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Culture war games: unlearning liberty

After five years of ‘Unlearning Liberty,’ book’s prescriptions command urgent attention
By Alex Morey

“It may seem like a paradox,” Greg wrote, “but an environment that squelches debate and punishes the expression of opinions, in the very institution that is supposed to make us better thinkers, can lead quickly to the formation of polarized groups in which people harbor a comfortable, uncritical certainty that they are right.”

Indeed, “we live in certain times.”

Censorship on campus is, of course, nothing new. For most of FIRE’s history, campus censorship seemed to come primarily from the top down. Students complained about administrators selectively enforcing speech codes and ushering them into tiny, misleadingly-named “free speech zones.”

But in “Unlearning Liberty,” Greg noticed a shift: Many of the calls for censorship on campus were suddenly coming from students themselves.

But why?

Greg had a theory. It was starting in college, and spreading.

“I believe that an unsung culprit in this expansion of unwarranted certainty and group polarization,” he wrote, “is thirty years of college censorship.”

Poliakoff: Censorship takes stage on campus
By Michael B. Poliakoff

The censors seem to be out in force lately on the American college campus. November saw Brandeis University cancel the world premiere of a play about Lenny Bruce. Then Knox College in Illinois cancelled the staging of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Person of Szechwan.” In both cases, the charge against the dramas was racial insensitivity. And in both cases, only cloudy reasoning could lead viewers to ignore the clear anti-racist intent of these plays.

The ironies are overwhelming, with poor Lenny and Bertolt bludgeoned first from the right and now from the left. In 1947, Brecht found himself face-to-face with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, charged with his creation of “a number of very revolutionary poems, plays, and other writings.” In 1961, Bruce, a quintessential counter-culture figure, was prosecuted for “obscenity.” It’s also ironic that Brandeis bears the name of one of America’s greatest defenders of the First Amendment.

American higher education needs to stop and think how far down the road of suppressing literature it has already gone — and how perilous that road is, both for education and for a free society. We know well where that road has led.

At a number of places in Germany, many of them on university campuses, you can find plaques marking the spots where, in 1933, the Nazis burned books. Some of these grim plaques quote the 19th century German author Heinrich Heine: “There where people burn books they will ultimately burn people too.”

Wilfrid Laurier graduate student delivers a wake-up call
By Margaret Wente

Ms. Shepherd attempted to explain that she doesn’t even agree with Prof. Peterson. She simply used the clip to help frame a class discussion – an explanation that her interrogators ignored. When she asked which students had complained and how many, she was told that information was confidential. When she pointed out that the pronoun controversy has already been widely aired in public, she was told that some ideas are too “problematic” to be introduced into the classroom. When she voiced her opinion that universities should be places for debate, she was told that she’s created a toxic environment for students. When she said she had remained neutral and not tried to impose her own views, her supervisor, Prof. Rambukkana, told her, “That’s kind of part of the problem.”

For the record, her other two adversaries were Herbert Pimlott, a tenured associate professor in communications studies, and Adria Joel, who holds the unwieldy title of acting manager of gendered violence prevention and support at the university’s diversity and equity office. Although outranked and outnumbered, Ms. Shepherd emerged with dignity from this ugly confrontation. Her voice broke only a few times. To her immense credit, she refused to give in. “I thought, if this is something that can cause you to lose your teaching-assistant job, then I don’t want to be here,” she told me.

Ms. Shepherd didn’t set out to be a whistle-blower. She simply believes in calling bullshit when she sees it. And what she sees are students and faculty who are shut down or censored if they don’t toe the party line. What she sees are burgeoning enforcement apparatuses for speech and conduct that, in the name of “diversity” and “equity,” sometimes make genuine academic inquiry all but impossible. What she sees are university leaders who are hostage to the righteous insanities of the day.

Lindsay Shepherd and the Potential for Heterodoxy at Wilfrid Laurier University
By Raffi Grinberg

The committee didn’t seem content to let Shepherd maintain her stance. Throughout the conversation you can feel their drive to convert her; they cannot accept that someone would want to maintain a view of intellectual freedom that they consider “problematic.” As in 1984:

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

Let us take the views espoused in this meeting and carry them to their logical end: Students at Laurier will graduate without ever having even heard ideas that run contrary to their own. When they do encounter people in the post-college world who hold those ideas, they will attribute bad intentions; they’ll assume that such people must either be insane, or as evil as Hitler. And thus when they, in turn, become supervising professors, they will make sure their TAs do not inflict any such views on their students, to shield them from insanity and evil. And so on. Until, perhaps, one defiant TA challenges them…

The Surprising Revolt at the Most Liberal College in the Country
By Chris Bodenner

For the anniversary, RAR arranged an open mic for students of color. Rollo, a freshman from Houston, described how difficult it was to grow up poor, black, and gay in Texas. He then turned to RAR: “No, I won’t subject myself to your politically correct ideas. No, I won’t allow myself to be a part of your cause.” He criticized the “demagoguery” that “prevents any comprehensive conversation about race outside of ‘racism is bad.’”

Rollo later told me that RAR “had a beautiful opportunity to address police violence” but squandered it with extreme rhetoric. “Identity politics is divisive,” he insisted. As far as Hum 110, “I like to do my own interpreting,” and he resents RAR “playing the race card on ancient Egyptian culture.”

Over at the lecture hall, RAR covered the door with photos of police victims so that anyone entering would have to rip them. Shortly into Ann Delehanty’s lecture on The Iliad, a RAR “noise parade” shut it down—the third class canceled that month, after Kambiz GhaneaBassiri refused to teach the Epic of Gilgamesh in front of signs tying him to white supremacy. Where Delehanty had just stood, a RAR leader read a statement about how Reed is complicit in “modern-day slavery” because its operating bank, Wells Fargo, has ties to private prisons.

But her words faltered as she watched the freshmen walk out. “The thing that heartens me,” said Pax, “is that most of the student body followed the professor into another classroom, where she continued the lecture.”

Penn Jillette: If Brandeis wants to censor Lenny Bruce, I don’t need college
By Penn Jillette

Brandeis banned this play about Lenny Bruce because students thought it might upset them. Maybe it’s not a good play. Who cares? I don’t have a dog in this fight. I never went to college. I’m not paying for college. College students can choose to spend their money to avoid the risk of being offended. It’s a lot of jingle — family money, scholarships, government loans and personal loans. Maybe they don’t want to pay to be challenged. That’s a lot of debt to carry to be comfortable.

College was too expensive for me when I was 18, and it’s even more expensive now. Students have the right to luxuriate in comfort for their money, if that’s what they want.

The title of the Lenny play is Buyer Beware, and the students are the buyers. It’s their choice to make, and they’ve made it. But I’m no longer envious of their experience. If college is so comfortable and safe — I’m glad I’m not there. Who wants comfortable? Who wants safe? This old piece of carny trash still wants to be pushed and challenged, and I’ve proved I can do that without college. And it’s a lot cheaper than Brandeis.

Student Loan Debt Is Now As Big as the U.S. Junk Market
By Liz McCormick

“Delinquency rates on student loans are much higher than those on auto loans or mortgages, due to loose student loan underwriting standards, the unsecured nature of student debt, and the inability to charge off non-performing student loans in bankruptcy,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts Marty Young and Lotfi Karoui wrote in a note Tuesday. “The substantial majority of student loan default risk is borne by the U.S. Treasury.”

While the trend of rising defaults on student loans doesn’t pose “systemic financial risks,” it does impact household behavior as the debt load itself hurts home ownership rates, Young and Karoui said.

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years
By Abigail Hess

At the Innovation + Disruption Symposium in Higher Education in May, Christensen specifically predicted that “50 percent of the 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years.”

More recently, he doubled down on his statements, telling 1,500 attendees at’s Higher Education Summit, “If you’re asking whether the providers get disrupted within a decade — I might bet that it takes nine years rather than 10.”

Christensen is not alone in thinking that online educational resources will cause traditional colleges and universities to close. The U.S. Department of Education and Moody’s Investors Service project that in the coming years, closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple, and mergers will double.

The New Campus Censors
By David Bromwich

Students, to say it again, have been the leading actors in the pressure for campus censorship, but they take some of their cues from activist scholars; and the censorship of opposing views is an always dangerous professional deformation in every walk of scholarship. An egregious recent example is the coerced withdrawal of an unwelcome article, “The Case for Colonialism,” by Bruce Gilley, published in the journal Third World Quarterly. When the article appeared, two petitions were rapidly circulated online, one demanding its withdrawal and an apology, the second also demanding retraction and apology but adding a demand that the journal remove anyone who approved the article for publication.

The facts here turned out to be as spurious as the rumor at William & Mary that the ACLU was racist. The accusers had initially charged that the article was accepted by editorial circumvention of the normal process of approval. The publisher, Taylor & Francis, checked and found that the normal vetting procedure of approval by scholar-referees had, in fact, been followed. Nevertheless, 15 of the 34 members of the editorial board resigned in protest, the two petitions together collected more than 17,000 signatures, and eventually the article was withdrawn, owing to “serious and credible threats of personal violence.”

Without tenure, professors become terrified sheep
By Alice Dreger

Fed up with the left-leaning nature of universities, political right wingers, including the Koch brothers, have made reshaping academia a priority. In Wisconsin, Walker has made it easier for programmes and departments to lose funding at the whim of those in political power. Likewise, the Republican-controlled Board of Governors at the University of North Carolina recently closed the law school’s highly-regarded Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

Meanwhile, on the left, identity-politics activists are using devices like ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ to shut down speech they believe to be offensive and dangerous. In my campus visits around the US – aimed at emboldening the students, faculty, and administrators to push for academic freedom – I’ve been told time and time again about staff being reported by left-leaning students for teaching ‘uncomfortable’ ideas that have been taught for generations.

For example, one faculty member at a prestigious liberal arts college told me about a colleague who was reported for teaching the ancient Greek tale Leda and the Swan. The alleged discriminatory offence? Not first warning students that the story includes a symbolic rape. Others at public universities described being reported for stumbling over students’ preferred pronouns. Some historic women’s colleges have given up trying to produce The Vagina Monologues because of complaints that the 1996 play doesn’t reflect the breadth of transgender experiences. (It doesn’t; it wasn’t written for that purpose any more than The Federalist Papers were.)

University of Oklahoma censors fracking research at the request of oil company CEO
By Zach Greenberg

Although the vast majority of universities grant academic freedom to their researchers, these rights are meaningless if they are not backed up when challenged. Colleges frequently hear calls to fire faculty for their research or expression, and when administrators cave to these demands, their promises of academic freedom aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. It is the responsibility of the university administration to ensure that their professors are free to teach, write, and research without outside interference.

NYU prof speaks on need to restore viewpoint diversity in higher education
By Emma Greguska

“America had the weirdest political season in history,” he said. And it all began around 2014, thanks in large part to social media and the ease with which fake news and propaganda flow there. And as incendiary as those headlines can be, we love to read them — it’s neurological.

“The more angry you are, the more pleasing it is to read fake news,” even if you might doubt it, Haidt said. This all goes back to fundamental human nature. We’ve evolved to be tribal, to align with one side or another. We see it most obviously in the passionate sports fan.

But sometimes passion can be dangerous. As passions rise, Haidt explained, so does the ability to believe the worst about the other side. What has resulted in America is a deeply divided nation, in which both sides believe so fiercely in their convictions that they view the other side as not just wrong but fundamentally evil.

That division has reared its ugly head in academic institutions, which have become so left-leaning that even professors who identify as liberal report feeling as though they have to walk on eggshells so as not to offend students lest they cry, “Microaggression!”

“That is one of the worst ideas ever to come out of psychology,” Haidt said. “It has no scientific validity.”

Group whose findings support video game-violence link loses another paper – Retraction Watch
By Victoria Stern

The research—led by corresponding author Brad J. Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University (OSU)—showed that gifted and non-gifted children’s verbal skills dropped substantially after watching 12 minutes of a violent cartoon. The violent program had a greater impact on the gifted children, temporarily eliminating the pre-video verbal edge they displayed over their non-gifted peers.

To Hilgard, the results suggested that violent media can actually impair learning and performance. But the effect size was huge — so big, Hilgard thought it had to be a mistake. This, plus other questions, prompted Hilgard to contact the authors and the journal. Unfortunately, once he got a look at the data — collected by a co-author in Turkey who became unreachable after the recent coup attempt — the questions didn’t go away. So the journal decided to retract the paper.

Updated: Ohio State revokes PhD of co-author of now-retracted paper on shooter video games – Retraction Watch
By Ivan Oransky

A researcher who co-authored a paper about video games that was retracted earlier this year has had her PhD from The Ohio State University revoked.

As WOSU reported this afternoon, the vote today of the university’s Board of Trustees was unanimous. The scheduled vote on whether to revoke Jodi Whitaker’s degree was first reported yesterday by The Columbus Dispatch.

While a graduate student at Ohio State, Whitaker was co-author of a paper that claimed to find that first-person shooter video games improved marksmanship. As we’ve reported, the paper, published online in 2012, was retracted earlier this year, two years after a university committee was alerted to irregularities in the data by two outside researchers.

Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals
By Gina Kolata

Recently a group of researchers invented a fake academic: Anna O. Szust. The name in Polish means fraudster. Dr. Szust applied to legitimate and predatory journals asking to be an editor. She supplied a résumé in which her publications and degrees were total fabrications, as were the names of the publishers of the books she said she had contributed to.

The legitimate journals rejected her application immediately. But 48 out of 360 questionable journals made her an editor. Four made her editor in chief. One journal sent her an email saying, “It’s our pleasure to add your name as our editor in chief for the journal with no responsibilities.”

The lead author of the Dr. Szust sting operation, Katarzyna Pisanski, a psychologist at the University of Sussex in England, said the question of what motivates people to publish in such journals “is a touchy subject.”

“If you were tricked by spam email you might not want to admit it, and if you did it wittingly to increase your publication counts you might also not want to admit it,” she said in an email.

A Forced ‘Corrective’ on Cigarettes
By Robert N. Proctor

This could be eye-opening for those who remain uninformed about the catastrophic maladies caused by smoking; the truth certainly bears repeating. Cigarettes remain the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, killing 1,200 Americans daily, more than “from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol combined,” as one of the statements says. Another notes that “there is no safe cigarette” and that all “cause cancer, lung disease, heart attacks and premature death.” Yet another says: “Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction.” It adds: “It’s not easy to quit.”

For an industry with billions in annual sales, with eternal threats from lawsuits and regulation, one can understand the incentives to avoid any kind of adverse admission. Cigarette makers worked hard to defang Judge Kessler’s corrective statements, and eventually obtained a court order to remove all references to industry deception or culpability.

What’s crucial to appreciate is that the corrective statements are not being issued voluntarily. And nowhere in the statements do the companies acknowledge the truth of what they are saying. In this sense, the statements are not really even admissions. Judge Kessler’s original order had required them to be prefaced by a clear “Here is the truth.” That requirement is now gone.

Leading Western Publisher Bows to Chinese Censorship
By Javier C. Hernández

Under President Xi Jinping, China has grown increasingly confident in using its vast market as a bargaining chip, forcing foreign firms to acquiesce to strict demands on free speech.

Academic publishers have become a popular target, part of Mr. Xi’s efforts to restrict the flow of ideas at universities.

In August, Cambridge University Press, one of the oldest publishing houses, said it had removed more than 300 articles from the Chinese site of the journal China Quarterly. The articles mentioned the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the Cultural Revolution and other topics deemed inappropriate by the authorities. The publisher later reversed course after an outcry.

Several scholars on Wednesday denounced Springer Nature’s censorship in the mainland, which was first reported by The Financial Times. They accused the company of prioritizing profit over free speech.

“Springer’s censorship is a disservice to everyone,” said Kevin Carrico, a China scholar at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. “Springer’s success relies on its authors and its readers, and both are being cheated in this arrangement.”

Academic journal publishing is headed for a day of reckoning
By Patrick Burns

Academia’s original impetus for publishing through the private sector was to ensure a sufficient economic base to perform the copy editing and publication. Now, some of the larger publishers report billions of dollars of profit annually, exceeding 30 percent of revenue – never the intent.

For their part, the journals say they’re providing valuable services that have real costs – things such as expertly curating, editing and proofreading the content. But critics claim publishers are more interested in profit than disseminating scholarship. It doesn’t seem they’re passing on any cost savings that have presumably resulted from tech advances – things such as accepting electronic copies of papers that make it easier to produce final versions, or doing away with printing expensive hard copies and exclusively publishing online.

This upside-down publishing picture has persisted since the 1980s. Due to institutions’ reliance upon library materials, the inability to keep up with such extreme cost increases is damaging to higher education instruction and research. Without consistent access to the cutting-edge knowledge that’s embodied in the universe of journal publications, faculty, students and researchers can’t keep up with new research.

‘Power Poses’ Don’t Really Make You More Powerful, Nine More Studies Confirm
By Meghan Bartels

“All the papers started coming in, and it wasn’t great news,” Carney said, noting that not one paper replicated the original findings. “That was a little disheartening, but it is what it is.”

Now she says she doesn’t think the power pose is a real phenomenon, not after this much evidence has piled up. “You gotta update your beliefs at that point,” she said. She added that she doesn’t know where her co-author Cuddy, who did not respond to an interview request, stands on the topic.

When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy
By Susan Dominus

Even people who believe that the methodological reforms are essential say its costs to science are real. “It’s become like politics — we’ve created two camps of people who shouldn’t be in two camps in the first place,” says Jay Van Bavel, the social psychologist at N.Y.U. “It’s perceived slights and defensiveness, and everybody has some history or grievance — and it will never end because there is that history of perceived grievances, of one of your colleagues who has been put through it, or criticized your friend in a public forum. It’s terrible for science. It’s not good.”

Researchers find oddities in high-profile gender studies
By Cathleen O’Grady

The economic systems that make peer review an unpaid extracurricular activity for researchers, the traditions that keep the full data set internal to the lab that produces it, and the limitations of official channels of dispute have all been recognized as contributing to problems with scientific publications. There are plenty of scientists who are trying to improve these systems, but change won’t happen overnight.

Sidestepping the official channels of critique—journal editors, universities, and professional associations—to publicize issues on blogs and social media is a hot topic among scientists. Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske, a huge name in social psychology, famously referred to this as “methodological terrorism,” going on to write that “the new media (e.g., blogs, twitter, Facebook posts) are encouraging uncurated, unfiltered, trash-talk.” Ignoring official channels allows the kinds of critiques normally not considered acceptable in science, she argued.

But Brown argues that it’s better to place these conversations where they can be discussed openly by the scientific community at large. “I’m not advocating the creation of a science police,” he says. Instead, he’d like to see less resistance to having these conversations in the open. “None of us likes being portrayed as if we’re some kind of unofficial band going around administering vigilante justice.”

Criticizing a Scientist’s Work Isn’t Bullying. It’s Science.
By Simine Vazire

… the pressures society has placed on scientists have made it almost impossible for us to admit when we’re wrong. We’re rewarded—by funding agencies, by prestigious scientific journals, by the media—for cherry-picking and polishing our results to make them look as shiny as possible. “Groundbreaking” discoveries are often the standard for getting a job or getting promoted. When the stakes are that high, it’s easy for scientists to start seeing what we need to see—to convince ourselves that our embellished findings are rock solid because we have to. What’s worse, there is little incentive for scientists to challenge and correct each other. Doing the hard work of checking each other’s discoveries is not glamorous. And when scientists bother to do it, the response is rarely gratitude—instead, efforts to point out legitimate errors in methodology are often met with accusations of bullying. Indeed, science’s dirty little secret is that scientists are often actively hostile to the very mechanism that science depends on: self-correction.

Why It’s a Bad Idea to Tell Students Words Are Violence
By Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff

The social psychologist Jean Twenge has just written a book, titled iGen (which is short for “internet generation”), in which she analyzes four large national datasets that track the mental health of teenagers and college students. When the book is released in August, Americans will likely be stunned by her findings. Graph after graph shows the same pattern: Lines drift mildly up or down across the decades as baby boomers are followed by Gen-X, which is followed by the millennials. But as soon as the data includes iGen—those born after roughly 1994—the rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and suicide spike upward.

Is iGen so different from the millennials because the former faces more chronic, long-term stress? Have the country’s colleges suddenly become brutal, toxic places, increasingly hostile to members of various identity groups? Some would argue, as Twenge does, that social media changed the nature of iGen’s social interactions. But if social media is the biggest cause of the mental-health crisis then the solution lies in changing the nature or availability of social media for teenagers. Making the offline world “safer” by banning the occasional stress-inducing speaker will not help.

Cyberbullying’s chilling trend: Teens anonymously target themselves online, study finds
By N’dea Yancey-Bragg

This is concerning because teen suicide rates have been steadily climbing over the past decade. The suicide rate for girls ages 15-19 doubled from 2007 to 2015, reaching its highest point in 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The question perplexing researchers is why teens would do this.

When asked why they engaged in digital self-harm, boys were more likely to say they did it as a joke or to get attention, while girls often said they did it because they were struggling with depression.

“There’s that same phenomena that’s going on; it’s akin to physically wanting to feel pain,” said Patricia Cavazos, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine.

The rates of physical self-harm are similar, as well. About 8% of children ages 7-16 surveyed in a 2012 study said they’d engaged physical self-harm, or non-suicidal self injury.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests social media plays a role in increasing mental health issues among young people, she said.

Social Media and Suicide: A Critical Appraisal
By Amy Orben

While Twenge finds a link between social media use and depressive symptoms, this link is very small. Social media use only explains 0.36% of the covariance for girl’s depressive symptoms; less than half a percent of the depressive symptoms a female student reports can be predicted by knowing how much social media use she reports. 99.964% of her depressive symptoms have nothing to do with social media use. The link is so small, it could well be due to statistical noise. Common method variance, for example, is statistical noise in a dataset because certain people react to measurement tools, for example personal questions in a questionnaire, in a specific way.

The paper only finds a link between depressive symptoms and social media use for girls, not for boys. For boys, social media use only explains 0.01% of the covariance for depressive symptoms. It does not account for 99.99% of depressive symptoms. This is non-significant and extremely small. It is unclear why the effect is only present for girls; we need to be cautious of saying that social media use causes depression, if the effect does not hold for half of the analysed population.

We need more good quality, open and replicable science before we can start making grand claims about social media’s effects. Great claims require great evidence – and great evidence has not yet been found.

Why Porn Can’t Be Our Scapegoat for Assault
By Debra W. Soh

Historically, pornography has been an easy scapegoat for sexual deviance and an even easier target to obscure. The latest example is a Los Angeles Times op-ed titled “Behind the Harassment Scandals, Another Dirty Little Secret: Pornography” by a writer named Zac Crippen. In his piece, Crippen, an assistant professor of aerospace studies at the University of Texas at Austin, calls pornography consumption “a public health crisis” akin to smoking tobacco and attempts to build a case as to why adult entertainment is a secret force behind malignant sexual behavior.

He also places blame on Hugh Hefner, Playboy’s founder, for “convinc[ing] generations of young men that the ideal female exists for their pleasure.” Because as we all know, if it hadn’t been for the advent of Playboy, straight men would have never discovered they enjoy looking at naked women and having sex.

The senselessness of the year’s biggest revelation has led us to seek out explanations and to dig up demons that don’t truly exist or make sense. As tempting as it may be to position pornography as the scapegoat, we can’t blame it for systemic sexual harassment and assault, no matter how rampant these cases continue to be. The unsettling truth we must accept is that some people behave in reprehensible ways, especially when it comes to sex, for reasons beyond any one explanation. Without a doubt, working to rectify our uncomfortable reality without compromising healthy sexual expression will define this generation.

Kick Against the Pricks
By Laura Kipnis

There’s a built-in weirdness to possessing a sexuality, whatever your gender. It reminds us that we’re animals; it’s bendable into perverse configurations, which is maybe what we also like about it. We’re afflicted with bizarre, amoral dreams on a nightly basis. Our fantasy lives don’t always comport with our ideas about who we should be. We go to work and have to pretend we don’t have genitals under our clothes, and that our coworkers don’t either. Maybe this is more of a problem for biological men, given their physiology, which externalizes desires more blatantly; women are afforded more secrets. But women can be weirdos and sadists too: the worst fictions about us are that our natures are pacific and oppression has made us nobler people. Online feminism is itself a playground of bullying and viperishness, most of it under the banner of rectitude.

Will men ever see women as full-fledged human beings rather than ego salves and receptacles? Until that day, the accusations and exposés will continue: the floodgates have opened and aren’t closing anytime soon. That’s exciting. No doubt there will be innocents caught in the crossfire, as distinctions continue to collapse and mutual suspicion increases (men and women already resemble red and blue states); as office compliments become affronts, and pats on the back actionable.

But it’s not exactly news that sexuality fractures self-coherence. We’re badly held together by social mores and the threat of punishment, which is how we become such good compartmentalizers. I suspect that anyone who wondered how Harvey Weinstein could have endowed the Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers while serially assaulting aspiring actresses and assistants is someone who either lacks imagination or has never done a thorough moral inventory.

Matt Lauer Accused of Sexual Harassment by Multiple Women (EXCLUSIVE)
By Ramin Setoodeh and Elizabeth Wagmeister

According to producers, Lauer — who had considerable editorial clout over which stories would ultimately air on “Today” — would frequently dismiss stories about cheating husbands. However, in the wake of Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein, Lauer had to keep up with a national conversation about sexual harassment. It often made for awkward moments on TV for staff members who knew about Lauer’s private interactions.

In September, Lauer asked the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly if he’d ever sent lewd text messages to colleagues. “Think about those … women and what they did,” Lauer said. “They came forward and filed complaints against the biggest star at the network they worked at. Think about how intimidating that must have been. Doesn’t that tell you how strongly they felt about you?”

Louis C.K. never asked us to admire him
By Michael Weiss

Until now, the comedian’s army of publicists, celebrity friends and acolytes did all they could to squelch the persistent rumors of such creepy misbehavior, which have dogged his career as C.K. made their work more difficult by turning his pathology into his muse.

Jon Stewart, who plays the conscience of progressive America when it suits him and the “who, me?” court jester when seriously challenged, laughed off a question about it at a discussion at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics in May 2016. Aziz Ansari, who shares a manager and booking agent with Louis, pointedly refused to discuss the allegations in an interview with The Daily Beast — seconds after happily expiating on the creative seed, as it were, that led him to write an episode of his hit series “Master of None” about making a citizen’s arrest of a man masturbating on the subway. “Go to your group of female friends and ask them about times they’ve experienced sexism at their job, and you’ll get blown away by the things they tell you,” Ansari told journalist Marlow Stern, who thought that a nice enough segue to asking about the comic’s friend and occasional mentor. “I’m not talking about that,” came the reply.

It’s Good Harvey Weinstein Was Stopped. But Let’s Not Start A Witch Hunt
By Cathy Young

Ironically, as one Twitter user pointed out, actress Rose McGowan, who says she was raped by Weinstein and has denounced his enablers, spoke warmly a few years ago of film director Victor Salva, a child molester convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy actor in 1988. When asked if working with Salva was awkward given his record, McGowan shrugged it off as “not really my business.”

The Weinstein story is a depressing reminder of how difficult it can be for victims, female or male — especially victims of high-status predators — to seek recourse. But the post-Weinstein backlash has revived the demand to “believe the women” and take virtually any accusation of sexual assault as fact, at least against a man; and there are risks in that, too, particularly in the digital age, when an accusation can cost nothing more than a few keystrokes.

Why You’re All Wrong To Be Raging Against Lena Dunham
By Brendan O’Neill

Instant belief lay behind the Rolling Stone fiasco, where a journalist fell for a concocted story of gang rape at the University of Virginia. Instant belief fueled the hysteria and injustices of the pedophile panics of the 1980s and 1990s: back then the rallying cry was “Believe the children.” If we want to go back further, instant belief was the cause of unspeakable horrors in the Old South, where black men were frequently punished, even destroyed, by accusations of sexual harassment. This is why the great civil-rights warrior Ida B. Wells said we should “appeal to the public for the presumption of innocence”—because she knew the dangers of speedy, uncritical belief in accusations.

Of course, everyone who makes an accusation of sexual assault—whether it’s against Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, or some ordinary Joe—should be treated sympathetically. And seriously. They should be listened to. But justice demands we maintain an element of doubt. Otherwise we end up in the kind of situation we have now, where you can topple someone with one social-media post detailing something he allegedly did (that word, “allegedly,” is falling out of favor, I know).

The Limits of ‘Believe All Women’
By Bari Weiss

I believe that the “believe all women” vision of feminism unintentionally fetishizes women. Women are no longer human and flawed. They are Truth personified. They are above reproach.

I believe that it’s condescending to think that women and their claims can’t stand up to interrogation and can’t handle skepticism. I believe that facts serve feminists far better than faith. That due process is better than mob rule.

Maybe it will happen tomorrow or maybe next week or maybe next month. But the Duke lacrosse moment, the Rolling Stone moment, will come. A woman’s accusation will turn out to be grossly exaggerated or flatly untrue. And if the governing principle of this movement is still an article of faith, many people will lose their religion. They will tear down all accusers as false prophets. And we will go back to a status quo in which the word of the Angelos is more sacred than the word of the Isabellas.

There are limits to relying on “believe all women” as an organizing political principle. We are already starting to see them.

Just yesterday The Washington Post reported that a woman named Jaime Phillips approached the paper with a story about Roy Moore. She claimed that in 1992, when she was 15 , he impregnated her and that he drove her to Mississippi to have an abortion. Not a lick of her story is true.

When Does a Watershed Become a Sex Panic?
By Masha Gessen

The affirmative-consent and preponderance-of-the-evidence regimes shift the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused, eliminating the presumption of innocence. If the presumption of innocence is rooted in the idea that it is better to let ten guilty people go free than risk jailing one innocent person, then the policing of sex seems to assume that it’s better to have ten times less sex than to risk having a nonconsensual sexual experience. The problem is not just that this reduces the amount of sex people are likely to be having; it also serves to blur the boundaries between rape; nonviolent sexual coercion; and bad, fumbling, drunken sex. The effect is both to criminalize bad sex and trivialize rape.

A panic is not an answer: We’re at imminent risk of turning this #metoo moment into a frenzied rush to blame all men
By Christina Hoff Summers

The General Social Survey is one of the most trusted sources of data in the social sciences. In 2014, a random sample of Americans was asked a straightforward question: “In the last 12 months, were you sexually harassed by anyone while you were on the job?”

To that question, only 3.6% of women said yes. That is down from 6.1% in 2002. These results do not suggest an epidemic. Nor even a trendline moving in the wrong direction.

In a story on sexual harassment, The Economist reported that “even before the Harvey Weinstein story broke the dam,” the number of cases received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had risen by 5% since 2014.”

That too is sleight of hand. The EEOC handles all sorts of disputes in the workplace, including harassment involving age, race, religion and disability. Since 2014, there has been a 5% increase in total harassment cases, but there’s been a decrease in sexual harassment cases.

In 2016, the EEOC received 6,758 sexual harassment complaints, approximately 100 cases fewer than in 2014. In 2010, they received nearly 8,000. In 2010, sexual harassment cases made up 27% of its harassment caseload; By 2016, they were down to 22%.

But even if we are not coping with an epidemic, we do still have a serious problem. There is a clear need for reform in Hollywood, in newsrooms and, apparently, in certain state capitals.

The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy
By Emily Yoffe

Due process is the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law and fundamental fairness in legal proceedings. The late Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote in 1967 that it is “the primary and indispensable foundation of individual freedom,” and the high court has ruled that due process requires that laws not be “unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.” But many campus proceedings seem to fit that description. For example, it is not unusual for a male student to be investigated and adjudicated for sexual assault, yet to never receive specific, written notice of the allegations against him. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil-liberties group, found in a report released on September 5 analyzing due-process procedures at the country’s top-ranked colleges and universities that about half fail to offer this minimal protection.

“Policy is being driven,” Yager wrote in his analysis, by the idea “that false allegations are exceedingly rare.” But we simply don’t know how rare they are. What’s more, no legal or moral system purporting to be just can make presumptions about individual cases based on statistics. For many years, feminist activists have said that the legal system and culture tend to prejudge assault claims, with an inclination toward believing men over women, accused over accuser. They have rightly pointed out the deep injustice of that bias. But it is also unjust to be biased against the accused.

Against Overgendering Harassment
By Scott Alexander

I’ve previously talked about two visions of social justice. The first vision tries to erase group differences to create a world free from stereotypes and hostility. The second vision tries to attack majority groups and spread as many stereotypes as possible about them in the hopes that the ensuing hostility raises the position of minorities. I think the gendered nature of the conversation is deliberate, being done with exactly this vision and for exactly the same reason some people talk about “Christian victims of Muslim terrorism”. I think this is unfortunate. Why?

Because it ensures that nobody has more than half the picture.

… if men were included in the conversation – if it were understood that a man who was sexually harassed by a female Hollywood celebrity would have the slightest chance at a fair hearing – then maybe they would feel like it was more in their self-interest to support victims.

And if women were included in the conversation as potential perpetrators, they might understand why some people find it scary when people lose their careers over unsubstantiated allegations.

Carl Sargeant not given natural justice, family says
By BBC News

“Having passed this over on Friday to the Labour party, on Monday the first minister is doing interviews with the BBC and I think with ITV as well in which he is elaborating on the story and commenting on the story,” he said.

“Well, that is not due process.

“I’m very angry at those interviews on Monday and the anger within the Labour Party across Wales and beyond the Labour Party in Carl’s local community, people in other political parties, people in no political party.

“People do not think Carl Sargeant has been treated fairly.”

His comments came after Mr Sargeant’s family released correspondence between his solicitor and Labour to highlight their concern over his treatment.

It shows Mr Sargeant pushed for more specific details on the claims, and that his mental well-being was being affected.

Relatives said he was distressed at being unable to defend himself.

The Labour Party said that, in line with agreed procedure, the nature of the allegations was outlined to Mr Sargeant.

The Alyn and Deeside AM had vowed to clear his name after being sacked as communities secretary by Mr Jones on Friday, but said he did not know the details of the allegations.

It is understood he took his own life.

The Times Is “Torn” About Whether Glenn Thrush Should Lose His Job Over Sexual-Misconduct Allegations
By Joe Pompeo

At the Times, known for occasionally obsessive self-reflection, the news prompted enormous anxiety. The news organization that fomented an extraordinary cultural upheaval was suddenly tasked with managing through it. The newsroom, like many others, is on edge. “People are feeling embarrassed, discouraged, and vulnerable,” said one veteran Times editor. The source pointed me to a tweet from a young female digital news editor, Maira Garcia, who wrote: “I’ll say this: I’m proud to work at The Times. I give so much of myself to it, as do so many other women who work there. They are an inspiration. But I can still feel angry, sad and disappointed. And I can also hope that we all come out better in the end.” Times management knows they’re in the spotlight. Executive editor Dean Baquet and C.E.O. Mark Thompson both sent staff memos addressing the matter. “The alleged behavior described in the piece is clearly not in keeping with the values we expect from Times employees,” Baquet wrote. “We plan a thorough investigation . . . and it’s critical that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards of behavior.”

What we found when we asked newsrooms about sexual harassment
By Alexandra Neason

The fear of being made an example, the hot shame of being publicly wrong, is an understandable paralysis. But it’s not an excuse journalists would easily accept from others, particularly when it has become clear exactly how much of the responsibility for this hostility falls not just on the shoulders of guilty men, but on the organizations that have enabled and protected them. If our ideals of accountability, and the pursuit of truth in the public interest, are to be taken seriously, we must accept that they extend to us as well, even when it is uncomfortable. Especially when it is uncomfortable.

Dear Prudence Meets Due Process
By Robby Soave

This topic is a hard thing to write about because it’s so emotional. The crimes are horrible when they happen, and the deprivation of justice is painful to watch. How does it make you feel to be on this beat?

When I was doing the initial drinking story, everyone I knew said, “Don’t write about it. It’s a third rail.” And I remember thinking, “I didn’t get into journalism to be intimidated about writing about difficult issues.”

There are a lot of concerns and interests of mine that come together in this story: abuse of power, junk science, fundamental fairness. Young women—it’s mostly young women, but of course men can be victims, too—do get sexually assaulted, but we undermine the effort to properly identify and punish those wrongdoers by casting the net too wide.

I open this Atlantic series with a harrowing account of a young man named Kojo Bonsu, who was falsely accused of sexual assault. He was ultimately cleared, but again, he was in a state of physical and mental collapse. He got his life back on track, but when you capture someone like that in a system, and the system doesn’t see that as an error, you’ve got something that is not helping victims. It’s destroying innocent people.

Gawker Founder Nick Denton on Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Etc.: We Told You So
By Joe Levine

“The stories have been circulating on the industry grapevine, and on blogs and social media, and among women especially, for years,” wrote Denton. “The headlines are shocking  –  unless you read Gawker before it was shut down, in which case this may feel like a throwback.”

Denton then went on to list — and link to — Gawker Media posts describing transgressions of James Toback, Terry Richardson, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and others.

“Those first accounts of sexual harassment  –  even if anonymous or thinly sourced  –  give confidence to victims that they are not alone,” he wrote. “Gossip, though it draws those motivated by envy and resentment, is also a tool of the powerless. It’s a mechanism for coordination.”

He also chided mainstream media outlets for being so slow to follow the lead of sites like Gawker.

Gawker’s internal emails show callous response to ‘rape’ victim
By Julia Marsh

“I am the girl in it and it was stolen from me and put up without my permission,” the unidentified woman wrote on May 11, 2010.

Gawker’s complaint department forwarded the message to Daulerio, along with a note saying, “Blah, blah, blah,” Vogt said.

Daulerio then e-mailed the woman and told her to “not make a big deal out of this,” adding: “I’m sure it’s embarrassing but these things do pass, keep your head up.”

Was the Deleted Gawker Post Any Worse Than Its Old Stuff?
By Jeremy Stahl

… Denton defended outing of private figures as a journalistic practice and criticized one of his writers for taking a stand against another publication that had outed someone who ended up committing suicide. “If the author believes this, she’s working at the wrong place. And should be guided to a more congenial work environment,” Denton wrote. “We’re truth absolutists. Or rather, I am. And I choose to work with fellow spirits.” Within the context of Denton’s old standards, the story certainly seems like something Gawker would have historically published.

Gawker’s Moment of Truth
By Jonathan Mahler

When Mr. Denton articulated his vision for “communities built around the shared enthusiasms of writers and readers” at a recent staff meeting, a skeptical Gawker writer interrupted him.

“We’ve had about 10 years of this acrimonious relationship — this reputation for snark — and then it’s, like, oh yeah, have a civil conversation with people who are coming into the fold, ready to attack anything,” the writer said. “And so civil conversation is by and large impossible, given those commenters and our reputation.”

How Trump Brought the Political Media Class to Its Knees
By Peter Hamby

When I travel the country for my reporting, I often interview college students, and usually make time to inquire about the last time they watched a cable-news panel or a Sunday talk show. The query is usually met with a furrowed brow and a remark about how they don’t even own a television, let alone how to find Morning Joe on a cable scroll. A journalism student at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication recently laughed in my face—literally, he thought I was joking—when I asked him if he and his friends ever watched TV news. These are are not ignorant kids—these are smart, informed, and earnest young people. Like most Americans, they just experience the news differently than most of the people who actually work in news.

Whether Trump is thinking on this level or not, people in his orbit know that in the minds of the American public—which follows the permutations of the journalism business as closely as they follow New Zealand cricket standings—little is actually going right for the media. Only 21 percent of U.S. adults say national news organizations are doing a very good job of keeping them informed, according to Pew. You might have guessed that the numbers are grim among Republicans: only 11 percent of them say the news is trustworthy. But it’s bad among Trump opponents, too—only 34 percent of Democrats say the national news is to be trusted. Whether it came to this realization via strategy or pure id, the White House understands that while the media has a high opinion of itself and and even higher opinion of its tweets, the public most certainly does not.

Harvard professor Tom Patterson, one of the country’s sharpest media critics, wrote in 1994, that “the news is not a mirror held up to society.” It’s still true today. Political reporters, incentivized by scoops and flattery from their colleagues, are not trained to listen to illuminate issues for the American public. They care about what their peer group cares about: politics. Their first instincts are look for what’s new or different in the events of the past 24 hours. Who’s up, who’s down, what do the polls say?

Patterson calls this the “game schema”—the long-standing tendency of the press to cover everything through the prism of conflict or palace intrigue. In the minds of journalists, there are no good actors in politics or government, only craven decisions motivated by greed or self-interest. It’s no surprise then, that the press becomes the boy who cried wolf when things actually go off the rails. “When every question is a potential trap and every response is ripped apart, the voters become inured to the press’s admonitions,” Patterson warned in his still-relevant book Out Of Order. “And when the media do make an allegation worthy of the public’s concern, people only half listen and half believe.”

ABC News president excoriates staff over Brian Ross’ Michael Flynn error
By Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter

“I don’t even know how many times we’ve talked about this, how many times we have talked about the need to get it right,” he added. “That how we have to be right and not first. About how in this particular moment, with the stakes as high as these stakes are right now, we cannot afford to get it wrong.”

How Brands Secretly Buy Their Way Into Forbes, Fast Company, And HuffPost Stories
By Jon Christian

According to Eric Ebert, the communications manager at a German startup called Zenkit, the come-ons to journalists are well known in the industry, and a source of embarrassment. The prices in the ArticleHub brochure — around $2,000 for a brand mention in Forbes or Entrepreneur, for instance — sounded similar to quotes Ebert had heard from other companies offering similar services.

The payola “muddies the water between earned press and advertising,” Ebert said. “Press coverage should never be paid for unless it’s tagged as a sponsored post. These practices really diminish the work that PRs and journalists are doing everyday.”

Ebert is correct that a brand paying a journalist — or hiring a PR firm which then pays journalists on its behalf — represents a total breakdown of journalistic independence. It abuses the trust the public holds in the media. It violates the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics. It’s a bribe, and it’s mortifying to talk with contributors who see it as the new normal.

Poynter releases new study examining trust in the media
By The Poynter Institute

“Based on the news sources people visit, there seems to be a lot more overlap in the information they encounter than the echo chambers narrative would suggest,” said Andrew Guess of Princeton University, one of the authors of the study. “It’s possible that some of the trust differentials in our results are driven by people who see plenty of news from across the ideological spectrum, but simply don’t believe it.”

A large majority of respondents (69 percent) believe that the media “tend to favor one side,” yet the same percentage believe that news organizations “keep political leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done.”

The three authors of the survey — Guess, Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler of University of Exeter — conclude the challenge for media outlets is to avoid being drawn into alignment with either of the parties. The surge in Democratic support for the press and attacks on the media from the White House are creating an even more politicized media landscape. Under these circumstances, journalists’ role in creating a shared understanding of reality across the political divide is more important than ever, the authors said.

Republicans’, Democrats’ Views of Media Accuracy Diverge
By Andrew Dugan and Zac Auter

This partisan gap has not always been evident. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the two partisan groups’ views of news media accuracy were much more convergent, although differences did appear after the 2000 election.

More broadly, the finding that a solid majority of the country believes major news organizations routinely produce false information is one with potentially significant consequences. As one example, these views may be related to Americans’ diminished trust in most major U.S. institutions and rising cynicism about the U.S. political system and elected officials.

Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?
By Clay Routledge

According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.

Fear, in all its forms, is at the heart of these issues — fear of failure, ridicule, discomfort, ostracism, uncertainty. Of course, these fears haunt all of us, regardless of demographics. But that is precisely the point: Our culture isn’t preparing young people to grapple with what are ultimately unavoidable threats. Indeed, despite growing up in a physically safer and kinder society than past generations did, young Americans today report higher levels of anxiety.

Fear pushes people to adopt a defensive posture. When people feel anxious, they’re less open to diverse ideas and opinions, and less forgiving and tolerant of those they disagree with. When people are afraid, they cling to the certainty of the world they know and avoid taking physical, emotional and intellectual risks. In short, fear causes people to privilege psychological security over liberty.

How totalism works
By Alexandra Stein

In a time of rapid change, huge movements of people and a general sense of instability, people are naturally going to seek security and stability. Cults and totalist regimes thrive in these conditions. Given the right circumstances, almost anyone is vulnerable to the psychological and situational pressures I have discussed. The respected scholars in my field have repeated over and over again that the way to protect ourselves is through knowledge. In 1952, Asch wrote: ‘The greater man’s ignorance of the principles of his social surroundings, the more subject is he to their control; and the greater his knowledge of their operations and of their necessary consequences, the freer he can become with regard to them.’

This knowledge must be specific: how this process of control works, and how leaders deploy the brainwashing methods of isolation, engulfment and fear. Seventy years of post-war scholarship about this already exists, along with much new research. We must use these valuable resources, along with the voices of the survivors, to resist.

Take Back the Ivory Tower
By Alice Dreger

Let us require our students to read difficult work and learn to respond to uncomfortable chalk by chalking back. Teach them histories of censorship and blacklisting on the right and the left. Require them to reflect upon their (and our) uncertainty. Teach reliable methodologies, not infallible ideologies. Let us always be implicitly asking what one graduate professor explicitly asked me when I was being an intellectually recalcitrant pig: If you haven’t changed your mind lately, how do you know it’s working?

Lindsay Shepherd: My Laurier interrogation shows universities have lost sight of their purpose
By Lindsay Shepherd

While many may call to de-fund departments in the arts and humanities, I believe we should instead restore their integrity. The first step in this direction is to remove constraints aimed at making classrooms emotional “safe spaces.” One step would be for the university to institute a free speech policy such as the Statement on Principles of Free Expression adopted by the University of Chicago. The statement affirms the university’s commitment to ensuring that ideas that may be considered unwise or offensive are not suppressed.

I also believe students need to approach university with an openness to being challenged. If a student is not willing to discuss topical issues in an open and respectful way with peers who may have vastly different perspectives, that student should take a year off and only return to university if and when he or she is ready for dialogue and debate.

The reason I chose to pursue a master’s degree in the first place was not to advance my career prospects, but to advance my intellectual horizons. I am not sure I am achieving this goal, as I find myself surrounded by professors and students who are intent on pushing an ideological agenda, censoring certain topics from the classroom, and enforcing echo chambers of homogenous thought. I accept that I am partly to blame for this. I have been complicit in self-censorship these past years, by staying silent for fear of expressing ideas that could make me a pariah among the authoritarian left, who seem to think they have a stronghold on classroom morality.

But now, I have stopped paying any mind to the reactionary labelling and thought-policing from this group, and I feel more free than I have felt in a long time.

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