Friday, June 30, 2017

William Sanders is dead. He was a better man and a better writer than his haters.

I never met William Sanders, but I admired his work, and after I began studying mobbing and call-out culture, I admired the man, too. I wrote about him in The Powwow Dancer vs. the People of Privilege - Mobbing William Sanders.

The story of his that is most likely to be remembered is online: "The Undiscovered" by William Sanders (pdf).

He retired from writing, then wrote a couple of stories. I'll always wonder what more he might've written if fandom's identitarians had not decided to drive him from the field.

ETA: I learned of this from Gardner Dozois's Facebook post.

When anti-racists say they are racist, they mean you are

The original anti-racists—not the first people to fight racism, but the people who developed the race reductionist approach called Critical Race Theory—taught that all white people are racist because they grow up in a racist society. If you think about that, you'll know in a second it's nonsense because every society produces rebels. But the original anti-racists were not rebels. They were Ivy Leaguers who wanted to reach the top of the class pyramid, so they rejected the anti-capitalism of King and Malcolm X.

Science says their belief is wrong. There've been several tests to measure racism. None conclude that all white people are racist. Project Implicit's race test suggests a higher percentage of white people have measurable racism than any other test I know of, but Project Implicit is criticized by many people who think it suggests people are more racist than they actually are. Project Implicit's creators agree that could be so.

But anti-racists hate Project Implicit because it suggests a large minority of white people prefer black folks, and a smaller minority have no preference. In the discussion at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat (a gift that keeps on giving), Cheryl S. said,
Ah, the Project Implicit test. Like Chad, I’ll never get those minutes back, but here:
Here is your result:
Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for African Americans over European Americans.
Which I do have (and the test knows that because it asked me and I told it so), but since I’m white, I also harbor implicit, deeply rooted and societally based racism, so this don’t mean nothing. Also, in addition to all the flaws pointed out in the article @jayn linked, there is a significant flaw in the test (it times things, which may be meaningless if you’ve taught a test taker a system and then change it), plus all the photos were of men. In other words, this is the Myers-Briggs of racism testing, which is to say it’s meaningless drivel and proves precisely nothing except that people like taking stupid tests.
The research I've seen suggests the test is not amenable to gaming—I know my attempts to game it have failed—so there are two possibilities:

1. Cheryl S. is right about her racism, and Project Implicit failed her.
2. Cheryl S. is wrong about her racism, but a basic human rule applies: faith trumps facts.

I don't know Cheryl S., so I can't speculate. I'm fine with either possibility.

But if her faith requires her to feel she's harboring racism, don't assume she gets satisfaction from flagellating herself. A different mechanism is at work. Anti-racism's roots are in the religious theory of social justice, and their model of racism is that it's a sin passed from parent to child. When white anti-racists insist they are racists, they are not just saying they are sinners. They are saying they have been saved, but you are still damned.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Terrible Sea Lion: Persistent Politeness is Loved by Friends and Feared by Foes

Understanding the identitarian difficulty with metaphor and idiom

Notes: This is a follow-up to Four kinds of safe spaces and a question about idiom. Some of the quotes are from longer posts at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat that touch on other subjects. I've done my best to include everything about metaphor and idiom to keep from misrepresenting anyone, but if you spot anything that should've been included, mention it in the comments and I'll update this post.

Greg Hullender said,
I’m a linguist, and we have a slightly different definition of idiom than the popular one, but one that gets used in a lot of examples is “He kicked the bucket” to mean “He died.” This is certainly not literal, but I’d argue it isn’t metaphorical either.
I said,
Greg, how is it not metaphorical? Kicking the bucket is not meant literally—it’s a metaphor for dying. There are several theories for its origin, but whether it was originally a bucket or a beam or something else, that idiom seems perfectly metaphorical. I’d love to hear your argument that it isn’t.
Then I went googling to learn more, and added,
There seems to be an argument that idioms, like cliches, are so familiar that we don’t have to process them as we do a new metaphor. But that does not mean they aren’t metaphors. It just means they’re familiar.
Then I thought a bit and said,
Y’know, Lydy and WW may be onto something. For those of us who try to use language consciously, idioms are metaphorical. But for people who often use an idiom, it functions as a unit of sound that the hearer does not think about because the hearers believe they know the meaning—they literally don’t think about it. So when Steve used “safe space” as a metaphor, the part of the audience that has a single understanding of “safe space” literally could not grasp what he was saying.
Greg Hullender answered my question about kicking the bucket:
If I say “The sea was a mirror,” that’s a metaphor. You know the sea isn’t really a mirror, but you know what I mean. I read novels in French, Spanish, and Italian, and when I run across a new metaphor, even though I’ve never heard it in English, I can always figure it out. (Contrast “simile” where I’d say “The sea was like a mirror.”)

But with “Kick the bucket” or “Everything was in apple-pie order,” there is no way in the world to figure it out without a visit to the dictionary.
And he quoted what I said about Lydy and WW being onto something and said,
Linguists refer to this as lexicalizing a phrase. That means it effectively becomes a new “word” in the dictionary–a word that happens to contain spaces–whose meaning cannot be deduced simply from the pieces. “Real estate” is a good example. One could argue “safe space” is too.

An idiom is a bit more than a lexicalized expression because, unlike the latter, an idiom is not “productive.” Note that I cannot say “The bucket was kicked by him.” Only certain grammatical forms of the idiom are valid, whereas a lexicalized expression should have the same flexibility as any other word.
Lydy, who continues to insist that "safe space" is a term of art that is neither literal nor metaphorical, announced that she knew what a term of art was. I said,
Lydy, you say you know what a term of art is, but a term of art has a specific meaning to the group that uses it, which is to say, it is meant to be understood literally by them. Which is why the people who understood “safe space” as a term of art were so upset when Steve used it metaphorically.

Greg, thank you. Your definition of idiom seems to be “obscure metaphor”–you need to know the references to make sense of the metaphor, but if you’re very familiar with a language, you can use an idiom to communicate without knowing its past.

As for “the bucket was kicked by him”, give the internet a little more time. 🙂
So what happened at Fourth Street:

Steve, thinking like a writer, used a metaphor. But he did not know that some of his audience were part of a group that understands "safe space" as a term of art and therefore were as confused as Scientologists would be by someone who used one of their terms of art as a metaphor.

Bonus: Safe-space - Criticism - Wikipedia

In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas - The New York Times: "But the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer."

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Four kinds of safe spaces and a question about idiom

At Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770, Lydy Nickerson claimed,
I would like to point out that “safe space” is neither a literal nor a metaphorical phrase. It is a term of art, coming out of various complex discussions about how to deal with racism, sexism, and kierarchy.
World Weary added,
i’m surprised to find a writer unfamiliar with the concept of idiom, a term which describes a word or words with a specific but non-literal and non-metaphorical meaning. The bane of translaters everywhere.
This is a slightly revised version of my reply,
World Weary, the reason idiom is difficult to translate is because idioms can be literal, but they’re more commonly metaphorical. When they’re literal, they assume knowledge that outsiders don’t have. And that’s true when they’re metaphorical. Can you offer an example of an idiom that is neither metaphorical or literal?

To take this back to the topic:

A safe space can be a literal space that is safe from physical danger because danger cannot enter, like a fortress or an isolated chamber such as the safe room that rich people build in their homes.

A safe space can be one of at least three kinds of spaces where the safety is metaphorical, based on the consent of the people who meet there:

A space that is free from physical danger by agreement, like sacred grounds or a place where a flag of truce is flying.

A space where no ideas are taboo.

A space where certain ideas are taboo.
Thinking more about the possibility that an idiom could be literal but obscure, I went looking and couldn't find any examples, but I found a good definition of idiom at English Idioms | Lists of Idioms with Definitions and Examples:
An idiom (also called idiomatic expression) is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning conventionally understood by native speakers. This meaning is different from the literal meaning of the idiom's individual elements. In other words, idioms don't mean exactly what the words say. They have, however, hidden meaning.
So, can anyone offer an example of an idiom that is neither literal or metaphorical? 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Black Panther wisdom: two quotes by Huey P. Newton and Fred Hampton

“I dissuade Party members from putting down people who do not understand. Even people who are unenlightened and seemingly bourgeois should be answered in a polite way. Things should be explained to them as fully as possible. I was turned off by a person who did not want to talk to me because I was not important enough. Maurice just wanted to preach to the converted, who already agreed with him. I try to be cordial, because that way you win people over. You cannot win them over by drawing the line of demarcation, saying you are on this side and I am on the other; that shows a lack of consciousness. After the Black Panther Party was formed, I nearly fell into this error. I could not understand why people were blind to what I saw so clearly. Then I realized that their understanding had to be developed.” ―Huey P. Newton

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.” —Fred Hampton

ETA: The Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements, Speech given by Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panthers, August 15, 1970.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Censors censor discussion of censorship—a 4th Street followup

I made a post on the 4th Street Fantasy Facebook page asking which specific part of the 4th Street Code of Conduct Steve Brust is supposed to have broken. Alex Haist, who silenced Steve, also administers the 4th Street page; she deleted my post.

I then asked this on her post about closing comments:
I am guessing you deleted my post. Perhaps this is the proper place to ask the question: What specific part of the Code of Conduct did Brust break?
She replied,
No, this is not the right place. As I said, you're welcome to have this conversation with us in email.
and then she turned off commenting on that post.

So I made a new post, trying to point out that if you expect people to abide by your speech code, you have to be able to explain which part of the code applies to what you censor. Otherwise, you just appear to be a dictator.

Okay, I worded the post much more gently than that, but she must have seen the implications, because she deleted it.

Yes, I know private censorship is perfectly legal. It is still wrong.

Relevant: XKCD doesn't understand free speech—or the difference between legal and moral rights

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why it's easier to speak among free speech supporters than in a "safe space"

In defense of safe spaces, Scott Lynch said, “It is difficult to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t feel fundamentally welcome.”

That's certainly true. But it's not the only consideration.

It is impossible to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t know what may inspire them to silence you. It is much easier to be bold in front of free speech supporters. Even the ones who most oppose you will support your right to speak.

The Malcolm X Code of Conduct

“Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” – Malcolm X

"Be peaceful" should be the easiest part to grasp. Don't initiate violence, and don't threaten to initiate it.

"Be courteous" is hard for some upper class rebels to understand, because they think civility is a bourgeois notion that should be discarded. They fail to see that every community has rules of behavior. A common expression of that among working class southerners is "Didn't your mama teach you no manners?"

“Obey the law” is hard for many rebels to understand. It doesn't mean submit to authority. It's a tactic for protest—disobeying the law gives the authorities an excuse to silence you. Because Malcolm, after he left the Nation of Islam, respected Martin Luther King’s use of civil disobedience, I suspect Malcolm would say this part of his code, like any code, may be broken if you're sure you'll be more effective by breaking it.

"Respect everyone" is the advice that St. Peter also gives. It is the definition of civility, the tool of diplomats. It has nothing to do with good manners—good manners call for you to avoid unpleasantness. Civility lets you confront any unpleasantness.

"If someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery" is the hardest part to grasp for pacifists and war lovers. The “if” is essential. Has no one laid hands on you? Stay peaceful, courteous, and respectful. Online, no one can put a hand on you. In civil meetings, no one will put a hand on you. We know Malcolm meant "puts his hand on you" literally because he was civil to everyone, including George Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.

Further, if someone puts a hand on you, you are not obliged to respond with violence and you may not use more violence then necessary. Just as "an eye for an eye" says you may not take two eyes for one, "if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery" says you may only choose to use lethal force while you're defending yourself. As soon as your opponents are incapable of laying hands on you or have stopped laying hands on you, the first half of the code applies: respect them.

Nothing in his code kept Malcolm X from demanding justice. You can see that by watching any of his speeches or interviews.

Possibly relevant: A little about America's idea of cowboys and traditional male values. Cowboy codes of the early 20th century have a lot in common with Malcolm's code.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Denying "standing": how identitarians marginalize the marginalized who disagree with them (focusing on 4th St. Fantasy)

At Followup On Fourth Street, Hopping689 told Steven Brust,
Your opening address was in no way aggressive and I heartily approved of it. Speaking as a disabled woman. 
If a writer has nothing to say about society, I don’t read their work and I certainly don’t go to hear them speak. Why would I, if they have nothing to say? Surely nearly every story is about society and the individual’s place in it. Especially SFF, aka “the literature of ideas.” 
By “safe space” do those who object actually mean “commercially safe space”? If groups are socially and economically disadvantaged to the point they don’t feel safe speaking up in public discussions, hadn’t the panel better address the political forces behind that? If you don’t talk about real things, real people don’t care. They don’t have the time. The purpose of the discussion becomes insular, otherwise; maybe even indulgent. It’s the very thing that puts busy, cash-strapped, tired people off reading in the first place. Anti-intellectualism relies on art which says nothing. 
It seems a fairly typical use of identity politics to quash genuine political discussion, whether it’s done consciously or not. And anyway, (to make the old joke) speaking as a woman, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
But her comments have been excluded from the identitarian narrative because they do not fit. Like Adolph Reed, whose short piece on anti-racism should be read by anyone who is concerned with racism, she cannot be dismissed with the usual ad hominem, so she's simply ignored.

I started thinking about "standing" when I read Cheryl S.'s comment at Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770:
...I commented yesterday that Brust lacked standing. He doesn’t get to redefine the meaning in order to make a rather dubious point while also dog whistling the culture. wars.
Why does Steve lack standing? Because he's a white male who does not accept the neoliberal understanding of privilege developed in the Ivy League.

As a disabled woman, Hopping689 should have all the "standing" anyone needs to have their position taken seriously. But for identitarians, ideology trumps identity, a fact that should be especially obviously when cis het white male identitarians tell a story that erases Hopping689 and all the women who did not feel threatened by Steve.


Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical--a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle

Yes, some people literally did not understand that Steve Brust was speaking metaphorically

"Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist"—a guest post by Jonas Kyratzes

Jonas made a comment on My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention that deserves more attention, so I've made it a guest post. -WS

Why the Theory of Cultural Appropriation is Pro-Capitalist

by Jonas Kyratzes

Of course the concept of appropriation is pro-capitalist: it treats culture, inherently diffuse, messy, mixed up and impure, as an ownable good available in limited amounts. It’s an even more extreme version of the logic applied to software piracy. It’s turning everything into a product.

Even the excuse that the point supposedly is to protect people from that culture (and not to police cultural borders) comes purely in capitalist terms – the function is to protect those artists who make a living by selling a purist fantasy. And usually, to be clear, these are Americans who have some ancestral connection to that culture, not people from another country. Because people from those countries are rarely threatened by “outsiders” taking on elements of their culture; in fact, they celebrate it. In Greece, when some element of Greek culture becomes popular worldwide, it tends to make the news. As a good thing. As in hey, we’re poor and miserable and everything is shit, but at least we’re still relevant in the world. People like our stuff! If you all start loving the bouzouki, we’re not suddenly going to run out of music over here.

And the irony is, of course, that this demand for cultural purity actually *diminishes* opportunities for artists from these countries. If certain elements of their culture become part of the global mainstream, that’s actually a chance to have an impact! It makes you more easily understood, makes what you have to offer more accessible. It builds bridges. But the anti-appropriation argument actually just has the effect of limiting “cultural authority” to the tiny minority of English or American middle-class artists who take on the role of “authentic” representative/consultant and perpetuate these rigid Maoist-style ideologies to safeguard their position.

The people outside the US most likely to be against appropriation, i.e. against the mixing of cultures, are fascists. The people most likely to make a big deal about “their” culture are extreme conservatives. That’s what you’re supporting on a global scale when you fight against appopriation – the very worst parts of society, the equivalent of your very own white supremacists. The rest of us are deeply opposed to nationalism, to cultural chauvinism. We’re not insecure about “our” culture. We’re fighting against borders, against segregation, for unity and understanding between cultures. Cultures which, incidentally, simply cannot be ranked in some convenient hierarchy – our histories are way too messy for that.

Why American leftists insist on supporting the extreme right, the worst enemies of the very oppressed you claim to want to help, will never make sense. We could really use your solidarity, but that would require an internationalist, transcultural perspective.

Yes, some people literally did not understand that Steve Brust was speaking metaphorically

A footnote to Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical--a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle:

I completely understand why people find it hard to believe anyone did not understand that Steve was speaking metaphorically. That croggled me, too. But the difficulty of understanding metaphor began with the first comments at 4th Street Fantasy Society:

David Cummer Are you saying Steve intended to make people feel threatened?

LikeShow more reactions
ReplyJune 17 at 2:29pm
Alex Haist David Cummer He said so explicitly, so yes.

LikeShow more reactions
ReplyJune 17 at 2:30pm

I answered,

Will Shetterly Alex has trouble understanding metaphors, so she did not hear what he was saying. This would not have been a problem had she asked him if what she inferred was what he intended to imply.

June 18 at 12:30amEdited

Even after considerable discussion about metaphors, there were exchanges like this:

Karen Osborne Because he literally said that we should feel threatened. Good heavens.

June 20 at 3:54pmEdited
Will Shetterly Karen Osborne Did he say it literally or metaphorically?
Will Shetterly I asked Matt Smit this, and he hasn't answered yet: Is it no longer possible to use "threaten" as a metaphor? I'm old, and language changes, so if that's so, it'd be good to know. In my day, anything could be meant literally or metaphorically.
Matt Smit You asked Reuben, not me, Will.

June 20 at 3:58pm
Karen Osborne Will - You already know what he said.

June 20 at 3:59pm
Will Shetterly Karen Osborne Yes, I do, and I know it was a metaphor.

ETA: At Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat | File 770, Hampus Eckerman doubles down on the idea that Steve's metaphor was a literal threat. I replied, "All metaphors are said literally. That does not mean metaphoric speech is literal speech, even though English would let us say that."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Three thoughts about cults

If you know a cult's buzzwords, you know when people who say they want discussion are only after your conversion.

Secular cults are harder to spot than religious ones. But not much harder.

Cultists always give themselves away when they get angry: they love the insults for outsiders that their group uses.

Scrupulosity, a useful concept for understanding some moral warriors

Simon Kongshøj wrote,
I recently learned about a concept from the psychology of religion: Scrupulosity. This isn't the same as being scrupulous (which is a good thing), but means a pathological concern with own sins and sinfulness, which drives the sufferer to compulsively engage in religious ritual in self-harming or self-denying ways: Going to confession daily, "confessing" minor unwelcome stray thoughts, excessive fasting, self-flagellation, etc. In the Catholic world, scrupulosity has been studied since at least the 1600s, where priests would write about how they desperately attempted to calm down some of their churchgoers who had become unable to function socially and unable to maintain normal daily lives. Today, it's considered a form of OCD.

But the Catholic church in the 1600s was a major social institution, and the priest *had* to be concerned about whether some of his churchgoers became so dysfunctional they couldn't contribute to society anymore. In a cult, where isolation from the surrounding society can be considered a value, leaders are probably more likely to try to *strengthen* these impulses in sick members. And the more miserable their lives become, the more demands for self-sacrifice the leaders can make.

I think certain strands of modern progressive politics can form a very fertile substrate for a kind of secular scrupulosity. And in activist communities that pride themselves on being a counterculture in opposition to the surrounding society, much as I think such a counterculture is *good* and *necessary*, I think the cult-like expression of it is likely to flourish, except that the pressure of a cult leader might be replaced with peer pressure from the community.

Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical--a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle

This year's 4th Street Fantasy Convention was generally fine, but Steve Brust's initial comments were badly misunderstood. His text is here: My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention 

Ideally, you will read that before continuing so my comments won't color your interpretation of what's there.

I'm writing this post because I said something in the discussion on Facebook that I regret, but though I said it snarkily, it seems to be true:
I see several people here are not familiar with a literary device called the metaphor. Perhaps metaphors should be the subject of a Fourth Street Panel next year.

Out of curiosity, why would anyone think Steve would want to turn a literary convention into a place where people are physically threatened?
The people who're upset by Steve's talk are unable to see that his opening lines are metaphorical:
Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space.
And they're unable to see that his third line is literal:
Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind.
If you think about his statement logically, there's no reason to interpret the first two lines as saying he wants 4th Street to be a place that's physically unsafe, and there's every reason to think his third line means exactly what it says.

But humans aren't logical. To people who think of safe spaces as sacred spaces, any questioning of the idea is taboo.

At least one of Steve's critics insists they do understand metaphor. But if that's true, why are they upset?

The answer: Ideology affects our ability to interpret text. Someone first pointed this out to me with Christian sects: they often disagree over what's literal and what's metaphorical, so some Christians think they should be able to handle vipers and some do not.

Secular cults also struggle with what's literal and what's metaphorical. Though Strong Whorfianism has been discounted, cultists police words fiercely, sometimes to the extent that they treat words as deeds. Cognitive dissonance keeps them from recognizing the inconsistencies in their understanding. When the possibility that an article of faith might be doubted arises--like the idea that a "safe space" may have both good points and bad--they react with anger, then comfort themselves with platitudes.

And so they confirm that Steve's fears are justified. Safe spaces only allow for safe ideas.

ETA: Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces on College Campuses Can Silence Religious Students - The Atlantic:
Trigger warnings and safe spaces are terms that reflect the values of the communities in which they’re used. ... These advocates routinely use the word “ally” to describe those who support their positions on race, gender, and religion, implying that anyone who disagrees is an “enemy.”
How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus - The Atlantic:
...trigger warnings are sometimes demanded for a long list of ideas and attitudes that some students find politically offensive, in the name of preventing other students from being harmed. This is an example of what psychologists call “motivated reasoning”—we spontaneously generate arguments for conclusions we want to support. Once you find something hateful, it is easy to argue that exposure to the hateful thing could traumatize some other people. You believe that you know how others will react, and that their reaction could be devastating. Preventing that devastation becomes a moral obligation for the whole community. Books for which students have called publicly for trigger warnings within the past couple of years include Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (at Rutgers, for “suicidal inclinations”) and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (at Columbia, for sexual assault).
Trigger warnings: more harm than good? - Telegraph

Three essential points about trigger warnings, Neil Gaiman, and Kameron Hurley; or Trigger warning: Shetterly

Part 2: Yes, some people literally did not understand that Steve Brust was speaking metaphorically

Frederick Douglass and Henry Louis Gates on free speech and hate speech

Frederick Douglass

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker." —Frederick Douglass, "A Plea for Free Speech in Boston"

"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power." —Frederick Douglass, "A Plea for Free Speech in Boston"

Henry Louis Gates

From "Critical Race Theory and Freedom of Speech" in The Future of Academic Freedom, edited by Louis Menard, University of Chicago Press, 1996:
What you don't hear from the hate speech theorists is that the first casualty of the MacKinnonite anti-obscenity ruling was a gay and lesbian bookshop in Toronto, which was raided by the police because of a lesbian magazine it carried.
From Presidential Lectures: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.:
People do bad things, things they know that are bad, for what they feel at the moment were good reasons. One is to institute speech codes. Trample all over the First Amendment, the right of free speech, because we decide that using certain language hurts our fellow human beings—it demeans their humanity. While that might seem like a good idea, the long-term consequences on the right to free expression are far greater than whatever immediate hurt or pain a woman would feel for being called a bitch or a black would feel for being called a nigger. If we're talking about actual physical harm, laws against that exist already. It's not worth it to me to assuage the pain by killing off the First Amendment.
Speech codes are symbolic acts. They let a group of people say, 'This symbolizes that we at the University of Wisconsin are not the sort of community where we would tolerate someone saying the word 'rigger.'' Well, big deal. But there are other symbolic consequences, like what's the effect on freedom of inquiry. I think we're all bigger and more secure than that. I think we have to allow people to say even unpopular things and nasty things in order to protect the right of us to attack our government and say whatever's on our minds.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What's wrong with the people who get called Social Justice Warriors?

On Facebook, Elizabeth Bruenig commented,
last night i said i think abortion's a sin but shouldn't be criminal and that i would try to reduce it with welfare, not the penal-carceral state. the result: "she's disgusting trash" "you're a prominent leftist and you CANNOT be anti-choice" (i'm a 26 y/o office worker) "you're not a leftist hero" ( worker)

what is the matter w these people
I answered,
I have figured out part of what's wrong with these people: their intellectual roots begin with Critical Race Theory and intersectional feminism, whose theorists believed "hate speech" should be banned. The underlying assumption of banning speech is that deviance must not be allowed. (Henry Louis Gates wrote a good response to that in the early '90s.)

None of the original CRT/intersectional crowd were socialists. They came from a Christian tradition, as their love of the Catholic concept of "social justice" indicates. But they've divorced their social justice from Christianity, so what's left is sanctimony without substance, a demand for conformity to a list rather than a principle.

Access to abortion is on the list. Logically, you should be able to oppose abortion for moral reasons and support legal access to it for moral reasons as well, but that calls for nuance and a willingness to have laws that are more tolerant than you are. But people who pride themselves on the purity of their beliefs never do nuance or tolerance.
ETA: "Let Them Talk" by Henry Louis Gates 

Presidential Lectures: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

LATER: Just to be clear, the people who use "social justice" today are not necessarily Christians. The concept spread from Catholicism to other religious groups, and now there are atheists who accept it, and even use its Christian metaphors such as calling slavery America's original sin.