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Question for the Free Speech advocates on my friendslist - 1370°C

Sep. 13th, 2007

07:30 pm - Question for the Free Speech advocates on my friendslist

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From:gothaminserenia
Date:September 15th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)
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Who's to determine what's garbage? That's for the people to decide for themselves! But how can they decide, if others pre-qualify and censor what can even be heard?

The problem is that trying to block "hate speech" teaches students exactly the wrong lesson ... that instead of debating & challenging someone when they voice a view, that it's ok to call in the authorities to shut down anyone they may disagree with. Then when those students graduate, they end up practicing that in society at large. So free speech is important, but it's particularly important on a college campus. Some of the most vital lessons are not taught in a classroom.

Free speech is a natural human right ... regardless of whether those in charge may sanction it or not.
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From:ferrousoxide
Date:September 15th, 2007 03:40 am (UTC)
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It's not about agreeing or disagreeing. Clearly, the appeal of Bro Jed is that nearly *everyone*, even the religious, disagree with him. The issue is that he was directly and personally attacking students on campus, not because of their beliefs, but because of who they are. Sure, he didn't threaten (unless telling someone they're going to hell counts as a threat), but i'm not sure threats are the issue. The campus has a policy about this sort of thing...if one of my students in class called another one a racial or homophobic slur, i'm *required* to report it. Why can this guy get away with saying far worse just because our University is public?
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From:gothaminserenia
Date:September 15th, 2007 05:24 am (UTC)
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Well, I was responding to the statement "there IS no free speech on University campuses" in this thread.

Ok. So what's a personal attack? Calling someone a fag or a nigger? How about calling someone fat, or stupid, or ugly? Or even calling someone gay (normally regarded as an insult by hetero males)? Where's the line?

Namecalling and insults are rude, boorish, and childish ... but they're just words. Really, I think people have become far too thin-skinned and easily offended these days. Becoming an adult means learning how to stand up for yourself ... and that means taking a few barbs from time to time. Sad but true. Standing up for yourself means valuing who you are, not what others say about you.

That's the reason I didn't get particularly excited when that guy called me gay at Liquor Lyles that night. Was I attacked, should I have felt offended? Perhaps, but I wasn't. I know who I am ... and I could care less what some random idiot says who doesn't even know me, whose main accomplishment in life is probably stumbling home drunk.

if one of my students in class called another one a racial or homophobic slur, i'm *required* to report it.

Ok, that's pretty damn scary. So if you call someone a nigger you can be reported. What if you refer to someone as "black" rather than "African-American", and they take offense? Is that reportable too? Sheesh, is it safe to say anything to anybody anymore? This is getting ridiculous.

How about the word queer? That used to be widely regarded as offensive, but then gays started calling that to each other, with the goal of lessening its impact as an insult. So ... if a hetero calls someone a queer, is it an attack, but if another gay says it, then it's ok?

You're on very, very murky ground here.

As far as I'm concerned, the line for prohibited speech should be overt threats ("you better look behind you on your way home tonight") or harming someone's livelihood in a tangible way by telling lies (slander/libel). Period.
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From:ferrousoxide
Date:September 15th, 2007 05:29 am (UTC)
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I see your point, but when my "really, i need to kill you now" instinct triggers, i wonder. I really don't think is fine to call someone a racial, gender, or religious slur on the street. It's asinine, but probably protected. That's not at all what i'm talking about. I really wish i'd made this post closer to the event so i could have remembered what he actually said. You know me, i'm generally not scandalised, but i was truly offended and horrified specifically because he was allowed to say these things on a *University* campus that has a policy that i'd wager prohibits them. Whether the policy is right or not is a moot point. I'm saying: i think this is against U policy, should i do something about it?
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From:gothaminserenia
Date:September 15th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
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Whether the policy is right or not is a moot point. I'm saying: i think this is against U policy, should i do something about it?

On the contrary! It's your call, but the policy itself should be part of your decision.

Let me give some related examples ...

One of the things Libertarians support is something called FIJA (the Fully Informed Jury Amendment). Essentially, it would require judges to inform jury members that their role is not simply to determine if someone broke the law, but to consider whether the law itself is valid. (People on juries already have this right, but most aren't aware of it, so they kowtow to the prosecutor who tells them they must convict if the accused is guilty.) In fact, the reason the Founding Fathers set up trial by jury, instead of just giving power to a Judge, was to give citizens a final check & balance on the system. So ... if you're on a jury, and someone is clearly guilty of violating a drug law, but you think the law is unjust, or you know that the government had no Constitutional authority to make drug laws, can you say the accused is Not Guilty? Absolutely.

During the Nazi regime, the government made all sorts of laws and policies requiring employers to disclose if they had Jews on their payrolls, or requiring citizens to inform the police if they knew of any Jews living the their neighborhoods. Many Germans did not comply. And they're the heroes today, aren't they?

So, if you don't agree with the University's policy, do you still need to do something? The answer is No.
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From:gothaminserenia
Date:September 15th, 2007 09:27 am (UTC)
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I wanted to add that I'm not saying you should go against what you believe. You should do what you feel is right ... I'm just hoping maybe to influence those beliefs a bit. ;-)

You know, it's a lot more fun to "fight the good fight" than it is to stand up for principles which end up allowing Brother Jed & his kind to do what they do. But I think it's something that needs to be done.
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From:fractallaw
Date:September 17th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
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You make an interesting point about what you're required to do in a classroom, but I think overall society is better served by not limiting free speech except in extreme cases, like threats of violence.

It sounds to me like the guy with the sign just stood there and let Brother Jed make an ass of himself. If Jed been booted from campus he would have been able to make a big fuss about being persecuted and the fact that he had been making hateful comments would have been lost in that.

He wasn't booted, so he had plenty of opportunity to show everyone exactly what he was really like.
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From:ferrousoxide
Date:September 18th, 2007 05:45 am (UTC)
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Yar. I talked to a few people about that too. But everyone really knows what he's like. As far as i can tell, people only watch him for entertainment value. I've never even seen a religious person agree with him. It's like baiting the trolls in meatspace, which is, of course, less than helpful.

So, i reckon everyone knows his true colours. But i'd have hated for him to get any local or national press for being booted off campus ("our rights were infringed upon!"). I just wish someone official had said *something* considering we're on a campus that makes no bones about the fact that if you harass or injure someone in the name of religious/racial/gender-based/sexuality-based issues, it's a hate crime and is looked upon with a more critical eye than other issues.
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From:gorey_ballerina
Date:September 15th, 2007 10:45 am (UTC)
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Well, in my personal experience, and the way I enforce this rule in my own classroom, is when the VAST majority of the class takes on a look of complete "I cannot believe he/she said that" combined with the actual content of what the person said.

It's not a matter of censoring my students. Usually, as I said somewhere else around here, it's a matter of PROTECTING the person who said the terrible thing.

For example, if one of my students said "I think all niggers should _____," I am NOT going to try to make a lesson out of it. I'm NOT going to play kindergarten teacher and say "Who has a DIFFERENT point of view than Jimmy" or "How do you feel about what Jimmy has to say?"

I'm going to shut that topic down. FAST. Because things are going to get ugly.

I'm just saying that I try to be fairly liberal. I'm not going to ask everyone to shut the hell up if they voice a political belief I'm against. But when a situation has the potential to get ugly, if things get too inflamed AND AREN'T BEING DISCUSSED IN A SEMI-RATIONAL WAY, I personally will not let it continue. At that point, people aren't talking with their minds, but revert to emotional arguments (which usually has NOTHING to do with the class topic at hand).

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From:gothaminserenia
Date:September 18th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC)
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That's different. You certainly have a perogative to maintain order during your classes ... which could include any number of issues, like smalltalk, throwing paper airplanes, whatever. While they're young adults, some are still growing up a bit, and occasionally can use a guiding hand on how to properly conduct themselves. A classroom is a good opportunity to provide that.

I was speaking more of speech in public areas, such as general areas of campus.
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