June 17, 2017

POPEHAT: Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander.

And yet, the “we’re just applying their rules to them” theory has some heft. It’s not because of the nasty, disruptive little totalitarians themselves. Antifa scum and pseudo-educated campus thugs are not legitimate foundation for any adult’s philosophy. No, the bit of plausibility comes from the reaction of people in authority, people who ought to know better, people whose conduct is somewhat more fairly attributed to a larger political groups. A few hysterically censorious kids screaming for a professor’s termination for crimethink do not threaten the foundations of free speech, but Yale lauding them does. Relatively few thugs disrupting a speech and even physically assaulting a professor don’t call into question the culture’s support for free speech, but Middlebury offering weak slaps on the wrist and shrugs for that violent behavior does. A violent mob in Berkeley does not undermine the legitimacy of free speech doctrine — a mob is a mob — but Berkeley’s timorousness or indifference in the face of violent censorship does. Students furious at a professor disagreeing with them don’t call into question the nation’s commitment to freedom, but state officials refusing to guarantee a professor’s safety do. In short: the regrettable behavior of officials who have failed to stand up to disruption of speech are the people most responsible for legitimizing further disruptions of speech, whoever commits them.

But we can, and should, do better.

But sometimes, to get people to stand behind a norm, you have to focus their mind on the consequences of losing it. It’s extremely sad that we’ve reached this point, but this is what happens when the people who are supposed to maintain the norms and institutions of liberal democracy in some sort of principled fashion decide that they’d rather be culture warriors instead.

And as IowaHawk notes, sometimes you need a coupon war to get people’s attention.