The FIRE's Greg Lukianoff On Campus Censorship And Its Relation To American Discourse

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15 Responses

  1. TheOtherMatt says:

    Gasp!
    You mean the Kobiyshia Maru speech is obscure. It's only referenced at least once in every Star Trek series. And forms a key plot point in 2008. Do your underlings have no culture! I am surprised you have not remedied this horrifying lapse.

  2. Ken says:

    Oh, I beat them.

  3. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Re; The FIRE.

    I love idealistic organizations that make a habit of highlighting academia's stunning hypocrisy when it comes to the fundamental rights of those who decline to worship its sacred cows.

  4. TheOtherMatt says:

    > Oh, I beat them.

    Personally I'd go with a high powered Nurf Gun (no scars) but whatever floatith thy boat

  5. Andrew says:

    The Fire is one of the finest organizations on the front lines for free speech (and I am personally forever-grateful for their services). If you're old and loaded, you should leave a planned gift for them.

  6. Mercury says:

    I’d be interested in checking out his book and see to what extent he thinks this hard and soft suppression of free expression is the result of the contemporaneous obsession with “multiculturalism”.

    Certainly expression/speech was never completely free 20, 30, 50 years ago but when the culture on campus and in society generally was more mono- blasphemies, taboos and other frowned-upon public expressions were more easily identified, agreed upon and therefore approached, avoided or circumvented. Now, beyond a certain perimeter, you have no idea where the mines are buried.

    Perhaps you can simply say that such things were more objective then and are more subjective now but if this development is in fact a consequence of fostering multiculturalism (accommodations for which will always be novel and in flux to a much greater extent than when everyone is striving for e pluribus unum) I don’t see how things can be any other way. I suspect we’ll be sleeping in this bed for as long as we have it.

  7. mojo says:

    What's the moral of the Kob. Mar.?

    "If you can't win, CHEAT!"

  8. SPQR says:

    Ken, you just posted that to piss me off since I had lunch out of a paper bag with the bankruptcy court judges today, and am now drafting an petition for probate.

  9. VPJ says:

    Cue Beavis and Butthead imitation

    …heh heh heh…FIRE's cool…heh heh…

  10. Will says:

    I'm also a huge fan of advocating for free speech as against government censorship, but I don't see why FIRE picks fights with speech codes at private universities.

    True, SOME private universities have SOME speech codes that are misinformed and harmful to academic discourse. But as a libertarian and a big fan of unique communities, I really can't justify demanding that every university have a no-holds-barred approach to speech on campus. FIRE, for instance, railed against Yale for punishing frat boys who chanted 'No means yes, yes means anal' outside a women's dormitory.

    FIRE gives libertarians a bad name by helping confuse OUR point – that the specific institutional nature of the state makes state restrictions on freedom particularly suspect – with the straw man that libertarians often mistakenly defend – that freedom is the highest value and brooks no interference. If you want to rail against speech codes in secondary education, don't do it under the libertarian or 'free speech' banner.

  11. Ken says:

    Will:

    I disagree. Here's why:

    FIRE disclaims, openly, that the private universities they criticize are private and not bound by the First Amendment (note exception below). When they call out such universities, they generally contrast the censorious conduct with the university's statements proclaiming support of free expression among students and faculty.

    If FIRE were charging around arguing incorrectly that private universities were subject to First Amendment regulation, you might be right. But they don't. See, e.g., this:

    Although Bowdoin is a private college not legally bound by the First Amendment, it is morally and contractually bound to honor its promises of freedom of speech for faculty members.

    Contrast that with what happened when private Liberty University — which proclaims its intended censoriousness openly — de-recognized the college Democracts. FIRE expressly explained that Liberty U is private and doesn't pretend to defend speech.

    Moreover, I see no inconsistency with libertarians criticizing private choices. That's not the same as calling for government regulation of those choices. My neighbor can create a private soccer club that excludes, say, Hispanic kids; I can call him a bigoted jackass without being less of a libertarian. Criticism does not impinge freedom.

    (Exception noted above: California has the "Leonard Law" applying First Amendment protections to private colleges; other jurisdictions might have more limited protections.)

  12. Will says:

    Of course libertarians can criticize private choices, but the game changes when they are doing so through a group which is easily confused (yes, my argument prioritizes the ordinary person's perceptions) with a 'libertarian group.' FIRE describes itself as "devoted to free speech, individual liberty, religious freedom, the rights of conscience, legal equality, …" These are words associated with legal or political movements, either implicitly or explicitly.

    My point is that your point – and FIRE's – is nuanced. The audience FIRE needs to reach is not nuanced. FIRE is mixing personal opinions (speech codes are bad) right in with straight up legal opinions (speech codes at public universities are often unconstitutional). Most people skip over sentences like 'Bowdoin is a private college not legally bound by the First Amendment, but . . .' etc. etc.

    FIRE is sending a message which is logically consistent, but confusing to the average observer and detrimental to the classical liberal movement.

    Not only do I personally disagree that speech codes at private universities are bad things – e.g., I want to send my daughter to a college that might punish the Yale frat boys – I also think that FIRE foolishly relegated itself to blind defense of 'free speech.'

    This is a quote from a Patrick O'Brian book. Just replace 'my country' with 'free speech': "But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile."

  13. Mercury says:

    Well, as much as I think places like Bowdoin are run by a bunch of jackasses it's hard to get to excited about outfits like FIRE trying to insert itself between two groups of consenting adults (one of whom is paying through the nose to be oppressed by the other) like they appear to be doing. Let them cut the crusts off their own PB&Js.

    They should be more concerned when these same pampered utopians try to carry their rainbows, unicorns and magic spells out of Hogwarts and cram them down our throats in the public square.

  14. Mercury says:

    I might further add that my above points are echoed in a brief editorial reflecting on Ray Bradbury in today's Wall Street Journal.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303753904577450711772419938.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    Popehat readers of course received this sage wisdom a day earlier and for free.

  15. princessartemis says:

    My point is that your point – and FIRE's – is nuanced. The audience FIRE needs to reach is not nuanced.

    They can become nuanced. Raise them up to the level of nuanced discourse instead of lowering the discourse to their level. IMHO.