Thursday, February 09, 2017

AAUP Statement on "Targeted Online Harassment"

   Not sure what to think about this.
   I'm inclined to think such things are left-slanted...but you know me. The left is currently stifling discussion on campuses more than the right is. Professors have been clamoring to get on the "Professor Watch List"--they consider it a badge of honor. Argumentum ad InternetDeathThreatum doesn't carry much weight in my book, I have to say. And, though such things are seriously messed up, of course, appeals to internet death threats strike me as largely rhetorical. I mean...if there's any genuine fear in play, it isn't strong enough to prevent professors from submitting their own names to the Watchlist...and professors are generally pretty wimpy, so...
   Anyway...it's not clear to me what to make of this AAUP statement. It seems a bit cagey. It can be read as a denunciation of the people who send such threats...but it can also be read as a condemnation of The College Fix and Campus Reform.
   One of the canned PC arguments in response to free speech concerns goes like this: free speech doesn't mean that you are immune from criticism. That's true, of course--though not exactly to the point. What people object to about the PCs is not that they argue for their positions--it's that their arguments are usually terrible, and they tend to screech them, using intimidation rather than the content of their words to effect their goals--which tend to include: silencing the opposition.
  But anyway: death threats aside, doesn't that argument apply here?: you can teach what you want...but you're not immune to criticism for it.
   Final point: we've been inundated over the last couple of years with stories of the left attacking professors for small, speculative, imagined transgressions against obscure, largely made-up, leftist positions. Seems to me that the Watch List was targeting only really overt, egregious cases of bias...but I haven't kept up with it. At any rate, just gesturing at a certain asymmetry...and trying to remember whether the AAUP has made statements about that other stuff...
   Anyway. Not saying the AAUP isn't right here. Just thinking out loud and being contrarian again.

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