Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Free Speech Under Fire in Universities

The easiest - and by far the most dangerous thing one can do, is to ignore the logical implications of the growing amount of statements that pit the Socialist agenda against free speech on university campuses in the US.

What the reader will note is that those who make these statements are nothing less than individual Stalins. Western Socialism tends (thus far) to be light on labor camps and heavy on having individuals, NGO's, special interest groups, and state and local governments do their dirty work for them.

Cultural Marxism, the baby of early 20th century Marxists such as Antonio Gramsci and Georg Lukaks, has worked well. Tens of thousands of young people each year exhibit the symptoms of a repressed ability to think. They have digested years of Newspeak and Doublethink, and it is shown by the manner in which they make their claims. Inhumanity becomes humanity, injustice becomes Social Justice, and incorrect is morphed - not into correct, but into the only allowable form of speech.

Bully and ridicule the individual to ensure that he remains quiet. We can't allow anyone to hear anything other than what we have approved.

We are facing a totalitarianism that is being enforced - not by Secret Police, but by our fellow citizens that want enslavement for us as well as for themselves.   

The encirclement is being effected in a methodical manner, and The People as a whole have no appreciation of what is in store for their children and grandchildren if they do not act decisively.   

"..........In its oft-cited Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the American Association of University Professors declares that “Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.” In principle, this policy seems sound: It would not do for academics to have their research restricted by the political whims of the moment.

Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do. .......
Over winter break, Harvard published a statement responding to the American Studies Association’s resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine. Much of the conversation around this academic boycott has focused on academic freedom. Opponents of the boycott claim that it restricts the freedom of Israeli academics or interrupts the “free flow of ideas.” Proponents of the boycott often argue that the boycott is intended to, in the end, increase, not restrict, academic freedom—the ASA points out that “there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation.”

In this case, discourse about “academic freedom” obscures what should fundamentally be a political argument. Those defending the academic boycott should use a more rigorous standard. The ASA, like three other academic associations, decided to boycott out of a sense of social justice, responding to a call by Palestinian civil society organizations for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine. People on the rightopposed to boycotts can play the “freedom” game, calling for economic freedom to buy any product or academic freedom to associate with any institution. Only those who care about justice can take the moral upper hand.

It is tempting to decry frustrating restrictions on academic research as violations of academic freedom. Yet I would encourage student and worker organizers to instead use a framework of justice. After all, if we give up our obsessive reliance on the doctrine of academic freedom, we can consider more thoughtfully what is just."

In 1998, Prof. Alan Charles Kors and lawyer Harvey A. Silvergate published an exposé of violations of free speech on college campuses. The Shadow University was a best seller, and readers responded with so many horror stories and pleas for help that the authors established the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in order to protect free speech.......

Mr. Lukianoff points out that what he calls the “system of free speech, public disclosure, and active debate” is not universal, but a historical achievement specific to Western civilization. It is the fruit of many centuries, and is still vulnerable. Free speech rests on two principles:

First, no one gets the final say; we all must accept that no argument is ever really over, as it can always be challenged if not disproved down the line. Second, no one gets special, unchallengeable claims of “personal authority.” No one individual is immune to the criticism of others and none can claim to be above intellectual reproach. No one is omniscient or infallible, so we are all forced to defend our arguments with logic, evidence, and persuasion.

Mr. Lukianoff reports that today’s students often do not understand the importance of this system. They are more likely to think that people should be muzzled if that is what it takes for groups from different backgrounds to get along. One 2004 survey of high school students reported that they were “far more likely than adults to think that citizens should not be allowed to express unpopular opinions, and that the government should have a role in approving newspaper stories.”

FIRE reports that 62 percent of American institutions of higher learning have at least one policy that “clearly and substantially” restricts freedom of speech. In most other schools the situation is ambiguous. Only 3.7 percent clearly protect freedom of speech. Many speech codes contain vague prohibitions against “incivility,” “disrespect,” or “offending” or “embarrassing” anyone.

Colleges often use a very loose interpretation of the legal concept of “harassment” as a way to control speech. As Mr. Lukianoff points out, the Supreme Court has limited “harassment” to only to cases in which:

'unwelcome discriminatory behavior, directed at a person because of his or her race or gender, is ‘so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.’

Universities, however, consider trivial things to be “harassment:” “stereotypic generalizations,” “words that interfere with another person’s comfort,” “expressions deemed inappropriate,” “jokes that demean a victim’s culture or history,” “inappropriate gender-based activities, comments or gestures,” and “use of generic masculine terms to refer to people of both sexes.”..........

Many cases of censorship are ideological. The Tufts University campus newspaper published an ad paid for by a student who thought the school’s “Islamic Awareness Week” painted too rosy a picture of Islam. The ad quoted verses from the Koran such as: “Therefore strike off their [unbelievers’] heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” It mentioned the punishment by death of homosexuals in some Muslim countries, and quoted an Islamic theologian’s opinion that “marriage is a form of slavery; the woman is the man’s slave and her duty therefore is absolute obedience.” Another student filed a harassment complaint, and Tufts “made free speech history by being the first institution in the United States to find someone guilty of harassment for stating verifiable facts directed at no one in particular.”

Administrations invent rules so they can go after student groups they don’t like. One Florida community college stopped a Christian group from screening The Passion of the Christ on the grounds that the film was “controversial” and “R-rated.” It soon came to light that the college had sponsored an R-rated movie just the previous year, and was hosting a production ofFucking for Jesus, described as “a piece about masturbating to an image of the Christian messiah.”...........
One popular technique for squelching speech is to designate an area on campus as the “free speech zone.” Such zones are often obscure corners of the campus. At Texas Tech, which has 28,000 students, the “free speech zone” is a tiny gazebo. A waggish mathematician computed that if all students wanted to use the gazebo at the same time, they would have to be crushed down to the density of Uranium 238.........

r. Lukianoff notes that for more than 10 years, sociologists have reported that students hesitate to express opinions. Unlearning Liberty suggests why. The author explains that students themselves have no idea they have the right to express unpopular views, and that in the “overwhelming majority of cases” other students don’t care when speech is squelched.

Students have heard of free speech, but may misinterpret the concept. Students who muzzle others sometimes say they were just exercising their own constitutionally protected freedom of speech!
The disappearance of debate affects the intellectual climate. Without free speech and discussion, students have only prejudices, clung to emotionally but never examined. Few people can defend their positions, so when they are attacked, their only response is anger and hostility.........

Robert Frost famously defined education as “the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” In this sense, education has virtually disappeared from American campuses.

American citizens—so long as they are not on college campuses—enjoy greater freedom of speech than the citizens of any other Western country, but failing to exercise this freedom is the first step toward losing it. The author quotes Judge Learned Hand:

A popular belief in the importance of the values inherent in the U.S. Constitution may be more important than the Constitution itself. If citizens are promised certain rights by law but nobody knows they have them—or enough people believe they shouldn’t have them—the law ends up mattering little."

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