The New Yorker tones down its advocacy of free speech

It was inevitable: the New Yorker, a liberal organ, has, like the liberal American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), started waffling on free speech because it may be offensive and damaging to some groups. In other words, because the First Amendment conflicts with “social justice”, says the magazine, we must temper our advocacy of free speech. This is further evidence that the New Yorker has become an Authoritarian Leftist rag, and I’m not renewing my subscription when it lapses.

Click on the screenshot to see Andrew Marantz’s shameful and cowardly retreat from America’s freedom of speech.

The answer to the question posed in the subtitle is “Yes.”

In short, Marantz’s arguments are the same as those made by the ACLU in their secret memo described at the link above. Certain oppressed groups, he maintains, are damaged by free speech, either by creating psychological damage in their members after hearing criticisms of their group or its beliefs, or by directly increasing the degree of oppression of the group. In addition, the presence of speakers who promulgate this kind of damage (Marantz mentions Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, Heather MacDonald, Richard Spencer, and Charles Murray—a mixed bag if ever there was one) are “divisive”. (So was free speech advocating integration in the pre-Sixties South!) Further, when speaking on campus, speakers like thse cost colleges a lot of money for security.

Marantz argues that there are already legal restrictions on speech when it causes harm, like bans on sexual harassment in the workplace. Why, then, can’t we ban speech outside the workplace that also can cause harm?

Marantz makes his arguments largely through quotes from others, but it’s very clear that he agrees with them. Here are a few of those quotes. First, the new trend of saying we should temper the traditional interpretation of the First Amendment in light of social justice:

“No one is disputing how the courts have ruled on this,” john a. powell [JAC: yes, he’s pompously omitted the capital letters], a Berkeley law professor with joint appointments in the departments of African-American Studies and Ethnic Studies, told me. “What I’m saying is that courts are often wrong.” Powell is tall, with a relaxed sartorial style, and his manner of speaking is soft and serenely confident. Before he became an academic, he was the national legal director of the A.C.L.U. “I represented the Ku Klux Klan when I was in that job,” he said. “My family was not pleased with me, but I said, ‘Look, they have First Amendment rights, too.’ So it’s not that I don’t understand or care deeply about free speech. But what would it look like if we cared just as deeply about equality? What if we weighed the two as conflicting values, instead of this false formalism where the right to speech is recognized but the harm caused by that speech is not?”


Yiannopoulos and many of his defenders like to call themselves free-speech absolutists, but this is hyperbole. No one actually believes that all forms of expression are protected by the First Amendment. False advertising, child pornography, blackmail—all are speech, all are illegal. You’re not allowed to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, make a “true threat,” or incite imminent violence. These are all exceptions to the First Amendment that the Supreme Court has made—made up, really—over time. The boundaries can and do shift. In 1940, a New Hampshire man was jailed for calling a city marshal “a damned Fascist.” The Supreme Court upheld the conviction, ruling that the words were not protected by the First Amendment, because they were “fighting words,” which “by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

. . . In the nineteen-seventies, when women entered the workplace in large numbers, some male bosses made salacious comments, or hung pornographic images on the walls. “These days, we’d say, ‘That’s a hostile workplace, that’s sexual harassment,’ ” powell said. “But those weren’t recognized legal concepts yet. So the courts’ response was ‘Sorry, nothing we can do. Pornographic posters are speech. If women don’t like it, they can put up their own posters.’ ” He drew an analogy to today’s trolls and white supremacists. “The knee-jerk response is ‘Nothing we can do, it’s speech.’ ‘Well, hold on, what about the harm they’re causing?’ ‘What harm? It’s just words.’ That might sound intuitive to us now. But, if you know the history, you can imagine how our intuitions might look foolish, even immoral, a generation later.”

About the supposed harm caused by free speech:

I asked john powell what he thought about the rhetorical tactic of conflating speech with bodily harm. “Consider the classic liberal justification for free speech,” he said. “ ‘Your right to throw punches ends at the tip of my nose.’ This is taken to mean that speech can never cause any kind of injury. But we have learned a lot about the brain that John Stuart Mill didn’t know. So these students are asking, ‘Given what we now know about stereotype threat and trauma and P.T.S.D., where is the tip of our nose, exactly?’ ”

. . . As Mogulof [Dan Mouglof, UC Berkeley’s public affairs administrator] spoke to the reporters, an undergraduate sociology student walked by, holding an iced coffee and a Rice Krispies Treats wrapper. She shouted a question at Mogulof: “Students have a right to go to their classes and feel safe in their classrooms, and you’re ready to compromise that for, like, the First Amendment that you’re trying to uplift?”

“Your concerns are right on the money,” Mogulof said.

. . . Later that fall, Judith Butler, the cultural theorist and Berkeley professor, spoke at a forum sponsored by the Berkeley Academic Senate. “If free speech does take precedence over every other constitutional principle and every other community principle, then perhaps we should no longer claim to be weighing or balancing competing principles or values,” Butler said. “We should perhaps frankly admit that we have agreed in advance to have our community sundered, racial and sexual minorities demeaned, the dignity of trans people denied, that we are, in effect, willing to be wrecked by this principle of free speech.”

Butler’s partner, the political philosopher and Berkeley professor Wendy Brown, was teaching a course called Introduction to Political Theory. “It was an amazing experience to be discussing Mill while all this stuff was blowing up around us,” she said. “It’s one thing for a student to feel that, through the free exchange of ideas, ‘the truth will out.’ It’s another thing to defend that position while Milo is staging his political theatre outside your window.”

Finally, the monetary argument:

Carol Christ [the Chancellor of UC Berkeley] told me that the events of the past academic year hadn’t changed her faith in the First Amendment, but that they had made her wonder how an eighteenth-century text should be interpreted in the twenty-first century. “Speech is fundamentally different in the digital context,” she said. “I don’t think the law, or the country, has even started to catch up with that yet.” The University of California had done everything within its legal power to let Yiannopoulos speak without allowing him to hijack Berkeley’s campus. It was a qualified success that came at a steep price, in marred campus morale and in dollars—nearly three million, all told. “These aren’t easy problems,” Brown told me. “But I don’t think it’s beyond us to say, on the one hand, that everyone has a right to express their views, and, on the other hand, that a political provocateur may not use a university campus as his personal playground, especially if it bankrupts the university. At some point, when some enormous amount of money has been spent, it has to be possible to say, O.K. Enough.”

My rebuttals

1.) The monetary argument.  To ban speakers because defending them costs money is ridiculous. Those responsible for the security (and those who cause the damage that makes security necessary) are the protestors, nearly always of conservative speakers (i.e. “hate speakers”). This argument amounts to saying that the speech we need to ban consists in part of that speech which people deem offensive and respond with violence. Perhaps the tuition of all students should be raised to cover the costs of these protests, which are often levied, unfairly, on groups who invite unpopular speakers.

2.) The list of “offensive” people.  I would argue that even Milo, mountebank and provocateur that he is, has worthwhile things to say: perhaps things with which we disagree, but things that should be aired and debated. So do Charles Murray and especially Heather MacDonald, whose book on policing has much to chew on. How can we counterargue without knowing what our opponents have to say? Which brings us to point #3:

3.) The benefits of free speech. While I admit that there may be marginal harms of some speech protected by the First Amendment, there are benefits that, I argue, outweigh these harms, harms that I see as overrated anyway. Many of the benefits are outlined in John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and, before the ACLU went down the tubes on the First Amendment, an  an eloquent defense of free speech (including “hate speech”) by its legal director published  in the New York Review of Books. The benefits are the conviction that if competing views are aired, it’s the best way to arrive at social progress and a harmonious society. This, in turns, rests on the proposition that humans are rational and can often be convinced by logic. Steve Pinker makes a convincing case in his Better Angels book that free speech and debate are an important factor in accounting for the moral progress in the world over the last few centuries.

Further, free speech, including hate speech, allows us to sharpen our arguments. If you disagree with Heather MacDonald on the reasons why blacks seem to be targeted by police, you need to know her arguments and the data she adduces. I’ve often said that it’s useful to hear Holocaust denialists because their arguments are often convincing to those who don’t know the facts, and so their opponents may be reduced to gibbering, outraged primates when they can’t answer them. And, of course, one can always change one’s mind after hearing the arguments of one’s opponents. Just think of the moral difference between now and the 1950s with respect to the status of women, gays, and blacks.

Even further, how can we know who believes what if we deem some classes of speech legally unacceptable? Does silencing Steve Bannon, Charles Murray, or Milo Yiannopoulos make their views go away? No, the views just go underground and give these people the right to claim free-speech “victimhood”.  I would argue the opposite: airing their views types these people as regressive bigots and allows us to decide whether we want to further listen to them.

4.) The supposed harms of free speech.  There are two: psychological damage supposedly sustained by those who hear “hate speech,” and actual harm to groups themselves.  Both are overrated. I believe that many of those who claim psychological harm or “victimhood” because of free speech often do so not because they’re really harmed, but because claiming victimhood status makes one special—makes you stand out from everyone else. It’s hard for me to believe, for instance, that pervasive PTSD from speech that can be avoided by simply not listening to it is widespread in society. Some hijabis have manufactured claims of hijab-ripping, often, I think, to increase their status. As for damage to oppressed groups that comes from criticizing them, that is a slippery slope argument (see point 5), and I can’t accept the argument that even “hate speech” causes substantial damage to the groups criticized when the speech (as the courts has deemed) doesn’t promote imminent violence. Would banning the American Nazi Party have reduced anti-Semitism in the U.S.? I don’t think so—the Party declined because of its own stupid pronouncements made it look ridiculous. Does racist speech increase racism? In my view, by exposing bigots and the social harms of bigotry, it reduces racism.  Yes, there may some marginal harms of free speech (after all, someone may be convinced by listening to racist speech) but the benefits of allowing hate speech, especially in view of point 5, far outweigh the harms.

5.) What speech should be banned. and who shall be The Decider? This is not a trivial argument. You might say that speech that calls for the deportation of blacks, or other similar racist nonsense, should be banned, but Muslims, for example, feel just as offended when you criticize their religion. After all, the Muslim attacks that occurred after the publication of the Jylllands-Posten and Charlie Hebdo cartoons were products of a very deep offense that drove its adherents to murder. And what about abortion? There are those who feel that at least some abortions should be banned because of considerations of either religion or the supposed sentience of fetuses. Should we ban their speech because liberal sentiments consider abortion a “right”? Should we ban speech that calls for the destruction of Israel? Why not, if we ban speech that calls for the deportation of immigrants? The problem is that there are people who consider “hate speech” any speech they don’t like, and to give anyone the power to ban that speech is putting a serious weapon into the hands of those who could destroy democracy. The Nazis didn’t take power because of free speech in Germany; they took power because they banned speech, outlawing all political parties besides their own and, ultimately, killing those who spoke up against their policies.

6.) If we ban harmful workplace speech, why not harmful public speech? The prime example here is sexually harassing statements in the workplace, which are clearly harmful to the recipients. They are banned by law as impermissible violations of speech, and I agree. But these are not the same as speech that, say, calls for the destruction of Jews, the building of a wall along the Mexican border, or the banning of gay marriage. In the former, you cannot get away from that speech without risking losing your job. In contrast, “hate speech” can be avoided simply by walking away if you don’t like it—with no penalty. Walking away also limits the harm that can accrue to your own well being by hearing such speech.

Both liberal and conservative U.S. courts have long settled on an interpretation of the First Amendment that has worked well and has allowed the airing of ideas that some consider offensive. Would our country be marginally worse if, say, we prohibited Holcaust denialism, as some countries do? I don’t think so. In the end, one person’s “hate speech” is another person’s “speech worth discussing,” and even speech that is unreservedly odious has a place and a function in a democracy. Creating a principle that some speech is worth banning because it’s offensive risks having those you can’t abide become the deciders, and then come for your speech.

The New Yorker has jumped the shark on this one, but it’s been inching toward Regressive Leftism for a long time. I’m done with its virtue signaling. This last article was the ultimate form of virtue signaling, and doesn’t even make a serious attempt to show the arguments for free speech, even though it alludes to them.

h/t: BJ, Nilou


  1. BJ
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “So these students are asking, ‘Given what we now know about stereotype threat and trauma and P.T.S.D., where is the tip of our nose, exactly?’”

    Well, what we know about stereotype threat is that it’s based on studies that others have tried and failed to replicate over and over again, and that the original research (which, again, has failed replication) is shoddy and biased. What we know about trauma…well, what is it that we “know about trauma” as related to speech, and what kind of speech, etc.? What do we “know about PTSD,” again, in relation to speech? PTSD? Are we really claiming that microaggressions and easily unattended speeches by provocateurs on a campus cause PTSD? If so, you better have many studies replicated many times to back this crap up.

    This is just a list of bad things coupled with the comment that we “know” cause bad consequences. What bad things? What do we know? What do we know about these bad things in relation to speech? This line in his argument is nothing but an attempt to list ominous threats and then try to link them to any speech the speaker doesn’t think should be protected.

    It’s scary that so much of this is being argued by a former legal director of the ACLU, who is now a law professor at Berkeley. A sign of things to come, I would say.


    Also, we might ask, “where is the tip of the Constitution’s nose?” At what point is it that we will have curtailed certain rights so much in the name of protecting feelings that any and all rights can be trampled with the right argument that the feelings of certain groups are hurt? Will there be a new cottage industry in the academy of proving (with unreplicable “studies,” no doubt) that all kinds of rights, when given to the “wrong” groups (e.g. men, white people, “cis” people, hetero people, etc.) are detrimental to the groups that really matter, and be used as evidence that they must be similarly curtailed/”rethought”?

    I weep for our future if these loons consolidate enough power.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      “Given what we now know about stereotype threat and trauma and P.T.S.D., where is the tip of our nose, exactly?”

      I’d have some sympathy for this argument if students were compelled to attend the event — if they were a so-called “captive audience” — but so long as they’re free to ignore it, the argument is meritless.

      Reminds me of Mencken’s definition of Puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

  2. BJ
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Under point 3: the argument I find most important is that sometimes speech that is considered offensive or hurtful actually needs to be heard, and will eventually be considered the correct position. There are literally innumerable examples throughout history of speech that was banned, but ended up being right. What of Galileo? What of the many speeches ended by blasphemy laws, even in today’s world?

  3. Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Why, in the monetary argument, is the cost never borne by those who cause it? The people who crash and disturb and cause the need for the security get a free pass. Students run wild and then blame the speaker. Talk about blaming the victim!

    • BJ
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      It’s quite brilliant, if you think about it. If we start instituting a policy based on this monetary argument, it gives these protesters an enormous hammer to shut down any and every speaker or speech they wish. All they have to do is create enough property damage and security risk and BAM, no more speakers that offend them are ever allowed.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        As is its obverse: a charlatan like Milo announces announces a bogus “Free Speech Week” that he does not intend to hold, listing guest speakers who have not agreed to appear, solely for the purpose of portraying himself as the victim when the event does not go off as announced, leaving the venue to pick up the tab for security and associated costs. (Milo has been pulling this same stunt around the country.)

        Part of me would like to see Milo, or those who invite him to campus, bear the costs, rather than force them upon the university, but that would simply give the protesters an incentive to run up the costs in an effort to break the sponsor and force the event’s cancellation.

        • BJ
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

          But, of course, Milo would not be able to do this, and those costs would not need to be paid regardless of his actions, if certain people weren’t driven to actions that result in such costs. Much as I detest Milo, his dishonest tactics, and his self-promotion through said tactics, all of it is made possible only by the unwillingness of his most vociferous opponents to refuse anything but violent revolt.

        • Posted July 21, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          I think the charlatan Milo is far better than the thugs whose actions allow him to portray himself as the victim, and any university hosting such thugs as students deserves to bear any costs associated with them. Until they take over, as in Evergreen.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      The level of threat is part of the money argument too. It’s a tactic used by extremist Muslims, among others. They threaten murder for supposed insults to their religion, and because those threats have been carried out in the past they’re taken seriously.

      The result is Islam doesn’t get discussed critically the same way Christianity is, for example. Most of us know that there’s no proof Jesus ever existed, but few know that there are similar questions regarding Muhammed. (e.g. The town of his origins didn’t exist at the time he lived.)

      Muslims should be able to practice their religion freely, without prejudice. However, we should be able to critically discuss any religion, or any other idea, too.

      As Jerry points out, open discussion is the best way to expose bad ideas like racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. And the last thing we need is for someone like Milo Yiannopoulos to be able to claim martyr status.

      • Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        I think Yiannopoulis is dying on social media. I hear less and less about him these days. This is the kind of martyrdom we can let him have.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          He’s been banned from Twitter because of his deliberate and constant trolling, which he continued despite warnings. I don’t know about other platforms, but there may be similar rulings.

          I agree – I’ll give him that martyrdom too.

      • BJ
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        It’s why so many countries and organizations adopted the stance of never negotiating with terrorists. Once you show yourself willing to give in to demands due to threats, everyone else who wishes to extract something valuable in the same way will be further emboldened.

        Here, the New Yorker and the subjects interviewed are endorsing the idea that not only should we negotiate with people who will threaten and use violence or disruption to get what they want, but we should preemptively acquiesce to their demands.

        • Harrison
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Negotiating against oneself is a fine liberal tradition. Well-meaning liberals simply assume that everyone else must be operating in good faith, and that if we simply anticipate their demands and give them what they want at the outset they will be appeased. We are then shocked, utterly shocked, that they instead say “not good enough” and demand more. This holds true both for conservative politicians and regressive concern trolls.

  4. Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I regard the “who will you give the power to, and what will be their restraints and rules?” to be the most important one of all.

    Similarly, I take the “what *specifically* should be ‘rethought'”?

    My Inuk friend Raven used to say that racist speech hurt her deeply sometimes. But she doesn’t want to give anyone the power to say that she’s not allowed to *tell* people that, which is what happens if there are restrictions available.

    Also, I *really* hate people bringing the “paradox of tolerance” into this. Tolerance for expression and speech is not tolerance for violence – which was always a tool of the fascists and others.

    • James
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      “I regard the “who will you give the power to, and what will be their restraints and rules?” to be the most important one of all.”

      Seconded. Whoever gets to make this call gets to wield an unimaginable amount of power over the culture. And given the fact that it will be used for political ends (see the entire federal government right now for evidence), this means an increasingly crushing burden on average citizens until we are arresting women for taking videos of themselves dancing.

      We have examples on Earth right now of cultures with such morality police–and every one is a hellish nightmare people literally RISK DEATH to leave. And these idiots want to institute the same thing here, because they are afraid that someone’s feelings may be hurt!! For my part, I’d rather my children be exposed to offensive ideas of every stripe than have them endure the horrors that morality police inevitably unleash.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree here too. That is a power no one should have. In history, every society where someone has had that power, it’s been a disaster. There are so many examples, it’s hard to know where to begin. Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and Hitler’s Germany, are obvious ones.

      Currently we just have to look at North Korea, China, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, to name a few.

      • James
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        The Middle Ages had its share as well. Several southern French cities were wiped out because some theologian came up with the “wrong” ideal. The Inquisition was basically this too.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          The southern French towns were wiped out by the Crusades because they went for a different idea than the one the Catholic Church was teaching. The Crusades weren’t only in the Holy Land. There was also the Albigensian Crusade in southern France, the Baltic Crusade, and a few other smaller ones in Europe going after particular mainly Christian religions groups that taught different theology to the Church in Rome.

          The first town destroyed during the Albigensian Crusades was Béziers in Toulouse. It was there that the commander uttered the famous words, “Kill them all: God will know His own,” when the soldiers were worried about killing good Christians instead of the target – the Cathars.

          The other town where all the inhabitants were wiped out was Carcassonne, another Cathar stronghold.

          • James
            Posted July 19, 2018 at 8:39 am | Permalink

            “The Crusades weren’t only in the Holy Land.”

            Yup. The best warriors in the Middle Ages–the Teutonic Knights–were essentially Crusaders who opted to, instead of going to the Holy Land, invade those infidels in Poland. Why go all the way to the desert when you can have just as much fun next door?

            The concept of “crusade” in fact has nothing to do with the Holy Land; it’s origin was, as you said, in southern France, and the focus was always on cleansing the world of those who have “wrong” ideas.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

              The First Crusade was basically a way to stop French knights roaming around the country raping and killing the peasants for fun. So the work wasn’t getting done. The pope at the time was French and he saw his country getting wrecked by a bunch of brutes. This had been going on for decades and was getting worse. Nothing tried so far stopped them. So he came up with the idea of forgiving them all the sins they’d committed so far if they went off to the Holy Land to try and get it back from the infidel. They could also commit whatever sins they wanted on Crusade – they were pre-forgiven and got to go to heaven no matter what, if they died.

              At the time Muslims had held the Holy Land for well over a century, and there weren’t really any problems. Christian pilgrims could go to Jerusalem without issues, and Jews, Muslims, and Christians largely lived peacefully there. Jews and Christians were second-class citizens and had to pay extra taxes, but that sort of thing was normal everywhere.

              Blanket forgiveness for sins turned out to be a pretty popular concept for a population constantly scared by threats of hell, and crusading was far more popular than the Church imagined. Everyone wanted to go, not just knights, or even men. Just preaching a crusade led to the obligatory massacre of a town’s Jews, even though the Church always made it clear they weren’t a target. (The Jews were even warned before Bezièrs.) So the Church took advantage, and Crusades became a thing for hundreds of years.

              • James
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                I think it depends on what you consider the first crusade. The first one to occur happened a while before the ones in the Holy Lands. We tend to call the ones in the Holy Lands the Nth Crusade, but given that there were some in Europe it’s really a misnomer. But those before THE Crusades were much more limited in scope, and really didn’t fire Christiandom’s imagination the way the ones in the Holy Land did. Which makes a certain amount of sense–it’s one thing to wrest the birthplace of Christ from the hands of the unclean infidels, it’s another entirely to slaughter a city for the sake of some obscure bit of theology you likely never heard of, much less understood.

                There is a real problem with understanding the crusades (or Crusades), though. Simply put, Medieval culture was different from our own. It’s like an American trying to understand why a Zulu is doing what he does–we tend to think of it in our own terms, which doesn’t work. Religion in the past is sort of like science is today: it’s how everyone understood the world around them, but only a few people studied it in real depth. And while they took religion seriously, they also took it frivolously, the way humans tend to do with anything that’s taken as a given. What I mean is, someone who said Christ didn’t die for our sins would have been viewed as insane, but they had absolutely no problem making fun of the regulations or members of the Church (“Oft we hear from learn’d friars/that wishing and the dead are one”). I’m in the SCA, a Medieval re-enactment group, and that’s one thing that I’ve always struggled to wrap my head around: how folks back then thought about the world around them.

                There’s a fantastic BBC series, “Life on the Monstary Farm”, that attempts to address this via immersion into the life a tenant of a Monastic (Benedictine) farm. It’s really very enlightening, and highly entertaining if you’re into documentaries and historic re-creation. (Their other videos are also well worth watching!)

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

                My major was medieval history, so I get the different mindset, but you’re right that most don’t.

                The First Crusade to be preached as a Crusade was the one called for by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095, and it was to the Holy Land. The crusades in France and elsewhere in Europe came later. Crusade was a particular concept, and didn’t exist before Clermont in 1095.

                I’ve seen the doco Life on a Monastery Farm. I’d forgotten about it, and now you’ve reminded me, I wast to see it again. It’s very good. As you say, there was a lot in it to help people understand the different mindset of people back then.

              • BJ
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

                “At the time Muslims had held the Holy Land for well over a century, and there weren’t really any problems. Christian pilgrims could go to Jerusalem without issues, and Jews, Muslims, and Christians largely lived peacefully there. Jews and Christians were second-class citizens and had to pay extra taxes, but that sort of thing was normal everywhere.”

                This is a huge oversimplification. A good portion of the Crusades – at least into the Middle East – were because peaceful Christians, even diplomats, were being killed by the Muslims in power when making pilgrimages there.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

                That’s certainly true later. It wasn’t true before the First Crusade.

              • max blancke
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                If you are speaking of the 1095 Crusade as the first one, it is worth mentioning that at that time, Muslim troops had been occupying not just the Holy Land, but parts of Europe for over 350 years.
                And saying “At the time Muslims had held the Holy Land for well over a century, and there weren’t really any problems.” is a broad simplification. The destruction of all Christian shrines and buildings in Jerusalem in 1009 might have been seen as a “problem”, as might the expulsion of Christian priests from Jerusalem in 1091.
                From the perspective of the European Christians, the Crusades were an alternative to Rome suffering the same fate as the other Christian capitals of Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople.
                The view of the Islamic world as a group of people sitting in a garden writing poetry, is perhaps how they would like to have been seen, but was not the experience of Europeans in the years leading up to the crusades.
                Do you really think the biggest problem in the century before the First Crusade was knights killing the peasants, or were the knights more reasonably believed to be occupied in fighting the Islamic armies that controlled the alpine passes between France and Italy, and laying siege on Toulouse and Gascony?

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

                I don’t see the Muslims of the day as sitting around making poetrp all day or anything. My view of them is quite realistic.

                This is a topic I wrote on at length as part of my degree in medieval history. I suspect I know what led to the calling of the First Crusade better than most.

            • Posted July 21, 2018 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

              I think the true focus was on plunder.

      • Craw
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        I would give that power to Trump.

        Not really, but when they argue for someone having such power, Trump is a possible contender for it, isn’t he? Or some future Trump?

        • Posted July 21, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

          I find it mind-boggling that the loudest cries for censorship come from people currently in opposition.

  5. Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Colleges have the right to control speech on their property for any reason they want. I don’t see that there is any question that they can legally do that. What should be allowed is a question of the college administration. Speech in public places is not subject to any restriction except for the carved out exceptions which have been legally upheld e.g. incitement to riot.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Public colleges are bound to obey the First Amendment just like any other governmental department. The courts have ruled that there are limits on what colleges can do to restrict speech on campus. Whether private colleges should do so, and whether that is in keeping with their educational mission, is open to argument, but many, if not all, of the ones who have been called out for doing so have policy statements about supporting free speech.

      • Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Thanks for pointing great out. I was unaware of the those decisions.

        • DrBrydon
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Have a look at FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: The News section is worth coming back for.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      When a state university sponsors a student-selected speakers’ program it creates a limited public forum for First Amendment purposes and, thus, cannot discriminate based on the speakers’ viewpoint.

      • Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        DrBrydon already pointed that out. I agree with the statement in the article that not all court decisions are good ones. As the article pointed out what we are doing now is not working. I expect there will be challenges to the law the the laws will be changed. A college, even a state funded college should have controlled over who speaks on their own campus.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

          A university, including state universities, generally have complete control over who speaks on campus, since areas like classrooms are not public fora. But where a university gives a student group the opportunity to invite speakers, the university cannot overrule the group based solely on a speaker’s viewpoint — allowing a speaker from the Conservative Union, for example, while barring someone from the Socialist Party. That’s not only required by the First Amendment in the case of state schools, but also seems eminently reasonable to me.

          • Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            It does not mean to me. So I guess we have to disagree. As we have before.

            • Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

              Does not seem reasonable to me . . .

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

              So you think a state university should be able to say to students “you can invite speakers, but only liberals, not conservatives,” or “only conservatives, not liberals” — and that that would present no issues under the First Amendment?

              • Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                I think they should be in control of who speaks on campus. I believe I said that above.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 18, 2018 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                @Old Guy:

                So you believe that state universities should be exempt from the First Amendment — that the school administration could tell the student newspaper, for example, to print only conservative or liberal letters to the editor?

                I understand where you’re coming from, and don’t mean to belabor the issue, just exploring where you think the limits might be.

              • Posted July 18, 2018 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

                If the administrator gave those instructions he should be fired. And the president ps the university should be replaced if he abuses his power to contro speech.
                I do not have all the answers on this point and do not want to answer hypothetical questions. I can only go to my general point about ultimate contro resting with the president of the university. H has to answer to his bosses in the state government who has to answer to the voters. I remind myself of the speech in Animal House, I will not listen to an attack on the United States of America” before the Delts Hiuse left the room.
                The stricter has to work from the bottom up to maintain a society of free speech. I fo not know anyone who wants to repeal the first amendment. President of the university is responsible for policy which is fair and allows for different points of view. If he dies not he is responsible and should be removed.
                If we get to the point where the voters do not insist on hearing different points of view in an orderly then we have lost our freedom.

              • Posted July 18, 2018 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

                This predictive text I use keeps changing the words after I type them and move on to the next paragraph. Very frustrating and I apologize for all the mistakes.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 18, 2018 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

                “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” 🙂

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    We have freedom of speech as a fundamental right in this country. If there is a conflict between that and some political goal (and there alway is), then we need to consider whether that goal itself actually serves fundamental justice. Social Justice is a set of political goals, and, as such, represents the point of view of only some people. That’s always the case when people want to restrict speech; it’s too make it easier for them to win their political goal. That’s not a good enough reason.

  7. Historian
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    “The Nazis didn’t take power because of free speech in Germany; they took power because they banned speech, outlawing all political parties besides their own and, ultimately, killing those who spoke up against their policies.”

    These assertions are subject to challenge. In 1933, when President Hindenburg offered Hitler the chancellorship was the point when the Nazis took power even though a majority of the people did not support Hitler. Still, the Nazis had considerable support. In other words, could the free speech allowed by the Weimar Republic have played a role in the rise of the Nazis? I think the answer is yes. How else would have Hitler gained support? One can argue that if the Weimar Republic had banned free speech for the Nazis, they would have gone underground and eventually toppled the Weimar Republic, similar to what the Bolsheviks did in Russia. But, this scenario would have taken longer to transpire than actual events and who knows what the end result would have been. Also, the Nazis did not take power by banning free speech. They retained power, already gained, by banning free speech, political parties, etc. Today,several European nations ban or limit pro-Nazi speech out of fear of a repeat of this scenario.

    Would the Nazis have taken power if the Weimar Republic had cracked down on their free speech? We can only speculate. By the early 1930s the Weimer Republic was in bad shape and may have collapsed no matter what it did in terms of regulating free speech. But, I think it unquestionable that the Nazis gained support because of free speech among other factors. At least in the United States, I believe that free speech should be essentially unfettered. It is worth the cost of what could happen if the campus radicals had their way. Still, we must keep in mind that there is a cost for retaining the principle of free speech. For some people in the past, the cost was high, indeed.

    • Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      The problem isn’t free speech, it’s human gullibility and lack of critical thinking. In politics it’s exploited with propaganda. In Christianity it’s exploited by condemning skepticism.

    • josh
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      As I understand it, the Weimar Republic had what we would now call anti-hate speech laws and prosecuted Nazis under them. This allowed them to claim persecution and drive up sympathy with their base.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes. A big reason for the Nazi party gaining the support they got was they spoke of the betrayal of “ordinary” people by those in power following WWI. Because of propaganda, most Germans, including most of the army, didn’t realize how badly they were doing towards the end of the war. They still thought they could win, and saw the surrender and its tough terms as selling out. The conspiracy theory was that it was the Jews the leaders were selling out to.

        • Historian
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          You are referring to the stab-in-the-back myth perpetuated by the Nazis. As Wikipedia puts it:

          “When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they made the legend an integral part of their official history of the 1920s, portraying the Weimar Republic as the work of the “November criminals” who stabbed the nation in the back to seize power while betraying it. The Nazi propaganda depicted Weimar as “a morass of corruption, degeneracy, national humiliation, ruthless persecution of the honest ‘national opposition’—fourteen years of rule by Jews, Marxists, and ‘cultural Bolsheviks’, who had at last been swept away by the National Socialist movement under Adolf Hitler and the victory of the ‘national revolution’ of 1933”.”

          I do not think the Nazis invented this type of demagoguery, but they certainly refined it. The Nazis were not the only conservatives in Weimar to spin the myth, but the Nazis used it to their great advantage. Trump has made good use of the “find someone to blame” technique, also called the “Big Lie,” to divert attention from his myriad of flaws. Blaming immigrants for stealing jobs and bringing crime into the country is one example. So far, free speech has successfully countered Trump. But, freedom of speech in the Weimar Republic failed to stop the Nazis from gaining power. Remember, the Nazis did not take power in 1933 by force. Hitler was appointed chancellor by Hindenburg in a calculated political move that backfired.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            The Nazis’ stab-in-the-back myth played off of Hagen’s craven attack on Siegfried in the Götterdämmerung finale of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

          • Craw
            Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

            You have omitted any discussion of the Enabling Act. But it was that, rather than hitler’s appointment as chancellor, which allowed the nazis to take over.

            • Historian
              Posted July 18, 2018 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

              Less than two months passed between Hitler being appointed chancellor and the passage of the Enabling Act. The latter formalized the power that Hitler effectively possessed, otherwise the act may very well not have passed the Reichstag. Intimidation of the deputies by the Nazis helped assure its passage. But, yes, the act officially made Germany a dictatorship.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 18, 2018 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            There’s a documentary series about the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis. I’ve watched it twice since Trump started his campaign, and the second time I was even more struck by the similarity in the techniques used. The one that was most obvious is the one you mention here – vilifying particular groups as being to blame for particular problems. As you say, the Nazis really refined the technique.

            It seems to me that people don’t believe someone could tell such blatant lies, so it must be the truth. I don’t know whether that’s what’s going on with everyone, but I think it might be with some. I remember an interview from the 2016 campaign where a woman said she heard a whole lot of bad stuff about Trump, so she went to one of his rallies to see what was going on. She said when Trump spoke she heard the truth and knew she could trust him.

            And yeah, Hindenburg sure screwed up – thinking he was going to be able to control Hitler by making him chancellor. Just like with Trump, most people thought Hitler a joke just a couple of years before. Also, senior Republicans thought they could control him.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 18, 2018 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

              … the similarity in the techniques used.

              Große Lüge foremost among them. The Big Lie.

              I’m not ordinarily a fan of Trump-Hitler comparisons (except for their occasional hyperbolic comedic effect). But it’s crucial to bear in mind that the Hitler of the early Thirties was not the Hitler of the late Thirties. There but for a simple twist or two of fate might have gone a failed would-be tinpot dictator, known now only to students of European history, with a name recognition commensurate with Oswald Spengler’s.

              By a similar token, I expect Trump will go down as a regrettable footnote in the broad sweep of history. But it might take only a few simple twists of fate to head this nation in a very nasty direction under his regime.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

                I don’t like Trump-Hitler comparisons either, and you’ve got to pick your audience when making them. Besides, in most ways it’s not a good comparison.

                Trump being older and wealthier, he’s had time and money screw up his personal history in a way that’s likely to get him caught out before he can do much more damage. He also has to be a lot more careful about starting wars because of the nuclear issue. There’s a lot more besides those that mean you can’t compare them in most situations.

            • Posted July 19, 2018 at 1:11 am | Permalink

              There’s also the boiled frog syndrome. So often we hear people claim that anti-Trumpers are blowing things out of proportion. That we should tone down our rhetoric for fear it will be used against us by the other side. That we shouldn’t call what Trump is doing with Russia treasonous. The problem is that he’s gradually destroying so much of value. If not now, when do we call it out? By then it will be too late.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                I think one of the biggest problems with Trump is his behaviour is getting normalized. The most outrageous things are just accepted because we’ve become used to them, and there’s just so much it’s impossible to keep up.

                The Republicans spent Obama’s entire administration going on about his “Apology Tour” even though he never actually apologized. They’d be going berserk after the latest performance. However, even a couple of those who spoke out are now saying they’re going to take Trump at his word with the would/wouldn’t thing, even though it’s clearly a lie and would make little difference even if it was the truth because of other things he’s said. In most cases, the only Republicans speaking up are those either not seeking election, or not seeking reelection.

                Trump’s approval amongst Republicans has only gone down a couple of points this week, and you can guarantee it’ll be back up within a couple of weeks as this debacle moves out of the headlines.

  8. Clare45
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    You stated ” I’ve often said that it’s useful to hear Holocaust denialists because their arguments are often convincing to those who don’t know the facts, and so their opponents may be reduced to gibbering, outraged primates when they can’t answer them.”

    I recently watched the movie “Denial” on this subject and was horrified to hear the complicated arguments of the Holocaust denier Prof Irving. I had no idea that it was so difficult to prove that the gas chambers existed as they had been destroyed by the Nazis before they left the camps. Testimonies by holocaust survivors were apparently not sufficient to prove the case and so they were not called as witnesses.
    They managed to prove with difficulty that the holocaust denier had made some evidence up.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      Lipstadt’s book is good, too, but if you are really interested, Richard Evans, the historian who acted as an expert witness for Lipstadt, wrote his story of the case in Lying About Hitler. Evans goes into detail about the way Irving’s biases worked in practice.

    • BJ
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Irving is, without a doubt, the most insidious of the Holocaust deniers. Most of the arguments and “evidence” you hear deniers spout come from him.

      He’s also written many books and articles defending Hitler and lying about Allied leaders. He’s the one who originated the lie that Churchill didn’t really give all his greatest speeches, among other things.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        How’d you like Denial, BJ?

        • BJ
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Never read it. I can read articles about or do some of my own research on people like Irving from time to time, but reading an entire book on Holocaust denial is too depressing for me. There’s only so much I can take before I start contemplating suicide.

          I understand from this short thread that it’s an excellent book, though 🙂

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

            I’m talking about the movie, dude. Figured you’d’ve seen that, what with the ever toothsome Ms. Rachel Weisz. 🙂

            • BJ
              Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

              Oh! The thread was about the book, dude!

              Not that it changes anything. I also have not seen the movie. Should I? Rachel Weisz is my kind of lady, but I’ve seen her in clothes plenty of times sooooo…unless something is different about this one…it would have to be worth seeing for other reasons 😛

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 6:53 am | Permalink

                Denial is a good, solid movie, well worth seeing.

                But, horribile dictu, no scenes of the lovely and talented Ms. Weisz en déshabillé. 🙂

                (Apologies for the Latin and French mash-up.)

              • BJ
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                Well, I guess I’ll see it anyway! I hadn’t heard of it. Also, I forgot that we saw her sans clothing in Beautiful Creatures.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

                Hope you didn’t miss the hawt Hasidic girl-on-girl action between the two Rachels (Weisz & McAdams) in last year’s Disobedience, BJ. 🙂

              • BJ
                Posted July 19, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

                Damn it, I did! Thank the Hebrew God I have you to tell me about these things.

                She was apparently also in a state of undress in another movie called I Want You. Beautiful Creatures, I want you, Disobedience</i…At this rate, the next movie in which she shows up nude will be called You Totally Want to See Me Naked, Huh?

  9. Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I got a different read from Marantz’s article. It was merely a survey of the free-speech-on-campus morass framed by reporting the events of Berkeley’s “free speech year”. The subtitle posed a question, “Should the First Amendment be reinterpreted for the digital age?” The article didn’t attempt to answer that question but left it for the reader to sort it out.

    • Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      It is not a question of a reinterpreted of the amendment. Exceptions to free speech have already been carved out. It is whether more exceptions should be made. The question of whether there are limitations allowed has been answered long ago.

  10. John Black
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Just a quick comment to note that it’s john a. powell (and not author Marantz) who prefers his name be in lowercase.

    • Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I got the feeling Marantz indulged Powell in his typographical foible just to let the reader know how goofy the free speech controversy can get.

  11. josh
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The idea that Milo is some kind of Svengali who can’t be allowed to speak lest he lead our children, pied-piper-like, to damnation is just too silly to take seriously. Milo is a provocateur with third-string stand-up insults and little coherent political philosophy. He’s not even far right and his star has already fallen. If you want him to go away just ignore him!

    • JB
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      I’ve long believed that these Berkeley protesters are the greatest fuel to Milo’s career that he could ever hope for. By burning down their own city, they are bringing levels of attention to Milo that he could never have mustered on his own. He in fact has noted this himself several times.

      Milo came to my campus as well… I didn’t go to his talk. In fact few people did, and you probably never heard about it in the news. How is this not the right approach to dealing with trolls?

    • BJ
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      You are so very, very right. Like JB said, if people just ignored him whenever he showed up, he would almost never be heard from again. The only way he ever gets in the news these days is when a bunch of regressive idiots create an event out of his presence. The news becomes the event, rather than Milo, but Milo was there and he gets mentioned, along with whatever he said and his aptitude for driving a certain group of people to the point of insanity and, often, violence.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        I join our palindromic commenters (JB, BJ) on this one. 🙂

        • Merilee
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          K, KK ( not to be concatenation like that weird math in which 2+2=22.}

          • Merilee
            Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            Concatenated…(damn spellcheck tried to change it again!)

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink


              Worked for me until the goddamn Kardashian Klan came along and debased those initials.

            • Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

              Do you think you’ll ever be able to put two things together? 😛

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Some of the examples they talk about here are really silly as free speech first Amendment items. If you have someone committing verbal sexual harassment in the work place, that is not a free speech issue. It is a workplace sexual harassment issue. You are not being arrested for it. You are not going to jail. You may very quickly be fired by your company for sexual harassment. If you attempt to get a lawyer and say free speech give you the right, they would not even hear such a case. In other words, free speech does not apply. Also, the above example has nothing to do with real free speech items such as the ability to speak at a school.

    Also, the idea that the free speech rights stated in the first amendment means something different today than it did 230 years ago makes no sense. It is pretty short and clear. How or why would it be different today?

    • Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      It does not mean anything different. Certain dangerous and harmful speech was not allowed then and is not allowed now. We are merely discussing the limits that should be allowed. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Now we are merely quibbling over price.”

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        That may be what you are discussing but I suggest you read the post. Carol Christ, the Chancellor at Berkeley said she wondered how an eighteenth century text should be interpreted in the 21st century. I would say she is quibbling over more than price.

        • Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          I thought that was a disturbed comment when I read it through the first time. Strange comment. But we have had people arguing over how the Constitution should be interpret and arguing about what it meant since it was written and even before it was adopted.

          • Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

            a disturbing

            • Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

              a disturbing comment . . . not a disturbed comment . . .

  13. Thanny
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Just want to clarify that anti-harassment laws are not laws restricting unwelcome speech. They are laws restricting incessantly repeated unwelcome speech.

    There is no single statement that constitutes sexual harassment. A behavior must be repeated for it to be harassment, by definition. And against a specific individual, so you can’t claim multiple speeches on the same topic to a general audience are in any way harassment, if they don’t target at least one specific individual.

    And since it didn’t seem to be addressed on point, I’d also add that restricted speech is a harm in itself, one which is greater than those harms supposedly caused by certain types of speech. Even if you accept that a type of speech causes harm, you have to balance that harm against the harm of preventing that speech, which none of the authoritarian leftists ever address.

    • Gabrielle
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      There are two behaviors in the workplace that do not have to be repeated in order to be considered sexual harassment. Touching someone in a sexual manner without their consent (i.e., groping) is one behavior. Asking for sexual favors in return for an keeping one’s job or getting a promotion is another example. A recipient of these two actions does not have to wait for the harasser to repeat them, in order to lodge a complaint.

  14. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I think I understand the spreading regressive Left trend (ACLU, NYT, New Yorker, etc.) for giving up, or at least subordinating, the principle of freedom of expression. It is a generational phenomenon.

    Once upon a time, there were such entities as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Peoples Democracies of east-central Europe, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, and Chairman Mao’s China with its “cultural revolution”, all providing object lessons in the kind of society that results from sacrificing freedom of expression to claims of “social justice”. The character of these societies was well explored in the Western journalism and literature of those times.

    These object lessons are all 28 years or more in the past. A new generation has grown up, for which these entities seem as mythical as the land of Mordor in “The Lord of the Rings”. I suspect this generational shift also explains the rising fashion for people to style themselves “democratic Socialists”.

    Of course, there are still some object lessons around. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one, but serious attention to life there is unfashionable because it would be “Islamophobic”. Venezuela and Nicaragua, both dominated more and more arbitrarily by parties of the regressive Left, should be object lessons of a particularly relevant sort. But they are small countries, there is limited reportage about them in the general media, and the liberal-Left has dropped them from its discourse, á la Corbyn, like the embarrassments they are. In fact, discussing them in detail might be forbidden, on the ground that such discussion would subject sensitive liberal-Leftists to the danger of PTSD.

    • Posted July 18, 2018 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      I am quite worried by this “rising fashion for people to style themselves “democratic Socialists””, and winning elections under this label.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Maya — how do you like Trump now that he’s made clear he’s not keen on coming to the defense (per the US’s obligation under section 5 of the NATO agreement) of Montenegro or Albania (or, presumably, any other Balkan country he’s never even heard of, like, you know, Bulgaria)?

        • Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          I have never liked Trump, and I am unfortunately not surprised at all by these secretions of him, BUT we have to endure him for 6 more short years. With socialists, unfortunately, it is much more difficult to get them off your back once you have invited them to climb there. Or at least European history teaches so.

          • Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            Six years! How about 2 more years max.

            US socialists aren’t like the Eastern European type. They are capitalists who believe in social programs. Those are the only kind I would vote for anyway.

            • Posted July 20, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

              I also hope it will be just 2 more years, but for now, I don’t expect his voters to be given an acceptable alternative. The Democrat, if anything, seem to double down on their mistakes.
              European socialists also say reassuring things before they have a firm grip on power. Then, just observe them from a safe distance… The world “socialist” is terribly tainted. Why do they insist so much to use it? Imagine someone who says he is a Nazi, but a good Nazi, not like Hitler’s bad ones.

        • Posted July 20, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          Speaking more generally, the problem with today’s politics seems to be that, for unknown reasons, voters at the end of the day are given a “choice” between two unacceptables and a wasted vote.

      • Posted July 18, 2018 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        So were the 52 per cent of the voters who voted against Hillary for president in 2016.

  15. AC Harper
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Certain oppressed groups, he maintains, are damaged by free speech, either by creating psychological damage in their members after hearing criticisms of their group or its beliefs, or by directly increasing the degree of oppression of the group.

    If I were to pay attention to others who might identify ‘my group’ as a ‘pale, stale, male’ then could I challenge their right to speak of things I feel hurtful? Or is only for the fashionable victim identity groups?

    In the UK Remainers have intentionally said hurtful things about Leavers as an identity group. That’s bigotry.

    Similarly an anti-Trump demonstration was given permission to march in London but a pro-Trump demonstration was prohibited. Hardly free speech.

    • yazikus
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      was given permission to march in London but a pro-Trump demonstration was prohibited.

      I hadn’t heard this, do you have the details?

      • AC Harper
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        From the Express:

        The ‘Welcome Trump’ procession will take to the capital’s streets at 1pm tomorrow in support of the American president.

        But Scotland Yard has placed restrictions on the march over fears of violence breaking out between pro-Trump and anti-Trump activists.

        Officers said the rally must begin at Temple Place in central London and follow a route to Whitehall, where it must end at 2pm.

        So I mis-remembered – it was controlled rather than prohibited.

        • Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Were they allowed their own balloon, at least?

          • AC Harper
            Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:10 am | Permalink

            No. They had more sense.

  16. Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Give ’em Hell, Jerry!

    This whole idea is ludicrous. Remember from the ’60’s “What If They Had a War and No One Came?” This is the best response to a speaker you do not want to hear … don’t go to the damned speech. (Milo and Anne Coulter will stop showing up if he only draws audiences of 7 and 11.) What these people are saying is that they do not want us to hear them either … because we are not to be trusted, that we are weak and will be swayed by false ideas, that …

    This is fracking insulting … excuse my French.

  17. Taz
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    All of these articles seem very short on examples of speech they want banned, but very long on examples of people whose speech they want banned.

    • Posted July 19, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      And extremely short on principles to decide, people to do the deciding, etc.

  18. Gordon
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    and meanwhile in New Zealand the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University yesterday joined the restriction of free speech movement

    • Gordon
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink


  19. Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Any entity, whether the New Yorker or the ACLU, that fails to defend free speech, is in no way “liberal”, and should not be described as such simply because they are leftist.

  20. James
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    One thing I’ve noted since Trump won the election: Many people advocating these ideas don’t seem to understand that they can lose elections. If you ask “What will happen if the Republicans win?” they respond with genuinely incredulous indignation. “That CAN’T happen!” is the limit of their thought on the matter. Or, look at how many people over the past year have been genuinely shocked to see someone with a Trump bumper sticker/hat/whatever. I’m not talking about the all-out lunatic fringe–those always exist. I mean the rank-and-file on the Left honestly do not seem to think that their opponents are real.

    If you are incapable of considering those opposing you as real, you don’t factor them into your equations. I don’t care what Gondor thinks of the political policies I advocate, or what Harry Potter thinks of them. Sadly, many on the Left (and the Right) view those on the other side of the political divide as just as real as those.

    This also leads to all kinds of idiocy in political policy. They have no backup plans for when the other side gets into power, and they see no harm in ramming their agenda down everyone’s throats as hard as possible. After all, THEY are real; the Other Side is a mere figment of everyone’s imagination.

    • Posted July 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Not only can they lose elections, but they have actually lost the last elections.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    … Andrew Marantz’s shameful and cowardly retreat from America’s freedom of speech.

    I’ve just finished reading Marantz’s piece, start to finish, and I’m not seeing that at all, Jerry. Marantz’s piece is straight reporting on the issue; he takes no editorial stance on what he’s reporting, on behalf of himself or The New Yorker institutionally. Sure, he quotes copiously from people whose views could fairly be characterized as regressive leftist, but he quotes copiously from Milo and Pam Geller and Mike Cernovich, too. And his piece quotes extensively from Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a scholar whose views on free speech by-and-large comport with our own.

    As I noted at the time, the same thing happened with your post regarding Adam Liptak’s piece for The New York Times, which, despite its inflammatory headline, was also straight reporting about what we might characterize as the Free Speech Wars.

    Certainly, as near-unlimited free-speech proponents, we should respect the right of Marantz and Liptak and others to report on newsworthy matters, even if (hell, especially if) that reporting contains quotations from people, both Left and Right, whose views we disagree with vehemently.

    • BJ
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I largely agree with you about this, but I do think there is something to be said about the presentation, in that it seems, at least to me, that it’s trying to portray the side in favor of curtailing speech in a much better light than the other side. For example, if three of the four best people quoted who you might list on the other side are “Milo and Pam Geller and Mike Cernovich,” that doesn’t seem like a good-faith attempt to portray both sides as reasonable and equally valid.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        I figured that Marantz quoted those three because the focal point of the piece was the Berkeley “Free Speech Week,” and they were the only “speakers” who actually showed up.

        The person quoted in the piece who came off the best was Prof. Chemerinsky — but then, I would think that, wouldn’t I, since I generally agree with him.

        Anyway, I thought the punchiest quote of the bunch came from Charles Murray, who said he declined to appear at Milo’s little soiree “[b]ecause he is a despicable asshole.” 🙂

        • Merilee
          Posted July 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          Very eloquently put😬

    • Merilee
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      I read the piece a couple of weeks ago, and agree with Ken that Marantz doesn’t seem to be pushing any particular agenda.

  22. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Advocating this modification to the principle of free speech is incredibly stupid. Trump is threatening to establish a theocracy in the US. How is it NOT going to use this idea of limiting free speech to suppress ctrl-left and other progressive’s speech which the theocrats will claim is offending their tender religious sensibilities?

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted July 18, 2018 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      A good point, but theocrats of the Left and the Right each assume that THEY are (or ought to be) in charge of what speech, expression, or thought-crime is to be suppressed.

      Proponents of “traditional values”, such as Mr. Trump’s friend Vladimir Putin, are already at work defending their society against harmful speech. In 2013, the Russian criminal code was amended to criminalize “public activities expressing clear disrespect to society and carried out with the aim of insulting the religious feelings of believers”.

      Another part of the 2013 legislation allows the authorities to block websites deemed to feature content inciting mass riots or extremism (left undefined) without a court ruling. The law puts Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state agency for media oversight, in charge of maintaining a blacklist of banned sites and making sure that internet providers block access accordingly. Under this authority, news sites and the sites of political candidates opposed to the Putin government have been widely blocked. Other legislation enables authorities to shut down undesirable NGOs without a court order if the prosecutor-general simply determines that they threaten national security.

  23. Posted July 18, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see this as a constitutional question of a limit to free speech. I see this as a question of who should be in control of speech on campus. To me the answer is simpleThat should be in the contro if the university. No one is advocating limits to free speech.
    Cities and communities control free speech and assembly where they require permits. They also control the location and time of the assembly. They control location and time of protect and require consent for counter protests. Speech making should be governed the same way.

  24. Posted July 18, 2018 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    In the discussion of how The Nazis came to power no one has mentioned that much of their ability to attract support was their opposition to the communists in Germany. The communist were a real threat to taking control. The Nazis played on those fears blaming the problems on the Jews and and Communists. Based on this and is other appeals to make Germany and Germans great again he was able to gain power.

  25. Diane G
    Posted July 18, 2018 at 11:12 pm | Permalink


  26. Ethan Tyrrell
    Posted July 20, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Great post! Limitations on free speech have been a great concern of mine. I attended the University of Missouri during racial protests in 2015, and after that, questions of free speech and “safe spaces” became everyday occurrences. This really opened my eyes to the ways rights may be lost for the sake of supposedly saving people from the evils of being offended.

  27. Wei Lin
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    While I’d agree that any amount of free speech restriction is an inherently dangerous exercise, I truly believe this article’s intention was to call to attention some specific contexts under which our Free Speech laws (read: the First Amendment and the Supreme Court decisions that have since qualified it) become murky. We have already drawn lines between what is “free speech” and what is not, the classic example being “fire” in a crowded theater. This article seems to put forward the idea that those lines need to be re-examined. I believe it is the beginning of a discussion, not the end of one.

    Ultimately for me the thesis of the article was stated by one of the interviewees when he said “There is no guarantee that the marketplace of ideas will lead to truth…”

    This is relevant now in the digital age more than ever. You yourself pointed out the occasionally seductive arguments of Holocaust deniers in the absence of solid arguments against. The problem is that it is now possible to wholly silo yourself into an echo chamber of never ending confirmation bias-inducing ideas. I’m tempted to make a slippery slope argument here to say the next step could be groups of full on actual Nazis (or some such thing) committing violence, but I think I’ll leave it as “It’s bad that portions of our population can semi-intentionally remain ignorant of facts”.

    I have no solution to this issue. I think it is a uniquely modern problem, and will need a uniquely modern solution

    • Posted July 24, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I think you are right on all this but the author didn’t take a position on this issue, unless I missed it. The thesis you attribute to the author was, in fact, an interviewee’s position as you pointed out.

      • Wei Lin
        Posted July 24, 2018 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        That’s true, I suppose the “thesis” was more what I gleamed to be the most important point, not the actual central idea.

        I do think that the article was ultimately meant to be more of a question than an answer, though.

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