Thursday, March 02, 2006

FREE SPEECH VS. MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS

Karl Swenson over at leaning straight up and I have been engaging in somewhat of a side-debate over “Pappygate.” Karl has posted some pertinent, thoughtful comments:

“Free Speech at the UW and Beyond”

http://guitarplayr.blogspot.com/2006/03/free-speech-at-uw-and-beyond.html

And I’d like to take issue with some of it…

Karl writes:

"Suddenly, it was not about respect, or race, (re: the comments by the students) it was all about free speech, and suddenly the bloggers and talk radio were under attack as trying to tamper with the opinions of the students, and we are being disrespectful. Can you say "blame shifting"?"

Free speech is exactly what this is about - free speech and civility. Karl, by what right do you or others affix blame in this situation?

Karl, you note "A few are being held accountable for their words." Without supporting the statements so many have found unreasonable, I have to ask:

Accountable by whom?

Let's get a couple of things straight here. There is such a thing as minding your own business – so tell me:

How is this matter your business? Or mine?

UW is publicly supported, but the deliberative body the UW Senate is elected by the students. The senators are answerable to their own internal rules and to the student body.

They are not answerable to the general public. You may argue they should respect the sensibilities of the alumni - including chickenhawk Wilbur - and the larger public that helps to support them.

But they are not answerable to us.

Karl, you take exception to my use of the term “coercion:”

According to some versions of these events, some of the senators were not only subjected to reviling e-mails, etc. but also threats. Yes, even empty threats can be coercive. The sheer volume of public condemnation can be coercive. I read many threads on this topic. Some of the posts aimed at these students were downright ugly. I won't repeat them; I'm sure you all read the same things.

I stand my ground. The responses of conservative bloggers were coercive.


I ended up on the wrong side of this. When the matter first came to the public's attention I intended to refrain from commenting on something that I thought a sad footnote to the life of a man who despite many personal flaws distinguished himself heroically at a time when this Nation desperately needed heroes. I would have voted for the memorial - if it had been my issue. It wasn't, and it wasn't the issue of most of the people who jumped in to deride a small group of the 100 UW senators.

A question for Karl and all those who hold with him: Why was the condemnation necessary?

That's what I mean by an almost NAZI attitude. An attitude of aggressive intolerance; an attitude that makes everything "my business."

What the UW senate chose to do or not do isn’t my business - but the verbal / written equivalent of a stoning is.

So yes, Karl, I'm dissatisfied with what you call the wider debate because I don't think it would have occurred in a polite society or should have occurred in this one. In saying that, I in no way support the positions of the senators who have been vilified. But holding them responsible for their positions is the job of their constituencies, not the larger community.  

I'll throw a last stone here, even though I have no right to do so...

Recently we have seen in the Moslem world a wild outpouring of rage over a free speech issue. I think the rage some have expressed in this case is a little closer to that example than many would find comfortable if only they looked to the root. Sure, the stones here are figurative; the "flames" are electronic. But it's still people hurling them.

And some might recall it's been suggested throwing stones is the province of those who have no offences themselves...

Comments:
"Karl, by what right do you or others affix blame in this situation? "

What does blame have to with civility? The mere mention of fault is not enough to constitute incivility. I can assign blame or fault freely, we all do. It is part of opinions.

"I have to ask: Accountable by whom?"

By the other senators who took offense, by their constituants,particularly the military ones who do not have representation, by their alumni, and by anyone who cares to mark an opinion.

"There is such a thing AS MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS"

I have every right to express my opinion. their status as students does not trump free speech. and minding ones own business has been used to justify as many immoral acts as good ones.

"UW is publicly supported...The senators are answerable to their own internal rules and to the student body."

4 of their elected leaders are paid by the tax payers. I wanna see how my money is spent.

"You may argue they should respect the sensibilities of the alumni - including chickenhawk Wilbur"

Ad hom attacks against Kirby do not help. Everyone is answerable to the public in the forum of public opinion. Free speech demands that. They serve in a public office, and openly publish the minutes of their debate. Fair game, I have not violated anyones privacy.

"some of the senators were not only subjected to reviling e-mails, etc. but also threats. "

I clearly stated my condemnation of any of that stuff. Disagreement does not justify threats. Period.

"I stand my ground. The responses of conservative bloggers were coercive. "

Not so fast. To condemn the threats and hate mail as being ugly is fine. To condemn disagreement is a violation of free speech. You can phrase is as my being coercive, but in reality any contrary opinion feels coercive if the other person wants to convince you to change your mind.

The students are not helpless innocents, they can hold their own against each other, and they seem able to do so against the bloggers.

"Why was the condemnation necessary?"

First, not all disagreement was comdemning. I condemned them because I felt they were wrong. That is my right under free speech...I also felt why they did it was wrong.
"
I would have voted for the memorial - if it had been my issue. "

My inital interest was *why* the memorial was denied.

"And that's what I mean by an almost NAZI attitude. An attitude of aggressive intolerance that makes everything "my business.""

If any manner of disagreement that is passionate, makes it nazi-like, then you live in a sterile world.

Are those students nazi-like when they aggressively campaign against war? is your standard consistent? Will you villify them as you do me?

"what the UW senate chose to do or not do is't my business - but the verbal / written equivalent of a stoning is."

Yep, and I support your right to disagree with me in the same way that I have a right to disagree with them.

"So yes, Karl, I'm dissatisfied with what you call the wider debate because I don't think it would have occurred in a polite society or should have occurred in this one."

first, did it occur to you that a polite society wouldnt have tolerated them using race and bias to deny the memorial, and likely they would have passed it.

Second, part of the defense by the senators is they don't have to be polite, and debate with offense is fine. How does that square? They don't feel any need to play by your rules.

And frankly, (he says in a dad like tone), they need to be reminded of some manners and courtesy.

I feel fully justified in opening their actions to a wider debate, including pointing out their hypocrisy in debate tactics.

They operate in the public eye. Welcome to politics.
 
Want to know why everyone felt compelled to get involved in this issue? Its real simple and it all comes down to one comment.

"we don’t need another statue of a rich dead white male."

That was the comment, or words close to it. That’s what got everyone fired up. Why? Simple. No one in this debate really gives a rip about Pappy. No one really knows who he is. And certainly, no one now condemning the students was out trying desperately to get a Pappy memorial going prior to this incident. The fact is they are all angry about the comment and the attitude it betrays. It is not that it derides the legacy of Pappy, or WWII, or the country. Rather, it belies the boilerplate leftist idiocy that passes as critical thought in this country. People are sick of ninnies who seem to occupy their every thought with hatred for white males and hatred for the US. They are sick of every position of these people being a teological argument that starts with the premise "the US or white males is/are to blame" and works backwards from there to justify it. The only thing that people are tired of more is this sort of thing being taken as intellectually based when it is generally just mental laziness. That’s what happened here, in spades. It was clear to everyone that this comment was motivated by hatred, racism and wanting to sound intellectual while exercising little effort. It almost always is. The fact that she did not seem to get any condemnation from her peers just added to the perception that the schools are churning out an endless line of leftist drones, incapable of critical thought and beholden to an orthodoxy of hatred. Rightly or wrongly, this is perceived as the mentality of the student body. Dull nitwits incapable of thinking outside the bounds of a very ugly left wing box. Fools in Che shirts (or some other murderous thug: tookie, mumia, banana fo fanna, pick one) nodding, synchronized savants, in rapt agreement with anything a speaker says so long as the content consists of blaming the US or hating white males. That angers people and that’s what this is about. Pappy is a side issue.
 
I would add that her attitude has been more to justify it as being out of context rather then offensive.

Jill at least had the decency to be sorry.

And I saw Ashley make the same comment to reporters on TV. I don't fully buy the argument that it was totally contextual to a seperate debate.
 
r huse says:

"The fact that she did not seem to get any condemnation from her peers just added to the perception that the schools are churning out an endless line of leftist drones, incapable of critical thought and beholden to an orthodoxy of hatred. Rightly or wrongly, this is perceived as the mentality of the student body. Dull nitwits incapable of thinking outside the bounds of a very ugly left wing box. Fools in Che shirts (or some other murderous thug: tookie, mumia, banana fo fanna, pick one) nodding, synchronized savants, in rapt agreement with anything a speaker says so long as the content consists of blaming the US or hating white males."

Speaking of intellectual laziness...The above perception could have spewed from Hannity, Hume, Wilbur, etc..Is that perception any more valid or intellectually honest?

My experience with many youth of college age today is that they are apolitical...they really don't give a shit about politics...too bad..
 
R Ruse, that's an excellent point. Both you and Karl make excellent points.

I said I ended up on the wrong side of this. All-important context, perhaps: I was a forty-something registered Republican [pre-9/11] just a few years ago going to school at The Evergreen State College here in WA.

I guess I got numb to "we don’t need another statue of a rich dead white male." and "free Muumia" - that was the cause of the moment back then at TESC. You're absolutely right about the attitude. What you should consider is how self-consuming and impotent an attitude it really is.

The US has a lot on its plate. Personally I think most of it is there because "we" were "good" enough to pick up the pieces of Europe's colonial excesses.

Yet nobody can say what would have otherwise transpired.

Ditto the "white man" thing. As prime movers of history, "we" get the credits and the blame.

The odd part is the kids in question, blind to the credits, get the rewards. Do they understand this? Do they realize "hating white men" is self-hate? Or is it as you say just a pseudo-intellectual knee-jerk?

Do you realize the anger you're expressing sources in their repudiation?

Pappy became a side issue. I agree. As someone who knew the whole story I knew there was more to it than a kill count. Oddly, Pappy and a lot of other men who by today's standards had cause to accept the "hate America" arguments - the poverty of his youth was partly an outgrowth of the destruction of the Plains' Peoples - nevertheless fought. Amerinds, Japanese, blacks - they overlooked the past to fight for the future.

To fight for Edwards' and Miller's futures...

Still I will contend they should be allowed, within this context, to make their cases, such as they are, unmolested. And as events have demonstrated, their constituents adequately held them to account over it.

It's a left-wing world in the schools, yes, but it's a right-wing world outside. Someday all the students involved will come to see that...
 
Wanderer, they are getting a "tongue lashing" from their peers. Karl has an excellent example of this up on his page this morning.

"the perception that the schools are churning out an endless line of leftist drones" is being disproven by that reaction.

Karl takes exception to my insistence right-wing reactions - reactions in many cases every bit as unthinking as "we don’t need another statue of a rich dead white male" - are coercive. I do stand by that, but let's not forget the campus left is adept at coercion as well. The agenda-driven, irrespective of the agenda, use the same tools.
 
A few counterpoints to Karl's contributions:

I hope you recall “you” is an indefinite pronoun which refers to groups as well as individuals. I didn’t mean to single you out for incivility – that was an observation on the larger conservative community. You got to be point man... :-)

Blame and civility are two separate issues. It doesn’t matter whether you are vicious or syrup sweet the question stands: What is your stake that you arrogate the right to blame?

I think the “taxpayer” thread is a little lame. You can justify anything with that sort of thinking. Like an intellectual "commerce clause" this is the root of socialism. I still think this was an issue for the stakeholders.

And Kirby sets himself up as a target by being a paid flamethrower. If anyone can take care of himself…

“I clearly stated my condemnation of any of that stuff. Disagreement does not justify threats. Period.”

Then we agree much of the conservative blogosphere was way over the top. And yes, I stand by coercion. When [example] somebody like Michelle Malkin – who I believe weighed in on this – does so, her goon squad OPPS! I mean loyal readers pound people with mail, filling up e-mail boxes, disrupting people’s affairs, etc. When LGF picked up on Sandmonkey’s story about an Egyptian paper publishing the Allah cartoons, he got 31,000 hits in 24 hours.

Don’t tell me these people don’t have the power to coerce… I think it approaches dishonesty to claim they don’t wield great power. Hell, the bloggers likely swung the 2004 election.

And I don’t expect the UW Senate to follow my rules… I don’t follow theirs.

As for the war… Bad example. The war really isn’t my issue. Oh, I’ve made noise and occasionally vented “not in my name” but that is just more socialism. At that the war is my issue perhaps more than the UW Senate's doings are a public issue. If the Senators or their peers really got ugly, for example, going after the ROTC or especially individual cadets or recruiters, as opposed to pro forma objections at the least I wouldn’t cheer them on and if I commented it would be negative. I still remember Kent State and the bombs…
 
Wanderer said:
Speaking of intellectual laziness...The above perception could have spewed from Hannity, Hume, Wilbur, etc..Is that perception any more valid or intellectually honest?

Um yeah, it kind of is more valid and honest. Why? Because the circumstances of the event support it as well as the items listed. What circumstances and examples? Here:

a) The comment listed "we don’t need another dead white male statue". Obviously intellectually lazy boilerplate as the circumstances later proved. Pappy was not rich or white.

b) Che shirts - Do you honestly think any of the zilllions of college kids who wear this shirt know the slightest thing about Che other than he was very photogenic? To them it’s a cool shirt and that’s why they wear it. They have no knowledge of Che’s murderous tendencies; if they did it would be hard to imagine why they would wear the shirt. There is no thought behind it, but there should be.

c) Mumia - Which will get approval at a college quicker a "free Mumia" bumper sticker or a "Mumia did it" bumper sticker? Sound a little like a hive mind at work?

Moral - Don’t say someone is intellectually lazy because you disagree with them or because their point of view agrees with someone you dislike. If the person gives reasonable supporting examples of why they think something, it is not intellectually lazy pretty much by definition. If the person just spouts off, without any knowledge or supporting argument, as was clearly the case in the Pappy event, then it is intellectually lazy.

I do agree with you that college kids are apolitical. But this is only in word and not in deed. Most college kids do have views on issues and for the most part they correspond to left sometimes far left ideology. When it comes to action though, you are right, they don’t vote and in that sense they are apolitical. For that, I am eternally thankful.
 
R Huse: That last brings a chckle. I served on the student government at my junior college... One of the things I did was push students to register to vote...
 
My objection was the statement that Pappy's having killed made him less worthy. The rest was just ignorant bullshit but that comment was so despicable as to warrant censure of the institution that allowed it to go unchallenged.
 
I'm hoping you don't just see this as "liberal" hair splitting Walter, but I would agree with you on that. Frankly, that particular nuance mostly got by me.

I wrote "There is honor in putting down your plow and taking up a gun for your country. There is no honor in what you do with the damned gun." I also wrote that the honor of many of the causes we fight for today is diminished.

That is not to say there is dishonor in it. Life is full of regrettable necessities. For someone to suggest that answering your Nation's call in a time of great need dimishes one's worth puts a new face in ingratitude.
 
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