Just An Idle Question About "Safe Spaces"

If you're somebody who is annoyed when college kids say speech they don't like makes them "unsafe," are you also somebody who has called speech you don't like a "lynch mob" or "witch hunt" or "bullying"?

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Irrelevant says

    Witch hunt yes, bullying no. Unlike witch hunt, which is now an entirely figurative term for the persecution of imaginary enemies rather than real violence, "bullying" and "unsafe" still have non-figurative usages.

  2. JohnMcG says

    I sometimes might say something like, "The Blues clobbered the Wild 6-1 last night," referring to the score, not the physicality of the game.

    Am I allowed to be annoyed now, or only people who never speak fiiguratively? I'm anxious for your answer on what feelings I'm allowed to have.

  3. JohnMcG says

    Also, does it make a difference that the speech typically described by those words is often targetted at a person, in some cases bringing them real-world consequences like the loss of their jobs which might not be physical death, but are consequential, and the speech the college students are sheltering themselves from are generally more abstract, like challenging statistics?

    Again, I eagerly await your answer on whether I'm allowed to be annoyed.

  4. Craig says

    In some situations, it is appropriate to accuse people (even metaphorically) of forming a lynch mob or going on a witch hunt. The problem is that these phrases, along with "unsafe", "bullying", and others, are often used more to try to silence the opposition than to honestly describe a real problem. The question, then, is not whether you or I or anyone else has used these phrases, but whether we have been guilty of using them inappropriately in a way that suggests either disingenuousness or a misplaced sense of proportion.

    Similarly, I'm sure if you look hard enough, you could find unjustified, exaggerated accusations of "police brutality", but that doesn't mean that police brutality isn't a real problem or that every accusation of police brutality is unjustified and exaggerated.

  5. says


    You have an absolute right to feel annoyed. You have an absolute right to use silly, unserious hyperbole — such as your implication that if I criticize a rhetorical move that means you're not "allowed" to use it.

    My point can be expressed in many ways. "Good for the goose, good for the gander." "Do not pick up what you cannot put down." "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

    I'm saying that if we model rhetoric that conflates speech with violence, it may be kind of silly to complain when the kids pick up the habit.

  6. Fthagn says

    I am someone who wants you to clean up that sentence a smidge that the clauses made me have to re-read that a few times.


  7. eddie says

    Students who say that certain kinds of speech are "unsafe" aren't speaking figuratively.

  8. Éibhear says

    None of the above.

    I generally refer to speech I don't like as "nonsense" or "bollocks".

    And there's quite a lot of it going around.

  9. jtf says

    Been bullied before in my life. It involved physical violence and a persistent campaign of personally directed intimidation and ridicule with the objective of lowering my self esteem. I recently told someone what I thought of them describing Chris Christie's speeches as "bullying" – i.e., that they had no idea what they were talking about. Someone out there started cheapen these terms so that people who actually experience what the hyperbole actually describes have their experiences lumped together with those feeling uncomfortable. And they get really mad at you when you point that out.

  10. Joel says

    I have called speech I didn't like a witch hunt. However that speech happened to be "he's a witch, get him", so I feel I was justified.

  11. Kevin says

    Yes to both questions, and there is nothing at all contradictory or hypocritical about that.

    How are the two different? For one thing, "lynch mob" and "witch hunt" are clearly metaphorical language. "I feel unsafe" is a (false) statement of fact.

    More significantly, there's the fact that the latter situation involves targeting particular individuals for harassment and/or firing, whereas the former involves delivering speeches at opt-in events which nobody is required to attend.

    Surely you're not denying that harassment – legit, honest-to-god, targeted harassment – is a thing, which actually exists, are you? Of course it's possible to quibble about where exactly to draw the line about what qualifies as "legit harassment", but I think we can agree that delivering a speech to an opt-in audience is on the far side of that line, no matter how you draw it.

    So where's the hypocrisy in differentiating between two so clearly differentiable situations?

  12. Thomas says

    I don't think there necessarily has to be a disconnect between:

    1). College campuses are supposed to be forums of open discussion, and there's no right to be free from offense or being uncomfortable


    2). Oftentimes adherents of an ideology engage in bad behavior via an online "lynch mob" towards people who make offensive statements towards their ideology (on either end of the left-right spectrum), and this kind of behavior is bad and should be avoided.

  13. Anon says

    Given that this comment's going to be off-topic for the post, I understand if it's not published – but I thought you fellows might get a giggle over this (Motion to Fuck This Court) sovereign citizen court meltdown. Cheers.

  14. Argentina Orange says

    So you're saying that you think "I feel unsafe" is either:

    1. Not to be taken literally
    2. Not a cynical attempt to force action by college administratcritters to responds to an "unsafe" learning/work environment?

    You really believe that? Really?

    Also, since when has speech been ineligible to be classified as bullying?

    And if we're are going to talk about motes and beams, I'd like to hear your justification for defending P.Z. "I have secret evidence that person X is a serial rapist" Meyers.

  15. JohnMcG says

    If you consider yourself opposed to "hatred," have you ever declared that you "hate" a particular food?

  16. James Hanley says

    Bullying isn't necessarily figurative when referring to speech. If we say Mitt Romney's speech was bullying because he criticized the 53% (or whatever the number was), that's figurative (and silly). If we say teenagers writing thousands of negative tweets and facebook posts about another teen is bullying, we're speaking the truth. If Suzie were to walk through the hallway at school and every other student was wearing a shirt that read "Suzie is a C**T," that would be bullying.

  17. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey says

    You're also mixing up the term "safe space" with other uses of the word "safe." In my experience, "safe space" is more often used to describe an set-aside area in which persons of a category historically and contemporarily subject to abuse and harassment are encouraged to find respite.

  18. says

    Michael: I see it used three ways.

    1. As you describe: a place to go to find support.

    2. Weaponized, as a notion that entire schools should be "safe spaces" — meaning free of expression some people find "unsafe."

    3. Ambiguous as between 1 or 2, perhaps deliberately so, perhaps not.

  19. TM says

    Yes, but I draw a distinction between directed and undirected speech, and also the degree to which the implied violence within the speech is possible. It is possible for speech to make you feel unsafe, but most of the usage I see these days is not applicable in my book.

    For example, if a pundit speaker comes to the college campus and declares that guns are a universal evil, should be banned, that every person who has ever owned or thought about owning a gun is evil and violent and dangerous and should be drug out into the street and shot, I may disagree vehemently with that speech, but it doesn't make me feel unsafe, or rise to the level of a witch hunt / lynch mob action.

    On the other hand, if it's the POTUS giving that same speech while he signs a national law requiring the immediate registration and public identification of all gun owners in the US, then I would reasonably say that the speech has made me feel unsafe (though the associated actions are a contributing factor).

    Beyond that, if the dean of the university specifically singles me out of a crowd as a gun owner while giving the same rant, that's even more likely to trigger the "unsafe" feelings and reasonably so, because now the speaker has gone from undirected rantings to specifically targeting me as the subject of the rant.

    Likewise, a speaker coming to campus and saying "rape culture doesn't exist" is vastly different from the dean getting up and declaring that "women are ruining everything with their hysterics about rape and should be taught a lesson, by force if necessary", which is further different from "those women right there are the cause of all our troubles, got get em boys". One is speech that might make you uncomfortable and upset you, one is threatening speech or speech that encourages unsafe environments and actions and the last is a directed and intentional call to danger for a individual or specific group of individuals.

    Along the same lines, someone going up to my boss and saying "10 years ago TM sarcastically suggested sterilizing people on welfare" may or may not have consequences for me and my job, but doesn't rise to the level of a lynch mob or witch hunt. On the other hand, thousands of strangers from all across the globe, 99.9% of whom have never met me and don't know me from adam digging through everything I've ever said online, bringing up all the shit and bad behavior and inundating my employer with those same things in a concentrated effort to generate real world consequences does. The mob part of "lynch mob" does tend to require the actions of multiple people in concert.

    None of this however says anything about the legality of the speech in question, just whether the "unsafe" feeling and the association of speech with actual violence is more or less justified. Like all things, how applicable the accusation is is a matter of degrees and context.

  20. Jackson Marten says

    I think it is more complicated than that.

    Some speech I don't like actually is bullying – the Justine Sacco incident was mobilizing the power of a mass group of people to destroy someone's livelihood over what was a (dumb) comment on twitter. While normally I am a proponent of more speech being the remedy to speech I don't like, this is like saying because someone dinged your car you will crush their house (family inside) with a bunch of tanks. A bit overboard, perhaps.

    This is not to say I think it is illegal or there should have been some special protection via government force here, but that I think it is in poor taste and the people who did it should understand exactly what they have done (and be shamed for it, if they think their conduct was fair or reasonable).

    With that said, almost nobody is capable of being honest rhetorically all the time. We all have our blind spots, Mr. Bernstein included.

    I do agree, however, that we should be taking on the most odious conduct and calling it out. To that end, I would also like to call out Ken for not doing enough to combat the ongoing pony menace. If there needs to be a "safe space", in particular, it needs to be safe from ponies.

  21. Bartleby the Scrivener says

    I don't have specific memories of calling them such, but I'm not sure that's relevant either way, since I've not called for any legal sanction against anyone for such speech.

  22. Malc says

    I think the question warrants being parsed very carefully: I don't use the words ("bullying", "witch hunt") to describe speech that I don't like because I don't like it, but from time to time I have used them to describe conduct related to speech whether or not I agree with that speech ("like", for want of a better word, although it's not unusual to like speech that I disagree with). Both likable and unlikable speech can be bullying, thuggish, part of a witch hunt.

    So I think Ken's thesis is, err, unproven (or possibly simply bogus): the use of metaphorical and/or rhetorical language is far more complex than simply worrying about whether a given turn of phrase happens to have connotations of violence. I think that's way too easy: I've seen pain caused by entirely non-violent language (e.g. by ridicule) and see no reason to tolerate that sort of treatment while NOT tolerating more direct verbiage.

  23. Drew says

    They seem unrelated. Content is not style.

    "Unsafe" is an argument about content. The underlying claim — however you phrase it — is that exposing students to disagreeable views puts them at risk for psychological harm. That notion is what's being disputed.

    "Witch Hunt" is an argument about rhetorical style. The truth of the underlying claim — that there's a campaign directed against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular views — isn't really under dispute. Instead, you're questioning the way people choose to express that thought.

  24. jdgalt says

    That depends on certain specifics of what the other person said. If they accuse me, or threaten to accuse me, of "racism" or "sexual harassment" or other terms that refer to laws which could be used to change my life for the worse when it isn't called for, then, yes, I'm being bullied. Or if I'm being shouted down / prevented from replying, that would also be bullying — even in cases where my opponent has every right to do those things (for instance, you decide that I've broken the rules of this forum). (Not all bullying is wrong.)

    But speech that could not plausibly portend negative consequences for the hearer, is not "unsafe" and does not make him/her "unsafe".

    Of course, mostly I just find the question silly. Anyone who demands "safe spaces" outside of special situations (eg a psychotherapy session) calls into question his competence to be an adult.

  25. mass says

    I'm enslaved by your hate-filled question. You have no right to ask me that. I feel raped and thrown under the bus. As a lawyer you should know, questions that make me feel like that are terrorist questions. As an American citizen, I have a reasonable right to feeling safe from your hate-speech, so in the future I suggest that you govern yourself accordingly.

  26. Dragonmum says

    Ken, nice follow-up to your previous post.

    I have raised my mouthy, free-range, anti-authoritarian children to never take anything an adult tells them uncritically, that deeds matter more than the hot air that is words, to respectfully question authority, and to always say "No sir, I don't consent to searches without warrants". We dwell in the strange twilight of "pragmatic liberals". Examples to our children, we must be them…

    Recently, my now-adult kids (and I proudly include my 19 yo son as a functioning adult) and I privately mocked clueless younglings who managed to survive to university without understanding the world doesn't revolve around them and differing opinions are not in any way equivalent to rape. Unfortunately, the group that had the raising of them, locally known as "Chapel Hill parents", uncritically allow their spawn to spout any nonsense they want in public or on-line, but are hell-bent on preserving their offspring from any perceived slight or failure. Between those stellar parental role models and "authority figures" like that sorry spokesman for the Baltimore Police Union, those sad, cocooned college children have been screwed. With clowns making ridiculous hyperbolic public statements, how are they to learn that peaceful public speech that they disagree with or "hurts their fee-fees" is how our country is supposed to work?

    Here in the South, we know that a "lynch mob" is a group of people literally going after someone with (traditionally) a literal noose to administer their notion of justice with their own slimy hands. "Witch hunt" similar concept. "Bullying" requires a power(physical/numerical/social/authoritative) imbalance with bullier(s) > bullied. Equating speech by peaceful demonstrators toward a more powerful authoritatrian group to a "lynch mob" is as much complete bullshit as equating sexist speech with rape. Thankfully, none of us have been guilty of that blatent hypocrisy.

    Tl;dr: No.

  27. Dragonmum says

    @jdgalt – I think you may be confusing "bullying" with "insulting". If Ken bans you, he has insulted you and (possibly) hurt your feelings. That's not bullying you, no matter what you call it. Neither is someone calling you "racist". That's an insult. If they are a large company with money and lawyers and threaten to sue you for X(something you didn't do), unless you do Y(something you don't want to do) – that's bullying. See my comment ^^ above for power imbalance requirements for "bullying". Bullying is always wrong. Insulting someone? Could be wrong. Often it's fun…

    Edit: many typos

  28. Mikee says


    So you equate being called a 'racist' with being physically attacked or threatened as in the case of real bullying (real opposed to your pretend bullying of being called a racist, probably for saying racist things)?

  29. Anonisme says

    Having a safe space from abuse is fine, having safe spaces from ideas you disagree with is bad. Pointing out someone may have made a mistake is fine. Turning it into a campaign to get someone fired because you misinterpreted what they said (Justine Sacco) or because they made a dumb joke (donglegate) is bad.

  30. Shieldfoss says


    "I feel unsafe" is a (false) statement of fact.

    Bull. You may decide not to care how they feel, you may decide you don't believe that is how they feel, but you do not hold a privilleged position to decide what others door do not feel.

    EDIT And while we're at it:


    So you equate being called a 'racist' with being physically attacked or threatened as in the case of real bullying (real opposed to your pretend bullying of being called a racist, probably for saying racist things)?

    I cannot speak for jdgalt, but I, personally, absolutely do. If you think pure speech cannot be bullying, all I can say is that you lack perspective.

  31. ZK says

    I might not be "privileged" to decide what others are feeling, but I can certainly conclude they may not be telling the truth, in order to gain political advantage.

  32. LTMG says

    In my retirement I have been thinking about returning to school to audit some liberal arts courses. My education is in engineering and business, and I feel the need to become more broadly educated. I have been imagining what it would be like for me at 60 to be in a classroom with students who are 20 +/- and an instructor in the 30s or 40s. It is inevitable that during class discussion the generational divide will appear, and equally inevitable that I'd put intensity behind my comments in the classroom. It is likely that I'd encounter a snowflake who would feel "unsafe" from whatever I said. My reply would be, "You feel unsafe on account of what I said? There's the door. Hit it."

    By the way, there are no safe places. They are but temporary illusions.

  33. Jackson Marten says

    @ShieldFoss – the question is then, do you think there should be remedies available for this which are enforced via government compulsion/violence?

    It is one thing to believe that people are being physically harmed with words, and/or that subjective interpretation can rise to actual violence. It is another to say that this should then be actionable by the government in order to stomp on people who, in the infinite wisdom and judgment of said government, have been inconvenient for or jerks to the gove… ahem… have violated these laws.

  34. Malc says

    @Dragonmum Your definition of "bullying" is simplistic.Before the current usage of the term as a Label-o-Evil, there were use cases where clearly "bullying" was not inherently wrong (altough not "nice"). For example, the meaning of "bully" as a synonym for "browbeat", "hector", "push around" can be reasonable in certain, limited situations, such as when it is relevant to an effort to disrupt apathy: "the first people on the scene bullied the survivors away from the building" or "I bullied the hospital into letting me stay with her".

    Don't get me wrong: in today's climate it's not a particularly good choice of word, but sometimes it is both accurate and not inherently wrong.

  35. Edward Gemmer says

    I'm saying that if we model rhetoric that conflates speech with violence, it may be kind of silly to complain when the kids pick up the habit.

    It's worth thinking about, though some speech does in fact make people feel unsafe, and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out. I don't know that it's a college trick – "witch hunts" as a metaphor was in the Oxford dictionary in 1932 and perhaps became popular after The Crucible was released in 1953.

    Ah, Slymepitters.

    Unmetaphorically the best there was and will be.

  36. Patrick says

    Depends. If the person is speaking figuratively about a space that doesn't cause them to feel the discomfort of having their beliefs challenged, I might find it annoying that they're that sensitive, or I might not. Depends on context. But I wouldn't go after the phrase "safe space" itself.

    Where I draw the line is when people starting running around declaring that they actually, literally feel unsafe because some person or group they don't like is present. That's a pretty serious thing to say, so you better be justified in saying it.

  37. says

    I tend to look at a few factors in deciding where to plot someone on the 'whiny baby' scale. In most significant to least significant order:
    1) Are people inciting action? (whether acts of violence, firing someone or simple social ostracising)
    2) Is the focus directed at an individual or a larger group?
    3) Are people intentionally trying to cause emotional distress? (whether directly, or as a means to an end)

  38. says

    2. Weaponized, as a notion that entire schools should be "safe spaces" — meaning free of expression some people find "unsafe."

    I think there's also an alternative state of weaponization, where sometimes it's argued that people can't feel safe unless they're allowed to bully/lynch/witch-hunt people who say various things they don't like.

  39. Dragonmum says

    Before the current usage of the term as a Label-o-Evil, there were use cases where clearly "bullying" was not inherently wrong (altough not "nice"). For example, the meaning of "bully" as a synonym for "browbeat", "hector", "push around" can be reasonable in certain, limited situations, such as when it is relevant to an effort to disrupt apathy: "the first people on the scene bullied the survivors away from the building" or "I bullied the hospital into letting me stay with her".

    @malc – Cherry-picking obscure definitions or invoking archaic usages of a word doesn't change the definition in "current context", just means you need to update your thesaurus. I submit that neither "browbeat" nor "push around" have positive connotations (not even if they "worked" for V). Because someone can say "I bullied the hospital" doesn't mean that's what actually happened – making a nuisance of oneself until someone accedes to your demands is much different than bullying (see defn: gadfly).

    Anyway, I sincerely doubt that anyone here complaining they feel "bullied" by speech is thinking about shooing stunned survivors away from a burning building. Let me be clear – speech can be used a a tool to bully – but again, there's that pesky required power imbalance – as in overwhelming numbers of twits in a Twitter dogpile.

    @LTMG – if you go back to school, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by the resilience and acceptance of the majority of the young people. Even the wounded ones generally have fairly robust coping systems. Most young adults appreciate being treated as competent individuals with a direct, no BS approach. Special snowflakes are still the minority, albeit a loud and noxious one.

  40. Sami says

    Personally? No. I don't break out "witch hunt" unless we're talking House Committee on Un-American Activities levels of, well, witch-hunting, and "lynch mob" is only called for when threat of anarchic public murder comes into play. Hyperbole is one thing, but I think it's important to reserve some words for their intended purpose, or else when situations become dire, we lack the language to express it.

    Bullying is another matter – sometimes speech *can* be bullying, but it depends on various power dynamics involved. But I don't think just because someone's unhappy about what you say that's necessarily bad. Even if it apparently makes them feel unsafe, sometimes.

    A few weeks ago, I was walking down the street I live on, approaching my house. Ahead of me, a couple of young Korean men in business attire were walking, presumably towards the Samsung office just around the corner at the end of the road. (Our street is the connection between that building and all the convenient places to get lunch, so we get a lot of passing young Korean businessmen.) One of them was smoking, at least until he tossed his still-lit half-cigarette aside into some dead leaves in the garden bordering the path at the front of my house.

    In an Australian summer, when half the state had already been on fire.

    I yelled "HEY!" at the guy until I got his attention, then ordered him sharply to get back here, and proceeded to berate him for throwing a burning cigarette into someone's garden, risking fire and destruction and also, by the way, definitely littering.

    He sheepishly picked it up and apologised and scuttled away in an embarrassed half-crouching sort of fashion, getting some distance away before he straightened up from picking up the cigarette.

    Now, according to my friend who was with me at the time, I sounded very matronly throughout the whole thing, and it's possible that there's some cultural deference towards matronly women playing into the event as well as the general deference to such a voice that most people have. Regardless, he was thoroughly cowed, his friend looked kind of amused but did not come a step closer, and I'm not sure if I'm imagining it but I'm pretty sure every young Korean man I've seen on the road since has gone past our house on the other side of the street.

  41. babaganusz says

    it would be super-sweet if a few blessed hearts could manage to acknowledge
    (a) how it can be seen as directly inane and indirectly/incrementally minimizing to refer to something that isn't a lynch mob as a lynch mob
    (b) conflating the discouragement of shitty [public or virtually public] speech with the [largely imaginary] power (or essentially impotent desire) to physically ban it
    , and notice whether [or not], when, and where the two overlap.
    i'm not looking forward to the [theoretical-cyclical] day when "this is literally a lynch mob!" can be broadcast to a vast and excitable audience without anyone (other than reviled, hyperventilating "SJWs") questioning the sentiment, and the documentation of actual lynch mobs can be handwaved as the obviously (literally) 'shopped efforts of Northern Aggression(TM).
    thanks again, Ken, for continuing to give something of a damn about the all-too-easily-disowned meanings/backdrops of words.

  42. Edward Gemmer says

    Lynch mob probably derives from some folk named Lynch who imprisoned British people during the Revolutionary War. So any time you think of calling something a lynch mob, think of your poor British friends across the pond who would not take kindly to comparing online abuse to extrajudicial kidnapping.

  43. babaganusz says

    in the No Relation Department, guess what happened on Jackson, Mississippi's Lynch Street less than a fortnight after "Kent State" (that incident so very unique that the partial name of the location is enough to "know what I'm referring to")?

  44. Malc says

    @Dragonmun you appeared to have spectacularly missed the point (and you probably mean "dictionary" rather than "thesaurus"): you see, context *always* matters, and there are contexts where the word is used AND is NOT seen as negative. Yes, they may be rare. Yes, they may be "obscure" meanings (by which you probably mean that they aren't meanings you personally happen to use/approve of/like). Yes, its bleeding obvious that the 'bullied the hospital" meaning is rather different from the "schoolyard bullying" meaning, and therein lies the point, and the flaw in your pronouncement. The existence of those other meanings is the stake in the heart of your assertion. So to borrow your own phrase, you were making a ridiculous hyperbolic statement, just like those you criticized.
    (Incidentally, trying to pretend there is one magic official definition of any word is just foolish in a context where the connotations of the meaning of the word is being discussed! Also peculiar is claiming that a thesaurus "needs to be updated" — apparently to remove meanings that are no longer acceptable — which seems as dumb as claiming something like Shakespeare needs to be updated…)

  45. Dragonmum says

    @Sami – There is definitely a deference to strong, educated women of certain maturity in Korean culture. At my Won Buddhist temple, our priests are delightful dedicated Korean women who, although whole-heartedly joyful, are also forces of nature!

    @Malc – You're right. There is no "magical" definition, and I was being concrete. Really, I should know better; my daughter no longer lives at home, so I forget what it's like to have a vigorously pedantic, philisophical word-usage debate. (OMG! You called me "foolish" and "dumb"!!! Your wordz! They do burn me like napalmz… just kidding. She's a lawyer.) On the other hand, I don't agree showing a word is used 0.001% of the time in a context where it may mean something not-so-bad makes my statement hyperbolic or stakes it in the heart like a bloody vampire hunter. Colloquial English is, alas, the lingua franca of the masses, and they are the ones offering up being "bullied" or made to feel "unsafe" by words as a thing that happens.

    But I did mean thesaurus; I think there are some words for which "bully" isn't a good synonym, but dictionary will work just as well. Usually either one will be updated occasionally to point out when a usage has become obscure or archaic. I know you're well aware language is not static; you are obviously a very literate person. Also, +10 points for making the enormous leap from parsing the usage/definitions of "bully" to needing to update Shakespeare. There should be a prize for that.

    What a great pub evening conversation – as long as none of us had sharp objects, heavy projectiles or acid… then again, maybe it's just safer we stay on the blog… or podcast! I heard Ken say "podcast", right??

  46. Erik H says

    I don't think those are really comparable.

    "Unsafe" is a word designed to trigger a school's requirement to protect the safety of their students. It's a word which actually has real, current, meaning and use.

    :Witch hunt" and "lynch mob" are historic references which (these days, in the U.S.) are used wholly to conjure references of a broad socially mandated disapproval and attack.

    Both of them are calls for sympathy (at least for the target.) But "unsafe" is also a call for immediate investigation, protection, and action; while "witch hunt" and "lynch mob" are not.

  47. Guy Who Looks Things Up says


    I don't think your plan is gonna work. That chip on your shoulder won't fit through a classroom door.

    I have been thinking about returning to school to audit some liberal arts courses … I feel the need to become more broadly educated

    Baloney. You're perfectly happy with the breadth of your education. Your purpose is to get in there and straighten out those liberal bastard commie snots.

    It is inevitable that during class discussion the generational divide will appear, and equally inevitable that I'd put intensity behind my comments in the classroom. I'm going to act like an asshole.


    There's the door. Hit it.

    Who the fuck do you think you are to be ordering people out of the classroom?

  48. Edward Gemmer says


    Interesting stuff – I had never heard of that. Interestingly, Lynch St. was named after John R. Lynch, a former slave who was eventually elected to Congress. Perhaps we can use lynch mob to mean a group of people overcoming major adversity to become prominent members of society.

  49. Jacques Cuze says

    There's a huge difference between

    + speech that is a witch hunt
    + speech that is a lynch mob

    + saying something makes you feel unsafe

    "Witch hunt" means you are criticizing a campaign against a person or group, the campaign is bogus, the hunters are dumbshits and assholes. Speech continues.

    "Lynch mob" means you dislike the pile ons that make it difficult to be heard or get your message through, the google poisoning. Speech continues.

    "Unsafe" is a trump card. I feel unsafe. You must stop your speech and your behavior.

  50. Jacques Cuze says

    In implementation, "unsafe" is a trump card often based on a gendered damseling pussy pass.

    5'2" Anita Sarkeesian feels unsafe when 6'4" Paul Elam sends stupid tweets at her. OMG, poor thing! DailyDot, Jezebel, et. al., all crowd around and sympathize.

    6'4" Paul Elam feels unsafe when feminists tweet threats to his conference. Oh, what a whiner! Give me a break! His call for funds to beef up security are just a ploy to fleece his stupid MRA followers (see David Futrelle for details)

  51. Autolykos says

    The difference here is not the idea in question, but the way in which it is presented. A lot of the recent censoring of uncomfortable ideas as "unsafe" hits people who present their point on their own, in a civil way, while being shouted down by a mob of students who don't want to listen.
    This is the exact opposite of a "lynch mob"/"witch hunt" where a large group decides that some people are going down, ideally without presenting any argument, and only being opposed by single individuals, if at all.
    In a very real sense, it's the college kids, not the "unsafe" speaker, who behave like a lynch mob.
    And if one side decides to use strength in numbers instead of argument, listening to the other side instead tends to be a good heuristic.

  52. Andy says

    I called speech I did not liked bullying. The speech in question involved sending hundreds hateful tweets to potential employer of a target by a group, after that employer asked for CV and sample work through twitter. Other time I used it was when they systematically and knowingly lied about somebody and third time when a man was forced to take down his blog post to stop the group targeting his employer.

    I think that bullying is fine word for the tactic of targeting public associates of someone with the goal of isolating him/her – and doing so until the person comply with the group demands.

    Moreover, it is one thing when people somehow gets outrage cause group think. It is another when someone with thousands itchy followers intentionally gets those people outraged – especially outraged over false information – in order to punish the person.

  53. nodandsmile says

    I think I love you right now.

    But I hope you weren't watering the concrete driveway to wash away the leaves cause that would break my heart