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Christopher Hitchens made an insightful comment on free speech. He suggested to his audience to accept offensive free speech (even Holocaust deniers) because, at the very least it will force you to think about why and how you know what you know. This is personal advice that is useful, if sometimes painful to endure.

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Indeed, though it's also important to keep in mind that the principal goal here is to convince third parties and reconfirm your own knowledge, not (necessarily) to convince passionate opponents. Forgetting this latter part can easily lead to troll-feeding and burnout.

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It's so extremely frustrating to me seeing people (often left-leaning people who are sick of responding to racist, sexist, transphobic, etc talking points) be like "debate is pointless, you never convince the other side!" The point of debate isn't to convince the other side, it's to convince the audience!

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Yes, although I don't want to discount the power of working through an argument for yourself as well. There's a balance to be struck, I think, between the sort of argument-by-conclusion that you tend to see from politicians or in media reporting, and repeatedly shooting down the same bad faith arguments from an endless series of pseudonymous trolls. The goal, ultimately, is to make an argument once, and then be able to hold to it until you, yourself, genuinely change your mind.

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Fact is that you cannot convince a cult, and you can't deprogram a cult. The antisemites, the haters, the religious extremists, the fascists are not going to be convinced to change their minds, not by debate. You can't debate a true believer into becoming an atheist, nor the other way around.

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Of course someone I know used to work In counterintelligence looking for people who might be dangerous and working to de-radicalize them. To do that, he had to “get in their heads” and try to figure out motivations. It took a lot out of him psychologically but he was often successful. I can’t reveal anything specific about him or his work and you won’t ever hear about the tragedies he prevented because they did not take place.

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The exception does not the rule make. FYI, until 1989 I was one of them, in fact I was interviewed by a rep from Aryan Nations, Then I did a geographic, met sobered up, met new people including former SDS and Weather Underground, even had lunch with Angela Davis, ( myself and about 20 others) and realized what a misguided fool and asshole I had been. And it didn't happen because of some debate. It started with winding up in a drunk tank and in an AA meeting, where I met other "kinds" of people. My social circle expanded and with it my world view, and I am still learning and expanding.

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I suspect the word "debate" is misleading you, because what you just said above actually agreed with my point. You changed your mind because of talking to people, not being shut out from them.

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Maybe not. But isn’t it a worthwhile exercise to listen to them to find out *why* they are in the cult? What aspects of it they find so comforting that they’re willing to engage in the cognitive dissonance of refusing to entertain whatever evidence you provide that disproves their views? I find that very often the *real* reason people believe something is not the reason they *claim* to believe it.

From my personal experience as a scientist, for example, I find that people who are passionately anti-vaccine know just as much (and often more) about certain aspects of virology than those who claim to be passionate advocates for vaccines and “following the science”. But when you ask specific enough questions, you find that most non-scientists with these positions just have a preference for a certain authority figure over another or inherently distrust authority or blindly follow it. Neither *really* knows enough the science that well. But listening to why they prefer a certain authority figure or distrust authority figures completely can be very illuminating. And discussing those sorts of issues instead of the superficial issues they manifest as is often helpful - if not in changing opinions, then at least understanding them.

I also disagree with your premise that people who are true believers can’t become atheists nor the other way around. I know people in both categories. I even happen to be one.

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I didn't say that persons who are true believers can't become atheists. I was a trad Catholic and am now an atheist. I shed a belief, and know of which I speak. Basically I was that guy adrift on the sea without a sail or oar, until I figured it out and realized that I don't need to believe to live.

But that is me.

As regards listening to others,to understand what motivates them. All I can so is "I don't care why you are doing what you are doing, just stop trying to kill me".

Other than that, I am pretty damn sure that I know exactly why they are in the cult, and don't care. Understanding them, does not deprogram them.

As regards cognitive dissonance, a true believer has none That's what belief is all about.

I recommend highly .https://www.amazon.com/True-Believer-Thoughts-Movements-Perennial/dp/0060505915 by Eric Hoffer

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<< I didn't say that persons who are true believers can't become atheists. >>

Your exact phrase was:

“You can't debate a true believer into becoming an atheist, nor the other way around.”

Now maybe you didn’t mean that people can’t change their belief systems but rather something like “you can’t *debate* someone in to changing their beliefs - that they have to arrive at that conclusion themselves.

But think about your own journey In rejecting Catholicism. It’s usually difficult for most people to trace the exact evolution of their thinking. But I doubt it happened overnight and I doubt it happened without a personal experience that challenged what what you knew or thought you knew or a personal encounter or several encounters with people or authors or cultural icons who you respected and took seriously and who introduced the seed of an idea that you had not previously encountered or had encountered but not taken seriously.

Obviously I know nothing about your story but I know it must have been a result of one or more of those things because throughout history, that is the only way anyone who has changed their minds about any belief has done so. In fact it’s the only possible way to do so.

The picture you paint of being adrift alone on a boat and having to figure out how the world works on your own is a noble and romantic idea, but it can’t be completely true.

If it were, that would be like growing up on an isolated island where Catholicism was the one and only way anyone ever had of understanding and explaining how the universe operates - Where you had no access to or even a concept of the existence of things like Greek mythology or history or other religions or science. In that scenario, how likely would it be for you to come to reject Catholicism entirely on your own? I certainly don’t mean to imply that you don’t deserve a great deal of credit for changing your belief system. I’m simply pointing out that most people who do so, don’t do it completely by themselves - even if they aren’t fully aware of all the influences that got them there.

We are all born and raised with a genetic proclivity towards certain fundamental personality traits (usually known as the big five). We are raised by other humans who tell us how the universe operates. As we grow, we encounter teachers and books and media and movies and social media posts and other people with lots of different ideas about how the world operates. Then, based on temperament, personal experiences, and influences, we make decisions about which beliefs we think are worth reinforcing and which are worth updating and which are worth rejecting. Most people get a bit complacent about doing this after about age 30 - unless something drastic happens that causes them to reshape their world view. But the best people, like Lenard Hand, are exemplars of epistemic humility and do this throughout their lives - always taking care never to be *too sure* that they’re right.

That’s an extremely long and rambling way of saying that if a good debater is aware of all the things that influenced them to change their minds about something, they might be able to gently, skillfully and without condescension, point out similar things to other people in accordance with their unique personalities, values and experiences.

So yes, I do believe it is possible to change the mind of a true believer through debate (or rather discussion). Is it always possible? No, of course not! and even when it is, it’s really hard and often not worth the time or effort. But for important people on important issues, I believe it’s worth a try. Democracy can only exist because of persuasion. Once we give up on persuasion, all we have left is force. And that’s not a system I care to go back to.

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This comment can only be trolling, as it seems to be deliberately phrased in such a way as to make it clear that you're intentionally disregarding what I've written.

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I did not intentionally disregard what you said. The problem is that you were not clear in what you were trying to say. FYI. I am no troll. I use my name, I do not hide behind a phony screen name.

I will repeat, you don't change minds by debate, Especially when it comes to cultural/religious issues. People come to a debate with rock solid ideas, when the subject is a hot button issue, and cultural/ religious issues .

Such issues are not opinions which can be shed, with the acquisition of facts or critical thinking. They are part of a persons core identity, beliefs. It is not easy to shed beliefs, it is tantamount to committing psychic suicide.

Beliefs are what we are made of, they form the core of our identity, be it racial, sexual, religious, political, even such mundane things as sports. (To wit: European soccer riots).

To shed a belief is akin to being afloat on the ocean on a door with no sail or oars.

The alternative is opinions. One can easily shed an opinion, when confronted with new information or evidence, provided they have critical thinking skills.

Opinions are either acquire or arrived at.

Acquired opinions are those that one picks up from authority or friends.

An opinion that is arrived at, is one that was formed from information, considered and evaluated.

The upshot is that debating in front of an audience who comes to the event with a set of beliefs is a waste of time. You don't change minds of people whose ego and identity is wrapped up in beliefs. And the cultural war is, if nothing, but a tightly wrapped package of beliefs.

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You’re right. You don’t usually change minds by debate - not immediately - but you can sometimes plant an idea in someone’s head that may rankle there for sometime and lead to a slow re-evaluation of beliefs. But if you enter in to a debate with the express purpose of convincing the other person you’re right, you will usually fail. Why would anyone listen to you or respect your opinion when it’s clear you don’t respect them enough to listen to their opinion even though you might disagree with it? I surely wouldn’t.

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And that's why the 1964 Civil Rights Act died in the Senate.

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Explain yourself please. That comment demands more information as to how. And how were the two connected.

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Christopher Hitchens was wrong. By accepting the speech of demagogues, you are participating in your own demise. Demagogues like Tucker Carlson spread infectious memes and give legitimacy to tropes, and before you know it, it is you that is being rounded up.

As I said above the 1st Amendment says that Congress shall make no law. It doesn't say a thing about you, me, universities, student unions, corporations, mom and pop businesses. Municipalities, states....just Congress.

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You make a meaningful point, especially with the case of Tucker Carlson. I’m so exhausted by people like him I can’t even attempt a counter argument. For anyone keeping score, you win.

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“Accepting speech/ideas” is not the same thing as “entertaining speech/ideas” or “allowing speech/ideas”. These are important distinctions.

And while it’s true that there’s no law that says you must listen to speech you disagree with, I think it invariably helps you to learn what the other side believes and why and not just rely on your own preformed opinions about what they believe and why.

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Sure. But when dealing with known bad faith actors who consistently lie about what their beliefs are and what motivates them, putting them on stage to expound their lies is not going to achieve that aim.

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Agree. But that’s not what I’m advocating. Once you have a good sense that certain people are “bad faith actors” who consistently lie about their beliefs and motivations, it probably won’t benefit you to put them on stage or listen to them.

But the only way you could have rightly judged whether or not they were “bad faith actors” who “consistently lie about their motives” was to have listened to them at some point in an open, honest and objective way.

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I don’t *quite agree*.

I do accept that it is an available method, when combined with reliable information about the things they say in other contexts and to other people, and/or their actions.

But we can also discern whether people are acting in bad faith using various other techniques, such as observing their actions and reading reports from others who we have good reason to trust regarding those actions, their words, etc. Even their associations - who they are willing to spend time with, ally with, support and succour, can be a sufficiently strong source of information to make useful judgements when combined with other information.

Humans make judgements all the time, using the available information. In conversations like this, some (present company excluded of course) will insist that when dealing with bigots, fascists or otherwise malicious political operatives we must be absolutely certain of their ill intent and moral corruption beyond a shadow of a doubt before making any decisions on how much attention to pay them. I see this as absurd special pleading. It’s okay to just observe that someone is making the same arguments that have been tediously trotted out as justifications for every last genocide, make a judgement that they are very likely to be villainous, and spend your time and resources engaging with one of the billions of other people on the planet with better ideas.

Listening thoughtfully to every demagogue is not necessarily the optimal strategy for finding truth. Dismissing ideas because they are unfamiliar would be a shame, but dismissing ideas because they are shallow, transparent pablum from a highly motivated grifter is rational. Remember, the start of this thread was about Tucker Carlson, and the article we’re all replying to is about Kyle Duncan.

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Ok, sure, I can accept that it may not be necessary for everyone to have actually listened to or read people directly to determine that they’re vile and not worth spending time listening to or reading. It’s just as a researcher, it’s drilled in to me to read the first-hand account whenever possible, even with highly trusted second hand sources. But I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to require such strict standards before judging someone. Most people don’t have that kind of time anyway. I don’t really know much about Kyle Duncan except for the views related in the OP. So I’m inclined to think he’s a bully but until I see the video of what happened, I’ll decide to hold off on making a final judgement. I have no problem if just reading that much is enough for most other people to judge him. As for Tucker, I had heard enough of him to judge with a reasonable amount of certainty what kind of a person he was. And even though the Chris Hayes’ clip of his “villain origin story” didn’t make me think better of him, it did help me learn some interesting things about his motivations which I was totally not expecting.

Again, I wouldn’t attend a talk by either of these people in the hopes of solidifying my beliefs or hoping to learn something new about theirs (I might do that for someone like Tim Scott maybe) and I wouldn’t suggest anyone else do so either. I was talking in more general terms. But I do strongly believe if someone has invited any of them to speak at a private event, that they have the right to do so.

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Bet he was channeling John Stewart Mill's On Liberty, sounds like

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I agree.

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

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Kyle Duncan is not exactly the steel man idea-presenter of the month though

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thank you! I went hunting but gave up after about 15 minutes -- could have sworn I'd saved this passage, but apparently not. (Saving now, with gratitude).

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You’re quite welcome! It’s one of my favorite passages so I assumed it was what you were referring to. Also it’s a good thing to pause and remind oneself of occasionally during these crazy-making times when it’s easy to align yourself with a certain side and then instinctively assume the other side must be wrong about an issue *just* because it’s the “other” side.

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Mar 14, 2023Liked by Ken White

Hi Mr. Popehat,

May I call you Mr. Popehat? I've had a rough day with failed banks and all but, suddenly, I want to laugh again (and cry a bit). Thank you for a reality check that so many people need.

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Mar 15, 2023Liked by Ken White

I’m not sure I agree with all the particulars of your argument, but I am much impressed by the way that you suggest that all the involved parties have behaved so badly and so greatly deserve your contempt that the whole situation is pushing you into becoming the biological equivalent of a malign artificial intelligence out of a Harlan Ellison short story.

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author

I knew my people would get the reference.

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I don't think I'd seen a single reference to IHNMAIMS in almost 30 years, and yours was the second I've come across today from completely independent sources. What is even going on?

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Well, yes. Roughly six hours ago at my workplace, our VP for Administration made an offhand comment about an internal systems failure by using the phrase “otherwise, it’s going to be a real Kobayashi Maru scenario.” Our CEO raised an eyebrow and replied “You see? And you were worried that you wouldn’t fit in here!”

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ESH. I wasn't aware of this incident (amazing how much less I hear about culture war topics after leaving Twitter) but it does indeed sound grim. Excellent writing though!

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"This is relentlessly grim. Nobody in this story makes me optimistic about America."

Nope. There are very clear good guys and bad guys here.

The protesters at least have the right intentions: defeat right-wing fascism.

True, they should think more creatively about their tactics. There are much better ways to weaken the power of a bully than by giving the bully an easy way to play victim. The best response is utter mockery, and Judge Duncan provides them plenty to work with. They could have held a mock trial accusing him of gross incompetence on the bench. They could have dressed like Trump and yelled "You're fired!" They could have done anything to accentuate his basic weakness: he's an unqualified troll who was appointed by a crook.

But they missed their chance. They fed the troll. It's not so difficult to understand: fascists make people afraid for their lives, and fear causes anger.

But the protesters at least have honorable intentions. They are literally trying to protect the lives of vulnerable people who are under attack by sadistic bullies. They are literally trying to protect democracy from a fascist power grab.

There are a lot of good guys in America. But nowadays not a single one of them is on the Right. Let's stop pretending otherwise.

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Well, kind of. I much prefer the students' core value of "let's treat gays and trans people as humans and stop pretending they're oppressing us." But "bad speech shouldn't just be countered, it should be suppressed and shut down" is a dangerous, shitty value that's core to their approach. Not cutting them any slack on it.

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Fair enough. But I will cut them a little slack, since they need education in the finer points of countering fascist narratives. It's not like they have a whole TV network feeding them their talking points every day.

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Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023

They're college students. Free speech norms (and the importance thereof) should have been part of high school civics, and "don't feed the trolls" should have been hammered into their heads since they were old enough to google "boobs". How much more education do they need?

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Okay, let's really talk about feeding trolls. You know what fascist trolls really want? It's not just to provoke the left into acting intolerantly. It's to provoke the left into acting intolerantly, and then have "moderates" respond predictably by talking about civility and moderation and "letting all voices be heard."

So instead of everyone focusing on the fact that the Federalist Society is a well-funded right-wing astroturf tool of fascism, we're here talking about civility and the finer points of the First Amendment.

Trolls have more than one goal, and you might be feeding them without even realizing it.

Did they teach you that in high school civics class?

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"They meant well to shut down speech and be a mob because it was mean fascist speech." Um, no. The braying mob shutting down speech ARE the fascists. That's definitional.

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You know, I'm getting so many predictable responses like this, I wonder if I need to rebut them or just leave them up as proof of my point.

The trolls at FedSoc won this round, that's for sure. Not only did the protesting students fall into the trap, so did all the apologists for fascism.

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A braying mob is not inherently fascist, not according to the "definition" anyway.

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Well sure, if there's one thing extremists of all types can agree on, it's those damn moderates and their calls for civility and free speech that are the true problem.

Or less sarcastically, the reason we're talking about "civility" and the finer points of free speech is because actual incivility and suppression of free speech took place. If we wanted to discuss well funded advocacy of fascism, there are many ways to do that without using actual fascism to accomplish it. In the hierarchy of "things that are important to stop" actual suppression of free speech is higher on the list than advocacy of suppressing free speech.

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It's funny how I keep getting comments that I'm advocating suppression of speech. That's telling. That shows how effective this trolling tactic is. The bullies get sympathy because they were shouted down, just as they hoped they would be, because they knew it would actually increase the reach of their sick message. It's so easy, and so many otherwise intelligent people fall for it every time.

My original most made very clear I believe the protesters chose a dumb tactic. Shouting down the bully doesn't work. Humiliating the bully with mockery works. One of the reasons it works is because it humor gets to the heart and truth of the matter, and when "neutral" observers are compelled by humor to laugh at the bully, it deflates the bully's power instantly. The neutral observer realizes that the person they were giving the benefit of the doubt to does not deserve it--that they're simply a bully who deals in lies and aggression.

And once again--the protesters' response was the wrong tactic, but an understandable one. They feel that they and their friends and loved ones are under attack--and they are correct. The bullies we are talking about are sadists who want to inflict pain on vulnerable people simply to score political points and fleece money off of rubes.

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They don't have a whole TV network? Sorry, was MSNBC founded this morning? I guess that (to a lesser extent) CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN are also brand new? I just this second invented late-night comedy and forged from raw geneseed the likes of John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, and Seth Meyers. I might have also just founded every major news and opinion page in the nation and peopled them with every over-educated, overly affluent midwit in existence, with the (lukewarm) exception of the Wall Street Journal. I'm god, is my point.

C'mon man.

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And here we go, predictably. "But what about MSNBC?!!" False equivalencies are the lifeblood of fascist propaganda. Sorry, but Jimmy Kimmel is not the same as Tucker Carlson. Not even close. You aren't comparing apples with oranges, you're comparing apples with strychnine.

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I'm definitely not comparing apples with strychnine. I might be comparing a fresh apple to one injected with strychnine, but my point would be that these are all news/opinion television personalities etc. and it's eminently reasonable to compare them.

But anyway, let's agree for the sake of argument that Jimmy Kimmel is not the same as Tucker Carlson, and that Fox is worse than MSNBC. Personally, I think they're all pretty atrocious, but no matter. That also wasn't the point of my comment.

Do you really think one Tucker Carlson is equivalent to 500-ish Jimmy Kimmels and Rachel Maddows? This isn't (precisely) a moral comparison; this is about who has the larger talking points pipeline.

Again, let's agree that Fox is 100% in hoc to a maximally bad fascist (keep crying wolf on that, see how it works out, btw) agenda, and that the Kimmels and Maddows are NOT 100% in hoc to a maximally bad communist agenda. I'd still lay odds that our media ecosystem produces about 10:1 communist to fascist talking points you could scrawl on a sign or shout over an invited speaker.

My point is, cut the shit. No one, not a single person, really believes you're the oppressed minority. You may not be the triumphalist majority (though you sure act like it when it suits you), and I know being the oppressed minority is core to your sense of self.

But your views on everything preponderate across virtually every field of elite discourse and have for about 40 years. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Free Beacon can't even find people to hire on the news side that aren't reflexively hostile to those papers' editorial stance. I say that's bad and needs to change.

And when your fellow-travelers, like these clowns at Stanford, make it so easy, dip the fruit so low, how can you blame me for picking it? I don't need fascist

(again, your word) talking points from Fox. SLS students and staff wrote them for me.

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Let me make it perfectly clear: the reason why the views of the "left" or "progressives" or "communists" or "snowflakes" or whatever you want to call it predominate is because THEY ARE THE REASONABLE VIEWS. And they have been the reasonable views since the Enlightenment, if not going all the way back to the dawn of democracy. However imperfect, they are a baseline of moral and ethical politics that the vast majority of decent, humane, patriotic Americans share. What the Right shouts about every day on Fox isn't an "alternative view." It's a bullshit view pushed by bullies, plutocrats, and mobsters. It deserves no respect as a view in and of itself; in fact, it's the opposite of a "view" - it's mere propaganda, and more often than not in these post-Trump days, it's just straight up lies.

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Tucker Carlson himself disagrees with you about the legitimacy of right wing media vs msm which tends to have a liberal bias: https://youtu.be/2_9zX6VyZuM

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If we got rid of the electoral college, this wouldn’t be a discussion. The grand Putin party would be a footnote.

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Most transwomen identify as lesbians and refer to "cis-lesbians" who son't have sex with them as transphobes.

https://afterellen.com/backlash-against-lesbians-assaulted-by-transwomen/

Here's a TED Talk by a pediatric endocrinologist about a 12 year old raised as trans from birth, started on blockers and estrogen at 10, and sterile at 12. So why not surgery?

https://www.ted.com/talks/tandy_aye_is_the_surgical_world_ready_for_adolescent_gender_surgery?language=en

Masculine girls and feminine boys are now pushed towards identifying as transgender.

Here's a lesbian/transman telling her story. She's in Walsh's film but she defends gay men and lesbians. Tomboys are girls who behave like boys. Let them be. https://twitter.com/NotScottNewgent/status/1634682798903635970

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Nonsense. Just absolute tosh. None of that is true, it’s pure fabrication in the service of moral panic. If you’re reading this with the idea that there might be some truth in any of these slurs, please remember: being trans is not actually a political position, it’s a gender identity. There are trans people with many different ideas about sexual politics, but just like in every other group, trans people overwhelmingly understand that sex without freely given consent is not OK and any hint of coercion in that process is creepy and awful at best and rape at worst. Just as in any other group of humans it is possible to find one or two examples of someone who has expressed horrific views. To state the bleeding obvious, the assertion that such a view is generally held is pure bullshit.

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Nonsense? A Stanford affiliated pediatric endocrinologist defends a mother's choice to raise a child as trans from birth and sterilize it with cross sex hormones. Maybe it's a moral choice, maybe not. Tell us what you think.

The Times (UK) on Hannah Barnes' new book

https://archive.ph/3jhxE

---Clinicians were seeing increasingly mentally unwell kids, including those who didn’t just identify as a different gender but as a different nationality and race: “Usually east Asian, Japanese, Korean, that sort of thing,” Dr Matt Bristow, a former Gids clinician, tells Barnes. But this was seen by Gids as irrelevant to their gender identity issues. Past histories of sexual abuse were also ignored: “[A natal girl] who’s being abused by a male, I think a question to ask is whether there’s some relationship between identifying as male and feeling safe,” Bristow says. But, clinicians point out, any concerns raised with their superiors always got the same response: that the kids should be put on the blockers unless they specifically said they didn’t want them. And few kids said that. As one clinician told Barnes: “If a young person is distressed and the only thing that’s offered to them is puberty blockers, they’ll take it, because who would go away with nothing?

Then there was the number of autistic and same-sex-attracted kids attending the clinic, saying that they were transgender. Less than 2 per cent of children in the UK are thought to have an autism spectrum disorder; at Gids, however, more than a third of their referrals had moderate to severe autistic traits. “Some staff feared they could be unnecessarily medicating autistic children,” Barnes writes.

There were similar fears about gay children. Clinicians recall multiple instances of young people who had suffered homophobic bullying at school or at home, and then identified as trans. According to the clinician Anastassis Spiliadis, “so many times” a family would say, “Thank God my child is trans and not gay or lesbian.” Girls said, “When I hear the word ‘lesbian’ I cringe,” and boys talked to doctors about their disgust at being attracted to other boys. When Gids asked adolescents referred to the service in 2012 about their sexuality, more than 90 per cent of females and 80 per cent of males said they were same-sex attracted or bisexual. Bristow came to believe that Gids was performing “conversion therapy for gay kids” and there was a bleak joke on the team that there would be “no gay people left at the rate Gids was going”. When gay clinicians such as Bristow voiced their concerns to those in charge, they say it was implied that they were not objective because they were gay and therefore “too close” to the work. (Gids does not accept this claim.)---

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You know an article is reliable, trustworthy, and not pushing an agenda when it very badly misdefines common medical terms ("Gids treats children and young people who express confusion — or dysphoria — about their gender identity," - that is not even a slightly correct definition of dysphoria,) proceeds to make incorrect claimword, originally formulated to treat prostate cancer and to castrate male sex offenders," - at no point were puberty blockers used to 'castrate' anyone, except in the most hyperbolic and sensationalist use of the word. They reduce libido and can lead to erectile dysfunction while they are being taken, but the effect passes once the medications are discontinued,) then continues with bad science ("It is generally accepted now that puberty blockers affect bone density, and potentially cognitive and sexual development." This makes it seem like these are shocking new discoveries, when in fact standard of care for use of GnRH in children has always included regular bone density tests because this is something we've known for a very long time, and it is neither "generally accepted" nor remotely supported that the use of puberty blockers causes absolutely any long-term issues with sexual or cognitive impairment.)

But these are just things that popped out at me from a cursory skim of your source. And these are just the quantitative, objective signs that an article may not be interested in truth so much as in agenda. There is also plenty of qualitative evidence, such as beginning the piece with the radical but entirely unsubstantiated claim that someone with a published book and multiple high-profile interviews is somehow being censored, but we'll ignore those as being too wishy-washy and subjective.

Long-story short, Gids had issues. Mainly, being sadly underfunded and understaffed. What they didn't have was an issue with the medication itself, or frankly most of their prescription of it. It's telling that when the long-term study came out, it showed that most of the people put on puberty blockers ended up fully transitioning and that this was somehow spun into being an indictment of puberty blockers and the clinic, instead of a running endorsement that despite their troubles they had actually mostly got it right. And they did, because despite the very public lawsuit from someone unhappy with their transition, long-term trans satisfaction rates are actually significantly higher than long-term satisfaction with plastic surgery, bunion surgery, hip replacements — basically any kind of medical procedure. Think about that: more people regret getting hip surgery, something we typically call a medically necessary procedure, than regret their transition.

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Marci Bowers: "Every single child who was blocked at Tanner Stage Two has never experienced orgasm, I mean it’s really about zero."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5V_gH01uII

I'm done with this.

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Except we suppress bad speech all the time. We have, for example, decided that inciting people towards imminent violence is bad speech that shouldn't be suppressed. And you, of all people, know this.

Responding to this incident as a free speech absolutist is one of the worst possible takes on the entire incident, because it is obviously intellectually lazy and quite likely intellectually dishonest. What you really mean is "it's ok that some bad speech is suppressed and shot down, but I just don't believe that this particular speech rises to that level because I, personally, do not feel threatened by it or believe that it creates any immediate danger for anyone, and also despite regularly citing landmark decisions that fundamentally change our understanding of free speech, I refuse to even consider the possibility that our current understanding of the first amendment isn't perfect and complete and should possibly be examined with some more scrutiny to see is maybe it is a good idea to maybe do some more suppressing."

So now, thanks to plaintive cries that we should accept the right of people to say anything, so long as you don't personally see the immediate harm, state legislatures feel comfortable proposing bills to forcibly detransition trans youth. But thank god that at least we didn't go down some hypothetical first amendment slippery slope, so real crisis averted.

And what's really telling is that immediately after talking about a concerted effort to enforce oppression from the bench and legislature, the only time you use the term "fascism" is to lambast a group of students shouting at someone who does the exact same thing, except from the bench and with the full force of the federal government behind him and only at people who have absolutely no opportunity to respond. You have weighed the two behaviors and found that being disruptive at a casual event is worse than a judge usurping his authority to demean a powerless person. "Fascism," I guess, is now a synonym for "rudeness."

The real problem isn't the organization you openly call "evil" in another post normalizing state-sanctioned violence against marginalized groups. The real problem is that if we silence people openly calling for the slow-motion murder of trans people, eventually some day maybe it's possible that somewhere someone might accidentally ban speech that isn't designed to hurt people. The horror.

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I get the feeling a lot of people you don’t agree with are deemed intellectually lazy and dishonest.

We can’t all be you, I guess.

Cheer up. Maybe you’ll get your way someday and be able to put people like me in jail, or camps. And you can still fantasize about it.

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Apr 2, 2023·edited Apr 2, 2023

Here's the thing, though, is that I have genuinely respected and looked up to you for years. Maybe over a decade now? Time has been relatively meaningless over the last couple of years. So if I'm a little less tempered and polite than I should be, that may be why. Or perhaps it's the fact that I had to pick up my life and move across the country in order to escape a state where it was no longer safe for my trans child to live thanks to a host of legislation culminating in SB254.

Which partly my point — this is all purely an academic exercise for you, but for trans people and their families, it isn't. You joke about me wanting to send people to camps (and come on, really? Camps?) while ignoring that the speech you're protecting is actually threatening to send people to jail. Not in a tongue in cheek, "I've basically decided that trolling gets more clicks now" way, but real jail.

But what makes this an intellectually lazy argument, in my opinion, and the portion you didn't bother to address at all because "OMG lol camps Nazis hitler" is that free speech is restricted in thousands of ways in this country and many others and it doesn't immediately (or even eventually) lead to your nightmare scenario of cattle cars full of brave contrarians. Canada's free speech laws are more restrictive than ours, but it routinely ranks higher than the US on measures of human rights. Germany (ironic given your knee-jerk response) has some of the most restrictive laws on speech in what we think of as the Democratic West, but somehow they muddle through without restarting that whole Holocaust thing every time someone says something that's verboten. Your entire support for the moral/ethical part of your argument is a slippery slope fallacy that has ample evidence of being neither a slope, nor slippery, but you trot it out nonetheless. If that's not intellectual laziness, what is it?

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I’ll bite.

What was the judge saying at Stanford that would be limited by a European speech policy?

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I apologize if I did a poor job expressing myself leading us to this question, and I hope you understand why this topic especially is exceptionally raw for a lot of people.

My point is not that the judge was violating any specific speech policy. I am not making a legal argument. I'm not a lawyer, and wouldn't dream of arguing the specifics of the law with you or any other lawyer, because I'm not an expert — you are.

But I don't believe you made a legal argument in this newsletter. You made a moral and ethical one, and that's what I'm responding to. In your own words:

"And they are too hubris-swollen — not too stupid, but too drunk with self-righteousness — to see that exceptions to free speech have always been used most harmfully against the powerless, and always will be. They’re too full of themselves to see that “let a crowd decide who is allowed to speak” is a horrific norm to promote with grotesque historic resonance. Some of them will grow out of this."

This is why I bring up European speech policy. And Canadian speech policy. And existing exceptions to the 1st Amendment that you touch on regularly, including in your newsletter about Shivaro.

I'm not saying there is a specific policy, law, decision, memorandum, or other bit of obscure legal wrangling that makes what the judge said wrong, or gives legal air cover to the students shouting him down. What I AM saying is that carving out exceptions to the 1A and freedom of speech as a concept has not, in fact, "always been used most harmfully against the powerless, and always will be." And that, in fact, the students shouting down the Judge in no way caused any meaningful harm to either the judge's free speech OR to the concept of free speech in general, and that perhaps we should look at expanding exceptions to free speech, not to include "anyone I think is an asshole," but to include "anyone who's speech is used to create harm to the very powerless that you're worried may be hurt in stone distant future when we've fully slid down the slippery slope that others have managed to avoid sliding down.

Maybe I'm drunk on self-righteousness and hubris-swollen. Maybe I'm arrogant in thinking that we, as a people, are capable of thoughtful carve-outs of inalienable rights that simultaneously prevent marginalized communities having to be refugees in their own countries AND prevent the United States from becoming the Fourth Reich. But if I am, then you must admit that you are as well, for supporting carve-outs of the 1A. The only difference, as I see it, is that you believe the issue is largely settled with the expeditions we have, and that the law must lead and the rest of us follow; whereas I believe that there's still room for improvement, and that the law is a trailing indicator for justice.

And I apologize for calling you dishonest. Everything else aside, that was unnecessary and petty.

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Excellent as usual. One quibble on behalf of platonic dialogue: you write, "Stanford students set out to protest the deliberately provocative invitation of Judge Duncan. They started great, modeling the variety of means available to them. They put up fliers denouncing Judge Duncan and FedSoc, they led a vigorous protest in the halls, they arrived at the speech with suitably blunt signs about Judge Duncan. Now, critics will fault them for even this, tone-policing their messages or suggesting that they ought to just sit down and have a Platonic dialogue with Judge Duncan or portraying the FedSoc members as victims of callout culture and shunning. That’s all bullshit. The protesting students’ rights and interests are neither inferior to nor superior to the interests of the FedSoc and Judge Duncan. Policing the civility of the response to speech and not speech itself is incoherent nonsense." Doesn't this conflate the separate questions of whether the Stanford law students have a right to use any tone that they like (Yes!) and whether it is good or desirable that they do so? I'd say without intending any bullshit that, insofar as the Stanford Law students are intent on vanquishing Trumpists, of all people, choosing to fight on the terrain of moral shaming, scathing tone and shock jock rhetoric is shortsighted! I'll defend the *right* of Stanford protesters to put up "Fuck You" posters all they want, but I'll also lament that law school students are engaging in a mode where Andrew Dice Clay would vanquish them all.

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You can absolutely critique their tone. However, as commentators on "speech culture," we should ask ourselves if we tone-police evenly, or whether we effectively pick a side by whom we tone-police. I'm sure Judge Duncan's speech, had he given it, would have been douchey and truculent in tone. If you critique the response to speech but not the speech on a tonal level, that's irrational -- and, more to the point, it looks like bias to young people trying to decide how to feel about free speech values.

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I agree that tonal critiques should be applied equally to speech and counter-speech, and that tone-policing runs the risk of looking like bias to anyone who is on the receiving end of it.

But (and maybe I errored here by using the too narrow phrase "tone-policing") I also want to assert and defend the superiority (at least in the context of law schools) of rhetoric with substance, offered in whatever tone, to empty insults like "fuck you" that convey nothing substantive save contempt; I want to assert and defend the superiority of reasoned discourse, offered in whatever tone, to unreasoned invective; I want to assert the superiority of "your jurisprudence is wrongheaded for reasons x and y" to "shame shame!" I want to assert and defend the superiority of modes that advantage careful, internally consistent thinking to modes that, if adopted as norms, would most advantage the Donald Trumps and Andrew Dice Clays of the world.

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Sure, I want those things too. And a pony. My gripe is that these concerns are too often used disingenuously in public free speech discourse -- like saying "why can't you just REASON with Milo Yiannopoulos?" A lot of modern right-side discourse is characterized by a Trumpian model of elbow-throwing. I don't think you can fault anyone for responding the same way. And let's face it -- FedSoc did not invite Judge Duncan hoping he would be calm, reasonable, and polite, treating his cultural opponents as honorable people with a different view.

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I share your contempt for the John Eastman wing of the Federalist Society, but I don't know enough about the Stanford chapter to be confident in assigning them motives. That said, if their intentions are what you say, I consider that contemptible, and also irrelevant to the superiority of responses with formidable substance, whatever their tone. And sure, "why can't you just REASON with Milo Yiannopoulos?" misunderstands what Yiannopoulos is doing, but one absolutely can reason with the opinions of a federal judge, regardless of how elbow-throwing he is in his comportment. Are the Stanford Law students learning how to reason with such a judge? Not via protesting this event. But they could have if they'd done it differently. And that alternative reality isn't some fantastical utopian vision. Law students manage to do it all the time. Why, it's as within reach as... a pony! https://www.equinenow.com/ponycalifornia.htm

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Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023

A couple of years ago, the student officers of the Stanford chapter tried to (and temporarily succeeded) in getting a student barred from graduation because he chose to excercise his free speech rights in a manner to which they did not approve. All three of them, despite their lack of respect for free speech, went on to prestigious clerkships with conservative federal judges.

You'll have to forgive me for questioning their dedication to free speech as anything but a vehicle for owning the libs.

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I don't fault you for questioning their dedication to free speech at all. I do question the relevance of their internal thoughts and feelings to the questions addressed in my comments.

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Inviting Duncan as an exercise in learning about what sort of petulant troll can become a federal judge might be worthwhile, but I don't think that's a fair inference of the intent here. Besides, plenty of professors are pretty good at giving life experience on how to grin and bear it with power-tripping jerks.

Engaging with illiberal ideas on an intellectual level and learning the counter-arguments and rhetorical tactics is absolutely an important future-lawyer skill. Having a good devil's advocate (even a sincere one) in that sense is not the same thing as practicing the people skills of staying professional when the judge very much isn't and there's nothing you can do about it.

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Uh... dude... it's the Federalist Society. If you are commenting on American politics in 2023, you should know that they're a bunch of insane right-wing fascists who have been incredibly successful in their goals. This is not rocket science, it is not news, they've been really loud and public about what they're doing for quite some time now.

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Oh my God, they've gotten to him!

Quick, man the guns! If Ken White has been taken, none are safe from the pony menace!

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Wait you want a pony? Who are you and what have you done with Popehat?

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Everyone gets a pony.

Vermin Supreme's campaign promise.

Excellent idea. You'll learn responsibility and empathy,

and when the guy you don't like comes to town to

give a speech you won't like, you have nonlethal

projectiles with which to redirect hir attention.

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Great piece.

And "it" is relentlessly grim, however I'm not sure how much insight you can extrapolate from a "free speech fight" at Stanford Law School (started by FedSoc malcontents) to the rest of America.

I am optimistic about America. FedSoc and the Stanford-Tier-Associate-DEI-Deans are the ones who deserve your pessimism.

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Assuming this report is accurate, this seems almost worst than the initial protest.

"Student Activists Target Stanford Law School Dean in Revolt Over Her Apology

Jenny Martinez becomes the target of student ire for saying “I’m sorry” to besieged judge Kyle Duncan

...

When Martinez’s class adjourned on Monday, the protesters, dressed in black and wearing face masks that read "counter-speech is free speech," stared silently at Martinez as she exited her first-year constitutional law class at 11:00 a.m., according to five students who witnessed the episode. The student protesters, who formed a human corridor from Martinez’s classroom to the building’s exit, comprised nearly a third of the law school, the students told the Washington Free Beacon.

The majority of Martinez’s class—approximately 50 students out of the 60 enrolled—participated in the protest themselves, two students in the class said. The few who didn’t join the protesters received the same stare down as their professor as they hurried through the makeshift walk of shame."

https://freebeacon.com/campus/student-activists-target-stanford-law-school-dean-in-revolt-over-her-apology/

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Eh. Peaceful assembly and symbolic speech. I may not agree with them but this very in-bounds.

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Again, I will defend their right to do this, but it seems pretty obvious to me that America will be worse if more people start exercising their free speech rights by finding professors who said things they disagree with, coordinating 100 people to stand outside their classrooms in masks, and force everyone leaving to walk through the gauntlet. Would the spread or wider embrace of that norm, as opposed to reflexive contempt for it, do more to empower liberals or authoritarians?

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Conor, our role as commentators on free speech issues is in part to be accurate — to inform readers correctly about what the law is, etc. But I’m also an evangelist for the core First Amendment deal — we use more speech instead of government force to deal with speech that angers us. I feel like the constant critique of clearly protected methods is counter-productive in that respect. We get done saying “don’t shout people down because that violates the rights of the speaker and listeners, find one of the billion other ways to protest,” and they choose a clearly protected, evocative, effective way to convey how upset they are, and we’re here all “oh no not like that either that’s too mean.” How is that convincing them to take the deal? Doesn’t that convince them the deal is bullshit, and we’ll always find something wrong with their dissent? Also, isn’t this kind of thing the most evocative and effective expression people with less authority can do in response to people with more authority?

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First, I get where you are coming from, and I am sympathetic. But when I write about speech on college campuses, I have more than one project that I am interested in advancing. As a baseline, I want the rights of all students protected. That's project one: free speech. But I also believe colleges play important societal roles as institutions where we seek truth and educate young people in civic acculturation. And in law schools, we introduce them to the norms of the legal system. In all those realms, I think that what Jonathan Rauch calls liberal science is hugely important and under-appreciated. And project two is defending liberal science. I think it is better than empty invective or appeals to emotion. That doesn't mean I'm going to police sketch comedy shows or whatever. But I am going to champion liberal science *within sensemaking organizations* like colleges and magazines.

I also think your *but will may make people take free speech concerns less seriously* critique cuts in both directions. That is to say, if Ron DeSantis supporters start copying the Stanford students' latest stunt, organizing a hundred people to stand outside the class of a professor, so everyone leaving has to walk through a gauntlet of creepily masked protesters, lots of people are going to read that as *intimidation tactic* and there's going to be a backlash that threatens free speech. I'll bite the bullet when it comes to defending expansive rights to protest like petulant bullies, but I think *that* strikes many as more, not less, credible when I also show I understand the downside costs of their approach and urge better even as I defend their rights.

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To continue: they didn’t do this because this professor said something they didn’t like about the dormant commerce clause. THere was a dispute, the students expressed themselves (albeit partially in a way that violated other people’s rights and showed contempt for speech values), the dean condemned them, and they responded to the dean with a protest that (1) emphasized their (incorrect) belief that shouting down was protected, (2) used silence as a commentary on teh dean’s public assertion that how they made noise is wrong. How is that possibly not 100% on point?

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It's a question of how broadly you want to define the illiberalism you're challenging: the impulse to silence disfavored speech, or the broader impulse to shame and shun those who are on the wrong side of values disputes. From a legal perspective, the first is easier to define and challenge. But it stems from the second.

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I define it as silencing violates rights and shaming and shunning are exercises of rights.

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This was threatening and it was supposed to be threatening. With the amount of violence going on in American cities that has spread fear among millions of women, I found it very scary. Does the Dean now have to have an escort to her car because that is how far some of those protesting and rioting have gone

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It'd empower more Republicans. Currently such treatment is not uncommon for rape victims as they walk in and out of abortion clinics. I do not see what's holding up Republicans from doing this to educators.

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This was threatening and it was supposed to be threatening. With the amount of violence going on in American cities that has spread fear among millions of women, I found it very scary. Does the Dean now have to have an escort to her car because that is how far some of those protesting and rioting have gone. That is not protest of speech that is bad behavior (which future lawyers should be cognizant of particularly if they defend women who have been abused and raped) for not getting what they want in an organized speech by a Judge. If they didn't want to be threatening then why didn't they go and do this to the actually people who wanted to apologize and not someone that was pretty much made to sign on but obviously wasn't really wanting too.. What about a student that disagrees and says as much on campus? Do they now have to expect this threatening tactic? The fact that Ken White thinks it is appropriate is scary. Do any of you have women, children in your life?

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This was threatening and it was supposed to be threatening. With the amount of violence going on in American cities that has spread fear among millions of women, I found it very scary. Does the Dean now have to have an escort to her car because that is how far some of those protesting and rioting have gone. That is not protest of speech that is bad behavior (which future lawyers should be cognizant of particularly if they defend women who have been abused and raped) for not getting what they want in an organized speech by a Judge. If they didn't want to be threatening then why didn't they go and do this to the actually people who wanted to apologize and not someone that was pretty much made to sign on but obviously wasn't really wanting too.. What about a student that disagrees and says as much on campus? Do they now have to expect this threatening tactic? The fact that Ken White thinks it is appropriate is scary. Do any of you have women, children in your life?

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Mar 22, 2023·edited Mar 22, 2023

Should I reply thrice to your three identical posts? I think I can say it once: no, the bald assertion you make here, without evidence or argument behind it, is false.

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Mar 14, 2023·edited Mar 14, 2023

Ok, I'm struggling with this same topic. A member of our county school board had lunch with middle school students. He wore a tee shirt that displayed under the banner History of American Defiance an array of rifles, from the 1700s up to an assault rifle.

School policy does not allow the kids to wear 'messaging 't-shirts.

I am freaked on several fronts. He's a school board member, top of the school authority, showing children that guns are what you use when you need to be defiant. While the country worries about school shootings and mental health challenges in children, he shows up in a provocative t-shirt.

But his 1st Amendment rights.... That's what he's claiming. I think he's grooming kids. Where do we draw the line?

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For one, you could stop using the word “grooming,” which has long referred to pedophiles plotting to have sex with children, to describe someone being a stupid blowhard.

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OK, point taken. I'm reacting I guess to the chatter a while ago that the Teletubies were 'grooming' little boys to become feminized.

But, what do you think of this situation? Leave it as is?

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Roll your eyes. If you feel it necessary, tell your kids that Mr. X is a stupid jerk. Go on with your life.

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>School policy does not allow the kids to wear 'messaging 't-shirts

Isn't this unconstitutional?

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I think not, as long as it's a viewpoint neutral policy. Clearly though, a school board member meeting with student dressed in _any_ t-shirt is unprofessional.

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That’s the common assertion but come on, the first amendment has nothing in it about neutrality or fairness. It’s an absolute right to speech unfettered by government.

And putting aside the absurd left/right divide, it’s manifestly not evenly applied. There is one class being silenced: children. And another not being silenced: the adults who have power over those children.

This rule is a naked exercise of power, and this case study is an example of that power clothed.

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Yep. Parents have a lot of power over their children, and the school is acting in loco parentis. At this point, there's not a lot of legal debate about this.

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Removed (Banned)Mar 16, 2023
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It’s really an excellent point. There’s no reason to be afraid of guns. Of course they can and do kill many, many people but that’s only because the wrong people have them. The wrong people only have them because of progressive Marxist socialist cultural Marxism. People don’t get killed all the time by guns in Europe because they have no Marxism there.

God, you people are painfully, painfully stupid.

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An excellent and well deserved roast of everyone involved Ken!

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Also the students weren't helping trans or progressive causes. I'm sure Stanford law students could work out that yelling and catcalling during the event wasn't going to persuade anyone else but offered a great soundbite for fox news. Not to mention the potential for biasing judges against those causes by making sure they associate them with upsetting treatment (Im sure SCOTUS has heard about this and the conservatives won't identify with the students).

Sometimes a cause needs some rude and uncivil action. But if you really care the minimum you should be expected to do is first think about whether you are helping or hurting. They could have turned all the media coverage into questions about the judge's behavior and rulings by some protesting outside and polite pointed questions but apparently they don't care enough about the cause to worry about being effective.

As someone who generally leans left on social issues that upsets me as does fact that even when vox publishes a whole article about how this could make things worse at SCOTUS (doubt it's that big an effect) no one seems to be calling out the students for doing activism badly.

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It may work it may not. But it doesn't backfire. Just because you get frustrated because you don't see any way to make things better doesn't make it ok to make things worse.

I mean us involvement in Vietnam (or WW1) was wrong and it was deeply wrong and unfair to make young Americans die in it. Peace protests and the like weren't working so does it follow that it would be ok for some anti-war activist to assassinate the president if they could? Despite fact that this would likely just increase support for the war and hurt the movement? I mean if it would have saved all those American and foreign lives then I do think it would have been morally justified but it would just have made things worse so it wasn't.

Like I don't get this. We never say in other situations: well all the things I've tried to make things better haven't worked so it's ok to do something that makes things worse. Life's a bitch and sometimes even our best efforts can't make it fair but that doesn't make it ok to make it less fair because you are (justifiedly) frustrated.

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All I'm saying is don't do things that hurt the cause. This was only ever going to make their cause look bad. I think what I suggested would be helpful (often marginal gains are best one can do) but if not then just don't do something that is going to make your cause seem less persuasive and give the other side a great soundbite/clip.

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I don't think this hurts the cause whatsoever, I had no idea that this had happened but now I guess I love Stanford Law students.

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Well other things being equal providing clips that Tucker Carlson gleefully shows on fox is probably a negative for a well-known progressive cause (no one is being informed that trans/LGBTQ activism exists). So what's the benefit that outweighs that?

Second, let me note I'd say the same thing about the judge's behavior. Had he managed to be calm and let the students seem like the only ones out of control it would have been a much bigger victory for his politics but since I don't care for his politics I care less. Also he presumably didn't plan this the way the students did.

Of course how one sees this depends partly on where you are on the political spectrum. Now, presumably, the ultimate goal is to effect change in either the law or the judiciary and how are you going to achieve that? You've gotta convince ppl who either were on the fence or not participating to join you (or at least vote for you).

But if you go look at political campaigns and some academic literature you find that people tend to be repelled not attracted when they see a group/canidate acting angry, yelling etc.

So sure, the people who already agree with you say 'right on' but you give up the chance to make the judge's bad deciscions the focus and you alienate some ppl and for what that protesting silently inside, loudly outside and asking tough questions wouldn't?

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There is no guarantee that you will always be able to do something that fixes a problem. Your responsibility to not make it worse exists regardless.

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another Molly - I was aware of the incident, but lost track of it amidst all the other shittery happening. Thank you, Ken, for your post-mortem of the event; it helped me clarify my own reaction, and by it you did give me a little hope. Someone's paying attention; I'm glad it's you.

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Shouldn't your first sentence say "accused murderers" not "murders"?

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You have oppressed my people, who have no tradition of proofreading.

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Blame Mr/Mrs/Ms Google. It/he/she told me about it.

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Mar 15, 2023·edited Mar 15, 2023

> They demand the right not just to speak, but to control the speech of others.

And what's more, they seek to destroy the careers and connections of anyone who dares to stand up for liberal principles, as the "walk of shame" protest yesterday demonstrates: https://freebeacon.com/campus/student-activists-target-stanford-law-school-dean-in-revolt-over-her-apology/

Maybe Kyle Duncan is an culture warrior. Maybe the FedSoc members are provocateurs. I don't weep for them, I weep for the Dean who got caught in the middle and tried to stand up for what is right, and is now the target of shunning. The message from the students is clear: let us control the discourse, or else.

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Hard disagree. They didn't like a dean's stance and engaged in a nonviolent protest. Completely in-bounds.

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Suppose some conservative students didn't like a trans student using the "wrong" bathroom, and were waiting in the hall outside the bathroom in exactly the same manner of protest to show their disapproval. In this hypothetical, let's assume it is the official policy of Stanford that transgender students are fully entitled to use the bathroom matching their gender (which I suspect is probably the case in reality also).

Completely in-bounds nonviolent protest? When does nonviolent protest cross a line into personal harassment and intimidation?

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That scenario would bother me because of intimidating targeting of a single student with no power. Here it was the DEAN, a person with more power than them, who had condemned them in writing, singling out their speech as inappropriate (as it was, since it was shouting down). They responded with a silent protest that effectively commented on the concept of being quiet vs. being loud. I don’t agree with their (wrong) point that shouting down is protected speech but the response to the Dean of the school condemning them was totally in-bounds.

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I guess it hinges on whether you see the student protest as a statement that is adding to the discourse or an attempt at personal intimidation of an individual. People need the freedom to make statements, even if those statements are wrong, but I believe it crosses a line if people attempt to extract through intimidation concessions that they could not win through persuasion.

The power analysis breaks down if many students banding together are capable of inflicting more personal repercussions on a dean than the dean can practically inflict on them. The dean probably cannot sanction 1/3 of the student body, especially as they are the paying customers, but a protracted campaign by the students has a very real chance of inflicting a significant personal and professional cost on the dean.

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Honestly this is drifting pretty far towards proving the students' assertion that nothing they do will ever be acceptable unless it's a decorous debate on the exact terms the people they criticize are demanding.

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I have asked if you want to propose a principled distinction between protest and intimidation. I am genuinely interested in hearing one. Could the students show up at the dean’s house? The school her kids attend? The only line I have heard you draw is that a party who nominally holds the power is a priori presumed to be fair game for any form of nonviolent protest. I do not find this analysis convincing.

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Your example is shockingly poor. Trans people are routinely murdered horribly for using the “wrong” bathroom, and everyone knows this. Meanwhile deans are not routinely murdered by anyone for any reason, and certainly not by law students protesting policy on speaker selection. One of these things is therefore very scary intimidation with an implicit threat of sexual violence and death, and the other really is not.

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Does "everyone" know this? I would love to see some data showing that trans people are "routinely murdered horribly for using the 'wrong' bathroom."

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Every new thing I read about and from Stanford law & economics faculties gets ever more cartoonish. GOP central, not a seat of learning.

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Thanks for another concise and well-written article. I think I had absorbed all of this from all the things you posted on Twitter. It's just too damn bad that most of us are only for free speech for our side.

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