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E-Pluribus | June 7, 2022
Ilya Shapiro speaks out, high school students' attitudes regarding free speech, and why "hate speech" restrictions can make matters worse.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Ilya Shapiro: Why I Quit Georgetown
After being told last Thursday that he was cleared to return from his involuntary administrative leave from Georgetown University Law Center, Ilya Shapiro quit Monday after realizing what the conditions of his return would be. Shapiro writes in the Wall Street Journal that all things considered, remaining at Georgetown would have been a bad IDEAA.
IDEAA [Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action] speciously found that my tweet criticizing President Biden for limiting his Supreme Court pool by race and sex required “appropriate corrective measures” to address my “objectively offensive comments and to prevent the recurrence of offensive conduct based on race, gender, and sex.” Mr. Treanor reiterated these concerns in a June 2 statement, further noting the “harmful” nature of my tweets.
But IDEAA makes clear there is nothing objective about its standard: “The University’s anti-harassment policy does not require that a respondent intend to denigrate,” the report says. “Instead, the Policy requires consideration of the ‘purpose or effect’ of a respondent’s conduct.” That people were offended, or claim to have been, is enough for me to have broken the rules.
IDEAA asserts that if I “were to make another, similar or more serious remark as a Georgetown employee, a hostile environment based on race, gender, and sex likely would be created.” All sorts of comments that someone could find offensive would subject me to disciplinary action.
Read the whole thing.
Samuel Abrams: High School Students Value Free Speech but Feel Uncomfortable Speaking Up
While high schoolers do not enjoy the same level of free speech that their elders do, the concept is nonetheless important for them to understand. Samuel Abrams reports at RealClear Education that, according to a Knight Foundation report, students today comprehend why free speech is important, but they themselves are reluctant to exercise it in class discussions or outside class for “fear of being shunned or canceled.”
[T]he overwhelming majority of today’s high school students understand that a healthy democracy requires certain crucial conditions. Ninety-two percent of students, for example, believe that it is important to protect the ability of different groups in society to be heard. Another 91 percent hold that it is important to create a robust exchange of ideas and views, and 93 percent say that it is important to have an inclusive society welcoming to diverse groups. This is all encouraging news.
But the data also show that high school students are censoring themselves in the classroom. Only 19 percent of students said that they were very comfortable voicing disagreement with ideas expressed by the instructor or by other students. Another 36 percent were somewhat comfortable, meaning that just over half (55 percent) of students were comfortable disagreeing with their teachers and fellow students.
These findings resemble those related to the state of free speech on college campuses. In the spring of 2021, FIRE and College Pulse surveyed over 37,000 college and university students about their levels of comfort in disagreeing with professors. Just 40 percent of college students surveyed reported that they would be very or somewhat comfortable publicly disagreeing with a professor about a controversial topic; only 51 percent stated that they would be very or somewhat comfortable expressing their views on a controversial political topic during a class discussion.
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Sadly, the findings from Knight also mirror earlier survey data that I collected with Next Gen Politics showing that a significant number of high school students are not comfortable sharing their thoughts in class. Sixty percent of students surveyed said that they have felt they could not express their opinions on a subject because of how students, teachers, or the administration would respond – a proportion identical to that of college students who report self-censoring on campuses. Further analysis of the Next Gen data showed that significant numbers of students have been self-censoring both inside and outside the classroom. High school students regularly report that they crave dissent in dialogue, yet they are uncomfortable expressing it themselves for fear of being shunned or canceled.
Read it all.
Jacob Mchangama: Banning Hate Speech Won’t End Extremist Violence
“Hate speech” laws have proliferated in recent years, but Jacob Mchangama at Persuasion says such legislation is misguided and may even give a false sense of security due to the apparent negative correlation such laws have with extremist violence. Attempts to suppress even hateful rhetoric can simply drive its adherents underground and drive a backlash against governments engaged in suppression of speech.
It is undoubtedly true that words and ideas can cause harm by inspiring or inciting people to commit violent acts. Susan Benesch, an expert on the interaction between words and violence, has coined the term “dangerous speech” to describe speech that might “increase the risk that its audience will condone or commit violence against members of another group.” Dangerous speech can contribute to mass atrocities like the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which radio played a vital role.
Social media can sometimes serve as a vector for dangerous speech, from fueling jihadist and white supremacist terrorism to large-scale campaigns of ethnic cleansing. But while online expression may sometimes lead to real-life harm, placing restrictions on free speech is not necessarily an effective remedy. Nor is it certain that any benefits of repression outweigh its negative and unintended consequences.
On the contrary, studies suggest that freedom of expression is associated with less rather than more violent extremism, terrorism, and social conflict in democracies. A 2017 study concluded that in Western Europe, violent far-right extremism was accelerated by “extensive public repression of radical right actors and opinions.” Other research has come to similar conclusions, suggesting that free speech is more likely to serve as a safety valve than a lightning rod for extremist violence and that people are more likely to view violence as justified when governments repress free expression.
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If repressive policies were unable to stop violent right-wing extremism, it is unlikely that further speech restrictions will succeed. Moreover, current hate speech laws have already caused collateral damage to political speech and protests in Europe. Further restrictions risk significantly suffocating pluralism and open debate—the flow of vital oxygen without which democracies cannot thrive.
Read it all here.
Via Heterodox Academy, Holden Thorp of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on his appearance at a Heterodox Academy panel next week. While referring to Heterodox Academy’s missions as their “schtick” might not be a good sign, at least Thorp is going, and it also demonstrates Heterodox Academy’s willingness to be challenged:
A thread from author-journalist and self-described “gender nuance junkie” Lisa Selin Davis on why she is speaking publicly on gender issues:
And finally, some harsh words for the ACLU from Matt Yglesias along with support for the rechristened Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE):