Universities should support free speech against the protests of students unions and shock-bloggers

MN AHA CRUpdate: University of Warwick Students Union has now approved Maryam to speak at this event and has apologised to her.

Universities should be prepared to host events at which speakers cause offence to people who do not share their beliefs, as long as such events do not break the laws of the land or incite violence or crime. This is important because universities are not the same as private bodies with their own political agendas. Universities are public bodies that should foster freedom of expression, and encourage critical thinking and intellectual growth among students and staff.

Universities should resist pressure from groups within Trinity College Dublin and the University of Warwick, who this year have blocked speaking invitations by student societies to Maryam Namazie, and from shock-bloggers like PZ Myers, who this year welcomed the rescinding by US universities of speaking invitations to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condaleeza Rice.

The University of Warwick Islamic Society has hosted events that seem to breach the rules being used to prevent Maryam from speaking. This is not a reason to prevent the Islamic Society from hosting events that cause offence to some atheists and secularists. It is a reason to allow Maryam to speak on the campus, despite her comments causing offence to some Muslims.

Maryam Namazie

Here is what Maryam wrote earlier this year about the revoking of a speaking invitation to her by the TCD Society for International Affairs:

“Though the SoFIA chair asserts that I withdrew from the event, it is in fact the Society, which cancelled the event after my request that it go ahead as initially planned without any of the last-minute restrictions imposed, namely that all attendants of the event must be 1) Trinity students and 2) members of the society hosting the talk, and that 3) a moderator be added for “balance”. The “article” is full of irrelevances and misinformation in order to muddy the waters so that the main issue at hand is forgotten as is usual in such cases. The main issue is that my right to speak was restricted by TCD whilst Islamist speakers like Kamal El Mekki who advocate the death penalty for apostates face no such restrictions.”

Here is what the University of Warwick Students Union has said this week about revoking a speaking invitation by the campus Atheist Society to Maryam:

“All speakers will be made aware of their responsibility to abide by the law, the University and the Union’s various policies, including that they:

  • must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law.
  • are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts.
  • must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony.
  • must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge.”

The suggestion that Maryam engages in the first three of these activities is simply false, and to imply that these are valid reasons for banning her borders on defamation. In reality, Maryam actively campaigns against such activities, and she promotes one law for all with no violations of human rights by either religious or secular organisations.

The fourth of these policies is unacceptable in a secular democracy, and particularly on a university campus. Of course speakers should be allowed to insult other faiths or groups, as long as they do not incite violence or engage in defamation. All ideas and beliefs, including Islam and atheism, should be open to robust criticism, including ridicule.

You have rights, your beliefs do not. Insulting faiths and groups is not the same thing as inciting hatred towards individual members of those groups. Criticising the human rights violations caused by the ideology of Islam is not the same as insulting individual Muslims. Indeed, most of the victims of the many human rights violations by Islamists are Muslims.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condaleeza Rice

The once-influential shock-blogger PZ Myers has also opposed invitations to speakers at universities. As a compromise, he accepted the right of student groups to invite such speakers, but he protested against universities themselves inviting certain speakers, particularly when they pay them high fees. Here is what PZ Myers wrote earlier this year about universities revoking speaking invitations to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condaleeza Rice:

“OMG! Condoleeza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali were shot and killed? Then yes, we definitely should march in opposition to that criminal outrage…oh. They were just turned away from speaking engagements? Sorry, that isn’t the same thing at all. Wingnuts really do not understand the concept of free speech at all. Revoking those appearances was not a denial of the right to free speech: free speech does not mean you are owed a high profile platform and a bullhorn to declare your position; it does not mean you are given big bucks to speak. It means the government is not allowed to use its privilege and power to silence you. Both the Rice and Ali denials were by universities, not governments. I think they were in the right to boot them out.”

PZ Myers at the height of his notoriety was like a left-wing parody of Islamists’ desire to use offence to control how other people express themselves. He was perpetually outraged by everything from Matt Taylor wearing shirts and Richard Dawkins reminiscing on his childhood, to Tim Hunt telling jokes and Hemant Mehta allowing people to comment on his blog. Meanwhile, PZ wanted the right to offend other people in whatever way he chose to express himself. It is a relief he no longer has the influence he once had on atheist activism.

Why should universities resist such pressure?

Why should universities resist pressure from students unions and shock-bloggers to revoke speaking appearances on campus by people with whom they disagree? The most important reason is that universities should encourage freedom of expression and critical thinking. Another reason is that the same standards could be applied to the groups who are supposedly being protected from the offence caused by the banned speakers.

For example, the University of Warwick Islamic Society seems like a positive group of people. As well as hosting prayer sessions, they do charity work for orphans and needy children, and they host sports events and cinema nights as well as talks and debates. However, some of their events seem to breach the rules that are being used to prevent Maryam from speaking at Warwick University.

Events by University of Warwick Islamic Society

Here are some examples of University of Warwick Islamic Society hosting events that offend many atheists and secularists.

This year and last year Warwick University Islamic Society have hosted a weekly Brothers Taleem Class, where they would read and learn from Imam an-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith. This is a book in which the author gathered forty two of the sayings of prophet Muhammed. Most of them are morally good suggestions. However, two of them are as follows:

Hadith 8: Abdullah bin Omar narrated that the messenger of Allah said: “I have been ordered to fight against people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammed is the messenger of Allah and until they perform the prayers and pay the zakat, and if they do so they will have gained protection from me for their lives and property, unless [they do acts that are punishable] in accordance with Islam, and their reckoning will be with Allah the Almighty.”

Hadith 14: Abdullah bin Masud narrated that the messenger of Allah said: “The blood of a Muslim may not be legally spilt other than in one of three [instances]: the married person who commits adultery; a life for a life; and one who forsakes his religion and abandons the community.”

The Warwick University Islamic Society has also hosted recital gatherings of the entire Quran. This presumably included reciting the many morally good passages that are in the Quran, such as the exhortations to not lie, to be good to your parents, to be good to the poor, to set slaves free, to not oppress people, and to not have compulsion in religion

It also presumably includes reciting the many morally bad passages that are in the Quran, such as that men are in charge of women because Allah made one excel the other, that men can beat their wives in certain circumstances, that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man, that a woman can inherit half what a man does, that you should flog adulterers and not let compassion prevent your from doing it, that you should kill people who leave Islam, and that you should fight non-muslims until they are in a state of subjection.

Conclusion

On the face of it, these events breach the rules that are being used to prevent Maryam Namazie from speaking at the University. Promoting such ideas can incite hatred and violence or call for the breaking of the law. It can spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony. It can and does insult other faiths or groups. So why the double standards that allow these ideas to be discussed but not Maryam’s?

To be clear, this is not a reason to prevent the Islamic Society from hosting events, despite some events causing offence to some atheists and secularists. But it is a reason to allow Maryam to speak at Warwick University, despite her comments causing offence to some Muslims.

Join the Conversation

57 Comments

  1. This no-platforming really is shameful.

    Why should universities resist pressure from students unions and shock-bloggers to revoke speaking appearances on campus by people with whom they disagree? The most important reason is that universities should encourage freedom of expression and critical thinking. Another reason is that the same standards could be applied to the groups who are supposedly being protected from the offence caused by the banned speakers.

    hear! hear!

    PZ Myers at the height of his notoriety was like a left-wing parody of Islamists’ desire to use offence to control how other people express themselves. He was perpetually outraged by everything from Matt Taylor wearing shirts and Richard Dawkins reminiscing on his childhood, to Tim Hunt telling jokes and Hemant Mehta allowing people to comment on his blog. Meanwhile, PZ wanted the right to offend other people in whatever way he chose to express himself. It is a relief he no longer has the influence he once had on atheist activism.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4KhU-GIPJY

  2. I find it ironic that the very rules and practices Myers has endorsed to limit, if not out-right destroy, intellectual diversity of thought and opinion on college campuses was used against ‘one of his own.’

    It, of course, doesn’t ‘shock’ me. It’s an historical fact that the very rules one uses to squelch the ideas of others can be used to squelch your ideas, as well. I should think that anyone who has managed to graduate High School, never mind get a PhD (in any subject) could be so unaware of those kinds of dangers.

  3. “[Free speech] means the government is not allowed to use its privilege and power to silence you.”

    SJWs like to mock the principle of free speech by calling it “freeze peach”. They trot this out whenever someone protests against being banned, silenced or disinvited for having opinions that go against those of the tribe. I have even seen the “freeze peach” meme being used in connection with the Charlie Hebdo murders. When challenged, people like Myers will come out with legalistic crap, like suggesting that only governments could stifle free speech.

    Reasonable human beings, on the other hand, understand that free speech is a broader principle. It is the idea that you don’t prevent others from expressing their opinion, even if it is one you do not share. Or make that: Especially when it is one you do not share, because there would be no need for a defence of free speech if we all agreed with each other all the time. Yes, there are extreme situations, even in a free democratic society, where it can be justified to shut someone up temporarily, for example when the speaker is inciting violence or when others are hindered in expressing their opinion.

    But in the case of Mariam Namazie there is no such excuse. She is the victim of a group of authoritarian bullies who would probably do far worse things if they had the power to do so. Intolerant, self-righteous, blockheaded, unscrupulous people. The kind of people who hate free speech.

  4. Yes, PZ “Dear Leader” Myers is oh so quiet. What a pathetic and sad individual he has become, sulking in Morris, Minnesota as the invites have dried up, with only his fading blog to accompany him.

    Strange, because Maryam is a close ally of his, although I imagine Maryam must cringe somewhat at how how anti-liberal PZ has become. PZ must KNOW he got it wrong and is now sitting on the wrong side pf history. If he speaks out in support of Maryam, suddenly, the #braveheroes can trample on him and point out his previous anti-liberal, anti-free speech positions.

    A source tells me that PZ is increasingly prone to fits of rage, often hitting his desk at college, before breaking down and sobbing. Apparently, he can often be heard mumbling “I coulda been a contender”, before biting his lip so hard his beard becomes tainted with drops of blood.

    What a difference from 2010.

    PS – Don’t forget that Warwick University did not have a problem with the invite of pro-Hamas and anti-Semitic 9/11 troofer (“the Jews did it”) Ken O’Keefe.

  5. “It is a relief [that PZ Myers] no longer has the influence he once had on atheist activism.”

    It certainly is. And lest anyone doubt that PZ Myers’ influence has waned, you can find some empirical support for the claim at the independent traffic-measuring site Quantcast. While Quantcast does not allow direct linking to specific charts, follow these instructions to see a graphic depiction of the fall of Myers’ Freethought Blogs Network from 2011 to the present day:

    1. Go to this URL:
    https://www.quantcast.com/p-a7F83MsOMeSXw

    2. Click the “PAGE VIEWS” tab. (This is the most useful metric for determining the raw traffic a website is receiving. It is used by advertisers to measure how many impressions their ads get.)

    3. Click on the “More Options” box and adjust the options to view “Global.”

    4. Under the graph, on the “Date Range” line, click “All.”

    You are now looking at the global traffic history of Freethought Blogs from its beginning. And the chart tells a story. It tells the story of a blog network that launched impressively in 2011 and quickly ramped up to a consistent level of traffic above 200K page views per day for most of its first year. But with each passing year, for some reason, the traffic fell:

    Year One: Mostly 200K+ after launch. These must have been heady days at FtB. They had every reason to believe that traffic would only go up from here.

    Year Two – Year Four: Long, slow decline from 200K to 100K per day. Despite some daily traffic spikes due to controversial posts, overall traffic fell by 50% over a three-year period.

    Now: Limping along at 40K to 70K per day. Freethought Blogs is now surviving on about 25% of the traffic level that it had in its first year.

    This huge decline happened at the same time that overall traffic on the web went up and also the number of declared atheists in the U.S. increased rapidly. Despite favorable conditions that gave FtB significant growth potential, it somehow managed to lose about 75% of its audience over the life of the network to date. Any reasonable analysis of FtB traffic would have to conclude that the blog network is a disastrous failure.

    At Quantcast, you can use the timeline feature to zero in on specific time periods. For example, you can take a look at the period right after the infamous “grenade” post by PZ (it’s the biggest spike on the chart) and see how the initial traffic spike from the post is followed by a months-long traffic decline that then becomes a plateau representing a new low for the network. Other spikes are followed by similar declines and new lows. It’s the story of a blog network desperately trying to increase traffic with controversial posts, but nonetheless losing most of its audience in the process.

    The latest steep decline in traffic (the most notable “cliff” on the chart) is obviously due to the recent departure of Ophelia Benson and (especially) Ed Brayton from the network. But these content-provider exits can likely be attributed to the same ultimate cause as the audience exodus: The moral character of PZ Myers and the rest of the network. Benson was hounded out of FtB by purist ideologues, and Brayton cited “drama and stress” and “threats of lawsuits” against the network as reasons for his exit. First FtB alienated most of its audience, then it lost two of its most valuable bloggers.

    Do reckless personal attacks, slander and vitriol represent a good long-term strategy for a blog network to grow its audience? The history of Freethought Blogs would suggest that the answer is an unequivocal “no.”

    And thank FSM for that. PZ Myers and the rest of the FtB ideological zealots inflicted significant damage on our community. But at least they didn’t win.

  6. Ah sure Michael haven’t the pro-life (Anti-abortion) and counselling for those with same sex attraction been denied the right even to be on some University campus in Ireland and this organised outrage by members of Atheist Ireland. Lest we forget—lest we forget!

  7. “I should think that anyone who has managed to graduate High School, never mind get a PhD (in any subject) could be so unaware of those kinds of dangers.”

    It’s not that Myers was unaware of the danger, it’s that he thought that he could deal with it by being a “good ally”.

    Neville Chamberlain wasn’t an uneducated, stupid man. On the contrary, he was much more clever than people think.

    He just thought that by appeasing to Adolf Hitler, by reaching an agreement about the Sudetenland issue, he could achieve “peace for [his] time”.

    History proved that he was wrong. At least he had the good sense of re-arming the UK while preaching peace.

    Myers is simply an appeaser of the looniest SJWs, just like Chamberlain was an appeaser to Hitler’s policies.

    Unlike Chamberlain, however, Myers didn’t build an army to defend himself if necessary. He tried to do it with the Horde but many in his hub are willing to side against him if he doesn’t toe the line.

    Myers thought that by debasing himself a few times, by cultivating is image as a “good ally” and by banning anyone who disagreed with his dogmas he could have become a thought leader, a shepherd of the SJWs, a merciful but just rules of his small kingdom, with a Horde of faithful followers at his side.

    He overestimated himself and underestimated the craziness of his fellow travelers.

  8. Perhaps it is simply that Myers knows that it is true that one of his bloggers really does incite hatred.

    That is the charge. Myers doesn’t defend against it.

    Perhaps he can’t.

  9. Perhaps it is simply that Myers knows that it is true that one of his bloggers really does incite hatred.

    The presence/existence of an ex-Muslim DOES incite hatred among some Islamists. That much is true!

  10. PZ Myers wrote: “They were just turned away from speaking engagements? Sorry, that isn’t the same thing at all. Wingnuts really do not understand the concept of free speech at all. Revoking those appearances was not a denial of the right to free speech ….”

    Myers obviously does not understand the concept of a “Chilling Effect” on free speech. By selectively granting or denying a platform to speakers based on their respective viewpoints, the universities are tacitly declaring which viewpoints are permissible and which are not on their campuses. This goes beyond silencing the voices of Namazie, Ali, or Rice: it has a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech by all members of faculty and student body, and by extension, by the community at large.

    We are, of course, dealing here with zealots who care nothing for free speech, merely the shielding of their SJW dogma against all heresies.

  11. As much as I dislike many of PZ Myers views, particularly his clear hostility toward the free speech rights of those he disagrees with, I do have to agree with him on one point – entitlement to freedom of speech is not an entitlement to a monetary reward for that speech, and students are well within their right to demand that universities not fork over the ridiculous sum of US$150K to someone like Condeleeza Rice. I question whether a talk by anybody is worth that much, really, but particularly in the case of some already-overpaid ex-political lackey. I think that is a very different from “no platforming” or pressuring a student group to uninvite someone they’ve sponsored using their allocated funds.

    All of that said, I hope this incident leads to some reflection on the part of FTB bloggers. (Though apparently not in PZ’s case, as he’s already used this as an opportunity to condemn “free speech absolutists”.) Basically, the reasoning that the Warwick Student Union used (and now, thankfully, reversed) is just a variation on the same bullshit “safe space” mentality that FTB, Skepchick, and the rest have been pushing, particularly in their support for the no-platforming of Slymepit, Gamergate, MRAs, etc. Now these people are shock-shock-shocked that these kind of rules are being used to no-platform secularists – what the fuck do they expect?

  12. “I have even seen the “freeze peach” meme being used in connection with the Charlie Hebdo murders.”

    Yep – it sounds like you’re referring to Kitty Stryker’s piece on how the Charlie Hebdo victims basically had it coming for “punching down”, and trotted out the “that’s not censorship because it wasn’t done by a government” and “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences” canards as defenses for this appalling position.

    And in case you think this is just one isolated SJW nutter, think again. Within a few months, the same Kitty Stryker was invited to give a talk on sexual consent to Greta Christina’s Godless Perverts Social Club. Mind you, the same GPSC that booted out an attendee for saying he had issues with radical feminism, and that made some effort around that time to demand that other secular orgs no-platform Michael Shermer. But apparently outright murder apologism, for fucking al-Qaeda no less, gets a free pass from these “godless” folks.

  13. PZ Myers wrote:
    I’m not one of those wacky free speech absolutists. I am generally in favor of free speech, but I do think there are also obligations and responsibilities. Let me give you a few examples.

    There have been a few instances where I was scheduled to speak somewhere, and officials tried to get me kicked out. That’s inappropriate. They also failed in every case, probably because I’m not as scary as Maryam Namazie. But it’s not right in her case, either.

    So if it’s not right when it comes to Maryam Namzie, why did he and Greta Christiana spend years trying to sabotage Dr. Abbie Smith’s speaking and blogging career because they disagreed over Elevator Gate? And this went on for years, along with thousands upon thousands of words he spent on character assassination directed toward her.

    So I’m kind of curious how he rationalizes his conduct — bullying and silencing people who don’t agree with his positions — with his current position — bullying and silencing are wrong.

    I’d ask him, but he’d just ban me. And, the fact is, while I’m curious to hear his rationalization, I already know the underlying answer — it’s pure, unadulterated, unprincipled tribalism.

  14. While I agree with the thrust of Michael’s argument, I also think it is important to emphasise the right of students, staff and the public at large to protest against the invitation of speakers. I personally think it’s good that the decision to pay Condoleeza Rice to make a speech to students was opposed, and I also think it’s good she was disinvited from speaking at Rutgers University. I certainly wouldn’t feel the same way if this had happened to Jeremy Corbyn instead. This is clearly influenced by my socialist political worldview so it’s difficult to make a claim to free speech for one and not for the other. The decision to invite one and not the other is a result of political struggle and none of us are neutral in that.

    However I think there is a difference between a university inviting and paying someone to speak and a person being allowed to speak at a university. I think we should generally allow the second, but the first should be more circumscribed.

    Even the second though has problems though. The tension between the rights of expression of two opposing groups leads to the possibility of violent or otherwise inappropriate acts (such as pulling fire alarms). Should holocaust deniers be allowed to speak? If so, should protests be allowed? If so, how close? Is it realistic to expect there NOT to be violence at such an event, given the types of people likely to attend on both sides and the highly emotive nature of the topic? What should the role of the university authorities (or the state) be in this case? Ban the holocaust denier? Or the protestors?

    These aren’t easy questions to answer and I think it’s really difficult to make specific rules or generalisations such as those produced by Warwick university’s student union.

    Is PZ Myers a shock blogger? Personally I think it’s an apt description, but who gets to decide? A university administration could also decide that Richard Dawkins is a shock blogger and then invite a creationist to give a speech in exchange for 150k. Not something I think any of us would be in favour of…

    @Emmanuel, could you provide some details for this accusation? Without these it’s just an accusation.

  15. For what it’s worth, Condoleezza Rice’s invitation to UMN was made as part of a lecture series sponsored by a private foundation. Her speaking fee was, I assume, paid by the sponsor, not the university.

  16. The discussion about speaker’s fees is a red herring. This is easy to see when you consider that most people would find a fee of $150,000 exorbitant whoever the speaker is. Protests against wasting university money on speakers are not a free speech issue as long as it’s purely about the waste of money.

    It is therefore just a diversion created by Myers when he hammers on the — indeed outrageous — speaker’s fee awarded to Condoleeza Rice. At the same time, he now remains conveniently quiet about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose disinviting he agreed with on purely ideological grounds. He is “generally in favor of free speech”. Sure he is.

  17. @ Iamcuriousblue,

    No, it wasn’t Kitty Stryker I was thinking of. Google refreshed my memory. It was this quote by a commenter called Giliell on — where else? — Pharyngula*:

    No, the cartoonists didn’t “have it coming”. Nobody should be murdered for publishing their shit and suggesting that this is to be expected does nothing but paint muslims as irrational beasts who just cannpt control themselves. It’s just two sides of the same coin.

    But this “you don’t have the right not to be offended nanana freeze peach” is the same bullshit we’re constantly getting when discussing feminism.

    No, you are not hallucinating. Someone is actually suggesting that the murder of journalists and cartoonists is a matter of “freeze peach”, just like discussing feminism.

    Still, I wouldn’t deny baboons like Giliell their free speech. “Give them enough rope,” etc. As long as idiots don’t become violent they are free to expose their own idiocy, as far as I’m concerned.

    * And later approvingly cited and highlighted by another Thoughtfree blogger, Dana Hunter. Who self-describes as a science blogger, SF writer, and compleat [sic] geology addict. Also a “compleat” moron, apparently.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20150405235232/http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/2015/01/10/the-charlie-hebdo-massacre-and-free-speech/

  18. @jan steen

    Sorry, I don’t get it, your quote of Giliell et al. clearly states they are strongly against the murder of the Charlie Hebdo journalists, while also stating they don’t like charlie hebdos content. I don’t see why they bring feminism into it, but so what? They’re hardly alone in this opinion. Joe Sacco wrote a short thoughtful piece on the complexity of the historical/social context off this terrible atrocity: http://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2015/jan/09/joe-sacco-on-satire-a-response-to-the-attacks

  19. @Gunboat Diplomat,

    My beef was, as I think I clearly expressed, with the “freeze peach” meme, which is routinely used by SJWs like Giliell to ridicule those who defend the right of free expression. Even journalists getting murdered for exercising that right, even that is apparently not serious enough. It’s merely about “freeze peach”. Religious lunatics kill people over some fucking cartoons — but it is still not bad enough for Giliell. They didn’t having it coming, but … There’s always a “but”. Freeze peach. It is like saying to the victim of an atrocity: “Oh dear, did you hurt your fee-fees? You poor thing.” Don’t you see how trivializing and cynical this “freeze peach” is?

    Most SJWs will go through the formalities of expressing their disapproval of murder by islamists. “They didn’t have it coming. Nobody should be murdered. But …” You can read between the lines that they are not really angry. After all, the victims were racists and misogynists. Sexists too. (Not really, but SJWs believe they were, and that settles it.)

    If you want to make a SJW angry you should make fun of their dogmas. That is far worse than murder.

  20. And anyway, PZ is on record as:

    – supporting free speech
    – not supprting free speech
    – supporting some forms of free speech
    – divorcing himself from free speech (as well as skepticism of course)
    – tentatively supporting free speech if it’s free speech that he defines and that the horde supports
    – not supporting any free speech at all whatsoever, except reasons
    – supporting his definition of what is free speech
    – not supporting free speech except when he supports the topic of the free speech
    – supporting free lunches

  21. By the way, Gunboat Diplomat, I disagree with you assessment of Joe Sacco’s comic as being “thoughtful.” I see it as strawmanning and completely missing the point. With some red herrings thrown in for good measure. It’s crude propaganda that attempts to paint its object as crude propaganda.

  22. Michael Nugent wrote: PZ Myers at the height of his notoriety was like a left-wing parody of Islamists’ desire to use offence to control how other people express themselves. He was perpetually outraged by everything from Matt Taylor wearing shirts and Richard Dawkins reminiscing on his childhood, to Tim Hunt telling jokes and Hemant Mehta allowing people to comment on his blog. Meanwhile, PZ wanted the right to offend other people in whatever way he chose to express himself. It is a relief he no longer has the influence he once had on atheist activism.

    I don’t believe this is true.

    First, PZ Myers never was an approachable media person, who fed quotations to mainstream outlets; wasn’t an omnipresent speaker in the conference circus; and he didn’t pen articles for magazines. He seems as well-connected as he was before, even if some cracks opened up between members of his faction as well. Traffic is not that important, as there are many YouTubers who are ignored despite amazing numbers. He has plenty of connections who would echo PZ Myers views, or come up on their with similar points of view. There’s Phil Plait and Amanda Marcotte who write for Slate, Adam Lee contributes to the Guardian. Kimberly Winston, their court correspondent, writes for Religious News Service and her articles have appeared in mainstream outlets, like the Washington Post. Rebecca Watson can probably land a spot as well. Numerous people in his vicinity are frequent speakers on conferences or sit in more important positions within organisations.

    Secondly, PZ Myers views and that of the faction around him are mainstream and pretty much identical to the US secular movement. Nobody of import ever protested against the Social Justice Warriors Zeitgeist, but always had issues with their critics. Their treatment of detractors have been maximally brutal character destruction, the kind Michael Nugent has tasted himself. Here again, the mainstream secular movement saw no problems, at times added to it. I also saw nothing during the ongoing dispute with PZ Myers and nothing when Atheist Ireland dissociated themselves from him. David Silverman and Kathleen Johnson, president and vice president of Amercian Atheists always took the side with FreethoughtBlogs (and allies) in all matters of the Deep Rifts™. Known figures who are often on the conference track and active in organisations, like Matt Dillahunty or Aron Ra, when they opened their mouth on these matters, always came out in support for the same bunch as well. The only people who went against the trend were few remaning New Atheists with a name (often targets themselves) and a herd of cats.

    Meanwhile Center for Inquiry supported and hosted Amy Roth’s art project that restated the anyway mainstream Foundation Myth of the Social Justice faction, where Richard Dawkins allegedly unleashed the hatred against women. Skepticon gave her a stage last year where she could underscore it again. It’s also the version on Wikipedia or the misnamed RationalWiki. Stephanie Zvan, herself well-connected, is invited to this year’s Skepticon. Yale Humanists supported the no-platforming of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And the Harvard Humanists awarded Anita Sarkeesian, expert in “degenerate art” as the Humanist of the Year. Generally, New Atheism is out and called out, Social Justice is in. And this is a secular-movement-wide trend, and comes with all the nice things: like no-platforming of views within the pluralistic spectrum, “trigger warning” indexing of art to later ban such “dangerous stuff”, character assassination and smearing of opponents, the view that human “races” are important and that one race is inferior, and much more. Generally, they are all responsible for this and cannot plead they have nothing to do with this, should they now have secretly changed their mind. I find it thus entirely apt to describe the US secular movement as a movement with fascist undercurrents.

    Third, “Social Justice Warriors” emerged in many movements of the “left”, and it’s a Zeitgeist that is much larger than our small corner of the internet. The rhetoric we fondly remember from FreethoughtBlogs is also not unique. Take Randi Harper, hailed as an “anti-harassment activist” and programmer of an automatic blocking bot. Google Ideas recently invited her, together with other famous social justice warriors, to make the internet more “safe” (= getting rid of people who disagree). She tweets things like “Set yourself on fire”. You will recognize the familiar moral high ground known from FreethoughtBlogs and the US secular movement in general. And because this is much larger than PZ Myers, I see no reason for relief.

  23. Ah ok Jan, I think I understand your beef now: They weren’t being respectful enough for your liking and you don’t like implied buts after statements against violence. Ok, but I think your post # 19 could be interpreted as suggesting they don’t oppose or even support the violence against charlie hebdo, so I’m glad you cleared up that you’re not actually claiming that.

  24. @aneris
    You’re right that the views of ftb are an aspect of a wider cultural trend, but to label them as having “fascist” undercurrents is making a cheap shot analogy with a very narrow view of what fascism has meant historically. Where’s the desire to break the unions and regiment the workforce? The victimisation of marginalised groups (sorry gamers don’t count)? The ready use of extreme violence?
    Sure they’re bullying and authoritarian and completely unwilling to countenance other viewpoints, but so are traffic wardens.
    Yes both have “fascist undertones” but such an accusation sounds childish.

  25. Gunboat Diplomat write: You’re right that the views of ftb are an aspect of a wider cultural trend, but to label them as having “fascist” undercurrents is making a cheap shot analogy with a very narrow view of what fascism has meant historically.

    That’s a good comment and I appreciate it. I thought about the analogy for quite a while and consulted definitions and material beforehand. Since I’m also German, and know the history lesson inside out, I also know about particulars: bring it up, I bring resources. A study assignment also made me look into Nazi propaganda, so I know a thing or two about it. I was also acutely aware that the analogy is often brought up in a cheap kind of way, and even in this particular context. Already around Elevatorgate, people called certain people “Feminazi” or alluded to totalitarian currents – and not just random commenters {1}.

    We can easily agree that they are not exactly like fascists. For now, most of the SJW phenomenon happens online and the comparisons therefore aren’t primarily about events or actions, but about beliefs and the discourse space. Therefore such things as murdering people or outright genocide are obviously not what provoked the analogy. There are also plenty of differences in the particulars and in the content. Fascists are anti-communist authoritarians with a personal cult attached to it, who also glorified the masculine. This looks like the opposite from social justice warriors, who are commonly seen as left wingers. How on earth is the characterisation, “fascistic undercurrents” warranted? Let’s get a general idea first:

    Italian Fascism opposed liberalism, but rather than seeking a reactionary restoration of the pre-French Revolutionary world, which it considered to have been flawed, it had a forward-looking direction. It was opposed to Marxist socialism because of its typical opposition to nationalism, but was also opposed to the reactionary conservatism developed by Joseph de Maistre. It believed the success of Italian nationalism required respect for tradition and a clear sense of a shared past among the Italian people alongside a commitment to a modernized Italy. – Wikipedia, Italian Fascism {2}

    Some more:

    Roger Griffin describes the [fascist] ideology as having three core components: “(i) the rebirth myth, (ii) populist ultra-nationalism and (iii) the myth of decadence” […] Fascism is “a genuinely revolutionary, trans-class form of anti-liberal, and in the last analysis, anti-conservative nationalism” built on a complex range of theoretical and cultural influences. He distinguishes an inter-war period in which it manifested itself in elite-led but populist “armed party” politics opposing socialism and liberalism and promising radical politics to rescue the nation from decadence. Robert Paxton says that fascism is “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.” – Wikipedia, Fascism {3}

    Replace a feature of the times, nationalism, which was trendy in the 19th and early 20th century with an ideological “safe space” and you are halfway there already. Safe spaces are free of the smut, decadence, and unsafe ideas that rule the outside. They are clean, purified places where you watch your tongue. Social Justice Warrior ideology is also characterized, like fascism, by having features from the left as well as from the right wings. Their content has roots in left politics, their ideological structures are right wing. The concern for safety, and extra-judicial “law and order” (but on the online space) are typically right wing concerns, where it also commonplace to use Appeals to Emotion (fear) to make people give up rights, in an alleged attempt to make it safer for them.

    Greta Christina penned one article recently {4}, where she argues for usage of emotions to reach her ends. Social Justice Warriors do that anyway, so this is just another of Greta Christina’s famous rationalisations. Be sure to read the excellent rebuttal {5}. But this isn’t an isolated idea. Look for “justified anger”, and I recall this was also a major subject when Richard Dawkins was criticized for his “X is worse than Y” tweets. This in itself is of course not fascistic, but historically, the Enlightenment took a turn afterwards towards Romanticism and (German) Idealism, and the latter is one stepping stone towards fascism (via Fichte), but also liked on the left side. Wrap that all up and you come out with the impression that knee-jerk and appeals to emotion are good, and influencing people with rhetoric is a great thing, and how rationality and reason are overrated anyway, and how discussing things is anyway pointless (I would have to dig, but I know e.g. Stephanie Zvan wrote down such things). Crucially, Greta Christina is mistaken when she a priori describes ideas as “terrible”. Social Justice Warriors might be able to downplay their techniques, but in practice everything some SJW doesn’t personally approves of becomes quickly a “terrible idea” and then all abuse is suddenly warranted.

    Fascists in Germany were early on concerned with how to win over the masses and used the best methods they learned from advertisement and political influencing. They early on tried to gain influence that would work “top-down”. PZ Myers faction is organized top-down, comments are moderated and allowed through to give specific impression of the “enemy”, that together with routine smearing and strawmanning create a different reality. This is propaganda at its finest. I would have to again dig, but there are a couple of amazing lines to be found. This alone doesn’t make it fascist either… but we have a lot more in store. You’ll see this are mostly structures, methods and attitudes, and not content.

    How about the content then? Social Justice Warriors are concerned with human groups, and races and have detailed ideas who are superior or inferior and what should be done with them. This is often grimly comical. It’s a kind of sport to take quotes from either Stormfront or Social Justice Warriors, blank out the human group, and make it a quiz:

    Have fun…
    __https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-ZX5V4Qft4
    __https://www.reddit.com/r/StormfrontorSJW/

    The comical give-aways aren’t the views, but specific words. Only social justice warriors say “problematic”, but other than that, very similar ideas. Here’s one from the Harvard Humanist of the Year, Anita Sarkeesian (PZ Myers is a great admirer of hers as well):

    There’s no such thing as [racism] against [jews]. That’s because [racism] is prejudice + power. [Jews] are the dominant [race] with power in society. (orignal: sexism and men). _https://twitter.com/femfreq/status/533445611543363585

    This is the blanket excuse that gives social justice warriors permission to be openly racist and sexist, but it’s explained away because power is a crucial component in their definition. And you see, they are always powerless, even if invited to Google and UN and parroted practically everywhere. Show me credible criticism of Anita Sarkeesian anywhere. It doesn’t exist. Each and every person who did is a misogynist, troll and whatnot. Likewise in the Atheist movement no single credible criticism of Rebecca Watson exists. There is none. Michael Nugent’s one single comment section of dissenters is too much for PZ Myers and his social justice warriors. Richard Dawkins, already isolated in this current climate, is too much for them. He still needs to be brought down. The fascist equivalent is called “Gleichschaltung”. How about racial segregation?

    @AdiosBarbie I’ve actually read many studies that state the opposite, that gender segregated classrooms improve learning (same with race) – Anita Sarkeesian, Harvard Humanist of the Year _https://twitter.com/femfreq/status/119507163545731072

    Just the tip of the iceberg. A cheap shot would be to associate PZ Myers and Co with prominent social justice warriors that used to be supremacist, like Shanley or Sarah Butts. If I would work like PZ Myers and his faction, I would mention that every time. Of course I do mention it this time, but in this context I feel it’s warranted since a lot of SJWs seem to have actual racist views.

    I believe this is, taken together, enough to warrant the belief that this is a fascistic current. And a few more properties are not even factored in. For example the topic at hand. No-platforming and using bully methods to have it their way. The brownshirts, first line of fascists before they were in power, used to flak organizers. If some gathering was still taking place, they showed up and intimidated speakers and audience, made noise or beat up people, until nobody was willing to challenge them. Today you have comedians and even prominent atheists on record stating they feel muzzled and intimidated. Somehow nobody seems to take this seriously. As if they are just saying these things just-so.

    Nowadays social justice warriors pull fire alarms, or make so much noise that the gathering has to be called off. What they censor this way are perfectly democratic views, which makes their actions anti-democratic and anti-pluralist. Such cases aren’t excusable by a lone idiot who makes bomb threats: these are gatherings of social justice warriors who find this perfectly fine.

    We can dig further, and for example mention the routine dehumanization by PZ Myers and his faction. For years, somebody who didn’t fit right in was seen not just as a detractor, but as someone who resigned from humankind, is unhuman, scum. Such people should go and burn or bleed to death, play in the traffic and such things. This whole rhetoric is fundamentally dehumanizing which is why it’s a different league of insulting. There is still more but I have to end somewhere, like the whole trigger warning and control of culture angle. The fascist equivalent was called “Entartete Kunst” and the idea is the same. Here’s a good video on it, and pay attention how Gary Edwards details the methods {6}. Some cultural products are corrupting the people (the decadence motif), who are blank slates, and thus culture and art (and speech) must be controlled from the top down, and by mobilizing the masses with appeals to emotion.

    I belief this is more than enough to warrant the statement that the US secular movement has fascistic undercurrent – an undercurrent is already a muted down version. Actually, I was making an understatement, but as such, it’s easily defensible.

    {1} Sisterhood of the Oppressed, Paula Kirby, 2012
    __https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B02RDDb71N8Xc2EwYmw5T2Z4eDg
    {2}_https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Fascism
    {3} _https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism
    {4} _http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2015/09/23/skepticism-and-emotional-responses-to-terrible-ideas/
    {5} _http://debunkingdenialism.com/2015/09/26/the-value-of-debunking-irrational-bigotry-over-emotional-outbursts
    {6} Gary Edwards on Sarkeesian,
    __https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoiG9T-9nRI

  26. And now this just cames over the feed. Cathy Young is of course being protested because she is a critic of social justice warriors, and not for whatever reason they claim. A calm person says to them “this is a democracy still”. How come that someone has to say such astounding things? They argue, in all seriousness with “self defense”.

    It’s only five minutes: Police Confront Protesters at Cathy Young Lecture in Ottawa
    _https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KpdL8UuntA

  27. @Aneris,

    Despite a lengthy essay, you provide no evidence that FtB victimises marginalised groups. It’s amazing you seem to think “men” constitute such a group. Likewise on breaking the unions and regimenting the workforce, which you seem to virtually ignore despite it being a major aspect of european fascism for many respected historians such as Eric Hobsbawm. Likewise on the ready use of violence. Your implication seems to be its virtual violence and therefore homologous, which is ludicrous.

    As for your apparent claims that fascism is about appealing to emotion rather than reason, holy cow, what political movement – ever – has not done that! Assuming there is an actual difference between the two, which, as a cognitive scientist I’m highly sceptical about.

    Also nice touch on replacing Anita Sarkeesians actual words on “men” with “jews”. Had I not bothered to follow the link I might actually have believed she said that. Which is defamation, bad form, terrible scholarship and would get your essay an F. It’s also the rhetorical equivalent of shooting your big toe off. Brackets don’t let you off this, as it is far from clear what was meant by them.

    Michael Nugent has done a great job on fairly dissecting and characterising PZ Myers at als activities and behaviours. There is absolutely no need to throw the word fascist around so lazily. You remind me of Michael Moorcock, who in his writings in the 70’s used to refer to other writers as “crypto-fascists.” But hey, he was a brilliant eccentric writer and it was the 70’s. What’s your excuse?

  28. When your definition of fascism is about breaking up unions, and what they have done physically after they were in power, then your assignment is obviously unaccomplishable and also at odds with “fascist undercurrent”.

    Your second paragraph falls apart as well. Here you strawman what I have written and present it as if I was believing that appeals to emotions were uniquely fascistic. However, I wrote explicitly that (A) this isn’t sufficient and (B) that there is a larger pattern, and it’s not just a coincidence, which shows up several times later, e.g. Entartete Kunst, propaganda

    In the third paragraph you make the extraordinary claim I was falsely presenting Anita Sarkeesian’s words, when the entire paragraph is about how indistinguishable statements are when groups are blanked out or replaced with some other group. As an exaple of the excerise I gave a tweet which has [bracketed] terms, and I wrote directly what the original was. At no point can a reasonable reader infer Sarkeesian rallied against jews. Curiously you ignore the content, and also the straight tweet afterwards about racial segregation, which tells me that you look for presumably weak points instead of honestly engaging with the content (which kind of disqualifies you from the discussion).

    Then you ignore virtually everything, from the erosion of the presumption of innocence, anti-pluralism, no-platforming, the entire decency/safe space thing, the degenerate art (which harks back to the appeal to emotion) and so forth and call it “lazy”. That’s more enough to make to call it fascistic undercurrent. If you needed a totalitarian führer and breaking up of unions, or genocide, this would be far past the point of an undercurrent.

  29. @ Aneris

    “At no point can a reasonable reader infer Sarkeesian rallied against jews.”

    When you have a sloppily structured section in the middle of a wall of sloppily written text, while throwing around accusations of fascism, that’s precisely what you might expect.

    I’d reply further, but whats the point? Ugh, you win – I’m done.

  30. A Taste of the political climate in the Secular Movement.

    “An audience on the Left now frightens me nearly as much as an audience of Islamists does.” – Sarah Haider {1}

    That’s one interesting statement in line with what I previously asserted. Here are some more I had in mind:

    “I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well” – Richard Dawkins {2}

    By the way, I am one of those who has been afraid to discuss certain issues, cowed into silence for fear of being pilloried. I am ashamed of that, and the sole reason for my hesitation is that I am a bit of a coward: afraid that what happened to Richard could happen to me, and that my epidermis is not thick enough to take it. (Of course, I’m not nearly as prominent as he, so I shouldn’t worry so much.) And that’s all I’ll say about that. – Jerry Coyne {3}

    But Sarah Haider has something more from a previous instance with Maryam Namazie:

    Sarah Haider said {1}: Maryam Namazie, who is an ex-Muslim activist, was dis-invited to speak at Trinity, Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis. The British Students Union now allies itself broadly with Islamist organizations such as CAGE.

    CAGE – that’s the organisation criticized for its proximity to sharia law, al-Quaida and the refusal to condemn stonings and such practices. The organisation that even downplayed “Jihadi John”. Doesn’t this goes towards political Islam, at times called “Islamofascism”? Probably all a coincidence that offence culture of Social Justice Warriors goes hand in hand with Islamofascist positions and organisations. And in our movement and community: why else the visceral, extreme reaction to Richard Dawkins “Dear Muslima” comment, that hasn’t died down years later.

    Let’s add another quotation, from this instance, and Maryam Namazie herself:

    Maryam Namazie wrote: {4} It is the “anti-colonialist” perspective which always unsurprisingly coincides with that of the ruling classes in the so-called “Islamic world” or “Muslim communities” – an understanding that is Eurocentric, patronising and racist.
    This type of politics denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of women’s rights, freedoms and equality under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the religious-Right. In this type of politics, the oppressor is victim, the oppressed are perpetrators of “hatred”, and any criticism is racist.

    Also, Namazie scare-quotes “left” and “progressive” throughout her article. I’m not claiming she agrees that this “left” (or the US secular movement) has fascistic undercurrents, but presumably her scare-quotes mean something.

    And besides, Ophelia Benson’s signature under the “freedom of speech and academic freedom” {4} is a first good step, but not enough. She, and the overall US secular movement must do much more to restore their name and reputation. There is simply no reason to believe they have any of the values they claim they have, since they have done nothing to defend them. It’s easy to call out and rally against people you don’t like anyway, or unsubscribe from people you anyway don’t watch, or dissociate from people you anyway don’t plan to interact with anymore, or disagree with people who are anyway no longer your friends, or join another trend late in the game when it’s easy to do. That’s not enough.

    ____
    1_Video and transcript_http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/31/1389271/-Sarah-Haider-Islam-and-the-Necessity-of-Liberal-Critique
    2_http://www.religionnews.com/2014/11/18/richard-dawkins-stands-remarks-sexism-pedophilia-syndrome/
    3_https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/dawkins-decries-taboos-in-discussions-about-society/
    4_http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/09/25/warwick-university-student-union-the-islamists-incite-hatred-not-us/
    5_http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/09/27/in-support-of-academic-freedom-on-warwick-university-student-unions-decision-to-bar-maryam-namazie-from-speaking/

  31. Seriously, Michael. Don’t pretend that all speech and all speakers are equal in some bewildering abstract way. PZ encourages students to protest talks by people they don’t like, including talks by him and people he admires and he gets to protest talks by people he doesn’t like: https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/09/27/maryam-also-gives-a-very-good-talk/

    Free speech has nothing to do with giving people platforms to say anything they like, it’s much more about the freedom of people to protest anything they like. There’s no contradiction in criticising universities for allowing some speakers and disallowing others. Because, you know, that’s what freedom of speech actually is.

    By the same token, Michael, you can allow people with a history of hateful, dishonest invective to comment on your site, if you like and other people get to criticise you for such a hypocritical stance.

  32. Latest wrote: ”Don’t pretend that all speech and all speakers are equal in some bewildering abstract way….

    “Free speech has nothing to do with giving people platforms to say anything they like….”

    Lastot, free speech has everything to do with giving speech of all perspectives equal treatment and equal access. You only find this “bewildering” because you embrace the fascism of the radical Left, which: 1) declares certain topics (e.g., abortion rights) off-limits for debate; 2) defines disagreement as ‘harassment’, ‘hate’, or ‘—phobia’, and; 3) seeks to stifle any speech which may cause offense to anyone whomsoever.

    Thus we find the strangest of bed-fellowships between secular, feminist SJWs and devout, misogynist moslems, the latter the most easily-offended & short-tempered religious group since the First Century sicarii.

    With a blogger from his own (dwindling) stable being silenced, PZ Myers had a golden opportunity to defend free speech as a principle. Instead, by grunting ‘Maryam good; Condi bad’, he was yet again just Mani being Mani.

  33. Latsot wrote: Don’t pretend that all speech and all speakers are equal in some bewildering abstract way.

    How do you decide, often before someone has spoken, that their speech will be different in some important way from some other speech? In what way are speeches not equal? I know the answer: you don’t want to ban speech, but people, and it’s not the speech that is policed, but people who have found to have attitudes or beliefs that likely run against what you like: fascist undercurrents. The terminology also says much more than I have space, i.e. “risk”, “inflammatory”, “spread hatred”. Take a look at the conceptual metaphors and what kind of belief system they give away.

    Latsot wrote:Free speech has nothing to do with giving people platforms to say anything they like, it’s much more about the freedom of people to protest anything they like. There’s no contradiction in criticising universities for allowing some speakers and disallowing others. Because, you know, that’s what freedom of speech actually is.

    Freedom of speech is usually a synecdoche for the more general freedom of expression, and indeed “protesting” is one such expression, which makes your suggestion a “not even false dilemma”. But protesting cannot somehow trump other expressions, namely those that are being protested. However, “expression” is clunky, so let’s go with “speech” again.

    We must break down speech into a couple of functions, factors or aspects that are common to virtually all communication models. Let’s say someone utters: “It’s cold”. Relevant for us now are three of these elements:

    A) The information as a statement on the world: in our case that it is cold (“referential function”), or more precisely that they apparently believe this

    B) Something about the speaker: in our case, that she feels it’s cold, and more hidden, that she feels it important to make that known (e.g. “expressive function”)

    C) And the “and now what?” aspect, or why does she say this? Which is known as the conative or appelative function. In this case, she might want that you close the window, that you take her in her arm already, that she’s annoyed of the situation (running around in the cold) and wants to get over with it, and so forth.

    When people protest, it’s interesting to observe what they are doing. Are social justice warriors concerned with making a statement on the world (A), are they concerned with saying something about themselves (B), namely that they care about some things, or is it (C) that they want to have something done about it?
    In my almost three year observation of PZ Myers and the overall Social Justice Warrior movement I see that element (A) is mostly inaccurate and distorted, with wonky statistics, loopy interpretations of what other people stated, or heavily confirmation biased. The element (B) seems the primary concern for generation Facebook and Selfie. They want to convey what good people they are. I argue that sites like Upworthy made it worse, because it’s too easy to convey the “right values” and it has become what is called “cheap signalling”. Therefore people who have this social justice warrior disposition must “do more” to outdo each other. And now, take a look at element (C) somehow “doing something about it”, the call to action strangely coincidences with (B), and is actually where the whole social justice warrior expressions reside: making a histrionic theatre, wildly shouting and making a social media spectacle to gather attention to the social justice warrior as he is trampling on another person identified as an agent of the oppressive forces.

    The conantive function, the appeal is hardly “let’s help improve things in this specific way” or something the like. It’s drowned out by the expressive or emotive function (here again, read Greta Christina, if you still don’t see it).
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2015/09/23/skepticism-and-emotional-responses-to-terrible-ideas/

    Now crucially, and to your problem: protesting in its referential, expressive function is perfectly fine, but not when the appeal (i.e. from the appelative function) is that someone else cannot say their thing.

    You cannot take away rights you yourself enjoy and your freedoms end where those of someone else begin. This ought to be basic 101. Importantly, and I bold it other people have a right to hear opinions. Since PZ Myers is sometimes wondering what’s authoritarian about his and his factions’ mindset: It’s the attitude that some group can make decisions on behalf of others, and know what is “best” for everyone else.

    I’m sure Michael Nugent (or anyone here) has nothing against “making known that one doesn’t like some other speech” aspect of protesting (as I’ve explained), but the criticism is about infringing on the rights of others to speak and to hear. And et voilà: “no-platforming” is by definition exactly that aspect, the appelative function of speech (or actions) that are about preventing other people from speaking, and thirds from listening.

    Finally, like in most other disputes, PZ Myers and his friends might do better when they wouldn’t strawman and distort what other people are saying. This isn’t about “free speech absolutism”. Nobody argues that churches need to permit airtime to say blasphemous things, or that the vegetarian forum needs to tolerate comments that praise pork. The criticism has been about the capricious moderation and deletion of comments the blogger simply doesn’t like for ideological reasons and where they and their commentariat are apparently incapable of defending in a rational way, and by extension, banning people from public speaking who have views that are within the pluralistic spectrum.

  34. Latsot, did I somehow misquote you? You seem to very clearly advocate some sort of litmus test for deciding which viewpoints should be allowed or denied free expression.

    Kindly share these arbitrary criteria of yours. (I ask this knowing that I am one of those who you would silence, were you able.)

  35. Ahh… Latsot. Infamous doublespeaker, with a hint of Orwellian Thought Police mixed in for good measure.

    Latsot and the ultra left-wing, associate the messenger with the message.
    As was the case when a certain faction of the online atheist community pointed out the plagiarism on FtB, the response was brushed aside — why? Simply due to the messenger and not the message.

    So when Latsot says, “By the same token, Michael, you can allow people with a history of hateful, dishonest invective to comment on your site, if you like and other people get to criticise you for such a hypocritical stance”, I find my eyes have rolled so far back in my eye sockets, I can see my brain. Doubleplusgood Latsot, especially when PZ Myers accuses someone of being a rapist, serial rapist, rape enabler, providing succor for rapists, fuckhead, fuckwit, internet offal, fuckbrained assholes…. did I miss any yet? Not quite sure where your “criticisms” are for PZ and why you suddenly feel safe enough to post at the evil den of Michael Nugent’s blog where MN actually allows rebuttals to comments? Oh and look, you’ve not been banned simply because of who your associates are! It’s a miracle!

  36. “Free speech” as a blanket rule is generally quite harmful.
    There is an old saying which is still relevant today : “you can’t light a fire in a theatre”.
    Now, the free-speech-o-philes don’t see anything wrong with lighting fires in theatres and if you tell them why it’s bad (usually with the help of small words and pictures) they reply like clockwork with “Muh freeze peach! Muh free expreshun!”
    No. Your right to free speech ends where my face begins. You don’t get to say what you want just because it feels good to you and you certainly don’t get to burn down a theatre just because you live in a free country.
    *drops mic*

  37. @Latsot. I’m almost speechless.

    There’s no contradiction in criticising universities for allowing some speakers and disallowing others. Because, you know, that’s what freedom of speech actually is.

    Anybody can criticise anything that they want, however what we are talking about here is not criticism of ideas expressed by others but attempts to prevent those ideas from being heard. That is not illegal in any way, but it is contrary to the spirit of free speech. That may be fine in your private club, but not so admirable in public life or in academia where the free exchange of ideas is presumed to thrive.

    <blockquote.Seriously, Michael. Don’t pretend that all speech and all speakers are equal in some bewildering abstract way. .

    That is exactly the core principle of free speech and you clearly don’t seem to understand that. The idea behind it is that NOBODY gets to decide what is acceptable for other people to hear, barring legally proscribed speech.

  38. Sadly, the secular movement does not universially accept the same values as it becomes apparent in these sort of discussions. I believe Michael and others have a unwarranted self-image that this was all sorted out. Here are two resources that are more fundamental.

    Why free speech is fundamental, Steven Pinker, January 27, 2015
    https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/01/26/why-free-speech-fundamental/aaAWVYFscrhFCC4ye9FVjN/story.html

    and an oft cited speech: Chris Hitchens – On Free Speech
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyoOfRog1EM

  39. @Thomas Srniczek #40

    No, you have the saying wrong. It’s *yelling* “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Not lighting a fire.

    Either way, hard to tell if you’re a poe or not. Your comment goes right for the “muh feels” angle. Have you ever criticized a bigot or a racist for their opinions about minorities or people? Yes? OH NO! You’ve just hurt their feelings and have over-exercised your right to free speech as it has invaded their personal space. Sorry Thomas, you should be placed in to some sort of gulag for re-education.

    *picks up the mic and places it back in the stand so others can kindly use it too*

  40. Poor latsot, doesn’t know the difference between protesting and silencing. Or between giving people a platform and kicking people off a platform. One would think that it is not hard to understand.

    By the same token, Michael, you can allow people with a history of hateful, dishonest invective to comment on your site, if you like and other people get to criticise you for such a hypocritical stance.

    I am sure Michael would allow PZ Myers and others with a similar history of hateful, dishonest invective to comment here. I don’t see how that would make Michael a hypocrite. Please explain.

  41. Funny to see Latsot pop up, obviously not content with the humiliation he and his Dear Leader PZ Myers has suffered, not to mention his painful breakup with best bud Oolon.

    The most abusive, hateful, and dishonest commentators in the atheist movement have all had free reign at Pharyngula. It is PZ Myers and company that got into bed with the pro-harassers. We called them out, exposed them, humiliated them, sent them back to the creepy woodwork. We will continue to do this.

    What is the betting Latsot sides with the Islamists over free speech proponents?

  42. “Free speech has nothing to do with giving people platforms to say anything they like”

    So by banning your comment Nugent would be promoting free speech. And the Nazis by not allowing Jews to be interviewed on radio or in newspapers or magazines during the 30’s, that is by no-platforming them, they were promoting free speech.

    Gotcha.

  43. Latsot, you are indeed a work of art. You almost give Jason Thibeault (LousyCanuck) a run for his money for his claim that moderation, editing, deleting, and banning equal free speech, whereas an open BBS (like the Pit) without moderation, editing, deleting, and banning equals censorship.

    Jason still holds the Orwellian award for best use of doublethink, but you’re getting close.

  44. @GunboatDiplomat #29

    “Likewise on breaking the unions and regimenting the workforce, which you seem to virtually ignore despite it being a major aspect of european fascism for many respected historians such as Eric Hobsbawm.”

    I agree with you that the word “fascist” is probably inappropriate when applied to the SJWs.

    A better definition for them is “culturally authoritarian”. SJWs target some aspects of culture which are cornerstones of traditional liberal culture, like the importance of freedom of speech not only as a defense from governmental influence but also as a representation of ideas we might disagree with, or the idea that trials and punishment are best reserved to justice system.

    SJWs wish to substitute acceptance of different ideas with a dogmatic dismissal of any criticism or not “morally acceptable” idea, and to enable trial by media and “naming and shaming” on the Internet.

    Those are both authoritarian ideas. They might not be fascistic, but they still go against some cardinal principles of a liberal-democratic society.

    I think that no idea should be criminalized, no matter how “inflammatory”. People aren’t paper figures which catch fire. If a comment or an idea causes you to react violently, that’s YOUR problem, YOUR unethical decision, and if you can’t control yourself you should probably get some anger management therapy.

    Holocaust deniers and their supporter should be invited, and protests should be allowed as long as they’re both being peaceful. Some strict rules should be observed (no physical contact, keeping some distance between the different groups, no weapons or blunt instruments allowed, etc.) and stiff punishment should be given to those who violate them.

    I also think that John Sacco’s comic misses the point, since Charlie Hebdo wasn’t a KKK propaganda magazine. It used some images which have racist connotations to satire racism itself. The fact that some people (mostly Americans) didn’t understand the layers of satire and call Charlie Hebdo a “racist, sexist publication” is pretty disheartening.

    I also think that it’s a huge mistake to think that the terrorists who killed the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were motivated by anything but religious dogmatism and fanaticism.

    You don’t see a lot of black people shooting KKK members or Jews trying to blow up David Irving. Or even Christians who tried to kill Charlie Hebdo journalists , for that matter.

    The lack of secularism in Islam is a huge problem, and to deny it and attribute Islam religious fanaticism to “Western racism” is a cop out.

    Cuddling up to dogmatic Islamicists like CJ Werleman does isn’t a step in the right direction, IMHO. I prefer to support people like the mayor of Rotterdam (a practicing Muslim) who has said that if you don’t like Western secularism and liberal-democratic society you should probably leave to an authoritarian Muslim theocracy of your choice, like the Islamic State or Saudi Arabia.

    Speaking of Saudi Arabia, the fact that the UN allowed them to head a committee on human rights is also pretty disheartening (although not very unexpected).

  45. Is Gunboat Diplomat seriously arguing that SJWs can’t be fascist, because they’re not anti-syndicalist? Why not because they don’t speak Italian?

    I subscribe to Umberto Eco’s concept of ‘fascism’ as denoting “fuzzy totalitarianism”, “an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist.”

    Of Eco’s 14 elements of “Ur-Fascism”, I detect the following in SJWs:
    * Rejection of modernism / irrationalism (e.g., PZ Myers’ divorce from skepticism; declaring binary sex ‘just a social construct’)

    * Action for action’s sake (#hashtagactivism; rage-blogging)

    * Disagreement is treason (the element most germane to this discussion)

    * Appeal to a frustrated class

    * Obsession with a plot (e.g., The Patriarchy, The Koch Brothers, ‘Evil Slymepitters’)

    * Inability to objectively evaluate the strength of the enemy

    * Pacifism as trafficking with the enemy / perpetual warfare [warfare here as Kulturkampf] (‘the standard you walk by is the standard you accept’; ‘Michael Nugent harbors rapists’; Gelato Man)

    * Selective populism / the monolithic Common Will of the People

    * Newspeak / neologisms that stifle critical reasoning (e.g., “intersectionalities”; “punching up/down”; “racism/sexism = prejudice + power”; “mansplaining”)

    In lieu of Eco’s ‘fear of difference / racism’, one might well substitute the SJW fetish for ‘diversity’, which in reality features demonization of ‘cis-het-old-white-men’.

    I stand by my characterization of SJWs as fascist.

    http://www.pegc.us/archive/Articles/eco_ur-fascism.pdf

  46. Obviously not worth trying to engage with Latsot. This is the man who, having once been banned from Twitter for harassment, still merrily writes on his Twitter stream,

    ‘Mick Nugent really fucking annoys me. He can’t help being dishonest …’

    and then is so annoyed by MN that he comes here to spill more bile.

  47. Latsot said “Don’t worry, Mr Jones, nobody here is trying to engage with me.”
    Don’t you have carers to do that job?

  48. Latsot, with the integrity of warm jello and the honesty of Rand Paul dipped in the oozing sincerity of Uriah Heep, you are about as legitimately “engageable” as a sex-lube deluged octopus.

    Seriously, countless people over the years have tried in vain to engage with you, but you shift your goalpoasts, strawman like a pro, Gish-gallop to beat the band, and adopt and engage in just about any other form of evasive and mendacious behaviour you can find.

    You can neither be engaged with, nor pinned down, because you do not hold any consistent points of view whatsoever: you’re a vacuum; a shifting wind; an ethereal invention of the SJW zeitgeist.

  49. latsot wrote: “Don’t worry, Mr Jones, nobody here is trying to engage with me.”

    Everybody here must have been engaging another latsot then. And there I thought it was bad enough to have even one of those disingenuous SJWs spouting their drivel here. Now it appears there are two of them. Two with the same rather unusual ‘nym. What are the odds? It’s confusing, to say the least.

  50. Richard Sanderson said: “What is the betting Latsot sides with the Islamists over free speech proponents?”

    Michael, isn’t that a smear? No? No……? Taptaptap is this thing turned on? No?

  51. So, Latsot, ol’ chum, do you side with the Islamists over free speech proponents?

    Inquiring minds want to know. And you could clear it all up in one wee word, too!

  52. As a general matter, I agree that the whiny rejection of invited speakers is a problem, and basically I’m against ‘political correctness’.

    But Rice’s case is not that. She is a war criminal who deserves either life in prison, or execution. I would be very upset to have such a mass murderer speaking at my university.

    Nothing to do with exchange of ideas, everything to so with punishing criminality. It’s not that I’m opposed to her right to speak her ideas; it’s that I’m opposed to the fact that she walks free among decent people.

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