Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

While Free Speech Is Important…but not really

original article: While Free Speech Is Important…
October 22, 2015 by AMY ALKON

…It’s not “important” enough to be allowed to people on campus or coming to campus who don’t toe the left’s party line.

The Williams College newspaper just came out — yes, really — against free speech.

Because that’s really so absurd, I’ll say it again: The students running a newspaper just came out against free speech.

Here’s a message from their editorial board:

Uncomfortable Learning scheduled and later cancelled a talk by Suzanne Venker, founder of Women for Men, a news and opinion website that claims that the feminist movement results in female privilege and discrimination against men. While we at the Record believe Venker’s views are wrong, offensive and unacceptable, it is difficult to determine whether or not there would have been enough educational value in her lecture to justify an appearance, given that her presence on campus would have hurt students who face sexist and homophobic stereotypes.Though Venker’s speech is legally protected, the College, as a private institution, has its own set of rules about what discourse is acceptable. In general, the College should not allow speech that challenges fundamental human rights and devalues people based on identity markers, like being a woman. Much of what Venker has said online, in her books and in interviews falls into this category. While free speech is important and there are problems with deeming speech unacceptable, students must not be unduly exposed to harmful stereotypes in order to live and learn here without suffering emotional injury. It is possible that some speech is too harmful to invite to campus. The College should be a safe space for students, a place where people respect others’ identities. Venker’s appearance would have been an invasion of that space.

Greg Lukianoff writes in Freedom from Speech about the conflation of physical safety and emotional safety, and the “expectation of confirmation” — the notion that a speaker is unacceptable unless they confirm the students’ views.

Here’s Lukianoff in the WSJ:

And while students should certainly feel “safe,” it is important to recognize that these days the word has wandered far from its literal meaning. Feeling “safe” on college campuses means something closer to being completely comfortable, physically and intellectually. Boundary-pushing comedian Lenny Bruce, a hero to the Free Speech Movement, wouldn’t have lasted a minute in front of today’s college kids….As John Stuart Mill noted in “On Liberty” in 1859, calls for civility are often a tool to enforce conformity.

…After decades of campus censorship, students have been taught not to appreciate freedom of speech, but rather to expect freedom from speech. This unnerving development can be seen in the rash of episodes last spring when students and even faculty pushed to bar commencement speakers and other public figures with whom they disagree.

This is no way to advance thought; in fact, it does just the opposite.

A commenter at the Williams college paper:

Melissa
This is a weak justification for shutting out a speaker because she takes a contrarian position on Feminism.You write, “Arguing with a speaker with whom one shares no common ground could amount to nothing more than each side validating its own views.” Without contrarian opinions, there is no opportunity for growth or challenges.

Does one argue with a novel taught in class? Hardly. You read the novel and then discuss what it had to say. By banning a book, you deprive yourself and others the opportunity to consider its words – which is really the goal of those who protested Venker’s speech. It’s no different from those who protested the teaching of Evolution, or books by Vonnegut, Twain, and Salinger in high school curricula (yes, this happens).

This editorial basically accepts that once people have developed a world view, they should not permit arguments and ideas counter to that view. What some Williams students could not accept is others in the community hearing a different opinion on Feminism than what they want them to think.

What’s lost in this pursuit of conceptual monoculture is the exercise of testing and improving ideas. At a University, that approach should be abhorrent to students and faculty alike.

As I’ve said before, free speech is especially important for bigots, assholes, and people saying uncomfortable things. (Nobody needs free speech to say “Have a nice day!”) To maintain free speech, it’s necessary for all of us to support the open airing of the ugliest speech — or simply speech we vigorously disagree with.

Oh, and hilariously, the speaker series is called “Uncomfortable Learning.”

Wait — I get it — they invite people they totally agree with and then listen to them speak while sitting in overly-hard chairs.


Do we need a separation between school and state?

bias, bigotry, bullies, censorship, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, elitism, free speech, hate speech, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, scandal, victimization

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Filed under: bias, bigotry, bullies, censorship, corruption, culture, discrimination, diversity, elitism, free speech, hate speech, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, pandering, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, scandal, victimization

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