Monday, August 24, 2015

Rutgers: "There Is No Such Thing As 'Free' Speech" [updated x2]

   So...I'm thinking that maybe we can put to rest the canard that the illiberal left has no power/influence?

   There's a lot that's of concern on that page. Obviously the claim that "There is no such thing as 'free' speech" could actually use a bit of discussion. There's obviously some wiggle room in there...and Rutgers will undoubtedly be doing some mad wiggling in the near future... If pressed, they could deny that they're actually denying the reality of free speech per se. They can claim that they're using an inflammatory-sounding claim to make the point that all speech has consequences. (Actually, that's not exactly true...but certainly a lot of speech does.) But the claim actually seems to be a kind of double entendre, aiming to assert both points.
   Denying the reality of free speech is bad enough...but the emphasis on the consequences of speech rather than its content is almost as worrisome, it seems to me. I'm inclined to think that this is a general problem on the left--a kind of skepticism about or denigration of things like representation, content, intellectual purport and intention, intellectual/scholarly/scientific goals, and so forth and an emphasis on things like tangible harm. The traditional (broadly) liberal view is something like: our intellectual existence and projects are so important that they get presumption. You can constrain speech on the grounds that it causes harm only when the speech does not actually seek to convey content, but itself merely seeks to effect some action in a non-rational way (that's one take on what's wrong with yelling 'fire' in a...well, you see where I'm going with this...) The left, for all it's anti-scientific bent, also exhibits its own peculiar brand of scientism. And prioritizing things like psychological harm over things like the expression of ideas is one manifestation of that...or so it seems to me...  Something like that, anyway.
   In summary, I would like to say: this BS is cause for alarm.

   Maybe I should be worried that I am getting a feel for the SJW / neo-PC mind...but anyway, I figured Rutgers would backpedal on this. Apparently they have, and have deleted the "no free speech" claim from their website. But it was there...oh yes it was:

[update 2]

Reason is also discussing this, and also notes the change on the website.


Anonymous cb said...

Headline at Campus Reform: "Rutgers: No such thing as free speech"

On Rutgers page, CTRL+F "free speech"... 0 results.

From Rutgers page: "Bias is defined by the University as an act, verbal, written, physical, psychological, that threatens, or harms a person or group on the basis of... [blah blah blah]. However, such acts may not always be in violation of civil, criminal or University codes, and therefore will not result in discipline."

Not sure what CR is on about here. A university code of conduct that says disruptive bias acts "may warrant discussion or education about how that affects the community" but no actual punishment does not seem to be denying the reality of free speech.

What am I missing?

4:38 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

What you're missing is the version of the page that was up this morning...

I figured this would happen, so I took a screen cap.

Will post asap.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous cb said...

Well, for an exemplar of the power/influence wielded by the illiberal left, they sure backed down quick, didn't they?

I can't tell from your screenshot -- were changes also made to the actual substance of the policy (say, the part I bolded above)?

8:39 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

As for the second point: it's a great question...I don't see that this verbal change gives us any reason at all to think that the real policy changed.

But, then, the first objection was really to the idea expressed by the sentence in question. Ideas matter, and so this matters, at least to some extent...

It's a fair point about the power of the illiberal left... Not decisive of course, but it's worth throwing into the mix. I'll definitely reflect on that. However, this is a well-known pattern, and one might say it's part of the problem. The PCs invade academia, sinking their tendrils into every place from which they can insinuate their ideas into the minds of the students, and from which they can influence the institution. When they're flat-out busted, they often just concede and withdraw from that front.
And there's no way they're going to win that battle about free speech. Out of the limelight, they can just shriek "freeze peach! freeze peach!"...but this is one thing mainstream liberalism is not just going to shrug off...

So anyway, I don't think that anyone thinks that these folks are so influential that they can win *that* fight. But they're influential to get universities to say things like that in the hope that no one will notice. And that's far from nothing. Or so I'd say off the top of my head...

Does that seem stupid or otherwise wrong?

9:06 AM  

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