The Harpers free speech letter and controversy

Many of you have been asking for a more detailed account of what I think.  Here is an NYT summary of the debate, in case you have been living under a rock.  Of course I side with those who signed the letter, but I would add a few points.

First, I don’t think the letter itself quite pinpoints what has gone wrong, nor do I think that such a collective project is likely to do so.  Most of us would agree there is nothing wrong per se with voluntary standards of affiliation, or voluntary speech regulations in private institutions, nor should the NYT feel obliged to turn its platforms over to tyrants such as…say…Vladimir Putin.

The actual problem is that we have a new bunch of “speech regulators” (not in the legal sense, not usually at least) who are especially humorless and obnoxious and I would say neurotic — in the personality psychology sense of that word.  I say let’s complain about the real problem, namely the moral fiber, emotional temperaments, and factual worldviews of the individuals who have arrogated the new speech censorship functions to themselves.  I am free to raise that charge, a collective letter signed by 153 diverse intellectuals and artists really is not, and is strongly constrained toward the more “positive” and “constructive” approaches to the problem, or at least what might appear to be such.

The letter is descriptively accurate in blaming lack of “toleration” and increased “censoriousness” for our problems, but those words only make sense if you have a much deeper mental model of what is actually going on.  There is ultimately something question-begging about words that do not pin down the proper margin of objection, or what might be a correct worldview, or what might be a worldview we should in fact not tolerate in our affiliations.  In other words, a non-question-begging answer has to take sides to some extent, and that is especially hard for a collective or grand coalition to do.

That is fine!  No complaint from these quarters, and I am very glad they took the trouble to move forward with this project.  I know many of the signers, and those individuals I like, admire, and respect, to a person.  But in reality, the letter itself, de facto, decided to elevate consensus and reputational oomph over actual free speech about the real truths in our world.

So in the Straussian sense it is actually a letter about the limits and impotence of true free speech, and the need to be constrained by social consensus.

How about the signers and non-signers?  Here is from the NYT piece:

“We’re not just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter,” Mr. Williams, who is African-American, said. “It includes plenty of Black thinkers, Muslim thinkers, Jewish thinkers, people who are trans and gay, old and young, right wing and left wing.”

Only a very small number of individuals in the world even had the option of signing, and it seems the particular individuals chosen were selected with an eye toward their public and intellectual palatability.  Do you really think they would have invited [fill in the blank with name of “evil” person of your choice] to sign?  Or how about such a letter signed only by white males?  More prosaically, how about a few vocal Trump supporters or members of the IDW?

You can’t expect readers to scroll through thousands of names, but of course with internet technology you could have a linked pdf with a second tier of signers, more numerous and also more truly intellectually diverse.  The de facto message seems to be: “free speech is too important a cause to let just anybody sign onto.”

Again, what they did is fine!  I work with voluntary institutions all the time, and am quite familiar with “how things have to go.”

But again, let’s be honest.  To produce a paean to free speech, acceptable to Harper’s and worthy of receiving a non-condemnatory article in The New York Times, the organizers had to “restrict free speech” in a manner not altogether different than what they are objecting to.

Fortunately, most people will read the Harper’s letter straight up rather than in Straussian terms.  The Straussian reading is far more depressing than the pleasure you might feel at seeing this missive take center stage, if only for a day.


Probably because they care a lot more about what they think.

“...nor should the NYT feel obliged to turn its platforms over to tyrants such as…say…Tom Cotton”

No way TC gets in trouble with this post. No one will understand what he said. If you dazzle them with brilliance, baffle ‘em with bullshit.

Can’t dazzle.

There so much politics on this blog recently. I don't really care about this stuff. We need more economics!!

i second that - more economics would be awesome :)

Right, I enjoy the posts on urban land use, zoning issues and so on. Of course the game has changed lately for some major cities.

None of this matters. They will be punished for opposing the radical left.

Very shortly this web page will be famous among
all blog viewers, due to it's pleasant posts

Intellectuals not on the list of signatories who are actual victims of cancellation and physical assault, such as Charles Murray, James D. Watson, Larry Summers, Gregg Easterbrook, J. Michael Bailey, Jason Richwine, James Damore, Steve Hsu, and Heather Mac Donald.

Allison Stanger, who was beat up by the Woke ski bum mob at Middlebury, while trying to have a dialogue with Murray, is on the list, however.

It would be interesting to know who was invited but didn't sign and who would have signed but wasn't invited.

Names I don't see include Camille Paglia, Andrew Sullivan, Paul Graham, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Claire Lehmann, Michael Shermer, Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, Alice Dreger, Christina Hoff Somers, Theodore Dalrymple, Scott Alexander, Greg Greenwald, Julian Assange, David Reich, and Nicholas Wade.

Yet the letter seems to mention Sullivan as he was told not to write about blm.

The truth is that most hierarchies are there for good reasons. Those at the top are not there because they are white men, but because they are smarter and more competent than POC. There are exceptions, obviously, but that is what they are. Exceptions to the rule.
The reason why they try to shut down free speech is because they also know this to be true. Otherwise they would allow a full and free airing of such ideas with the confidence that their side (that disparities are the result of racism) would be accepted.

"Hierarchies exist for a reason" "they are meritocratic"

Smarter and more competent, indeed.

Yeah, that's why it wasn't surprising that the thought-police guy yesterday could find only 103 academics who dared to support Trump. The general take here was that this was 1984-style thought suppression, but in reality it was just that academics are generally a step up from stupid.

Yglesias deleted his tweets, Vox has now banned him from discussing the letter.

Ezra Klein in attacking his own partner:

“A lot of debates that sell themselves as being about free speech are actually about power. And there's *a lot* of power in being able to claim, and hold, the mantle of free speech defender.”

Fascinating look into Vox and its ideology

Haha, one person in this fooferaw is now not allowed to discuss particular subjects. So who has power of whom here? Ezra Klein, displaying that finely honed self awareness once again.

Ewwww....Ezra shows his true colors. I’m done taking that guy seriously....HE GONE

want to cancel him?

Oh Hell no! He's perfect in his position.

That is almost a perfect Straussian tweet. It is an expression of postmodernism with speech and ideology as claims to power so Ezra is signaling to the woke crowd with that. On the other hand, Ezra is far from a radical or anti-establishment person. He has a strong affinity for the Democratic Party and understands better than most that the whole point of politics is to gain power.

So Klein's statement, aside from being literally true and representing a hat-tip to woke culture, may not actually be a criticism of Yglesias at all beneath the surface since Klein is perfectly comfortable with power politics.

Ezra Klein has always struck me as the ultimate establishment toady.

He was always good at it.

It now looks Straussian all around. Klein posts a vague statement about the connection between speech and power then Yglesias follows up, "I would like to de-escalate this. Nobody is losing their job and I think I've spoken my mind very clearly on this subject. I am just trying to move on to other things instead of endless rounds of twitter wrangling."

He also retweets this posted from Vox's editor-in-chief Lauren Williams, "Proof that Twitter is not real life: In real life, I'm the EIC of Vox and the fucking boss. I don't tweet, so folks who don't know or work with me seem to think a variety of other people wield that power."

All in all, I would call this a qualified win for Yglesias. Ms. Williams is correct that people mistake Twitter for real life in more ways than one: it's actually not fun at all to have long, emotional arguments with work colleagues. Aside from being a waste of time, it winds up distracting from the things that (hopefully) make your job enjoyable and engaging in the first place. No apology, no retraction, no firing, moving on, mic drop.

Ezra Attacks Own Partner! Yggy ban-hammered! Almost as bad as when Kanye accused Kim of eating crackers in bed! Fascinating look into Vox ideology! Must attribute Skeptical!

The C Meister General is back.

I've missed her.

If I recall correctly that quote was in a podcast years or months ago. Or did he say this in response to Matthew Yglesias?

"But again, let’s be honest. To produce a paean to free speech, acceptable to Harper’s and worthy of receiving a non-condemnatory article in The New York Times, the organizers had to “restrict free speech” in a manner not altogether different than what they are objecting to."

I don't see how this is true at all. These are wildly different things. Not all restrictions are equal, or even close.

What I, and I think many others, are objecting to is every single disagreement being followed by calling people Nazis and then demanding they be treated as if they actually were Nazis. Physical violence, loss of jobs, social isolation, constant verbal harassment everywhere they go, etc.

That it's more one side than the other that has taken up these tactics does not mean people who object to it on the right are somehow using those same tactics back unless they are, again, calling them Nazis and then treating them like Nazis, and I don't see many or any examples of that at all.

Re: I don't see how this is true at all.

Neither do I. In fact is's unusually hyperbolic for this website, which is usually a platform of fairly down-to-earth thinking, regardless of its one agrees with the specifics. But no one asked me to sign-- yet I do not feel myself "canceled" for that fact.


Are you saying you need a safe space away from these microaggressions or do you feel like a snowflake going through virtuous victimhood?

And of course, as always, the constant dumb comparison that anyone who criticizes cancel culture is exactly the same as people demanding safe spaces.

Much like Tyler's poor reasoning, this just equates all opposition and ignores the differences in some lame attempt to get points from your own echo chamber. Saying I don't want to lose my job for having an opinion is not the same as saying I can't work in the same building as someone with a different opinion and they must be driven out or I will accuse my employer of denying my existence or some other ridiculous slogan that has oozed its way into mainstream discourse.

On the other hand, when it comes to having an opinion, not all subjects are created equal.

Nobody equated the two groups.
Nobody wants points from echo chambers.
There are other ways to interpret that Kek guy.

You seem to assign motives to things reflexively. It comes off quickly judgemental and ill considered. If there's anything I can say about Tyler's reasoning is that it isn't poor. You might not agree with it but it is given a lot of thought.

" Saying I don't want to lose my job ..."

Yes, your opinion has gravitas, it is the others that are rooted in "ridiculous slogans." Why am I not convinced?

Because during the Cold War, it often seemed every single disagreement was followed by calling people Communists and then demanding they be treated as if they actually were Communists. Physical violence, loss of jobs, social isolation, constant verbal harassment everywhere they went, etc.

Or have I missed how HUAC has started up again?

After World War II the United States and the Soviet Union found themselves on opposite sides of a “Cold War,” which pitted the democratic United States against the Communist Soviet Union. As the Cold War intensified, the frenzy over the perceived threat posed by Communists in the U.S. became known as the Red Scare. The United States government responded by creating the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was charged with identifying Communist threats to the United States. HUAC often pressured witnesses to surrender names and other information that could lead to the apprehension of Communists and Communist sympathizers. Committee members branded witnesses as “red” if they refused to comply or hesitated in answering committee questions.

HUAC was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and rebel activities on the part of private citizens, public employees and organizations suspected of having Communist ties. Citizens suspected of having ties to the communist party would be tried in a court of law.

Prior_approval: “This bad thing happened in the past, so it’s okay to do it now”

I guess

The unfunny author names are the tell.

+1 "the bad thing happened in the past, so it’s okay to do it now"
is no longer recognized as a mostly a priori fallacy.
it is taught as a tactic

prior uses it all the time but only against those he doesn't like. So yes, it's clearly a tactic.

HUAC was a congressional committee, a piece of the US government. It had a lot of power. This petition is bitching about private individuals applying social and economic pressure. You can't say "No one makes you shop at Walmart." and then complain when someone doesn't want to shop at Walmart.

McCarthyism was kind of a blip. The guy was to fame in 1950 and was disgraced by 1954. That was 66 years ago.

Edward R. Murrow brought down the curtain:"We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular."

Timely advice, methinks.

He probably thinks Alger Hiss was innocent and Chambers made the whole thing up with J. Edgar Hoover.

we still think chambers was guilty
but the pumpkin papers were planted by nixon&hoover

McCarthyism was largely voluntary, including the infamous Hollywodd blacklist. Federal and State governments did nothing except label people [Judenstern]. Mass hysteria, really, much like the Salem witchcraft trials.

This is what's going on with the left at present. It would pass except that the university base of this nonsense will likely survive, and it would get further promoted by government if and when the left wins.

Didn't they already win according to you guys?🤔

Wow, what a false summary of McCarthyism. Trying to fit a narrative, indeed. All kinds of government involvement, investigations, firings of government employees, the HUAC hearings, communications of concern to private party employers, etc.

McCarthyism would have been a nothing burger if McCarthy hadn't been a congressman heading a congressional committee. Most petty thieves don't actually physically harm or kill their victims. They know that the threat is usually sufficient.

Tailgunner Joe was tolerated, encouraged by the GOP in order to discredit, remove soft-on communism Dems. As soon as or not very long after the election was done, so was Joe.
Nothing like what's happening now (LOL).

.."alling them Nazis and then treating them like Nazis, and I don't see many or any examples of that at all."
What would you call Trump's July 3rd and 4 th speeches ? Left-wing fascists etc.

Very well said, Calliope.

I don’t see what Tyler’s “detailed account” actually explains.

The principal issue, more than the public shaming, is that we no longer have separation of employment and the exchange of opinions. It is indicative that the response letter referred to under point 6 of Tyler’s prior post was sent to the employer of one of the signatories of the Harper letter.

This is just making things up.

People are always getting fired for expressing opinions. Just mention the word "union" and see how long you get a call from HR about the newly revised ratings on your latest quarterly review.

+1 good comment

the employment/unemployment angle is big but the cancel/shame cult
is inclusive of many much broader cultural issues with consequences above & beyond employment

Firing people for their beliefs is very conservative! The Supreme Court just agreed with Trump, the GOP, Christian conservatives, on this point.

Why conservatives boo instead of cheer when conservatives are fired for their beliefs is baffling!?!

do you remember a few years ago watching the maoist mob at evergreen college wreckoning the drs. Weinstein? it was like watching the cultural revolution. every tactic &strategy right out of the maoist playbook. fascinating to watch, but it fubared that little college. wouldn't be surprised if it closed for good. everbody around these parts was sure it was an outlier/anomaly. we said the videos would make a great teaching model and it looks like we were correct

This is why I fully support the cancel culture in all it's manifestations.

The more vigorous and ubiquitous the better. It will inevitably result in failure, and all the told you so people will be suitably vigorous in mucking out the carcass of the organisation of any vestiges of this silly ideology. Or they will disappear entirely.

I see it as a market opportunity.

We have pretty lame Maoists now or is this the new "worse than Hitler" sort of bad.


I think TC is unfortunately correct here. To get published in Harper's you need to bering a certain set of academic credentials. Probably sloppily worded, but I hope you get the picture. To get a non-condemnation from the NYT you simply must be ideologically pure in your liberal credentials. No whiff of any heterodoxy allowable.

Which means to do both you pretty much limit yourself to a certain"select" group of people. You can't allow just anyone to sign, much less contribute, otherwise you will be rejected by one of the two. You simply must prevent certain people from participating.

To me, the greater question is why these ends are even desirable in the first place. Sure- I get the pragmatism. The NYT is influential and certain people will view your ideas more favoribly if given their seal of approval. But now we have an appeal to an authority that has done little to earn its authority and much to lose it.

It's not stupid or unjust. If your aim is to convince the left, it may hinder, not help, your cause to include right-wing intellectuals on the list of supporters.

While true, doesn't that speak to an even deeper problem? Shouldn't the message speak louder than the credentials?

Yes, that is to me the funny part.
The message itself is kind of banal of mealy-mouthed.
What it's really saying is "Listen, your intellectual leaders are telling you what to think!"

I often find myself in a teaching/mentoring position in my career, both formally and informally, and often tell the people I'm working with that the only bad answer is one they give because they think it's what I want to hear. Sometimes people need to be reminded that it's not just okay to disagree with your intellectual leaders, but it's necessary to be able to do so.

"It's not stupid or unjust. If your aim is to convince the left, it may hinder, not help, your cause to include right-wing intellectuals on the list of supporters."

+1, this is obviously true.

On the other hand, it's readily apparent that a portion of the Left has objected to the message itself.

I don't think the intended audience is leftists. I read it as a letter addressed to institutional leaders. The idea is, if there is a cancellation attempt against that institution or one of its employees for expressing a non-woke opinion, the leaders of that institution can go to their donors, advertisers and board members and say, "Hey, we are well within the centrist consensus by defending this employee's freedom of expression. See this letter to Harper's, for instance, and see all the famous and influential people who signed it." It gives them cover and helps preserve the Overton window.

“We’re not just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter,”

What a horribly racist, sexist, and ageist comment.

I blame the Nazis. Or antifa. Whichever.


Canada is to blame

Well as an “old white guy” (as well as “sitting around”) I don’t find this racist, sexist or ageist. To do so is already to concede the field those who cannot see beyond “identity”, whatever that’s supposed to be. On the contrary, I think it was a sensible remark, in this specific context, to disarm one potential line of criticism and to move the debate on to more interesting issues of principle.... But, of course, I shouldn’t have begun this comment with “as an old white guy”.

Well said, Tyler




I was too harsh in my initial rating and would like to make up for it.

>I say let’s complain about the real problem, namely the moral fiber, emotional temperaments, and factual worldviews of the individuals who have arrogated the new speech censorship functions to themselves.

In a sane world these people would be ignored. Yes dear, it is upsetting. Did you take your medication ignored.

They didn't arrogate these functions to themselves. They were granted that authority by people who pay attention to them.

Is it simply the administrative class, usually second rate people with too much education, aren't smart enough or too bootlickingly compliant to tell these people to sod off?

Maybe time for a second in my lifetime mucking out of the middle management class.

When an individual lacks moral fiber it’s fine to just observe that is the problem. Where we see a pattern of administrators capitulating to the mob, it’s more helpful to look at the incentives and pressure they face and how they are selected. That’s more of a systematic problem that we can do something about

They were all taught in the same places with the same ideologies.

A journalist in Canada, left leaning in the old working class left tradition, said he disagrees with many of the people who signed, but knows many of them are serious. But the reaction to the letter is telling him who are not serious.

Free speech has a magical quality. When you open your mouth you expose your wisdom and foolishness to the world. Most people thrive in a restrained speech environment; they don't make blithering idiots of themselves.

I think of it as a kind of ratchet: yes, it is itself a hugely constrained piece of speech, but it performs the function of saying, well, if we choose a suitably diverse and important group of people we can at least say out loud that there might be a problem, and pin that into the rock as a fixed point to work from. But while you hope it might be a fixed point you can work your way up the cliff from, it might turn out to be just one of the pins you swing from while you're falling.

What Tyler's saying, I think, is that free speech can only be protected by supporting the right to fee speech of those whose views we oppose. (See: Nazis: ACLU: Skokie, Illinois, 1978.) By restricting the signers of this letter to "nice" people like J.K. Rowling, does not realistically challenge anyone.

So they should have gotten the Grand High Koo-Koo of the KKK and the Fuhrer of the American Nazi to sign the letter? Um, no, Just no. Sometimes Caesar's wife does have to be above reproach.

Convicted felon David Duke would be hilarious as a signer. Especially if he wrote something along the lines of how, as a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, he appreciates the 1st Amendment, seeing as how he is banned from residing in the Schengen area due to his expressed beliefs (the Swiss don't care about tax fraud convictions), along with a number of EU arrests merely because of what he says and who he hangs out with.

There are two goals you could have with an open letter like this:

a. You might want to convince a lot of liberals and moderates that pushing back on cancel culture, supporting free speech even of ideas you disagree with, etc., is a good idea.

b. You might want to break a pattern of silence where many people privately think the "get this guy fired because he retweeted some random thing by JK Rowling" thing is crazy, but they don't know whether they're the only ones who think so. By making a big public statement, they can make it clear to other people who oppose cancel culture (either entirely or at least in its excesses) that they're not alone.

Both of these require collecting signers who will be respected by the class of people you're trying to convince. (a) requires more finding people whom your target audience admires, while (b) would also benefit from finding people with whom your target audience identifies.

Nobody's going to ask David Duke or Bozo the Clown to sign this letter, because their signatures don't add anything--the target audience doesn't take them seriously or want to follow their example. But Salmon Rushdie or Bari Weiss both probably do add something.

Exactly, right. They picked people that their target audience would find convincing.
Having Tyler's signature on this isn't going to change any left-wing minds.

The funny thing to me is how revealing it is of the fact that people on the left really do follow what they think is the opinions of their tribe. In fact they all know it so well, that they know that a good way to change their minds is to get a bunch of their thought leaders to tell them what to think.

" does not realistically challenge anyone."

One would have thought this was the case, but obviously we were wrong.

Not sure if you've heard, but JK Rowling is now officially a monster.

She'll be the Orson Scott Card of the next decade.

Rowling is going to write book after book based on her Mormon beliefs? Please, say it won't happen - Protego!

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but _all_ authors base their books on their beliefs. Some beliefs are just more recognizable in print than others. You should see some of the SF from the last couple of decades which has been nominated for Hugos and Nebula's. At least Card also tends to include an enjoyable story.

But of course the people on the letter don't care whether voices on the right are silenced. This letter only came about because the threat is now reaching some on the left.

That's heavily implied by the Letter itself.

"The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy."

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture:"

Exactly how effective is the radical right at constricting the free exchange of information?

You might not be aware of the harassment that journalists get from the far right but that is literally an attack on free speech. Activists too but some people think it comes with the work so they discount the crud they have to put up with. Political activism if it needs to be said is the lifeblood of the First Amendment.

Trump tried to stop the new books from John Bolton and his own niece Mary Trump. Coming from the President that is state censorship.

"how effective is the radical right at constricting the free exchange of information?"

+1, Yes the President attempted to stop the publication of two books and Failed in both cases.h

"Political activism if it needs to be said is the lifeblood of the First Amendment."

I'd think that'd be the other way around. The First Amendment doesn't need political activism. Political activism, on the other hand, will die off (literally!) without the protections of TFA.

Lots of NeverTrump people have been cancelled from conservative institutions:

We should push back against the Cancel culture everywhere. I think Trump has been bad in that regard. And yes, this should be called out too.

Conservatives pretty much always lose cultural battles. One reason is that we don't fight fire with fire. The only realistic way to stop people using a weapon against you is to be even more vicious and determined, not quote the Marquess of Queensberry.

Another perfect example of "virtuous victimhood."

Open carry, welfare reform, and opposition to regulations curbing CO2 emissions have been obvious cultural victories for the right. Private sector unions died with barely a whimper although, to be fair, that was a bipartisan cultural shift.

Private sector unions died with RICO and the crackdown on organized crime/the mob.

Open carry is a human rights issue and a human rights victory.

As for CO2 that tends to be a bit of a red herring of an issue.

No, they didn't. There were about five unions who had a problem with mob infiltration that extended beyond an occasional local around New York City or around Chicago. In regard to one of the four, it wasn't the La Cosa Nostra, but old-style Irish gangs that called the shots. The Justice Department launched a full-court press against three of these unions. They were assisted in their efforts by the aging of the mafia and the decline in personnel available to beat up any opposition.

The real problem private sector unions had is that improvements in living standards, public regulation, and customary practices took away a great deal of the motivation to organize. Union penetration had always been much more extensive in industry and construction than it had been in service sectors.

Whenever I hear someone describe a person as "a threat to democracy", let alone a sitting President, I know I can safely ignore anything that person says and will say in the future, for they are nothing but a vulgar demagogue and media whore.

As for the letter, it's nothing but "we support free speech... except that kind", as expected.

It seems to me the letter is a commitment device. When one of the signatories might find it expedient to join a Twitter mob in a month or two, they won't be able to anyway, because they Signed The Letter. In turn, this lets non-signatories know that if they too decide not to join the mob, they will have company.

" When one of the signatories might find it expedient to join a Twitter mob in a month or two, they won't be able to anyway, because they Signed The Letter. "

Assuming they don't retract their signature and then don't enthusiastically join the mob to prove their allegiance.

I expect Rushdie to be hanging out with the ayatollahs any day now, because if there is anything the mullahs know how to do, is whip up a mob.

Yeah, I'm thinking Rushdie might not find having a lot of randos on Twitter mad at him all that threatening....

Umm, they already did. That was Tyler's previous post. So no, this letter is already failing as a commitment device.

The distance from anecdotes to claims that “the free flow of ideas and information is daily being more constructed” in US intellectual life or US society broadly can only be traveled by collecting evidence, and this is singularly what the claimants have failed to do.

When the claim “liberals are suppressing speech & creating a chilling effect on campus” is researched, it doesn’t stand up to evidentiary scrutiny.

Those who make these & adjacent claims (“ The actual problem is that we have a new bunch of “speech regulators” (not in the legal sense, not usually at least) who are especially humorless and obnoxious”) seem very uninterested in substantiating them.

Here’s one: David Shor, a social democrat who worked on Obama’s campaign, was called a racist and eventually fire from his data analytics firm.

His crime? Tweeting out a professor’s research that violent protests have historically pushed the electorate to the right. The professor who wrote the research? Omar Wasow, a mixed race gentleman with an African American mother.

Thats a good example. A couple more in the NY Mag article google feeds you when you look it up.

All Lives Matter is racist. Black Lives Matter isn't.

George Orwell was right, Train the people to doublethink

This is not really that hard. "All Lives Matter" is not used as an expression of concern for all lives. It is used as an attempted repudiation of "Black Lives Matter". ALM is intended to belittle BLM, making it possible to give a pass to the concerns raised about state actors who behave as if black lives do not matter.

It is theoretically possible to use ALM in an affirmatively if banal way; I have never seen it. Its a cover for being upset blacks will not stay in their place and accept their unequal treatment by the state.

The Orwellian move it to equate white nationalism with a struggle for civil rights.

-10 for multiple Turing test fails

Its a cover for being upset blacks will not stay in their place and accept their unequal treatment by the state.

The Orwellian move it to equate white nationalism with a struggle for civil rights.

Pure crazy


Its a cover for being upset blacks will not stay in their place and accept their unequal treatment by the state.

The best kind of argument is the kind where you get to make up the intentions and beliefs of the other side. It's great--not only do you always win those arguments, but it always turns out the other side were all villains.

Of course, in reality, many well intentioned people have used the phrase. My guess is, the people who use it naively are responding to a dislike for the racial focus of BLM, but don't know how to articulate it.

I wish more did. Police misconduct and impunity is a serious problem that affects everyone in the US. It lands harder on blacks than whites, and harder on the poor than the middle class/rich, but it lands on everyone. Turning it into a discussion about racism probably makes it less likely that we'll do anything useful about it. Turning it into a Teaching Moment about critical race theory will do nothing useful about police misconduct or impunity, but will fill the heads of a lot of middlebrow types with fanciful, unfalsifiable theories of the world that will mislead them for years to come.

"My guess is, the people who use it naively are responding to a dislike for the racial focus of BLM, but don't know how to articulate it."

I would include open violence in this. I've seen a number of people with "All Lives Matter" bumper stickers and the like who, when asked, point to the riots, looting, and violence encouraged by BLM as being extremely problematic.


Thread winner so far ...

I think it's sometimes an objection to the implication that white lives don't matter, which is reinforced by the complete callousness towards and disregard for the many white victims (e.g. of police violence/killings), and failure to report on or discuss them.

... or maybe ... the many white victims ... of black people?
I think that's really the subtext here.

Because Black people have harmed whites SO MUCH, ya know.

Does it bother you that you literally have fabricate a clause ("of black people") and throw it in there to make your factious point?

And if you're going to be a collectivist about it, haven't they? Black-on-white homicides outnumber white-on-black homicides by more than 2-1. If every time a white person kills a black person, we consider it "racial," why not also the other way around, especially given that disparity, even more especially since disparities are supposedly proof of systematic discrimination.

Whether you think that clause is fabricated or not... you might be able to understand why many black people would read "All Lives Matter" that way.
If you really want to communicate,not just score points, you choose words according to the way your intended audience is likely to interpret them. Picking a fight with "Black Lives Matter" and making a stink by trying to replace it with "All Lives Matter" as some kind of counterpoint is not the way some who is actually trying to communicate behaves.

Also, the fact that your responded by bringing up the white-on-black or black-on-white homicide rate quite reinforces my point.

You're not trying to communicate. You're trying to keep score.
Well, if we're keeping score, maybe we should go back further than the last 30 years .... how many blacks have been harmed by whites over the last 500 ?

Hazel Meade, black people owned slaves (other black people). And massacred Native Americans (people of color).
If the tables were turned, would black folks in the USA have owned white slaves?
Obviously the answer is yes. So the only point of difference is that white folks had the opportunity to own black slaves and black folks didn't have the opportunity (not yet anyway) to own white slaves.
Did white folks sacrifice their own lives to free black folks from the slavery of other white folks, meanwhile making it illegal for black folks to enslave other black folks? Yes they did. Unfortunately that did not stop black people from massacring Native Americans and seizing their scared lands.
How do I know what black folks would do? Like you, I'm just making it up.

Again with the keeping score. Hmm. It seems like "All Lives Matter" really is some sort of intent to keep a score card in which harms caused BY blacks to others are meant to be stacked up against harms caused TO blacks. "All Lives Matter" translates directly to "What about the people killed by blacks, huh?"

I don't think it's fair for you to bring up the issue and then condemn other people for addressing the issue you raised. Honestly I have never heard another person make that connection so I do not think it is wide spread. I think the primary objection is that saying "black lives matter" makes it seem like other lives don't matter. Really if the BLM motto was "All Lives Matter" that would make perfect sense to me.

I don’t think there’s a disregard towards white victims of police brutality. A big turning point in the protests was when that old white man got shoved to the ground and left for dead by police in Buffalo. I probably saw more people share clips of that than the original George Floyd killing.

People in Minneapolis did not riot when a Somali-American police officer shot and killed unarmed Justine Damond.

I don't think there is public disregard, but I do think that media sources massively and disproportionately cover questionable police killings of blacks relative to questionable police killings of whites. Quick, what fraction of people shot dead by the police in the last year were black?

(Go find the Washington Post's police shooting database and look it up.)

Stop exaggerating, Zaua. He wasn't "left for dead."
By the way, you are such a wimp. Being "pushed down"--OMG, what an atrocity!

Correction Dr. Felicia Danay-St. Marie (if that is your real name), the "old White man" was "shoved to the ground." That's clearly far more brutal than being "pushed down."

Would that be the incident where the "old white man" approached the police closely and started doing something very strange with his cell phone? Some people have speculated that this was an attempt at some sort of electronic snooping or sabotage. In the heat of the moment, though, it also must have looked very much like some sort of strange attempt at a physical attack. Pushing him away (he'd approached to something like six inches in front of them) seems like a mild response to me. He fell down, and the police proceeded past him, apparently confident that the medic team was right behind them.

"All Lives Matter" is not used as an expression of concern for all lives. It is used as an attempted repudiation of "Black Lives Matter".

Very true. Except when it isn't. The problem is that people don't care in the slightest about what others' actual meaning is. It's what Kling calls "Asymmetric Insight"- the belief that you know what others "really mean" better than they do. Although it's really more akin to a call center employee flipping through their script book so they can read the bit following "When a customer says THIS:"

Well, since it's pretty clear that most black people interpret "All Lives Matter" as a rejection of "Black Lives Matter", if you are truly interested in racial harmony, you should stop using it.

Seems to be that "All Lives Matter" more about picking a fight with "Black Lives Matter" than anything else. And what does that signify? Greater concern for human life ... or some sort of wierd axe to grind with black people?

Black Lives Matter isn't "black people", so grinding one's axe merely indicates a dislike of that organization's interpretation of police violence as a primarily racial issue. One can believe that black lives matter without allegiance to Black Lives Matter (which is a devilishly clever name because it conflates these two concepts and allows for criticisms of the organization to be dismissed as racism). It all makes for quite the tidy non-falsifiable Gordian-knot / Kafka-trap.

Black Lives Matter is not really an "organization", it's a movement, that coalesced around a slogan that an organization came up with. Lot's of people use the hash tag and phrase without any intent to reference the organization at all.
I would venture a guess that you would have a hard time finding many black people openly critical of Black Lives Matter these days either. For better or worse, it IS the civil rights movement of our day. Regardless of whatever organization invented the term.

We can quibble about the word I used all day but the point is the movement is based on a false narrative

What do you think is the narrative? Why do you believe it is false? And why does it matter?

The narrative is that one or several striking anecdotes involving white police officers harming unarmed blacks must indicate that police brutality has a strong racial bias. As some have pointed out (e.g. Sam Harris) the actual statistics do not point at race as being a strong predictor of being killed by cops. To the extent a problem of excessive police brutality exists--though note that overall police killings are sharply down over the last 25 years--it is a problem impacting all races roughly in proportion to the number of encounters each has with police; hence: "all lives matter".

And are you asking why facts matter and/or why we should be motivated by reason instead of blind emotion?

That's NOT the narrative. The narrative is that when black people get killed or imprisoned or harmed, that that has an effect on society. That it MATTERS. It harms their families, it harms their communities, and that feeds back into their relationship with police forces and the larger society.

To me, this sounds condescending, as if black people were children in need of special nurturing. You know, Charles Murray has been vilified for years ostensibly because he's a 'racist,' which I don't think is true. However, the lines in the Bell Curve he wrote that made him a target were more likely the mention of how black and white IQs were converging for decades before the 'programs' of the late 60s started.They stopped doing so soon after. The whole massive therapeutic industry in academia and increasingly HR, is dependent on a 'narrative.' The actual outcome for their charges is at best secondary. Have you ever considered that maybe Right actually has the interests more at heart than the Left? Or at least the Left that dominates Race discussions.

They were converging quite a bit after the late 60's, weren't they?

I've read things that say that, yes. I don't have a lot of faith in IQ tests in any event. My only point was that the 'narrative' seems less about outcomes than process. There is a huge special interest group that is paid to address racism. How many get paid to confront, say, wealth disparity? If you do, you just seem jealous. But racism provides a good income as well as moral brownie points.

"The narrative is that when black people get killed or imprisoned or harmed, that that has an effect on society"
So we've had a month+ of protests to prove this obvious point which everyone pretty much believed to begin with? Congratulations! I hope the mathematicians don't start behaving this way since they might start rioting to bring notice to the fact that Order of Operations Matter.

Why does the veracity of the claims that animate a movement matter? Is that a serious question?

"Black Lives Matter is not really an "organization",
not true. it is an organization thus the "inc."
with at least 16 chapters

I didn't know MLK had a racist agenda when he said “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”

Perhaps some still believe in the dream for a society that does not define itself along race lines. But if you believe it today, you are a racist,

People still believe in the dream. They also want to see it in reality.

In this new Orwellian world hoping for a world where all lives matter is racist. People who call the 4th of July a celebration of white supremacy get big contracts with Disney. And people like Hazel praise racially divisive language as anti racist. Doublethink

Do you seriously think that BLM implies that white lives don't matter? If not then why are you picking a fight with it? If your goal is racial harmony, why are you picking a semantic fight with black people on the other side? Quite frankly, I think black people get to name their own goddamn movement.

And would you say that ALM would imply that black lives don't matter? Oops, you already did:
"if you are truly interested in racial harmony, you should stop using it"
I'm rusty at set-theory but I think "black lives" are members of the set "all lives".

Cowing to this innumerate, anti-rational rubbish of a movement isn't going to bring about racial harmony; only a migration in the direction of reasoned debate will do so. This is not a semantic fight, but rather, a fight against post-modern irrationality.

And people supported Hitler because he was an anti-communist, or because he was pre-German. or because he praised some race-based future. The German people had the right to choose the Nazi symbols that they preferred so who could attack the Nazi symbols. Just ignore the racial rhetoric of Hitler and let the Germans pick whatever race-based slogans they want. Hazel would have fit in her little Hitler youth outfit.

Yes, the (Jews, Whites) are evil who's symbols and memories need to be erased. We must impose racial quotas against (Jews, Whites). We must destroy the businesses of (Jews, Whites). The (Jews,Whites) have exploited us and we must seek reparations and seize control of their property. Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter is racist. Heil Hazel.

It is easy to see that Hazel supports the cancel culture. If I say All Lives Matter she attacks me as a racist. I can just as easily claim that she would support Nazis except they attacked the wrong group.

BTW way Hazel's defense of the new race-based slogans? The same way people tried to defend Germans under Hitler by saying that most were not card-carrying Nazies. They didn't support the final solution. But too many stayed silent while heated racial rhetoric was used to justify the Holocaust.

Hazel just agrees that the (Jews Whites) are to blame for the troubles of (Blacks, Germans) and race-based solutions, with threats of violence from some subset of (rioters, stormtroopers) is the way to go.

Just stay silent and let the mob rule.

Here's another one, Abigail Shrier, who wrote about transgenderism in teenagers and reached conclusions that the trans community objected to (as we know, Tyler considers transgender rights the defining moral issue of our time). She was fired by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

I can't find any information about an Abigail Shrier fired by Rhode Island Department of Health. Do you have a link? As for as I can tell she's a right leaning journalist/writer from this here:

The researcher upon whom Shrier relies for her writings in this area is a Brown professor, but had a consulting contract cancelled because of the paper she wrote in this area. Shrier is a writer and WSJ opinion writer. She has not been fired.

y81: Actually check before making factual claims. Getting the basic facts wrong or confused is very unlikely to lead to smarter conversation.

You're right: Lisa Littman is the researcher, Abigail Shrier is the reporter who wrote about her. I guess there was nothing wrong with firing Littman, since I got the name wrong, and it would be elitist to consider one fact more important than another.

If actually figuring things out is the point, and Littman was getting that job done, why fire her?

the usual reason -they didn't like the results of her research
the results made them feel "unsafe"

Was that vignette in Homage to Catalonia where he's chasing the right-winger down a trench trying to bayonet him. Orwell was running on the ground beside the trench, and every time he went to stick the bayonet in the right-winger pulled ahead a few steps. I always get a picture of Porky Pig chasing Daffy Duck when I read it-- Daffy just manages to spin his feet and pull his ass just a millimeter ahead of Porky's bayonet. It must have been one of the major disappointments of Orwell's life.

the thing with the rat chewing through the fellas cheek and eating his tongue was pretty good

Here's another one, Amy Wax, who wrote that poor people would fare better if they embraced bourgeois norms, like having children in wedlock, and was banned from teaching at Penn.

Amy Wax continues to teach a full course load at Penn Law. She is no longer permitted to teach a required freshman course. She continues to teach other elective courses where students have a choice whether they want to be in her course or not.

That's 0 for 2 for y81. The fake news brigade is out on full force today. Too bad for them the truth always wins.

Being banned from teaching a particular course because of your opinions is still an infringement of free speech. The fact that you are given some other job doesn't redeem the situation or justify the outrageous conduct of the university.

"When the claim “liberals are suppressing speech & creating a chilling effect on campus” is researched, it doesn’t stand up to evidentiary scrutiny."

The general claim is that the Left (many of whom are clearly illiberal) are attempting to de-platform or cancel speech they don't agree with.

And the Harper Letter itself is evidence that a great many people do believe this is happening:

"But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity."

"But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms."

"Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes."

Here's another one, Erika Christakis, who wrote that students should be free to choose their own Halloween costumes, and was forced from the Yale faculty.

They're still at Yale. They resigned from a role where they interacted a lot one-on-one with students in a particular dorm.

The students who did this basically took a giant crap in the punchbowl. The Christakises are extremely smart and impressive people, and driving them away from that role made the world a poorer place.

Erika Christakis is not at Yale. She resigned, because she said the atmosphere was not conducive to free inquiry. Are you and your comrades proud of creating that atmosphere?

a. Sorry, you're right. He's still at Yale, it looks like she's not.

b. Not my comrades--I'm opposed to cancelations.

Erika left Yale entirely a while after the Halloween events.

Students are dumb, that is why they are at school, one supposes.

What was intolerable about that situation is what the administration did.

Stupid people say stupid things. Then some overeducated idiot administrator listens to them, instead of telling them to settle down or go home.

The idiot administrator is often some schmuck with an MEd, not overeducated.

Here’s another. Emmanuel Cafferty, a blue collar utility worker for San Diego Gas & Electric, was on his way home when a driver gave him the middle finger. After multiple escalations by the driver, who was filming the incident, Cafferty responded with the okay sign. The driver posted it and claimed Cafferty flashed the white power symbol. Cafferty was fired by SD G&E.

Cafferty’s father is Irish and Mexican. His mother is Latina.

The left eats its own.

retraction watch has an orwellian one today. the authors of the crime study that doesn't fit the blm narrative have asked that it be retracted not because it is a bad study but because it is being "misused"

You'd probably agree that the idea that there is police bias or racism against blacks is just based on a few high profile (albeit awful) anecdotes, and that when researched, it doesn’t stand up to evidentiary scrutiny.

we think sombody telling a stranger what that stranger would agree with (essentially what they think about something) is intellectually lazy&dishonest, but very widespread these days

I will read further, but why should I care about some letter written by someone unknown that has no particular relevance, regardless of what twitter thinks? Rock dweller or not.

The letter is actually not linked? Forget about PDFs with second tier thinkers, how about some primary linking? Especially since I though it was a letter written by a person named Harper, and not from a magazine.

I wonder if Emily V. could properly be described as a Karen?

Is that accurate? Yes? No?

Who is Karen?

Karen is a racist and sexist term applied to any white woman who complains about anything. The complaints that get them internet fame are usually directed at identity groups whose grievances score higher on the woke scale (trans, black, etc.).

White women, who led the charge to create today's PC culture, are being outflanked on the left. It's really hard to feel sorry for most of the big-city Karens being mobbed online.

There's also an implication that Karen's complaints are about minor things and her outrage is out of proportion to the harm. (I have know idea why it's Karen, since this hardly seems to be related to sex). Of course, ironically, often times people proclaiming someone a Karen are themselves complaining about a minor thing and their outrage is out of proportion to the harm.

It's Karens all the way down

I agree, it's hard to feel sorry for most of the Karens, hoist on their own petards. (The real racists live in lily white enclaves so they never have any contact with POCs.) It's like when some feminist's son is accused of rape due to a drunken college encounter: I feel sorry for the boy, who is being punished for the sins of his mother in creating a hostile culture, but for the mother I feel the same glee and hilarity that I feel when reading about the destruction of Dresden and Hamburg.

You have to have a cold hard heart to feel any glee or hilarity for the slaughter of human beings in Hamburg and Dresden. Most of those Germans had little or nothing to do with the Nazis that ruled them and little or nothing to do with the Holocaust. Those bombings also made very little real contribution to the ending of the war. It was just stupid and senseless slaughter.

Your point is important only in-as-much as this was an effort to address a broad spectrum of attacks on “free speech” and not just the more progressive ones that have become publicly visible over the last year. I took it as the latter.

This situation is an inevitable result of the way that US academia has established itself as a rent seeking organization. Essentially the US academic system is designed to extract rents rather than actually produce anything useful. The US subsidies of tuition loans, the giant endowments and the sheepskin effect are all part of this. Rent seeking organisations are always subject to parasitic fights for the spoils that get increasingly vicious since the overall system is so strongly established it cannot fail. So game theory is strongly in favour of constant escalation. By contrast private companies usually cannot afford these rent seeking fighting since they will go bankrupt. We need a Henry 8th to dissolve these modern monasteries. I would suggest a super tax on endowments as a start, ban on tuition loan subsidies, prizes rather than grants for research and abolish tenure.

Multiple people on the list have a nefarious history of cancelling pro-Palestinian speech in the academy. That alone (to say nothing of other cancel-friendly examples among the signatories) invalidates the entire effort. So no surprise people are upset...

+1. Pro-Palestinian professor Steven Salaita has got to be the most outrageous example of an academic being cancelled. He lost a tenure-track position and is a bus driver today according to Wikipedia. Any conservative academics get cancelled to the point where the only job they can get is bus driver?

And remember when New York Times columnist Bret Stephens who constantly decries cancel culture tried to get someone fired for criticizing him on Twitter?

I’d guess that many of people complaining about cancel culture have no problem with people being cancelled, but they just think the wrong people are being cancelled. It is entirely reasonable for a pro-free speech movement to try to prevent itself from being taken over by those people.

BTW that should say “tenured,” not “tenure-track.” Even worse than I remember.

"Any conservative academics get cancelled to the point where the only job they can get is bus driver?"

What does that have to do with anything? Republicans/conservatives didn't get Steven Salaita cancelled.

Also you kind of left out this part:

"As a result of this controversy, the university was censured by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP),[55] and finally awarded Salaita in excess of $800,000 in a settlement."

"I’d guess that many of people complaining about cancel culture have no problem with people being cancelled"

It's always useful to clog up public discussions with guesses and hunches.

Facts are my favorite way to do it. Read the comments about McCloskey and Weiss elsewhere on the page.

Steven Salaita is a vicious anti-Semite who says he wishes the Jews in Israel/Palestine would "go missing." Free speech means the government cannot prosecute him for saying so, despite so-called hate speech laws. I agree that no one should ever be prosecuted for an opinion, no matter how loathsome. But the University of Illinois does not have to hire him. Even if they wrote a letter of engagement, it can be retracted, just as other people have their job offers retracted when something bad turns up in their background check. (It almost happened to me.)

Well, that’s true of all other “cancel culture” examples too. The government isn’t doing it. No one is entitled to a job or a right to speak at a university. So if you want to extend the concept of free speech to include something like not being fired for making controversial Twitter posts unrelated to your job, that’s got to cover the Salaita situation too. I see a lot of hypocrisy when prominent critics of cancel culture try to get their critics cancelled. For example, one of the signatories of the Harper letter defended the treatment of Salaita:

(Also, Salaita said West Bank settlers, not all Jews in Israel/Palestine.)

""You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.""

That sounds pretty damn anti-Semetic to me.

People say similar things about other colonizers or perceived colonizers like Europeans in Africa or Chinese in Tibet. People even say similar things about immigrants in America. Salaita in other tweets specifically said that he was not making this an ethnic issue about Jews and Arabs.

But my main point is not whether Salaita is racist, which I think you could certainly argue both ways; it’s that it’s hypocritical for people to argue that “cancel culture” is threatening free speech by blacklisting people from academia who are perceived to be racist, but then defend the blacklisting of someone perceived to be racist against a different group. At that point, it is not an opposition to cancel culture but only a disagreement about who should be cancelled.

As I pointed out above Salaita was awarded an $800K settlement over the issue. So what is your point exactly?

+1. Good point. This is for some reason overlooked by this crowd. Let's be clear it is cancel culture.

Career tenure is not a shield to protect free thought but a sword to enforce conformity.

Fascinating turnabout in my lifetime, and if I were a management-side labor lawyer negotiating the institution's CBA I'd sure bring it up.

I personally don't find Tyler's take depressing. Social norms about what it is ok to say and not to say evolved fairly reasonably from, say, 1960 to 1985. I think it is a good thing most of us find the N word to be inappropriate.

Here is how I think about it: Nike wouldn't hire an economist to market their sporting goods. When you use sponsors to market a good or an idea, you use sponsors that look like your target market. You don't choose a sponsor with a bad public image even through they may be a top performer, you choose someone with a nice public image. The author isn't marketing to old white guys who mostly don't know about woke and don't care. The author is appealing to nice, diverse, and moderate liberals.

Yes, there should be some social norms against offensive speech. Like I am totally fine with this guy being publicly shamed and boycotted: There ought to be a balance where social norms are neither too strict nor too loose.

The really perverse thing is that social norms are most strict in the social circles least likely to contain racists to begin with. That creates kind of a distortionary effect where people in some progressive circles might be afraid to even criticize affirmative action but a regular person outside those circles feels totally comfortable approaching a random Asian family having a birthday dinner and saying “Trump is going to f— you.”

This comment makes your coworkers feel unsafe. Please stay on-message, thank you.

Now ask yourself who you think the NFL is marketing itself to, and why.

Also, UCLA is investigating a professor for having used the N-word in the context of reading Martin Luther King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail, which contains the word. He was condemned by his department management. Are you OK with that?

Are you OK with that?

One reason to oppose cancel culture is because you think the kind of people who end up choosing whom to cancel will be small-minded zealots with neither humor nor intelligence. And this kind of case is evidence in that direction.

Here is my decision tree for using the N word in context of old text:

Are you a conservative?
If no, fine.
Professor is ex-Navy, so probably yes.

Do you intend to use this word to make a statement about snowflakes and cancel culture?
If yes, fine and be prepared to loose your job. Make plans to go into conservative radio or YouTubing
If no, dont say it.

Since this guy apologized I'm am guessing he didn't think things through very well. Sad to see a guy that is probably nice get cancelled, but the N word has been a no go for decades.

I don't find your argument persuasive. It's not as if he casually dropped the word in class.

He was teaching a political science class on the Civil Rights movement. He actually gave a trigger warning before the class. Then he read the actual Letter which used the N word.

It's ridiculous to have an investigation over actually reading a historical text that is the direct subject of your class in a non-pejorative manner.

I am not really arguing for anything. I agree with you. Its stupid to and snowflake to get upset when people use that word whether in historical context or out.

But if Tom T wanted me to feel sorry for this prof, I don't: the series of events that followed the professor's use of the word should have been entirely foreseeable.

If the professor wanted to avoid controversy and risking his job, he shouldn't have used the word. I personally think more conservatives should push these woke no-go boundaries and then stand up for what they say when people try to cancel them. By apologizing, this professor admitted he was wrong and made the woke problem worse. So no, don't feel sorry for him.

"By apologizing, this professor admitted he was wrong and made the woke problem worse. So no, don't feel sorry for him."

When you back down to bullies, they just bully you more. So to that respect I agree with you.

The problem with inviting “evil” people to sign is that you don’t know whether the “evil” people are really in favor of free speech or whether they just want to advance their substantive “evil” views and would happily suppress the free speech of others should they be in power (just ask all the NeverTrump conservatives who have been cancelled from the conservative movement that they spent their whole lives in, most recently Vindman’s announcement that he was retiring due to bullying and retaliation from Trump). That creates a side discussion about the merits of different views that detracts from the free speech point. By analogy, if you were protesting McCarthyism in the name of free speech, you probably wouldn’t want to have actual communists who support the suppression of anti-communist speech (or would do do if they had the power to) sign onto your letter, because then the protest becomes about your motives and the merits of communism instead of the merits of free speech. Similarly, if you wanted to write a letter against affirmative action and in favor of colorblindness, you probably wouldn’t want to have any white or Asian race-conscious identitarians take part, because then the debate would turn into which race is more aggrieved instead of whether we should be colorblind.

This is the problem with a lot of the people who are paid to talk on this issue. Once you are on Patreon I think you end up exaggerating the importance of this stuff.

Culture, race, and religion combined in one toxic brew.

Dont forget politics.

This manifesto is interesting in many ways, some unintended. First of all, there's the geography of the signees which is heavily weighted to the US and, secondarily, to the EU and Middle East with a few South Asians, even fewer Africans and South Americans (maybe one each?) and absolutely zero East Asians (China, Japan, Korea, SE Asia). Then there's the neutral stance on ideology, a word used once. Beyond bashing 'right-wing demagogues', it doesn't mention any other major, negative cultural forces such as hyperindividuality, neoliberalism or political correctness -- except in passing. It's so watered down that people as dramatically disparate as David Brooks and Noam Chomsky have both signed. As a statement, it’s hard, if not impossible, to disagree with it. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!!

And yet, there *are* a large number of people on the left who are denouncing it. What does that tell you about their ideologies?

-1 NYT's response:

"Emily VanDerWerff, a critic at large at Vox who is transgender, posted on Twitter a letter she said she had sent to her editors, criticizing the fact that the Vox writer Matthew Yglesias had signed the letter, which she said was also signed by “several prominent anti-trans voices” — but noted that she was not calling for Mr. Yglesias to be fired or reprimanded.

Doing so “would only solidify, in his own mind, the belief that he is being martyred,” she wrote."

They deliberately left out the most important part of the letter where she declared she felt unsafe.

Indeed, Yglesias reports that he was reprimanded.

How can a voice sign a letter?

"voice" is a buzzword
a buzzword can do anything

What does the TC think of the proposition "Liberalism is a mental illness"?

You could say the same about conservatism or communism...

It is no mystery at all what is going on. The elite/deepstaters want to push policies that the democratic majority does not want and in fact vehemently oppose. Immigration, quotas, ever more control over our lives. Mentioning or discussing these issues does not help them. They have hit democratic limits because voters push back. The only logical move to continue the program is to restrict thought and speech.

I'm not sure I fully understand Tyler's position here, but nevertheless the letter is symbolic of something good. I wonder if the idea might be taken one step further and allow ANYONE to sign the petition to get a sense of how widely popular the ideas in the letter are. I hope/imagine they might get hundreds of millions of signatures.

How fitting. And where is Connie when we need her.

Think of Zuckerburg trying to stand against the censorship of political speech. Or fighting against the forced hiring of an internal Commissar Of Thought.

The biggest criticism of Zuckerburg is usually about his dealings in China. Yet he is standing against the marriage of Big Business and political actors in America. He is fighting against the recreation of the Chinese system in America.

He, so far, is taking a riskier stand then the signers of this letter who agree that they all hate the same people the rest of the left hates but please don't eat your own in the process. They are promoting their own self-interests before the mobs eats them for lunch.

This is pretty hard to imagine, actually.' Think of Zuckerburg trying to stand against the censorship of political speech' seeing as how he reliably takes a dive every time the president threatens his business model.

"Yet he is standing against the marriage of Big Business and political actors in America."

That would ring a bit more true if Facebook decided it would not be in the business of accepting paid political advertisements. As things stand now, Facebook doesn't just permit political advertisements but offers a concierge service to candidates in which a dedicated team of data analysts and advertising specialists work closely with the campaign to maximize targeting and effectiveness. Of course, they provide this service to both sides but also probably clean up quite nicely in terms of professional service and advertising fees.

Jack Dorsey seems to have realized this whole business is deeply problematic and not it anyone's long term interests and so banned paid political advertisements from Twitter.

So profits are evil? Doing business with companies is evil?

Facebook is being told to block political speech from mainstream politicians by businesses that have a political agenda. Zuckerberg is showing courage against the mob that seeks to censor political speech they don't like.

Snapchat blocks criticism of BLM.

Twitter is giving political commentary i.e. spin. Twitter has decided that too many people in this country are deplorable. They want to reinforce a liberal agenda and support the cancel culture, And you praise that. You must have led the charge for safe spaces on your college campus.

From the Harper article
"And on social media, the reaction was swift, with some heaping ridicule on the letter’s signatories — who include cultural luminaries like Margaret Atwood, Bill T. Jones and Wynton Marsalis, along with journalists and academics — for thin-skinnedness "

The very thing they're are themselves guilty of.

"nothing wrong . . . with voluntary speech regulation in private institutions." So Tyler Cowen endorses McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, and speaks for most of his colleagues when he does so? What a liar he is.

Tyler, you write "...but those words only make sense if you have a much deeper mental model of what is actually going on". I agree that human words and actions only make sense if we have a good mental model of what is going on. Rather than wasting time trying to understand what the authors of the letter have tried to say and achieve, I prefer to spend time developing and articulating my model. For that, it's good to know what others think. Can you share your model of what is going on in the U.S. public space, that is, in that space where a few people have the right to coerce and others the duty to obey?

To produce a paean to free speech, acceptable to Harper’s and worthy of receiving a non-condemnatory article in The New York Times, the organizers had to “restrict free speech” in a manner not altogether different than what they are objecting to.

I'm not sure about this part. I think the point was to try to gain attention by having a group of left wing Elder Statesmen, so to speak, put their names to this thing, so that they might be able to influence the movement's foot soldiers who, say, admire Noam Chomsky but have been taken in by the illiberalism he's now petitioning against. In that sense, I think you want to restrict the number of signers somewhat, because that will make it more effective. I think the idea of two tiers of petition signers is a bit impractical and also goes against standard leftist anti-hierarchical thinking and the idea simply fails the ideological Turing Test.

Everyone on social media has the chance to say "I endorse this letter." , which effectively makes them signatories to their audience.

> it seems the particular individuals chosen were selected with an eye toward their public and intellectual palatability.
> The de facto message seems to be: “free speech is too important a cause to let just anybody sign onto.”

Right on. The letter made soo many concessions to the censors – saying the far right is the *real* threat to free speech, making only a meta-level point, fulfilling the socially expected race and sex diversity quotas – and it STILL wasn't enough. The degree to which we judge arguments by their arguers – not just their reputations, but by their skin color – has skyrocketed in the last decade, and attempts at opposing or even slowing the New Puritanism still implicitly play by its rules.

"The letter made soo many concessions to the censors – saying the far right is the *real* threat to free speech,"


The commanding heights of most institutions, especially academia, are not hospitable to freedom of speech (as a cultural value, not just in terms of the "well, the government isn't tossing you in jail" aspect). One of the latest examples is the treatment of Jaden McNeil at Kansas State, or Ashleigh Brock at Hardin Simmons University. Sadly, the list of such examples seems endless, and constantly grows. Hopefully a peaceful resolution to this situation is still possible.

Jaden McNeil?

"Don't lend no hand
to raise no flag
atop no ship of fools"

> The actual problem is that we have a new bunch of “speech regulators” (not in the legal sense, not usually at least) who are especially humorless and obnoxious and I would say neurotic — in the personality psychology sense of that word.
> I say let’s complain about the real problem, namely the moral fiber, emotional temperaments, and factual worldviews of the individuals who have arrogated the new speech censorship functions to themselves.

I agree that these are the mind-virus super-spreaders, but it's more than individual-scale. Grievance theology has infected all of America's cultural institutions, literally all of them: film/tv, music, publishing, social media, news media, HR, primary & secondary education, academia (even STEM! even math!). They've seized the means of cultural production. Containment has failed, and we need mitigation, but our institutions may already be gangrenous.

This. Over and over again this. The institutions are beyond repair. Fuck them. Do not support them. Defund the Universities and the media.

The push from the left seems to be centered on TRA issues. The public is only dimly aware of the arguments, as is intended. At some point people will become aware of the debate- the JK Rowling dust-up looks like a good start- and will be appalled at the idea of replacing the idea of sex with gender.

Which would make a hilarious premise for a new Star Wars movie. With lots of astroterfing action.

Because if there is one group that feels really offended by men calling themselves women, it is a dedicated group radical feminists. Though many commenters here are natural allies of radical feminists, as can be seen by what they write.

From what I can tell, TRAs include some people with really awful behavior, the only people allowed to let full-throated misogyny rip these days outside of dank backwaters. Very happy to see their arguments aired publicly.

It is not that simple. If Trump were a better leader, if he hadn't wasted everyone's time killing Americans through grossly mismanaging the COVID-19 crisis and slandering our closest alles, we would be in a much better situation. I think impeaching Trump would help the nation to heal and better America's stand innthe world.

If only Trump had followed President Captain Bolsonaro's correct leadership. But what do I know? I'm just a manager of corporate finance living in Paducah, a city in Kentucky.

There are plenty of other people objecting to woke speech codes, which remind me of nothing so much as CCP censorship and politically correct speech. I wrote about that here The recent interpretations of Article 38 of the new Security Law for Hong Kong make me wonder whether the woke left is learning from CCP or vice versa.

The Hong Kong security law reminded me of the US material support for terrorism law, which the Supreme Court held can criminalize pure speech if it is done in coordination with a foreign terrorist group, much as the new Chinese security law may criminalize pure speech done in collusion with foreign powers.

the hong kong justice minister trying to rationalize the new hong kong security law reminded us of nancy pelosi because she also talks in circles

are you using the words "pure speech" as a euphemism for terrorist threats
or criminal conspiracies ?

I think Tyler's "straussian" objections to the letter are extremely weird. Either he's using highly bizarre language to make a fairly mundane point that could have been more succinctly stated as, "Easy for them to say," or he's decided that his contribution to the issue is in discovering symbolism where it doesn't really exist.

Hard to tell. Cowen puts these things opaquely on purpose.

I'm compiling a list of categories which TC seems to believe comprise the untermenchen: Low IQ, Neurotics, and people who don't subscribe to at least 4 or 5 East Coast publications (NYT, WP, Vox, Harper's, ...)
Some of us, TC, really, really do not care what these echo chambers pick as flavor of the month. I am curious as to why moral fiber and temperament (is emotional temperament different than temperament? If so, it's over my head...) are worthwhile subjects for discourse. Isn't it generally better to avoid opining on character and instead focus on facts, process, and goals? Sure, we don't want people with poor moral fiber (meaning what, IDK) or bad temperament to be in positions of authority, ceteris paribus, but isn't this blog about facts and interpretations of those things we can discuss in a productive way? How is discussing someone's moral fiber or temperament productive?

"in a manner not altogether different than what they are objecting to"

This I do object to. So making a plan for a message to gain credibility is always used. That it is excluding people from signing, doesnt at all make it the same as the current speech police.

The main difference is in tactics. Are anyone calling for firing, banning, no-platforming, ostracizing, threatening or intimidating people who did *not* sign this letter?
I would say no, obviously not. It is only using the tool of persuasion.

However the response to it is clearly the problem. Public letter that Yglesias was making his workplace unsafe for this one employee who was a trans-woman for example.

What we see used all over the place is to avenge speech with threats, ostracizing and repercussions such as firing for what in a free society is open debate.

And this is largely done because within the social justice belief system, there is no truth. So the whole idea of free exchange of ideas being the best mechanism to get us to truth over time isn't relevant once you accept that worldview. As it happens those people are willing to use all tools to further their cause, probably because they believe all there is, is power, there is no truth.

As for how we can respond to it. Well first and foremost it is by not doing the job of the bullies. When they ask you to "cancel" one of your employees, friends or family, don't act. Treat it like some weird cult is telling you to do it. Doesn't neccesarily requires a response, just don't do it.

Why is so many not acting: because the beliefs have permeated our society for long, so people don't have defences. They are demoralized. They don't know if it's true. Maybe everything about our society is systemically racist? And if it is, maybe I am promoting white supremacy by not firing this person? Maybe I am instituting genocide by not hiring diversity officer or sending my team to diversity training?

And once you start going down the road, you start defending it to yourself. You try to make yourself look good in your own eyes my convincing yourself that what you are doing is right.

The solution is many. But I do think it is actually quite urgent. So I really support this letter, because right now we just need to pause the revolution, even we just postpone it a little. And what this hopefully does it to give the required courage to a lot of center-left people who needed someone else to lean on to speak up.

But over time we need to go deep. I think the Jordan Peterson phenomenon was a great start. We need to explain why the search for truth and freedom of speech is the central value, more important than any other value. We need to strengthen individuals. We need a mass return to the schelling point institutions still alive, like the Catholic church.

Government action can and should help. This is an urgency and the CIA and NSA should be in crisis mode. We need to actively go against all revolutionary activities, like race-based government policies, forced ideological education, forced ideological statements and all the that other stuff where there already are liberal safeguards in place, that just needs to be actively enforced.

I do think this movement is aimed at overthrowing liberal democracy entirely. And right now it is getting harder and harder to stop it, because they take over key institutions and turn them into tools for the revolution.

Cancel culture is just the tip of the spear. Similar to political correctness. But the true shape of this entity is quite clearly a belief system. And we have to figure out how to get everyone to see that. And also to figure out how to live with these people, because clearly a big portion of our society do and will continue believing in this stuff even if their revolutionary energy gets dissapated.

You Nazis are really desperate, aren't you?

"like race-based government policies"

Like statues of racist separatists?

"Government action can and should help. This is an urgency and the CIA and NSA should be in crisis mode."

The KGB did not prevent the fall of the USSR and the Gestapo did not save the Third Reich. You will fall.

As a quick “which person is closer to Nazis” check, let’s go with who in this thread attacked a 10 year old child?

Oh, that’s you.

You did that.

Catholic Church? A symbol for free speech?

That's the problem with these debates. Everyone thinks "If only people who agreed with me were in charge, things would be fine!" They forget that the issue isn't which speech codes are best, but whether or not there should be any speech codes to begin with. People forget that just because YOU don't find the chains to be heavy, doesn't mean that the rest of us won't find them a burden.

Tyranny is like a Home Owner's Association: as long as that's how you want to live anyway, it seems perfectly fine. It's those pesky people who want to paint their house weird colors--or to have their own opinions on plants--or who want to speak their minds--or who want to practice their own religion--THOSE are the problem! If they'd only conform, everything would be fine! So we should make them conform. By force, if necessary.

might the Straussian reading of Tyler's post be that he is miffed he wasn't invited to sign the letter? /s

I signed
Because I feared

You were impersonating me, I retaliate with a pathetic comment.

Tyler thinks that if you are not up to speed on the latest lefty kerfuffle described in Harper's Magazine, you are "living under a rock."

I think that may be all you need to know about him.

And all we need to know about you , IPA., is that despite all your critical comments about TC , you spend time on MR making these inane comments. If this blog is so worthless, to you , get off it and go get a life.

Not you, though!

Your comments, like this one, are a profound testimony to your brilliant insight and desire to deeply contribute on an intellectual level.

I'd say there are several interlocking phenomena to which the letter-writers mostly object:

a. It has become very common to respond to expressed arguments or ideas with attempts to punish them, rather than with counterarguments. That is, you say that X is true, I think it's not, and so I try to get you fired or try to stir up a Twitter mob to yell insults at you.

b. Lots of powerful people and institutions have now accepted the idea that in fact, expressing some ideas justifies punishment, like firing the speaker, demoting them, reprimanding them, banning them from speaking or appearing in some public venues, etc.

Those two, together, threaten to break the best mechanisms we have for figuring out what's true and what's false, what's going on in the world, and what we should do next. As soon as some true statement is in the set of things you get fired for saying, and is also in the set of things that are important for understanding the world, we get public discussions that are fundamentally broken--there are true and practically important facts which nobody will say, because they don't want to get fired.

Along with that, we have:

c. It has become common now to assert guilt-by-association. You once spoke on a podcast with a guy who has evil belief X, or you associate on a friendly day-to-day basis with a guy who has evil belief , and therefore you are also guilty of evil belief X.

d. It is also common now (especially in these weird Twitter mobbings) to do guilt-by-insufficient-zeal. You made a public statement in favor of good cause Y, but it wasn't sufficiently fervent, therefore you don't really support good cause Y and should be punished.

(c) is really critical for journalists to push back against, because by their nature, they *have* to be able to talk to a wide variety of people. If interviewing someone and giving them a fair writeup = platforming them = supporting their evil beliefs, then a journalist mustn't ever have an honest dialogue with anyone with bad beliefs.

(d) is basically just a tactic for witchhunts. But it also will make it impossible for anyone to have an honest conversation about any topic. If you support the goal of police accountability but cite high-quality research saying that nonviolent protests are better for that goal than violent protests, that's proof you are tone-deaf and off-message and insufficiently zealous, so you must be punished.

All these patterns basically destroy the ability of people to do any kind of decent journalism. If you can't report on anyone outside your ideological bubble without writing a hit piece, and can't speak on any contentious issue with anything other than maximum fervor and commitment to your side, then you can't do decent journalism.

+1, excellent summary albatross

I would make some additional comments regarding c.

"c. It has become common now to assert guilt-by-association. "

This has always been true. If you are an active member of the KKK, then yes you were considered a defacto racist. However, people were allowed forgiveness and were not considered forever guilty because of some minimal association.

I'll point out the obvious case of Senator Robert Byrd. As a young man he founded a chapter of the KKK. He was an explicit supporter of the Klan and racist till the 1960's. He filibustered against the Republican Civil Rights act of 1964.

Despite his past actions and he was a respected senior Senator. His last year in the Senate in 2009 (merely 11 years ago) he was involved in the critical Senate healthcare vote that passed Obamacare. President Obama famously spoke at his funeral.

"Vice President Joe Biden recalled Byrd's standing in the rain with him as Biden buried his daughter when Biden had just been elected to the Senate. He called Byrd "a tough, compassionate, and outspoken leader and dedicated above all else to making life better for the people of the Mountain State."

"President Barack Obama said, "His profound passion for that body and its role and responsibilities was as evident behind closed doors as it was in the stemwinders he peppered with history. He held the deepest respect of members of both parties, and he was generous with his time and advice, something I appreciated greatly as a young senator.""

Generally agree. I think we have a problem with people having very universalist ideas trying to generalize standards that are appropriate for one situation (not using racial slurs) to every other situation, so that (for instance) rejecting the idea that trans-women are "women" is counted as morally equivalent to claiming that black people are mentally inferior. I know I have argued before here that the theory that black people have lower innate intelligence should not be socially acceptable to discuss. That doesn't mean that every other discussion of innate biological differences is verboten though. It's just that *that one* poses unique risks, given the bloody and recent history associated with such ideas (not to mention ongoing issues). We really don't have anything like the KKK for trans people or even for gay people, by comparison, so talking about whether being gay is biological or a lifestyle choice isn't likely to arouse some underground movement of gay haters. (There's maybe a little danger there w.r.t. sexism and the incel movement, but not on the same level as racism).

"the bloody and recent history associated with such ideas"

What are you thinking of here?

The truth is seen, rarely heard. Is it any surprise that platforms so efficient for being heard generate anti-truth?

I have seen this festering for nearly the last decade in the higher echelons of tech.

I have attempted to understand the roots of its power. One of the roots is that it is there are a vast number of neurotic people who gain a considerable amount of pleasure from simply tearing others down. It has always been this way, but modern communications technologies have amplified their voices. My personal belief is that the only way to combat this root is incentives. Today the incentives for tearing down others are entirely in one direction.

The other root of power, and this is how this scourge took hold in american industry (which it then used to launch into other countries) is the weaponization of our various anti-discrimination laws and of the resultant HR bureaucracy. In retrospect it is clear that this would happen. It is unclear if the horse has left the barn and that these laws are no longer required for the movement to flourish , or is perhaps peeling (or complete repeal) them back would stem the tide.

I do think that this is the defining struggle of our time.

I think there are many people who believe the rhetoric about deplatforming and harmful speech and the rest. But I also think this stuff is very often used instrumentally--I need a way to get rid of an annoying rival, so I try to stir up some kind of pseudo-scandal to get him fired or demoted.

We start out trying to protect the fragile, and end up empowering sociopaths.

"We start out trying to protect the fragile, and end up empowering sociopaths."

This might be the most important sentence within this whole post.


Here's an illustrative news account of the Kindness chain of yoga parlors in Colorado employing 160 that got shut down over ... George Floyd.

Reading the story carefully, it's clear that there was nothing there, just a couple of disgruntled employees with more intersectional points than the owner who stirred up the nice white lady customers.

+1 big O Orwellian

Yes, Reason, getting rid of all the anti-discrimination laws will solve all your problems.

Yes, I agree, it is possible it will fix the issue.

We should brace ourselves, it will be politically difficult.

It would have carried more weight had Thomas Pynchon signed on!

I am surprised T.C. wrote something so pointed.

If we say a lot of the people involved exhibit all the signs of hysteria, we'll be redirected to Room 101 for a crash course in Mad Studies, of course; or of narcissism - how many of these "victims" have a surprising number of professional portraits of themselves in various attitudes, when you google their heretofore-unknown-to-you name, especially the trans persons who started out male and then went shopping.

Mindy Kaling - I'm sure she's genuinely remorseful - poked a little self-deprecatory fun at herself in her memoir, describing some job she had, and which she feared she was in danger of being fired from, for repeated lateness, IIRC, or maybe it was taking off early - and described how she blamed her mode of transportation and cleverly purloined the "I don't feel safe" locution to get herself out of trouble.

Reading a good book now..."Liberty’s First Crisis
Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech
by Charles Slack

Girondists realizing the blade can cut off their heads too.

The appearance of Deirdre McCloskey as a signatory is interesting, given McCloskey's activities in the case of J Michael Bailey. Is that not a prime example of the kind of thing they are complaining about?

That she signed rather undercuts this trans critic of Yglesias given that Deirdre is trans. But I suspect this idiot critic does not know that.

I am not getting the difference between "cancel" and "vigorously argue against." I have argued against J. Michael Bailey and Alice Dreger. Bailey needed no help from me to lose some of his academic positions, such as secretary of the national sexology group, and later his running of a course on sexology at Northwestern (which featured a prostitute being faux-"raped" by a pretend chain saw). I have written against the ideas, (alternative) facts, and, yes, behavior of both Bailey and Dreger. Canceling? Isn't the point to have free discussion?

Bari Weiss is another signatory that cancels. Her target is Arab/Muslim professors. There's probably more on the list. Do these supposed defenders of free speech even know who they are in bed with?

“... in bed with”

Your simultaneously missing the point and making the point

Yikes! That’s another interesting point. Glenn Greenwald has probably suffered more for the cause of free speech than anyone in recent memory, yet he is conspicuously absent from the Harper’s list. Why is that?

Perhaps these silly controversies on campus and at left-wing organizations cause us to lose sight of the traditional threats to free speech from governments and the national security state. Just today, Trump is mooting a ban on TikTok, which would be a China-level censorship move, yet “cancel culture” is the threat?

"Cancel culture" will continue to get worse and worse indefinitely for the foreseeable future, and young people who support it will eventually replace the septuagenarians who currently run the government; Trump, on the other hand, will probably be rendered a nonentity in just a few months.

It’s not just Trump, Greenwald was threatened with jail during the Obama administration to the point where he feared entering the US and was foreign governments too. Trump has dialed things up to eleven, but government censorship in the name of national security will always be there and squelch unconventional views far more effectively than the cancel culture in some left-wing circles.

I'm not familiar with the TikTok issue but it's not a case of censoring speech Trump doesn't like, is it? Isn't it an issue of the site being owned by he Chinese government, or something?

"silly"controversies on campus?
academic freedom and free speech are not silly

tiktok/ccp is apparently collecting information on users

As I mentioned on the other page, I think it is possible to read this Harper's letter straight up, and perhaps men of good character will.

Straight up, it is fine.

But we can't really say the letter is fully separable from its context. It is very much set in the midst of a culture war. The themes hit in Tyler's essay, and many of the comments on this page, reinforce that. Which is perhaps a little less fine, but it is what it is.

It makes me wonder how culture wars end. Maybe I see a good way and a bad way. The good way is if normalcy returns. The bad way is any other..

Tyler: This is the most confusing blog post that I have read from you, especially considering the importance of this issue. You have previously admitted to be intentionally unclear in your writing; I have never understood why, but I discourage it. Unclear writing decreases its impact and leads readers to run in rhetorical circles about its meaning and its controversies. I urge you to consider writing a more clear version of this post.

You tend to be much more clear in your Bloomberg articles; would you consider writing another version there?

What is so hard to understand about his post? He’s not a fan of it because it makes use of the self-sensorship that it decries cancel culture for causing.

It’s actually a very succinct and astute observation by Tyler.

What good is a free speech letter if you have to sensor your speech in order to promote free speech?

Must any true statement include all other true statements in order to be true?

Terry: You have clearly summarized Tyler's long blog post in one succinct sentence for me. Thank you.

I truly did not understand Tyler's point before reading your comment. It was too long and had too many caveats and qualifications. I wished that he simply went straight to the point.

Now that I understand Tyler's blog post better, I disagree with him. I don't think that an invitation-only group of signatories is self-censorship. A newspaper has an invitation-only group of editorial writers; that doesn't make it self-censorship, either. Harper's Magazine is not cancelling or censoring anybody else from expressing the same opinion.

I wonder if Tyler is just pissed off that he wasn't considered an important and/or palatable enough public intellectual to be invited to sign it.

Tyler writes paens to big business and is seen as being on the Right. My impression is this letter was conceived more as an opportunity for the Elders of the Left to reign in their younger ideological allies. Of course much of this conflict seems to me generational, so I'm not surprised. People seem to underrate the degree to which the Young simply want to find ways to discredit the Old. They always have, but they have so many more tools now than they used to, and they grew up with them so they are adept at using them.

“Victimism uses the ideology of concern for victims to gain political or economic or spiritual power.”
― René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning

“The peoples of the world do not invent their gods. They deify their victims.”
― René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning

"The most horrible acts of persecution are often committed in the name of the fight against persecution. The ones who are scapegoating believe they are self-righteously supporting the truth while in actuality they are living and propagating an egregious lie."
Worth a read.

+++= Jordan Peterson =+++
Come out, come out wherever you are.

I think he's still home cleaning his room.

He's coming off his bout with tranquilizers. That said, putting him on the list would defeat the whole point of it.

Exactly, totally agree with you Mihai
JP would defeat the whole point

I am curios, exactly which "moral fiber[s], emotional temperaments, and factual worldviews" enable someone to be a responsible silencing mob? What exactly would make people functional at deciding who gets platformed, can keep their job, or should receive death threats?

You could have Solomon himself directing the silencing and I doubt it would do much good in the world. After all, research has shown that the most effective anti-radicalization efforts tend to involve having sustained contacts with people your ideology opposes. This is after all, the cornerstone of German efforts to counter neonazi radicals. The mere presences of such a mob works against their stated goals of diminishing hate. Certainly I have met precisely no one who was ever consciously racist who said you know what, now that my livelihood is gone, I am a shunned pariah, and people are sending death threats … now is the time to change my goals.

Certainly when it comes to actual dangerous actions, being unemployed racist is a huge increase in risk of violent acts. I would much rather have unrepentant racists busying nine to five rather than stewing in how somebody kept them down. Likewise, the data shows that lack of dating and marriage prospects dramatically increases likelihood of violence, so again I fail to see how having the social hate mob be your top hit on Google for life does any good.

So if the descent of the mob and the resulting firing, shunning, and ostracization of anyone who sticks with them does not actually deter actual radicals what good is left? Frankly I think this is not a lot different than the informer networks run by any authoritarian state. They catch exceedingly few actual plots relative to the number of malicious or otherwise false reports. Yet they instill a fear not just that you might do or say the wrong thing, but that you will do or say something which might become the wrong thing.

And even if you put the right people in charge, there still will be the correct fear that those controlling the mob will shift, as it has done multiple times already as it has eaten a few of its own, and the wise shall no longer rule.

Maybe it is my family history, but I learned from a young age that mobs are dangerous and not to be trusted. Be they lead by the local Kleagle or some ethnic studies professor, the mob makes a mockery of due process, nuance, and good faith.

Frankly this sort of rule by virtuous has failed whenever it has been tried. Munster, Taiping China, Cromwell's England, Oneida … almost as though some form of limited republicanism is superior to letting the virtuous run our lives. But I am sure that we shall find another von Papen or Victor Emmanuel who thinks they can ride the tiger and make things right.

Dr. Sure is also boss

We need more infrastructure so that the shunned have bridges to live under.

It’s not about free speech or equality or safety. It’s about weaponizing victimhood. This is also completely a left wing issue.

This movement will use whatever it can to attain power. However once the dust settles and the trans, the gays, the feminists, the black activists, the Latinx activists, the Muslim activists, Asian activists, and the amalgamations of those previous groups attain real power; the only question that will remain is who will be on top.

To me, the Desean Jackson blow up is the real crack in the woke movement. His endorsement of Hitler and Farakan proves that interests groups within the woke movement will eventually come for each other.....

we bet d Jackson will get a pass &not get canceled

Once we reach 500,000 Covid deaths, maybe we'll stop caring about the culture war and start caring about pressing policy issues. Maybe, but unlikely.

50 million+ people die every year in the world and we don’t bat an eye and keep fighting these stupid fights. Your covid focus is media-generated and your USA focus is just jingoistic.

You're misusing the term "jingoistic." There's no advocacy of a warlike policy in my post.

Harper Valley PTA has the last word.

-we thinks the letter writers got a little panicky when they realized they
were way behind the president on the free speech issue/cancel culture issue and it is currently bigly under-rated as a winning the election issue.

Progressive liberals made the mistake of thinking that the advocates of critical race theory and its related ideologies were joined with them towards a common goal of universal civil rights and some sort of modern sense of fairness or justice.

They're just now realizing that those that ascribe to critical race theory not only don't share progressive's liberal values, but they're actively hostile to the values that groups like the ACLU or individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr, have fought for.

Now that critical race theory has come to dominate academia and left wing politics in the US, the progressive liberals are seeing that they made a deal with the devil, that this new generation of activists and academics has more in common with Joseph McCarthy than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This is one of Tyler's best posts ever.

1915 over 100 years ago
Scott Nearing, economics professor at University of Pennsylvania
Fired in 1915 for his radical views on economics

1970 fifty years ago
Angela Davis's firearms are used in the kidnapping and murder of a California superior court judge
She's still making the rounds on campuses around the country.

Angela Davis is best remembered for her cool Afro and the battle-cry "Free Angela Davis with fill-up"!

"For identification purposes only:"

Princeton signatories--6
Columbia signatories--5
Harvard signatories--5
Yale signatories--5
NYU signatories--3
Bard signatories--2
New School signatories--2
Rutgers signatories--2
Barnard, MIT, Wash. Univ.-St. Louis, Stanford Law, Stanford, NYU-Stern, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Yeshiva, U. of Illinois-Chicago, CUNY, U. of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, U. Wisc., Brown, Smith, Howard, Middlebury, NY Law School, Harvard Law, Fordham, U. of South Alabama, Reed, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Rutgers-Camden--1 signatory each.

Quite a narrow academic demographic, quite a restricted geographical distribution, and quite a limited institutional representation . . . courtesy of DC-to-Boston self-appointed public discourse managers N. Y. T. and Harpers Magazine, respectively.

THIS crowd of worthies speaks on behalf of the 20% of American adults not at all literate in English? THIS crowd of worthies speaks on behalf of the 20% of American adults grossly sub-literate in English? THIS crowd of worthies speaks for any American living outside of the DC-to-Boston corridor, south of the Ohio River, or west of the Mississippi River (excluding Left Coast states, perhaps)?

Far too late in the day to cheerlead representative democracy in the US, if these worthies are thought to represent "America" adequately.

So organize a better letter with a wider set of signers.

We have too much political theatre like this Harpers' stunt as it is, don't you think?

Provincial Americans ("mere provincials") not residing in the DC-to Boston Echo Chamber have sufficient incentive to disown the cosmopolitan provincialism of the DC-to-Boston Echo Chamber, since the latter crowd has marginalized the rest of us for years and decades already and forbidden our participation in its poorly managed public discourse.

No thanks, then: I'm working instead on a dramatic, satiric farce, an unsavory episode from New York City's storied history, with its own cast of worthies. (I am counting on no Broadway production, certo, and would never consent to any Disney production.)

Not a very useful critique of the letter or signatories. As you acknowledge, the signatories are not exclusively residents of the Northeastern states but include people based out of Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri. There are also a fair number of non-academic immigrants represented, including Parag Khanna, Fareed Zakaria, David Frum and Malcolm Gladwell. And, of course, some are people who do not live in the U.S. and have no legal ties to the country at all.

Right now, nobody knows how many people actually support cancel culture, because one of the ways to get canceled is to speak out against it. If there are widespread public letters of this kind, signed by many people all over the place, then it will suddenly become visible to everyone that lots of other people don't actually agree with this crap.

I do not support cancel culture myself, but then I personally have done NOTHING to facilitate it, the way cosmopolitan provincial buffoons of the DC-to-Boston Corridor and our Silicon Valley tech tyrants have all made possible across recent decades by virtue of their all residing in the "irrevocable future" they've tried to construct for themselves (first) and the rest of us (as a belated afterthought).

If our unelected geniuses are keen to cancel "cancel culture", I suppose that they had better get busy with some actually substantive responses, instead of the mealy-mouthed, sponge-spined feint that this Harpers charade is.

"Intellectual: one who deems hypertrophy of the mind just compensation for constipation of the soul." America remains beset with a pandemic plague of psychic constipation, courtesy of our afflicted cognitive elites, our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment, and our power-grabbing tech tyrants.

Nor a useful critique of a critique.

Six far-flung and peripheral signatories among fifty-four, you say? Wowie and zowie: without apology, I remain under-impressed with Harpers' stunt of political theatre. (No one from Emory, no one from Duke, no one from UVA, no one from Chicago, no one from UT-Austin, no one from Tulane, no one from Kansas, no one Oklahoma, no one from Nebraska, no one from Wyoming, no one from West Virginia, no one from Kentucky . . . but non-Americans who are members of the tony, global cognitive elite? You think Americans are pining to be lectured to by foreigners, and elitist foreigners, at that?)

Nor do native-born Americans continue to need the slovenly and shabby public discourse management dictated by our inglorious elites, domestic, coastal, foreign, or global, or by any of the cosmopolitan provincials crowded into the DC-to-Boston Echo Chamber.

Satire that does not belong on any SNL stage (far too acidic for those pale and aloof tastes) is the only way to go. (I can recommend off the top "Those Brain Motility Blues" by strannikov, to be found online for the looking.)

Quit bitching and organize your own campaign then.

I invite you to begin here instead:

You may then proceed directly to strannikov's flash novella "A Circus Never to Return" (and/or its companion essay "Barbarian[s] Within the Gates", a critique of America's lamentable MFA Industrial Complex).

You might then try strannikov's recent verse contribution "prophecy of the playground" if you feel really adventurous.

I'm not sure your championing such juvenalia is really helping your case. The story does stink--but rather than of satire, it's 'aren't I cute and daring?'

No accounting for tastes in satire, but I vastly prefer the Juvenalian to the Horatian.

pinker gotta an objective& smart take
on the postmodern cancel culture mob

They are right. A tiny number of loud people want us all to believe things we don't about a certain topic, because that is the only way such a ridiculous belief could be held.

What is interesting about this conversation is how completely it has avoided what the letter actually said. It was markedly anti-right.

And was obviously intended as a wake up call suggesting a re-set of attitudes and behavior in how people treat each other on the left - suggesting that the dialog had regressed; descended to the type of conduct we expect from the right.

i.e. "Hey all you lefties who are fighting for social justIce and a tolerant diverse culture, WE'RE ACTING LIKE THE RIGHT."

[EXCERPT] "While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty."

Ordinarily this would have the right up in arms. But they are having too much fun watching the left attack each other.

1+ tiramisu of satire
or complete lack of self-awareness
you make the call

I'll see your ad hominem and raise you a non sequitur

we think the far left has worked itself into an ideological corner regarding speech & violence.


That sort of illeism can be a sign of PTSD. You should have that checked out.

could be Illeism
could be polyamory
if canada gets to choose their own pronouns
then strauss gets to choose our own pronouns

another Phillip Dick conundrum. The Straussian take on Straussian pronouns

have you seen Thiago lately?
we think he/she is avoiding us

look theres Dr. Sowell!

-1, Turing test fail

You constantly invoke the outgroup homogeneity fallacy.

Actually, you need to fail Harpers on this. They published the essay, I merely excerpted it.

can a bot fail a bot? that's Philip Dick territory.

yip yip yip

No, you fail the Turing test. And fall for the outgroup homogeneity fallacy yet again.

It’s becoming a bit sad at this point.

There’s nothing wrong with a letter defending the norm of free expression while also denouncing extremist elements on any side.

Your inability to view anything outside of a lens of Manichaean insanity is blinding you to reality.

Oh by the way, they also called Trump a threat to Democracy. And warned about right-wing ideologues.

George, you are so boring.

you yippie dog bots are so reliably easy to trigger

yet the fact remains, all these signatories who you endorse as the voice of reason published an open letter that called the right a mental illness and threat to democracy

"that called the right a mental illness and threat to democracy"

Lol no

outgroup homogeneity fallacy

I wonder what the tune is for Hamilton's defence of the Alien & Sedition Acts?
I'm reading "Liberty's First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech" by Charles Slack and wanted to share this quote with you.

"Though he insisted until the end of his life that the Sedition Act and the Alien Acts were necessary “wartime measures,” Adams blamed others for their execution and portrayed himself as a reluctant bystander. In 1809, eight years removed from office, a seventy-four-year-old Adams claimed that Alexander Hamilton came up with the idea in an unsolicited letter instructing the incoming president on how to conduct his affairs. The letter, which “had no influence with me,” was so presumptuous that Adams believed Hamilton must have been “in a delirium” when he wrote it.1 “Nor did I adopt his idea . . . ,” Adams continued. “I recommended no such thing in my speech. Congress, however, adopted both these measures. I knew there was need enough of both, and therefore I consented to them.”"

is there a record of the letter ? or is it Adams coming up with someone to blame? If he found "need enough of both" why should he criticize someone who suggested them?

For Adams, a bit of it seems having someone to blame, and later to minimize his role. See this letter of Hamilton's... It's pretty funny.

"old white guys" is a racist term.

don't be racist.

Also, the whole trope of all the cool kids in traditional and social media making nasty comments about whites is f--king nuts. Have our previous national experiences with self-conscious white identity politics been so happy that we're eager to call up that demon again?

according to the diversity re-educators
"whiteness" is to be "undone"
the process of undoing is called "homework"
some of the homework consists of
"practicing self-talk that affirms our complicity in racism.”

sounds like its a culty cult

“White” is a racist term. “Old” and “Guy” aren’t. Racism racialises people. It’s the only reality “race” has.

Among the best posts from Tyler. The pen is mightier than the sword because of its point, and its power comes from the art, angle, and sometimes anger from which the point is moved. That requires one hand. Multiple hands on one pen inevitably leave scribbles and blobs.

Good editors excepted.

anyway, great recession was just oil prices and housing prices? havent been to the library and have been drained of life for a decade but im good, ill be fine, anyway, whats the thing? oh right it was the ny democrats trying to make america look like a good investment and then when the banks credibility was called into question they tried to kill the euro and or attacked europe for money and then trump was elected by the defense corporations and the bush communist and traitor gop and then the enlightenment won but only after the capitalist left attacked texas with the eu and asia and latin america and then san diego the communists and texas starting attacking with pakistan and enslaved uk monarchs, which is where the world is today, the monarchs are enslaved by the catholic dnc and the bush gop and san diegos commie usa, and the dod lets it happen because bush used the uk with the ne intel and lost in the spy game, the eu is just waiting and staying in high tax social democracies mode waiting to see if the usa will be functional and or if the world will be available to invest in with or without a dysfunctional american defense network that regulates economic activity

right, uh 8841 capital one and the jeb stolen robot in the sum of all fears traitor game, from my level the presidents are all just things around me and then the 41 yafl kid and the moron mormon good shepard traitor are all just the things the uc system does with the world via the manhattan project, anyway, i feel like that seal on the webpage and im just gonna sleep until all the nuclear warheads, people are dead and or until the war starts or ends, if i was free i could be a useful civilian its just a politcal prisoner thing via texas vs ca vs the usa everyone wanted to white house, and its just anything around me, that bush shrub and the ants in it are the white house and the white house is full of robots,

ha ha america is full, trump pushes away from the table. no immigrants is the consensus today tomorrow osama will be back with everyones a muslim except nyc and then ambush and the nyc corruption will ruin the usa again tomorrow.

the elvis white house thing nobody knew the presidents were are robots, the office space or the nuclear technicians above the white house grounds are the thing not the figureheads or the meade IT etc

right, anyway, where, me, dod microcosm, so the catholics protestants asians muslims are all working on how to roll back gay rights to only the west and not included in foreign policy and also to exclude abortion from being spread to other parts of the world, so i got manbearpig contributions like in sum of all fears but still od, etc and then after the foreign policy decisions are made then the politics starts with the taxes spending regulation, also the communists want a east west via saudi arabia and obama's saudi coupe the islam communist thing is like the lefts it thing with oil dollars are like russian taxes, osama bin isis and his arabia oil and tech, so the left is like a arabian islam hellhole via the inception thing, they want a cold war with the communists and democrats so its kick islam and mexico and central america and the west can be rich and prosperous and not islam and communists

Right of Free Speech never meant there might not be penalties or costs for exercising it. Constitutionally it refers to prior restrain by government.

250 years of case law after the constitution suggests it is inclusive of a lotta more stuff than just prior restraint.

That was the view of Blackstone and the Federalists, but not the Republicans and us.

I already wrote this before, but I think it comes down to the idea if it is okay to oppose progress. In my view it is not, since we'd all be living in caves if everyone was "conservative" throughout human history. But I think there should be debates over what kind of progress humans want... now this discussion described in this post is rather weird IMO since the US has more free speech than basically any other country in the world, and there are literally nazi websites like the Daily Stormer etc. available in the US... anyway if this is about "self-policing", then shouldn't organisations bee able to do it according to libertarians? If not, then libertarians are defeating their own purpose...
Overall my view is that white Americans have not faced their history like Germans (for example) did, and therefore should deal with it ... obviously this engenders animosity towards those who"call them out", but if they act like they have nothing to do with it (especially if they are "old stock"), then there will be no progress...

How do you decide whether some proposed change will be progress or not? The ways I can see to do it are to gather data and honestly report it, look into the relevant academic literature and cite it, and have honest discussions and arguments about whether this new proposal is actually going to be progress or regress.

People have been fired (in public, to encourage the others) for doing each of these things. If our media and academic communities converge on norms of discussion along those lines--cite research that's off-message or raise contradictory facts against some desired policy or have an honest and fair discussion with opponents of your desired policy, and you get fired from your job--then we will become a whole lot worse at figuring out what policies will and won't be progress.

The worst part of this is in the academic world, particularly in the sciences. We count on scientists to honestly try to understand the world, and to make that knowledge available to us. Making it a career-ending move to publish in some contentious area without getting politically acceptable results will break science. It's just not possible to honestly try to learn about the universe without having surprising results that we don't like or that are inconvenient for our current religious or political or social order.

Hmm...🤔 Ok I agree with most of what you said, except the last half or seems that you automatically assume that scientists and other scholars are having troubles publishing their research if it's not politically beneficial or whatever... but if there are some who publish contrary to what the vast majority of scientists claim, then they might be right, but usually they probably won't be... after all it's not like there are only a handful superintelligent people tlin the world...

can you spot the flaw in your reasoning?

I guess the flaw depends on the point of view of the person... what is it according to you?

heres why canada will never invent flying cars
being publishing is only the first step in figuring out if something is a truth. truth doesn't follow politics or necessarily the majority.
whether the paper is in the majority is irrelevant (just like ross doubt-tits). not publishing or retracting a paper on the grounds that it makes
the fringe minority feel unsafe is postmodern sophistry.
we bet discussion (not suppression) of the adolescent gender identity contagion idea will cause discomfort but will ultimately reduce harm
to many adolescents.

Nope that's just your cognitive bias ... after all you are citing an article from, which just confirms your bias ... anyway I'm not sure what you want to say with this post?

silly postmodern sophistry. citing an article from quillette does not
"confirm" a cognitive bias. that is ridiculous. the peer contagion research was not published in quillette. the research and researcher were somewhat canceled based on a small minority mobs ideology.
their criticisms were based on the results making them feel "unsafe"
the university caved to the mobs ideology.
it is important research and we bet it will be validated.

> Overall my view is that white Americans have not faced their history like Germans (for example) did, and therefore should deal with it ... obviously this engenders animosity towards those who"call them out", but if they act like they have nothing to do with it (especially if they are "old stock"), then there will be no progress...

As a white american I have no problems with my history to face.

Nope? Taking land from indigenous Americans and mestizos, as well as slavery... this is why I think there should be penalties based on one's political views... for example White conservatives in the US should pay more taxes unless they change their views and accept that they cannot hinder progress...


Why? It's the history of the US isn't it?

Well Andreas, we immediately run into a problem with your suggestion that “white Americans have not faced their history like Germans.” Can you spot the difference? You assume that “white Americans” (underline white) are some kind of coherent group that have a common history. This is to racialise a large and complex population simply on the basis of their assumed skin colour. There is no white race — though white racists and the KKK might not like the fact any more than black nationalists. There is a social history in which migrants from many parts of the world, many of them arriving after the Civil War and the end of slavery, became Americans — often in brutal working conditions and generations of dreadful poverty. Do your “white Americans” include poor Russian Jews in the clothing trades of New York, or poor Irish and Italian working families? They all have a history but it’s not the one you are vaguely pointing towards. All they have in common is that they were not “black”. And where do you place the Chinese migrants in California and building the railroads? They weren’t “black” either. Is the notion of “white Americans” anything more than a political slogan that serves the purposes of different groups? It seems to me that race is a poisonous concept however it is used.

Ok I think what you wrote makes sense... but the thing is that in the US, the general view of the population is that it is divided into "races", and thus many people do identify as "white" in the US. This is different from both Mexico (where most people probably identify as mestizo )or most European countries, where people generally identify with their national or ethnic origin. Thus, if white Americans do not want to have to stand up to their history, then maybe they shouldn't identify as "White", but instead as mestizo, because I don't think it makes much sense to identify with an European ethnic group if one's ancestors have moved to the US 100 years ago and they don't speak the language of the country of origin...

Here is an interesting article from a indigenous American perspective, which kind of shows what I mean (obviously as an European person I have a different perspective and know less about this than an indigenous person, but it's still interesting):

Blood libel is a great evil. No one is responsible for the actions of their ancestors.

Whites also fought a great war to end slavery, went on to end the slave trade and ultimately endemic slavery around the world. Should "white people" therefore go around expecting plaudits for this great triumph of some more or less genetically related people many years ago?? Of course we could go on all day about different groups and the good and bad people who made up their ancestry.

Sorry, blood libel is not the correct term here. Ancestral sin.

I agree with the general gist of this article. My main gripe with the letter, even though I share its sentiment, is that it lacks bravery. What I mean with that is that the issue of free speech and how it was phrased is so open and so basic that only a fringe would object to it. Most would see the points raised as an 'opening an open door', much like stating 'I like music', or 'I'm against injustice'.

More bravery is currently required to make the point of the letter on an actual topic, such as co-signatory to the letter JK Rowling has shown. Her very simple stand on kind yet principled free-speech has made her the target of extreme vitriol.

If the letter would have made its principled stand on a particular issue, such as standing in support of Rowling, it would be far more pertinent in my opinion. As it stands now its a bit of a stand for free speech without actually trying to stand in the firing line.

You miss the point. The point was not to wade into a defense of Rowling, or any other axle to get wrapped around and re-litigate on Twitter.

The point was a generic broad wake up call to the left that it was behaving like the right, and so was playing into the hands of the right.

It was a call for each person to reevaluate and reset their own conduct. It was a call to reacquire shared common cause in the pursuit of liberalism, against an unscrupulous and dangerous right.

Everybody pause and take a deep breath. That's all it said.

The people who criticize the letter for lacking "bravery" are in reality saying "my only problem with the cancel culture is who is being cancelled and who is canceling".

If you really are against "cancel culture" as a general principle, it will be exactly a letter written in general terms what you will want.

"how it was phrased is so open and so basic that only a fringe would object to it. "
thats why we should eyeball the mob of objectors and their objections.
so far their objections mostly ad hominems & falsifiable.
ezra klein reductively claims defending free speech is a "power play"
but he got it backasswards. the postmodern
wreckoning/fubaring of free speech is the power play

I'm sorry to state the obvious, but no one actually cares about cancel culture per se. It's just a convenient label to use to one it fits one's purpose.

When Kaepernick took a knee, the President of the Untied States called for him (and any other football players who stray from the line) to be fired, and sicced the media and the twitter mob on him. Shortly thereafter he he did in fact lose his job, evidently for his speech and actions, even though they had no impact on his ability to do his job. The mob of course pointed to freedom of association etc., as they do today. I don't recall a peep about the dangers of cancel culture then.

The participants in and victims of cancel culture today are no different, it's just being done by the other side now.

I guess I could see one a difference--it is the occupation of the people being cancelled today versus then. The people most fearful of being cancelled today are those who are paid for the quality of their thought and contributions to public debate. I would propose the bold statement that perhaps there's a rationale that their employment should be linked at least in some manner to the quality of their marginal product. If those contributions are trash as judged by their employers, there seems to be a rationale to revisit their compensation. On the other hand, if it's for political reasons, then of course this rationale does not apply.

I'm sorry to state the obvious, but no one actually cares about cancel culture per se.

Thanks for the projection. Always pleasant.

When Kaepernick took a knee, t

He was gratuitously injecting his stupid politics into an entertainment venue. Professors produce verbiage for a living. That's what they do.

Kaepernick doesn't have the talent to play in the NFL. He would not have contracts with Disney and Nike except for his politics. Who would have thought that Disney would give a lucrative contract to a person who thinks the 4th of July is a celebration of white supremacy. No more Disney celebrations on the 4th I guess. This is cancel culture for the left? Trump is critical and the left showers you with cash.

He did not lose any job, he was a free agent. It's probable that without this brouhaha he would have gotten a backup job somewhere, but he has stated he will not accept a backup job anyway. He makes more money now than he did as a football player anyway.

He could have said just about anything he wanted in his own free time and he would have been fine, people objected to his kneeling during the anthem on national television (on the job) which created a huge firestorm and made it difficult to employ him due to the PR problems. Now of course lots of people kneel during the national anthem and are not fired, and Kaepernick wasn't fired and wouldn't have been.

Anyway his boss was free to ask him to stop or not since his actions were on the job, and as far as I know his boss never did ask him to stop and he wasn't fired. So I'm not sure that he's a victim of cancel culture.

there was actually quite a vigorous debate on both sides about
kaepernicks knee & nobody on either side was saying it couldn't be debated because it made them feel "unsafe"

Like there is vigorous debate about almost all issues related to "cancel culture".

not really.
the left often uses the "unsafe" meme & canceling as a tactic to stop the debate. nobody on the left wants to have the difficult conversation about arson as cancel culture. it is easier to rebrand it as" unrest"
nobody can have a vigorous debate about blm without the threat of
getting canceled or threatened "ima stab you" (harvard)

I love the idea that you have to be "living under a rock" to not know about the latest nonsense.

I quit Twitter about a month ago after noticing it annoyed me 90% of the time. I still read the news and browse the internet. And I didn't hear about this letter or whatever it is, except on this blog.

Twitter is rotting people's brains much more than Facebook ever could. It's gratifying to have such clear evidence that it was good to leave, so soon after I left.

Nonsense. Bowing to a few thugs.


It's not really "a bunch" though. Right now the most egregious censorship is by the big tech monopolies (Google, YouTube, Facebook, PayPal, Amazon, Twitter, etc.). And in almost every case the purges and bans have been at the behest of the Anti-Defamation League and similar organizations.

The censorship has now moved well beyond just having basic, clear-cut rules (e.g., no racial slurs) and is in actuality targeted primarily at concepts and information, and, mostly imporantly, the inferred motivations of the speaker. PayPal's internal policy right now is to ban anyone involved with "White Advocacy" "Anti-Immigration" "False Claims" "Prejudiced News" "Intolerant Religious Content" and "Holocaust Denial" and that is not even an exhaustive list. We heard for two years about "omg, Russians are interfering in our politics and our elections!!!" meanwhile we have far complete manipulation of basic political thought and communication going on right in front of our faces.

The conservatives that defend this because these are "private companies" are total morons (or they are in on the scheme). That argument doesn't work when you are dealing with monopolies. What's happening is actually far worse than direct government censorship because at least usually the government has well-defined bureaucratic rules and there's ability to appeal to courts and other forms of redress. It's totally unacceptable to have these few key communication hubs controlled at the whims of the ADL and others. And liberals who say it's fine because only right-wingers are shut down are also morons because things will be tightening on the left as well. No real leftist should be comfortable with a handful of corporations arbitrarily controlling political communication. Will these ADL-advised monopolies allow leftists to criticize Israeli treatment of Palestinians? Will they allow leftists to oppose the next neo-con war? Will they put their thumb on the scale whenever their commercial interests are at stake? Liberals think they are safe but they are not! Many of those who have been cancelled are actually liberals.

This leads us into the related but somewhat distinct issue of people who for whatever reason draw the ire of activists who then agitate to get them fired. The main problem here is not merely "social media." It's that the activists have rather important institutional backing in the media and even the government to some extent. If a few people write to a university president or an HR department calling for someone's head, that alone probably isn't going to do anything. But if the agitators call and can credibly threaten the entity with bad publicity and headache, then sacrificing the employee looks like an easy way out. In economic terms, the intention of these harassment tactics is to make the employee more trouble to the employer than they are worth which is trivially easy to do in almost all cases. And that's exactly why it should be illegal and moreover the people harassed in this fashion should be able to sue for lost wages and other damages. That would put an end to all of this quickly.

This modern American system of precarious corporate employment is the most effective system of control ever devised. The corporations police their employees and the media etc control the corporations.

We actually had someone on this thread argue that the Sedition Act was constitutional. And why not? It was passed by men who were indisputably founders. The act was then repealed. But elections have consequences, and the party of men who passed the Sedition Act ceased to exist right after that. Still, it is not possible to argue that the meaning of the First Amendment was obvious , since it wasn't, and people who claim they can read the founder's intent are full of it.

the supreme court has a couple hundred years of case law that
interprets the founders intent.

Yes. Of course. But , in 1798, a majority of the House and Senate , the Federalists, in essence, agreed with Blackstone's common law view of prior restraint and free speech. Aren't they Founders? They were the first government for 12 years. When people say the Founders, they mostly mean the Republicans. But the only reason the Republican view now holds sway is due to elections, not to any original view or clear meaning. They had one reading, the Federalists had another. The Federalists have as much right to be considered Founders as the Republicans. However, if I argue that the first interpretation held by government and the court of the US was Blackstone's view, I 'd be right. Legally, and constitutionally, that was the original view, and that's why the Sedition Law was repealed, not held to be unconstitutional. It would likely have been held constitutional for the first 20 years or so. It has nothing to do with Founder's intent, unless that means agreeing with the Republicans on this issue. Founder's intent is rhetorical bs. It's a current rhetorical ploy, not the discovery of an obvious and clear history. The couple hundred years is precedent, which is what every SC decision has. To overturn precedent, the Constitution should be amended, not resting on some bogus interpretation.

Tyler: you're right about the letter. It's limp.

This is about the marketplace of ideas. The customers have been pushing back, and that upsets some suppliers. The NY Times only worried about the Cotton op-ed when people stared canceling subscriptions. Facebook is only rethinking its algorithms and weakening its Trump exception because advertisers are pulling back and the advertisers are pulling back because they are worried about their customers reactions. Colleges worry about students and research grants.

That's how marketplaces work. Maybe it means that there are products that are harder to find or only available at specialty stores or web sites.

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