Posted June 27, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve found that when arguing with someone it’s always best that I already know their arguments, even if from someone else. It’s easy to get thrown by an unexpected – though stupid – question, dubious fact or made up statistic.

  2. Posted June 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    In my mind I decided to read Van Norden’s article in the voice of Kramer’s Dr Van Nostrand. It didn’t make his arguments better, but given the depressing state of affairs today, it sure made his bullshit more giggle producing.

    Such a depressing morning. I need a duck update.

  3. Posted June 27, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation. Those who most need to be made wiser and better, usually desire it least, and if they desire it, would be incapable of finding the way to it by their own lights.

    ~ John Stuart Mill

    books.google.com/books?id=I6wJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA953&lpg=PA953&dq=The+uncultivated+cannot+be+competent+judges+of+cultivation.+Those+who+most+need+to+be+made+wiser+and+better,+usually+desire+it+least,+and+if+they+desire+it,+would+be+incapable+of+finding+the+way+to+it+by+their+own+lights.+~+John+Stuart+Mill&source=bl&ots=EikK_4OEba&sig=u-Kf-5cz82wDNd1A_BlhVuuwj5s&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjU6aqcxvTbAhVl4YMKHS7GCc4Q6AEwAXoECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=The%20uncultivated%20cannot%20be%20competent%20judges%20of%20cultivation.%20Those%20who%20most%20need%20to%20be%20made%20wiser%20and%20better%2C%20usually%20desire%20it%20least%2C%20and%20if%20they%20desire%20it%2C%20would%20be%20incapable%20of%20finding%20the%20way%20to%20it%20by%20their%20own%20lights.%20~%20John%20Stuart%20Mill&f=false

    • Posted June 27, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      My apologies, the link did not truncate.

    • Posted June 29, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Mill nowhere says how to determine who the “uncultivated” are.

      • Posted June 29, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        True. But the self evident rights we all claim to have are nowhere defined as well. C’est-à-dire, uncultivated individuals are, to steal a phrase, known when I see them.

  4. ethologist
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    The “Paradox of Tolerance,” explicated by Popper, is relevant here. A nice summary and analysis: https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/paradox-tolerance

  5. Posted June 27, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Yep, he’s right, there should be a panel, say nine people, who get to decide what speech is beneficial to the community and who gets access to platforms.

    So obviously, as the elected leader, we ask Trump to nominate these nine people, subject to ratification by the Senate of course.

    This would give the SWJs what they want, wouldn’t it?

    • freiner
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Touche.

    • Pw
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      This is the obvious problem with his argument. Even if you grant that his other opinions are valid. He simply presumes that once such a system is in place the gate keepers will remain paragons of virtue (assuming for the sake of argument that they are already) while simultaneously having the authority to censor anyone who could hold them to account for misdeeds. What could possibly go wrong.

      • phil
        Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        Curiously this is exactly the system that has been in place for, I dunno, over a century. SCOTUS decides what speech is free and what is not. Sometimes it gets the decision right and sometimes not, as is the case for everything it decides. I fear you might be promoting perfection over its enemy, good.

        But given the facts on the ground, it is obvious that despite the shortcomings of current arrangements there has not been, for the most part, a gradual decline down the slippery slope toward ever more censorship.

        Perhaps the greatest discomfort I have for the argument for absolutely free speech is the absolute part. The US has applied a similar standard to the ownership of high powered firearms, and look what that has achieved.

  6. Richard Sanderson
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Indeed.

    This is just another smarm-faced blue-tick regressive journalist demanding the right to control who has free speech and the right to a platform, and who does not.

    What a dire state journalism is in, these days. Far too many activists and hacks, and not enough actual journalists.

  7. Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The movement against “free platforms” comes during a period of exponentially expanding media. There is more cumulative platform than ever before, bringing unprecedented access to social groups that never had a real voice until now. It’s bizarre to make the “finite resource” claim in this era. Platform is virtually unlimited and these arguments barely conceal a desire to turn “media” back into a centrally regulated propaganda engine.

  8. yazikus
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Access to the general public, granted by institutions like television networks, newspapers, magazines, and university lectures, is a finite resource. Justice requires that, like any finite good, institutional access should be apportioned based on merit and on what benefits the community as a whole.

    This sounds like a terrible fucking idea, pardon my french. I don’t need someone telling me what I can and cannot have access to when it comes to information.
    I notice he did not mention the internet, but what exactly would he propose for that?

    • phil
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      As PCC writes “newspapers don’t allow every crackpot to write a letter, televisions don’t put every tin-foil-hat-wearing bozo on the air.”

      (Actually, I’m sure many crackpots do write letters, they just don’t get published.)

      Why aren’t you objecting to that?

    • AC Harper
      Posted June 28, 2018 at 2:59 am | Permalink

      Access to the general public, granted by institutions like television networks, newspapers, magazines, and university lectures…

      If these ‘access point’ only carry ‘approved speech’ then other access points will carry unapproved speech. We *know* from other countries that state controlled media are usually accompanied by market place rumours mimeographed ‘real news’ and secretly produced books.

      I’ve noticed several articles recently from apparently well intentioned people who are nominally in favour of free speech but want that free speech to exclude ‘hate speech’, speech that causes upset, basically anything that is ‘not nice’. They seem to be completely unaware of the inevitable drive to make approved speech ‘nicer’ (there’s always a new set of victims somewhere) and that it might easily evolve to exclude their own speech.

  9. Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  10. freiner
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    At least the publication of this piece demonstrates the “Millian” virtue of allowing a platform for speech that argues against the Millian virtues.

  11. James
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    The lesson the Left failed to learn in 2016 was that sometimes, the other side wins. And when they do, the other side won’t meekly abstain from using the tools you invented to serve yourself–they will use those tools for their own ends.

    In other words: Does this author want Ann Coulter acting as the arbiter of what “benefits the public as a whole”? If not, then he has no business proposing we create such an institution.

  12. Posted June 27, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I thought it was the job of the press to determine “all the news that’s fit to print”

  13. Filippo
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    From the piece: “Consequently, while it was wrong for Middlebury College to invite Murray to speak, it was even more wrong for students to assault Murray and a professor escorting him across campus. (Ironically, the professor who was injured in this incident is a critic of Murray who gave a Millian defense of allowing him to speak on campus.)”

    The professor was injured as well as assaulted.

    Who held a gun to the head of these precious protestors to force them to go to the Murray event? Just don’t go. (Or, do you use the excuse, “I’m a child,” and can’t be reasonably expected to do any better?)

    When may one expect Van Norden to write an op-ed lecturing these noble human primates who can’t keep their hands to themselves?

    • Posted June 29, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Negative 2 days from now – he just did write such a piece. You quoted it.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    A generic discussion is at least mutual vocalization, which is the equivalent to chimp delousing, social bonding. Anything rising above the possibly infinite amount of topics for dialog would have to have some signal-to-noise ratio to be systematically responded to, and such response may engender a positive feedback in social media.

    Remember Bill Nye and the Arch Park? Not every freewheeling (or cartwheeling) ignoramus of Jordan Peterson should be responded to, or given valued platforms. But they should have access to social media platforms, that is a human right. (Give or take any specific nation’s hate speech laws.)

    • Simon
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Jordan Peterson’s point that men do not know how to handle an unreasonable women because the final recourse of violence which is tacitly understood in confrontations between men is off the table is worthy of exploration. The haystack Van Norden built out of it is probably not worth responding to, unless with a loud and prolonged fart.

      Jordan Peterson’s mouth has taken over from Sam Harris’s as the media’s favourite location for the placement of words of their own invention.

      • Taz
        Posted June 27, 2018 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        I agree – was there really no context for Peterson’s statements? I smell quote mining.

        • Posted June 28, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          I don’t recall the exact context, but I believe Peterson stated this during his conversation with Camille Paglia, which is on YouTube.

        • Posted June 28, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          The context was a 90 minute conversation with fellow MRA and misogynist, Camille Paglia. Once again, snippets of Peterson’s nuanced views have been quote-mined as fodder for the latest Two Minute Hate.

          https://jordanbpeterson.com/transcripts/camille-paglia/

  15. Posted June 27, 2018 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Never heard of the fellow, no surprises there, but his ideas need to go into the recycling bin.
    That is if he cares enough, which i believe he does, only he wants it only on his terms..
    what a pain in the arse piece of “i” know best.
    Yep, Prof(E) has his measure though,
    Van Norden has his shot and it’s short.
    oh well… NEXT!

  16. Posted June 27, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the good professor that we cannot let every Joe publish his mundane keyboard-fruits, and in his line of thinking, I think the professor’s manuscripts should be rejected by just about every place they are submitted to, as not qualified enough for the platform (sarcasm).

  17. Posted June 27, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree that access is a finite resource, which means it has to be allocated in some way. But in what way? I guess the owners of the platforms and their stakeholders get to decide. People are always free to provide their own platforms. And, of course, we all have the right not to listen.

    I suppose that means in some cases people with something useful to say won’t get heard. But it has always been that way.

    • phil
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Do we not have some right to not be mislead?

      • Posted June 27, 2018 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Nope. Where do you see that in the First Amendment?

        If you are misled in a contractual arrangement, you have recourse to the courts.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 28, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          Due to the dangers of fraud and misrepresentation, SCOTUS has traditionally applied a lower First Amendment standard under the commercial speech doctrine.

        • phil
          Posted June 29, 2018 at 12:11 am | Permalink

          Your Bill of Rights is irrelevant to us here in Oz.

          Anyway, what I was asking is whether we should have some protection against being mislead, not whether it it exists now. We have some protections here and now, in the US and Oz, but perhaps they need to be extended or strengthened. For all his efforts (and more power to his arm) I can’t see that Orac has much effect in shutting down the anti-vaxers.

          In Australia we have the Racial Discrimination Act which ‘makes it “unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person, or of some or all of the people in the group.”‘ (Wikipedia)

          I’m not saying it’s perfect but Australia hasn’t descended into some sort of authoritarian nightmare where people are constantly in fear of saying the wrong thing. Mind you we have problem with anti-vaxers too.

          • Dick Veldkamp
            Posted June 29, 2018 at 6:20 am | Permalink

            Phil,

            I tend to agree with you, shouldn’t we have some right not to be misled?

            What the defenders of absolute free speech rights tend to sweep under the carpet (I think) is that the free propagation of nonsense does a lot of harm. Think about the anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers.

            What to do about that? The argument that we should simply counter misinformation with real information doesn’t seem to wash.

            One thing that can be done without infringing free speech (and was done in the past) is to break up media organisations. For example there is no doubt that the misinformation from right wing media (News Corp) in the UK played a role in producing Brexit. For example “Nobody is allowed to own more that 10% of the national news market, measured by audience”.

            Of course I have no problem whatsoever with limiting “commercial free speech” (think cigarette ads for example).

    • Posted June 29, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      “People are always free to provide their own platforms.” Reminds me of newspaperman A.J. Leibling’s quip, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.”

      • Posted July 1, 2018 at 12:01 am | Permalink

        Of course in the internet age we can all own one. But all we got for that gift is a low signal to noise ratio.

  18. Graham
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    This whole idea makes me think of ‘formalism’, this was a vaguely defined term used in Soviet Russia to control the activities of composers at various times, most notoriously the Zhadanov decree of 1948. It was very simple to accuse a composer of ‘formalism’ and then subject them to whatever sanctions the State had in mind. With the rise of social media it becomes trivially easy to whip up a mob against whatever target you choose.

    • ChrisS
      Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the term ‘formalism’ could easily be replaced by present-day buzzwords like ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘misogyny’, and others.

      These social ills exist, of course, to some degree, but the terms are sometimes too liberally flung around,in order to shame people into submission.

      And they begin to lose definite meaning, too, through overuse, the way ‘Nazi’ or ‘fascist’ have.

      • Graham
        Posted June 27, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        You left out ‘Sexist’, the reason ‘Mysogyny’ has become the term of choice is that the former has become played out. In any case ‘fascist’ has now achieved more or less the same meaning as ‘shill’ or ‘disinfo agent’ to the conspiracy theorist. And that meaning is “one who disagrees with me”.

    • AC Harper
      Posted June 28, 2018 at 3:08 am | Permalink

      Actually the word that sprang to my mind was ‘Gleichschaltung’ – the process of Nazification by which Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party successively established a system of totalitarian control and coordination over all aspects of German society, “from the economy and trade associations to the media, culture and education”.

      I’m not arguing that ‘the Left’ are Nazis but ‘informal’ control and coordination of the media would be a further step down the road towards totalitarianism, in my opinion.

  19. John Black
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    The Chinese government already adopts Van Norden’s recommendation: they have a Decider Panel that arbitrates which speakers get access to the precious resources of airtime and print: the speakers who are worthy because they speak the truth. Of course, in China the “truth” is the body of ideas compatible with the government’s teachings. Other ideas are not worthy of hearing, just as Van Norden would insist.

    How can a professor of philosophy not see how Orwellian his thinking is? Boggles the mind…

    • Posted June 28, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      This is not Van Norden’s recommendation – he is defending private censorship, not state censorship.

      • Posted June 29, 2018 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Correct. A point which almost all commentators here, PCC included I think, failed to grasp. But –

        It seems redundant. We already have private censorship. The editors, publishers, and producers decide what counts as “news” and which government lies to pass on without question. The only difference Van Norden’s advice would make, if it were taken, would be to push profit out as the main criterion, in favor of the gatekeepers’ views of the good of the country. Which would be a temporary change at best, because schlock outsells any reasonable approximation to truth.

  20. phil
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    “…but wouldn’t it be useful to have a debate between Jenny McCarthy and, say, someone like Orac?”

    That would look good on McCarthy’s CV but not Orac’s.

    Why doesn’t PCC debate Ken Ham?

  21. Curle
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    “crying migrant children separated from their parents are “child actors.” Does this groundless claim“

    Is this a translation error by Van Norden. Law professor Eugene Volohk argues for reading and listening to the speech of others with both a most and least charitable filter in order to suppress one’s own biases.

    Given that Mexican elites have not previously acted much to hide their desire to export their poor North; given that cheap labor interests have resources and ability to engage in large scale political theater; given that rioters are not uncommonly bused long distances these days to create newsworthy events; given that many believe state actors like Russia capable of political theater events, why is the characterization of efforts by foreign nationals to enter a country broadcasting daily its opposition to further entrants beyond the scope of questioning its organic authenticity? And, precisely what degree confers the ability to reliably distinguish political theater or Piven Clower exercises from organic movements of people unaffected by background political or financial actors? Would such a degree compel one to view Potemkin Villages as authentic? Canabalized bodies lying in Ukrainian streets as perky and visions of health? Does Mr. Van Norden possess such a degree?

  22. josh
    Posted June 27, 2018 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    “to give time on a television news show to someone like Coulter who asserts that in an ideal world all Americans would convert to Christianity”

    So… under the new benevolent dictatorship we’re going to get rid of all public space for Muslims, as well as Christians and Buddhists?

  23. Steven Carr
    Posted June 28, 2018 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Bryan Norden attacks Coulter and Peterson , then claims they should not be allowed to speak.

    The main issue the Left has with free speech is that they are entitled to conduct witch-hunts which are always harder to do if the witches are allowed to defend themselves.

  24. Posted June 28, 2018 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    If everyone only listened to those people that they agree with how would anyone ever learn anything new? Freedom of speech must apply to everyone or no-one.

  25. PeteT
    Posted June 28, 2018 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    I cannot help but read this article as a clever and dead-pan piece of satire. A professor of philosophy cannot be capable of meaning any of this drivel for real. Can they? They must be capable of spotting the horrible flaws in their argument. Mustn’t they? The clever use of quote mining to prop up their argument with regard to Peterson and juxtaposing that with the McCarthy example is deliberate and used for comic effect. Isn’t it?

    • AC Harper
      Posted June 28, 2018 at 3:14 am | Permalink

      I don’t know about Van Norden but as I have read my way around the output of many philosophers I have come to realise how may of them are biased by their own preconceptions and beliefs. And they are apparently unaware of this too.

      As examples of the benefits of Philosophy many fail.

    • Posted June 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      There are hundreds of philosophy departments in the US alone, each with a handful of faculty – it takes just one …

  26. TJR
    Posted June 28, 2018 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    You are all making this seem far harder than it is, in fact it’s easy to decide who should be allowed a platform to speak.

    Just refer it to VAR.

  27. Posted June 28, 2018 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Most popular comments on the article are running strongly in favour of the good professor

  28. Vaal
    Posted June 28, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Every single time I’ve ever seen someone write one of these “free speech has its limits” it creeps me the hell out and serves to remind me of how important free speech is.
    Inevitably, the writer gives indications of what he/she would want to curtail and it always raises the red flag. I think “hold on, I clearly don’t want YOU deciding FOR ME what speech I can hear!”

    It’s always based on someone feeling “well, here’s some things I absolutely know to be the case so alternatives can be dismissed as unworthy to even be heard.”

    But as Sam Harris keeps pointing out, we can be unjustified in even our deepest, most sure convictions a so many people have been in the past and Free Speech is our only true corrective as a society. Hearing the case against your belief is the main way you will discover if you are wrong!

    It’s just amazing how many people, even some philosophers apparently, don’t seem to get it.

  29. Posted June 28, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    “Does this adolescent opinion deserve as much of an audience as the nuanced thoughts of Kate Manne, a professor of philosophy at Cornell University, about the role of “himpathy” in supporting misogyny?”
    I’d say van Norden has tipped his hand with this gushing recommendation of a gender studies lecturer and acolyte of Judith Butler, who rejects all research showing behavioral differences between men & woman as “bad science,” and who perceives The Patriarchy™ as keeping all women cowed & on all fours with the “shock collar” of misogyny.

    ‘Nuanced’, you say?

  30. aljones909
    Posted June 28, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Chomsky nailed it.
    “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin.
    If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise.
    Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”

  31. eric
    Posted June 28, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    What do these folks not understand about the “you cut the cake/I get the first piece” analogy? How can smart academics propose giving censorship power to a government or institution, yet miss the obivous fact that that the officials in that institution won’t necessarily agree with them about how to use that power?

    Are they really naive enough to think that liberals like them will be in charge of the censorship power? That they’re going to cut the cake and then get the first piece to boot? In this day and age, that borders on insanity. There’s numerous counterexamples right in front of their faces.


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