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Culture war games: the norming of performative intemperance

‘We told you so, you fucking fools’: the Euston Manifesto 10 years on
By Nick Cohen

When Robert Conquest published his history of Stalin’s crimes in 1968, leftish critics denounced him as a Cold War propagandist. When Conquest republished years later, no one could deny that he was telling the truth, however hard they tried. Conquest’s friend Kingsley Amis suggested he change his title from The Great Terror to I Told you so you F—king Fools.

The authors and signatories of the Euston Manifesto could say the same. We got much wrong, and were doubtless clumsy and rude on occasion, but we were telling the truth when we warned that dark movements were rising across the left, and not just on the far left where the darkness never lifts. For we did not confine ourselves to attacking the fringe. We said that the ideas we condemned could be found in the minds of people who regarded themselves as reasonable men and women of moderate temperament. We understood that ideas that begin on the extreme could take over the mainstream. We knew, too, that on other occasions, extremists merely magnified vices that already flourished in respectable society – as fairground mirrors distort the figures in front of them. We only had to look around us to see that those who thought themselves practical liberals and leftists had allowed their defences to moulder away.

Can a Former Islamist Make It Cool to Be Moderate?
By Thomas Chatterton Williams

A term that you will hear with frequency from Nawaz is “the regressive left,” as in purportedly progressive institutions like the S.P.L.C. that, often starting from a legitimate concern that Muslims en masse not be persecuted for the actions of a few, nonetheless embody a perplexingly backward mind-set when it comes to Islam. “It’s an Orientalist fetish,” Nawaz says, “a deeply socially conservative Muslim who is medieval in their outlook is a ‘real’ Muslim, and anyone who’s challenging that status quo is a sellout.” The left has, in Nawaz’s view, forfeited what’s best about the liberal project, entirely conceding the right to speak in moral absolutes and about universal values. “The problem is you can’t draw a line with that reasoning: Why is what ISIS is doing bad, then?”

ISIS Has Lost Sight Of What Our Founding Fathers Intended
By Dale Schott

What ISIS needs to realize is that there is no place in our Constitution that suggests that destroying property or endangering lives is a means to any civilized end. Would Thomas Jefferson approve of mass beheadings? And would George Washington condone using rape as a recruitment tool? ISIS should be ashamed.

Regardless of what they believe they are doing, one thing is clear to me: ISIS is not honoring the spirit of our Founding Fathers. And every time they pack a crude roadside bomb with chlorine gas, they only further pervert the vision of freedom defined by the Constitution. What would the brave men gathered in Philadelphia all those years ago think about a group like ISIS? I, for one, think they would not approve. Not at all.

Adjusting to a World That Won’t Laugh With You
By A. O. Scott

It’s hard to ponder these issues without thinking about Charlie Hebdo. While the murder of editors and cartoonists is the kind of event that defeats comparison — a Tweetstorm of shaming is in no way similar to automatic-weapons fire — the aftermath of the January attack on that satirical magazine’s Paris offices has reignited longstanding quarrels in Europe and America about the limits of free expression and the ethics of humor. In the months following the killings, after the initial outpouring of horror and the international expressions of “Je suis Charlie” solidarity, attention turned to the content of the magazine itself, not only to cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed but also to what seemed to some to be a pattern of racist and anti-Muslim bigotry.

There was a fair amount of self-righteousness on both sides of that fight, and a lot of patient explaining from newly minted experts on the feelings of French Muslims and on the secular republican traditions of French humor. The same images were used as evidence for opposing claims. Racially inflammatory caricatures — of a black French government minister as a monkey; of young Nigerian women kidnapped by Boko Haram as unwed mothers demanding welfare benefits — were interpreted as mockeries of racist thinking and also as poisonous examples of racism. If any of this seems far-fetched or parochially French, think of the New Yorker cover from the summer of 2008 that depicted Barack and Michelle Obama as terrorists fist-bumping in the Oval Office. Obviously it was spoofing a dismayingly common right-wing fantasy about the Obamas. Just as obviously, it was reproducing that fantasy.

And this is where the humor crisis lives: in thorny, almost philosophical questions of intention, context and social power.

Bombing on Stage: Comedy as Political Resistance
By Jeremy McLellan

This omnipresence of absurdity in politics is why comedians must point it out no matter who is in charge. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Comics who found their voice as rebels during the Bush administration swiftly became apologists for unlimited state power once Obama took office. The Daily Show lost its edge and started pulling its punches, even while the president deported more immigrants than Bush, terrorized Pakistanis with flying death robots, waged war on whistleblowers, and violated civil liberties with impunity. Of course, now that Trump is in charge, these same comedians are suddenly suspicious of attempts to organize the world by fiat and are back speaking truth to power. Hey friends. Glad to have you back. Hope you stick around.

But even behind Leviathan’s back, the danger is the same. History is full of rebellions that turn authoritarian. Today’s free thinkers are tomorrow’s dictators, and comedians who find themselves allied with activist causes must be aware of their causes’ corrupting influence. Activists make for fair-weather fans, as art is praised as helpful propaganda or else condemned as “problematic.” Once an artist finds their success relies on appealing to a specific audience’s prejudices and goals, the temptation to become a team mascot is hard to resist. Fans who loved you for speaking truth to power will suddenly turn on you when they wish to wield power without scrutiny. As George Carlin said, “Everyone appreciates your honesty…until you’re honest with them. Then you’re an asshole.” Which is not to say that being an asshole is always good or that problematic art is always valuable, but rather, that all art is necessarily problematic insofar as it bears witness to a reality that resists being solved.

Jail for a joke: student’s case puts free speech under spotlight in Spain
By Sam Jones

On 20 December 1973, the Spanish prime minister was killed in Madrid by a car bomb of such force that the Dodge in which he was travelling was blown more than 20 metres into the air and over the roof of the church where he had minutes earlier attended mass.

It both murdered the man seen as Franco’s natural successor and showed that the Basque separatists Eta could strike at the highest level of his dictatorship.

Forty-four years on, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco’s assassination is once again resonating through Spanish society after Cassandra Vera, a 21-year-old student from the south-eastern region of Murcia, was sentenced to a year in prison for joking about it in a series of tweets.

“Eta launched a policy against official cars combined with a space programme,” she wrote on 29 November 2013.

Five months later, Vera tweeted: “Kissinger gave Carrero Blanco a piece of the moon; Eta paid for the trip there.”

Spain’s top criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, found her guilty of glorifying terrorism and humiliating victims. On top of her jail term, it also barred her from doing a publicly funded job – such as being a teacher – for seven years.

Dave Chappelle in a Humourless Age
By Tom Slater

There’s a puritanical, pearl-clutching philistinism in all this, a refusal to see beyond the BAD WORDS to appreciate what a comic is trying to achieve. This is bad news for Chappelle. One of his greatest routines, ‘How old is 15, really?’, is a masterclass in how provocation meets pay-off. Musing on the allegations that R Kelly urinated on a 15-year-old girl, he asks why 15 felt so young to people in that instance but not when a 15-year-old black boy in Florida was given life in jail for accidentally killing his neighbour while they were playfighting. ‘If you think that it’s okay to give him life in jail, then it should be legal to pee on him, that’s all I’m saying.’

Here’s how badly police violence has divided America these past few years
By Will Greenberg

By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

Get Up, Stand Up
By Heather Mac Donald

I prefaced my speech by observing that I had heard chants for the last two hours that “black lives matter.” I therefore hoped that the protesters were equally fervent in expressing their outrage when five-year-old Aaron Shannon, Jr., was killed on Halloween 2010 in South-Central Los Angeles, while proudly showing off his Spiderman costume. A 26-year-old member of Watts’s Kitchen Crips sent a single bullet through Aaron’s head, and also shot Aaron’s uncle and grandfather. I said that I hoped the protesters also objected when nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee was lured into an alley in Chicago with the promise of candy in November 2015 and assassinated by gang enemies of Tyshawn’s father. The gangbangers’ original plan had been to cut off Tyshawn’s fingers and send them to his mother. While Black Lives Matter protesters have in fact ignored all such mayhem, the people who have concerned themselves are the police, I said. And though it was doubtful that any of the protesters outside had ever lost a loved one to a drive-by shooting, if such a tragedy ever did happen, the first thing he or she would do is call the police.

A New Exhibit in the Case for the Black Lives Matter Movement
By Conor Friedersdorf

I support praising good cops for the dangerous, sometimes heroic work that they do; and I acknowledge that they are frequently put in almost impossible situations, only to be second-guessed by legions if anything goes wrong, even when they are not to blame, or error in a way that millions would. What’s more, I don’t always agree with the tactics or the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter, a diverse movement that attracts both impressive, sensible reformers and less responsible fringe elements.

But the Black Lives Matter movement is portrayed wildly inaccurately in conservative media outlets, which focus on the most extreme, unrepresentative rhetoric from the coalition, and all but ignores the actual policy demands that it has put forth.

That reform agenda doesn’t get the attention it deserves, as I’ve noted before.

Dubbed Campaign Zero, it draws its strength largely from the fact that many of the policies that it recommends are “best practices” taken from existing police agencies.

“They’re practical, well-thought out, and in most cases, achievable,” wrote Radley Balko, one of the country’s most knowledgeable law-enforcement-policy journalists. “These are proposals that will almost certainly have an impact, even if only some of them are implemented. The ideas here are well-researched, supported with real-world evidence and ought to be seriously considered by policymakers.”

This Article Won’t Change Your Mind
By Julie Beck

While there’s no erasing humans’ tribal tendencies, muddying the waters of partisanship could make people more open to changing their minds. “We know people are less biased if they see that policies are supported by a mix of people from each party,” Jerit says. “It doesn’t seem like that’s very likely to happen in this contemporary period, but even to the extent that they see within party disagreement, I think that is meaningful. Anything that’s breaking this pattern where you see these two parties acting as homogeneous blocks, there’s evidence that motivated reasoning decreases in these contexts.”

Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons
By Scott Alexander

Let’s go back to that Nyhan & Reifler study which found that fact-checking backfired. As I mentioned above, a replication attempt by Porter & Wood found the opposite. This could have been the setup for a nasty conflict, with both groups trying to convince academia and the public that they were right, or even accusing the other of scientific malpractice.

Instead, something great happened. All four researchers decided to work together on an “adversarial collaboration” – a bigger, better study where they all had input into the methodology and they all checked the results independently. The collaboration found that fact-checking generally didn’t backfire in most cases. All four of them used their scientific clout to publicize the new result and launch further investigations into the role of different contexts and situations.

Instead of treating disagreement as demonstrating a need to transmit their own opinion more effectively, they viewed it as demonstrating a need to collaborate to investigate the question together.

A Leftist and a Conservative Join Forces to Defend Free Speech
By Conor Friedersdorf

Counseling respective engagement even with those “perspectives that we find shocking or scandalous,” and invoking “the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth,” they lament “all-too-common efforts” by people “to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities.” And while they nod toward the right to peaceful protest, rightfully calling it “sacrosanct,” they urge that “before exercising that right, each of us should ask: Might it not be better to listen respectfully and try to learn from a speaker with whom I disagree? Might it not better serve the cause of truth-seeking to engage the speaker in frank civil discussion?”

That ethos “protects us against dogmatism and groupthink,” they note, “both of which are toxic to the health of academic communities and to the functioning of democracies.”

Their full statement can be seen here––as can its growing list of prominent, ideologically diverse signatories from institutions of higher education across the country.

If efforts to revitalize these values succeed among college students, the most immediate losers will be campus illiberals, many of whom reside on the political left. Later, converts to liberalism will prove potent adversaries of the illiberal right, rather than figuring out too late that illiberal actions, whether perpetrated by the right or left, tend to generate equal and opposite illiberal reactions from the other side.

For many at violent Berkeley rally, it wasn’t really about Trump or free speech: They came to make trouble
By Paige St. John

Alt-right organizers and the anti-fascist groups that oppose them have battled online and in person for a year, fueled by Trump’s rise and the reaction to it. Both sides increasingly are coming to blows across the country, notably last year in Sacramento and a few weeks ago in Huntington Beach.

For reasons political and geographic, Berkeley has become a particularly common battleground.

Uncertainty and disillusionment in the current political climate has caused “a deeper tectonic shift within political extremes,” said criminal sociologist Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.

“They will glom themselves onto a tax day rally, a Trump rally, but there is a subgroup of extremists on both sides who are angling for a street battle,” Levin said. Replayed to their audiences on social media, “it goes viral.”

The Know-Nothing Campus ‘Protest’ Movement
By John McWhorter

At first it may take a bit of a leap to assail a college administrator as a racist for questioning whether all acts deemed cultural appropriation qualify as bigotry, as happened at Yale, or to assault and nearly barricade a building a speaker is in like whites besetting a small-town Southern jail seeking to lynch a black man. However, there are always a few especially nervy individuals, and these days it’s easier than ever for them to rally the troops with the village in all of our pockets. Add in that today’s novelty is tomorrow’s commonplace, and the result is the norming of performative intemperance.

It is predictable, also, that the new mood is hardly restricted to college students. The most violent of the protesters against Murray, and the most vocal of the ones against MacDonald as well as Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley in March, seem to have been from off campus. Social media warp us all, and the new “protest” meme will hardly be confined to colleges. This ought frighten us even more.

Bryan Burrough on ‘Days of Rage’
By Kevin Nance

Q: I always thought the revolutionaries were primarily motivated by opposition to the Vietnam War, but you say in the book that they cared even more about the situation of blacks in America.

A: That’s right. These people were — to a man, to a woman — anti-war, but the core of their motivation arose from the tail-end of the civil rights movement. They wanted to improve the lives of black America, whether in terms of racism or discrimination or police brutality. It’s easy to look at it from the perspective of today and say how misguided all this violence was, how thoroughly it’s been disavowed. But I think you also have to say that many of the underground’s motivations were legitimate and real. Racism was pervasive. The Nixon administration was corrupt. Many people believe that Vietnam was unnecessary.

Days of Rage
By Bryan Burrough

The public, by and large, dismissed the radical underground as a lunatic fringe, and in time that’s what it became. But before that day, before so many fell victim to despair or drugs or the FBI, there was a moment when the radical underground seemed to pose a legitimate threat to national security, when its political “actions” merited the front page of the New York Times and the cover of Time magazine and drew constant attention from the White House, the FBI, and the CIA. To the extreme reaches of the radical left, to those who dared to believe that some sort of second American Revolution was actually imminent, these years constituted a brief shining moment, perhaps its last. To others, the bombings were nothing more than homegrown terrorism; the excesses of the radical left during the 1970s helped nudge America toward the right end of the political spectrum and into the arms of Ronald Reagan and the conservatives. But in the eyes of much of mainstream America, to ordinary working people in Iowa and Nevada and Arkansas who hadn’t the time or the inclination to study the communiqués of bomb- throwing Marxists, who wanted only to return to normalcy after long years of disorienting change, it was insanity.

In the end, the untold story of the underground era, stretching from 1970 until the last diehards were captured in 1985, is one of misplaced idealism, naïveté, and stunning arrogance. Depending on one’s point of view, its protagonists can be seen as either deluded dreamers or heartless terrorists, though a third possibility might be closer to the truth: young people who fatally misjudged America’s political winds and found themselves trapped in an unwinnable struggle they were too proud or stubborn to give up.

Why should college students let their enemies speak? Naked self-interest.
By Catherine Rampell

… the same censorship tools you’ve developed to silence your enemies will be used against you.

Right-wing students and allies have already begun adopting tactics to intimidate intellectual enemies and muzzle ideas they dislike, including through trigger warnings, professor “watchlists,” proposed ideological litmus tests for college hiring and even speech codes.

Fresno State professor faces backlash after ‘Trump must hang’ tweet
By Melissa Etehad

Maischak said that before Breitbart’s article, nobody read his tweets as an “invitation, or endorsement of, violence,” but that in the aftermath of its publication he has received a “flood of threats and hate-mail.”

He added that at the time, it felt cathartic to write the tweet. “I never expected them to be read by anyone but a close circle of acquaintances who would know to place them in their context,” he said.

As a result, however, federal officials are now conducting an investigation. Maischak said he has been contacted by the Secret Service and is cooperating fully.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro said he appreciates Maischak’s apology and “willingness to take accountability for the statements made on his Twitter account,” adding that his top concern is the safety of students.

He added that the university will also cooperate with any investigations conducted by federal officials, and that the administration is reviewing Maischak’s statements in the “context of rights of free expression, but also for potential direct threats of violence that may violate the law.”

Middlebury, My Divided Campus
By Allison Stanger

The university cannot renounce enlightenment values and continue to be a university. It must be a battleground for competing ideas, not a megaphone for a particular point of view. The growth that liberal education inspires is never comfortable, and learning is a lifelong process. All of us can benefit from civil engagement with those with whom we disagree.

There are larger implications to getting this right. Upholding freedom of expression on college campuses is a necessary condition for sustaining constitutional democracy. As a unique experiment in transcending tribal allegiances, Americans are defined by the ideals we together uphold. What is “E pluribus unum” but a free and brave space?

Looking both within and without, it seems to me, the real enemy is ignorance empowered.

America’s Cult of Ignorance
By Tom Nichols

The antics of clownish anti-vaccine crusaders like actors Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy undeniably make for great television or for a fun afternoon of reading on Twitter. But when they and other uninformed celebrities and public figures seize on myths and misinformation about the dangers of vaccines, millions of people could once again be in serious danger from preventable afflictions like measles and whooping cough.

The growth of this kind of stubborn ignorance in the midst of the Information Age cannot be explained away as merely the result of rank ignorance. Many of the people who campaign against established knowledge are otherwise adept and successful in their daily lives. In some ways, it is all worse than ignorance: it is unfounded arrogance, the outrage of an increasingly narcissistic culture that cannot endure even the slightest hint of inequality of any kind.

The XX Factor
By Claire Lehmann

The discovery of sex differences in the human brain and nervous system should not be seen as a blow to gender equality. Men are not the “gold standard” version of the human species, and women should not be viewed as a deviation from the norm. In stoking fears about difference, these political activists dressed in scholars’ clothing unwittingly imply that female-typical traits are something to be ashamed of and are by default inferior. Why would the discovery of differences be so ominous if one didn’t secretly harbor the view that female-typical traits were unsatisfactory? Whether such attitudes will ultimately be remembered as sexist or feminist is something only history can decide.

Learning To Love Scientific Consensus
By Scott Alexander

Yes, Cordelia Fine is still around and is still writing books about how there are no gender differences. But she’s starting to sound really defensive, basically the literary equivalent of “I know I’m going to be downvoted to hell for this, but…”. Meanwhile, real scientists are doing a good job pointing out the flaws in her books and conducting studies like this biggest-ever look at male vs. female brain differences, this magisterial look at personality differences, et cetera – not to mention great and widely-accepted work on how intersex people take on the characteristics of their hormonal rather than their social gender (honestly, we should probably thank transgender people for making this field socially acceptable again). People talk a lot about how Larry Summers was fired from Harvard for talking about male vs. female differences in math ability, but Steven Pinker did a whole debate on this and remains a Harvard professor.

2017: What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to be More Widely Known?
By Helena Cronin

Consider that 50:50 gender-equal workplace. A stirring call. But what will it look like? (These figures are UK; but ratios are almost identical in all advanced economies.) Nursing, for example, is currently 90% female. So 256,000 female nurses will have to move elsewhere. Fortunately, thanks to a concomitant male exodus, 570,000 more women will be needed in the construction and building trades. Fifteen thousand women window-cleaners. One hundred twenty-seven thousand women electricians. One hundred forty-three thousand women vehicle-mechanics. One hundred thirty-one thousand women metal-machinists. And 32,000 women telecom-engineers.

What’s more, the most dangerous and dirty occupations are currently almost entirely 100% male—at least half a million jobs. So that will require a mass exodus of a quarter of a million women from further “unbalanced” occupations. Perhaps women teachers could become tomorrow’s gender-equal refuse-collectors, quarry workers, roofers, water-and-sewage plant operators, scaffolders, stagers and riggers?

“Gender” predicts that, as discrimination diminishes, males and females will increasingly converge. But a study of 55 nations found that it was in the most liberal, democratic, equality-driven countries that divergence was greatest. The less the sexism, the greater the sex differences. Difference, this suggests, is evidence not of oppression but of choice; not socialization, not patriarchy, not false consciousness, not even pink t-shirts or personal pronouns … but female choice.

The Rhetorical Trap at the Heart of the “Neurosexism” Debate
By Claire Lehmann and Debra W Soh

There will always be flawed studies in any field of science and there will always be media distortions of research on the topics of sex and gender. We agree that efforts to improve methodological integrity and reduce media distortions are vital and worthwhile causes. But science cannot progress if speculation is taken off the table due to political concerns. Gender equality should not (and cannot) rely on the false notion that the sexes must be the same in order to be equal, and dishonest rhetorical tactics deployed by critics only sows unnecessary confusion. Ultimately, politicizing science is a losing strategy, and given enough time, unfettered science will always win.

2017: What Scientific Term or Concept Ought to be More Widely Known?
By John Tooby

The primary function that drove the evolution of coalitions is the amplification of the power of its members in conflicts with non-members. This function explains a number of otherwise puzzling phenomena. For example, ancestrally, if you had no coalition you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, preexisting and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership. This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird. Since coalitional programs evolved to promote the self-interest of the coalition’s membership (in dominance, status, legitimacy, resources, moral force, etc.), even coalitions whose organizing ideology originates (ostensibly) to promote human welfare often slide into the most extreme forms of oppression, in complete contradiction to the putative values of the group. Indeed, morally wrong-footing rivals is one point of ideology, and once everyone agrees on something (slavery is wrong) it ceases to be a significant moral issue because it no longer shows local rivals in a bad light. Many argue that there are more slaves in the world today than in the 19th century. Yet because one’s political rivals cannot be delegitimized by being on the wrong side of slavery, few care to be active abolitionists anymore, compared to being, say, speech police.

Moreover, to earn membership in a group you must send signals that clearly indicate that you differentially support it, compared to rival groups. Hence, optimal weighting of beliefs and communications in the individual mind will make it feel good to think and express content conforming to and flattering to one’s group’s shared beliefs and to attack and misrepresent rival groups. The more biased away from neutral truth, the better the communication functions to affirm coalitional identity, generating polarization in excess of actual policy disagreements. Communications of practical and functional truths are generally useless as differential signals, because any honest person might say them regardless of coalitional loyalty. In contrast, unusual, exaggerated beliefs—such as supernatural beliefs (e.g., god is three persons but also one person), alarmism, conspiracies, or hyperbolic comparisons—are unlikely to be said except as expressive of identity, because there is no external reality to motivate nonmembers to speak absurdities.

why is this so hard?
By Freddie deBoer

In general: why has the movement for social justice unfolded in such a way that its most passionate members have forbidden complexity, nuance, internal criticism, and conditional support? Why has it become impermissible to say “many things in this world are offensive, but not all claims to offense are legitimate”? Why is it forbidden to say “I support your goals, but I find your tactics, your strategy, and your messaging counterproductive”? Why has the social justice left become so antagonistic to the idea of critical solidarity? Why are people shunned for asking basic questions about strategy and values? Why can’t people who are generally your allies be allowed, even encouraged, to explain when and why they don’t agree with you on an issue of controversy? Why has it become anathema among progressives to say, “I am with you when you do right, but I am not with you when my conscience tells me you’re doing wrong”? Why do people insist we all be loyal soldiers at precisely the time we need robust internal debate the most?

The Anti-PC Revolt and the Milo Problem
By Cathy Young

In the end, the Milo debacle actually has some important lessons for conservatives, libertarians, and anti-PC liberals. For instance:

The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

Making “social justice warriors” apoplectic is not an accomplishment. (For one thing, it’s far too easy.)

And most important: Speaking up for other people’s humanity and dignity, and against actual bigotry — not the nonsense version promoted by PC culture — is not “political correctness” or “virtue signaling,” it’s simple human decency.

Defend Tim Farron, a true liberal, even if it makes us queasy
By Nick Cohen

For those who practise it, toleration is a hard principle to live with. It forces you to engage with enemies you abhor in argument when you don’t believe they have an argument worth hearing.

Concealed within the hardness is a soft centre, one that is too insipid for many to digest. Emotionally, it feels vapid to say that you must win arguments rather than call for the police. It can feel like an act of treason to dignify misogynists, racists or homophobes by agreeing to argue with them in the first place.

But however much the dismissal of tolerance, and the flight to a politically correct authoritarianism, makes emotional sense, practically it has been a disaster. Trump won in part because tens of millions of Americans had had it with being told what to think. Some were genuine bigots. Others could be won over if only “liberals” stopped upholding an illiberal policing of thought.

Political Conservatives Suddenly Embrace Free Speech on Campus!!
By Geoffrey R. Stone

I had a recent conversation with several very conservative advocates of free speech today in which I raised the question whether they were being perhaps a tad inconsistent. To make the point, I posed the following hypothetical:

Suppose the tables were turned, I asked. Suppose that instead of Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, and Ann Coulter, the speakers who are being silenced today are individuals who come to campus to condemn Christian evangelicals for their “horrendous, corrupt, and deeply immoral views about the rights of women.” Suppose these speakers charged that Christian evangelicals, “spouting their ignorant and vile creed, should be condemned by all civilized persons as dangerously deranged.” And suppose then, I asked, that a group of conservative students and community members responded to such speakers by demanding that they not be invited to campus and attempting to prevent them from espousing such hateful and bigoted ideas.

Can you really tell me, I asked, that you would then be on the front-lines defending the free speech rights of such anti-Christian bigots? Would you, in that situation, be aggressively defending their freedom of speech? To their credit, they paused, and seemed to get the point.

Intimidation Is the New Normal on Campus
By Jonathan Haidt

The human mind evolved for violent intergroup conflict. It comes easily to us, and it can be so emotionally rewarding that we have invented many ways of engaging in it ritually, such as in team sports. But the tribal mind is incompatible with scholarship, open-minded thinking, toleration of dissent, and the search for truth. When tribal sentiments are activated within an academic community, some members start to believe that their noble collective ends justify almost any means, including the demonization of inconvenient research and researchers, false accusations, character assassination, and sometimes even violence. Anyone not with the movement is against it, and its enemies — students, faculty members, administrators — are often intimidated into acquiescence. This is how professors and students are increasingly describing their campus climate, at least at elite four-year residential colleges.

This year may become a turning point in the annals of higher education. It may be remembered as the year that political violence and police escorts became ordinary parts of campus life. Or it may be remembered as the year when professors, students, and administrators finally found the moral courage to stand up against intimidation, even when it is aimed at people whose ideas they dislike.

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