Althouse | category: free speech



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

Judge Duncan's Wall Street Journal column: "My Struggle Session at Stanford Law School."

Stanford Law School’s website touts its “collegial culture” in which “collaboration and the open exchange of ideas are essential to life and learning.” Then there’s the culture I experienced when I visited Stanford last week.... 
When I arrived, the walls were festooned with posters denouncing me for crimes against women, gays, blacks and “trans people.” Plastered everywhere were photos of the students who had invited me and fliers declaring “You should be ASHAMED,” with the last word in large red capital letters and a horror-movie font. This didn’t seem “collegial.” Walking to the building where I would deliver my talk, I could hear loud chanting a good 50 yards away, reminiscent of a tent revival in its intensity. Some 100 students were massed outside the classroom as I entered, faces painted every color of the rainbow, waving signs and banners, jeering and stamping and howling.  As I entered the classroom, one protester screamed: “We hope your daughters get raped!”

It was a big protest, generated by the real human beings the law school had assembled as its student body, not propaganda on the institution's website. It's real life, like the life experienced beyond the courthouse and beyond the law school, and it's not that polite. You know, it's also not polite to put "trans people" in quotation marks. It's a more polished form of incivility, but law students have long protested about the way law dresses up and glosses over injustice.

Of course, “We hope your daughters get raped!” is crude and ugly, but the right to defend one's own body has been taken away by the judges, and now, in America, a woman who has been raped may be forced to endure a pregnancy from that rape. In that context, “We hope your daughters get raped!” means: You might feel some empathy for us if it happened to someone close to you.

I had been warned a few days before about a possible protest. But Stanford administrators assured me they were “on top of it,” that Stanford’s policies permitted “protest but not disruption.” They weren’t “on top of it.”

Yes. The school failed him. Not only did the website promise collegiality, administrators, it seems, directly promised conditions that he relied on. You could parse their promise. What does it mean to be "on top of it"? What is "it"? They didn't say they would stop the protest. The students had a right to protest. The line was drawn at disruption, and where's the line between protest and disruption? Can we have a collegial debate about that? I'll bet we can't!

Before my talk started, the mob flooded the room. Banners unfurled. Signs brandished: “FED SUCK,” “Trans Lives Matter” (this one upside down), and others that can’t be quoted in a family newspaper. A nervous dog—literally, a canine—was in the front row, fur striped with paint....

Speaking of empathy... don't bring a dog into a noisy, chaotic scene. And don't paint your dog. I wonder what size and breed. It is dangerous to everyone to have a "nervous dog" in a place like that, and it's cruel to the dog.

When the Federalist Society president tried to introduce me, the heckling began.... Try delivering a speech while being jeered at every third word. This was an utter farce, a staged public shaming. I stopped, pleaded with the students to stop the stream of insults (which only made them louder), and asked if administrators were present. Enter Tirien Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. 
Ms. Steinbach and (I later learned) other administrators were watching from the periphery. She hadn’t introduced herself to me. She asked to address the students. Something felt off. I asked her to tell the students their infantile behavior was inappropriate.

One could hardly expect the dean for diversity, equity and inclusion to take the judge's instruction and call the students babies. She had a lot of interests to mediate and an important, ongoing relationship with the students. 

She insisted she wanted to talk to all of us. Students began screaming, and I reluctantly gave way. Whereupon Ms. Steinbach opened a folio, took out a printed sheaf of papers, and delivered a six-minute speech addressing the question: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” What could that mean?

It's impossible for Wall Street Journal readers to guess what that could mean. It's out of context. Metaphors look weird when you don't know what they refer to. Clearly, it's questioning whether some effort is worth what you get from it. It's not that weird.

While the students rhythmically snapped, Ms. Steinbach attempted to explain. My “work,” she said, “has caused harm.” It “feels abhorrent” and “literally denies the humanity of people.” My presence put Ms. Steinbach in a tough spot, she said, because her job “is to create a space of belonging for all people” at Stanford. She assured me I was “absolutely welcome in this space” because “me and many people in this administration do absolutely believe in free speech.” 
I didn’t feel welcome—who would? And she repeated the cryptic question: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”

It's not that hard to understand, and you've deprived readers of the context. Steinbach's remarks made sense and dealt with the relationship between the speaker and the protesters that she needed to manage. She told him he was "absolutely welcome in this space," but he wants us to care about his feelings — he didn't feel welcome — but the students had their feelings too. Steinbach stood in a crossfire of feelings, and she did well enough.

I asked again what she meant, and she finally put the question plainly: Was my talk “worth the pain that this causes and the division that this causes?” 
Again she asserted her belief in free speech before equivocating: “I understand why people feel like the harm is so great that we might need to reconsider those policies, and luckily, they’re in a school where they can learn the advocacy skills to advocate for those changes.”

That is, Steinbach acknowledged that there are different legal positions that are taken about free speech and this, too, is a subject for debate in law school. That is certainly true. Free speech rights could be lost if people don't believe in their value. It's not that difficult to articulate the arguments for limitations on free speech. Those of us who care about free speech rights need to be vigilant. They've been under attack for centuries, and they are under attack right now, from people, like those students, who would characterize some spoken words as a physical injury.

Then she turned the floor back over to me, while hoping I could “learn too” and “listen through your partisan lens, the hyperpolitical lens.”

That sentence needs editing to put "hoping" closer to "she," but you can figure it out. She told him that she hoped he could not just talk to the students and teach them but listen to them and learn from them. She accused him of being political — hyperpolitical

In closing, she said: “I look out and I don’t ask, ‘What’s going on here?’ I look out and I say, ‘I’m glad this is going on here.’ ”

She was suggesting that protesting be seen in a positive light. Perhaps somehow the judge could have taken a lighthearted tone — I love protests! I was a student protester myself and I know how it feels to be righteously angry, etc. etc. — and connected it back to the things he came prepared to say. There was a path in that direction, but it was a road not taken.

This is on video, and the entire event is on audio, in case you’re wondering....

I've heard the audio. The judge becomes impassioned, and he expresses a good amount of hostility toward the students. As a law professor (retired), I can't imagine openly expressing hostility toward students who were aiming hostility at me. I lock into professor mode, mostly because I believe I have a duty to care for the students but also because I think a dispassionate, professional demeanor is more effective — especially when your interlocutors are highly emotional. Set the right example, and maybe they will meet you where you can coexist in something approaching conversation. 

Two days later, Jenny Martinez and Marc Tessier-Lavinge, respectively the law school’s dean and the university’s president, formally apologized, confirming that protesters and administrators had violated Stanford policy. I’m grateful and I accepted. 
The matter hasn’t dropped, though. This week, nearly one-third of Stanford law students continued the protest—donning masks, wearing black, and forming a “human corridor” inside the school... protesting Ms. Martinez for having apologized to me....

I don't think it was right to apologize for what Steinbach did. And I think the students had the right to protest. If they crossed the line into disruption, Martinez (and Tessier-Lavinge) should specify exactly where that happened. And they ought to apologize for the institution's failure to do enough to prevent the disruption or to deal with it quickly. 

The protesters showed not the foggiest grasp of the basic concepts of legal discourse: That one must meet reason with reason, not power. That jeering contempt is the opposite of persuasion.

I don't think the students needed to limit themselves to "legal discourse." This wasn't the courtroom or the classroom. They were protesting, going outside of the "legal discourse" that the judge would have preferred. Protesting is an old tradition, and it's important, though sometimes rude and ugly. The students seem to have thought — with some reason — that judges like Duncan deserve to be made to feel ashamed of themselves and they went into the familiar theatrical protest style we Americans have loved and hated for so many years.  

That the law protects the speaker from the mob, not the mob from the speaker.

He keeps calling students "the mob." Where's the love? These are our young people. They did not commit violence or threaten imminent violence, so there was no occasion to protect him, as First Amendment law is traditionally understood. There's no First Amendment right not to be heckled! And calling the speaks "the mob" doesn't take away their rights. 

Worst of all, Ms. Steinbach’s remarks made clear she is proud that Stanford students are being taught this is the way law should be.

She wanted the students to know that the First Amendment — which Stanford, though private, is bound to follow —  is subject to interpretation and they may apply their legal skills to working to develop strong exceptions to free speech. Ironically, Duncan is arguing for a strong exception to free speech if he means to say that the students may not shout him down. 

I have been criticized in the media for getting angry at the protesters. It’s true I called them “appalling idiots,” “bullies” and “hypocrites.” They are, and I won’t apologize for saying so. Sometimes anger is the proper response to vicious behavior.

All right, then. He stands by his angry expressions. As I said, I would not, as a law professor, talk to students that way. But he wants the freedom to lean into anger. That puts him on the same page with them. Whatever happened to "the foggiest grasp of the basic concepts of legal discourse."

There's a lot of fog here!

"[Judge Kyle] Duncan was treated like a politician, because that’s what he is..."

"... and politicians have long understood that, in the United States, shouting at them is our birthright.... The idea that a political speech deserves the quiet deference one brings to a golf course or a tennis match is an idea that runs counter to our American traditions. I’m old enough to remember the last State of the Union address, and I recall Majorie Taylor Greene spending the president’s entire speech braying like a howler monkey looking for a date. I see no reason for Stanford Law students to comport themselves better than Republican members of Congress."

"Judges are not used to being treated like politicians. They’re used to being treated like they’re above the political fray, like they’re scientists musing about whether the laws allow for covalent or ionic bonds, as opposed to jackboots determining who gets to have a family. Conservative judges, like Duncan, have chosen to insert their unreconstructed thoughts into our national political debates.... But the rest of us aren’t allowed to scream and shout and stomp our feet when these unelected, unaccountable rulers poke their heads out long enough to indoctrinate the next generation of fascist sympathizers?"

ALSO: There's been a lot of talk about how the students (and the DEI dean) planned their protest, but did the Federalist Society and Judge Duncan plan to leverage what had to be the expected protest? Mystal thinks so:
Duncan seems to have come prepared for all of this. He arrived brandishing his cell phone and proceeded to record the protesters.

Well, everyone has a cell phone. Is Mystal saying Duncan walked through the door with his phone aimed at the students' faces or did he merely get out his phone and record defensively? 

And, almost as soon as he left the building, Federalist Society sycophants rushed out heavily edited videos of Duncan’s appearance on social media. Then they did their old song and dance about free speech (for conservatives, not the protesters) and civility (toward conservatives, not the marginalized people conservatives hate).

For that, I add the "civility bullshit" tag to this post. 

As is usual, they collapsed the difference between the right to appear at Stanford and the right to force Stanford students to sit there like docile automatons while Duncan held forth. Everybody has the right to speak; nobody has the right to be heard over the din of the crowd. But the conservative echosphere pretends not to understand this distinction.

You will have observed that I'm not in the conservative echosphere. 

In a more extensive recording of the event—one not edited by friends of the FedSoc—Duncan can be seen being hostile and combative towards the students who stayed to ask him questions. He called some of them “appalling” (later he would call them “dogshit”) and wouldn’t answer many of their questions....

The entire escapade sure seems like a set-up. Duncan went into a hostile environment spoiling for a fight, got one, videotaped it, and then ran to his media spokes-buddies to cast himself as a victim....

I don't know. I think a carefully scripted sequence of events would not have shown the judge exhibiting hostility toward students and calling them "dogshit"! But I do think that after the incident occurred, the "conservative echosphere" hit the ground running, and the other side stood flat-footed. Mystal's essay is the first strong support of the students I've seen, and it only came out today, and the incident took place 6 days ago.

"You might read comments somewhere that I was, at some point, given 'permission' to deliver my remarks by the DEI Assistant Dean, Steinbach. Nonsense."

"For a good 20-30 minutes (I’m estimating), I was ruthlessly mocked and shouted down by a mob after every third word. And then Steinbach launched into her bizarre prepared speech where she simultaneously 'welcomed' me to campus and told me how horrible and hurtful I was to the community. Then she said I should be free to deliver my remarks. Try delivering a lecture under those circumstances. Basically, they wanted me to make a hostage video. No thanks. The whole thing was a staged public shaming, and after I realized that I refused to play along."

Said Judge Kyle Duncan, interviewed by Rod Dreher (at Substack).

So, the judge declined to deliver his speech after Steinbach quieted the crowd for him. He's also now calling for her to be fired. He says it was a "staged public shaming," but that's the same thing as saying that the protest was planned. He and his supporters are engaging in staged public shaming too, and they want a person not just disrupted on one evening but deprived of her job. That's tit for tat and a refusal to stand down.

I'm contemplating whether to give this post my "civility bullshit" tag. I'm against one-sided calls to stand down in the name of etiquette. The students protested, as students do. They're not polite. Should they be more polite? Don't say yes just because they're on the other side from you. But in this case, Duncan is not standing down. He's attacking the students harshly and he wants Dean Steinbach — who stepped up when he asked for an administrator to restore order — fired.

Duncan makes a general argument for civility in a law school. Lawyers must speak "with care, precision, and respect for your opponent." What the protesting students were doing, he says, is "the opposite of what it means to be a lawyer." Lawyers never get angry and shout and cut off other people who are trying to speak?

And is a law school just a machine for turning young people into practicing lawyers? No, you can do a lot of things with a law degree, and you can go to any school for your own purposes, including a plan to become a political activist or even to acquire a deep understanding of the subject matter. 

It's not inherent in the nature of law school that you must meet high standards of etiquette. The school may want to provide a welcoming space to its guests, but the students have ideas of their own. How do you convince them to hear out speakers they revile? I don't think it's by telling law students they need to act like lawyers in a courtroom. That's not persuasive! Of course, a federal judge is used to experiencing extreme deference in the courtroom. That's not the rough and tumble of a public speech.

Here's Duncan's direct attack on Steinbach:
Instead of explaining to the students that they should respect an invited guest at the law school (yes, a federal judge, but really this applies to any guest), even one they might disagree with passionately, she launched into a bizarre (and already printed out) monologue where she accused me of causing “hurt” and “division” in the law school community by my mere presence on campus. So, this had the effect of validating the mob. Then, at the same time, she pretended to “welcome” me to campus so that I could express my views. All of this was delivered, as anyone can see from the video, in the voice and idiom of a therapist.

He's criticizing her voice. He's tone policing!

I found it profoundly creepy.

He doesn't need protection from creepiness. If the tables were turned, and he were the lefty, wouldn't conservatives call him a "snowflake"?

It was the language of “compassion” and “feelings,” but it came across as deeply controlling and aggressive.

It "came across as".... You're calling for a person to lose her job. You, with your life tenure guarantee. Your subjective experience is worth hearing about, but it doesn't establish that she did something terribly wrong. She had a hard task to carry out, and you ought to try to understand how it felt, subjectively, to her.  

Many people are talking about the weird metaphor she used: “Was the juice worth the squeeze?” I had no idea what she was talking about, but at some point I realized that she meant, “Yes, you were invited to campus, and we ‘welcome’ you. But your presence here is causing such hurt and division. So, was what you were going to talk about really worth all this pain you’re causing by coming here?” In other words, it’s just a folksy way of giving these students a heckler’s veto.

But it's not a heckler's veto, because she was clearing the way for you to speak. She was caring for the students' concerns and simultaneously helping you.  She was engaging in an intellectual consideration of the issues of protest and the right to hear a speaker. Notice the question mark: "Was the juice worth the squeeze?" It's an important question, and she answered it in your favor while also supporting the students.

If they hate you enough, then surely it wasn’t worth your coming to campus. Apply that twisted idea to the civil rights movement, and see where you end up. It isn’t on the side of the people marching across the Selma bridge.

You reject their analogies, and I'm pretty sure they'll reject that one of yours. 

In other words, what the dean was preaching is the exact opposite of the law of free speech. We protect the speaker from the mob, not the mob from the speaker.

Was there a threat of physical violence? No. Do we protect the speaker from the words of the "mob"? Duncan must know it's not "the exact opposite of the law of free speech." This wasn't a case of the speaker being punished for riling up the crowd. It was only a case of the crowd drowning out the speaker's speech with more speech. 

And here was a dean of one of the best law schools in the world using the exact opposite of that basic principle to silence a sitting federal judge....

How was she silencing you? She was clearing the way for you, she just took longer to do it than you would have liked and she acknowledged the feelings and opinions of the protesters as she did it.

Duncan returns to the idea of a law school as the manufacturer of lawyers:

[T]he whole point of law school is to train bright-yet-unformed young minds to “think like a lawyer.” You’ve seen The Paper Chase, of course. The brilliant professor Kingsfield humbles the first year law students with his withering Socratic interrogation. Now we’ve evidently turned that model upside down.

Has he seen the movie "The Paper Chase"?! Kingsfield isn't the hero. The law student is, and the film audience is on the side of the student. The film turns that model upside down!

Ah, but Duncan's idea is that he — in the classroom — not as a professor, but an outside speaker — ought to have been respected and revered like the old-fashioned law prof. In that light, he spoofs:

The first year law students ridicule and silence Kingsfield for his cis-hetero-normativity, and then Kingsfield is publicly disciplined by the assistant DEI dean for harming the community’s sense of “belonging” by expecting them to recite a case.

Duncan was not "publicly disciplined." He was interrupted by rude noise from students, and the DEI dean restored order using an overlong speech he didn't enjoy. The dean invited the students to leave the room and they did. He was never pushed to help them feel that they belonged.

What did Duncan actually say after order was restored? He says he declined to give his prepared remarks. So what did he do instead? Did he rise to the occasion? Is there video of what went on after Steinbach spoke? I'd like to see it. 

"[I]f we were able to more-or-less end teenage cigarette smoking over the last 20 years, it shouldn’t be out of the question to try to do the same with social-media use."

Says Bret Stephens, a NYT conservative columnist, in conversation with Gail Collins, a NYT liberaI columnist. 

Collins agrees and says she's "happy to insist" that Apple prevent the download of social-media apps to phones known to be used by teenagers.

Stephens asserts that "most teenagers" would "welcome" this exclusion from social media.
It’s hard enough being 14 or 15 without needing to panic about some embarrassing Instagram pic or discovering too late that something stupid or awful you wrote on Facebook or Twitter at 16 comes back to haunt you at 20.... We owe it to the kids to shield them from creating public records of their own indiscretions and idiocies. Life will come roaring at them soon enough. I say no social media till they’re old enough to vote, smoke and maybe even buy a drink. Full-frontal stupidity should be left to the grown-ups — like us!

You can see he thinks he's cute... just delightful. So blithely depriving teenagers of freedom of speech. Not even a word about freedom, just safety and protection, and no insight whatsoever into what you are teaching young people these days or awareness of what they will think of you and your repression of them and the values you crudely imposed.

Speaking of wearing blinders... in another part of this rambling but short conversation, they talk about the accomplishments of Jimmy Carter, and Stephens says, "Made air travel affordable to middle-class America for the first time," then barrels on to the next subject. I know this column is supposed to be jaunty, moving swiftly from one topic to the next, but it made me stop and think of the topic the good-thinkers always think about except when they don't: Global warming.

Isn't Jimmy Carter a major villain in the story of anthropogenic climate change? 

"I’m still not free of this anger... If I’d been a woman and the critic a man, this would be seen differently."

Said Marco Goecke, quoted in "He Smeared Feces on a Critic, and Lost a Job. Now, He Wants to Be Heard. Marco Goecke on Thursday lost his position as ballet director at Hanover’s main opera house. The reaction has 'been a bit blown up,' he says" (NYT). 
Newspaper coverage of the incident, though, had focused only on the dog feces, he said, whereas he wanted to start a debate about what should be allowed in arts criticism. 

Well, he failed at that. You do something attention-getting and people will focus on what you yourself are responsible for drawing their attention to.  If dog-shit-smearing was your idea of how to start a debate about anything other than dog-shit-smearing, you are a fool. 

Newspaper critics, he said, should not write in “a personal and hateful way,” especially when theaters and opera houses were still trying to tempt audiences back after pandemic shutdowns and interruptions.... 
He welcomed constructive criticism, he said. He insisted he believed in freedom of speech where “nobody gets hurt.”

You hurt the critic by using dog shit as your mode of expression. You demonstrated where the line is drawn. 

And it is so pathetic to use the old gender reversal here. We're supposed to picture a woman smearing dog shit on a man to try to help your side of the argument? How would we feel about this action if somebody else had done it? You did it! We're looking at you!

In London, for "grossly offensive" speech — about "pride" flags — a man is required to "arrange a voluntary interview" — whatever that means.

Here's the letter (via Andrew Sullivan):

In London, for

Note the language: "I therefore require you to contact me to arrange a voluntary interview so this matter can be further investigated."

Either it's not voluntary or it's not required. I find that speech grossly offensive.

Sullivan's comment is: "This is not a document that can be found in anything close to a free country. Every day, I'm grateful for the First Amendment."

Don't count on the First Amendment, standing alone. We need people who understand and care about its fundamental principles, or it will be gone, interpreted out of existence.

Matt Taibbi talks to Joe Rogan about the Twitter Files.

It's all interesting, but let me highlight the part that begins around 10 minutes in, when Taibbi explains Twitter's "glorification of violence" policy, which he says is "the speech version of stochastic terrorism":
Stochastic terrorism is... this idea that you can incite people to violence by saying things that are not specifically inciting but are statistically likely to create somebody who will do something violent even if it's not individually predictable. 
That's what they did with Trump. They basically invented this concept that yes, he may not have actually incited violence, but the whole totality of his persona is inciting, so we're going to strike him. So they sort of massively expanded the purview of things they can censor, just in that one moment.

In The Twitter Files, people, in real time, devising this policy and deciding that it's the right idea. 

There was an article in Scientific American last November about stochastic terrorism: "How Stochastic Terrorism Uses Disgust to Incite Violence/Pundits are weaponizing disgust to fuel violence, and it’s affecting our humanity." That's by Bryn Nelson. 

Why have I never noticed this term before? From the Scientific American article:

Dehumanizing and vilifying a person or group of people can provoke what scholars and law enforcement officials call stochastic terrorism, in which ideologically driven hate speech increases the likelihood that people will violently and unpredictably attack the targets of vicious claims.... 

Propagandists have fomented disgust to dehumanize Jewish people as vermin; Black people as subhuman apes; Indigenous people as “savages”; immigrants as “animals” unworthy of protection; and members of the LGBTQ community as sexual deviants and “predators” who prey upon children.... 

People who are trying to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender kids and purge pro-gay books from library shelves have stirred up disgust by invoking the specter of sexual “grooming”; others have made the same accusations against those speaking out against such legislative efforts, and some have used the idea to fuel disinformation about the cause of scattered pediatric monkeypox cases. The manufactured grooming mythology has spurred another round of moral disgust and outrage.... 

Researchers have estimated that transgender people are more than fourfold more likely to be the victims of violent crime than their cisgender counterparts, and while not a direct link to violence, other scientists have linked disgust sensitivity and authoritarianism to a higher opposition to transgender rights.....  

So if your criticism of something you don't like elicits disgust, you can, in fairly short order, be accused of inciting violence. I certainly have been seeing this form of reasoning, which, as Taibbi said, "massively expand[s] the purview of things [some people believe] they can censor." It's so threatening to free speech values, especially when biased censors are deciding which speech fomented the disgust they find... disgusting.  

Here's Christopher Rufo's response to the Scientific American article: "The 'Stochastic Terror' Lie/The Left’s latest gambit for suppressing speech is built on preposterous grounds." 

What does the word "stochastic" mean? OED: "Randomly determined; that follows some random probability distribution or pattern, so that its behaviour may be analysed statistically but not predicted precisely."

The idea of "stochastic terrorism" seems designed to blame someone as a leader of a group when there is no group. And the "leader" is a speaker who has only stimulated the beliefs and emotions that may cause some listeners to decide individually and on their own to take action.  

"The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box."

"But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act."

Said Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, quoted in "Meta to Reinstate Trump’s Facebook and Instagram Accounts/Donald Trump had been barred from the social media platforms after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol. Twitter reinstated him last year" (NYT).

I agree that "The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box." But why did it suddenly become true for Clegg? I've got to presume Meta recalculated its interests. 

Clegg hedges, reserving the power to kick Trump and others out again, when the calculation changes, but at least he said "clear" — "clear risk of real world harm" — and acknowledges a "high bar." 

ADDED: Here's where the exception swallows the rule: "harm." It could encompass hurt feelings and lost economic opportunities — and lost elections. The modifier "real world" doesn't keep "harm" from including the ordinary consequences of effective speech. Then, "clear risk" isn't much of a limitation. You could have a clear 5% risk. I appreciate the Clegg at least mouthed a commitment to free speech and purported to set a high bar, but there really is no assurance at all. There are words to be thrown in his face the next time Meta kicks out somebody we care about, but he'll have words to use to say they followed their commitment to the letter.

"It honestly seems like it was written by a teenage Tumblr user who, having come into contact with some new and exciting ideas about social justice, seeks to impose them widely and lecture perceived wrongdoers gleefully."

Writes Jill Filipovic, in "Hamline University’s Controversial Firing Is a Warning/Insistence that others follow one’s strict religion is authoritarian and illiberal no matter what the religion is" (Slate). She's talking about a statement written by Hamlin University President Dr. Fayneese S. Miller. 

Filipovic continues:

[Miller] writes that “when we harm, we should listen rather than debate the merits of or extent of that harm” and that “the classroom incident is only one of several instances in which their religious beliefs have been challenged.” (God forbid a college student have their beliefs challenged.) But this is where it goes really off the rails:

As a caring community, there are times when a healthy examination of expression is not only prudent, but necessary. This is particularly the case when we know that our expression has potential to cause harm. When that happens, we must care enough to find other ways to make our voices and viewpoints heard. Perspectives should be informed, mindful and critical, as befits an education steeped in the tenets of a liberal arts education. We believe in academic freedom, but it should not and cannot be used to excuse away behavior that harms others.

I realize I sound like a crotchety old conservative here, but college classrooms should not be “safe spaces.” They can’t be safe spaces. They should be respectful spaces, and professors and students alike should treat each other with consideration, but “cause no emotional harm” is not, in fact, a value to which academic institutions should aspire, or an ideal they can ever realistically reach—especially when “this is harmful” has become an easy cudgel to use in order to get one’s way.

Much more at the link. It's interesting to see a person who wants to maintain her status as a left-winger struggle with all of this:

This incident is making headlines because conservatives have latched onto it as another example of left-wing “cancel culture.” But how a conservative interpretation of Islam that gets a sensitive and thoughtful art history lecturer fired is “left-wing” is beyond me.

I've bold-faced what is the second-to-last sentence. The light bulb comes on! 

But there's one more sentence. It's not a snapping off of the light — more of an adjustment of the dimmer switch:

It is true, though, that many people on the left have stayed quiet about this one, because, well, one doesn’t want to aid a perceived enemy, and perhaps because we want to be sensitive to Muslims who are undeniably often mistreated in the United States. 

We'll see where Filopovic goes from here. I said I found it interesting when someone who wants to be left wing struggles with issues conservatives care about, but that's an understatement. It is the strongest interest that has powered my blogging over the years.

I'm sure I had some dispute with Filipovic long ago, but I can't remember what it was, and I think at the time she was a law student while I was a law professor. Anyway, she graduated from law school in 2008, and she's turning 40 this year (the same year my younger son turns 40), so there's no reason to shrink from challenging her, and apparently she's in favor of the intellectual challenge. 

So I'll go ahead and wonder out loud whether Filipovic intended to be so transgressive as to compare a black woman — Hamlin University President Dr. Fayneese S. Miller — to naive teenager — "a teenage Tumblr user who [has just] come into contact with some new and exciting ideas about social justice."

I'm not saying that's racist or sexist, but I think a typical left-winger would say it is. I think it's anti-racist to apply the same vigorous criticism to a black woman that you'd apply to a white man.

But that's another one of these ideas that seem like something a "crotchety old conservative" would say.

In London, for "grossly offensive" speech — about "pride" flags — a man is required to "arrange a voluntary interview" — whatever that means.Matt Taibbi talks to Joe Rogan about the Twitter Files.

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