Magic Negroes And Magic Words

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9 Responses

  1. PLW says:

    "you go beyond critiquing the work and enter the world of pure politics." This is an argument that makes even less sense to me than all the rest. How can you argue that speech should be limited _because_ it is political? Isn't political speech among those sorts of speech with the strongest level of constitutional protection?

  2. Ken says:

    It sounds kind of Star Warsy to me. "If you call me a bigot, I shall enter the world of pure politics and become MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE."

  3. Ken says:

    I decided to post on Moran's blog in the comments to that post. Here's what I posted, out of a suspicion that it will be deleted:

    You know, it’s funny how liberal this sounds. Leftists have long argued for bans on “hate speech” on the grounds that certain words are inherently powerful, “magic words” outside the marketplace of ideas, and render their targets incapable of defense. That’s the justification for things like campus speech codes. Principled conservatives have refuted this, recognizing that words are words and that more speech is the proper response to dickish speech.

    But here come the unprincipled self-styled conservatives like you, ready to use liberal “magic words” theory, whining that being called a “racist” or “bigot” is uniquely hurtful, outside the scope of the marketplace of ideas, and render the victim unable to respond.

    If you are a conservative, why don’t you believe in the marketplace of ideas? Are you some sort of Chomsky reader? Or a French trade unionist?

    Here's how he responded:

    Are you a dick by choice or does being a dick come to you naturally?

    You haven’t said anything to refute me. You just plastered gibberish on my blog. Yes, sweetheart, there are “magic words” that when used by the left, automatically elevate their argument to a supreme moral plane and stifles any response that can be made in the “marketplace of ideas.” The fact that you are too dense to see it and blissfully unaware of this makes you as dumb as any liberal who ever visited here.


    I feel smarter already.

    My followup:

    Liberals are generally thoughtful enough to come up with elaborate speech codes with forbidden words and definitions and such. Have you put any work into a speech code necessary to protect the feelings of people like you? I mean, I get that “racist” and “bigot” are magic hurtful words that should be treated differently, and that can’t adequately be addressed (at least by some special people) by more speech, but what else? Do you have a list?

    By the way, I may have wronged you by assuming that you were a hypocrite when your views are actually consistent. Do you, in fact, support speech codes that treat some words—racial epithets, etc.—as being outside the normal marketplace of ideas, and therefore requiring special intervention?

    Also, in response to this:

    Are you a dick by choice or does being a dick come to you naturally?

    I gave him:

    I’ll ask Mom, but I think it was mostly upbringing.

  4. PLW says:

    Methinks you may have touched a nerve, Ken.

  5. RobF says:

    Nice essay, Ken, and a good example of how those who presume to sit in judgment of others typically whine the loudest when any sort of judgment blows back in their faces. See also: those who rail against others having some sense of entitlement to things they "have not earned" will scream and pitch a fit when something they haven't really earned is taken from them, and so on and so on.

  6. Kevin says:

    You're right, but I don't think you're being fair to Warren – worrying being charged with "hate speech" is a lot different than worrying about being called a bigot. The latter is sticks-and-stones stuff, the former can land you in real men-with-guns-come-and-get-you-if-you-fail-to-appear court in some places, and Warren may be worried about California becoming one of them.

    Which is entirely orthogonal to the question of gay marriage, but I'm saying you're mischaracterizing his argument, not that he's making sense.

  7. Ken says:

    Kevin, I'm not sure about that. It seems to me that Warren is being deliberately vague as to whether he's talking about the prospect of being accused rhetorically of hate speech (which is an actual danger, though not one we should care about) or the prospect of being prosecuted for hate speech (not an actual danger, absent a dramatic change to the Constitution of the United States or to interpretation thereof). I will look for another quote I've seen from him where he expressed it as "being accused of bigotry," which seems to suggest the former rather than the latter.

  8. Kevin says:

    People are looking to that case in Canada where a minister was formally banned from commenting on homosexuality, and wondering whether it could happen here.

    I agree with you that it's extremely unlikely, because of the First Amendment – but I'm sure people 150 years ago would have thought than an interpretation of the Second that didn't allow gentlemen to carry pistols on their person in high-crime areas was impossible, too.

    That said, the idea that being called a racist or a bigot is also "hate speech" is ridiculous. I had thought, rather, that these days "racist", like "fascist", is one of those words that the left reaches for when they can't productively attack your actual theis.

  9. This is well put, and I'm glad I stumbled across it. I think you're absolutely right about conservatives taking an un-conservative position, though apparently what you think of as core conservative principles Moran thinks of as idiotic hairsplitting–he's some blowhard. But what I get from his diatribe, mostly, is jealousy. Wouldn't it be great to have words you could use to cut off debate and leave you "firmly ensconced in a superior moral position"? And then to have "the press" let you get away with it? I don't know about Moran, but there are a few right-wing nutcases who think that the conservative white man is the new black, and more than a few who drift in and out of that sense of themselves depending on the circumstances. I think, from that perspective, it's outrageous and intolerable that the usual suspects still get to claim the magic words.

    This idea that the accusation of racism is beyond the pale and unanswerable has come up in some long exchanges I've had with irate commenters on my blog. I think Kevin is right, that the word is thrown out in place of a substantive response, or as thoughtless outrage, so to some extent the sensitivity is warranted. But there's usually a sense that the real problem is that the wrong people are using the word. And, exactly as you said, there's this very strange conviction, coming from people who are venting their spleen in some forum or another on a daily basis, that their self-expression is at the mercy of the PC types who think they're racists. One of the funnier aspects of these arguments was finding out what I must be thinking, because it's what people like me think ("if I had said that YOU were a 'slave to the metanarrative,' would you have accused me of using 'racist' language, since I had used the word 'slaves'?"–the whole verbose comment, from an professor of economics, of all people, is here).