As long as it fails to correspond to their version and values attached to speech. Any speech. All speech.
And to think we once had a First Amendment.
In my mind, that bespeaks much more about all of those other countries than it does about the United States.
But isn’t some speech the equivalent of brutality? Can’t much of speech be the equivalent of brutality? Let’s consult a Leftist psychology professor.
When Is Speech Violence?
by Lisa Feldmann Barrett
Imagine that a bully threatens to punch you in the face. A week later, he walks up to you and breaks your nose with his fist. Which is more harmful: the punch or the threat?
The answer might seem obvious: Physical violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren’t. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
But scientifically speaking, it’s not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life.
Wait. So can eggs. Cow farts. A blue ringed octopus. Loose lug nuts. The cargo door from a 747. A bee. Bad spinach.
If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence. But which types?
There you go. Speech is in fact violent. With that in mind, I wonder just what kinds of speech Leftists will consider violent because, after all, the author is quite the Leftist herself? Moreover, who will make these weighty decisions?
This question has taken on some urgency in the past few years, as professed defenders of social justice have clashed with professed defenders of free speech on college campuses. Student advocates have protested vigorously, even violently, against invited speakers whose views they consider not just offensive but harmful — hence the desire to silence, not debate, the speaker. “Trigger warnings” are based on a similar principle: that discussions of certain topics will trigger, or reproduce, past trauma — as opposed to merely challenging or discomfiting the student. The same goes for “microaggressions.”
Ah, here we go. Safe spaces. Coloring books. Safety pins, trigger warnings and microaggressions. The only things truly required at universities any more are drool cups. And sippy cups.
The scientific findings I described above provide empirical guidance for which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn’t be acceptable on campus and in civil society. In short, the answer depends on whether the speech is abusive or merely offensive.
Again: define “abusive.” In whose eyes? And who makes that ultimate determination?
What’s bad for your nervous system, in contrast, are long stretches of simmering stress. If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that’s the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain. That’s also true of a political climate in which groups of people endlessly hurl hateful words at one another, and of rampant bullying in school or on social media. A culture of constant, casual brutality is toxic to the body, and we suffer for it.
Wait. Are these hateful words. Is this an advocacy of violence?
A history of violence? On whose side?
What of the loving and peaceful Diablo College professor Eric Clanton? Correct me if I’m wrong, but this appears to be actual violence committed by a Leftist on camera.
Then there is Leftist professor Kevin Allred from Montclair State University who Tweeted last Friday night, July 28th: “Trump is a fucking joke. This is all a sham. I wish someone would just shoot him outright.”
What does that sound like to you? Just a wee tinge of violent speech? Enough to nut up a snowflake? Not necessarily for, you see, it is all quite topic-dependent.
To me it sounds like the environment one customarily encounters on any given campus in the United States when any student, singly or in a group, begins speech which is conservative in nature. In this aspect Barrett makes a perfect point. But not the one she intended.
That’s why it’s reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering.
Let me unpack the obvious here, something few people point out. Milo is or isn’t anyone’s particular cup of tea. Frankly, I enjoy his willingness to display pushback right in the revered houses of “education” so unfailingly determined to restrict speech. But the reason debate isn’t generally acquired in a Milo campus presentation is because of two aspects: 1. He thinks on his feet with remarkable rapidity, and 2. He is quick to throw facts and situations back at the commenters and questioners in the audience. Leftists don’t operate in the sphere of facts but instead of emotions.
That was pretty emotional, I’d wager. Thanks, professor. Nice advocacy of violence.
By all means, we should have open conversations and vigorous debate about controversial or offensive topics. But we must also halt speech that bullies and torments. From the perspective of our brain cells, the latter is literally a form of violence.
Then Barrett encountered a problem. She appeared on the Tucker Carlson show.
Leftists are at least nothing if not consistent. They only deign to answer questions fitting their narrative. And certainly not the questions I posed as did Tucker: define abuse and tell me who becomes the ultimate determinant of same?
Leftists would resoundingly answer in unison to the one question: government should be the determinant by way of laws restricting speech. Damn that First Amendment.
Oddly enough an article exists in New York magazine countering Barrett’s argument.
Stop Telling Students Free Speech Is Traumatizing Them
by Jesse Singal
One fairly common idea that pops up again and again during the endless national conversation about college campuses, free speech, and political correctness is the notion that certain forms of speech do such psychological harm to students that administrators have an obligation to eradicate them — or, failing that, that students have an obligation to step in and do so themselves (as has happened during recent, high-profile episodes involving Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos, which turned violent).
Agreed. Just ask snowflakes. I love that word. It’s so apropos.
So it’s weird, in light of all this, to see the claim that free speech on campus leads to serious psychological harm being taken seriously in the New York Times, and weirder still to see it argued in a manner draped in pseudoscience. Yet that’s what happened. In a Sunday Review column headlined “When Is Speech Violence?” Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, explains that “scientifically speaking,” the idea that physical violence is more harmful than emotional violence is an oversimplification. “Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life.” Chronic stress can also shrink your telomeres, she writes — “little packets of genetic material that sit on the ends of your chromosomes” — bringing you closer to death.
Is this the same science to which Al Gore shakingly refers? The same science the Australian Weather Bureau used to cobble together false climate numbers?
This is a weak and confused argument. Setting aside the fact that no one will ever be able to agree on what’s “abusive” versus what’s “merely offensive,” the articles Barrett links to are mostly about chronic stress — the stress elicited by, for example, spending one’s childhood in an impoverished environment of serious neglect and violence. Growing up in a dangerous neighborhood with a poor single mother who has to work so much she doesn’t have time to nurture you is not the same as being a college student at a campus where Yiannopoulos is coming to speak, and where you are free to ignore him or to protest his presence there.
Thank you. Finally, someone points out the Captain Obvious aspects of campus speech and pretty much speech everywhere.
And that’s this. You have two legs and at least something of a brain. You can decide to leave the room, turn off the television, stop reading, leave the website, put down the magazine, turn off the iPad, etc. Any number of logical adult decisions can be made. Logical. Adult. Decisions.
This is apparently a concept with which Leftists, snowflakes, raindrops and all makes and models of emos are stultifyingly unfamiliar.
Nowhere does Barrett fully explain how the presence on campus of a speaker like Yiannopoulos for a couple of hours is going to lead to students being afflicted with the sort of serious, chronic stress correlated with health difficulties. It’s simply disingenuous to compare the two types of situations — in a way, it’s an insult both to people who do deal with chronic stress and to student activists.
Thank you. Again more shocking clarity and honesty.
Now, it would be just as much of a stretch to say that a single column like Barrett’s could cause students to self-traumatize as it would be to say that an upcoming Yiannopoulos appearance could traumatize them. But in the aggregate, if you tell students over and over and over that certain variants of free speech — variants which are ugly, but which are aired every moment of every day on talk radio — are traumatizing them, it really could do harm.
Yes. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
And there’s no reason to go down this road, because there’s no evidence that the mere presence of a conservative speaker on campus is harming students in some deep psychological or physiological way (with the exception of outlying cases involving preexisting mental-health problems). This is a silly idea that should be retired from the conversation about free speech on campus.
From whom does trauma occur to others? Leftists.
From whom does violence on campus occur? Leftists.
Who cannot brook or tolerate opposing viewpoints, thoughts or exposition?