Free Speech

How Social Media Have Changed Campus Climate

The dynamics of the information ecosystem have impacted research and teaching.


Oxford University Press has recently published a new book on campus discourse that we co-authored. The book, titled "Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education," addresses the need to foster a campus culture that is more open to dialog on and engagement with a diverse range of perspectives.

Starting today and continuing through the remainder of this week, we'll be publishing a series of short daily posts with excerpts from the book and some brief added commentary.

One of the questions that might be asked is whether this book is addressing anything new. After all, concerns about campus discourse—and eye rolls in response from people who think those concerns are overblown—are a perennial feature of the higher education landscape.

But we think there is something new: the role of social media. Social media aren't "new" in the strict technical sense. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were founded respectively in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and before Facebook there were companies like Myspace. But the role that social media now play in contemporary discourse is relatively recent.

Today's mobile phones and wireless networks are far more capable than those of ten years ago, with the result that video is far easier to acquire and disseminate than in the past. Information, as well as misinformation and out-of-context information, can propagate through the digital ecosystem far more quickly and efficiently than before.

The tools used to decide what content we see on social media feeds have also become more advanced and pervasive. The consequences for society in general are profound, and are rightly the focus of a growing number of books, academic papers, and articles in popular media. But our focus is narrower. In the book, we explore the role of social media in campus discourse. As we explain:

Campuses have long had unwritten rules about what can and can't be said. But in recent years, social media have changed how we communicate and have emerged as a powerful tool both for direct censorship and for strengthening the incentives for self-censorship, some of which is encouraged and supported by people within academia itself.

Both on campus and off, this is most visible through social media-driven public shaming campaigns launched in response to perceived transgressions. In addition, and arguably more importantly in the long run, there is an indirect effect that operates through the fear of potentially being targeted by social media "call-out culture." That fear leads people to preemptively modify their behavior in order to avoid becoming a focus of attack. This means that the pressure to conform goes up, tolerance for dissenting views goes down, and the range of permissible opinions is narrowed.

In the campus context, this applies to research, teaching, and academic discourse more generally. In the pre-social media age, publication of a controversial research result would generally lead, some number of months later, to the publication of articles presenting rebuttals, to a period of debate among experts in the field, and more often than not to an eventual resolution. This is how knowledge advances.

Today, publication of controversial research can lead to a social media backlash that builds within weeks or even days. Faced with the pressure of a social media mob, academic journals will backtrack, questioning the very work that they had already subjected to peer review and deemed worthy of publication. University administrators will rapidly distance themselves from faculty members who publish research results that the Twittersphere has declared off-limits, even before any academic process has been completed to evaluate whether the attacks on the research have merit. In this climate, the pressure to self-censor is enormous.

Moreover, social media play an indirect role through the creation and sustenance of an "outrage culture" that produces incentives not to risk taking any position or making any statement that runs counter to the dominant beliefs. No faculty members want to be attacked on social media and left spinning in the wind by their university administrations. It's far easier, and far better for one's future career prospects, to adopt a new rule: Don't perform or publish research that could lead to results that people on social media might not like. In other words, in determining what research gets performed, the Twittersphere now has a seat at the table.

Similar dynamics act to constrain teaching, where saying anything in the classroom that is deemed hostile to the dominant campus orthodoxy can lead to formal complaints, calls for punishment, social media shaming, and demands for apologies. In short, the loudest and most indignant voices on social media are shaping the college classroom environment, just as they are so often shaping contemporary discourse beyond the campus.

The censorious nature of academia is a consequence of a social media-reinforced campus culture in which there is enormous social and professional pressure to adhere to a particular worldview. That pressure arises in significant part because the costs of publicly questioning that worldview can be high. And, this culture tends to get further strengthened through a positive feedback cycle that makes the campus a more welcoming place for people who see the world similarly, and a far less welcoming place for those who don't.

NEXT: Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! The October Term 2020 of FantasySCOTUS is now in session

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  1. I don’t think you can ignore the conspicuous change in faculty hiring around 2000. If you look at party ratios in various faculties over time, about the only way you can account for the change is if, around 2000, many institutions simply almost entirely stopping hiring anybody who wasn’t a Democrat.

    1. Brett, when Republicans become the anti-science know-nothing party that wants to gut education, it’s hardly surprising that most of the people in education are Democrats. Methinks you are confusing cause with effect.

      1. Arghh Republicans “anti-science” Argh Argh Argh….

        This is tired old trope.

        1. Well, it’s not Democrats who are insisting that creationism be taught in public schools. Or denying climate change. Or hosting what now appears to have been a Covid super spreader event in the Rose Garden.

          1. It is Democrats claiming that sex is a choice but sexuality is not.

            1. Aren’t they claiming that gender should be a choice?

              1. They tend to use the words very interchangeably.

                1. “They” do? In my experience most people pushing for trans rights are fairly careful to talk about *gender* being a social construct.

                  1. …then demand protections based on sex.

                  2. They say that biological sex is a social construct.

                    1. That’s not in keeping with the main scholarship on sex and gender. You’re nut-picking at best, and deluding yourself at worst.

                    2. Since I can’t reply to Sarcastr0: Learn English. The point and the problem here is pretty much entirely that the view the trans activists are pushing is NOT in keeping with the main scholarship on sex and gender. The people who dominate social media are into scientism, which is more accurately a pseudoscientific religion. ‘Anti-science’ is just their word for somebody who is a non-believer.

                    3. “That’s not in keeping with the main scholarship on sex and gender.”

                      Judith Butler is nutpicking? I mean, they’re pretty much all nuts, and Judith Butler thinks it’s OK for professors to assault their assistants if they’re good scholars, but still.

                    4. And the fourth circuit just published an op referring to a litigants “birth-assigned sex, or so-called ‘biological sex,'” complete with scare quotes. I’m telling you, Sarcastro, you’re in a cult.

                    5. No, dude.

                      You clearly avidly read right-wing commentaries about things you don’t bother to look up yourself.

                      The phrase: birth-assigned sex, or so-called ‘biological sex,’ does not say biological sex is a social construct.
                      From Butler’s wiki: “Butler distinguishes “between sex, as biological facticity, and gender, as the cultural interpretation or signification of that facticity.”

                      You condemn things you do not understand, and it makes you full-on wrong about them.

                    6. If we’re doing wiki’s, this is from the wiki on her book Gender Trouble, “Sex and gender are both constructed.”

                      Sarcastr0: “The phrase: birth-assigned sex, or so-called ‘biological sex,’ does not say biological sex is a social construct.”

                      Why say, “so-called ‘biological sex'”? Why not just biological sex? Why scare quotes? As to the definition of “Trans” in general, why the whole, “birth-assigned sex” dodge?

                      Here’s a case where a judge refused allow the use of the term “biological males” to refer to biological males.

                      If you don’t think that there’s plenty of folks out there trying to deny the reality of biological sex, you haven’t been paying attention.

                    7. Sarcastr0
                      October.5.2020 at 7:56 pm
                      “That’s not in keeping with the main scholarship on sex and gender. You’re nut-picking at best, and deluding yourself at worst.”

                      Why are progressives so willing to conflate a mental illness as a biological disease & pretend that it is science.

                  3. Do you people not know how to use search engines?

                    It’s extremely easy to find many people claiming that sex is socially construed is constructed.

                    (I would happily link you to some examples, but every time I post links here, the post goes into moderation limbo forever.)

            2. Its a case of Dems / progressives unable to tell the difference between a mental disease and a biological disease. Their belief in pseudo science & herd mentality greatly hinders basic critical thinking skills.

            3. Or denying climate change.

              Nobody is denying that the climate changes.

          2. If you call it a “super spreader event” sounds a lot more ominous then just a few people picking up a communicable disease.

            1. Whether one person caught it or a million, the point is that it’s another example of the GOP ignoring science, in this case refusing to mask and social distance. There’s a reason the Trumps tested positive and the Bidens did not.

              1. Oh, come on. They were using an approach to avoiding the disease that relied on everyone being frequently tested, so that they’d KNOW who was a carrier. Instead of just assuming everybody was a carrier. Basically spending money for convenience. It’s not an irrational approach if you’ve got the money.

                Sure, a false negative can mess you up, but it’s not like masks are 100% effective, either, or even feasible where food is being consumed.

                1. Except that if I’m infected this morning, it may not show up in a test for several hours. And the fact that I just tested negative doesn’t mean I wasn’t infected five minutes later.

                  No, masks and social distancing are not 100% — nothing is — but it greatly improves your odds.

                  1. Tell the “not 100% effective” to the media that is bellowing that out like it is an absolute truth.

                    Masks and social distancing are great risk reduction strategies. But that is it. They won’t stop transmission 100% of the time. Regular testing as a prevention strategy also is not exceptionally effective.

                    Trump getting Covid was mostly a function of being an active President. He was around a lot of people and so were his staff. I don’t know how you get around that in election season especially when he is the clear underdog a month before.

                    Biden took the opposite approach and just sat in a basement for three months. Of course since he wasn’t around people with Covid he didn’t get Covid. Biden also doesn’t need to campaign and as just a candidate (and one who doesn’t need to campaign) can do the press he needs to get done remotely. That is why Biden does not have it.

                    Masks might have helped if the White House would have used it as part of their strategy, but it is just disingenuous to say “oh if he wore a mask there is no way he would have got Covid!!!!”

                    1. “Biden also doesn’t need to campaign”

                      Closer to “Biden needs to not campaign”; Generic Democrats basically always out-poll actual Democrats, the less Biden campaigns, the more his popularity approximates that of a generic Democrat.

                      It’s not a strategy that could work for somebody who didn’t have the media in the tank for them, but he does.

                  2. “Except that if I’m infected this morning, it may not show up in a test for several hours. And the fact that I just tested negative doesn’t mean I wasn’t infected five minutes later.”

                    That’s both true and irrelevant, as you don’t become contagious instantly after exposure. There *may* be a window between becoming contagious and testing positive, I think that’s not established yet, but it’s not long, hours, if it exists. If you’re exposed this morning, you’ve got a couple days before anybody could catch it from you.

          3. Skepticism isn’t denial, but by all means continue with your cultish obedience to advocacy driven theories.

          4. No… It’s Democrats that are shutting down entirely safe nuclear waste disposal sites for non-scientific, purely political reasons… And effectively shutting down nuclear power.

            It’s Democrats who are opposing entirely scientifically safe GMO foods, and demanding “labelling” in order to attempt to stigmatize it.

            It’s Democrats who continue to oppose fracking, despite its safety, economic benefit, and the fact that fracking actually ends up reducing carbon emissions, by displacing coal in energy generation.

          5. The science deniers who believe that hiding in place is a viable eradication strategy?

          6. Or hosting what now appears to have been a Covid super spreader event in the Rose Garden.

            Remind us who has been not only holding, but doing nothing to prevent the numerous “super spreader” events (you know, the ones that tend to result in burned and looted business, violent attacks, etc.) in major U.S. cities over the past 4+ months?

            1. Whattaboutism is no way to go through life, Wuz.

              Especially since neither protests nor riots seem to have resulted in a lot of spread.

              1. Sarcastro October.5.2020 at 6:22 pm
                Whattaboutism is no way to go through life, Wuz.

                “Especially since neither protests nor riots seem to have resulted in a lot of spread.”

                Those surges in Portland, King county, Hennepin county that started in early june had zero relation to the riots. Those surges in June must have been caused by those family parties on July 4th.

                Look at the date from the each county.

          7. It’s not Republicans claiming math is racist.

      2. Let’s assume, just for fun, that something did happen in 2000 to greatly skew faculty hiring. Let’s also assume you’re correct that Republicans are “anti-science.”

        If Republicans are anti-science, did they suddenly become much more so in 2000 such that it skewed hiring, or were they always anti-science?

        If Republicans were always anti-science, then we would continue to see the same trends, an unchanged faulty GOP/Dem ratio. However, we don’t. Therefore, a more likely causal explanation is that higher learning institutions changed their hiring.

        Moreover, how does this trend compare to the hiring in non-social science fields? There isn’t a conservative or liberal way to built a bridge or mix chemicals (at least not yet). If the GOP/Dem remains in the same ratio in the hard sciences, then that is strong evidence it’s the hiring that has changed and not the pool of candidates.

        1. I’m no expert in university hiring, but I do remember what happened to the Republican Party. Up until the Reagan years, it was run by center-right moderates like Jerry Ford, Robert Michel, Robert Griffin, Everett Dirksen, Charles Percy, Mark Hatfield and the like. Around 1980 the extreme right started a takeover, such that today’s Republican Party looks almost nothing at all like the GOP did when I was growing up.

          We can debate whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, but today the GOP is essentially a collection of religious extremists, libertarian wannabes, with a few white supremacists thrown in for good measure. Eisenhower would not recognize it. Neither would Robert Taft.

          1. Jerry Ford, Bob Michel, et al, were the Republican leaders who lost elections for 40 years. Their brand of “center-right” Republicanism was exactly how successful?

            1. And given how far left the Democrats have turned in the last few years…why no reduction in THEIR numbers?

              1. Because it turns out leftward turns have public support and lets you grow your base.
                Nativist doubling down on old white non-college males does not.

                1. “leftward turns have public support”

                  Its a Trump driven effect. Once he is gone and they try to implement stuff, their public support will sharply decline.

                  1. The public will be less animated and up in arms about it, but the basic viewpoints won’t change. The majority wants single payer health care, and has for quite some time.

                    1. Your citations are missing.

                    2. Hank, did anyone else provide citations?

                      Don’t be a silly goose – this entire thread was opinions/predictions.

            2. Whether their brand of Republicanism was “successful” is not the issue; the issue is whether the current brand of Republicanism is know-nothing and anti-science.

              Of course, if all you care about is winning, without caring about what specifically it is that’s being won, then Hitler was far more successful than the Weimar Republic, at least for a while. Yeah, winning is nice, but not if you have to sell your soul in order to do it.

          2. At the end of the 1970s, the left went leftward and the right rightward. The conservative Dems in the South became Republicans and the liberal NE Vermont Republicans became Democrats. The end of the broad anti-commie coalition of both parties after 1992 accelerated that trend.

            Would Ike like today’s GOP? Maybe. Remember, he was responsible for the largest deportation of illegal Mexicans, and didn’t like the military-industrial complex like Trump. He’d likely bitch about Trump’s twitter. But hold up a mirror to yourself…would Truman, JFK or Scoop Jackson like today’s Dems? Probably not, and that’s okay.

            The necessity of obtaining Texas primary votes does have the tendency to push GOP candidates to the right. There is a reasoned debate in political science that the right perhaps went more rightward than the left went leftward, in no small part due to Newt Gingrich’s polarization tactics, and some data to show that, but it’s but a small part of a multivariate situation.

            View this video on polarization scores…it’s enlightening. We are back to what things were like prior to the post WWII era. In other words, normalcy:

            1. “didn’t like the military-industrial complex like Trump”

              What the what? This the Trump who pushes for more money than the Pentagon asks for regularly? Oh, for enemies like that!

                1. Did you even read the article you cite?

                  “Although Trump’s remarks were not wrong, they were certainly hypocritical. His current and former Secretaries of Defense were top Boeing BA +1.7% and Raytheon executives, respectively, and Trump has significantly increased Pentagon spending every year during his first term. “

                  1. Yea, I did, I wouldn’t have posted it if I didn’t. In fact, I posted THAT ONE specifically because it was Forbes (middle of the road) and it criticizes Trump harshly for being two-faced. The reason? So you would maybe let it penetrate your consciousness that yes, Trump is against the military industrial complex even if he supports in part….just like Ike.

                    1. It can’t get past the in-group biases to read and comprehend is my guess.

            2. I think Scoop Jackson (for whom I worked for six months in 1978), Truman, and JFK wouldn’t like everything about today’s Democratic party, but they would like that it sticks up for the underdog against the wealthy and powerful. And they’d be damn proud that it continues to do so even though it has paid electorally for doing so. Don’t forget the reason those Dixiecrats left the Democratic party is that the Democrats became the party of civil rights, racial equality, and ending Jim Crow. Sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing.

              And one issue that we continue to disagree about is those anti-democratic institutions I keep harping about. Does it occur to you that those lunatic Texas Republican primary voters have disproportionate clout specifically because we have anti-democratic institutions? So, for that matter, do Berkeley and Manhattan Democrats. You want to moderate both parties, ditch the electoral college and the anti-democratic Senate.

              1. I think Scoop Jackson would tear his hear out in frustration if he had to deal with AOC, and commies in his own party, but hey, I defer that you kinda sorta knew the guy.

                There are various reasons the Dixiecrats left…gun control is a big reason, not to mention Obamacare, which delivered the coup de grace to the Blue Dog Dems. You also forget, remarkably, that it was Republican votes that made LBJ’s civil rights reforms possible. You see, the party left the voters, the voters didn’t leave the party.

                Moreover, the democratization to the primary voters that the Dems, followed by the GOP after the disastrous 1968 convention, is what kicked off a wave of polarization. Party insiders in the proverbial smoke-filled room would pick moderate winners. The only remnants of those days is the Dem superdelegates.

                You want to moderate the parties, let party insiders pick candidates again.

                1. Neither Obamacare nor gun control were issues at the time the Dixiecrats left the Democratic party; it was all about race. And if you think the Democratic party has more than a smattering of commies, or that they have any influence in the party, you’re nuts.

                  The thing with anti-democratic institutions is that they make most of the country non-competitive in elections. There is no reason either fringe should moderate; Massachusetts will vote Democrat no matter what, and Alabama will vote Republican no matter what, and neither side needs to care what the majority thinks thanks to an anti-democratic Senate. If blue votes counted in Alabama, or red votes in Massachusetts, you might see the parties competing for them.

                  1. The dixiecrats leaving the party was a long drawn out process, and until Obamacare, their new moniker that they adopted without the baggage “blue dog dems” were still a rare species. So yes, gun control and Obamacare were issues. The 1994 assault weapons ban was a slaughter to them. Obamacare finished them off. There might be one or two still left.

                    I’m not going to disagree that if CA votes could go to the GOP presidential candidate rather than being swept up on the Electoral College with the waves of Dem votes, that candidates would campaign differently, and frankly, Republicans might turn out the vote more.

                    But the Electoral College is a trade-off against the dangers of majoritarianism direct democracy, which has it’s own downsides. Frankly, it’s a rather smart idea you’re lucky you inherited from your cultural progenitors

                    There are NO SOLUTIONS, only trade-offs.

                    1. The only real danger of majoritarianism is that your side would lose elections. I haven’t noticed that any of the parade of horribles that supposedly would happen with majority rule actually has happened in countries with parliamentary systems, which is what I would advocate to take its place.

                    2. By 1994 the South had already become mostly Republican.

                    3. Define “mostly”. And like I said, it’s a gradual process.

                      Now, be honest with yourself. If you thought pure majoritarianism meant that Dems would be more likely to lose, you’d be arguing vociferously against it your heart of hearts, you know this to be true even if you will never publicly admit it.

                      As for me, I’m consistent that I prefer the system as is, because *ahem* trade-offs. I would like those GOP votes in CA to mean more. But again, *ahem* trade offs.

                      Don’t forget majoritarian politics in states you dislike, like Texas (didn’t you call it crazy or something) gives you the Texas that you know and love. You want to FORCE your policies on the states. I get it. Authoritarianism comes naturally to the left.

              2. “Dixiecrats left the Democratic party”

                Yawn. They continued to be Dems until they died.

                Educate yourself about when the South turned GOP other than for president.

                “Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the South was still overwhelmingly Democratic at the state level, with majorities in all state legislatures and most U.S. House delegations. Over the next thirty years, this gradually changed. Veteran Democratic officeholders retired or died, and older voters who were still rigidly Democratic also died off. ”
                “As part of the “Republican Revolution” in the 1994 elections, Republicans captured a majority of Southern House seats for the first time.”

                “Solid South”-Wikipedia

                1. I was referring to Dixiecratism as a phenomenon, not about individual Dixiecrats. Is there any question in your mind that if George Wallace and Herman Talmadge and John Stennis and James Eastland came back from the dead, that today they would all be voting Republican?

                  1. Really reaching there Kry. You’re making the fallacy of composition. What is dixiecratism but a collection of dixiecrats? It’s like you want to say pizza is dough, sauce and cheese, when rather it’s all three put together.

                    1. No, that’s not the fallacy of composition. Any movement, including the movement of Dixiecrats to the GOP, is going to have people who jump on the bandwagon early, and stragglers who hold out for the very end.

                    2. Double down. That’s a good look.

          3. As someone who left academia, I can emphatically say that I left because of the climate. There was no space for someone like me, and I’m not even conservative or republican. If you are not hard left, you are not welcome.

      3. It does seem odd that the ONLY group one can argue “they aren’t smart enough to have a job in college” are Republicans. Literally every other group it’d be proof-positive of discrimination.

        Can you explain why Republicans are different than, literally, every other group in existence?

        1. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, become college HR? lol

          Democrats discriminate? Never… /s

      4. When progressives became pro pseudo science

        1. Funny how many scientists agree with the Democrats.

          1. Funny how government funds much of scientists income
            Odd that scientists would vote for continued funding of their income

            Odd that the teachers unions and the rest of the public sector employees would vote democrat

            1. If that were the issue, scientists would be kissing up to Republicans since they control funding.

    2. Would be interesting to see the actual data on this. I agree that universities are more left-leaning than is healthy, but am curious about how much this reflects hiring changes versus the parallel shift in party affiliation by education level. Obviously professors are highly educated, and that corresponds strongly with party ID at this point.

  2. Would you prefer some sort of affirmative action to help this minority?

    From this account, they’re just following donor and registrant preferences:

    1. Yes, but those preferences have been shifting rapidly since the mid 1990’s, and it appears not naturally. As far as I can tell, a lot of academic institutions just flat out stopped hiring conservatives towards the end of the 90’s, and the ones who were already in place have just been aging out.

      1. What’s the evidence of this rapid shift starting in the 90s?

        1. How Liberal Professors Are Ruining College

          It’s worst in the North East, but happening everywhere in the country. If you go to page 2, you can see a graph with a distinct “knee” in the late 90’s.

          “Conservative professors weren’t always so heavily outnumbered here. In 1989, according to Abrams’s data, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors in New England was 5 to 1. The divide widened slowly through the 1990s and then tore open shortly after the turn of the century. Then, between 2004 and 2014, conservative professors essentially fell off the face of the Northeast.

          At first, even Abrams had a hard time believing the 28-to-1 ratio was accurate. He checked and rechecked his work, accounting for every variable he could think of—tenured versus untenured professors, age, income, type of college, the selectivity of the college, which departments the professors belonged to. Time and again, though, the results showed that geography was among the strongest determining factors when it came to the political diversity of professors. After Abrams took his findings public in the New York Times, academics were floored. “That number, 28 to 1, does give one pause in thinking about what ideological diversity is and what an institution’s responsibilities are in thinking about it,” says Isabel Roche, provost and dean of Bennington College, in Vermont. “It’s a really important educational question.””

        2. A more nation-wide perspective:

          The dramatic shift among college professors that’s hurting students’ education

          There’s a chart of faculty opinion, and another of the incoming students. The ideological distribution of the incoming students has hardly budged, but, nation-wide, the fraction of professors who are liberals has exploded, at the expense of both moderates and conservatives.

          They also have a link to general public ideology; It had also not changed much over this time.

          1. 1. Your own sources note this is primarily a New England phenomenon, as the ratio in the South is noted as only 3 to 1 liberal to conservative.

            2. The drop seems entirely in moderates, the number for conservatives sticks at around 20%. It’s passing strange that liberals/far left would be discriminating or driving out moderates but not conservatives.

            3. Both sources seem to start with 1990 so it’s hard to establish the trends started then.

            1. It was a gradual process until the mid 90’s, then accelerated.

              I’ll grant you that it was much more extreme in the North East. But they were kind of a leading indicator. More recent data has the ratio heading towards 10-1 nationally.

              Looking at the donor ratio, rather than party affiliation ratio, produces rather more impressive numbers. The Mid West, the least skewed area, has a 62-1 ratio of donations. Digging down in the numbers, even the professors publicly identifying as Republicans are donating 4.5 times as much money to Democrats.

  3. This breaks no new ground. Just reinforces the well known idea that college campuses are full of fascist ideologues who seek to impose their will on others. Dissent will not be tolerated. This has been known since the late 1980’s.

    Time to hit the eject button on these dejects and defund higher “education” NOW.

    1. I bet the anti-vaxers, flat-earthers, Obama birthers, climate change deniers, religionists, etc., agree with you.

      1. Nah, why let universities suckle on the public teat? Colleges and universities have very sophisticated fund-raising capabilities. They are quite capable of raising the funds they feel they need. The free market will sort out the dreck….meaning. colleges and universities that truly suck will fail.

        1. This isn’t a threshold question, it’s a value question.

          Conservative caterwauling aside, we’ve got pretty great schools under our current system. And perceived value is still tracking tuition pretty well.

          It’s not like students are having trouble distinguishing between schools when they need to decide where to apply.

          Liberal indoctrination Marxist blah blah blah aside, there is no market failure here.

          1. “And perceived value is still tracking tuition pretty well.”

            Yes, but how well is “perceived value” tracking real value?

          2. Market failure. Yea, I dunno. It’s a market that is being warped by federal student loans, weak apprenticeship programs due to labor laws, and the prohibition (generally speaking) of pre-employment aptitude tests. Remove the latter, and you would see a rapid decline in degree seeking.

            1. What market isn’t being warped by that kind of stuff?

              1. Sure, it’s easy to compare and contrast the strong European apprenticeship programs with weak American ones. So, that’s not one market “warped” by them. It’s also easy to look at jobs were pre-employment aptitude testing is still generally done. Comparing those to job areas without it, shows that a degree has replaced the test as a human capital signal to employers that you kinda-sorta know what you’re about.

                I don’t know enough about European education policy, but I do know they have, generally, more funding for students who show aptitude through tests. Which is unlike America, where anybody regardless of readiness for college can take out massive student loans. I propose that if you looked at Europe vs. America on this issue, that the ready availability of loans pushes the number of Americans who go to college and don’t complete it higher than other comparable countries.

                1. Even if degrees are only valued as a signal that signal is not what aptitude tests measure.

                  But my point is if you’re going to say the higher ed market is warped by government involvement, well, you can say that about many if not most industries. Government fingers are in a lot of pies.

                  1. Do you know why we don’t have pre-employment aptitude tests?

                    We have relevant comparisons to make to Europe that we can make, so yes, we can confidently say that gov’t warps the market. Yes, this occurs everywhere to an extent, but you’re making the fallacy of making it “no gov’t involvement” or “lots of gov’t involvement” when we can compare differences in the LEVEL of gov’t involvement.

          3. “there is no market failure here.” I’m going to remind you of that next time forgiving student loan debt comes up.

          4. I’m sorry, but I literally laughed out loud at this = Conservative caterwauling aside, we’ve got pretty great schools under our current system. And perceived value is still tracking tuition pretty well.

            Standards to enter college have been severely dumbed down, outside of STEM. No Sarcastr0, our schools are not so hot. My observation is that schools try to be what they are not. Example: Rutgers trying to equate their programs and experience to Princeton. The two are not even remotely compatible.

            One unintended side effect I see from this pandemic is that the delivery of educational content has changed for all time. If you think people will pay ‘full freight’ for mostly virtual classes, you are badly mistaken. The market will sort out the dreck. Give it a little time.

            1. Why do you think so many foreign students bust their asses to come to our schools?

              1. Because it gets them a foot in the door for immigration.

            2. Not only full tuition, but tuition PLUS online charges.

        2. They will just try to take in more foreign students to make up the lack of public funding.

          If you really want to defund them, you have to cap the % of foreign students AND cut their direct funding. There will still be a steady stream of suckers with student loans though.

          1. I’d also support taking their endowments to pay reparations for former slaves. These institutions seem to be the breeding ground for this insane belief, so allow them to fulfill their insane belief.

      2. Your use of “climate change deniers” shows your ignorance. It’s not a question of changing climate, it’s (a) how much change is natural and how much is man-made, and (b) how much effort should be put into changing that man-made portion.

        It’s also telling that you left out TDS, and included religion. As if it’s anyone’s business what people believe for themselves.

        You’re apparently just another busybody slaver. Fuck off.

        1. “Your use of “climate change deniers” shows your ignorance. It’s not a question of changing climate, it’s (a) how much change is natural and how much is man-made, and (b) how much effort should be put into changing that man-made portion.”

          Right, just like the tobacco companies kept telling us that it’s unsettled that smoking causes cancer.

          1. Actually, their general defense in court was, “Everybody knows smoking causes cancer, so the smokers were voluntarily assuming the risk.” It was a successful defense, too, until some trial lawyers got the idea of bribing legislators to change the law so it couldn’t be used as a defense anymore.

            1. That’s their defense now. Back in the 60s and 70s they were claiming the science was inconclusive. Until well after it was thoroughly conclusive.

              1. No, that was their defense then, in court. Sure, in advertising they weren’t exactly going to cop to selling “coffin nails”, but they could demonstrate in court that basically nobody thought smoking was healthy.

                1. You have a citation for this? I lived through the 60s and that’s not my recollection.


                    “The State of Florida is preparing the ground for a new attack on the tobacco industry that is intended to make it easier to hold cigarette manufacturers responsible for diseases associated with smoking.

                    Gov. Lawton Chiles today signed legislation that would allow the state to file a suit on behalf of all its Medicaid patients who smoke. Such class-action suits make it more difficult for cigarette companies to defend themselves by using the two main arguments they have successfully employed in cases brought by individual smokers.

                    In beating back every individual suit that has been brought against them, the companies have maintained that anyone who takes up smoking knowingly assumes all the risks associated with smoking and that those who sue did not conclusively prove that smoking caused their illnesses.

                    Such arguments are generally less successful when people sue as a class or group and show through broad-based demographic and health statistics that they were harmed by a product or activity. Class action suits have been brought successfully in recent years to recover damages in cases of exposure to asbestos and the use of breast implants.”

                    “Under the new law, which the Florida Legislature approved last month without public discussion as an obscure amendment to a Medicaid fraud bill, the state is authorized to sue tobacco companies on behalf of its Medicaid patients who suffer from smoking-related illnesses. The law also allows the state to introduce new types of statistical evidence, while prohibiting cigarette manufacturers from using the assumption-of-risk defense, with which they have fended off legal challenges in the past.

                    The tobacco litigation finally succeeded when states passed laws prohibiting the companies from defending themselves on the basis that tobacco was known to be dangerous, and the risk of using it was voluntarily assumed.

                    And, yes, it was a group of trial lawyers who got the idea, and essentially bribed states to pass the laws on the basis that they’d get part of the winnings.

          2. If the goddam climate science is so goddam settled, (a) it ain’t science because science is never settled, and (b) why do they need billions in new funding for climate science research?

            1. It’s settled in the same sense that gravity and relativity are settled: It is always theoretically possible that some new data could come in that would upset what is currently believed to be true, but not likely. To quote Bertrand Russell, it is theoretically possible that there may be a china teapot orbiting the planet Jupiter, but the likelihood is so remote that no one need take it into account.

              1. Science is never “settled”, jackass. Religion is, and that’s what climate “science” has become.

      3. That’s the solution when one cannot argue, smear. Props for use of ‘deniers’ to give the anthropogenic climate change theory skeptics that Holocaust deniers flavor. By the way, contrary to common misconception, minus a few notable instances, the anti-vaccine folks are anti-science lefties. And it continues with the COVID vaccine conspiracy theory, not wanting to receive it because the bad spray-tanned one will have had it released too early to make himself look good. The lack of viewpoint diversity on campuses coupled with social media outrage mobbing is an issue, but not one you recognize, apparently.

    2. Fascists? But I thought your complaint was that they were leftists? Which are they, fascists or leftists? Can’t be both.

      1. Yeah, leftists really want people to believe that you can’t be both, but you absolutely can.

        1. Right, just like Obama was a Muslim Marxist.

          1. Give this man a prize!

          2. I suppose it depends on how you define “fascist”, but if you use the economic definition, the left more often tend to fascism than the right.

            Essentially, the communist model of socialism is the state directly owning the means of production, while the fascist model of socialism retains nominal private ownership, where the private “owners” are retained just as a convenience, but told in detail what to do with “their” property.

            Thus the ACA was essentially a fascist program: Insurance continued to be nominally private enterprise, but was told who it must sell to, at what price, what the product must be, and the customer is ordered to buy. The insurance companies are nationalized in all but name, so that the government can run an off the books entitlement program.

            1. Brett, while I don’t dispute that in day to day practice communism and fascism tend to resemble one another, the problem is that the basic premises behind them are in conflict. Communism is public ownership of the means of production; fascism is private ownership. I will grant it’s purely a conceptual distinction that frequently lacks a practical difference, but still, words mean something.

              And of course you have a tendency to conflate into “leftists” anyone you disagree with, which is kind of like conflating all “Christians” — Westboro Baptist and the pope may both be Christians, but lumping them together and claiming one of them speaks for the other is just silly.

              1. The basic commonality is the rejection of property rights. The fascists just, as a practical stance, figure that the people currently running the means of production already know how to do it, so fascism in effect conscripts them to work for the government.

                Fascists are more practical than communists in that regard, which is why most left-wing regimes are economically fascist rather than communist, don’t bother with the government actually owning the means of production, settle for ordering the nominal owners around.

                1. But you can find commonalities between any two unrelated things if you look hard enough.

                  1. Fascism and communism are hardly unrelated.

                    1. If you’re looking for commonalities, you can find them. There are commonalities between cats and dogs — both mammals, both carnivores, both four-legged — but they are different species.

                    2. Fascism and communism are more like different breeds than different species, though. The primary differences had to do with whether you aspired to go international, or just do it at home, and whether you explicitly claimed ownership of the means of production, or were content to just control it.

                    3. Brett, to your mind, anything you disagree with is just a different shade of leftism.

              2. Wrong, the government owns the means of production in both cases, though in the case of communism/socialism it claims it’s as a proxy for the people. Your point about the use of ‘leftist’ is somewhat accurate, but as a sociopolitical label, it is handy. Leftists are not liberals, which is the broader, inclusive term. They can be and include Progressives, often socialists, communists. You are certainly not free of mild intellectual laziness here, and not always for ease of labeling groups.

            2. “but if you use the economic definition”

              But fascism doesn’t focus on economics (this is why Franco is considered one), it focuses on things like nationalism, militarism, chauvinism, etc.

      2. Contrary to the false narrative from the left, fascism Is a left-wing movement. It was invented by Mussolini as a means of energizing and popularizing socialism in Italy. Mussolini was a member of the socialist party in Italy. The invention of fascism was to combine nationalism with socialism.

      3. “Fascists? But I thought your complaint was that they were leftists? Which are they, fascists or leftists? Can’t be both.”

        What were the Soviets? Leftists, fascists, both? And what would the difference between fascism and Leftism in the case of the Soviets?

        1. Soviets were Communists. Pretty anti-fascist as WW2 let them show.

          1. Hertz is pretty anti-Avis, doesn’t mean they aren’t both renting cars.

            1. Yes, and Donald Trump and Jerrold Nadler are both New Yorkers, so obviously they’re both the same.

              1. Both are also obese so there’s even greater support they are the same!

          2. Ribbentrop-Molotov Treaty. Very anti-fascist.

            Germany invaded them. That’s why they could “show” they were anti-fascist. Until then, they were content to let the Germans overrun all of Europe.

          3. Wrong.
            In 1984 George Orwell showed how “anti-fascist” the Soviets were.

          4. “Soviets were Communists. Pretty anti-fascist as WW2 let them show.”

            Feel free to list the massive differences in policies between the Fascists and the Soviets.

        2. Socialism maintains the fiction of public ownership of the means of production.

          Fascism maintains the fiction of private ownership of the means of production.

          A distinction without a difference.

  4. Wondering if cash flow from the student loan program aggravated the demise of “higher education?”

    1. Well, it did enable the institutions to stay afloat while becoming ever less cost effective. You wouldn’t likely see much demand for identity studies if the students still had to pay for their college with summer jobs, the way it was done in the 70’s.

      The problem here is largely the erasure of price signals turning college into a 4 year vacation from reality that you pay for the rest of your life, instead of a cost-effective way to increase your earnings potential.

      1. That’s what did it. Ever more students forced into another four years of institutional learning instead of being productive, especially when that “learning” is nothing of the sort, just a waste of four years with nothing useful at the end. You get majors whose only output is more teachers of the same useless field whose research is an irreproducible joke, and students bored out of their skulls.

        Add in all the useless admin bureaucrats whose only work is coping with government bureaucrats and finding ways to make their jobs look vital, and you have costs skyrocketing.

        Final nail in the coffin is the government-backed student loan racket, saddling these students with debt their useless jobs can pay off only slowly, and discontent and higher taxes are inevitable.

        1. Who is ‘forcing’ these kids into college?

          1. Society claiming you will be destitute if you do not go to college.

            1. So making claims=force now? That’s something a post-modernist academic would blush at.

              1. Post-modernist academics, like the ones who take out $150k student loans to pay for an “education” in identity studies, which they can never pay back with their jobs at McDonalds? Who cares what they think?

              2. It’s pretty damned simple. The State keeps raising the age of maturity, by raising the drinking age, smoking age, driving age, age at which you can remain on your parents’ insurance, and so on. (But it keeps the military age constant and lowers the voting age, which is so so weird and makes it all the more obvious that the State is ginning up the voting stats to match those fabled 99.97% approval ratings.)

                Almost every desk job, no matter how simple (receptionist, really?) now requires a degree. I suspect this came about partly from more degreed job applicants and fewer starting jobs, especially as each recession ratchets up the number of people looking for jobs, but I don’t know. At any rate, employers needed some way to weed out the vast majority of applicants, and college degrees were easy to pick on.

                This combined with the incessant expansion of government as society’s wealth increased and governments found new ways to spend taxes: colleges! Because as all the studies show, people with college degrees made more money than those without, never mind that this was because those degrees were in law, medicine, engineering, and hard sciences.

                As the demand for a college degree increased, the new students needed simpler majors, because not everyone can hack a STEM degree. At first, English lit, political science, art history, and other humanities degrees filled the bill, but it eventually spilled over into even softer degrees, and thus we now have gender studies and other replacements for basket weaving.

                At some point, someone realized that taxes alone could not pay for college, and government saw its chance for more influence by backing student loans.

                All these things combined to make a “degree”, without further information, almost meaningless. Students aren’t stupid. They know they are wasting four years for a meaningless degree, going to meaningless classes, paying for expensive meaningless textbooks, no need to work to pay for the degree, no need to study or do homework, and they get bored. Along come lockdowns, idle students, and ridiculously high unemployment, and thus Portland et al.

                1. First, I like how ‘it’s pretty damned simple’ is followed by six paragraphs to explain the point. Secondly, none of what you describe involves ‘force.’

                  1. Gosh that was all pertinent. Such an excellent rebuttal.

                  2. See Brett’s comment below for one aspect of force.

                    Understand how laws work and are enforced (Title IX, reporting requirements, student loan repayment) for another aspect.

                    Or maybe you are a benevolent dictator and never need to use force in your queenland, Queenie.

                  3. That was simple. Also concise, and clear. Those are short paragraphs, written in non-technical language. As to your second point, a promise of living in relative poverty being reinforced throughout the early years is verbally coercive. The ‘force’ is the lower standard of living and mockery by the ‘betters’ that Kirkland and others of his ilk represent. As the latter is bona fide violence by Progressive terms, it is indeed force.

                2. ” I suspect this came about partly from more degreed job applicants and fewer starting jobs, ”

                  It came about when the government basically outlawed the use of aptitude tests by employers. Degrees became an expensive proxy for aptitude, but since the expense was borne by the employee, the companies made do.

                  1. I hadn’t known about banning aptitude tests. Hey, Queen Amalthea, there’s your force!

          2. Every single employer that hires for professional jobs requires a college degree because it is a convenient “non-discriminatory” litmus test.

            Permit companies to do aptitude testing again and the demand for college would drop at least 50% when people realized they didn’t have to waste 4 years and lots of money to get a professional, white collar job.

  5. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

    Think of three areas in which the United States is the paragon the world.

    Silicon Valley (tech). Hollywood (culture). Universities (higher education).

    And all we have seen, for years now, is conservatives (usually geriatrics screaming at their Fox News, supported by a few useful idiots) attempting to tear it down so that they can support “bringing back the coal.”


    1. Think of the two products with the fastest inflation, and you get health care and education, two of the most highly regulated fields.

      Coincidence my ass. Government sucks, is incompetent, and never retreats.

      1. It seems strange to leap directly to the conclusion that regulation is bad, rather than also accepting the possibility that specific kinds of regulation aren’t working in these two cases.

        The interstate highway system is highly regulated too, but that seems to work pretty well.

        1. Interstate highways work well …. how do you measure that? There is no unregulated comparison. You are measuring it against no highways, and by that measure, of course it works well.

          Like all statists, you compare your ideal theoretical against existing reality and declare the theoretical has won.

          1. I haven’t declared that anything has won. I’ve merely pointed out that you’re assuming an anti-statist stance; you are comparing your ideal theoretical against existing reality and declaring that your theoretical is preferable to trying to make something work in reality.

          2. “Like all statists, you compare your ideal theoretical against existing reality and declare the theoretical has won.”

            Like all misfits, you complain incessantly and inconsequentially.

            1. Heal thyself, jackass.

        2. broken window fallacy
          you see the gleaming new 4 lanes in the middle of nowhere
          you don’t see all the money wasted to build them, and what it might have done

    2. Silicon valley techs (mostly products of a gene pool that pays its own way), Hollywood &“culture” is an oxymoron, as is Universities & “education” for the most part.

    3. Wrong on all three counts. Tech is booming in Asia, and has been for decades. Culture in film is decades ahead of Hollywood in Asia and Europe, and the actors generally don’t spend most of their time talking down to the populace, telling them what to think. The same is true for music and television. Many post-industrial nation’s universities suffer from the same horrific adherence to a single sociopolitical viewpoint, lacking diversity much like the US. But the schools typically outside the US do not produce mewling myopic child partisans ignorant both of world and US history. What’s awesome is, you have no point, just a vapid statement and an ad hominem attack.

  6. I’m not sure it’s so much about social media on campus having a large affect as it is the last couple of generations have grown up with social media and how to gather and disseminate info.

    Millennials have fully embraced social media (for better or worse), in ways VC bloggers and commentators can’t fully understand, and perhaps we’re the ones who have to change (because they certainly won’t).

    1. So millenials have changed the most, so everybody else who hasn’t changed must change, because the millenials won’t change. That’s some fine logic there.

      1. What’s the matter with kids today?

        -A new and innovative question from an in-touch adult.

        1. That it’s an old question belies the point that it’s also a very old problem. It’s adults who are expected to bring up the next generation by inculcating them with the values and virtues of a functioning society. We’ve not been doing a good job of it, relatively speaking.

          Not every compliant about kids today is “get off my lawn” and the mob coming after Socrates.

          1. although if you squint hard enough you can start to see the mob.

          2. The part clingers get wrong and don’t like is that “values and virtues” will not include bigotry and old-timey superstition in modern America.

            1. Your masturbatory fantasies about endless cultural change aside, are you aware that all you’re doing is promoting a different variety of “values and virtues”?

              1. Bigotry isn’t a virtue, except among people who will not and should not be relevant to modern America’s political debates.

                Lose the bigotry or expect to be ignored (at best).

                1. You wear your bigotry on your sleeve, Kirkland.

                2. I don’t know why I’m attempting an honest conversation with you, but whatever.

                  What you describe broad brush as “bigotry,” depending on the example we are talking about here, could be nothing more that discernment that comes from the relative weighing of comparative values. Freedom of association and individual rights are values. One value is always going to be given more weight than another in a various puzzle depending on circumstances and WHOSE freedom of association and WHOSE individual rights contrasting WHOM.

                  Even you must understand that there is such a thing as competing virtues. Values don’t have some sort of neutral mathematical objectivity.

                  1. mad_kalak, you are begging the question. “Individual rights” are not the same as “values.” Upon the distinction turns the question whether controversies concerning them will be decided in the courts, or in the legislatures.

                    On the American political right, a particular area of complaint—encompassing almost the entire agenda of the “culture war”—are the issues, like Roe, like Obergefell, in which the Supreme Court decided a controversy turned on a question of right, and thus frustrated right wingers who thought it ought to be decided legislatively. Which left everyone to cope consequently with right-wing question begging, as they whined time and again that those questions should have been decided politically, without much addressing why they were not correctly decided as matters of rights.

    2. Right over your head.

  7. To paraphrase Tim Pool, social media has simply turned hate into a game. Nothing more. It’s been unbelievably destructive to society as a whole

  8. I’d have to read the book to be sure, but I hesitate to pin the problem so squarely on social media or a fear of canceling. Using the rise of social media, I can come up with two other explanations to test:

    1. That social media raises the stakes of what one side or another perceives as misinformation. Before social media, a street preacher on the corner of campus or a campus group tabling was often only a local nuisance. Whatever they said wouldn’t be construed as legitimate. A campus speaker could be contentious, but seldom was there an amplification effect of their views far beyond the room they spoke in. Only word of mouth and a campus newspaper article would result.

    With social media, any viewpoint can easily gain currency and circulation. This leads to a greater fear of misinformation, as badly sourced news appeals to people’s values (even if it’s untrue) and circulates beyond any means (such as a newspaper or newsroom) to verify the sources of information. The ease of disseminating news and opinions also raises the perceived stakes of opinions – if the greater world can catch whiff of, say, Sex Week, or Ben Shapiro or the Reverend James Martin speaking, then what they say on campus has greater stakes. So protesters – from the left and the right – will file out to oppose the free speech of whoever most threatens to spread what they consider to be misinformation.

    2. Social media is asocial. What we learn about each other from shared memes, carefully curated photos, and snippets from our own lives is light on actual, meaningful contact with other people. There are exceptions (messages can sometimes foster personal conversations), but most often people are not having conversations with other people; they are broadcasting to an ephemeral audience. They are not sharing appreciation; they are liking or favoriting or resharing content. They are not learning how to agree or disagree with another person in all of their complexity and experience; they are algorithmically shown more of what they like and less of what they don’t. This is not great preparation for how to have disagreements in real life.

    I would still maintain that college is a great place to learn how to have these disagreements, as it is one of the few places where many students (at public and nondenominational or ecumenical private universities) will come into contact with other students who disagree with them, content they didn’t know, and so on. But I worry that social media has made it easy to become more siloed despite college (and not because of it), since it is easy enough to form tribal affiliations early on in a digital network and never talk to the kid next to you in class, or never attend a club with a variety of people, or never find people to sit with in a cafeteria.

  9. “The censorious nature of academia”

    This is goofy. Censorious nature as compared to what other industry or institution? There’s far more censorship of expression if you work for a Fortune 500 company, the military, at your local church, etc. At the university I work at people, for example, regularly criticize the university administration on a host of issues. Try that at a Fortune 500 company, the military, your local church and you’ll be shown the door fairly quickly…Talk about bubbles…

    1. Try criticizing progressive orthodoxy at universities.

      1. Both of the authors of this very piece are doing that and employed by universities.

        1. Reading the author’s next blog post, it’s fairly clear why they could still be employed at progressive universities.

      2. Try making fun of conservatives at a right-wing blog whose censor is a conservative law professor and ostensible advocate for free expression . . . or try using terms conservatives don’t like, such as “sl@ck-j@wed’ . . . or whatever else trips the partisan right-wing banhammer.

        1. Well, it’s easy to criticize you when pretty much everything you say is wrong.

    2. QA: “There’s no censorship in academia.”
      I think that’s what they call gaslighting.

    3. You know exactly jack and squat about the military, little surprise. Bubbles indeed.

  10. If colleges kowtow to radicals, smash them.

    Tax the endowments. Ban legacy admissions. Roll back tuition, impose tuition caps and controls.

    1. That’s big talk from a vanquished, impotent, increasingly marginalized, disaffected culture war casualty from Can’t-Keep-Up, Ohio.

      1. And he wonders why Democrats lose elections, when they’re constantly dissing purple states like Ohio.

  11. Just defund higher education and we can pass along the tax savings to everyone. Pretty simple. Problem solved.

  12. Among the great achievements of American progress during my lifetime is that our society’s dwindling group of bigots no longer wishes to be known as bigots.

    This development apparently rankles many conservatives (including two loud, stale-thinking Supreme Court justices) and seems to bother a number of conservatives in the academy, who appear to believe that bigotry is improved by being cloaked in superstition and euphemisms (“traditional values,” “family values,” “conservative values,” “religious values”).

    1. Na we just replaced one form of bigot with another more annoying form (read you.)

    2. They call themselves ‘Rev’ now… It’s clear, as always, that your disdain for the rights of others is perhaps your defining character trait. Obergefell may have been the correct outcome, but it was a decision that should have been made law via Congress, and with exceptions or workarounds for religious freedoms as delineated in the Bill of Rights.

      1. You figure the bigots on the Supreme Court would have liked stopping the treatment of gays like dirt any better had it been arranged by statute?

        Bigots don’t care so much about the details and legalities. They care about the bigotry and, often, the old-timey superstition.

        1. You keep using this word bigot. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  13. The authors want to seize the hands of the clock to retard the sunrise. They are in plentiful company. Baleful campus effects they deplore—deplore alike with all the other aggrieved, pro-censorship right wing complainers on the internet—are a consequence of one blunder by Congress—the introduction of unlimited, cost-free, consequence-free publishing without prior editing. Congress created that when it passed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

    So long as that continues in force, to the extent that the internet makes a mess of campus speech, problems these authors complain of will continue too. It is lack of private editing which enables the problems—just as previously the customary (or government compelled) use of private editing held such problems at bay.

    Until prior editing of published content is reinstated as a norm, disruptions delivered by unedited publishing will of course continue to vex and exasperate nearly everyone. During that interval, at whatever length, internet enthusiasts may continue calling for other ways to suppress their particular vexations. But perversely, only the worst of their proposed methods—the ones proposing government censorship—will have any real chance of effect.

    I hope the authors can do better than to reinforce the currently ubiquitous calls for censorship. Perhaps they will also steer clear of advocating compulsory publication of their own preferred opinions.

    I do not expect Redstone and Villasenor to join me in advocating repeal of Section 230. It seems too early for that. Not until the futility of government censorship and compelled speech get a more prolonged demonstration do I expect widespread willingness on the political right to restore its previous style of advocacy.

    That was an advocacy for a freedom based on private initiative instead of on government interventions. It favored diversity over monopoly, and in so doing fostered a healthy profusion of opinions which monopoly can never deliver. For the good of the nation, it was a better kind of publishing than what the internet now delivers. It was better for freedom, too.

  14. My guess at some factors which may be in play here:
    1) U.S. conservatives tend to have a more faith-based perspective than typical U.S. academics, who tend to have perspectives which are (somewhat) more evidence-and-reason based.
    2) This tended to cause conservatives to disdain science more than liberals, and academics (led by academic STEM types) to intellectually disdain conservatives (& thus the whole package of conservative views).
    3) Each of these is a vicious cycle fueled by the all of the other usual human cognitive distortions which, considerably amped up by recent communications technology, has increased both in depth and in breadth.
    4) Upshot is that U.S. conservatives are increasingly disdainful/averse to higher education generally, and the U.S. higher education establishment is far too unwelcoming of conservative ideas. And it’s getting worse.

    This is admittedly simplistic but my point is that I think the situation has come about due to irrationalities on both ends of the U.S. political spectrum. And while we certainly need to take on the institutions which amplify these irrationalities (such as social media), we also need to have the courage to take on the irrationalities themselves (however, ahem, unassailable), because of their insidious far-reaching consequences. It’s a simple proposition at bottom. Apologies in advance for the extended quote, but Russell put it so well:

    “The conviction that it is important to believe this or that, even if a free inquiry would not support the belief, is one which is common to almost all religions and which inspires all systems of state education…A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world is suffering. But at present, in most countries, education aims at preventing the growth of such a habit, and men who refuse to profess belief in some system of unfounded dogmas are not considered suitable as teachers of the young…

    The world that I should wish to see would be one freed from the virulence of group hostilities and capable of realizing that happiness for all is to be derived rather from cooperation than from strife. I should wish to see a world in which education aimed at mental freedom rather than at imprisoning the minds of the young in a rigid armor of dogma calculated to protect them through life against the shafts of impartial evidence. The world needs open hearts and open minds, and it is not through rigid systems, whether old or new, that these can be derived.”

    –Russell, B. (1957). Why I am Not a Christian. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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