An open letter to President Brodhead

Jan 21, 2016

Photo credit: Lance King / Getty Images

By Duke Open Campus Coalition

With this letter, we—a group of Duke University’s student leaders—come together in forming the Duke Open Campus Coalition. We seek to invigorate the Duke community’s commitment to supporting an open intellectual climate on campus. During our time here at Duke, we have encountered a community that values identity politics over reasoned discussion and debate when confronting real—and at times misperceived—instances of injustice. Actions taken that emphasize identity politics create a climate of fear on campus whereby people who publicly dissent from the policies being proposed are afraid of being personally attacked and slandered. In this climate, fewer students feel able to speak their mind, and we are concerned that this undermines Duke’s integrity as an institution of open exchange and learning. Many of the challenges we face are not unique to Duke, and we are inspired by the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, which blazed a path for students around the nation committed to preserving academic freedom at our universities.

While we recognize that this climate of fear is part of a broader trend across the country at American universities, we also note that it has a particular character on Duke’s campus. Today, some students consider it morally acceptable to remove copies of The Chronicle from campus when they disagree with its content. Select members of Duke Student Government’s Executive Board have taken to intimidating first-year student government representatives to affirm “politically correct” views regardless of whether they agree with them. The student body has also disrespected you, President Brodhead. Those who disagree with the methods protesters use or the policies they push are afraid to publicly announce their position for fear of being ostracized. We believe that our concerns resonate with a large portion of Duke’s student body and faculty. With grave concern about the tactics of some protestors and the substantive demands they are making, we call for an open and inclusive campus—a campus where all members of the Duke community can communicate openly as Blue Devils without fear that they will be censored if their views differ from, or even offend, other people.


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103 comments on “An open letter to President Brodhead

  • A wonderful gothic tower, dreaming of Oxford I suppose. I read the comments at the end of the article; are American students always so puerile, illiterate and aggressive? Don’t they ever argue anything out properly?



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  • are American students always so puerile, illiterate and aggressive?

    Eejiy, your question is offensive and absurd.
    Vicki, nice to see you. Your short answer is wrong and your long one was either a joke or dishonest – or both.
    However, I did’t know thing were that bad at Duke (and I assume at other universities). Most disturbing.
    Totalitarianism of the Left.



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  • Dan,
    It’s probably worse than you think on campus re political correctness. This action taken by the Duke students is encouraging. At least they have the gumption to push back against the correctness warriors.

    But check out this link that brings you to a post by Jerry Coyne some time back. It’s about a book that was chosen for Duke U. students to read and the students flipped out about the inappropriateness of the content. I got this book from the library and was baffled as to why it was inappropriate. I found it to be bland and didn’t even finish it due to boredom. In this case it was the Christian students who wanted to censure it because of content. They can’t have their feelings hurt.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/more-fragile-student-feelings-christian-students-refuse-to-read-dukes-summer-assignment-novel-because-horrors-it-deals-with-lesbians-and-other-touchy-subjects/



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  • From Dan: Eejiy, your question is offensive and absurd.

    Firstly, questions can’t be offensive or absurd, only answers or statements. Secondly, I have never been a good speller or typist, so I always type my comments on Word and transfer them to the website. I’d advise you, Dan, to do the same…



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  • Questions can’t be offensive or absurd

    That remark is also absurd. Question: did the holocaust happen?
    I didn’t like your ridiculous question about American students.
    Sorry. I get flack here too. Deal with it.
    I don thing my spellinh is the isue.
    Peace,
    D



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  • I will read what you just provided the link to. But not now. Too depressing.
    I am reading Before Adam and suggest you do the same, young lady.
    Left you a description on some other thread. I think you saw it.
    (Still can’t do the smiley face!)



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  • 🙂

    Colon mark followed with end parenthesis mark – no space between symbols.

    If it doesn’t work, try looking up lists of emoticons compatible with your computer (e.g. Windows 8).



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  • Hi there!

    I tried, Bonnie. Laurie gave me some instructions and I tried repeatedly. I ended up triggering the no-spam filter! I must be an idiot (savant).

    I wrote something to you on the “In God WeTrust” thread. There’s a great parodic essay by H. Miller about money that I think you’d like. It’s funny as hell. It’s a certain brand of humor, however, that not everyone can appreciate.

    Take care. I hope you’re well.



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  • Wonderful letter. Deeply unsettling that “hate speech”is defined as that which offends.
    Totalitarianism can come from the left as well as the right. That was one of Mailer’s warnings.
    (Norman Mailer, 1923-2007, American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, film-maker, and political activist. )
    Political correctness is not just something that conservatives have appropriated and use to their own advantage; it is a real problem and a growing one.

    “Political correctness is a toxic to American freedom. Over the last 20 years, it has certainly leeched out much of the initiative and integrity of the Democratic Party. I would go so far as to say that political correctness is totalitarian. It violates the old American liberty that you can make up your own mind, and then, even better, proceed to change it. That freedom is worth more to a good many of us than being told what we can say and not say. So, the Republicans, despite their endless catalog of evasions and hypocrisies, have profited from the ideological dead weight that liberals have taken on.” -Mailer

    From Proust Questionnaire:

    What is the quality you most like in a woman?

    Mailer: Beauty, mystery, wit, and the inner superiority to be above political correctness.



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  • Hi Neodarwinian,

    Duke University has been given the FIRE speech code rating Yellow, i.e. an institution with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.

    http://www.thefire.org

    I don’t understand the student’s reluctance to receive diversity / race sensitivity training. In what way does this curtail their free speech?

    Peace.



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  • Here’s your answer. From the letter itself. Btw, your article was not very refreshing or informative on the subject of students’ opposition to censorship. It’s just a book review by someone who I gather is in favor of “the right not to be offended.” This author is defending the enemy. I merely glanced at it, but that was my impression.

    We also oppose demands to enforce “mandatory learning on institutional racism and anti-oppression practices for both students and faculty,” and the administration’s recent announcements suggesting that Implicit Bias Training and a required diversity course may soon be institutionalized. We are concerned that this curriculum requirement, even if adjoined to a new Writing 101 course, will amount to mandatory reeducation classes. It asks faculty members to not only impose orthodox thinking, but also orthodox feelings, from a position of power. After all, these professors would be grading students’ responses on issues where reasonable and conscientious members of the Duke community, including faculty members, often disagree. On a campus where many already fear voicing a dissenting opinion, institutionalizing re-education or sensitivity classes will fail to provide space for dissenting voices, institutionalize an echo chamber and foster groupthink.



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  • Hi Dan,

    I linked to an interview. The Interviewee has written a book. You have to read it, it makes no sense absorbing it by osmosis.

    I’m still confused about Duke.

    We … oppose [other student’s of ethnic minorities] demands to enforce “mandatory learning on institutional racism and anti-oppression practices for both students and faculty,”

    If you were to say to me that the tactics of ethnic minority students are scraping the bottoms of the barrels of social acceptability and patience I would agree.

    Nevertheless, my response to the Letter Writers, regarding diversity training is: Suck it up.

    Does a university demand that students follow a plan of study. Yes.

    Does this curtail their free speech. No.

    Are the student’s saying that their political freedom is curtailed by having to listen to an opposing view? It certainly seems that way.. If true, then the Letter Writers are guilty of standing against free speech.

    Indeed the Letter Writers are committing their own groupthink. ‘We wish to be excused from diversity training because we’re offended by the idea that our racist views might be challenged?’. Give me a break.

    If universities allow that kind of stupidity where will it end? Goodness me, the next thing we know religious students of medicine will be saying that the lecture on evolution challenges their institutionalised idiocy and they therefore demand to be given a free pass.

    We are concerned that this curriculum requirement … will amount to mandatory re-education classes.

    Well… Duh!

    Wait re-education? These people were originally educated in racism … ?

    That doesn’t mean you can’t go into the class, disagree with its premises and/or conclusions and come out the same insensitive scumbag that you were when you went in.

    It asks faculty members to not only impose orthodox thinking …

    The Letter Writers reveal:
    a) They don’t know what diversity training is
    b) They don’t realize that they’re using an, outdated, orthodoxy and
    c) They could really use some diversity training to get them used to using open minds …

    … professors would be grading students’ responses [to diversity training] on issues where reasonable and conscientious members of the Duke community, including faculty members, often disagree.

    That is to pre-judge the nature of the diversity training. Admittedly, the minority ethnic student body is not helping their own cause here – protesting that institutionalised racism is supported by cultural references to racists from history (as happened at Princeton) is way over-simplifying a complex subject. But they then add in the need for diversity training in the same breath.

    I’m saddened that university undergraduates cannot see past that error, and address diversity training as a separate issue.

    On [Duke] campus … many already fear voicing a dissenting opinion, …

    This, I accept, is a real issue, and Duke’s FIRE RATING highlights it.

    … re-education or sensitivity classes will fail to provide space for dissenting voices, institutionalize an echo chamber and foster groupthink.

    I don’t see the connection. Diversity training might help to take the heat out of some of the debate, but it certainly wouldn’t stop me from arguing for, say, the retention of Wilson references at Princton.

    The Letter Writers are using exactly the same tactics as the so-called ‘religious freedom’ types: ‘We’re offended that our bigotry is labelled bigotry – it’s free speech, or maybe academic freedom.’ No it f****ing isn’t!

    Peace.



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  • Maybe I read your article wrong, Stephen. So much ambiguity in journalism even I get confused.

    The Letter Writers are using exactly the same tactics as the so-called ‘religious freedom’ types: We’re offended that our bigotry is labelled bigotry – it’s free speech, or maybe academic freedom. No it f****ing isn’t!

    I don’t agree with your interpretation. Sorry. I think this (above) is distorted, and misses the point, frankly. I agreed with most of what the letter said.



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  • Question: did the holocaust happen?

    That question would be asked by someone who had encountered revisionist history, and with little grasp of the subject asked someone for clarification. It is also possible to imagine a debate in the media or at a university campus on the question, the objective of which would be to flush out the spurious arguments of the holocaust deniers. The question seeks truth.

    In a question relating to literacy and academic attainment, bitchy remarks about spelling and grammar are in order.

    I corrected two spelling mistakes in this posting, and a few typos.



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  • Hi Dan,

    [joke] Hmm, comparing me to a journalist – should I be flattered or insulted? [/joke]

    I agree that most of the letter makes some kind of sense.

    I also agree that restrictions on free speech are an issue at Duke, among many other universities.

    I will even go as far as to say that I support the Letter Writers in their opposition to the tactics being employed at some universities by ethnic minorities (e.g. pressurizing the University President by staging a sit-in in his office), and ethnic minority interpretations of institutionalized racism (a building named after a University President, and United States President. and a racist, institutionalizes racism in the current era … for pity’s sake) and their demands for equality in numbers between the ethnic make-up of staff and students (a University trades on its academic reputation and their hand is often forced. Still, it would be better to also show willing and at least express that as a policy goal to support ethnic minority aspirations).

    What I’m saying is that the Letter Writers go too far when they equate diversity training with a further restriction on free speech, or academic freedom.

    The two sides (Letter Writers versus Ethnic Groups) may have exchanged detailed plans on what is meant by diversity training. I didn’t see any it looked like they were arguing over a headline.

    Be that as it may, there is nothing wrong with a university putting students through an hour of: We’ll all have to come to a conclusion on any points we discuss, and that means having a civil conversation. They’re even entitled to put the students through a test to ensure the main points sank in. There is no restriction on free speech or academic freedom embedded in that activity.

    Every student is perfectly entitled to exercise their judgement and free speech after diversity training – and if the students are protesting that the diversity training will include University Policies & Procedures that demand certain speech codes then they’re on the button. But I saw no evidence of that.

    That’s not what their letter says – it says:

    We … oppose … mandatory learning on institutional racism [etc.] and the administration’s … announcements suggesting … Implicit Bias Training and a … diversity course …

    Which is a whiny way of saying: Don’t challenge us!

    I may have got the wrong end of the stick, this is not unknown. Also students are generally known as being poor writers, maybe they meant something else.

    I don’t think so. The whiny tone is a dead give-away. The students have a unearned sense of entitlement and they have grown up in a society that says their feelings trump actual evidence, critical thinking and empathy for others and they’re offended.

    After seeing your comment I re-read the OP, I remain convinced that my interpretation is correct:

    Hey ethnic minority I take your offence and trump it with my triple-level offence. Take that!

    I have to laugh, or I’ll cry. I’m told these are the leaders of tomorrow …

    Peace.



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  • Is this an insoluble problem. If someone says, “Hitler was right. All the Jews should be gassed.” The free speech argument is that it should be allowed. But every bone in my body wants people who say these things to feel the pain of sanction. The secular humanist in me wants the world to be composed of mature rational people, who wouldn’t even think this thing, let alone say it. But there are many people who are not secular humanists, who hold lots of thoughts that I would disagree with.

    “Homosexuality should be a criminal offence”

    I cringe at such a thought. But I also support the ideal of fee speech. When does saying something bad like this deserve a sanction. It is possible and probably that thoughts like this, wrapped in an articulate argument, can be lethal. Did not Hitler bring his adoring German masses with him with the power of his oratory, to say such things. So should there be sanction on statements like these. Or should there be a sliding scale from mildly offensive through to incitement to genocide with the legal sanction somewhere in the middle. And who decides. Should we trust O’Brien from the Inner Party to slide the scale. That is almost as abhorrent as the first statement above. Thought Police?

    So I don’t know the answer. If the makers or hateful statements were a small minority who would feel the sanctions of the masses, I probably would say, “Go your hardest”. But the hateful statement makers are legion, and they carry the sheeple with them.

    So I reluctantly come down on the side that opposes the imposition of political correctness. Say it and argue a civilized response. I would personally like the counsel the speakers of such thoughts using the skills of my former employment, but that would just make me another O’Brien.

    I don’t think there is an answer to this one.



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  • I loathe and abhor hate speech legislation. I value a society the higher the more it can allow free expression of its citizens.

    What? No limit for speech at all?

    Oh plenty of limits, but with rational, enforceable tests. Replace hate speech legislation with incitement to harm or violence speech legislation assiduously policed and enforced. The exhortation “gas the Jews” puts you straight in clink.

    I want to know what everyone thinks. Its safer.

    Again a society that is taught first not to take offence before it is taught not to give it is immeasurably the stronger.

    In education things are entirely shifted about from free speech considerations. Not reading Maus because of the pornography of the holocaust is not good enough. Education means to lead out, not confirm or conceal.

    Students should accept by signature that their views will be challenged by the process of education, or decline the offer of education. There is always Liberty U for those seeking concealment and confirmation only. (I expect only that say phobias are dealt with with tolerance, else this belief-equivalent of an excusing doctor’s note which has already wrecked the US education of its children wrt sexual health and science will spread into tertiary education also.)



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  • 27
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    I don’t think American students are aggressive enough, but compared to elsewhere in the world, yes, we may indeed seem especially aggressive.

    The purpose of the teaching segment of the university is to serve the students. Professors and administrators owe their livelihoods to the students. The students pay in large part or in whole, directly and indirectly for their education. Any professor or administrator who is not willing to provide his or her utmost customer service to the students is hereby invited to seek employment elsewhere.

    We hardly need more political correctness on campus. Hooray for students who are standing up against a climate of political correctness in public discourse.

    In the UK one can get arrested for publicly reciting Winston Churchill. Here in the USA we find that disturbing, and we find it disturbing that newspapers are removed for their content.

    Yet you find all these matters childishly silly and trivial. I do not.



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  • Stephen,

    Interpretation of what? I wasn’t focusing on diversity training. Nor do I know what the ramification of that might be – one way or the other.
    It is already a crime to say “go kill so-and so” or “I will kill you” and has been for a while and obviously that should not be considered free speech. I was basically in agreement with what the letter conveyed. Are you? If you are than we agree. If you think that using words, say, nigger or kike (in every conceivable context) is tantamount in itself to hate speech and should result in disciplinarian action than I think you and others are on a very slippery slope.— And I would say that that is censorship and terrorism on its way toward totalitarianism.
    Trite example: I’m a teacher or student teaching American Lit and I say: “Mark Twains’s Nigger Jim was…blah blah blah”
    Some kids gets offended and I am facing the provost and put through hell.
    Are we on the same page here?
    As for where you draw the line, I think if a teacher or student is going around saying that blacks are inferior or that Jews should be gassed, as David said in his example, then we are dealing with a situation that is outside the sphere of free speech. These are the speaker’s ideas. He is not educating. Questions of decency and competence (based on reason), come into play. We need common sense in these matters! Not formulas! Deal with each situation as it comes.



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  • The Letter Writers are using exactly the same tactics as the so-called ‘religious freedom’ types: We’re offended that our bigotry is labelled bigotry. –Stephen of Wimbledon

    I stand by what I said regarding your interpretation.This is the crux of the matter. You have already decided that the accusation of bigotry is actual bigotry.

    The religious freedom people would say: I have the (legal!) right not to be offended. You have it backwards.

    But since you sometimes argue from two sides of your mouth (or so it appears) and (perhaps) mask your real sentiments with jocularity – like many a journalist – I could be misreading you.

    (This is a dialogue. I am not attacking you as a person or questioning your values. I am questioning your position, however.)

    Look forward to hearing from you.



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  • My final thought for the day:

    It’s all about CONTEXT. And MOTIVE.

    Context!! Jesus, why don’t they get it?

    It is not what is being said; it’s about why?

    Anyone who doesn’t get that is in the dark. Phil, am I right or am I right?

    I hate political correctness. It must be confronted. We must combat it.



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  • What else do you do with someone who incites others to acts of violence?

    (After due process, of course…)

    He may utter hate, but cannot let that appear to commission a crime.

    its speech therapy.



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  • I don’t have an abiding hatred of Political Correctness. As a cultural artefact in the 1970s reminding us, for instance, that the terms we use to describe another can particularly wound them and affect the way we think of them often in dehumanising ways, PC was a roaring success helping to quickly transform the way we (white males and others in subsets) think of and treat women and black folk.

    I’m all for civilised speech and on private property like here the owner can set the bar height where they wish. In public though I am against laws that can come back to bite us because they are poorly formed and wrongly targetted. Hate is hugely subjective. For myself, I am keen to summon the reason for my utter hatred of the selfish zeitgeist that Reagan and Rand…Hayek ushered in to a beautiful, adolescent country, 1960s USA, making mistakes but growing up and learning quickly, subsequently hooked on selfishness, mere drugs and gambling. I am keen to spout hatred of all the crass psychopaths who despoiled the country I wanted to move to, and when the moment came (1987) was too sickened at the prospect to do so. I am keen for you to feel it too…the hate.

    I hate indoctrinators of children, stealing the richness of lives yet to be lived. I want them to feel my hatred. They will be shocked. Can it be that dreadful, what we are doing? I want to help but this man thinks I am comitting something like murder. Well…yes it is something like that and I don’t want legislation that shuts the mouths of religious bigots to stop me expressing myself that powerfully.

    Am I handing out pitchforks? I want to make you see how hate-able these folk are…to hate them too, but it is absolutely essential that they suffer the greatest ignominy at the hands of the ballot box and the law of the land.

    PC speech now is mostly a joke with the hyper-pro-social intuiting harm at the mere whiff of a Toxic Werd. These visceral over-responders and chronic underthinkers do so much to confound clear debate and thwart reasonable action that I really, really have a hard time liking them….



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  • PC is not a joke. Did you read the letter to the president of Duke? This is serious.
    Perhaps PC is the wrong term. Maybe it’s an outdated term. I am opposed to this situation where words and ideas are taken out of context and people are suspended or fired or simply suppressed for using words or expressing certain ideas that others have decided beforehand are racist or sexist or offensive to some group or culture. That is what I mean by political correctness.
    The concept is in itself odious. Correctness? Political correctness? Perhaps it heightened awareness at one time, as you say, but beyond that I see nothing good about it. I hate it.



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  • What else do you do with someone who incites others to acts of violence?

    I’m not convinced inciting is a crime. Those who commit the acts of violence are certainly guilty and should be “clinked” (or otherwise dealt with), but is the exhorter responsible for the acts of others who apparently act on the exhortation?

    And if we decide they are (or may be) responsible, what good does it do to jail them? The bell has been rung.



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  • what purpose do you think is served by putting the exhorter of such an exhortation “straight in clink”?

    In the US, UK, Canada and Australia, we have legal systems based on Common Law. Law of precedent. In that body of law there are offences of being an Accessory to a crime. Aids, Abets, Counsels, Procures, Incites or Conspires. A person who exhorts the death of another could be convicted by a jury of the crime of Accessory to Murder, or Conspiracy to Murder, depending on the circumstances of the utterance. So Phil is right. A crime is committed. Legal sanction is available for making the statement.

    For my sins, I have occasion to come across the fundamentally religious in other fora. I ask them questions about their beliefs and statements. Questions we frequently ask in this forum. On occasions they will play the “I’m offended” card. (Which often means I don’t have an answer) I like to challenge anyone across a wide range of topics to support their statements with evidence. Should I be prevented from questioning the religious because “They” might be offended. Might, not are offended.

    This is where Political Correctness has gone too far. If you stand in the town square and proclaim a belief in anything, then you are fair game to have that belief questioned.

    I also have conversations with particularly offensive people (Often religious) who are abusive and hateful on topics like sexual orientation, race, women’s rights. I find what they say offensive, but I don’t want to stop them saying it. I want to expose what they say to the wider reading audience, as uncivilized bigotry.

    So what sort of statements should attract legal sanction in general. Incitement to crime as described above. Incitement to harm others, including financial or legal harm, for matters involving race, sexual orientation or gender. (I typed it but I struggle with it, even though I would like it to be so. Define Harm??)) Some specific acts like Holocaust denial should be a crime. But I run out of puff about then.

    I do not think that Political Correctness should not be legally enforceable. Sometimes the left goes too far with this.



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  • Stephen,

    I have nothing more to say. Let me wrap this up.
    The fact that you have to argue for the retention of a reference to Woodrow Wilson because he was a prejudiced man (and I am assuming that that is what you’re alluding to) is absolutely sickening.
    The offended idiots (and they are not always wrong to be offended) need reeducation on the importance of context. If they don’t understand context they need to be educated about it!! We all know what racism is, and should speak out against it whenever we see it or hear it. We don’t need more rules.
    Imagine being at Duke. First day of class: “Students, we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any use of racist or biased language such as ‘superior’ or ‘primitive’…”
    Do you see what I mean?
    As for diversity training, I suppose it could conceivably be useful. But I would need to know a lot more about what a course like that would entail. It sounds bad to me. It could have serious ramifications – as the letter writers stated.
    I thought their objections and concerns about that were for the most part reasonable ones.
    The rest of the letter is flawless as far as I’m concerned, hits the nail on the head.
    No “whiny” quality that I detected.



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  • So Phil is right. A crime is committed.

    Yes, David, I understand that the law is as you describe it. The question is what is the rationale for the law, or is the reasoning sound? My follow up question for Phil is, what purpose is served in jailing an exhorter of “gas the Jews” if no one acts on the exhortation? (Isn’t that part of the “better world” picture we envision and encourage?) Has a crime worthy of jail been committed?

    I want to expose what they say to the wider reading audience, as uncivilized bigotry.

    Perhaps this concept adapted to the “crime” of incitement would be more appropriate and effective.



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  • I’ve tried to write a dozen comments about this subject but I always fail and delete. I find an example of hate speech I think should be prohibited by law, but then I argue no, let the guy say it, and I will defeat him with a reasoned response. Above, somewhere, I expressed fear that because our species is so vulnerable to the articulate orator, sometimes free speech results in later crime.

    I read this, this morning on the Huffington Post.

    “TRUMP: I could stand in the middle of 5th ave, shoot somebody & I wouldn’t lose any voters, it is incredible.”

    But what was more concerning was what the article revealed about supporters inspired by Trump’s free speech oratory. The summary of reports at this link. Chilling.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/trump-could-shoot-someone_us_56a3ccbbe4b076aadcc6da93?section=australia

    The dichotomy. I am opposed to the censure of free speech, except in the most extreme cases, where our legal system already classifies it as a crime. But what are the consequences for society when an orator like Trump, can inspire his followers to criminal action.

    I can’t find a solution to this issue, even in my own head.



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  • Perfect example David. I too can’t offer any solution but it does seem a bit like the gun argument in America. Free speech, in the wrong hands, can be dangerous and should be kept locked in a cabinet and only licensed to people who pass all necessary checks. I find it very hard to agree with Phil on this one unless, people of his, yours and the like, offer guarantees that you will protect the ordinary person with an equal and opposite argument with equal zest, finding the platform that works for the masses.



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  • In English Law the term incitement (except in a few instances) has been replaced.

    Encouraging or assisting a crime is itself a crime in English law, by virtue of the Serious Crime Act 2007….”Encouraging” is not defined in the statute and can be considered in the same way as the previous crime of incitement. It does not matter if the encouragement or assistance has no effect.

    An exhortation to murder someone that fails to achieve its end is as criminal as the act of purchasing a weapon explicitly for that purpose that subsequently fails to work when needed…



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  • Olgun
    Jan 23, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I find it very hard to agree with Phil on this one unless, people of his, yours and the like, offer guarantees that you will protect the ordinary person with an equal and opposite argument with equal zest, finding the platform that works for the masses.

    I think there is a very big difference between accepting a personal conversation, or a small debate in a room somewhere, and giving some delusional idiot a public media platform where they can lie with impunity.
    Freedom of speech should not be a “liars’ and fraudsters’ charter”!



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  • I have not argued for free speech. Please note!

    I have proposed draconian penalties with new clear tests to act against specific modes of speech.

    Offer me a sentence that must never be uttered in our society without invoking sanctions and lets see the practicalities of what I propose….



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  • I understand your argument and illustration of existing law, but I still have difficulty agreeing that a crime is committed when no harm (related to the exhortation) is actually done.



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  • Freedom of speech should not be a “liars’ and fraudsters’ charter”!

    This is truly a separate issue and shouldn’t be muddled with a primary need to not stifle the lone voice.

    My concern is not here stifling Trump or ISIS but to not have myself stifled by Saudi Arabia curtailing my speech with human rights hobbled by blasphemy legislation.

    At root idiot speech is dealt with by a properly nurtured and free fourth estate and a properly educated and nurtured populace.

    Everything else is analagous to safe spaces for women. Burkhas for seemliness and not inciting the base natures of men.

    We have to grow up and become better behaved, because everything else leaves us vulnerable to the burkha police, conspiracy theorists and worse.

    Don’t be politicians paternalistically choosing the easy lever to pull. The journey to the bigger better solution may have more short term danger, but we should not settle for keeping up appearances.

    (Some time soon someone here will see the significance of my proposal in regard to religious speech.)

    Darnit. I flagged you, sorry. Rather appropriate given the debate….



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  • The question is what is the rationale for the law, or is the reasoning sound?

    Back when Common Law was formed, the act of a person was brought before a judge by the population (Hue and Cry – Later replaced by Constables) and the judge decided if society would sanction that act. The judges over time, and through extensive appeal processes, have found that to incite a crime, or as Phil has pointed out for today, “Encourage” is just as criminal as committing the actual crime. So the sound reasoning has a history going back to the Magna Carta. I support the continuance of that reasoning.

    Roll forward to 2016, and I see no issue. If you incite a crime through your exercise of free speech, you commit a crime. The court will decide if your action deserves societal sanction. Where the line is drawn is a thousands shades of grey. Something said that is obnoxious and hateful in the USA, may be ignored, but in another country, may trigger riots and slaughter. So the key is the circumstances surrounding the utterance.

    In my opinion, the “Grey” should very nearly be black before sanction is inflicted. I think I fear O’Brien as much as I fear the hateful orator. I can’t resolve this to my own satisfaction, so I think I conclude that each example should be judged on the circumstances, and that a mere breech of political correctness should never be sanctioned. If this was the case, I would be in jail for going for the jugular of the creationists.

    As Phil asks further down, give me an example and I will consider it.



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  • I am no longer sure I have understood you then Phil. I take your statement of ‘feel free to offend me’, as a challenge to all but it seems it has its limitations? Above, I asked if people from other countries should be free to come to the Uk and spread their hate, such as Trump. I believe we should shield ourselves from such people whether it’s within the law or not, and set cultural limits as an example to our own and the rest of the world. This could also be applied to evangelical crap that comes from abroad. As usual, more than happy to be put straight.



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  • Give me a sentence you would not allow to be uttered.

    I take your statement of ‘feel free to offend me’, as a challenge to all but it seems it has its limitations?

    I never said anything like that. I did prioritise not taking offence over trying not to give it as a safer strategy for a society.

    I then went on to disabuse Dan that I was a viceral hater of Political Correctness and approved of not insulting people qua people.

    After the splendid debate about Trump, when everyone got to insult him, it was right not to ban him.



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  • I agree Phil, Free speech has its limits. Conspiracy to commit terrorism is not confined to “after the fact” criminal charges.
    Inciting violence is a lesser of the two. I hate to plead historical justification, but this is the result of freedom of speech going too far. We have to have a balance.
    Am I wrong?



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  • Thanks for clarification for my benefit Phil.

    I would still ban Trump anyway. There are few other American imports I would also ban as every time I see a huge tent erected for evangelical sermons and faith healing with American type salesmanship posters everywhere, I get angry and worried about whats coming next.



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  • As a member of two discriminated groups, I would like to rename “political correctness” back to “manners and dignity”.
    I think the new labeling is part of the problem. It is very vague and links politics to racism. Even though there is a clear problem with our political system, I don’t think this broad description is helpful.
    Someone explain why I could be wrong?



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 23, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Phil,

    Now I am confused.

    A friend of mine put it well:

    “I think saying or tweeting people should be killed and identifying them as a group, if this is done not in parody, but as an attempt to find like-minded people, yes, it counts as incitement and the kind of hate speech that should be prosecuted.”

    As for Political Correctness, why in the world would you not have a visceral hatred or not feel profoundly opposed to such an odious concept? Correctness? Political correctness? Offending someone (rightly or wrongly) is incorrect? I say “Nigger Jim” in the context of discussing Huck Finn and someone interprets this as insulting blacks as blacks (“people qua people”), and I am being incorrect and should be punished? Please clarify your position on this. Sorry if I appear obtuse.

    Have I misunderstood you? Olgun, I’d like to hear from you too. Trump is out of control. His words border on incitement to violence. But banning him cannot be done without ramifications. It could prove to be ruinous; we have to be very careful about setting a precedent of this kind. That could have dire consequences.



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  • The judges over time, and through extensive appeal processes, have found that to incite a crime, or as Phil has pointed out for today, “Encourage” is just as criminal as committing the actual crime. So the sound reasoning has a history going back to the Magna Carta. I support the continuance of that reasoning.

    What “reasoning”? Knowing judges had findings does not describe the reasoning on which those findings are based.

    If you incite a crime through your exercise of free speech, you commit a crime.

    I don’t commit the crime I’ve supposedly incited (someone else is guilty of that crime). If a clear line can be drawn between incitement by one and commitment by another, then I have no problem with charging the inciter with some sort of accessory crime (“encouragement”, if you will). The argument (sound reasoning) would be that the crime (probably) would not have been committed otherwise. However, if my words fail to “encourage”, or a clear line cannot be drawn between my words and the crime, then I see no basis for being charged with a crime. (This would be a sort of “Minority Report” scenario.)

    The court will decide if your action deserves societal sanction… . the key is the circumstances surrounding the utterance.

    The key is whether or not the utterance can be proven to have caused actual harm.



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  • At root idiot speech is dealt with by a properly nurtured and free fourth estate and a properly educated and nurtured populace.

    Dealt with, yes, as exhortations to acts of violence also would (should) be.



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  • What “reasoning”? Knowing judges had findings does not describe the reasoning on which those findings are based.

    I, and the Judges disagree with this statement. You will find that when a Judge announces an appeal decision in court, he will always state that his “Reasons” will be provided in the attached document. That is what they call it when they argue their position. The reasons for their decision. So when the earliest judges found that to incite a crime, is to commit a crime, then their reasoning was recorded in the judgement.

    On a legal level, an incitement to commit a crime does not need a crime to actually have been committed as a result of that incitement. So no, you don’t need to prove the link. In dot point. A husband contracts a hit man to kill his wife to collect the insurance. The hit man is an undercover police officer. The husband will be convicted of incitement to murder. The wife will still be alive.

    Channeling this reasoning down to this discussion, is Donald Trump responsible for the actions of his supporters, who are incited to action as a result of his bigoted hate speech? I would not sanction Trump, but I would expect a civilized society to rapidly denounce and distance itself from such a person. I would expect the 4th estate to decimate the utterer of such words. That in America this isn’t happening, says some sad things about American society. (I am referring to the Huffington Post article I referenced down below here.)

    I am drawn to Dan’s reference to “Politeness and Manners” as being the desired civilized norm.



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  • Phil!
    I don’t get it. How could you see anything good in political correctness? People are deciding what is correct, making up rules, and labeling people as racist or sexist without any regard to context in most cases. How could that be anything but loathsome, unfair and destructive? They decide what is correct. No discussion. No controversy. No dialogue. No “dangerous ideas” (Wilde). No ideas other than theirs are allowed to prevail. I’m a student and I say (and I will repeat this until I am heard) “Nigger Jim” in the context of discussing Twain’s novel. I am labelled a racist and disciplinary action is taken. Or I say something controversial, that I regard a certain culture as primitive or even inferior, for example (and this will offend some people), and I am either fired (if I am a teacher) or punished in some other way (if I am a student)!
    What am I not getting? What are you not getting?
    Don’t you see how insidious it is? Correctness. Defined by whom? Where will that take us? It ends with banning and ultimately burning books and that sort of thing. The concept is in itself pernicious, Phil. Utterly pernicious.



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  • Political correctness was a put down term for what alf1200 proposes should be re-named to “manners and dignity”

    This is all about distinguishing the personal obligation on the thoughtful and newly informed to behave with consideration, or forcing people merely to appear considerate. Popular movements to recognise speech as a source of dignity for others are wholly admirable, if those inadequately supplied with the stuff agree with the prefered speech.

    Free speech must play out on both sides (considerate and inconsiderate). I have already made clear the fatuity of those I have termed of the “toxic werdz brigade” who, as hyper pro socials, over emote and under think what is being said and cry bigot when they can’t discern expressed ideas from actual intentions. This was in direct confirmation of your point about context.

    My proposed formal freeing up of speech is absolutely intended to allow and protect discussion of ideas…any ideas and punish (by degrees) (and thus discourage) such expression that display clear intentions to inflict harm by violence.

    You may call me vermin, but the moment you propose the use of Raid on me, you are done for. You may claim as an infidel I am without morals and damn me to hell, but threaten some real harm and you are toast yourself. You my call me a criminal and threaten me with due pro.cess of the law… nadda



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  • I think it an insanely dangerous precedent to ban someone thussly. It would be the beginning of the end of civilisation for me, for all that I fight for.

    This is the world of Geert Wilders, the change phobics, keeping up appearances.

    Have clear laws and see if he breaks them.



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  • This is all about distinguishing the personal obligation on the thoughtful and newly informed to behave with consideration, or forcing people merely to appear considerate

    Clear distillate. You can’t force people to think differently. You can’t bomb ideologies. People change through the power of persuasion. Prohibition never works.



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  • Parsing what I intend good or bad about PC is quite tough in this context. PC is a put down term. The self motivation that may arise from a campaign for revising speech to considerate speech (manners and dignity) is wholly admirable. The bigotry of those not granting dignity to a class of people as people is bigotry and should be freely called, but sometimes bigotry is wrongly read by the hyper pro social/underthinkers. I want them not to have the cudgel of hate speech legislation to use in this instance.



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  • Doug

    >

    At root idiot speech is dealt with by a properly nurtured and free fourth estate and a properly educated and nurtured populace.

    Dealt with, yes, as exhortations to acts of violence also would (should) be.

    This is not me being idealistic. This is me seeking a better pragmatic balance to allow as much speech as possible and provide a clearer test of unnacceptible speech.

    Exhortation to violence is legally tested by factors such as immediacy, consistency and credibility.

    For the purposes of making a pragmatic argument, let us assume that poor white folk who are stupid are thereby suggestible. With all our educational efforts and fourth estate reform in place these folk are vulnerable to the ever present socipaths among us. These folk will be got into trouble and harm others with psychopaths handing them pitchforks and urging them on dark skinned immigrants. Loaded up with hate but no pitchforks is far from ideal but other mitigations may still be possible, especially over generational time scales.

    I am simply trying to find a better more pragmatic balance. “As much free speech as possible.” This is my pragmatic line. I also think it is one that is politically doable. I also think exhortation to violence is a more pragmatic legal test, less likely to backfire in our faces. Parasite Psychopaths will not be silenced but they will more often have to express their loathsome ideas in more measured terms (less emotive and reason bypassing ways).



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  • that poor white folk who are stupid are thereby suggestible.

    that poor white folk who are also low IQ, are thereby suggestible.

    Boy, my speech needs protection from stupid me sometimes.



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  • Make it law then!!

    We have a pod here in the UK and he threatens to disrupt it. It would be a different scenario of we were really tight and secure in our pod but, at the moment we are not. Letting him in suggest to our Muslim society that we say we are not in agreement with him but we will still let him come. It says we know this person fleeces his own gullible people in his own country but we will let him in to erect a huge tent and fleece ours. It says, our government has other priorities (this man could be the next president) and we care more about that than our Muslims. It is an act of solidarity and not suppression of free speech. We do not support your idiotic rants as a people. Our doors are open to people who appreciate the essence of free speech. Only an idiot will spill the beans without being pushed if his intentions are wrong. Looking at free speech as a tool to exposing evil and wrong doing will only show the idiots not the determined evil doers. I fully trust you to work to these ideals but the system needs valves in the real world.



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  • MP Naz Shah speaks for me-

    “Do I want to ban him? No I don’t want to ban him,” she said. “I’m going to give him an open invitation on the record to invite him to Bradford West…if I try to ban him then I am no better than him trying to ban me from entering America. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

    No probs, Olgun. I know we never agree on this issue, but I know also this is about ideas and not about you’n’me. I send the same wish not to be mistaken in return.



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  • Thanks Phil.

    I find it difficult to compare a whole group of people to an individual. I could never support the banning of the entire people of Iran but I could very much accept banning a few haters. I could not accept banning people of religion but insist our government (pod) ban individuals that come to fleece for their own gain. If followers from this country want to visit that person then, let them go from the safety of our group and join them there exercising their right to freedom of speech without contaminating ours.



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  • Olgun.

    I’ve made my case that “hate” is a poor test and any such test is freely to be used used by folk like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan wishing to silence internal religious dissent and external commentary as blasphemous.

    I have proposed a braver but clearer test which if assiduouly policed (which the hate test is not and cannot be) we will do more for the quality (and even the tone!) of debate.

    I want us to take a further step towards “not being offended prior to not giving offense,” as a cultural good.



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  • Maybe I have that sentence you asked for now Phil, with a little dialogue of American boarder control type:

    “What is the nature of your visit”?
    ” I am here to radicalise your white population against its black and Muslim population “.



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  • I’ve made my case that “hate” is a poor test

    Its not that I don’t agree with you and the end result you wish to achieve. Its that hate alone is not the reason for most of these activities. They have an agenda and the sentence above shows the crossover.



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  • “What is the nature of your visit”?

    ” I am here to radicalise your white population against its black and Muslim population “.

    “I see, sir. Radicalise how?”

    “By creating a political movement to seek changes in legislation to favour the white population.”

    OR

    “By fomenting distrust to trigger direct action against black and Muslim populations.”

    One of them (sorry to say) gets to stay.



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  • By creating a political movement to seek changes in legislation to
    favour the white population.”

    OR

    “By fomenting distrust to trigger direct action against black and
    Muslim populations.”

    But we already know the latter will happen and has happened in America. A black person being punched and kicked at one rally and a muslim violently ejected in another. Are we to be resigned to clearing up rather than prevention?

    In the case of the evangelist faith healing:

    “I have come to collect money for religious purposes and charity”. Can we not read through the bull shit?



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  • Only with good tests and hard evidence.

    The mess that allows good tests and evidence before our eyes, allows it to go on. Even when a preacher boasts seven houses and three jets manages to fool the system. They look to expand their market and use us against ourselves to get their way. If we can’t read through the bullshit then we are not ready for the freedom yet. I have proposed before that we should allow the freedom we seek on the virtuality of the internet. It does not sanction acts such as these through government but allows a free space, without borders, and we can then condemn any one government that tries to control it, within their own physical borders.



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  • I hear you, Phil.

    Pretty good illustration, except for this part:

    These folk will be got into trouble and harm others with psychopaths handing them pitchforks and urging them on dark skinned immigrants.

    That changes the picture significantly, wouldn’t you agree?



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  • I wanted two changes…. quite what I intended by “stupid” (I have an above average IQ but I can be really stupid sometimes) and that poor, white and hence stupid was not mistakenly assumed (though uniquely in the US poor is correlated with low IQ).



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  • Olgun,

    This is about how we deal with psychopaths in a democracy. The very last thing I will do is create an extra-effective dirigiste stick with which they can beat and control us.

    This is also about achieving clarity and throwing into relief the risk of superficial political fixes that may disincentivise the real cultural changes necessary.



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  • I’m sorry… I thought we were discussing “inciting violence” or “exhortations to commit murder”, and not “handing them pitchforks” as well. To say “Hey, Jews should be gassed” is one thing. Providing the chamber in which to do it is quite another.



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  • metaphorical code

    Then I will go on record as declaring it a poor (misleading, as it misled me) metaphor. If that’s the meaning of the phrase, then why add the (apparently redundant) “urging”?

    (Apparently I’m prone to literal interpretation – it’s how my mind works.)



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  • But the stick has many uses. Turning it on ourselves to create the honesty needed to reach the goal of true free speech. Others can only beat us if we give them just reason otherwise, it is just hot air. A clean heart has all the strength. I would have thought it fitted in really well with the dream (that you and I have) of a fair equal society?



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  • I, and the Judges disagree with this statement. You will find that when a Judge announces an appeal decision in court, he will always state that his “Reasons” will be provided in the attached document. That is what they call it when they argue their position. The reasons for their decision. So when the earliest judges found that to incite a crime, is to commit a crime, then their reasoning was recorded in the judgement.

    And that is exactly the reasoning that I’ve been asking for. Sure, there’s some reasoning, somewhere, but what the hell is it, and is it sound? That’s the question!

    On a legal level, an incitement to commit a crime does not need a crime to actually have been committed as a result of that incitement. So no, you don’t need to prove the link.

    Reason?! (Still missing!)

    A husband contracts a hit man to kill his wife to collect the insurance. The hit man is an undercover police officer. The husband will be convicted of incitement to murder. The wife will still be alive.

    Hiring a hit man is not the same as making a statement.

    Channeling this reasoning down to this discussion, is Donald Trump responsible for the actions of his supporters, who are incited to action as a result of his bigoted hate speech?

    No, he is not.

    I would not sanction Trump, but I would expect a civilized society to rapidly denounce and distance itself from such a person. I would expect the 4th estate to decimate the utterer of such words. That in America this isn’t happening, says some sad things about American society. (I am referring to the Huffington Post article I referenced down below here.)

    I agree. It’s disturbing. But I also think the media have distorted this to some extent.

    I am drawn to Dan’s reference to “Politeness and Manners” as being the desired civilized norm.

    Sorry to frustrate you with this again, but it all depends on how those terms are defined.



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  • “Stupid” is not PC? Be careful what you jest about. “Fat” and “ignorant” is not PC?

    A friend of mine put it well.

    “I think saying or tweeting people should be killed and identifying them as a group, if this is done not in parody, but as an attempt to find like-minded people, yes, it counts as incitement and the kind of hate speech that should be prosecuted.”

    Where is all this ambiguity and difficulty distinguishing one thing from another coming from, Doug? “All Jews should be gassed” shouted into a mic by a guy sitting at a table with others and handing out pamphlets or what-not, should be reported and the speaker and his accomplices should be arrested and the organization investigated.

    Someone saying in a classroom where a discussion of Judaism is taking place (and I will put the shoe on the other foot): “I think Jews are stingy” deserves to be reproached, questioned, called stupid, and perhaps beaten after class by another student. But he should not be expelled for being ignorant or for even believing what he claims to be true. He should also be asked to provide evidence to back up his argument about stinginess as a trait common to all Jews. There will be no evidence so he will be ostracized. That’s his punishment. If he is mentally ill or his aim is to disrupt and intimidate then perhaps he should be expelled.

    All organic. All based on reason and common sense. Pragmatic. No automatic actions based on rules thought out beforehand.

    I admit that these are tough questions, but they are not that tough.

    We have to hope that the majority in any given situation, whether it be a classroom or a street corner remains on the side of reason and dignity. Acceptance is the first step towards genocide



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  • Where is all this ambiguity and difficulty distinguishing one thing from another coming from, Doug? “All Jews should be gassed” shouted into a mic by a guy sitting at a table with others and handing out pamphlets or what-not, should be reported and the speaker and his accomplices should be arrested and the organization investigated.

    I have no trouble distinguishing one thing from another, as long as I know what the one thing and the other are. I think the difficulty is determining which things constitute crimes and which things don’t, and why.

    Someone saying in a classroom where a discussion of Judaism is taking place (and I will put the shoe on the other foot): “I think Jews are stingy” deserves to be reproached, questioned, called stupid, and perhaps beaten after class by another student. But he should not be expelled for being ignorant or for even believing what he claims to be true. He should also be asked to provide evidence to back up his argument about stinginess as a trait common to all Jews. There will be no evidence so he will be ostracized. That’s his punishment. If he is mentally ill or his aim is to disrupt and intimidate then perhaps he should be expelled.

    Let’s leave out the “perhaps beaten after class” part. Nothing said justifies violence.

    All organic. All based on reason and common sense. Pragmatic. No automatic actions based on rules thought out beforehand.

    Don’t “reason and commonsense” fall into the same category as “rules thought out beforehand”? Can’t “rules thought out beforehand” be based on “reason and commonsense”?

    (I didn’t notice your missing period – and probably no one else did either.)



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  • By “rules beforehand” I just mean insidious rules like: “you can’t use this word or express that idea because the mere utterance of them is offensive.” This leaves no room for context.

    Some rules thought out beforehand are good. Again, context is essential. CONTEXT!

    I am also opposed to most wars, and to other forms of violence of the state. A spontaneous act of individual violence is, however, better and healthier than imposing political correctness, in my opinion.

    Individual violence is not to be despised. It has its place.

    Personal story: summer camp. I was 12 or 13. Some kid was calling me “chicken-little” all summer long. I did not want to fight him. Finally, I approached the counselor and asked him for his advice. He told me to try to resolve it with words, and if I can’t I should fight him. That night, the kid called me chicken-little yet again. I kicked his ass. That was my first fight, and there have been very few. I cherish that recollection. It was one of the the most growth-producing, self-affirming things I had ever done as a child.

    Nothing said justifies violence.

    I agree with Asimov: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” But refusing to engage in violence in every situation involving what has been “said” is not a position I would ever defend. One might regret a decision not to act for the rest of one’s life.



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  • But refusing to engage in violence in every situation involving what has been “said” is not a position I would ever defend. One might regret a decision not to act for the rest of one’s life.

    Choosing to engage in violence over words can also result in life-long regret.



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  • Individual violence is not to be despised. It has its place.

    Last resort. There has been in a change in Australia in relation to the use of violence by Police. When faced with a threat, cordon, contain and negotiate. No hard entries, guns drawn. No wrestling take downs. Capsicum spray. Tazer. All before physical force. No car chases anymore. If a fleeing felon exceeds a predetermined speed while being pursued, the chase is abandoned. Cordon. Contain. Launch the helicopter or drone for covert surveillance until the villain can be captured safely.

    In the event of a threat of lethal force, or serious injury to yourself or some other person, you can legally shoot to kill, while the threat persists.

    There is a place for violence, but I found that my voice was my most persuasive weapon.



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  • @OP – During our time here at Duke, we have encountered a community that values identity politics over reasoned discussion and debate

    I see a South African mayor, has come up with a new form of identity politics, as a qualification for funding university entry!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35403501
    A South African mayor has defended the decision to award scholarships to 16 female university students, which are conditional on them remaining virgins.
    Dudu Mazibuko told the BBC that the scheme was intended to “reduce HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancy” among young girls in the Uthukela district of eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
    Those receiving the bursary would have to provide proof from regular virginity tests, the mayor added.
    Rights groups have condemned the move.

    Mayor Mazibuko said that neither district nor university authorities would be the ones carrying out the virginity tests.
    According to the mayor, those who received the scholarship would already have been tested as part of an annual Zulu ceremony, where virgin girls and women are pre-selected to perform a reed dance for King Goodwill Zwelithini.




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