Constitution

To Commemorate Constitution Day, Princeton Professor Says 'F%*# Free Speech'

The academy, the director of the African Studies program contends, has never considered speech a central value.

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Every year, Princeton University holds a Constitution Day to honor one of the most important documents in human history. This year's was was a little different, with lectures on search and seizure policies in the Snowden era, and another on slavery and the Constitution. And then there was a lecture called "F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist's Take on Campus Speech Debate."

Professor Carolyn Rouse, the chair of the Department of Anthropology and director of the program in African Studies asserted, "the way which free speech is being celebrated in the media makes little to no sense anthropologically," according to Campus Reform.

Free speech absolutism doesn't exist because people self-censor themselves in ways society deems appropriate, Rouse told her audience. Culture is the prime determiner of what speech is permissible and what speech is rejected, she said.

"Language is partial," Rouse argued. "It relies on context for comprehensibility, and can have implications that go far beyond simply hurting somebody's feelings. Put simply, speech is costly. So, contrary to the ACLU's statement on their website regarding the role of free speech on college campuses, the academy has never promoted free speech as its central value."

Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration no matter how crazy it sounds, and for this reason free speech absolutism should not be valued in academia, according to Rouse.

"Free speech is also asymptotic with respect to the goal of allowing people to say whatever they want, in any context, with no social, economic, legal, or political repercussions," Rouse said.

Free speech absolutism fails in an academic setting, Rouse argued, when it allows equal footing to the belief of a climate-change skeptic that "all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant" and the arguments supporting climate change from a scientist.

Rouse seems to see in this scenario a failure of free speech, rather than an opportunity to challenge ideas and see how they hold up in the marketplace of ideas. Preventing the climate change skeptic from talking about his views won't make them disappear.

And it isn't just academia, Rouse contended. No other social institution values free speech absolutism. Every institution has some sort of speech constraint, she said. A defendant can't walk into a courtroom and just start preaching his innocence. The rules and procedures of court prohibit this and, appropriately, Rouse said.

To some degree Rouse is correct. Institutions ranging from the courts to the media have some restraints on speech. People self-censor for a variety of reasons. Rouse misses the mark when she suggests the goal of free speech is to allow people to say whatever they want, consequences be damned.

The goal of free speech is to allow engagement in open dialogue with others in the marketplace of ideas without the government imposing censorship or punishment. It is with intention that freedom of speech is included in the first of the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers valued the ability to speak freely for myriad reasons, particularly because it guaranteed citizens the right to to openly criticize their government.

Freely criticizing the government is something Rouse should support. After all, she started a project called Trumplandia, documenting with essays, articles, poems, video clips, or other media the impact of Trump's presidency. Rouse calls Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" racist and authoritarian. Without free speech in academia, Rouse's project would not exist.

Absolute free speech does not mean unchallenged speech, as Rouse seems to believe. Rather, it secures the opportunity for even unpopular ideas to be explored. Restraining speech won't make "bad" ideas go away and it won't suddenly changes the minds of people who hold unpopular or even offensive ideas.

As Kat Timpf argues in National Review, "If you understand that you have a right to free speech because you are a member of a free society, then you also understand that the whole 'free society' thing means that all other members have the same right, too."

It is disappointing a professor would so misrepresent freedom of speech at the institution where all ideas should be freely and openly debated. Open dialogue allows for challenges and for ideas to evolve.

Students, professors, and university officials should resist the siren call of restricting free speech on campuses. There is nothing to be gained, only lost, by limiting the engagement with different ideas and beliefs.

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  1. “A defennt can’t walk into a courtroom and just start preaching his innocence. The rules and procedures of court prohibit this and, appropriately, Rouse said.”

    But a defendant does have the right to defend himself and to tell his side of the story,

    A better analogy, if we’re talking about campus free speech, would be tribunal where the judges only listen to the prosecution case and cut the defendant off without letting him or her make a defense.

    1. That seems to describe some campus tribunals, actually…

      1. Oh, I thought you were describing the Soviet interrogation process.

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    2. Well, except in instances like the gentlemen on trial for jury tampering by giving out jury nullification pamphlets. The judge specifically prohibited him from basing his defense on speech/press rights.

      1. Or the people charged for federal cannabis related crimes who were forbidden from mentioning that everything they did was in compliance with state law in their trials.

        1. OK, fine.

          By the way, I wouldn’t use the term “nullification” for every time the jury disagrees with the judge. Sometimes the judge is wrong about the law, so (s)he is the one doing the nullifying.

          The term “jury nullification” should, IMHO, be reserved for situations where the law and the evidence point to conviction but the jury thinks the law sucks so they acquit.

    3. “””A defennt can’t walk into a courtroom and just start preaching his innocence. The rules and procedures of court prohibit this and, appropriately, Rouse said.””

      Yeah, free speech relative to being on trial. That’s the way to think about rights.

  2. Did he really say “Fpercentstarhash”?

    1. Professor Carolyn Rouse, the chair of the Department of Anthropology and director of the program in African Studies

      I guess it wouldn’t be too surprising if she did.

    2. It was actually Fstarpercenthash. It is a common typo.

  3. It’s always helpful to know where people stand.

    1. I’m just glad that the need for free speech lasted until this professor no longer needs it.

      I feel the need for any government funds going to higher education is not needed.

  4. Rouse misses the mark when she suggests the goal of free speech is to allow people to say whatever they want, consequences be damned.

    She isn’t alone. Lots of idiots believe this.

    1. More every day. And the fuckwads get to vote.

  5. Put simply, speech is costly.

    Wait, you mean there’s a way to signal values and, potentially, exchange on the signals rather than just seizing people’s stuff and returning a fraction of it back to them? Next you’ll tell me that by freely giving or holding whatever arbitrary medium you use to signal value, the organic interplay between ‘demanders’ and ‘suppliers’ could generally steer things in a more prosperous and moral direction for everyone. Nonsense!

    /sarc

    *throws free can that has had beer liberated from it*

    1. Did you fuck the can? Is that what you’re trying to tell us?

  6. Nobody likes a pedant.

  7. Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration no matter how crazy it sounds

    No – Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal treatment under the law no matter how crazy it sounds.

    What this Professor has revealed is that she sees no distinction between her point-of-view and Absolute Truth, which unfortunately is common among academics.

    A carpenter knows about nothing but carpentry, but an Anthropology Professor know the Truth About All Things.

    1. People don’t like the complexity of keeping laws, morals, ethics and the like separate. They want one set of rules for all situations. The battle is over whose rules win.

      1. Then get their opinions on case law.

    2. It’s a religious faith. The True Believer doesn’t want to hear things like evidence against the climate change catastrophe hypothesis, because that would risk instilling doubt among the herd which would make it harder to get democracy on board with their goal of dismantling capitalism. In a Total War mindset, you can’t let things like universal principles get in the way of Winning By Any Means Necessary.

      1. Isn’t it great that the climate change side that wants to shut down science and now even free speech thinks they’re right? If this were evolution versus creationism they’d be burning Darwin in effigy.

    3. What this Professor has revealed is that she sees no distinction between her point-of-view and Absolute Truth

      She also seems to have difficulty with the idea that government =/= society. Yes, there’s certain things you shouldn’t say in “polite society” if you don’t want to be ostracized from “polite society.” You can’t go around casually referring to black people as niggers (or jigs, spades, moolies or porch monkeys, etc.) or call someone a fag* for instance. But that doesn’t mean that the government could or should be able to arrest you for it. I suspect this fuck-wit would probably be one of the first in line to support an “anti-hate speech” law.

      *I can do that here because H&R is not part of polite society. Just the opposite, in fact. “You’re all a bunch of degenerates!”

    4. She also seems to think that free speech means saying whatever pops into your head without regard for social context or consequences. Which is a bit odd.

      1. To be fair there is no evidence that she puts any thought at all into the shit that comes out of her mouth.

    5. Absolute Free Speech functions purely on the marketplace model. We allow people to put forward their ideas, no matter how crazy, into the “Marketplace of Ideas.” Ultimately, the ideas that gain acceptance will be the ones which are well-backed, effectively researched, and properly demonstrated and argued. If a crazy idea gains ground, it is only because there is no competing idea in the marketplace that properly rebuts it.

      I think of the “Flat Earther” people. They’re completely free to discuss and share this pointless bullshit. They can only do it because they’ve rejected all evidence shown to them, refuse to perform their own experiments in order to acquire knowledge themselves, and offer only the most simplistic and silly counterarguments. They will permanently remain on the fringe because they are unconvincing, even though they are still allowed to share their crazy ideas.

  8. the way which free speech is being celebrated in the media makes little to no sense anthropologically

    No one made you go into anthropology. You knew you would know nothing when you started your graduate studies. Don’t complain now.

  9. And you have to love the utter lack of self-awareness and understanding-of-the-world-around you that leads you to write an anti-free speech manifesto titled “F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist’s Take on Campus Speech Debate.”

    The “Fuck” is a loud-and-proud pro-free-speech gesture that has gotten so habitual among academics trying to seem edgy and dangerous that it’s become completely empty (which is further symbolized by the fact that she wants to both use and mask the word, posturing as an edgy truth-teller in the very breath with which she is promoting censorship and authoritarianism).

    The very title itself screams out “I get to say whatever I want, while arbitrating what it’s okay for you to express,” which is exactly the idea behind Trumplandia – “my speech is Absolute Truth, and thus is not subject to the laws I propose – I will tell you what ideas are within the bounds of acceptability.”

    1. Actually, if you read about the event, you’d find that she butted heads with campus administrators who were the ones who censored “fuck” on her poster.

  10. Get ready for TRIBAL RIGHTS.

  11. Free speech absolutism fails in an academic setting, Rouse argued, when it allows equal footing to the belief of a climate-change skeptic that “all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant” and the arguments supporting climate change from a scientist.

    And this one is about to blow up in its users’ faces. This argument has the exact opposite impact that she thinks it does because the increasingly large number of people who express skepticism regarding Team Blue’s policy goals on global warming notice when they are dismissed by Believers as claiming something like “all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant” (and let me pause to note this highly-educated professor’s dismal grammar skills).

    What she is really saying is that any skepticism of Team Blue’s policy goals should be labeled “anti-Science” and banned. And people are not so stupid that they don’t know that this is what she’s really saying.

    So it goes well beyond “we should let stupid people say stupid things so as to debunk them” into “we don’t let self-appointed authorities decide which ideas are legitimate to express and which are not, even if it does mean indulging crazy/stupid/misinformed people.”

    1. The overwhelming irony here is that the position attributed to “deniers” nowadays is the exact same position the IPCC had itself in 1990. All this warmist bullshit is less than thirty years old. Asshats that can’t count and call it centuries get nothing but mockery and scorn from me.

  12. Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration no matter how crazy it sounds… according to Rouse.

    I have never found that to be the case. Letting someone speak is the best way to let them put their foot in their mouth. Rouse probably does that enough to have athlete’s tongue.

    Free speech is also asymptotic with respect to the goal of allowing people to say whatever they want, in any context, with no social, economic, legal, or political repercussions,” Rouse said.

    Nice straw man. I don’t know of anyone who is a free speech absolutist suggesting there should be no consequences.

    1. Yes there such people and they are on the left. For example the left felt that the Dixie Chicks should have suffered no economic consequence when they trashed Bush in their concert.

  13. A chair at department at Princeton, you say? Well, at least it’s not a program people enter if they want to enter the real world.

    1. Bob: You wanted to be Krusty’s sidekick since you were five. What about the buffoon lessons, the four years at clown college.

      Cecil Terwilliger: I’ll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way.

  14. Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration

    Straw-man is made of straw.

    Seriously, who ever suggested anything so asinine? The idea of “Free Speech” has literally never had any necessary concept of ‘value-judgement’ associated with it.

    Its a straw man the left has whipped out frequently lately; it basically claims that “speech which is ‘permitted’ (again, the wrong conception entirely) can only be permitted because it is somehow pre-judged to be worthy

    not only is no once except herself making that argument, but the idea itself is internally illogical

    How do you pre-judge ideas without actually ever giving them a fair hearing in the first place? Its a chicken-egg argument; “These ideas are inferior therefore can not be allowed in debate” – but when (and who) determined them to be inferior in the first place?

    It presumes at some point in the past they were heard, and there was some debate about them… which explodes the entire argument. You can’t prove the prior judgement without reopening that can of worms again.

    Of course some ideas are flawed. in fact almost all ideas are flawed in some way. It is only through constant, perpetual exercise of good arguments against bad ones that flaws are exposed.

    1. I had a couple of professors at community college I went to who liked to talk about what they called “The Fallacy of the Democratization of Ideas,” or the fallacy that “everyone has a right to an opinion,” and they explicitly saw it as a problematic outcome of the public understanding (erroneous in their mind) of the First Amendment.

      It immediately reminded me of that scene from Annie Hall where Alvy finds a copy of National Review in Annie’s apartment and takes her to task for thinking that there’s more than one side to any issue by comparing it to advocating on behalf of the Holocaust (which is exactly how my professors packaged it).

      This was in the early 90s, but I feel like I’ve seen that attitude take over academia more and more – an increasing impatience with allowing people to express wrong ideas.

      1. I’d call their problem the “Fart-Sniffing Fallacy”

        currently, left-wing professors outnumber conservatives on college campuses 12:1. I think jon haidt showed research that the number was closer to 20:1 in the humanities (where it matters; left-leaning math teachers have limited ability to flex their ideological bias).

        the consequence is that they’ve come to assume that their hegemony is a product of the virtue of their ideas.

        e.g. “Left wing ideas dominate not because they’ve self-selected for these positions, or that they’ve actively restricted alternative views, but because these ideas “Won” some contest for popularity”

        Its a self fulfilling prophesy. if all they ever hear is their own bullshit, naturally they’re going to assume the range of “acceptable” discourse is somewhere between pol-pot and ralph nader.

        1. “currently, left-wing professors outnumber conservatives on college campuses 12:1. I think jon haidt showed research that the number was closer to 20:1 in the humanities (where it matters; left-leaning math teachers have limited ability to flex their ideological bias).”

          While this is true, it’s also worth noting that libertarians are 4x more likely to be found among faculty in universities than outside academia, and this number is even higher among economists and law professors where, as you note, it matters more than math professors.

          1. I would not be shocked to find that libertarians outnumber Republicans in universities.

        2. I would add that this also leads them to severely underestimate just how bizarre and extreme their views seem outside of academia, because law is in part determined by public consensus (it is after all still something of a democracy) and they don’t seem to realize that the people who draw the lines around speech aren’t going to mostly be their allies.

  15. So much conflation these days between “free speech” and “freedom of speech”. The amendment to the constitution is a restraint on government, ensuring that people cannot be fined or arrested for saying certain things deemed offensive (although you still can’t say “fuck” on the radio). The amendment does not guarantee that NFL players, for example, can protest while working, or that creationists must be given equal time in Princeton’s lecture halls.

  16. Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration no matter how crazy it sounds,

    No, it doesn’t. That’s crazy. Some ideas deserve a microsecond of consideration, some deserve a long debate.

  17. Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration no matter how crazy it sounds, and for this reason free speech absolutism should not be valued in academia, according to Rouse.

    She’s an anthropologist. Most of what they say is fucking retarded.

  18. Free speech absolutism doesn’t exist because people self-censor themselves in ways society deems appropriate

    This has nothing to do with 1A. It’s almost like professors don’t understand that 1A is a limit on the government.

    Kat Timpf argues in National Review, “If you understand that you have a right to free speech because you are a member of a free society, then you also understand that the whole ‘free society’ thing means that all other members have the same right, too.”

    Smart & sexy. I’ll be in my bunk.

    1. “”It’s almost like professors don’t understand that 1A is a limit on the government.””

      I’m guessing that they think you should place limits on almighty government. That’s the problem liberals have with a free society. It keeps government from being all powerful and forcing the liberal way onto everyone else.

      1. Should say shouldn’t place limits on almighty government.

  19. director of the program in African Studies

    A catlady steeped in Critical Race Theory

    when it allows equal footing to the belief of a climate-change skeptic that “all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant”

    Talk about a strawman–most climate-change skeptics, as in, skeptical of the claim that humans are the primary source of climate change and that it’s going to cause Armageddon-like weather incidents that are totally unique to this era–are happy to point out that most of the arguments promoting global warming is based on the faulty assumption that the earth’s climate should remain in the same state that it existed in the early 20th century and never change at all, and readily point out past extreme climate events to make that case.

  20. Just what type of world to persons like Carolyn Rouse imaging we should live in? The Enlightenment supposedly taught us that speech is not tantamount to action, and that you should not be punished for what you say, or think. Now we have such persons advocating for a society in which speech transgressors [i.e., those who do not tow the party line] would be restricted, supposedly by some level of punishment. Do these people not imagine that whatever you empower a government to do unto others, will inevitably be done unto you, whenever the “party line” changes?

    1. Punishment? Did she say that?

  21. Since I haven’t seen it written here, it’s important to note that Dr. Rouse’s stance is highly unconventional and she even acknowledges that it’s against the grain in academic circles. In other words, it’s not a representative opinion, the way many of you are presenting it. In fact, it’s a dissenting opinion from the majority of academics who value speech as a necessary element in academic freedom. [The opening lecture at the event was by the president of the university, who explained the importance of “free speech”, “robust debate”, and “viewpoint diversity”]

    To wit, “The professor stated that the goal of the lecture was to rethink academic freedom and academic values.” Rethink.

    I figured this was worth pointing out since you all seem to be under the impression that this is the consensus opinion in academia.

  22. The argument is innocuous enough, which is to say it seems to be addressing an objection nobody has made, but I reserve some suspicion, because free speech has, in isolated incidents, come under direct criticism by the PC police left in academia. There seems to be an impulse to try to control people’s thoughts by controlling what they say, I suppose via the mechanism of shame. You get the feeling that after all the explanations for why speech isn’t really free (in the anarchic sense), the upshot is, “Thus, it’s OK to be rude to people for using incorrect language with respect to race, gender, etc.”

    1. Free speech advocates aren’t generally objecting to people disapproving of others’ speech; they object to their prohibition of others’ speech; and Rouse seems to be arguing for such prohibition or ‘privileging’ of certain ‘correct’ speech. But the law must hold all speech equal; it isn’t the state’s job to arbitrate what is true and false and record it in some grand orthodoxy.

      Also, we can be sure that the same people take no issue with – and likely often support – ‘hate speech’ against a race or gender they define as a perpetrator group. If I objected to being called a cracker or a ‘devil’ in a racial context by a black person, whose side do you think the self-appointed speech police would take?

  23. Also, from the department at Princeton who hosted the event:

    “Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable. It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions?including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny. The love of truth and the desire to attain it should motivate you to think for yourself. The central point of a college education is to seek truth and to learn the skills and acquire the virtues necessary to be a lifelong truth-seeker. Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry.

    “So don’t be tyrannized by public opinion. Whether you in the end reject or embrace a view, make sure you decide where you stand by critically assessing the arguments for the competing positions.”

    So this statement, which was endorsed by over 20 faculty members at Princeton and is on the front page of the department web site, sounds anti-free speech to all of you? Do you not see that perhaps by inviting Dr. Rouse to speak they were actually inviting the “competing position”?

    1. No one here said she does not have the right to say her views. We are just saying she is wrong. That’s how open dialogue and free speech work.

      1. That’s fair, and I agree with your opinion that she’s wrong. What my posts were addressing is the notion that she is representative of the university or faculty as a whole, when in fact it’s clear that she represents the competing position.

        1. Except that it’s not ‘clear’..

          She may represent A competing position, from some people in academia, somewhere.

          But Princeton’s been pretty clear where their opinions lie–despite any pretty words you might find that you feel absolve them.

  24. RE: To Commemorate Constitution Day, Princeton Professor Says ‘F%*# Free Speech’

    To commemorate the Princeton professor, fuck you!

  25. “it is disappointing that a college professor would so misrepresent free speech at the institution where all ideas should be freely and openly debated.” Also unsurprising.

  26. Comrade Rouse – obviously you are living in the wrong country.

    May I suggest Cuba, China, or North Korea. Any of them would be more than pleased to have a fellow communist living under their totalitarian regime.

  27. You could have drawn the same conclusions about African American studies 30 years ago. Communists gotta oppress.

  28. I think the author is not really engaging the professor’s argument. I think she is right if she means that not every idea need be entertained at a university nor does the university have an obligation to provide a platform to everyone who might want to wrangle an invitation by virtue of their political influence or donations to the alumni fund or whatever. I would be very disturbed if my university went out of its way to accommodate a creation scientist or a climate denier with no scientific qualifications, unless perhaps it was done for entertainment purposes as part of Comedy Night.

    1. My university hired full time professors that were avowed Marxists, profs that sincerely argued that a (totally instrumental) classical symphony was surreptitiously about rape, and that people of different ethnicities weren’t really genetically different.

      If one has a broad enough range to allow for those lunatics to have tenure, it isn’t like you’re pushing the envelope anymore by giving the occasional flat earther or alien abductee a platform.

  29. Free speech for me but not for thee!

  30. “Every year, Princeton University holds a Constitution Day to honor one of the most important documents in human history”

    One of the most important in US history, for sure…

    …but one of the most important documents in *human* history? Not so sure.

    Reminds me of a conversation involving mostly Italians and Brits in Rome, during which an earnest American fellow opined regarding how media related laws work in many parts of Europe: “but that would be in clear violation of the 1st Amendment!”… as if that was somehow relevant to anything whatsoever outside the USA 😉

    1. It IS relevant.

      It illustrates the sad, pathetic nature of the old, second and third worlds, and the sad, pathetic fact that people from those places cling to those ideas as a drowning man clings to a life preserver–never seeing that they are, in fact, holding tight to the great weights that are all that is actually drowning them.

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