We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

What is more, if I want to hold lectures or seminars on the topic of empire, I will do so privately, since I cannot be sure that my critics will behave civilly. On one occasion recently, I held a day-conference to discuss Bruce Gilley’s controversial article, “The Case for Colonialism,” and found myself having to use pseudonyms to hide the identities of some participants. One young scholar only attended on condition that his name nowhere appear on print, nor his face on any photograph, lest his senior colleagues find out and kill his career. What this shows is that the legal right to freedom of speech is not enough. What’s also needed are colleagues who are willing to conduct themselves according to informal norms of civility and responsible, rational exchange. Clearly some colleagues are not so willing. So the question is, will middle-managers in universities—faculty and college heads—do anything to uphold norms of civility against colleagues who trample over them, or will they abrogate their civic responsibility and off-load it onto the courts?

Nigel Biggar

18 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • JadedLibertarian

    This touches on an often misunderstood point. Freedom of speech is two things: a legal protection AND a philosophical principle.

    Bodies (like university student societies) will often excuse their censorious behaviour by showing that they are not trampling your legal right to free speech, while displaying utter contempt for the very principle of free speech as a worthwhile exercise. For bodies that were founded to further philosophical (not legal) free speech, this is particularly galling. If you wish to practice free speech in your local Dominoes Pizza, that’s one thing. But on principle universities should be venues for the free exchange and scrutiny of ideas. Otherwise they simply don’t work.

    I might add I’d include political blogs in this as well. Guido, I’m looking at you. One little Twitter campaign by a bunch of leftist morons, and he nukes his comments section. While he’s not violated anyone’s legal rights, he’s shown himself to be hostile to a key principle of liberty.

  • The last Toryboy

    “Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.” – Mill

  • Ljh

    Jaded Libertarian: re Guido. You’d think that post the lifting of the D notice on TR’s arrest, he’d apologise for some of the overzealous moderation which castrated debate, for the banning of commentators as “bigots” for peripheral and circumspect opinions on secret justice, but no, the site has become a tame sterile simulacrum of everything that attracted a readership to begin with.

  • will middle-managers in universities—faculty and college heads—do anything to uphold norms of civility against colleagues who trample over them, or will they abrogate their civic responsibility and off-load it onto the courts?

    It’s news to me if middle-managers in free-speech-averse universities – which are many – are not worse than the lecturers and researchers who are supposedly the point of these institutions. While many a professor runs with the “you can’t say that” crowd, the administrative bloat of recent decades has tipped power from them to the administrators, who are worse offenders – and well able to make any doubting lecturer or researcher afraid to argue. I’d be pleased but also surprised if they are merely ‘offloading’ defence of free speech to the courts. Some are just afraid to put their own heads over any parapet but many are vile, not just cowardly.

  • I might add I’d include political blogs in this as well. Guido, I’m looking at you. One little Twitter campaign by a bunch of leftist morons, and he nukes his comments section. While he’s not violated anyone’s legal rights, he’s shown himself to be hostile to a key principle of liberty.

    I would have to disagree with you there. The nature of the institution and mode of discourse makes a huge difference to how it operates within the ‘free speech’ paradigm. I agree with the linked article re. universities: either they are ‘places of learning’ that enable free enquiry, or they are mere technical schools designed to ‘qualify’ people (not that there is anything wrong with technical schools per se).

    However, a blog is not a university or even a newspaper, so very different rules apply. I kill comments and kick/ban people all the time (primarily to keep the local discourse within civilised bounds according to my sensibilities) and I have always been quite clear about my reasons for doing that. The same logic surely applies to Guido, albeit he and I have a rather different mission & target audiences (he is overwhelmingly focused on politics, Samizdata is about commentary).

  • nemesis

    Civilised debate has become remarkably less so in recent years. I would like to see a revival of proper debating societies in schools, media and other institutions where people can learn the art and discipline of a well informed argument.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Perry, to paraphrase Claus Von Clausewitz, violence is the continuation of debate by other means.

    As more and more places join the “you can’t say that” crowd, the venues where people can openly discuss ideas near the fringes of the societal Overton window are becoming few and far between. This will lead to violence. By silencing a man you don’t magic his views away.

    For years Guido was a hangout for foul mouthed paleo cons, BNP members, Tommy Robinson lovers, apparently paid Marxist plants and salty Putin trolls. I loved it. I disagreed with most of what was said, but it was always entertaining and sometimes informative. More than once stories were actually broken in the comments section. It was this way for years.

    Guido has now shut this down because a Twitter campaign called “Guido Fawkes hate” put the fear on him. He’s shut people up because he didn’t like what they had to say. Now, he’s under no obligation to give them a platform, but by refusing to stand up for the principle, he’s showing himself to be part of the problem.

    The logical endpoint of national no-platforming is violent revolution. When people can no longer discuss ideas, they will continue the debate by other, less lofty, means.

  • By silencing a man you don’t magic his views away.

    Absolutely, but throwing him out of your living room greatly improves the local quality of discourse if he refuses to change the subject. I admit I am somewhat surprised by Guido’s change of tack as I always assumed his utterly noxious comments section was a feature not a bug, one I had zero interest in emulating. But I am certainly not going to criticise him for it, and not just because Paul Staines is a chum of mine. I may ask him what was really behind this next time our orbits intersect at some event, and if he says that is for public consumption, I may comment on that here.

    The logical endpoint of national no-platforming is violent revolution. When people can no longer discuss ideas, they will continue the debate by other, less lofty, means.

    Again I agree. But whilst not everyone can have their own university, or even their own newspaper, everyone can indeed have their own blog, which is why different rules apply. No-platforming at a university is intolerable, no-platforming on a blog is just a preference.

  • Mr Ed

    Ought not the Common Law imply a term into an academic’s contract, if it be not express, that free enquiry be not impugned? If an institution wished to oust such s term, it would have to be expressly stated, and made notorious, from the outset.

  • bobby b

    “If an institution wished to oust such s term, it would have to be expressly stated, and made notorious, from the outset.”

    If one looks through the schools’ websites and calculates the ratio of Diversity/Gender/SJW administrators to Organic Chem professors, the answer is already notorious. 😀

    As a side note, the Gamergate people are once again leading the way against the relentless de-platforming of non-PC voices.

  • Flubber

    “Perry, to paraphrase Claus Von Clausewitz, violence is the continuation of debate by other means.”

    Same goes for voting. If we vote for Brexit, and dont get it, violence is fast approaching.

  • >Civilised debate has become remarkably less so in recent years. I would like to see a revival of proper debating societies in schools, media and other institutions where people can learn the art and discipline of a well informed argument.

    But the degrading of civilized debate isn’t an accidental feature of modern society, it’s part of how the left asserts its control. There weren’t a lot of debating societies under Stalin.

    >Ought not the Common Law imply a term into an academic’s contract, if it be not express, that free enquiry be not impugned? If an institution wished to oust such s term, it would have to be expressly stated, and made notorious, from the outset.

    Perhaps, but Universities will easily find ways around this.

  • >It’s news to me if middle-managers in free-speech-averse universities – which are many – are not worse than the lecturers and researchers who are supposedly the point of these institutions. While many a professor runs with the “you can’t say that” crowd, the administrative bloat of recent decades has tipped power from them to the administrators, who are worse offenders – and well able to make any doubting lecturer or researcher afraid to argue. I’d be pleased but also surprised if they are merely ‘offloading’ defence of free speech to the courts. Some are just afraid to put their own heads over any parapet but many are vile, not just cowardly.

    Neil is right, administators are generally even worse than academics in this regard. Even the most leftist Professor will retain some confidence in his or her ability to win, draw or at least perform creditably in a debate, should one be necessary. Administrators, on the other hand, are not debaters, and a leftist one would prefer to just shut debate down altogether.

  • NickM

    I feel very much a guest here and a rather peripheral one at least partially because when this issue comes up (and it always does) I think back to my university days which really don’t help much. With the exception of the new orthodoxy of AGW (which I largely missed) my time studying maths and physics (and a bit of biology and technical philosophy) really wasn’t impinged by this arsery. We studying things that really matter and got pissed and smoked weed and went on dates and had sex rather than agonised over what sex meant.

    Science was a search for “the true” and not “the good” (however one defines that). It was a free and fair environment and quite frankly we all basically wanted to learn things like QMech and relativity and shit because they were cool and useful (being able to calibrate instruments and program computers is useful – being able to write a tretise on black lesbians isn’t*).

    My understanding is that to a very large extent what is created by culture is ephemeral and that most formalised “academic” discussion of the farts, shitterature** and indeed the huge manatees is a complete waste of breath. You are quite frankly better off talking to a bloke down the pub than attending some seminar.

    Maybe it is a shame. Maybe it is the way of things but who cares?

    I know who does. Yup, front page of yesterday’s Guardian. Let’s all burn Mark Kermode in a whicker cock and all shall be right with the world!

    *Apart from in the sense there are many websites about those which make a living via Hugh Grants and not government grants but even then you need a bit of the techie coding stuff don’t ya?

    **Apart from a small bust of Jesse Boot there isn’t a statue of him on University Park Campus. There is a big one of DH Lawrence. Jesse Boot gifted the campus to form the university. DH Lawrence stropped off eloping with a professor of German’s wife (without a degree) because she allowed him to bugger her (he was obsessed with anal sex – “sex without friction” as he termed it) despite publically stating he thought her ugly. That is a titan of C20th English writing – allegedly. I wish I had made all that up. He is more famous anyway than this man who I had the pleasure to meet a fair few times. I once had to read a DH Lawrence short story for GCSE. That was only a pleasure if you concentrated on the essentially turgidity of it.

  • lucklucky

    When we have a Marxist culture which is basically social supremacism that is what happens. Obviously in that culture there is no tolerance whatsoever.

  • NickM (June 12, 2018 at 10:32 am), I once read a lit. crit. essay by DHLawrence so extreme I wondered if he was just seeing whether what you so justly call the ‘farts and shitterature’ department would (like the wife of the German professor you mention) pretend to like literally anything he offered. For the first time in my life I regret discarding the book of immense pretentiousness in which it appeared: no description could match quotation and it was impossible to parody.

    However, DH did once write the following

    Don’t get taken in by the su-superior.
    Don’t swallow the culture bait.
    Don’t driink, don’t drink, don’t get beerier and beerier.
    Do learn to discriminate.

    So I would not say he was wholly without talent. I also detect an echo of Obama-aide Ben Rhodes on how he turned lefty reporters into an echo chamber (“They literally know nothing”). It is characteristic of lefty culture that those the left elevate are so tempted to despise their acolytes that the urge to let the cat out of the bag is sometimes irresistible.

  • Julie near Chicago

    And as additional evidence supporting Niall’s point, let me just mention Jonathon Gruber, “architact” of the Health Fraud — er, Obamacar — er, the Un-Affordable Care Act.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm, typo. S/b “archi-lack-of-tact.”

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