Two Solid Pieces on Campus Free Speech

These are coming from quite different perspectives, too, which makes them even more valuable if you read them together.

One of the two -- which came recommended by Armed Liberal of Winds of Change fame, for those of you who have been around the blogosphere long enough to remember him -- is from the perspective of a serious scholar who has a nuanced view. The other is by a trans* activist who wants to yell and curse at feminists who won't support what trans* activists are doing, preferring to take their feminism, ah, "straight."

This activist, whose first piece is angry in places, went on to write a follow-up piece responding thoughtfully to critics. The original piece actually does have some interesting insights, though, so it's worth reading as well.

To distill the basic structure of the debate you get by reading the arguments together:

1) Serious Scholar and Trans* Activist both think they're talking to the left. They aren't really considering our perspectives at all. They aren't fighting against us, in other words, but for domination of what good leftists think.

2) Serious Scholar and Trans* Activist agree that this isn't really about free speech v. political correctness. There are some kinds of conduct they think should be beyond the pale -- blackface frat parties are one example, allowing a serious debate about stoning gays to death is another. This is a point on which I suspect we would disgree: blackface frat parties are the epitome of bad taste, but probably so obviously so that banning them would do less good than letting people suffer the humiliation of having proven to have associated with such a thing; whereas a debate between feminists and Islamists on the merits of radical Islam is something the colleges could very usefully be having right now.

3) Serious Scholar is interested in a much broader set of problems than the Trans* Activist. Serious Scholar points out that there is an important conversation to be had about 'cultural appropriation,' because it's a trap that its advocates are falling into: studies in British colonialism show how encouraging just such mechanisms was used as a method of control over unruly minorities.

4) Trans* Activist points out that many of the feminists fighting against trans* people used the same tactics in their own day, some thirty or so years ago. The tactics were not popular then, nor ten or twenty years before that when it was the most radical black activists using the tactics (and there were some quite radical ones, though today the Civil Rights Movement is almost always painted in glossy hues and the memory of Dr. King). This was true even on the left: Edward Abbey once wrote that the only two kinds of people he couldn't stand were racists and organized minorities. Trans* Activist takes this to be proof of a moral arc uniting the civil rights movement, third wave feminists, and trans* activism. It may instead be an illustration that these tactics are despicable no matter what cause they advance, a point lost only on those who immediately stand to benefit from them (and only until they are on the other side).

5) Serious Scholar points out in his second and third arguments that this is really not about creating 'safe spaces,' but establishing just who will rule and building the mechanisms to ensure their cultural domination. Trans* Activist is totally on board with that, committing to being on the forefront of 'pushing the line in the sand.'

As we see it in the press, this looks like a silly fight over what may be chiefly invented offenses. On reflective analysis, though, it proves to be a highly consequential struggle -- one that will ultimately have consequences for us, given these left-leaning thinkers' control over the elite universities from which our leadership is so often, and so unfortunately, drawn.


Texan99 said...

It is a little startling, isn't it, to hear someone argue casually that of course we can't countenance a serious debate about [**whatever**]? Not that we have to stand up and be heard whenever the topic of [**whatever**] occurs, but that we can't permit discussion of the subject at all. Serious Scholar probably needs to get more serious.

Grim said...

It is interesting -- and as you say, startling -- to see that there really is no debate about that principle. Everyone who raises it as a principle is dismissed as a non-serious thinker by both of these writers.

Ymar Sakar said...

MInd control is a lot more effective than the masses think it is.

Eric Blair said...

It will be instructitve, if what Instapundit thinks will happen, that money and students will cease to go to these schools.

And this wouldn't have happened at all if not for the football team, and the money to be lost if they didn't play on Sunday, a point that my more preceptive friends all have pointed out.