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05/29/2017

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I love a good summer storm.

Something similar happened at my cousin's wedding. The ceremony was to be held in a little clearing rather high up in the Canadian Rockies, with a splendid vista as backdrop. When the hour struck for the ceremony to begin, a torrential downpour began, the likes of which we dwellers on the plains had rarely experienced. Of course, there was nowhere to hide, so they simply went through with the ceremony as best they could.

But the good news is that there seems to have been nothing of the omen about it: 15 years on, they are going strong.

Good for them!

Ever read that favorite of the 1960s and the New Left, the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, on his idea of "discriminating tolerance"?

Part of this struggle is the fight against an ideology of tolerance which, in reality, favors and fortifies the conservation of the status quo of inequality and discrimination. For this struggle, I proposed the practice of discriminating tolerance. To be sure, this practice already presupposes the radical goal which it seeks to achieve. I committed this petitio principii in order to combat the pernicious ideology that tolerance is already institutionalized in this society. The tolerance which is the life element, the token of a free society, will never be the gift of the powers that be; it can, under the prevailing conditions of tyranny by the majority, only be won in the sustained effort of radical minorities, willing to break this tyranny and to work for the emergence of a free and sovereign majority - minorities intolerant, militantly intolerant and disobedient to the rules of behavior which tolerate destruction and suppression.
Depressing to think how influential it's been.

No, I never read him but I'm aware of that particular view. Theodore Roszak talks about it in Making of a Counter-Culture, which I need to get back to. I wonder if the current manifestations are the active influence of Marcuse or just a natural impulse. I doubt these loony campus kids have read him but they could be getting his influence indirectly. I get the impression that they don't know much beyond contemporary polemics.

"I get the impression that they don't know much beyond contemporary polemics."

Which is one of the main reasons we home school.

I've been very surprised a number of times over the years to meet people with degrees from prestigious schools who didn't seem to know things that I would expect any educated person to know.

Right. And one of the most worrisome things to me is their complete ignorance of what Communism in the USSR (autocorrect did not recognize that) was like. They seem to think that the USA and the Russians were about equally evil during the Cold War, and that we were completely overreacting to the threat. Russians only bad act was committed during the 2016 election.

AMDG

Marcuse also wrote something to the effect that tolerance need not be extended to anti-progressives, i.e., those on the Right.

Jason Peters has a good piece up at FPR on this subject. At one point he quotes Coleridge then says:

"Coleridge was only pointing out that the doctrine of tolerance is going to end in intolerance — unless in your tolerance you can manage to tolerate people who (perhaps for the sake of diversity) don’t regard tolerance as a transcendent value. But I have never met anyone zealous for tolerance or inclusiveness who can. Inclusiveness does not include people who aren’t into inclusiveness. We all know that. We all know that not being into tolerance won’t be tolerated."

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2017/05/shared-governance-and-mandatory-training-the-new-incoherence/

I just finished Scruton's The Face of God and it is marvelous. The Soul of the World is next.

I'll have to wait till later to read the FPR piece. Looks interesting.

About communism--yes, that's one of the examples I was thinking of. That's not just accidental ignorance, it's also a product of deliberate suppression and willful ignorance on the part of the left and its sympathizers. "Communism" ought to be as much of a devil-word as "fascism."

I saw a news item not too long ago about some kind of survey that showed young people believing that George Bush killed as many people as Hitler.

While on the surface I agree that freedom of speech should not be repressed, it does seem that people in charge of these places (Berkeley, Portland OR, etc) are wanting to keep violent episodes from occurring either on campuses, or in cities. Clashes between the far left crazies and far right crazies. What is another good option? Why have your police force knowingly in the middle of this? And on another note, people like Ann Coulter and Milo whatever his name is don't really need to be heard. If the point of someone's speech is to rile up a crowd against others, is it protected by the first amendment?

Neither we nor our ancestors had to flee America to gain freedom or economic prosperity, except a few Angela Davis type expats. People just come to America (according to the myth). Most of us have never experienced true poverty, true oppression. This remains a very prosperous country, despite the growing divide between the rich and poor. We can't conceive of America as a place you would have to flee for justice's sake or to survive. I'm afraid we are going to have to conceive of it, as more and more of us are excluded from careers and positions and participation because of our convictions. Frog/boiling water, etc.

"And on another note, people like Ann Coulter and Milo whatever his name is don't really need to be heard. If the point of someone's speech is to rile up a crowd against others, is it protected by the first amendment?"

You'd have to define "against others."

After I posted that I remembered Skokie, Illinois, but does that model still apply? Would we allow the KKK to march while we are busy taking down the statues of famous people in the Confederacy? Those would seem to be at odds with each other.

I guess the question these majors and college campus presidents are faced with is do you allow something to happen if there WILL be some type of crazy conflict? It would seem that doing so is a bad idea. But what does that then say about free speech?

We allow morons to walk around with guns, which I think is a lot more dangerous.

Really the best thing to do is try your best to stay away from large groups of people, especially in America!

Where would we go, Robert?

AMDG

Oops, "mayors", not "majors".

I need Art Deco to set me straight. Where, oh where is he when you need him? Just like the elusive Lowe's employee.....

He would also know where we should go, Janet! Wait a second, we?

Janet,

I have no idea. It may be that there is no place, which would be depressing for those so positioned.

Well, one option is for the university to teach students what civil discourse is like even when you strongly disagree with the position of the speaker.

I, for instance, think it was not a very helpful thing for the students to walk out on Pence at ND. They missed the best talk of the day, which was after Pence.

The best response to Pence's talk would be to write a response and post it or publish it. Same with Coulter (although I find her to be almost intolerable).

If the intention of the talk is to incite, I think that would be problematic. I don't know what the KKK at Skokie was saying. If it was "kill the Jews," I think that should be stopped. If it was "deport the Jews," I'm not so sure. And I'm 1000% against what the KKK stands for.

I agree with all of that, Robert. For one thing, although I'm sure I agree with little that VP Pence might stand for, I would very much like to hear his voice rather than the president's. An adult in the discussion is a good thing.

And yes, the university very much needs to teach civil discourse and try to allow all speakers. Some have reported that it is more groups outside universities/colleges that are causing trouble moreso than the students. I hope this is the case.

Dealing with hate groups fairly is a tricky thing, for sure. I hate that it puts law enforcement in an untenable position. Maybe we can hire the Hell's Angels again? Well, that didn't work out so great at Altamont...

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to directly incite violence. So if that was what was meant by, for instance, "to rile up a crowd against others", it would be in keeping with free speech principles to shut down a speaker. But people like Coulter and Milo Whatever aren't doing that. They're just being obnoxious, which riles up the people they're making fun of. If you say they shouldn't be allowed to speak, then neither should, for instance, Bill Maher, and any number of abrasive personalities on the left.

The exact same principle of avoiding potential violence was given as a reason for not allowing civil rights demonstrations. "You can't have your civil rights demonstration because the Klan might attack you" is exactly the same logic as "You can't have your parade because leftists may attack you."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler%27s_veto

What my daughter objected to (she didn't leave, but was sorely tempted) was that Pence was at points defending the Trump admin. I agree that a) that doesn't speak well for Pence's character and b) that's not what a graduation speech should be used for.

Either way, walking out on Pence is at worst bad manners, and doesn't really touch on the free speech question. It's when they shout down and physically intimidate or attack a speaker that university admins should step in.

This is interesting re hate speech and the law:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/30/hate-speech-is-not-protected-by-the-first-amendment-oregon-mayor-says-hes-wrong/

I've been very surprised a number of times over the years to meet people with degrees from prestigious schools who didn't seem to know things that I would expect any educated person to know.

Thought of that when I read the Wash. Post piece you linked to about the mayor of Portland saying "hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment" because he's got degrees from Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard.

Heh.

Apart from that little legal difficulty, the attempt to forbid "hate speech" now is a little alarming because a lot of people seem to want to define it as "speech that I disagree with." What I want is good. To oppose what I want means that you hate what is good. Therefore what you want to say is hate speech and you can't say it.

Not always stated explicitly, there seems to be an equation of speech with violence. Your failure to affirm me and my beliefs is not only an incitement to violence but itself an act of violence.

I find lately that I feel more pity than envy when I contemplate young people. There's such a long road ahead for them. I even fear for them a little--there's such a strong chance for varieties of grief and pain that they can't foresee. Nevertheless, life is good.

*

From a piece about Hogarth in the April issue of The New Criterion:
"And one of the most worrisome things to me is their complete ignorance of what Communism in the USSR (autocorrect did not recognize that) was like. They seem to think that the USA and the Russians were about equally evil during the Cold War, and that we were completely overreacting to the threat."

Yes, it's mind-boggling. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure people in Australia, in general, thought the USSR was evil incarnate.

Sorry for my last comment. For some reason I didn't edit it properly.

Anyway Maclin said:

"I find lately that I feel more pity than envy when I contemplate young people. There's such a long road ahead for them. I even fear for them a little--there's such a strong chance for varieties of grief and pain that they can't foresee. Nevertheless, life is good."

This resonated with me. Sometimes I feel quite anxious about it.

What did happen to Art?

Re the USSR: it's been an article of faith on the left, including the moderate left, that the greatest evil of the Cold War was McCarthyism.

I frequently feel more than anxious, Louise. Downright despairing. But I know that's not what God wants. I always remind myself that John Paul II started his papacy with "Be not afraid."

Discussing recent attacks on speech from the point of view of traditional American free-speech ideals and laws is a little afield from the main point I was trying to make in this post. It's not that campus leftists and others are violating the principle, but that they are rejecting it. They reject the old "disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it" idea. For them it's "disagree with what you say and deny your right to say it." Or, as Rod Dreher (and others) have put it, it's the old Catholic idea that "error has no rights."

It could be the beginning of a big change if people who think like this move into positions of power over the next few decades.

So the left says you are not allowed to speak, because I disagree with what you are saying.

The right (or at least the White House) says what you are saying is untrue (even if it is) and I would like to repress your right to say this.

One seems to have more power than the other.

But that's not my point. There's a difference between breaking the rules and changing the rules. Whatever off-the-wall stuff Trump himself may spout from time to time, there is no constituency on the right for a policy of prohibiting political speech on the grounds of its content. There just isn't.

And maybe there's less of one on the left than there appears to be. That's the big question: are these campus Maoists a fluke and will grow up and change their minds, or are they going to take these views from Yale (for instance) to the Supreme Court over the next forty years or so?

But don't you think the danger is the same? You are stating that it is a dangerous precedent for the progressives to limit free speech of the right. The press feels under attack by the White House, and other members of the GOP. Didn't a candidate in Montana "body slam" a member of the press up there because he didn't like a question? Then the next day he won the election.

I'm not saying I disagree with your concerns about progressives, however, I feel that it is more troubling for the press to be fearful. It began with trump but is spreading to others on the right.

These two points are more similar than dissimilar.

The danger could potentially be the same. I don't think it is. If I'm not mistaken that Montana guy has been charged with a crime. If this became a common thing, and was not punished, so that it became pretty much open season for right-wingers to beat up on people, that would be very bad, but I don't see any indication of that happening.

I don't believe for a moment that the media feel themselves to be in any danger from Trump. They attack him fervently every day without suffering for it. He's attacking them verbally, yes. But they've been openly trying to get him out of office from the moment the election results came in, so what do you expect from somebody like Trump? Presidents have attacked and been attacked by hostile journalists for many years, but we still have a free press.

It's still apples and oranges. Apples and apples would be a movement on the right to, for instance, exempt attacks on journalists from laws against assault. Or to pass a law forbidding excessive or false criticism of a president, with the government in charge of deciding what is excessive or false. Or to have the government license journalists and punish anyone who voices an opinion without a license. Etc.

I actually have seen language from the left that sort of cautiously toyed with those last two ideas, but not from the right. As far as I know there is no equivalent of Marcuse's selective toleration on the right.

"I frequently feel more than anxious, Louise. Downright despairing. But I know that's not what God wants."

Right, but I think your feelings are most understandable. And it must be worse for you than me, because, let's face it, I didn't know the kind of society that you or my parents knew.

I quite like Joseph Shaw's blog, and this one is about protecting people from bad ideas. I thought people here might be interested.

http://www.lmschairman.org/2017/05/protecting-people-against-bad-ideas.html#more

To my mind, the current trend toward trigger warnings, safe spaces, and microaggressions in academia pose an even greater threat to free speech than not letting Ann Coulter et al. speak. Mainly because they insidiously legitimate the notion of unwanted speech being dangerous and so should be forbidden. They work their way into the fabric.

Also, it's more like brainwashing, creating an internal self-censorship.

Interesting piece, Louise. I think the last sentence is on target.

Re Hogarth and those "easy English pleasures," one of which is "abuse of the French" -- There's an English writer named Stephen Clarke who seems to have made a whole career for himself writing send-ups of the French. I read one of his novels a few years ago, and laughed out loud at several points in it. One of his latest is 1000 Years of Annoying the French, which looks promising.

That bit about the French was the main reason I thought the quote funny enough to post.

The book does look promising. I note with amusement that Stephen Clarke lives in Paris according to that Amazon bio.

I'm more concerned about the oranges.

The Stephen Clarke books look great!

Speaking of laughing out loud, I just finished a David Lodge book called Deaf Sentence. What a great writer he is (British).

1000 Years of Annoying the French is highly entertaining for the first couple of hundred pages. Then there are pages and pages about brothel life in 19th-century Paris and I got bored and gave up.

Not surprising. It would be hard to sustain something like that.

First of all, the question is not whether apples are worse than oranges or if they are they same. The question is, how bad are apples and how bad are oranges. What is the danger?

Which raises a problem. People tend to think something is worse if their own ox is the one being gored. So, so-called progressives are going to think that there is a real, serious, dangerous threat of thuggery from the right and the so-called conservatives are going to think the liberal shaming is rilly, rilly bad and that it will lead to 1984. I think the progressives need to look at the serious problems on their side and the conservatives on their side. And they need to work hard to renounce them, because they are both poison. No body on the other side is going to listen to our warnings.

And we've got to stop with the "tu quoque" arguments.

One of the problems with conservatives is that they don't have a soft, soothing NPR to pour out anecdote after anecdote to show how heartless The Other Side is. Conservatives are good with principles and abstract arguments, but not with a manifest sensitivity to the real physical and psychology effect on real people of some of the policies they promote. I say "manifest" because we are talking about the public image, not how they act privately; their go to public stance is not to describe the real situation of others, especially the poor and oppressed.

What is the liberal weakness? Perhaps the inability to step back and look at the situations of suffering objectively. "We've got to do something about it now," even if the solution is unjust in some way that they don't recognize or is in the long run counterproductive. Abortion is a good example of this. Legal abortion is both unjust and detrimental to the people it claims to help and to society.

~~And we've got to stop with the "tu quoque" arguments.~~

Dreher calls this 'whataboutism,' and it's a big distraction on both sides.

Robert Gotcher has become the new Art Deco, except he doesn't attack and I seem to agree with him most of the time!

Huh?

I agree with Robert overall. But it's not really what my remarks in the post are about. Tu quoque doesn't even bother me that much if the two things are comparable.

I have to make sure my point is clear, just because that's the way I am: my point about the left and free speech is not that the left is on some absolute scale worse. It's not even primarily that what they are doing is bad. It's that they are abandoning the Enlightenment-utilitarian principles regarding speech and ideas. They're returning to a pre-Enlightenment view that some ideas are simply not permissible. This is a significant development. My point is less about whether it's right or wrong than that it's a big deal, a big shift in thinking.

I can even think of some traditionalist Catholics who would agree with the new left thinking in principle, who might say, "well, they're recognizing the folly of classical liberalism's attempt to be neutral about ideas, good for them."

That's also the point I was trying to make to Stu: that whatever Trump is doing is not the same thing. It's not that I'm saying apples are better than oranges. I'm saying something specifically about apples, to which oranges are irrelevant.

So you don't think that the Trump and trumpite approach indicates that they have jettisoned the Enlightenment-Utilitarian principles regarding speech and ideas.

It's hard to jettison something you never thought about.

One of the problems with conservatives is that they don't have a soft, soothing NPR to pour out anecdote after anecdote to show how heartless The Other Side is.

I've thought this a million times. I listen to Public Radio a lot because around here you have a choice between that and static--or saying the rosary which is an increasingly frequent option. I'm always wondering why conservatives have to sound like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

I think the progressives need to look at the serious problems on their side and the conservatives on their side.

This is a great idea. I think I'll campaign for a national "Clean Your Own House" month on social media.

Stu, I can't imagine anyone less like Art that Robert.

AMDG

"I think the progressives need to look at the serious problems on their side and the conservatives on their side."

Christopher Lasch was saying that way back in the 90's, and very few listened to him, alas.

It's almost funny at this point. I mean the recommendation that each side look at their own problems. They should, obviously, but I think that's a lost cause. My hope or at least wish now is that each side would quit trying to impose its will on the other via the national government. That might avert the civil war or national breakup.

Regarding Trump and Enlightenment principles: what Janet said. Ideas and abstract principles just aren't part of Trump's mental world. He's like a guy who cheats in sports. He'll break the rules whenever he can get away with it. He doesn't give much thought to why the rules are there or why they work the way they do, he'll just do whatever it takes to win. Whereas the people on the left I'm talking about are very much thinking about the rules and their implications, and want to change them to explicitly favor their side. Like maybe only their team is allowed to score points, and the other can only play defense.

I've often thought of writing something about the cozy, comfortable world of NPR. I sometimes call it National Patrician Radio.

I do think though that some of the people on the alt-right have made the same decision to dump our traditional principles

"My hope or at least wish now is that each side would quit trying to impose its will on the other via the national government. "

Now there is an idea I could live with.

I would hope it would be something everybody could live with, if it were implemented. I think the system could accommodate it. But it requires people in California and Alabama each to be willing to allow the other to run things in ways that they consider unacceptable.

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