a norm of free expression, on campus or elsewhere, is good, that’s my thoughts

In recent years, one of the ways that lefties signal their adherence to shared social norms is through an eye-rolling dismissal of any concern about free speech whatsoever. This is accomplished by putting “free speech” in scare quotes, calling it “freeze peach,” and otherwise theatrically demonstrating that there is no reason a leftist should ever worry themselves about controversies related to free expression. Everybody knows that free speech is only ever obstructed in the singular instance of the state sending people to arrest you for what you say. Nothing else qualifies.

Now this, it turns out, is untrue – there is a vast and complex set of questions, legal and moral, that are bound up in our concept of free speech, and those controversies stretch back to the philosophical foundations of that concept. The term “free speech” does not and has never referred only to the specific legal protections of the First Amendment. Leftists who wave away any free speech concerns that are not literally a matter of state violence are embracing libertarian ideology; the left has always stood for the notion that private power can be coercive and destructive. A democracy can’t function if employers feel impunity for firing people based on their political expression away from work, even if there is no First Amendment protection against them doing so. You’ve heard this all from me before.

Here are two completely compatible ideas.

  1. George Ciccariello-Maher‘s tweet saying “All I want for Christmas is white genocide” was clearly a joke and clearly falls within the boundaries of academic freedom, a central pillar of the academy’s values, and Drexel University’s “investigation” of him is ridiculous
  2. The joke wasn’t particularly funny and it’s a perfect example of a certain strain of performatively “edgy” white antiracism that is long on attitude and low on the possibility for constructive change.

That’s the sad irony about this kind of controversy: it’s ridiculous that conservatives would be so up in arms about his joke because the joke is so ineffectual. And we should, in the community of people opposed to racism, also hope for less posturing and more substance. You tell jokes about white genocide precisely because meaningful antiracist policy seems so unachievable.

Still, the most important point is the most obvious: Drexel should be embarrassed by this clownish investigation. We need to re-embrace a robust definition of academic and political freedom on campus – not limitless, not tolerant of actual incitements to violence or slurs that genuinely and directly exclude marginalized people from the educational process, but robust and erring on the side of more freedom and not less. That means no crackdowns on leftist professors joking about the absurd white genocide narrative. It means no attempts by university administrators to shut down grad students who are trying to unionize. It means no David Horowitz-style witch hunts looking for leftist “indoctrination” on campus. It also means you don’t defund a student newspaper for running an editorial that criticizes BlackLivesMatter, you don’t make demands that a college formally punish students that critique your protests, and you don’t file a Title IX complaint against a professor that publishes an essay that you don’t like. I’m sorry to be such a boring normie about this, but the fact is that when you selectively endorse free expression, your complaint loses power. More speech, on campus and elsewhere. Less coercion against the exercise of free expression. And for god’s sake stop trying to get people fired because you don’t like their tweets!

The left is facing a very dark period. A very dark period indeed. We are going to get an education in what actual power is. We’ve retreated to enclaves like academia for so long that for many of us, those enclaves look like the whole world. But there are powers outside of our enclaves and they are marshaled against us. And we must be very careful about the kinds of arguments we empower, the precedents we sign off on. All can and will be used against us too.

Sign a petition in defense of Ciccariello-Maher here.

47 Comments

  1. I agree with the principle, but even leaving it aside it seems awfully short-sighted to want anyone to be fired for anything short of actual criminal behavior. It’s socially desirable for everybody who wants a job to have one, even the ones you consider to be assholes, correct? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  2. This is actually a difficult topic. While I would personally agree to err on the side of free expression of everything but direct calls to physical harm, many people would be quite unhappy with tweets of “All I want for Christmas is black genocide” or “All I want for Christmas is a Jewish genocide”, even of those tweets came from people with those identities. So I am not sure that merely avoiding “actual incitements to violence or slurs that genuinely and directly exclude marginalized people” is a workable standard in society, even if it is the most ethically balanced position. So, we need an alternative. My current thinking is a standard of “all ideas can be expressed, but in their least insulting form”, with it falling to the person or people criticising a particular statement to come up with a less insulting form of it. By this standard of course, the tweet is gratuitous. “Some white people have done terrible things that other white people continue to benefit from” probably captures the tweet’s idea well-enough.

    1. I feel reasonably sure, without even checking, that there are tweets at this very moment looking forward to Jewish genocide. And I’m a Jew.

      It doesn’t bother me.

      On the other hand, a case in which I would sneer and go “freezed peaches, hahaha” is the neo-Nazi march in Whitefish, Montana. Marching neo-Nazis around intimidating Jews is a clear case of harassment and incitement to terrorism and murder. If the Jewish community there want to open fire on that march with some civilian-grade firearms, I’m ok with that.

      On the third hand, I don’t think that using a public space like a university to call for genocide in general is a very good idea at all. There ought to be a clear distinction: you can say evil shit in private without facing prosecution, but say it where the prospective victims know you’re coming for us, and that’s not ok.

  3. So as a student who has led other students to protest offensive frat party themes and called for the defunding of our student newspaper after they made a racist the editorial editor and published a trash piece by him, I think one thing missing from this piece is that most of these actions are more so done in protest and is symbolic. We take bold action because we have to in order to get any real response from those in power. If we were nice and civil all the time or stayed behind closed doors and whined about how we felt, people with power would continue to abuse us and never feel threatened or insecure themselves enough to change. Later, I found out our protest, which was a teach in on prison abolition and the connection between our prison system, white supremacy, and university frat culture, did have an effect on frat and sorority culture as opposed to other campaigns that were more directed at punishing orgs for bad behavior. This was not only because orgs were afraid ppl would openly protest their private events, but also apparently because we gave members within those orgs the courage and legitimacy to speak out against offensive party themes. Sometimes we go hard left just to move a few ppl a small distance. Sometimes it backfires. We can have a conversation about being strategic and thoughtful about how and when we flip the table on people, but that’s different than saying we protect and defend (and fund and support and prop up) every form of free speech.

    1. “So as a student who has led other students to protest offensive frat party themes…”

      Goodness, what a productive use of everyone’s time. I’m certainly not currently praying for every college to get defunded (and for the private ones to have to pay their goddamn taxes) AT ALL.

      Say what you want about, say, free college education, it would at least be something more than the circle jerk you describe. And it would be a genuine threat to the powers that be, so obviously you get directed into just being annoying. In a few decades time, you’re going to be marveling at how little your side has achieved while the conservatives have quietly placed themselves into positions of power.

    2. Mina: you do realize you’re essentially admitting to politically motivated campaigns of intimidation. “Bad behavior”? Really? And who gets to decide that? You and you’re totalitarian friends I suppose?

      I left the Left because I realized that people such as yourself can never be allowed to ever have real power.

    3. Good response.

      From my vantage point (34-year-old gay man; the university next door to me is UW-Madison), the most obvious and dangerous enemies to campus free expression are right-wing state legislators who, in a somewhat Maoist way, want to shut down professors and student activists who teach classes on race and sexual orientation or indeed say any number of things they don’t like. (Freddie was right to mention David Horowitz, ex-Maoist, now something of a mirror-image totalitarian claiming ‘conservative’ principles.) Old straight white guys love to get their panties in a twist about the kinds of protests you’ve led, but I see no great harm in what you did; as you say, the symbolic impact is more important than the actual “stopping” of free expression. And I thought we’d have figured this out by 2017, but alas not: post-secondary education can survive without fraternities and sororities, but not without academic freedom.

  4. yeah, honestly: there’s nothing to investigate, as such. He’s…just a bad person.

    the problem with the “edgy anti-racism” thing is that it blends perfectly with self-hating white guys who hate the white race more generally. In and of itself, the tweet pokes fun at the idea of white genocide, not endorsing it, but from what I’ve seen the guy definitely has serious problems with white people. I see some social justice activists trying to do a run-around here and reclaim free speech, but it’s not going to work; conservatives are not giving up this high ground so easily. And of course, when people like this are carrying the anti-racist banner, it leads you to wonder if the movement is about principles or tribes.

  5. Conservatives are presumably up in arms because it’s not an ineffectual joke. There are a handful of people in the world who believe there is a white genocide. But academics and left media have bent over backwards to characterize the entire right wing insurgency as motivated by, or complacent about, white genocide paranoia. So why wouldn’t conservatives be up in arms about this “little joke.”

    We ought to welcome political insults. Being wrong hurts, emotionally, every time. If an insult is orthogonal to the ideas two politics are debating, so be it. The only solution is more insults and mockery and passive aggressive condescending about who’s right and wrong. And that’s why Drexel should defend the insult. Because being wrong hurts, and hurting a foundation of intellectual growth.

    Universities that don’t celebrate pain and indignity and offense are just bible study groups.

  6. Have to disagree with FDB here. “Genocide” jokes have no place in university life. I strongly doubt FDB would be fighting to protect the right of faculty to say (jokingly otherwise) that blacks/Jews/Muslims etc ought to be genocided. So, let’s keep this consistent and coherent: no saying you want groups killed!

    1. A university is a bourgeois institution — that is, in conforms to the existing power structure, standards, values, culture, etc., of the existing liberal capitalist state. As part of the state, it is a sort of proprietor of the activities which occur on its turf, in its jurisdiction, its _property_. As part of the education industry, the job of the university is, among other things, to provide for the replication of ruling class personnel and their servitors through appropriate teaching, training, and indoctrination. When its employees or clients disrupt this process, as by suggesting genocide and thus possibly disturbing other employees and clients of the university with intimations of violence and hatred, it cannot perform its mission well, or possibly at all. Thus the role of the university within the state conflicts fundamentally with the idea of real free expression, and one of them must give way. It is not hard to guess which one, although the fix may be obfuscated.

    2. J@sh, if that’s (seriously) your position, then what is recourse for skeptics of the “white genocide” argument? (Seriously.)

      There are people arguing that interracial dating, black presidents, affirmative action, and a host of other pleasures of modern life amount to “white genocide.” They’re idiots, but they have internet access and social media accounts.

      Is it seriously your contention that no one should be able to mock these @$$h$l3z? Or only that they may be mocked, but without using the words “white genocide”? Do you really not see the complicated consequence of this rule?

      1. @Pat

        Mock away, but do so without setting a precedent that will allow people on campus to start making genocide jokes (whether about whites, blacks, muslims, jews, etc).

        Do you really lack the rhetorical imagination to do that?

      1. @ Pat. Swift was an advocate of Irish rights. That’s what makes his satire so effective: it quickly becomes clear as you read the essay that he’s appalled by English treatment of the Irish and is worried about the possible destruction of the Irish people through colonial domination.

        Is the Ciccariello-Maher situation analogous? Think for a sec.

        I’ll add this: if you’re incapable of thinking this through, but still hubristically insist on painting comment sections all over the internet with your half-baked determinations, then you are actively hurting the left, a coalition which, now more than ever, requires tactical and rhetorical sophistication, not over-the-top peacocking (something FDB ordinarily understands!).

        So: please think this through (unless you’re a secret alt right trojan horse, in which case: i am very very impressed).

        1. Thanks for reading the Wikipedia page, j@sh! Now, would you care to explicate how “white genocide” is somehow more troubling today than “eat the Irish” was a coupla centuries ago?

          1. The situation would be analogous if the point of “Modest Proposal” was to mock/satirize the idea that an Irish genocide is occurring. Rather than, you know, the opposite.

            Really this is very obvious. Not sure why you’re having a problem with it. Maybe try making a diagram of the two situations on a piece of paper?

          2. Wow, j@sh, you’re really making this hard for me. And I’m an educator! It really frustrates me to fail to get a student to understand.

            “…the point of “Modest Proposal” was to mock/satirize the idea that an Irish genocide is occurring.” Yeah, you hit on exactly the point. Not sure how you failed to realize that, and I’m in fact considering the possibility this is just an epic troll, but… just in case it’s useful to someone else, let’s go through this step-by-step. (If you have just been trolling me the whole time, I say congratulations. Fair beat.)

            During Swift’s lifetime, the government of his country was in fact pursuing what would now be called a genocide against the Irish people, through means of deprivation, starvation—if you have any Irish friends, you can ask them for far more details than I can give you. They will be entirely eager to provide a thorough education.

            In the context of that, Swift published a satirical essay playing on two widely understood notions. First, the demonstrable fact that the Irish people were undergoing a famine. And second, the respectable middle-class British belief that the Irish were having too many children.

            The solution, to Swift’s fictitious essayist, was all too simple, too obvious. They have a surfeit of children; they have otherwise nothing to eat….

            Anyways, it was precisely a mockery of the Irish genocide. It was precisely a satire of a real genocide, one that was really happening. (Again, I can’t believe you’re really this dense—“the point of ‘Modest Proposal’ was to mock/satirize the idea that an Irish genocide is occurring”; yes, yes, precisely so—and think you may just be trolling, which, if so—well done.)

            And it’s hard to argue—or it was hard, at the time—that Swift succeeded as a satirist. A huge amount of his audience took him literally; huge numbers of English readers thought he was actually advocating for the Irish to consume their children.

            Let’s contrast with the present case: A Drexel University made a tweet involving the words “white genocide.” Precisely zero people thought he was actually advocating white genocide. Indeed, it was impossible for anyone to be that dense, even on the Internet. Nothing that could be called genocide was ever going on for white people. It was a joke, literally harmless, without the slightest possibility of ever being complicit in any harm to anyone.

            Jon Swift, on the other hand, genuinely offended a large number of people and appeared to make light of a real humanitarian catastrophe, an actual genocide. That was only “at the time”; Swift’s essay is now recognized as a tremendous piece of rhetoric that may have invented non-literal argumentation. It is a prized piece of art that has been invoked by generations in defense of the concept of free speech.

            The Drexel prof’s tweet, on the other hand, has been most notable for providing dumbasses with asperands in their Internet handles an opportunity to make fools of themselves online.

          3. @Pat: “Precisely zero people thought he was actually advocating white genocide. Indeed, it was impossible for anyone to be that dense, even on the Internet.”

            Wrong. I am that dense. I thought he was serious in wanting white genocide. That is, after all, exactly what he said.

            I consider myself a leftist, and I have a PhD in physics from Stanford. (I state this fact as evidence that I am not an idiot.) Many of us scientists take people literally, because that’s what we do in science.

            As Freddie continuously and correctly points out, the left keeps losing battle after battle, war after war, because so many leftists refuse to talk in a straightforward way that can convince people not already on our side.

            Sadly, I see no prospect for this changing any time soon.

          4. @Pat “I’m an educator” – that is unfortunate. I hope save your snark and condescension for comments sections and spare your students.

  7. The social-justice left discussions of free speech (or, if you prefer, “free speech”) that I’ve seen not only make a point of dismissing out-of-hand any complaints about non-governmental entities acting against free speech, but they also all have a laser-like focus on prior restraint. Chilling effects? What are those?

    The Hays Code, the Hollywood Blacklist, the Comics Code Authority — none of these meet the current progressive standard for infringements of free speech.

    The current party line is “free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences,” which as far as I can tell means “getting people fired for saying the wrong thing is A-Okay as long as I get to decide.” (And again, the Hollywood Blacklist would be totally okay by this standard.)

    I’m not sure why this it’s so hard to see that this logic could be used against professors tweeting their oh-so-edgy bon mots about genocide, but there it is.

    1. Miler: Have you noticed in the rhetoric of the campus left a tendency to draw on parenting tropes?

      This “consequences” language isn’t quite the implied threat of violence you get from a conservative essay that flirts with armed rebellion. It’s the implied threat of a grounding with no TV if you keep it up.

      It’s so insidious like that. It feels egalitarian and big-heart paternalistic. And yet threatening to take food out of people’s mouths and send their student loans into delinquency for saying the wrong thing is baldly authoritarian.

    2. The social-justice left discussions of free speech (or, if you prefer, “free speech”) …

      I think it’s supposed to be “(((free speech)))”.

  8. Freddie — Here’s a hypo. Let’s just say I know a doctor who for whatever reason used his Facebook account to go on a rant in a comment about how there’s going to be a race war and we need “replace” minorities with whites and be “ethnonationalists” — which sounds an awful lot like ethnic cleansing, doesn’t it? Let’s just say this guy’s Facebook account identifies his employer, a hospital, and I subsequently send an email to his employer where (1) I made it clear that I’m NOT asking for him to be fired, and that I think he should NOT be fired for the comment; but (2) asked them to have a conversation with him about whether he can ethically treat minorities when, by his own account, he evidently wants them ethnically cleansed. I mean, if I were a minority, I’d want to know if this doctor thinks I should be “replaced.”

    Now, believe it or not, this actually all happened. To my knowledge, the hospital didn’t fire him, and HR just had a conversation with him. Let’s just say his Facebook is a little less incendiary these days. Did I act ethically?

    1. Questioner:

      Unless you want HR sitting the entire faculty of the race and gender centers down to drill them about whether and how they’re treating white males fairly in class, this isn’t a workable compromise. And there is a long gradient between Half Hour Meeting With HR and Fired.

      Do you want HR monitoring people’s classes and doctor’s appointments with a checklist? What about formal notices sent out to patients and students about the person’s beliefs, so they can make informed decisions about whether to render service? HR doesn’t “just have conversations” with people.

      They hand out graduated penalties, up to termination, for noncompliance with HR’s directives. Having “a conversation” with someone who’s recommending we kill people might seem reasonable and proportional. But the correct response to illegal incitements to violence is to call the police.

  9. As far as I can tell so far, it remains possible Drexel’s investigation is merely a pro forma bureaucratic matter and will quickly result in a lot of hand-waving and a determination that “while troubling, no rules were broken and blah blah blah.”

    I may be being optimistic.

  10. Ciccariello followed up the first tweet with praise for an actual slaughter of whites, during the Haitian Revolution. So, while the first tweet could be defended as a joke, with the second he’s taken it to another level.

  11. I find it curious you don’t get into the discussions around no platforming radical feminists, that criticise gender identity, too contentious, or are you unaware?

    On social media, this has reached ridiculous heights, with people checking and policing, wether or not some tweet/post on an unrelated matter is from a ~TERF~.

    Outside of the net, people campaigned to no platform talks by radical feminists regardless of what the topic is. In one case they needed to be reminded that no platforming a “TERF”, should maybe mean that the alt-right speaker should also not come: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/09/no-platform-universities-julie-bindel-exclusion-anti-feminist-crusade. Deep green resistance who seriously want us to destroy civilization, don’t get no platformed over the lunacy of their “vision” for the future, but over their position on gender.
    People attempted to get Meghan Murphy fired over her criticism of empowerment feminism, because her articles were about trans women: https://www.change.org/p/rabble-ca-we-demand-that-rabble-ca-end-your-association-with-meghan-murphy-as-editor-and-columnist

    I want to see who seriously believes that assaults on trans women are fueled, by someone reading to many radical critiques of gender, because I don’t believe anyone does, this is an attempt to make women shut up about a very uncomfortable position, that is found threatening. And if you ask me it’s because they know that if enough people see Danielle Muscato, the idea of some vague “gender identity” will get questioned and what is left then? Either you believe pink and nailpolish makes a woman or you don’t and most ultimately don’t.

  12. Speaking as someone who’s probably further to the right than almost anyone else here, this is fascinating. The vast bulk of lefties on the internet just don’t seem to get that they simply cannot spend their time screaming at people for saying stupid/offensive things (or simply things with which they disagree) on the internet and then whine about their freedom of speech. They set the rules for the internet, and now they need to live by them.

    It’d be funny, but the inability to see their own place in the feeding chain is taking them from “wrong” in their opponents’ eyes, into the “genuinely mentally ill” category. In terms of political efficacy, it might be nice that my side has the opportunity to do whatever it wants. But it can’t be healthy for us that all the real debate is between us, and you’re just squawking on the sidelines about semantics and how we need to die, while whining that we won’t listen to you.

  13. Some thoughts:

    1) He has a right to free speech. The university has a right to condemn him (their own free speech), but they shouldn’t investigate or fire him.

    2) After sending out the tweet he sent ANOTHER one saying he liked how white people were murdered during the Haitian Revolution (which involved women and children being murdered for their race as well), and he has a history of sending out these tweets, so yes I would say he genuinely doesn’t like white people, and there is a growing (but still very small) subsection of the left (particularly the postmodernist left) that post-2014 like to make it VERY clear that they hate white people, which undermines all their other “anti-racist” positions and makes them repulsive, and its not unreasonable for people (not just white people) to hate this particularly political group back, as one would hate the Alt-Right.

    3) That said, “white genocide” is still generally a crackpot conspiracy theory from the political far-right. I would think the Haitian revolution tweet would have gotten him in more trouble since he’s giving a concrete example of supporting people being murdered/raped for their race as opposed to just telling a bad joke about Alt-Right conspiracy theories. Even if that was a “joke” as well it’s a joke on par with saying out of the blue “To be clear when the Belgians killed the Congolese it was a very good thing indeed”, it’s repulsive and likely has genuine resentment/racism boiling under the surface. That said he still has a right to free speech unless he’s actually mistreating white students in his class though.

  14. Commenter: “I’m not sure why this it’s so hard to see that this logic could be used against professors tweeting their oh-so-edgy bon mots about genocide, but there it is.”

    Freddie: “[W]e must be very careful about the kinds of arguments we empower, the precedents we sign off on. All can and will be used against us too.”

    Yes, but I’m starting to think a lot of people just don’t understand how logical forms work. All they pay attention to is the particular content of the individual assertion; but it’s the *structure* of the assertion which has precedential value, and they just don’t seem able to see it. If you try to say, “this argument for X will also justify Y,” they think you’re simply saying that X and Y are the same thing. Right now someone’s probably getting mad at Freddie for saying that criticizing BLM is “the same thing” as Ciccariello-Maher’s stupid tweet.

    I don’t know what to do about this. Better geometry lessons? That’s where I learned about logical forms.

  15. I find the invocation of academic freedom to be disingenuous. Everybody reading this knows that had this person been tweeting those things about any other group of people, it would have violated whatever Drexel’s code of professional conduct is regarding racial harassment and this person would have been summarily fired.

    In the couple of years, we have seen no-platforming of speakers, Title IX witch-hunts over an essay criticizing sexual paranoia on campus and somebody playing a “Beach Boys” song in a class. Look at what is going in with Jordan Peterson at U of T over gender neutral pronouns. Look at the campus protests demanding resignations of professors and admins. Look at the protests over things written in student newspapers. These are REAL threats to academic freedom and freedom of speech, and they are coming from the Left.

    Comparing jokes about racial genocide to people actually getting into trouble for engaged in honest dialog is a false equivalency. The person tweeting about white genocide is not engaged in a serious discussion or an exchange of ideas. It is deliberately inflammatory and racist and the fact that he wasn’t immediately fired speaks volumes about how far things have gone on university campuses these days.

  16. @Pat:

    The point of the Swift essay is to get the reader to sympathize with the victim of the satirically proposed action.

    The point of the Maher tweet is to get the reader to heap scorn upon the victim of the satirically proposed action.

    These are opposites.

    Swift’s satire doesn’t create a precedent where campus racists can start gleefully cracking jokes about genociding minorities.

    Maher’s botched satire does create that precedent. The university clearly had no choice but to respond. Only someone who isn’t a minority (I bet you aren’t one) could fail to perceive this.

    Satire isn’t Nam. There are rules.

      1. @Pat – Your slight of hand with the quotes shows you to be a dishonest debater…maybe unconsciously so.

        But look, let’s come at this from another angle. Would you be OK with a campus prof joking on twitter about muslim genocide? Would you be OK with students doing that?

        1. Hoo boy.

          j@sh, you gotta do the assigned reading. I was 50% sure, now I’m 60% sure you have never read “A Modest Proposal.” I encourage you to do so—but I will admit, it’s a very hard read. It’s chewy and thorny as all get-out, and it’s really hard, legitimately, to figure out where Swift being satirical was supposed to begin. Again, I sympathize! It’s a tough read. I can’t claim I’ve talked about it with every lit major I’ve met, but I’m pretty sure that everyone I have talked about it with has had a similar experience—namely, of finding it a really troubling, not-at-all clear text.

          But you gotta do the homework.

          … and it’s “sleight” of hand.

          1. @ Pat: I’ve read it. Will read it again sometime, why not. But I think that if the point of satire was to mock Irish who think they’re being persecuted, I’d have noticed that the first time around.

            Thanks for the “sleight” heads-up, I always forget about that.

            You still haven’t answered my question about whether you’d be OK with muslim genocide jokes. Why are you avoiding answering? Is it because then you’d have to admit (most importantly, to yourself) that your thoughts on this matter are organized around a fragile and unsustainable double standard?

  17. An investigation seems totally appropriate.

    Universities should respond to plausible allegations of professorial misconduct. Even if the response is, “… and here’s why that doesn’t violate policy.”

    And that response really should involve investigation. I don’t really see any alternative.

  18. MarkS: there’s a literature on “indirect speech” that starts to get at the problem you’re highlighting. People use non-literal speech to do a lot of things, like hedge and avoid conflict (political correctness / politeness). If I say something vaguely and indirectly I can retract the comment.

    One other function is I think to reinforce in-group solidarity. You only know I’m being sarcastic if you know what my disposition is prior to making a sarcastic statement, that is actually opposed to my actual disposition. Wink nod.

    Then if you don’t get the joke, the sarcasm bearer assumes it’s because you weren’t smart enough to work your way into the in-group and recognize their disposition. Naturally, this shit is crack to leftists who think conservatives are retards. This guy wasn’t “just kidding” when he made the joke, and acting like conservatives are overly literal doofuses for taking the joke seriously is all part of his insidious game.

    1. That is a good observation. If true, it is fantastically stupid from a strategic point of view since they’re not just making inside jokes with their friends, but to the whole world. While it may seem funny to them, they are alienating potential allies and radicalizing others without making any actual political gains. Its juvenile and self-defeating.

      I’ve seen this kind of self-defeating behavior before. I just had a conversation with some friends who are hardcore into the social justice activist scene who literally told me that I was not allowed to have any kind of personal boundaries with people of color because I was a straight white male. I thought, “well, if being an ‘ally’ means putting up with emotional abuse, I’m out.” The “become-a-repository for-PoCs’-personal-frustration” is the standard you must meet to be part of the cause, then they are setting themselves up for failure because most self-respecting people are not going to stand for that.

  19. Some comments:
    No-platforming of TERFs has been by other feminists/leftists, not by the right. While a handful of conservative no-platforming examples can be found, there are hundreds for leftists. Even Condoleeza Rice was no-platformed (because conservative) even though a successful black woman. There was even a case where a speaker for a freedom of speech panel discussion was no platformed.
    The Left seems to think that there is some fixed list of items that are beyond the pale, that may not be discussed, that are hate speech. However, some of their list includes things that just a few years ago were the majority opinion (gay marriage), cover public policy (climate change) or are part of the political process (Trump). Thus it does not include only wildly extreme views but simply things they disagree with. If you are going to let the loudest people censor ideas they don’t like, this is mob rule, and if another group gets hold of the bull-horn you won’t like the result.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *