The Corruption of "Speech Has Consequences"

As I've said before, free speech has consequences, and ought to. Put another way, you're not the only one with free speech. Other people might respond to your speech with their own speech, and you might not like it. Response speech might be unfair, intemperate, immoral, or disproportionate, just like your initial speech. It's irrational to judge one and not the other. As a popular cartoon suggests, your right to be a jackass and other people's right to overreact are equivalent.

But I've noticed that the mantra "free speech has consequences" is increasingly abused. People invoke it not to mean "free speech has social consequences in the form of other people exercising their free speech," but to mean "the government can impose official consequences on you for speech it doesn't like." That's a corruption of the idea, and is usually a false statement of law. Censors like to invoke it; they're lying to you.

This week's case in point: the University of Texas. The UT Young Conservatives of Texas — previously famed for stunts like a campus-wide "catch an illegal immigrant" game — recently held an affirmative action bake sale. That's a bake sale that charges people differently based on ethnicity and gender to make a somewhat belabored point about affirmative action policies. It's a hoary rhetorical device that is frequently met with attempts at censorship by academic imbeciles.

The UT community reaction was mixed. The student paper offered an editorial acknowledging that the protest was protected by the First Amendment. The administration acknowledged that it was protected speech and could not be punished. So far, so good. But students also petitioned their government to expel the UT Young Conservatives of Texas, and student government members supported it. Student government member Ashley Choi invoked the consequence trope:

University-wide Representative Ashley Choi, an author of the resolution, called on the assembly to set a precedent that incidents like the YCT affirmative action bake sale will not be tolerated.

“Freedom of speech has consequences,” Choi told the assembly. “That’s why we’re here today.”

Well, no. You're there today, Ms. Choi, because you're a silly totalitarian thug who is trying to invoke state power to punish speech you don't like. You're there because you disdain fundamental rights and civic values. You're there because you perceive, perhaps correctly, that you are ineffectual at persuasion and therefore must use force.

Proponents of the petition overtly believe that UT students ought to be prohibited from questioning affirmative action. Put another way, students like Choi believe that students shouldn't be allowed to question whether and how the school treats people differently based on the color of their skin.

“When [universities] don’t have concrete policy defining what constitutes a hate crime, a lot of the lines get blurred, and a lot of the racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic incidents happening on campus are disguised as freedom of speech or academic freedom,” said Choi, an international relations and global studies senior. “Because of [this] a lot of organizations, especially Young Conservatives of Texas, have been getting away with this kind of racist disaster.”

Ms. Choi should be permitted to advocate for unconstitutional things. The consequences for her doing so should not be official — that is, she should not be expelled or punished by UT. The consequence should be social. She and her censorious ilk deserve our open contempt.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. says

    I feel so deeply sorry for Ms Choi in that she can't figure out that the correct response to the (tacky ass) affirmative action bake sale is to stand next to it with a sign saying "Help these peckerwoods buy bleach for their robes."

    Truly it must suck to be (a) that poorly educated, (b) that freaking stupid, or (c) some combination of A&B.

  2. Matt says

    I understand that dog-bites-man stories about dumb college students are the lifeblood of this blog, but it does get a little bit tiresome. Reading Popehat, I'd come to the conclusion that the front-line of free speech activism is college campuses, which is laughable.

  3. Andrew says

    I think the misunderstanding might be at a slightly different level. From the article, it seems well understood that the student government does not have the power to pass a binding measure. Those trying to pass it anyway don't expect it to work. They see law and policy not as an instrument of state power, but as a way to express their frustration at the state of society. They want to put a policy on the books for its own sake, even if it is ineffective, because then at least they tried. They believe that doing so will enshrine their position and perhaps even produce "voluntary" compliance even if it cannot be enforced. What they really want is to pass a norm, not a policy.

    If I'm right, this isn't best described as censorious. It's worse than that. It's a belief that politics is a sport and law does not matter.

  4. Chris Best says

    @Andrew: The situation you're describing is then the equivalent of the tendency of modern day legislatures to pass laws they already know are unconstitutional (e.g. banning flag burning), knowing it'll never be successfully enforced, just to make some sort of statement. The problem being that even if a law is flagrantly unconstitutional, police and prosecutor can still take someone on a ride, and it may take multiple appeals for everyone to admit the obvious.

    Similarly, some do-gooder in the future could reference the Student Government's resolution when denying the Young Conservatives (or some similar campus group) something, necessitating a costly legal battle to resolve it. This sort of thing happens all the time and is why organizations like FIRE exist. The problem is the idiots in the student government won't be the one bearing the burden of their bad decision.

  5. arity says

    I've seen plenty of bake sales that go the other way. The appropriate response to both is to be the sort of person who's charged the most, give $20 to a friend who's in the least-charged demographic, and have them buy all the cupcakes and split them with you in front of the idiots, regardless of wing and intent.

  6. Picador says

    People invoke it not to mean "free speech has social consequences in the form of other people exercising their free speech," but to mean "the government can impose official consequences on you for speech it doesn't like." That's a corruption of the idea, and is usually a false statement of law.

    Well, yes, "usually", and certainly in the case you've cited here.

    But of course, there are plenty of sources of civil and criminal liability available if the state wishes to punish certain forms of speech: fraud, defamation, infringement of intellectual property rights, disclosure of trade secrets, breach of non-disclosure or non-disparagement contracts, leaks of classified information, threats, intentional infliction of emotional distress, export of cryptographic algorithms, etc etc.

    It's a limited set of exceptions in some ways, but growing broader by the year.

  7. Lawrence D'Anna says

    Are you really saying that Ms. Choi is a totalitarian thug who distains civic values, but only because UT is a state school? If it was a private school everything would be just peachy?

    "Speech Has Consequences" is almost always an illiberal McCarthyist ploy.

    When a private school, or twitter, or a social justice outrage mob censors someone, it's not the same thing as when the government does. It's worse when the government does it. The fist amendment comes into play when the government does it. But it's still thuggish and illiberal when private citizens or organizations do it, and "speech has consequences" is the paper-thin excuse of thugs and bullies.

  8. says

    @Lawrence:

    Maybe someday someone will be able to explain how that's not just "you stop talking so I can be comfortable talking."

    And, no, I don't think private people exercising their free speech and free association rights is worse than government force. That's unserious.

  9. Encinal says

    @Sequentialkady

    I feel so deeply sorry for Ms Choi in that she can't figure out that the correct response to the (tacky ass) affirmative action bake sale is to stand next to it with a sign saying "Help these peckerwoods buy bleach for their robes."

    Because thinking that special preferences shouldn't be given out on basis of race is racist?

    @Lawrence D'Anna

    When a private school, or twitter, or a social justice outrage mob censors someone, it's not the same thing as when the government does. It's worse when the government does it. The fist amendment comes into play when the government does it. But it's still thuggish and illiberal when private citizens or organizations do it, and "speech has consequences" is the paper-thin excuse of thugs and bullies.

    But Twitter refuses to participate in speech they oppose is itself an exercise of Twitter's free speech. So where does one person's speech end and another's begin?

  10. Grev says

    Weirdly, after reading about this "affirmative action bake sale", I would think it would be an idea, under different name, that would garner praise if, say, a feminist organization used it to sell cupcakes (to men for a dollar and to women for 77 cents, naturally).

    But that's neither here nor there to the topic, so I'll also say that whenever I hear "speech has consequences", I tend to think about non-government businesses firing people for their (non-work related) speech. Which, of course, is totally permissible.

  11. Grev says

    @Encinal

    But Twitter refuses to participate in speech they oppose is itself an exercise of Twitter's free speech. So where does one person's speech end and another's begin?

    It all comes down to who owns the platform. You have the right to say anything you like…but you don't have the right to take someone else's soapbox/megaphone to broadcast your speech without their permission.

  12. En Passant says

    Lawrence D'Anna says November 3, 2016 at 11:05 am:

    Are you really saying that Ms. Choi is a totalitarian thug who distains civic values, but only because UT is a state school? If it was a private school everything would be just peachy?

    Ken's original post above is very clear. Your questions indicate a remarkably erroneous misreading, or lack of comprehension of that post.

    Speech has consequences. You have just encountered one.

  13. Richard C says

    "That's a bake sale that charges people differently based on ethnicity and gender to make a somewhat belabored point about affirmative action policies."

    The UTexas bake sale went a bit further and pointed out the concern that there is overt discrimination against Asians (or at least Asian-Americans) at UT and many other schools.

  14. Rick H says

    Ken:
    And, no, I don't think private people exercising their free speech and free association rights is worse than government force. That's unserious.

    I think you are misreading Lawrence's comment. He stated "It's worse when the government does it."

  15. Lawrence D'Anna says

    @ken

    "Maybe someday someone will be able to explain how that's not just "you stop talking so I can be comfortable talking.""

    OK I will try to explain it to you. There are two ways to respond to an argument that you do not approve of. One way is to make a counter-argument. The other way is to try to to force the person making the argument to shut up. When the government does the it, it's violating peoples rights. When private citizens do it, it's McCarthyism.

    Do you see the difference? Publishing an essay arguing against communism is a counter-argument. Distributing blacklists of "known-communists" so they cannot find work is McCarthyism. Both are an exercise of your rights to free speech, but only one of them is illiberal thuggery.

    "And, no, I don't think private people exercising their free speech and free association rights is worse than government force. That's unserious."

    Um, yea. I agree. It's worse when the government does it. That's what I said. You seem to have hallucinated me saying the opposite of what I said.

    There are ways to exercise free speech and free association rights that are McCarthyist and illiberal. And they should be denounced as such.

    @Encinal

    "But Twitter refuses to participate in speech they oppose is itself an exercise of Twitter's free speech. So where does one person's speech end and another's begin?"

    Twitter has to decide that for themselves. In the end it is their platform. But if they apply their own terms of service in a blatantly biased and partisan way, if they shadowban people, they're going to get criticized for it. And I don't think the word "censorship" should be left out of that criticism. "Speech has consequences" is not an answer to that criticism.

  16. En Passant says

    Lawrence D'Anna says November 3, 2016 at 1:06 pm:


    OK I will try to explain it to you. There are two ways to respond to an argument that you do not approve of. One way is to make a counter-argument. The other way is to try to to force the person making the argument to shut up. When the government does the it, it's violating peoples rights. When private citizens do it, it's McCarthyism.

    Joseph McCarthy, for whom "McCarthyism" was named, did not act as a private citizen. He acted as a US Senator from Wisconsin, and chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations circa 1953-4.

  17. Matt says

    One way is to make a counter-argument. The other way is to try to to force the person making the argument to shut up.

    Which one do lunch counter sit-ins and bus boycotts fall under?

  18. Lawrence D'Anna says

    @En Passant

    From wikipedia, a propaganda pamphlet from the 50s:

    AMERICANS….. DON'T PATRONIZE REDS!!!!
    YOU CAN DRIVE THE REDS OUT OF TELEVISION, RADIO AND HOLLY- WOOD…..
    THIS TRACT WILL TELL YOU HOW. WHY WE MUST DRIVE THEM OUT:

    1) The REDS have made our Screen, Radio and TV Moscow's most effective Fifth Column in America…

    2) The REDS of Hollywood and Broadway have al- ways been the chief financial support of Communist propaganda in America . . .

    3) OUR OWN FILMS, made by RED Producers, Directors, Writers and STARS,are being used by Moscow in ASIA, Africa, the Balkans and throughout Europe to create hatred of America . . .

    4) RIGHT NOW films are being made to craftily glorify MARXISM, UNESCO and ONE-WORLDISM . . . and via your TV Set they are being piped into your Living Room—and are poison- ing the minds of your children under your very eyes ! ! !

    So REMEMBER — If you patronize a Film made by RED Producers, Writers, Stars and STUDIOS you are aiding and abetting COMMUNISM . . . every time you permit REDS to come into your Living Room VIA YOUR TV SET you are helping MOSCOW and the INTERNATIONALISTS to destroy America ! ! !

  19. Lawrence D'Anna says

    @Matt

    Lunch counter sit-ins and buss boycotts were not a response to speech. They were a response to segregation. In lunch counters and buses. Of course the protesters were the real liberals in that situation.

    Comparing that to shirtstorm or Brendan Eich as some have done is grotesque.

  20. says

    @Lawrence, but there's no force in your example whatsoever. This is the same thing as a Jack Chick tract, your average Sunday sermon, or someone exhorting you not to eat at a particular chain notable for their chicken sandwiches.

  21. mythago says

    @Ken White, the difference is whose ox is being gored. You, like myself, are probably old enough to remember the days when complaints from the left were met with "the remedy for hateful speech is more speech", and when feminists or gay-rights activists who complained about 'silencing' were told to grow a thicker skin and do battle in the marketplace of ideas. When they did, suddenly the Doctrine of the Preferred First Speaker blossomed among those whose pretensions to free speech lasted only as long as free speech wasn't pointed at them.

    You see the same thing in complaints about "pandering" in videogames and popular literature. Used to was that complaints about jubbly engines and cheesecake were met with scorn about how sex sells and that's what the market wants. But steer a game to the market segment that wants more 'liberal' ideologies, and that's "pandering" and bad. Especially if it sells.

    It's simply the whine of the entitled whose principles were never truly principles, but excuses.

  22. Encinal says

    En Passant

    Joseph McCarthy, for whom "McCarthyism" was named, did not act as a private citizen.

    Just because something was named after a public figure, does not mean it is a purely government movement, any more than the fact that Reagan was from California means that Reaganomics dealt only with California. "McCarthyism" was primarily a movement among private agents to blackball suspected Communists. McCarthy's role in it was primarily demagoguery, which, while benefiting from the platform provided by his government position, did not actually rely on government power. Governmental involvement in McCarthyism was largely limited to merely forcing people to appear before Congress to answer question about their political activity, which was not directly harmful to people if they told the truth. The harm came from private response to that testimony.

    @Matt

    Lunch counter sit-ins and buss boycotts were not a response to speech. They were a response to segregation. In lunch counters and buses. Of course the protesters were the real liberals in that situation.

    If protesting laws requiring segregation, then yes. If protesting the decision by private parties to engage in segregation, then that's a rather Orwellian use of the word "liberal".

  23. Lawrence D'Anna says

    @ mythago

    I remember getting in an argument with you in a different comment thread about Brendan Eich, and if I remember correctly I was saying it wrong what happened to him, but if he'd donated to a racist cause instead of a homophobic cause it would have been ok. And you said that was unprincipled nonsense.

    Now I think you were right. It was unprincipled. It doesn't matter what his cause was.

    Communism is probably the worst cause ever, way worse than being against gay marriage. If it was wrong to blacklist communists in the 50s, then it's wrong to blacklist anyone for their political beleifs.

    Censorious blacklisting and boycotts are wrong*. It doesn't matter who's ox it is.

    [*] wrong in my opinion, but entirely within your rights of free speech and association.

  24. DaveL says

    When [universities] don’t have concrete policy defining what constitutes a hate crime,

    Why on earth would a university be in the business of defining crimes?

  25. mythago says

    Blacklisting of communists in the 1950s was done by, and at the behest of, and out of fear of, the government. This has been pointed out to you repeatedly, and you still insist on conflating private actors with official censorship and pressure. As Ken notes, this is the classic obfuscation of those who want to shield themselves from private consequences for their actions.

    Additionally, it is also perfectly consistent to say that people have the right to urge private boycotts and shunning of persons who espouse X views, while still believing that they are in the wrong for believing X views are bad. If a restaurant owner says "I will not serve Republicans", one may uphold her right to do so while still believing her choice to be petty and wrong-headed.

  26. Lawrence D'Anna says

    "Blacklisting of communists in the 1950s was done by, and at the behest of, and out of fear of, the government"

    No, it wasn't. As Encinal and I have pointed out. It was mostly private.

    You talk about rights as if I disagree with you there, but obviously I don't. I've said repeatedly that the non-governmental censors are totally within their rights. Who's obfuscating?

    There is a level of norms and standards of behavior that is less formal than that of the law. It is possible to criticize speech and behavior without claiming someone's rights were violated.

  27. Encinal says

    DaveL

    Why on earth would a university be in the business of defining crimes?

    She is clearly conflating "hate crimes" with "hate speech"; she talks of "racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic incidents", which presumably consist of speech, not crimes, and goes on to call them "disguised as freedom of speech or academic freedom". It's pretty clear that when she asks universities to define "hate crimes", what she means is that she wants speech she doesn't like to be called a "crime".

  28. Gorshkov says

    @Grev

    It all comes down to who owns the platform. You have the right to say anything you like…but you don't have the right to take someone else's soapbox/megaphone to broadcast your speech without their permission.

    Except it's not their megaphone. It's Twitter's.

  29. Raucous Indignation says

    @Sequentialkady

    "Help these peckerwoods buy bleach for their robes," is the best. You should have won the internet yesterday.

  30. Brian Z says

    Proponents of the petition overtly believe that UT students ought to be prohibited from questioning affirmative action.

    These students don't want people to get the wrong idea about affirmative action and therefore think they must stop these kinds of "misleading" demonstrations.

    The root cause is they lack faith in the marketplace of ideas. They doubt that a person can formulate an informed opinion based on disparate information. They do not have experience with freedom. They are so used to being in a controlled environment that control is all they know. They should be pitied, not shamed.

  31. Dictatortot says

    Lawrence:

    That flyer you quote is an interesting historical relic, and provides some good food for thought. My considered reaction: could you fairly call that sort of thing "illiberal thuggery"? Yes. Should that sort of thing have been legally permissible, and should it be today? Yes.

    If I'd been against stuff like the unofficial '50s blacklists, my task would have been to speak out against them, call them a species of thuggery, organize with others to say as much as loudly as we could manage, and hope that more people ignored the lists' advice than followed it. That's what Ken calls "fighting speech with more speech." More than that is not ours to undertake. Now, reading through your posts, I don't think you'd really disagree with that; I'm just trying to encapsulate it.

    But it does raise an interesting question: if increasing kinds of speech risk drawing private responses that approach that sort of scale … well, that seems corrosive of the body politic in ways that I don't know we have the means to address. Hypothetically, sufficiently large, unignorable minorities could find themselves at risk of the Brandon Eich treatment at many levels of respectable employment–that's a really extreme and unlikely scenario, but not an absurd or practically impossible one. I don't think there'd be any valid or non-self-defeating legal response to a scenario like that, even though it's not an impossible scenario on paper. With any luck, I'm merely spitballing.

  32. Total says

    They doubt that a person can formulate an informed opinion based on disparate information.

    Given the substantial number of ridiculous things that people believe, this is not wrong.

  33. En Passant says

    Encinal says November 3, 2016 at 6:34 pm:

    … Governmental involvement in McCarthyism was largely limited to merely forcing people to appear before Congress to answer question about their political activity, which was not directly harmful to people if they told the truth. The harm came from private response to that testimony.

    Personnel of the Department of State, the United States Information Agency, the Voice of America, and the U.S. Army would disagree with that assessment. They were all McCarthy's targets. McCarthy even demanded, and got, removal of books he deemed "subversive" from State Department library shelves. That was certainly not a "private response".

    McCarthyism was much more than hailing people before his Senate committee to answer questions truthfully, whether you were an ordinary citizen or government personnel. Answering McCarthy's questions truthfully did not avoid harm. Truthful answers only led to more attacks with wild innuendo and false accusations. So did no answers at all.

    Only when the Army fired back, did McCarthy's fall begin and Senate censure follow.

  34. Chris says

    I agree with the points made in this article, although the use of the term "totalitarian" to describe Choi was a bit over the top; Choi was definitely in the wrong, but calling Choi this was just silly.

    Thanks.

  35. VisserThree says

    I've also seen "Speech has consequences" used to justify clearly illegal acts, like theft, destruction of property, etc. "Speech has consequences" doesn't extend to throwing rocks through the windows of a house with a lawn sign with the 'wrong' candidate.

  36. Carl Carlson says

    Arrogance and disrespect of persons is rampant in our nation. We who have some wisdom need to do our best to model for others that which we treasure. What does sewing the wind reap?

  37. Careless says

    I feel so deeply sorry for Ms Choi in that she can't figure out that the correct response to the (tacky ass) affirmative action bake sale is to stand next to it with a sign saying "Help these peckerwoods buy bleach for their robes."

    Good lord, there are some retards posting here

    Also, funny that the person quoted is a "Choi" who presumably is one of the only groups charged more than par for bake sale goods

  38. Adrian Lopez says

    Doesn't charging different prices depending on the buyer's ethnicity violate laws that have nothing to do with the speech involved? If a restaurant tried that, it would be breaking the law.

    I wonder if a bake sale stand could be condidered a public accommodation.

  39. Rodyle says

    @Adrian Lopez

    Companies do this on a semi-regular basis though. Every gym or pool where there are women-only hours, but which ask the same price for both genders do this. Hell, there have been restaurants which only charge women 70% what they charge men for because of the 'pay gap'. If such things are apparently acceptable based on gender, why would they not be based on race?

  40. JohnBalog says

    Serious question: at what point does one consider the severity of the consequences as being equal to or more important than who is imposing those consequences? Does that ever seem to you to be a relevant factor or balancing test?

  41. IForgetMyName says

    @Andrew

    It's a belief that politics is a sport and law does not matter.

    Well, in a university setting, it IS a sport. Like mock trial or moot court or model UN (or actual UN, for that matter), it's a sport meant to drum up interest in–and allow interested students to hone skills relevant to–activities that are relevant to the creation and administration of law.

    It's like many other sports–something like Appleseed or IDPA is good in that it strives to raise interest in and provide practice for firearms skills, something which is relevant and useful to something that does matter. But they are still, in themselves, just sports. They don't "matter" by your apparent definition, because they don't involve the exercise, or abuse, of state power.

    Calling the resolution an "exercise of coercive state power" is inaccurate and intellectually dishonest. Doing so provides a disservice to honest debate and undermines the credibility of your side of the argument. University student governments have no binding power over university policy beyond how to spend the pool of funding they're given to play with.

    Nonetheless, I'm still against the resolution in these circumstances because it's lobbying those who DO have discretion to abuse state power to do so. However, to characterize this as somehow worse than any random group of students (outside of student "government") lobbying the school to discipline someone or change some rule is ignorant at best, and deliberately dishonest at worst.

  42. IForgetMyName says

    @Careless:

    Also, funny that the person quoted is a "Choi" who presumably is one of the only groups charged more than par for bake sale goods

    Actually, I find this her one redeeming quality in this whole ordeal. For other minorities to be protesting this protest is a matter of self-interest–if these white-robed bakers get their way, it becomes harder for them to get into school, and it costs them more.

    As you so insightfully note, Ms. Choi seems to be lobbying against her own self-interest. To me, this means that she's principled (even if you don't agree with those principles, you should to respect the willingness to stand by them at personal cost), or she's clever enough to see that she benefits from some unobvious angle that the Popehat comment section missed. Either way, she gets a few points in the positive section.

  43. Encinal says

    @IForgetMyName

    As you so insightfully note, Ms. Choi seems to be lobbying against her own self-interest.

    Well, strictly speaking, she's not. She was already admitted, so this doesn't affect her. The only way her "interest" is implicated is if we view this as fighting for a larger principle and/or identity politics, and then we would have to know what the larger principle and/or identity she is fighting for to know whether she is fighting against her "interest".

    However, to characterize this as somehow worse than any random group of students (outside of student "government") lobbying the school to discipline someone or change some rule is ignorant at best, and deliberately dishonest at worst.

    if these white-robed bakers get their way, it becomes harder for them to get into school, and it costs them more.

    So disagreeing with you about relative severity is "dishonest", but it's perfectly fine to compare lynching black people to not discriminating against white people. You're basically saying that everyone who disagrees with you about affirmative action is a terrorist.

  44. IForgetMyName says

    @Encinal:

    Well, strictly speaking, she's not. She was already admitted, so this doesn't affect her.

    [I seriously hope I don't get called a racist for this comment]

    Strictly speaking, not necessarily true. I know a lot of Asians, and I would say that less than half of them didn't at least apply to a graduate or professional degree program.

    But your point is well-taken. It could very well be that she doesn't plan to go on, and so she personally doesn't benefit, and that she doesn't feel any sort of ethnic affinity that would cause her to regard helping other Asians as within the realm of her self-interest.

    So disagreeing with you about relative severity is "dishonest", but it's perfectly fine to compare lynching black people to not discriminating against white people.

    No. Dishonest arguments–whether in support of positions I agree with or positions I disagree with– are "dishonest." (On a completely unrelated note, I also consider strawmanning to be intellectually dishonest, whether they're directed against me or against someone I disagree with.)

    You are free to disagree with me about the relative severity of government action, and merely lobbying for government action. Hell, if you make an honest argument for the position that a member of Congress drafting a censorious law is actually not as bad as a massive grassroots campaign using social and political pressure to promote such a law, I'd love to hear it.

    But that's not the position I attacked as misguided or possibly dishonest. The position I attacked was [paraphrased] that the actions of a student government, because it is part of a university that is loosely affiliated with the state, is itself de facto government action.

    Do you understand the distinction? Maybe I can clarify with an analogy involving a debate with you may be less invested in: If someone makes an argument in favor of gun control, and bases his argument on the premise that the AR-15 is an automatic weapon, I will call him out for being either an idiot or a liar. (If you're not familiar with guns, all newly manufactured civilian-legal AR-15s are semi-auto. Only a handful of automatic weapons manufactured and registered before a certain date are legally transferable to non-FFLs. One of the most common pro-gun-control misconceptions is that AR-15's and other "assault weapons" are in fact automatic weapons.)

    Now, if after I call him out, he goes and educates himself, and comes back with a similar pro-gun-control argument based on facts that are in actually true, I'll still disagree with his position, but I'll respect the fact that it was reached and argued honestly.

    You are probably right that the white-robed baker comment was needlessly inflammatory hyperbole. I was trying to make a joke off a previous comment (the joke about the bleach sign as a counter-protest), and clearly it missed the mark with you. And perhaps I'm being too hard on the bakers. I just hate it when people do a protest in a manner that's most likely counter-productive in terms of changing the minds of the undecided, and ends up undermining the credibility of others who share that position, and maybe taking a cheap shot at them was just my own childish way to distance myself from their actions.

    You're basically saying that everyone who disagrees with you about affirmative action is a terrorist.

    Also, speaking of missing the mark, please tell me where in my comment I called Ms. Choi a terrorist. In fact, I went out of my way to find something complementary about her, despite the fact that I disagreed with both her position and the means by which she tried to punish those who opposed her position. Now, I know I can be careless with my rhetoric, but I'm fairly certain I never called Ms. Choi, or anybody else, a terrorist in my comment.

    Granted, Ms. Choi's actions fit the language of at least one definition of terrorism ("using fear as a means to achieve a political goal,") but if you're including the use of fear of social censure or government censorship in that definition, then I suppose we've all called everyone a terrorist at some point.

  45. Ed2 says

    @adrian lopez makes a good point. If a local bakery priced their goods the same as the conservative students public campus bake sale, and claimed the same reasons, which would win: free speech or anti-discrimination? If the outcomes are different:
    1) why?
    2) Are students entitled to more free speech than businesses?
    3) Or are their free speech claims considered more credible because they are students, even though they are both making a profit?
    4) Would the free speech claims of either side be more credible if they were not making a profit?
    5) What if they were trying to make a profit but failed to – would that entitle them to more free speech protection?

  46. Encinal says

    @Ed2
    I doubt they were coming even close to making a profit, at least not once the value of their time is considered.

    @IForgetMyName

    No. Dishonest arguments–whether in support of positions I agree with or positions I disagree with– are "dishonest."

    That, and arguments you disagree with.

    (On a completely unrelated note, I also consider strawmanning to be intellectually dishonest, whether they're directed against me or against someone I disagree with.)

    Presumably, you are accusing me of doing so, but are too passive aggressive to do so directly. Someone making an accusation that you disagree with is not a "strawman".

    But that's not the position I attacked as misguided or possibly dishonest. The position I attacked was [paraphrased] that the actions of a student government, because it is part of a university that is loosely affiliated with the state, is itself de facto government action.

    Let's look at the passage I quoted:

    "However, to characterize this as somehow worse than any random group of students (outside of student "government") lobbying the school to discipline someone or change some rule is ignorant at best, and deliberately dishonest at worst."

    In this passage, you did not say "Saying that that the actions of a student government, because it is part of a university that is loosely affiliated with the state, is itself de facto government action is dishonest". You said that saying that a student government doing this is worse than someone else doing it is dishonest. Either you have a really short attention span, or you're being dishonest.

    Now, I know I can be careless with my rhetoric, but I'm fairly certain I never called Ms. Choi, or anybody else, a terrorist in my comment.

    Are you claiming that the KKK is not a terrorist organization, or are you claiming that the "white robe" comment was not a reference to the KKK?

  47. IForgetMyName says

    Presumably, you are accusing me of doing so, but are too passive aggressive to do so directly. Someone making an accusation that you disagree with is not a "strawman".

    Except when that accusation is made in bad faith, with no real basis in fact, for the sake of rhetorical gain. And no, I wasn't accusing you of strawmanning because I honestly wasn't sure whether you actually had a basis for the accusation that I missed because I had my blinders on, or you really were mischaracterizing my argument deliberately. Admittedly, a bit of a knee-jerk reaction on my part, but I suppose I was inclined to be a bit defensive in response to a statement this inflammatory:

    You're basically saying that everyone who disagrees with you about affirmative action is a terrorist.

    Plus, your statement seemed to implicitly attribute a pro-affirmative action position to me, an assumption for which you have no basis and which honestly I found almost offensive, and upon which pretty much everything else you said was predicated. Generally, when a series of attacks upon me are based on a single false assertion, it tends to make me think strawman.

    In this passage, you did not say "Saying that that the actions of a student government, because it is part of a university that is loosely affiliated with the state, is itself de facto government action is dishonest". You said that saying that a student government doing this is worse than someone else doing it is dishonest. Either you have a really short attention span, or you're being dishonest.

    You're absolutely right. I completely intended that to write that to characterize a student government's actions as "government action," and then to use that false characterization as a basis for claiming that that a student government's actions are worse than any other student group lobbying is misguided or dishonest, but clearly I didn't actually write that. And when looking it back over, I was still so fixated on what I thought I said that I didn't notice I didn't actually say that, kind of the like how you sometimes repeatedly miss an obvious mistake while proofreading, because in your head you keep seeing it as how you thought you wrote it.

    I apologize for the mistake, and for not seeing it when you first called me out on it. I suppose after this comment

    You're basically saying that everyone who disagrees with you about affirmative action is a terrorist.

    I wasn't particularly inclined to take you very seriously, and so I didn't give your accusations the careful consideration they warranted, but the fault there lies with me, not you.

    Just to hopefully settle this, I don't think it's dishonest to argue that one person lobbying the government is better or worse than another person doing the same. I maintain that it's either misguided or dishonest to characterize student government as "government action." I believe that it's misguided or dishonest to rely on this false characterization to support the argument that a student government's actions are worse than the lobbying of any other students. These are my views on the topic. If you disagree, feel free. If you want to convince me I'm wrong on any of those points, I'll try my best to listen better than I did before. If you have other evidence or reasoning to support the argument that a student government's lobbying is worse than other students' lobbying, I would be interested to hear that as well.

    Are you claiming that the KKK is not a terrorist organization, or are you claiming that the "white robe" comment was not a reference to the KKK?

    Since you brought it up, no I don't consider the KKK a terrorist organization. I would absolutely characterize the KKK in their heyday as terrorists, back when they used murder and assault and physical intimidation to spread fear. Today, they're certainly a hate group, and absolutely a bunch of assholes who espouse an opinion that deserves criticism and social condemnation. But no, they're not terrorists anymore.

    I'm not defending the Klan as decent human beings or anything like that–my gut feeling is that they're only dormant because they don't have the balls to act overtly now that they lack popular support and sympathetic officials willing to help them get away with it. But whatever their motivation, they're not engaging in actual acts of terrorism, so they're not terrorists. I don't approve of promoting hate; I don't approve of the many completely legal tactics they use to bully non-whites. But they're still legal.

    While I get that terrorism is a nebulous term at best, I refuse to stretch the definition to the point where merely spreading hate and fear (and not committing any crimes to do so) is considered terrorism.

    As for the "white-robed" comment, I explained it already. But if you require some deeper psychological introspection, I suppose that beyond being a flippant reference to someone else's flippant comment, I do think those kids have one thing in common with the Klan: Neither group seems to realize how much their methods are actually hurting their own cause. The kids think they're being clever, and they're probably making (some of) the guys who agree with them laugh, but for the most part they're only alienating and offending the people without strong opinions either way, and giving fuel and ammunition to their opponents. And, for that matter, kind of annoying some of us who agree with them. As I've unintentionally illustrated, people make big mistakes sometimes. But the bake sale isn't a mistake, an abstract idea they didn't realize was terrible until they put it into practice and saw how everyone reacted. It's been done before, it's provoked the same sort of reaction, and they decided that this was precisely the reaction they wanted to provoke again.

    Come to think of it, that's also my main criticism of affirmative action: While it would seem to help underprivileged minorities to get them into better schools, in the long term what affirmative action does is legitimize workplace discrimination, by giving legitimacy to the assertion that a non-white candidate is less qualified than a white student with the same degree and resume.

  48. M B says

    Meh, college students gonna college student. Kids make badly-thought-out political statements and kids whine about how they're entitled to never hear anything that hurts their feelings. It's all part of growing up. So long as the admin are keeping things steady, I don't see the point in getting too worked up about the students.

    As for Ed2, yes, obviously businesses have more regulations than individuals – that's why business licenses and permits are a thing. The laws are clear that businesses can't discriminate based on race, and that people can do some pretty dumb performance art in the name of free speech. So in this case that's sorta a non-issue. Now where a strip show becomes expressive art, on the other hand, is a greyer area. But not this.

  49. cecil says

    Hate crime is one of those phrases that tick me off whenever I see it. Do you really care whether someone killed you because you were wearing a hat as opposed to what category you fill in on a government form? Do you really care that they burned down your church because they thought the steeple was interfering with their TV reception as opposed to the nature of the congregation? Does the criminals feelings really matter?

  50. hamnox says

    The criminal's feelings matter if you have children, or like, anyone else you care about. Should they expect more of the same?

  51. Encinal says

    @IForgetMyName
    I really appreciate your apology, and it has raised my estimation of you greatly.

    As to the Klan, while perhaps they don't fall short of the full criteria of a terrorist organization, "hate group" is a bit mild a term. Klan members do still occasionally commit acts of violence, although I don't know of any organization-wide support for those acts. But wearing clothing of a group that once was a terrorist group and is still involved in violence, especially when said clothing obscures one's identity, is clearly an act of intimidation and goes beyond merely promoting offensive viewpoints. I don't think we should be flip about distinguishing between pure speech, and speech strongly tinged with threats of violence.

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