Where Everything Should Be In Bounds

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Will Wilkinson last week offered a thoughtful tweet storm about social penalties for making claims that are out of bounds:

Wilkinson insists that he favors free speech, in the sense that he believes that the government should not proscribe speech (outside of narrow categories, such as slander), but that all reasonable people exact social penalties for at least some speech. And indeed, while I consider myself as about as in favor of free speech as anyone, I can imagine some extreme statements that a dinner party guest might make (say, holocaust denialism or white supremacy) that would make me less likely to invite the guest to another party, in part because I am convinced that a person announcing such views is seeking to get a rise our of listeners, exhibits serious defects in reasoning ability, or has profound prejudices, or maybe all three.

The danger, though, is that once we accept that it is acceptable for there to be social penalties for making out-of-bounds claims, people who make claims that ought to be in bounds, maybe even claims that are correct, will be found to be out of bounds. Moreover, people will not make claims that they think plausibly might be out of bounds.

Indeed, Wilkinson confesses that he has "opinions I rarely share because I fear social blowback." What are these opinions? Wilkinson doesn't say. That is actually a bit surprising, because Wilkinson argues that "[w]e should just directly debate what claims ought to be unutterable by decent liberal people." How are we to have this direct debate if we can't report our own out-of-bounds opinions? Wilkinson appears to recognize this problem, acknowledging that "it's hard to say that an opinion ought to be in-bounds without confessing that you hold an out-of-bounds opinion." But he doesn't offer a solution.

Maybe Wilkinson's view is that one ought to be able to debate what opinions should be in bounds so long as one doesn't advance the underlying opinions. But imagine the following claim: "I'm not a holocaust denier, but I think holocaust denial should be in bounds, because a lot of those photographs do look like they could have been faked." It's hard to imagine a world in which this claim receives substantially less opprobrium than the claim following the "because." Indeed, the natural reaction of any listener would be to assume that the speaker is in fact a holocaust denier but is trying to avoid social opprobrium while still expressing denialist views, just as we may infer that someone who begins a sentence with "I'm not a racist, but…" probably believes the potentially racist sentiment that follows. And of course, one would receive even more opprobrium if one admitted, "I have a view that has been designated out of bounds, but I'm going to explain why I think it's in bounds."

If the debate about what is in bounds were limited to issues such as holocaust denialism and white supremacy, maybe it wouldn't be worth worrying too much more about the problem. But Wilkinson strikes me as a reasonable, thoughtful person. I would be very surprised if he secretly were a denialist or a supremacist. But I know that there are mainstream opinions (like Steven Pinker's) that are now the target of cancellation campaigns.

The knowledge that thoughtful people are self-censoring troubles me, not so much because it will lead me to censor myself, but because it makes it much harder for me and others to generate justifiable beliefs. Most of what any of us believes isn't based on careful reviews of the literature. I believe in anthropogenic climate change and have even written about possible remedies for climate change, but I have not personally reviewed the models that predict global warming. My opinion is based on the declared opinions of others, who themselves may not have reviewed all the relevant models but may well be friends or friends of friends of people who have. I am, in other words, engaging in an exercise in social epistemology, trying to determine what is a justified true belief based on the announced beliefs of others.

But this exercise is a lot more difficult when one suspects that certain opinions are self-censored. If hypothetical climate scientists who have a view that differs from the consensus feel that they are better off staying quiet, then it is hard for an outsider to know whether the absence of such statements is because the climate change evidence is so strong or because there has been an information cascade. (The concern can push in the opposite direction as well. Because government climate scientists worry about stating their honest views, I would not place much epistemic weight on a government report about the state of climate science.) I still feel that I know enough about the culture of academia to determine with high confidence that climate change skepticism is largely unjustified. But I don't have a very good answer to someone who, engaging in his or her own exercise in social epistemology, concludes that climate change is a hoax. I could tell this person that 97% of published papers that express a position on anthropogenic global warming conclude that it is occurring, but I don't have a good answer to the objection that papers that say the opposite won't get published and that scientists who claim such unorthodox views will harm their careers.

What I would like to be able to say to someone who raises a climate change hoax argument (or some other claim that I believe to be incorrect) is that the culture of academia encourages heterodoxy, and so where it is absent, a genuine consensus exists. I would like to be able to point to academics who raised heterodox positions (and by this, I mean something more radical and more likely to be wrong than anything Pinker would say, but probably not something so insupportable as holocaust denialism or white supremacy) and say, "That professor made a crazy argument, and received plenty of counterarguments but no public opprobrium." But that is not possible today. Sure, academia is much better than most employers, because tenure remains a significant protection. Academic institutions censure without censoring, but that too can effectively silence those whose views are outside some range of permissible discourse, whether on the right or the left. And that makes it more difficult for observers, especially those outside the academy, to determine whether official socially acceptable positions are worthy of justified belief.

Academia should be a place where nothing is viewed as out of bounds, so that if everyone in academia seems to agree with proposition X, people who are outside academia but understand its culture believe with high confidence that X must be correct. I would not mind the occasional loony paper if the absence of condemnation for that paper improved the credibility of all the non-loony things that academics write. In my view, a culture that encourages debate is more likely to lead to wide social acceptance of propositions that are so clearly justified that they should not be controversial. This is an empirical claim, and I can't be sure about this. Maybe allowing people to defend the indefensible makes it easier for outsiders to find at least one person who agrees with whatever they would like to believe. But I believe that creating institutions in which heterodox views are encouraged means that outsiders are more likely to trust orthodox views. If it really were not possible to tell the difference, orthodox views could be elicited through means such as surveys.

How can we make universities more tolerant of dissent? A start would be for universities to commit to the Chicago principles: "It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose." So, no more letters from the university president disagreeing with views of a professor in a discipline the president may not know much of anything about. But universities can do much more to encourage open expression. Professors can encourage students to take positions that they don't actually believe, both as an exercise for their own benefit and as a way of providing plausible deniability for others who take positions that they do believe. Professors too might be encouraged to write articles that take the best position that they can muster against what they actually believe. Sponsors of panels and workshops should always make sure to invite those with dissident views, or if no one is available to express such views, at least someone who will attempt to express disagreement to the best extent possible. We can be more confident in our own conclusions if we know that the arguments that we have heard are the best available on all sides of any debate.

Ideally, our commitment to free expression should extend beyond universities. Anyone trying to make good faith, thoughtful arguments, whether the speaker ultimately would endorse those arguments or not, should receive no social condemnation. If we are to condemn at all, it should be outside the spheres in which debate is vital, and what we should condemn even there should be not conclusions but incorrect premises and faulty logic, including ad hominem arguments or calls for cancellation. An approach that makes even Will Wilkinson thinks he should keep his mouth shut makes it too hard to determine what we are justified in believing outside our immediate domain of expertise.

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  1. “Will Wilkinson” and “thoughtful” never go together.

  2. I guess potential dinner guests with “profound prejudices” should be pleased that you are only “less likely to invite [a] guest to another party” if they make statements in favor of holocaust denialism or white supremacy. I’m sure there are a lot of them lacking for dinner invites.

  3. Medieval universities would in fact require their students to debate issues. Of course, it’s fair to say that in the Middle Ages some views were out of bounds, but there seemed to be no shortage of topics the medieval universities *could* allow debate on.

    So if you find yourself in an academic culture which is less open to the public and vigorous exchange of views than a university in the benighted Middle Ages, maybe something’s gone off the rails at some point.

    1. Indeed, “Devil’s Advocacy” is an ancient and honorable tradition. Playing “devil’s advocate” is not in and of itself heresy.

    2. So if you find yourself in an academic culture which is less open to the public and vigorous exchange of views than a university in the benighted Middle Ages, maybe something’s gone off the rails at some point.

      Well, if that were to happen, you’d be right.

      1. Maybe it has = cancel culture

  4. So how about the boundary setting by the cancel culture?
    If you “agree” that white supremacy is out of bounds, does that make defining the phrase “all lives matter”, which is clearly and objectively true, a statement of white supremacy?
    As long as you agree there are “bounds”, you are agreeing that the mob can set those “bounds”.

    1. What do you have against the scientific method?

      The angriest and loudest group, the group which expresses the greatest amount of indignation and outrage, is obviously closest to the truth and can be trusted to weed out bad ideas.

      1. If you don’t want to be called a racist, all you have to do is avoid expressing racist views – eg, “all lives matter,” “looting is wrong,” “there ought not to be racial preferences,” or if you want an example of something utterly beyond the pale, “that George Washington guy did some nice things.”

    2. the phrase “all lives matter”, which is clearly and objectively true

      Whoa there, Billy Bob. It’s a value judgement, or a moral conclusion argued from a set of premises that are value judgements. It can’t be objectively true, by definition.

      Indeed, all sorts of people across the ages have vehemently denied that conclusion, and you can’t show them to be wrong without recourse to value judgements.

      It’s also vague. “Lives” obviously have to be trimmed down to “human lives” before you’d get anything like 10% backing, never mind a majority, never mind an overwhelming majority. And even with “human lives” you’re going to struggle with your majority, since most people – including me – don’t care about the millions, billions, of human lives that end within the first few days as a result of deliberate or spontaneous abortion.

      Then there’s “matter”. Matter how much ? It matters to me whether I have a glass of water or a coke in about ten minutes as I’m getting a bit thirsty. But it doesn’t matter very much. Likewise, if by writing a check for $100 I could save the life of a child in Syria, then yeah that child’s life matters to me that much. But a million dollars ? Which I could afford though it would hurt. Does that Syrian child’s life matter to me that much ? No it doesn’t. Sorry.

      As well as the quantum of matter, there’s the direction. There are all sorts of very evil people sitting on death row, whose lives “matter” to me because the fact that they are still alive offends my sense of justice. Likewise evil people doing evil things in very nasty dictatorships.

      Aside from being an ambiguous value judgement “All Lives Matter” carries certain intentional connotations (not the same connotations as it would have carried prior to the emergence of its cousin, the also heavy connotation carrying “Black Lives Matter.”)

      Indeed “All Lives Matter” is – as currently deployed – intended precisely as a refutation of some of the connotations of “Black Lives Matter.”

      It’s all way more complicated than an “objective truth.”

      1. “Indeed “All Lives Matter” is – as currently deployed – intended precisely as a refutation of some of the connotations of “Black Lives Matter.””

        As currently used, “Black Lives Matter” carries roughly the same meaning as Orwell was relating with, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

        “All Lives Matter” is objected to, because it rejects the “more equal” component of that, and asserts that all lives really matter equally.

        1. I think that’s a little unkind. The precise connotations of “Black Lives Matter” are wispy and ill defined. But I rather doubt that anyone who uses it really means “Black Lives are More Valuable than Pink, Tan, Yellow or any other kind of Lives”

          Your cuddly, don’t want to stand out fro the crowd, suburban Mom type means :

          “The police should stop killing all these poor young black men.”

          Your BLM activist means :

          “Yay ! Another very useful death caught on film ! It’s time for la lutta to take another hack at the foundations of bourgeois imperalism !”

      2. Formal textualism to analyze slogans is pretty silly.

        1. As a rule, yes. A slogan is designed to mean different things to different people, so as lure the unwary from an uncontroversial motte by laying out cookies in the slogan coiner’s bailey.

          But when a slogan is advertised as “clearly and objectively true” I think it is permissible to take a pot shot at at its alleged clarity and objective truthiness.

          1. I mean, take the pot shot at the hyperbole but don’t think it means anything about the movement.

        2. In this case, formal textualism is just the rule of leniency: If somebody says “All Lives Matter”, it should not be treated as saying “black lives don’t matter!”

          But it is being treated that way. And how should anybody who isn’t black view being told that they can say that black lives matter, but can’t say that all lives mater? The obvious implication is to deny that all lives matter (equally).

          1. No, that’s not what ALM means. What it does mean is ‘I don’t think BLM is valid.’

            That’s how it’s treated.

            1. On this rare occasion, I agree with Sarcastro. ALM means ‘I don’t think BLM is valid.” But obviously what “I don’t think BLM is valid” means, depends on what BLM means.

              Most of those who insist on ALM are equating BLM with something like {the police are racist and pick on innocent black guys and kill them just because they’re black} along with associated policy prescriptions like – {the police should be defunded and replaced by …BLM activists.}

              And here we are parsing slogans. Whatever next.

  5. Sometimes people express opinions that piss me off, but in matters of politics and in more mundane matters related to how to best accomplish a particular task at work or something. But getting pissed of at people we disagree with is counter-productive, there are better ways to persuade someone to change their opinion, or perhaps be persuaded to change one’s own opinion.

    1. Sometimes people don’t want to “change” other people’s opinions. Sometimes they just want to have a nice dinner party without having to discuss white supremacy as if it was morally defensible.

      But apparently that’s a bridge too far for folks like Michael Abramowicz.

      1. “Sometimes they just want to have a nice dinner party without having to discuss white supremacy as if it was morally defensible.”

        And sometimes people want to have a nice dinner party without having to discuss same-sex relations as if they were morally defensible, or have people question whether or not salvation can only come from Christ, or whatever. And that might be fine for a dinner party, or a church, but we’ve learned over and over again that it’s no way to run a tolerant, free society.

        1. If every dinner party you go to involves such conversations over your objections, you need to get better dinner party fellows.

  6. On the one hand, yes, almost everybody would agree that some thoughts are better left unsaid, and never suitable for any discussion outside psychotherapy, and maybe a play — clinical details of a particularly gory murder, for instance. But if the people listening can leave, that is the best way to handle it.

    The problem comes when the listeners cannot leave, such as on an airliner or train; and when the listeners decide not that they don’t want to leave, or shouldn’t have to leave, but when they decide that no one else should be able to hear it even if, possibly especially if, they want to.

    I don’t think this is hard. If Trump or AOC tweets something stupid which you don’t like, just don’t read their tweets any more. If someone makes some especially sexist or racist remark, just walk away.

    The root problem I see was the evisceration of freedom of association by the 1960s Civil Rights Acts. Suddenly it became the government’s business what business owners did, and that made it the public’s business, and this is the predictable result, that snowflakes think it is their business to mind everyone else’s business. The larger picture is that in general, the more a government makes everyone’s business its business, the more everyone in turn wants to make other people’s business the government’s business, because it is literally more profitable, both financially and emotionally, to mind other people’s business before they mind yours, with the government doing the minding.

    1. “If Trump or AOC tweets something stupid which you don’t like, just don’t read their tweets any more. If someone makes some especially sexist or racist remark, just walk away.”

      This gets exceptionally difficult when cultural IPS are taken over by SJWs. SJWs barnacle onto an existing IP such as Star Wars, or Dr. Who, because they are often incapable of making their own cultural mythos because good storytelling is virtually impossible when political messaging in your main goal.

      Rather than create their own super heroes or stories, they turn Thor into a woman and turn Cap. America into a Nazi. So, do you walk away from your fandom, or do you try to fix it?

      1. If the culture changes, you accept it or try to change it yourself.

        Do you own Thor? Captain America? Thor is public domain. Capt America is owned by Marvel or DC or somebody. No one else owns either.

        1. These stories and said characters are our modern mythology. They belong to all of us. Therefore, when SJW turn Captain America into a Nazi or Star Wars into propaganda, they are taking away something you already own.

          1. Whatta snowflake.

            Modern myths are held collectively, you as an individual hold no ownership.

            They are also not taken away by someone publishing something; a myth that can be destroyed by a new take on it isn’t actually a myth.

            1. Oh, let’s go straight to the personal insults. It means you don’t have much of an argument. I have to admit, though, your generally ignorant douchebaggery got under my skin this time.

              If modern myths are held collectively, then you *and* I have ownership. That’s what collective ownership is. We all own that story that is, say, Ghostbusters, as much as Bill Murray does.

              If “new take” by propagandists obliterates decades of canon and a collectively understood version of a story, like they did with Dr. Who, in order to have a SJW revision, it destroys rather than creates. And that’s just the thing…the SJW crowd would rather destroy a franchise to bend it to their own ends than create their own to tell their stories.

              (p.s. I can tell right now, you’re one of those Last Jedi defenders aren’t you. What a sad, sad lot.)

              1. Snowflake was descriptive, if ironic.
                You’re claiming victimhood and injury due to someone publishing a bad take on a superhero you like.

                That’s some snowflake-level fragility.

                The old issues are still there, dude. They’re a safe space; you’ll be fine.

                Last Jedi was a big swing, but a miss. I also don’t rage at people who have a different take on it.

                1. Why do you torture the dictionary so? The words “rage” and “victim” have meanings quite different from your usage. I’m making reasoned, coherent, and rational points about why cultural icons matter and how they can be misused…and from you I get insults? Why am I not surprised. Meh, don’t complain when folks like Dr. Ed point out how silly you are and then complain about norms and standards, etc. etc. You’re all hot air.

                  You don’t have an argument. You’re at the table pounding stage. p.s. (You’re more like Luke in Last Jedi than you realize).

          2. To which the standard response is, “Go make your own movies, with whatever kind of heroes you like.”

            Are you seriously arguing for greater freedom of expression while criticizing moviemakers for not telling stories the way you think they should be told?

            1. No, I’m criticizing people who take an IP with decades of canon and mutual understanding between audience and creator, and morphing it into something it’s not in order to spread propaganda, rather than just creating new content from a new IP.

              1. m-k,

                They are not trying to “spread propaganda.”

                They are trying to make money. Stop with the conspiracy BS.

                And so what if they were trying to spread propaganda. (Note use of subjunctive to indicate counterfactual) what right would you have to object?

                1. Oh, bullshit. If they were trying to make money, they’d be making uncontroversial family friendly movies, that’s where the money is at.

                  They’re trying to take over the culture by displacing all art that is based on the values they want to get rid of, replacing it with propaganda pieces, or just making it unavailable if that’s not feasible. Like pulling Gone From The Wind from the shelves until they can add a lecture on how evil you are to want to watch it, or the way you can’t buy Song of the South anymore unless you can find a copy on Ebay.

                  They don’t want to create new art, they want to destroy or replace the old.

          3. In the “anyone can write fan fiction” sense, they do belong to “all of us”.

            But in the literal sense, they belong to the IP holders, not to “all of us”.

            And in case you forgot, Captain America was created to mock the Aryan ideal by two Jews to piss off Nazis and spur America to action. He started as literal propaganda.

            And contrary to your assertion, no, it doesn’t take away anything you already own when Marvel puts out a story you don’t like. Even ignoring how comics continuously revert to the status quo (change is so hard to stick), your old comics, movies, action figures, games, etc. and so-on are still there. And if you were a real fan, you’d already be quite practiced in ignoring events, characterizations, and storylines you don’t like.

  7. “Sure, academia is much better than most employers, because tenure remains a significant protection.”

    I’m not that sure. Most employers really don’t give a damn what you do on your own time. They don’t care about your politics, or your religion, or your hobbies. They just care if you do the job.

    You might get the contrary impression from some high profile exceptions, but that’s the way it works at most work places.

    Academia seems to care very much what you do on your own time; Faculties didn’t go from 1.5-1 Democratic, to 30-1 Democratic, by the universities not caring about your politics. They got there by caring a LOT.

    1. Tell that to Emmanuel Cafferty.

      1. Unlike you, the unfortunate Mr. Cafferty might understand the meaning of “high profile exception”.

        1. Don’t read the stories that pop up here weekly about college professors and deans fired for statements which would be innocuous in a rational world, do you?

      2. Heavily regulated companies like utilities have to conform to the demands of the ruling party, so it is hardly surprising SDG&E is just as intolerant as the California state legislature or the University of California.

    2. Yes, I’m curious as to why Prof. Abramowicz thinks he knows anything about non-academic employers. There are plenty of companies where the majority–even the overwhelming majority–of employees and managers are conservatives or Republicans, and another large number which are pretty much evenly divided. All those places are much more tolerant of divergent opinions than a typical university.

  8. When conservatives get control of a campus, they reject academic freedom, impose speech and conduct codes, suppress science, warp history, collect loyalty oaths, engage in viewpoint-based discrimination in everything from admissions to hiring, and teach nonsense. The result is a robust collection of fourth-tier (or unranked) schools with sketchy accreditation, lackluster faculties, lousy reputations, and unaccomplished graduates.

    Why should the liberal-libertarian mainstream, which operates our strongest schools, be in the market for pointers from conservatives on this subject?

  9. “How can we make universities more tolerant of dissent?”

    Eliminate or completely overhaul the schools — customarily controlled by conservatives — that censor stridently to flatter religion?

    1. Religion was a problem because it ran government, and also social ostracism. It has been severed from both now, one two hundred years ago, the otber recently.

      It was wrong then and is wrong now. The problem is the power.

    2. “How can we make universities more tolerant of dissent?”

      Kirkland: Get rid of schools that teach things I disagree with.

      Who needs parody?

      1. As long as we have the Rev., Poe’s law is hard to apply.

  10. This talk about consensus in science makes me think that maybe the author is a law professor, not a scientist.

    I am firmly in Feynman’s camp on this question: “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

  11. The basic problem with exiling outlier views beyond the pale, is that, so long as views aren’t uniform, there are outlier views. Each round of exile must be followed by another.

    And, once you have any kind of mechanism for doing that exile, it becomes a target for capture. Heck, most of the point of creating the mechanism is so that you can capture and abuse it!

    That you can’t get away with saying something as fundamentally anodyne as “all lives matter” in large parts of society demonstrates that capture is already a done deal, our job now is to undo it.

    1. The basic problem with exiling outlier views beyond the pale, is that, so long as views aren’t uniform, there are outlier views. Each round of exile must be followed by another.

      This is a distortion.

      The claim is not that those holding any outlier views should be shunned. It’s that some outlier views are so odious as to merit shunning.

      1. You missed his point. The mechanism to shun views as “odious,” once employed, is then co-opted to squelch legitimate debate.

        True racism is odious, but a great deal of opinion, and even factual discussion, has been labelled “racist” that simply isn’t, in an attempt to squelch other opinions.

        1. Might be true sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shun actual racist views.

          Clearly, there are marginal cases, so it’s hard to make bright line rules, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to distinguish.

          1. Sorry, but when someone saying “All lives matter” is branded as a racist, things are way off track.

          2. “…but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shun actual racist views.”

            This is such outmoded, stale thinking. Sure, many people thought this three months ago, but now we know that all people, I mean all white people, have actual racist views and we simply have to work to improve ourselves.

    2. The basic problem with exiling outlier views beyond the pale, is that, so long as views aren’t uniform, there are outlier views.

      I would go further. Even if there is uniformity of opinion, there are still outlier views, even if no one at all happens to think they are right. Which may well merit consideration and discussion, and if academia is not the forum for doing that, there’s no point in academia.

      There are lots of examples, in science – the Michelson-Morley experiment being perhaps the most famous – of efforts to confirm the consensus leading, by their failure, to the collapse of the consensus.

      Even if you, and all your fellows are firmly convinced that the Moon is made from green cheese, you are quite capable of conceiving other ideas for the possible composition of the Moon. And if you are a scientist in academia, that’s one of the things you should be doing.

      And if you are a non-scientist in academia, where ideas are not capable of being put to the brutal test of experiment , then a fortiori, you’d be failing in your vocation if you settled with the views you actually happen to hold.

  12. But imagine the following claim: “I’m not a holocaust denier, but I think holocaust denial should be in bounds, because a lot of those photographs do look like they could have been faked.” It’s hard to imagine a world in which this claim receives substantially less opprobrium than the claim following the “because.”

    It should receive just as much, for two reasons:

    1. Photographs can be faked, of course, but unless the speaker is quite an expert on the subject of fake photographs, and has examined those in question, he’s full of shit.

    2. So what? If there weren’t a single relevant photograph there would still be evidential mountains – Himalayas of documents and eyewitness accounts and other things – that show the Holocaust occurred.

    So the person making the statement is either a denier or just trying to get people upset and start a fight. This is not an attempt to start a serious discussion.

  13. Gosh! Has EVERYBODY forgotten Galilleo? He was silenced for saying that the Earth revolved around the Sun. But he whispered “And yet it moves” (in Latin, of course). The Roman Catholic Church was unable to prevent the truth from coming out.

    Before you silence an opinion you disagree with, I hope you’ve considered that opinion carefully and are even more sure that you are right than the Church was in Galilleo’s case.

  14. “…but that all reasonable people exact social penalties for at least some speech.”

    So do all unreasonable people. People have extracted social penalties for religious disagreement, questioning of sexual mores, etc. Reasonable people understand that this behavior is intolerant, and a poor way to arrive at the truth. But there are precious few reasonable people nowadays.

  15. I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it –and my right to call you an a******e, point and laugh, and refuse to deal with you again.

    1. This.

      You have a right to be a holocaust denier.

      And if you practice that right at one of my “dinner parties”, you can expect to –at the very least– not get invited back.

      Freedom of speech, in both law and intent, does not mean freedom from social consequences. It never has, and it never will.

  16. Bans on holocaust denial are protecting not the truth, but the sanctity of the holocaust.

    But it’s not for the government to say what is sacred or profane.

    1. This is not about the government, it’s about people shunning people for their views, both in and out of academia.

      1. Yep. Like people who state that they believe that all lives matter.

      2. All I know is people shouldn’t stand up an orthodoxy in the name of truth.

        The holocaust is unassailable on the facts. Pretending there is a threat posed to the historical record just serves to reduce freedom for everyone to protect an orthodoxy.

        1. You don’t shun holocaust deniers because they’re a “threat”. You shun them because they’re awful, awful people.

          1. At this point that sort of reasoning has been extended to the point where objectively true facts are off limits, because only awful, awful people believe them.

            Only awful, awful people believe that saying you’re a woman doesn’t make you one, for instance.

            Basically, any time the left adds something to their list of proscribed beliefs, anybody who doesn’t retroactively adjust their thinking becomes an “awful, awful” person.

            Only awful, awful people don’t see five fingers when you hold up four. That’s what this is really about.

  17. I don’t see there being an issue. I regularly share and discuss “out of bounds’ opinions with those who I have a close relationship with and no harm has come from it. Also, I encounter non-consensus arguments in academic journals and university press books on a pretty regularly basis.

    The problem Wilkinson appears to have is that he (and others) want to share their opinions on social media platforms, where everyone can view and comment on them. Perhaps if you have a private, in person, conversation with him he would share the out of bounds’ opinions he holds, and you could have a discussion about them.

    If you want the potential status and name recognition of being an influencer, than you should factor in the potential cost of social blowback. If you want intellectual conversation with a much lower risk, then get off of social media and either have an actual conversation with others or stick to the far less read academic outlets. Or, use an alias when writing publicly (which of course negates the benefits of name recognition that is usual sought).

    Well…..or just demand you be allowed to have your cake and eat it too. See how that works out.

    1. I self-censor all the time. It’s called tact. Outside of this platform, believe it or not, I’m known for it.

    2. Try putting your out of bounds opinions out beyond your circle of friends and see what happens.

      1. What should happen?

      2. Occasionally I do, often on this blog. As as you can see though, and as I originally stated, I use an alias (despite David Bernstein once demanding in the comment section that I give my real name). One of the reasons for doing this, as I stated, is that I am aware of what can happen. Likewise, I am aware of what can happen if I don’t look both ways before I cross the street, thus I look both ways before I cross.

        I consider it prudence, which used to be a virtue.

        1. I, on the other hand, have never used a pseudonym, on the basis that I didn’t start out using one, and it’s too late to hide, I’m already on lists.

          Literally on lists, I’ve been at political rallies where the police went around photographing license plates.

          Come the revolution they’ll be after me anyway, even if I did shut up now.

    3. I’m part of a private FB group, where old friends get together to discuss stuff. Often politically incorrect. Nobody who’s a member of the group minds what you say.

      We still get occasional reminders from FB that they’re watching what we say anyway, and will enforce their ever changing TOS even if nobody complains. Starting to look at changing to MeWe because of that.

  18. Opinions about what should and shouldn’t be out of bounds are fine. But as long as the totalitarians are out there cancelling people, you’ll never truly know what prudent people think about anything. It’s just not smart to say, even in confidence. Expect all answers on all subjects to be tactical. No one will be dumb enough to be truthful.

    1. So, you’re either being untruthful in your comment, or you’re dumb.

      Interesting position.

      1. I’m anonymous.

        Also, what did I say about anything? I said to expect some things and not others. That’s not a statement or position on anything.

  19. Anyone trying to make good faith, thoughtful arguments, whether the speaker ultimately would endorse those arguments or not, should receive no social condemnation.

    So to be clear…

    So long as someone is making “good faith, thoughtful” arguments in favor of sodomy laws, I’m the bad guy for not inviting them to a dinner party? Not the person actively arguing for my imprisonment, but me, for not wanting them in my house ruining my evening?

    This is as ridiculous as when someone here int he Reason comments –in good faith– argued that I would be an “economic terrorist” for not buying from a bakery that would refuse me as a customer.

    1. The guy arguing in favor of the anti-sodomy laws might not want you at his dinner party either. And to some extent there’s nothing wrong with avoiding situations that make you uncomfortable. But avoiding situations that make us uncomfortable shouldn’t be a general principal.

    2. “This is as ridiculous as when someone here int he Reason comments –in good faith– argued that I would be an “economic terrorist” for not buying from a bakery that would refuse me as a customer.”

      Calling someone an “economic terrorist” sounds like… shunning. Who wants an economic terrorist at their dinner party?

    3. So, logically speaking, what’s the difference between sodomy laws, and laws against vaping, say? I think that, objectively speaking, you can make a better case for the sodomy laws, in terms of public health effects.

      1. The special people must be catered to. They’re like a holy order, divinely chosen, apart and above regular individuals. All laws and societal norms must be shaped and molded to facilitate their comfort.

        Vape users aren’t the special people. They’ve fallen from the grace and so they suffer the congregation’s disdain.

        It’s quite clear when you understand it as a religion. L. Ron Hubbard would be proud.

  20. Cancellation (censorious editing, even self-censorship) is a great leap in the direction of violent punishment of speech.

    Violent punishment of speech entails, for the fortunate, perhaps a mere public flogging; for the unlucky, burning at the stake. The cutting out of a blasphemer’s tongue presumably falls somewhere in between these.

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