The Serpent

Here’s an excerpt from a column by Ulrich Baer – a “vice-provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity” at NYU — in yesterday’s New York Times:

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks. It means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community. Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents, can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.

That’s quite a mouthful. Let’s examine it before swallowing.

The idea of freedom of speech does not mean a blanket permission to say anything anybody thinks.

This may be true in private life — an employee certainly can’t expect to be able say anything he thinks in a business meeting, or a child in her parents’ home, without consequences. But if we are talking about the law, and therefore about public institutions, then the matter is clear: with the exception of a few extremely narrow and clearly defined exceptions, the freedom to say “anything anybody thinks” is explicitly enshrined in the First Amendment. This applies with particular relevance to exactly the sort of speech that is coming into question in recent years, namely opinions about political, social, and scientific controversies.

It means balancing the inherent value of a given view…

The “inherent value”? According to whom? It’s our differing valuations of ideas and viewpoints, descriptions and prescriptions, that makes the airing of opinions and arguments so vitally important in the first place, and that makes their suppression so dangerous. If everyone agrees about a thing, what is there to discuss? If there’s no dissent, why have a First Amendment at all?

…with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.

Yes, of course — but the answer to that is simple and obvious: don’t suppress speech.

Free-speech protections — not only but especially in universities, which aim to educate students in how to belong to various communities — should not mean that someone’s humanity, or their right to participate in political speech as political agents…

Is it not precisely the “right to participate in political speech as political agents” that the author of this essay proposes to limit? Is that not what recently happened, for example, to Charles Murray and Christina Hoff Sommers, presumably with Provost Baer’s approval?

…can be freely attacked, demeaned or questioned.

Let’s leave aside “attacked” and “demeaned”, which in this context simply mean “disagreed with”, or “disapproved of”. But “questioned”? This is the darkest and most revealing word in Mr. Baer’s essay. His position, just to make it clear, is that there are questions we must not be permitted to ask.

Excuse me, Mr. Baer, but: permitted by whom? The Left is fond of railing at inequalities of power. Who, then, shall wield the power to decide what others may question?

Forgive me for asking.

Related content from Sphere

5 Comments

  1. Wilson says

    “oversees faculty, arts, humanities and diversity in addition to teaching poetry, philosophy, and globalization as Professor of German and Comparative Literature” also an expert in psychology and photography

    pretends to be a universal expert, when he was simply hired to teach German because he’s from Germany

    Posted April 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  2. Whitewall says

    Groups and communities. What a curious world these academics have created. Speak one way to this group and another to that group. Heaven help you if you accidently mix a couple. The left is creating its own paranoia with maybe a program “Smith” to mind everyone’s speech. “Smith” is my first shot at a “Matrix” analogy.

    Posted April 26, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  3. colinhutton says

    VERY VERY WEIRD!

    I was in the process of finalising a comment when the above appeared under my name. For sure it was not composed by me! Mine will follow asap. Perhaps this , or the following one, will then appear under someone else’s name! That would be doubly confusing!

    Posted April 26, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  4. colinhutton says

    Testing

    Posted April 26, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  5. Trumpmonster says

    Check out his NYU pic. Physiognomy is real

    Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink