Saturday, February 18, 2017

Two professors

Brad DeLong:

Statement for the BBC on the Disruption of Berkeley Speaker Event on February 1, 2017

Last night, February 1, while I was teaching, a number of people came to the Berkeley campus to hear a speaker invited by the Berkeley College Republicans. A larger number came to peacefully demonstrate against the speaker--to express their belief that the speaker was not invited because people thought that he had great and important insights about politics and moral philosophy, but rather because he is a specialist in making Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Muslim, and other minorities feel small and unsafe.

About 20 "anarchists" used violence to upset this peaceful civil society gathering, and the police decided that the danger to life and limb was too great to allow the talk to proceed. This is a great loss: a university is, first, a safe space for ideas, and if members of the university to whom it has delegated the power to invite speakers do invite a speaker, that speaker should speak. This is part of a pattern of protests in Berkeley being disrupted by "anarchists" with goals unrelated to those of the university and its community. This is a shame. You cannot learn anything except by listening to the great insights of people who think differently from you: that is what a university is for. The "anarchists" do not understand what a university is.

A university is both a safe space in which ideas are to be expressed and a space in which those ideas are to be evaluated. When one sets forth ideas or causes ideas to be set forth in a university, one is doing so because one believes that these ideas are--potentially, at least--great ones. In so doing, members of the university are accountable only to, as Berkeley Professor Ernst Kantorowicz said in the 1940s, "their conscience and their God".

If the members of the Berkeley Republican Club believe that their invited speaker has ideas about politics and moral philosophy that are--even potentially--great, I really wish that they would explain why they think they are great. They have a duty to the university to do so. But perhaps they invited their speaker because they hoped he would make African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, and other minority members of the university feel small and unsafe. If so they need to examine their consciences and pray to their gods, and think hard about whether they understand the purpose of a university.

For a university is not just a safe space for ideas to be expressed, and a place where such ideas are then to be examined and assessed, but it is also a safe space for scholars. All members of the university have a duty to make all other members feel welcome, and feel that they belong. Violations of that basic courtesy also cast doubt on whether people understand the purpose of a university, and, indeed, whether their time ought to be spent outside one. 

For the contrary position, Erik Loomis' advice to his undergrads and others who read his blog:

....And then of course, this brilliance.

[Video of neo-Nazi getting sucker-punched by masked person who immediately runs away.]

Now, you might say that you don’t want to see a Nazi get punched. Nonviolence and all. That’s an incorrect stand to take. You should always punch a Nazi. That said, I do have a criticism. Couldn’t they have stuck around for a second and kicked Spencer in the ribs a couple of times?

Your mileage may vary, but I've read about anti-Trump supporters going to his moronic campaign event today, and they'll need to decide which philosophy they follow. For what it's worth, I'll side with Erik Loomis - that is, Loomis from several years' back:

On Metaphors and Violence

The last couple of days have been a bit challenging for me. Being attacked by a David Horowitz wannabe for saying I wanted to see Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick has led to a world of fun, ranging from a meeting with the Rhode Island State Police last night to people inundating the University of Rhode Island community with warnings of their murderous colleague in their midst.

So to clarify, I want to make it blindingly clear that I did not call for the assassination of Wayne LaPierre.....

But let’s also be clear–these people KNOW I am not calling for LaPierre’s assassination....The fact that my intemperate language helped give them a lever to try and turn that narrative is unfortunate and I apologize for it....

And look, if I used violent metaphors, that’s a bad thing. I will admit that at certain moments such language might become part of my vocabulary....I probably shouldn’t use that language and certainly will be a lot more conscious going forward of not using it again, particularly since it doesn’t help in the battle against actual violence. Violence is a huge societal problem that influences all of us in various ways. Some may use violent metaphors to express their frustrations....

And to be clear, Loomis wasn't being metaphorical when he more recently suggested that people acquire criminal records and seriously endanger both other people and themselves. I just hope he reconsiders.


caerbannog said...

When dealing with Nazis, delivering a pie in the face would be more effective than delivering a punch in the face: it's much less violent and much more dignity-stripping.

David B. Benson said...

A thoroughly stinging quip is even better.

But then there is the famous advice to turn the other cheek...

Fernando Leanme said...

I've suffered living and/or working in a Stalinist dictatorship (the Castro family's monster), Franco's Spain, Argentina during the dirty war, Red China, Socialist Myanmar, several pissant African autocracies, and Chavista Venezuela. This gives me a keen interest in supporting individual freedom and freedom of speech. Which of course makes me defend free speech rights in university campuses. If you want to read a more detailed defense of freedom feel free to look up my blog posts such as "1984",

Thomas said...

When dealing with nazis, give them a big hug, especially if you are black. That will embarass them a lot more and with all that anger they need a bit of love.

The Old Man is back said...

If nobody bothers with dealing with the very tiny number of loons who turn up to claim white supremacy, if nobody responds, or cares too much, if the media has nothing to report, then all their polemic is just pissing in the wind and they become instantly irrelevant, as they should be.
Let them talk if they insist, just don't bother listening.
If you want to experience noisy people in fancy costumes, go to Mardi Gras instead, its much more fun.
Nazism is an anachronism and a nonsense - treat it as such.

Hank Roberts said...

One thing struck me about the Berkeley demonstration violence -- just like the Inauguration violence, the black-clad guys all got away. In DC they "broke through police lines" and escaped. In Berkeley, I gather, they just ran away from the police.

I find it hard to imagine that police might be friendly to fake-flag violence-provokers trying to stir up trouble.

But I can sure imagine a Reichstag-fire mentality in people who think pretending to be radicals adding violence to demonstrations improves the world.

elspi said...

This is all very well and good, but it is important to remember that Sophie Scholl did not stop the Nazis. The red army stopped the Nazis.

Sophie Scholl practiced non-violence right up to the point where the Nazis caught her and cut her head off.

The red army on the other hand took a rather different approach to the Nazis. The red army killed all the Nazis they could get their hands on and then they went looking for more Nazis. They continued doing this for quite some time after the war was over.

When your are devising your "Marquess of Queensberry" rules from politics you need to have an addendum. That addendum being that the Nazis must always loose, and all other rules are set aside in the case that the Nazis are winning.

In case you hadn't noticed, there is a Hitler impersonator in the white house. It is spectacularly bad time to be a good german.


Will Brad de Long defend to the death Erik Loomis' right to kick in the ribs of Oliver Wendell Holmes., or will the Berkeley Regents hire the Duc d'Orleans valets to do it for him ?

Unknown said...

I did wonder why they invited that shock jock to speak in the first place.

As to the black bloc - well they probably were anarchists, but there is also a probability they were not. Black bloc is as much a tactic as a movement.

dave said...

This is an outrage! How dare people infringe on the rights of Milo Yiannopoulos to free speech, regardless iff these snowflakes think it's offensive!!

oh wait...

Milo Yiannopoulos' Invite to Speak at CPAC Rescinded Over 'Offensive Video,' Planners Say | NBC4 Washington

BBD said...

So good to see dear Milo trip over his tongue once in a while.

dave said...

"So there is, after all, a line that you cannot cross and still be hailed by conservatives as a champion of free speech."

"I am certainly guilty of imprecise language, which I regret."

Is imprecise language the new alternative facts?

Unknown said...

elspi - when we're in Nazi Germany, say post Reichstag Fire, then fine, don't just punch Nazis, kill them. That's not where we live.

And are you saying Spencer should've been killed? If not then you're following Marquis rules, according to your definition. I sure hope you're not saying he should be killed.

elspi said...

What I am saying that is that, when we're in Nazi Germany, say post Reichstag Fire, it is too damn late. There needed to be a massive permanent general strike when that SOB was put in as Chancellor. And yes, that would have involved considerable violence and quite possibly civil war.

Do you know why the original nazis never got a foothold in the US before WWII? Because whenever they tried to hold a rally, they had the living shit beat out of them by jewish gangs. We like to think that violence isn't the answer, but when it comes to nazis, it is the only answer.

I don't know if Spencer should've been killed, but history shows that he certainly should have had the shit beaten out of him.

Bernard J. said...

Jim Eager said...

elspi wrote: "when we're in Nazi Germany, say post Reichstag Fire, it is too damn late."

Exactly. Read Bernard's link, Brian. It may already be too late.

Brandon R. Gates said...

> As to the black bloc - well they probably were anarchists, but there is also a probability they were not. Black bloc is as much a tactic as a movement.

Whoever they are and whatever one's position on beating up Nazi wannabes happens to be, that they resorted to damaging property -- especially in the business district -- makes them assholes in my book. And if they happen to be left-wing agitators (as opposed to right-wing plants), then they're stupid assholes to boot for handing Milo a YUGE propaganda win.

I personally thought the (vast majority of) peaceful protesters gave Milo far more attention than he deserved ... but what do I know -- I'm a privileged straight white middle-aged middle-class male several decades removed from my more youthful passions and the emotional frailties which go with being a college student. I'm just not dude's target demographic, and don't like my downtown business district getting fucked up over what I see (perhaps wrongly) as inconsequential, attention-whoring drivel.

I'm not sorry he lost his CPAC invite, book deal and job over "endorsing" (haha, only serious!) man on boy pedophilia. Neither am I happy that of all the gratuitously offensive twaddle he's spewed over the years that it was underage gay fellatio which finally got the religious right clued into the fact that he's pretty much a worthless piece of shit and a terrible spokesperson for conservatism ... or indeed a good role model for *anyone*.

BBD said...

which finally got the religious right clued into the fact that he's pretty much a worthless piece of shit and a terrible spokesperson for conservatism ... or indeed a good role model for *anyone*.

This is what is so incomprehensible about the resurgent right-wing populism. Its crowds appear utterly incapable of seeing just how worthless and vile many of those on the podium obviously are.

Mind you, the scales do occasionally drop: dear Milo and UKIP's charmless fabulist Paul Nuttall imploded more-or-less in the same week.

The orange fella seems completely immune though. Shame.

Brandon R. Gates said...

> The orange fella seems completely immune though. Shame.

In response to me laying out how much it would cost to deport 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants ($400-600 billion, and a reduction of GDP by up to 6%), an old friend of mine -- who didn't even vote for the Orange One, but has apparently picked up some of the contagion -- writes:

] Drug running increases economic activity too. So does human trafficking, the sex trade, cock-fighting, dog fighting....We should stop enforcing any laws that limit economic activity, that makes sense.

] Hell, why even have laws at all. Why not have a society where the wealthiest and/or most ruthless do what they want?

What a strange moral compass ... can't discern between the net societal benefits of picking cabbage or building houses and sex slavery or cruelty to animals.

It vexes me, BBD.

BBD said...

It frightens me, Brandon. The thing in the box is forcing the lid off again.

Brandon R. Gates said...

When it's just random nutjobs on the Internet I'm not so frightened, BBD. When it's people I've known for decades drinking the white nationalist Kool Aid without apparently realising they're doing it ...

... thing in a box indeed. Makes Tol's gremlins look like cute fuzzy puppies.