Question of the Week- 8/2/2017

50

What’s the best way we can address de-platforming in the course of dialog about difficult or controversial subjects? What are the limits of free speech?


Best answer receives a copy of Brief Candle in the Dark by Richard Dawkins.

Want to suggest a Question of the Week? E-mail submissions to us at qotw@richarddawkins.net. (Questions only, please. All answers to bimonthly questions are made only in the comments section of the Question of the Week.)

50 COMMENTS

  1. There are no limits to free speech – that is what free speech means.

    If anyone ever asks you what is the cure for an evil done in the name of free speech – it happens – your answer should be ready: More free speech.

    Ask, rather, what are the limits – and the reasons – for the automatic reflex to censor?

    Everywhere we look we see someone, often entire groups of people, who want to censor something; a school textbook, the news, dictionaries, which Net sites you visit, paintings, public monuments, what you wear …

    Christopher Hitchens said it springs from an instinct “about which I dare not speculate”, by which he appeared to mean: It is innate in those who fear their own wants and desires.

    This fear need not be moral in nature, indeed it seems clear from what we see in any would-be-censors actions and presentations that they are mostly concerned with keeping up appearances. They fear truth, enlightenment and understanding not because they see wickedness, for if they did they would spell it out, but because they know what it leads to, and what it leads to is something we all fear: change.

    Those who’s instincts include any desire that dare not speak its name, and the weak-willed are very numerous, gravitate to prurience and soon grow a desire to interfere in the lives of others as a balm for their own unrequited yearnings. What is more disgusting – given the precursor of thought and precaution for others – the one who desires openly and acts, or the one who desires and plots against those with similar proclivities.

    Still others seek little power. Too lacking in courage, skill or knowledge, to succeed at anything else, silencing someone more successful at setting out a point of view or of advancing an idea gives them a feeling of accomplishment that would otherwise never be theirs.

    Many may add bigotry or dogma, about which no more need be said here.

    De-platforming may come from any and all such human failings – and make no mistake, all are easy to dress in the cloth of righteous opinion under the banner of indignant citizen.

    That such people, by such expositions, make fools of themselves to those with knowledge or, more often, 30 seconds of forthright thought is of no consequence. The World has no shortage – indeed, my studies reveal, has never had a shortage – of ignorant, stupid people who are so sore afraid they jump at their own shadows on a sunny day. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and it takes one to know one. Or: Show a fool another fool, and laugh your socks off.

    The word de-platforming is a waste of space, it doesn’t earn its keep. It’s a flummadiddle, phonus-balonus, taradiddle and hibber-gibber all rolled into one.

    Call it what it is: Censorship. Because that word is sharp, it cuts.

    Say it LOUDLY, often, in large numbers and wherever you see it.

    CENSORED

    In the land where many say you have a right to an opinion … ?

    Wake me when we get back to a two-way street.

  2. Nothing is absolutely free, including speech. You threaten to kill someone (a verbal act) and they’ll throw your ass in jail.

  3. Dan,

    Give me an open and honest murderer prepared to use their right to free speech, any day.

    Can they now be prevented, caught or give me enough warning to run away.

    Confusing free expression with threatening behaviour is a canard used only by those seeking to undermine free expression.

    Peace.

  4. Not trying to be a contrarian. Just saying that nothing is absolutely free. And speech IS behavior. I favor free speech in most cases but certainly not all. We have the freedom to say or do anything – but not without ramifications, and consequences – legal and non-legal.

  5. Hi Dan,

    Just saying that nothing is absolutely free

    At what point did I claim I knew where to get a free lunch?

    … speech is behavior …

    What is behavior in this context?

    I favor free speech in most cases but certainly not all

    Do tell. I’m just spit-balling here, but I’m prepared to guess that what you mean by that is that you’re ready to lead us to more obfuscation of the threatening behavior sort.

    We have the freedom to say or do anything – but not without ramifications, and consequences – legal and non-legal

    Leaving aside the legal, because the law can be an ass, I would never claim that exercising free expression does not have consequences. It is difficult, is it not, to see why there would be any discussion on this issue – if exercising our right to express our thoughts and ideas had no outcome?

    Certainly, those who speak out must stand by what they say. The defence of free expression is most often taken up with this very point: How do we defend those who’s thoughts are unwelcome to others?

    The most common socio-political answer – because it is the ‘easy’ answer, because it is the ‘simple’ answer – is censorship. It is also, when one has given it any thought, read any history, looked into data on its supposed effectiveness, or studied any consequences, not an answer. Indeed it is worse than a poor response; it is a social and political cancer – if one values individual freedom, democracy … you know daft stuff like that.

    Peace.

  6. These questions come up in Poli Sci 101 all the time.

    We all have the physical ability to speak freely unless we are constrained. But we don’t have the legal right to do so in all cases. Nor should we. Such cases include threats and slander. Slander (Willful misrepresentation designed to injure another) is a crime, and one that is not enforced enough. Lying per se is not against the law but should preclude being given a platform. Simple points, basic.

    (Hate speech is another matter and more complicated and problematic. I’ll avoid that matter.)

    Platforms: I would not give that liar Kellyanne Conway and other freaks like her a platform, although she has free speech. Let her stand on a rock or on Times Square, right on the sidewalk, and speak. Freedom to deny someone a platform is a right too, one that is not exercised often enough. To be given a platform on a college campus or on a TV show is a privilege, not a right. Now were those people right not to let Dawkins speak? Of course not! But there is no law against that either. Nor should there be. They might pay a price if people stop supporting them, however. That would be a non-legal consequence. See where I’m going with this? And yes, the law has been an ass too, many a time.

  7. Hi, Stephen,

    It’s been too long.

    My points were so obvious they barely needed to be said. I just wanted to open the discussion up a bit, as it’s an interesting topic with many aspects to consider.

  8. The truth doesn’t care about me, my beliefs, preconceptions, or what I think is right. The truth just is, and is disdainful of what I think it should be.

    Worse, there are lots of truths. A reasonable expectation is that many will be uncomfortable. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t want to focus on the truths that made us happy, made us comfortable – re enforced our preconceptions and expectations. Maybe we’d like the other truths to be less loud.

    We’re also finite. Doesn’t limited time and intellectual capacity suggest that we should focus on the truths that are most important to us and our societies? Do we really have to see racial epithets in the framework of free speech (which is a truth). Do we really have to spend time and attention there, when there is a universe to learn about?

    As time and attention is limited, and I’m a decision maker too, maybe I am allowed to focus on the truths that resonate most with me – and if that means that someone who focuses on other truths is functionally de-platformed by this, maybe that’s OK.

  9. The question presented has two parts, and while to first part is certainly significant, the second is absolutely fundamental to the concept of a free and just society. “What are the limits of free speech?”

    This very day, a woman in the US was sentenced to prison for encouraging her ex-boyfriend to commit suicide. He took her horrible advice and actually killed himself. She will serve 15 months in prison, but her conviction could have carried a sentence of up to 20 years.

    Similarly, convincing someone to commit a murder is the same crime as actually committing the murder oneself. There is also the old chestnut about shouting FIRE! in a crowded theater, (one which is not actually on fire.) And, as Dan pointed out above, if I tell someone I’m going to kill them, I will be arrested even if I don’t carry out the act.

    I see none of these as true restrictions or limitations on free speech. Free speech has never given us open license to harm others with demonstrable lies or completely unsubstantiated assertions. If I don’t like Mr. X, I can freely say that I don’t like him, and I can say that I think he is a jackass, or a prating cockscomb (Shakespeare.) Yet, if I say that he has raped children and robbed old people, I had damned well better have some convincing evidence to support this claim, or else he will sue me for libel – and he will win.

    As for the expression of one’s opinion – that should certainly be without limit, but the one expressing her or his opinion should recognize that their opponents have the same right. Anyone can express their unbridled admiration for Adolf Hitler if they want to, but they should expect to be challenged and berated by the overwhelming majority of people – myself included.

    Obviously, this particular question has arisen in response to the de-platforming of Richard Dawkins at Berkeley, as made clear in the first part. KPFA has uninvited one of the world’s leading thinkers because they consider his comments about Islam to be inappropriate. Without even going into whether these comments were inappropriate or not, (I certainly don’t think they were, but that’s just my opinion,) KPFA are certainly entitled to withdraw their support over this view – that is and example of their freedom. Others, myself included, are certainly entitled to tell them what an idiotic decision we think this is – an example of our freedom. Fortunately, Richard Dawkins’ reputation stands on its own and does not rely upon the sponsorship of these purveyors of an increasingly irrelevant medium. He has scheduled another event to replace the cancelled one, and I wish him all success. If I were not on the opposite side of the continent, I would consider attending. Instead, I’ll wait until he comes to Toronto in November (I already have my ticket!)

  10. The abomination called Citizens United allows corporation to influence and buy elections under the guise of free speech. And the conservative assholes on the Supreme Court (including Kennedy) allowed this to happen. You see how the first amendment is exploited. Free speech is not so cut and dried. Yes, we all believe in freedom. Well people have different ideas of what should be free and what shouldn’t. The market is free too, I hear.

    The Court majority (Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas) argued:

    barring independent political spending amounts to squelching free speech protected by the First Amendment.
    the First Amendment protects not just a person’s right to speak, but the act of speech itself, regardless of the speaker. Therefore the First Amendment protects the speech of corporations and unions, whether we consider them people or not
    .

    although government has the authority to prevent corruption or “the appearance of corruption,” it has no place in determining whether large political expenditures are either of those things, so it may not impose spending limits on that basis.

    the public has the right to hear all available information, and spending limits prevent information from reaching the public.

  11. @OP – What’s the best way we can address de-platforming in the course of dialog about difficult or controversial subjects?

    The real issue, is that many of these allegedly “controversial subjects”, are matters of established scientific evidence or historical record, so in fact are not controversial at all, except in the minds of bigots, uneducated readers of false news, junk blogs, or followers of ranting preachers!

    So really we should be embarrassing media outlets or institutions which censor expert comment on behalf of ignorant bigots, the hypersensitive delusional with their fragile beliefs, or lying propagandists, by exposing their lack of competent understanding of reality!
    Editors or presentation organisers, who run disinformation services because the are:- too uneducated, too incompetent, too lazy to seek verified information, reckless superficial sensationalists, or simply because they are the willing tools of the dishonest, need to be exposed as such!

  12. Dan #10
    Aug 4, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    The abomination called Citizens United allows corporation to influence and buy elections under the guise of free speech.

    This is the classic propagandists false badge, of pretending to represent “citizens” when they clearly represent an elite clique of corporate interests to the detriment of citizens.
    It is the propagandist strategy of the BIG LIE, which is very common in naming pseudo-science organisations, pseudo-representatives, or pseudo-expert bodies!

  13. Freedom evolves.

    I will admire a society the more, the more free speech it can tolerate.

    We should teach tolerance before we teach not giving offence.

    We should accept we are on a journey, but be ever pushing for better.

    Free speech is a marker of more important things, our grownupness, education, reason and self control…

    If free speech is a threat, educate more.

    Good stuff, Stephen.

  14. I liked both Stephen’s and Alan’s take on the subject and I think they managed to intertwine: the recipient of free speech has a responsibility every bit as much as the one who delivers it.

    Censorship takes away that responsibility.

    Kudos, guys!

  15. @Stephen of Wimbledon #1

    Absolutely, totally disagree! There is no freedom without limits for any one person (group, country, whatever). Because any one person’s freedom without limits would with a certainty approaching classical physics limit, if not destroy other people’s freedoms. Only three names in the 20th century come to my mind who had anything even approaching such a freedom without limits: Stalin, Hitler and Mao. My, your, anyone’s freedom is limited by other people’s freedom, and vice versa. Keeping a balance here is what is necessary for a humane society, and something that we, with our so utterly inaccurate scientific name of Homo sapiens (my preference stupidens is probably not scientific nomenclature, but it sure sounds right) really stink at.

    Maybe I can clarify what I mean by fine or not-so-fine differences in expression, of terms, between German and English, as I am a dual native speaker. Off the cuff, I would say that I do not think that the German language has a concept that is a one-to-one equivalent of “freedom of speech” in what I feel to be an overly broad definition. The “cousin” would be “Meinungsfreiheit”, which means freedom of opinion, and to leave no room for mob-lawyer types hair-splitting from some historical quarters, the freedom to express this opinion. (Treading in something similar to urban legend territory, supposedly some authoritarian-to-totalitarian regimes stated that they had freedom of opinion … just expressing opinions was de facto often unhealthy). This includes my right to call somebody an asshole, and their right to call me one too.

    Where I very definitely draw the line is the call to action. The ancient bit about yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. If the friggin’ place is burning, not warning others could get you charged with failure to give assistance here, possibly a felony. With people panicking to get out, not all may survive, but letting all burn to death by inaction is still the far worse alternative. Quite another thing to yell “fire” without reason. Free-associating on the matter, I imagine those yelling in this case doing so from one of the exits (they’re in no danger of being trampled in the panic), and getting really nasty that the yellers at the exit then lock this one, with all other exits already having being locked. Terrorist territory.

    “Free speech” calling to violent aggressive action. Inciting, as in a pogrom or whatever similar. That is where I very definitely see a limit to “free speech”. And where I savagely disagree with (should this be true) that some morons consider hate speech to be covered by the US Constitution. Unless some things have gone seriously wrong with it, I never had the impression that the US Constitution protected murderous criminals.

  16. My point, Vicki and Phil and Stephen, is that free speech is not a simple matter and more is not always better. Everything, such as free speech, that we assume must be a right and therefore healthy and good, opens the door to a multitude of legal questions.

    The “free speech” of corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns run by free market conservative politicians (scum) who are then beholden to them at the expense of the well-being of the people should be illegal. But it isn’t because it’s free speech, according to the Supreme Court. That’s free speech that hurts people no less than physical pain brought on by an assault upon one’s person. To that you might say that that isn’t real free speech. Well all anything can be is what it is defined as. We can debate it, yes. But all we have, finally, is our laws and our Constitution and a plethora of interpretations, vested interests, and distortions. But what I regard as a distortion of the First Amendment others see as a correct reading. What I think should be free is regarded as harmful by others.

    Our rights (except perhaps the right to life and property) are all man made. And like everything else that is man made it is highly debatable.

    What is speech? What should be free?

  17. Dan #16
    Aug 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm
    >

    Our rights (except perhaps the right to life and property) are all man made.
    And like everything else that is man made it is highly debatable.

    What is speech? What should be free?

    Free speech should be a right to make sincere or honest criticisms, and comments on how authorities, businesses and services, are behaving.

    It should not be a liars’, fraudsters’ and hired propagandists’ charter!

  18. One day, people advocating folly need to be perceived as advocating folly, rather than silenced.

    I phrase what I say veeerry carefully here and in 13. In any given state for its immediately stability the simple expedient may be to silence whomever. We can imagine, however a better state when such silencing is not needed. There may well be better levers to pull than censoring.

    People advocating folly need to be listened to for very many reasons.

  19. Companies, however, are not people. They have no necessary moral apparatus. They have no necessary mechanism to learn.

    Corporate personhood is a morally bankrupt idea. Americans need to stop it now.

  20. GrumpyKraut #15
    Off the cuff, I would say that I do not think that the German language has a concept that is a one-to-one equivalent of “freedom of speech” in what I feel to be an overly broad definition. The “cousin” would be “Meinungsfreiheit”, which means freedom of opinion, and to leave no room for mob-lawyer types hair-splitting from some historical quarters, the freedom to express this opinion.

    The German for ‘freedom of speech’, as I learnt it at school, is ‘Redefreiheit’, which also translates the English phrase ‘free speech’. Another word I have used in German to convey much the same idea (but literally including all ways, speech being but one, of conveying thoughts to others) is ‘Ausdrucksfreiheit’, which corresponds to the English ‘freedom of expression’. You may be in a better position than I to tell whether this word is ordinarily used by Germans, but on the few occasions when I have used it with German-speakers, they gave no indication of having trouble with it. Both these words refer to putting one’s thoughts out there for others to consider, so they mean more than merely freedom of thought or opinion (Meinungsfreiheit, Gedankenfreiheit). As Alan4discussion points out at #17: “Free speech should be a right to make sincere or honest criticisms, and comments on how authorities, businesses and services, are behaving.” It is not about inciting wrongful behavior of any sort; rather it is the ability and right of citizens to call out wrongdoing so that it can be stopped and its ill effects put right. But in a free and open society freedom of expression is mostly positive, for it is the expression of new and creative ideas in all areas of human endeavor and activity, in which people are ever working to improve their conditions of life and its enjoyment.

  21. Garrick, Phil

    “But in a free and open society freedom of expression is mostly positive, for it is the expression of new and creative ideas in all areas of human endeavor and activity…”

    Is NOT necessarily mostly positive or creative. Everyone’s talking about what should be this or that and I am talking about what is. Citizens United has won and is the law of the land. It hurts people as it subverts the entire campaign process and creates a system of perennial bribery and a close nefarious cooperation between big business and political power. This perpetuates such things as free market fundamentalism and the elimination of crucial environmental and financial regulations. And that could end up destroying us in the end.

    If everyone was right minded and just like you and me then we’d have no problem. The fact of the matter is that there are people out there that are not like you and me; they do not believe in a fair and equitable system and probably spend no time at all even thinking about such abstract things that lie outside of their bubble. They like corporate power, private power, and don’t care too much for dissent; they will silence dissent (free speech at its best) under the name of preserving law and order, and defend corporate super pacs and the buying of elections by wealthy profiteers – under the guise of Free Speech. And whether one likes it or not that is, for all intents and purposes, Free Speech, and nothing else, in practice; and it will remain that way until this definition is no longer tolerated, is challenged and replaced.

    In theory free speech is everything that you say it is – healthy and creative; just like in theory, infinite divisibility exists; but practical division (as you called it, Garrick, and correctly so) is a different matter. And in the real world such things as the First amendment and the Second are continuously debated and questioned. So far what I and many other right minded people consider to be the proper reading of the First as not including unlimited campaign contribution by corporations, and of the Second, which would lead to its being repealed or at least confined to referring to “militias” (which are no longer formed in the US, is an anachronism), has been shot down.

    We live, unfortunately, in a world of Practice. And the law is often nothing more than a game and sham – and that will get worse as the wave of right-wing populism continues – but it’s the law and that is all we have, short of anarchy.

    So what we have is a bitter contest with lives at stake. It would be nice if all of these disputes (with so much hanging on the balance) would just go away. But that is not the way things are.

    Here is an excerpt from and the link to one of many lengthy and depressing right leaning articles on the subject. Well I call it right leaning and the author calls it objective and impartial. He refers to so-called progressives. Sanders must be a “so-called” progressive.

    And on and on it goes – the cooption of freedom by the right with all of the attendant bullshit.

    Clearly, the outrage over Citizens United has little to do with the nature of corporations or “judicial activism.” Instead, it represents a fundamental philosophical dispute about the nature and meaning of the First Amendment and its role not only in elections but in our entire system of government. So-called progressives, who are the primary champions of campaign finance laws, oppose individual rights, capitalism, and the constitutional system that protects or makes these values possible; thus they want to expand the size and scope of government. Freedom of speech—especially when combined with wealth that enables people and corporations to speak their minds effectively—stands in their way.

    https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2010-spring/citizens-united/

  22. What’s the best way we can address de-platforming …….?

    To address the first question in a rather mundane but practical way, speakers should add a prepaid cancellation fee to their speaking fees. If the institution cancels, the speaker keeps the cancellation fee. If the speaker speaks, the speaking fee is paid net of the cancellation fee. (If this is already done, ignore this post. But if it is already done, where’s the problem?)

    The fundraisers for universities, etc., would soon call to heel deans, department heads, whoever, for wasting donated monies by disinviting speakers.

  23. Dan #21
    If everyone was right minded and just like you and me then we’d have no problem. …

    Right.

    You have a talent for taking people’s words out of context. I was responding to GrumpyKraut’s message, and my final remark about freedom of expression in a free and open society was to make the point that, although concerns about it usually arise where there is need to counter wrongdoing in society, especially among those in power or with influence, freedom of expression has a much more positive role in a free and open society, where everyone’s rights are respected. You, however, are rightly complaining about a society where people’s rights and freedoms are not being respected. Without freedom of expression, which you are still able to exercise, there would be a much direr situation in the USA, where growing numbers of people would be seeing violence as the only way to redress their grievances. It is, as Stephen of Wimbledon and Phil Rimmer have argued, most important that freedom of expression (not to be confused with acting out illegal or violent impulses or incitement to illegal or violent action) be allowed to everyone.

  24. Garrick

    Taking people’s words out of context is a terrible thing to do. If I’ve done that I am sorry for my carelessness. I sometimes will take a phrase and paste it and use it as a starting place to make what I consider to be worthwhile points.

    My point was that while free speech is essential, it is also a complicated and problematic issue as people have different notions of what should be included as protected by the First Amendment. I discussed that above.

    You, however, are rightly complaining about a society where people’s rights and freedoms are not being respected.

    Not exactly. I was talking on this thread about a society where people’s rights and freedoms ARE being respected; but I don’t agree with some of these rights and freedoms – with the right and freedom of, say, corporations to effectively bribe lawmakers, under the banner of Free Speech as decided by the US Supreme Court (all legal and proper).

    (not to be confused with acting out illegal or violent impulses or incitement to illegal or violent action)

    Citizens United is violence of a sort. Absolutely so.

  25. Cont.

    We all know that free speech is essential in a democratic society and that censorship is pernicious. That is too obvious a point to agree with or comment on. (Sometimes I can’t see the forest through the trees, Garrick; if something you’ve said has eluded me please let me know.)

    Here’s another example of free speech that is or will be “respected” by most conservatives in this free and open society. Now this development is truly terrifying.

    http://www.metro.us/president-trump/trump-tv-sinclair-broadcasting-trump-propaganda

    Sinclair Broadcasting, a group of TV stations that heavily lean conservative, will expand into a majority of American homes, thanks to Trump’s pick to head the Federal Communications Commission.

  26. phil rimmer #18
    Aug 7, 2017 at 4:57 am

    One day, people advocating folly need to be perceived as advocating folly, rather than silenced.

    People advocating folly need to be listened to for very many reasons.

    Indeed so! .. . . and quoted, exposed, debunked, and mocked for their potentially damaging stupidity!

  27. What’s the best way we can address de-platforming in the course of dialog about difficult or controversial subjects?

    Use as many other platforms as possible to foster as much public push-back as possible against the de-platformers’ choice. The goal is not to humiliate them, but to turn the de-platforming event into an “advertising” opportunity for your POW.

    What are the limits of free speech?

    That there is not enough of it.

  28. “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or control the Right of another.”

    This is a famous quote from the 1700s about free speech, and is as inadequate and superficial as it is true; it seems to express the prevailing sentiment. But free speech can and does hurt people even when such speech is a legal rightl! I supported my view and gave my examples.

    And speech that is not designed to hurt or weaken something that is a legal right and is itself hurtful (an unjust law, or one pertaining to free speech itself, perhaps – i.e., propaganda or other pernicious forms of “legal” free speech), is hardly worthy of being free.

  29. You have a choice Senator Dan.

    You are confronted with hurtful speech. It will do real social harm. Do you silence it? Do you allow it?

    Actually I lied. You have choices. Many, many choices.

    Will you create a safe place or fix your broken society?

  30. Phil

    You want me to overturn Citizens United? Or take on Sinclair? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Are you familiar with Sinclair?

    All I was saying (#29), and maybe it’s just a lousy point, is that “hurtful” speech is a good and necessary thing, if you are combatting something hurtful (and legal).

    My simple yet not entirely commonplace point is that free and lawful speech can be hurtful in a bad way (see examples) and free and lawful speech designed to correct those legal injustices can be hurtful (i.e. produce results) in a good and necessary way.

    Senator….no, His Excellency,

    Dan

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/06/trump-fcc-sinclair-broadcast-expansion-241337

  31. Do you silence it? Do you allow it?

    I don’t know. Play it by ear, I guess. Take it on a case by case basis.

    You don’t have to silence; but as I said in one of my comments you don’t have to give every Joe Schmo a platform either. Platforms are privileges, not rights. I wouldn’t censor a Nazi, but if I was in charge of a university I wouldn’t invite him to speak either. And if I did I would let the audience silence him with their voices. We don’t need a law for that.

    Some “hate speech” should be unlawful. But who is to say what hate speech is or isn’t? All of us are, I suppose. It’s a complex legal and ethical matter. Case by case basis. No draconian rules established in advance and then applied indiscriminately and automatically on the basis of being offensive to someone somewhere.

  32. Your Excellency,

    You want me to overturn Citizens United? Or take on Sinclair? I wouldn’t know where to begin. Are you familiar with Sinclair?

    Among other things I want you to radically improve primary education as a response to this problem. And de-democritise its institutions by transferring control more effectively to highly trained educational expertise. Biddable idiots (the current public) allowed to interfere in primary education are just one of many ways that the elite keep control of biddable idiots. The “freedoms” of this kind of democracy (a tyranny of the masses) are bogus. Superb education grants the truest freedom of an articulated and resilient personal freedom with more available choices.

    Sinclair are a nightmare and purchased platforms are not in any sense promoting freedom of speech. Proper anti monopoly legislation needs putting in place and rigorously policed. The limits of ownership were already too high and to have them circumvented is insult to an existing injury.

    BUT, for me Hate Speech legislation is not to be countenanced. The test for it is contentious and divisive in itself. It is too often used by society’s enemies against it. It should be replaced by a very strictly policed incitement to violence legislation if needed. The test for incitement to violence is much clearer in legal tests and could even catch out more folk. Because it is easier to test it may well be more and better applied. I think the result would be more thoughtful and careful speech from all. Incitement to violence is far less contentious as a bad thing. Even those wishing for such could not publicly admit it without great cost.

    I would invite a Nazi speaker if I thought he was an actual threat to our society and this was directly pertinent to the work of the University. I would demand an evidenced and pre-validated piece, with a respondent and response in place, before an ad lib Q&A. I would treat it like a court case with predisclosure of intended evidence.

  33. phil rimmer #32
    Aug 9, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Sinclair are a nightmare and purchased platforms are not in any sense promoting freedom of speech.
    Proper anti monopoly legislation needs putting in place and rigorously policed.
    The limits of ownership were already too high and to have them circumvented is insult to an existing injury.

    The bought monopolies and manipulations of the propagandist media are well known in informed circles! – as are the motions of their political stooges in helping them circumvent scrutiny!

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/29/rupert-murdoch-sky-takeover-bid-referred-to-competition-authorites

    Labour politicians told ministers “not to do a grubby deal with the Murdochs” in order to push through 21st Century Fox’s £11.7bn takeover of Sky after Ofcom warned there were serious concerns that any takeover would hand the family increased influence over news and politics in the UK.

    The MPs’ intervention came in response to the culture secretary telling the Commons on Thursday that she was “minded” to accept the regulator’s conclusion that the Competition and Markets Authority should conduct a full six-month examination of the deal.

    Ofcom, Karen Bradley added, had concluded that the extra inquiry was required because the Murdoch family would have “material influence” as a result of buying Sky – but held the door open for potential negotiations that would avoid a full inquiry.

    The minister said that Fox, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James, now has until 14 July to offer concessions to Bradley in an attempt to prevent the television mega merger being referred for further scrutiny. The Murdochs had offered to fund a Sky News service for five years, with a separate editorial board, but this had been rejected by Bradley.

    Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, told Bradley that she should not accept any undertakings in lieu of a full competition inquiry.
    He said: “Can I urge the secretary of state not to do a grubby deal with the Murdochs, because we know their history, they break every undertaking they make, from the Times to the Wall Street Journal.”

  34. Further to #11

    Alan4discussion #11
    Aug 5, 2017 at 5:44 am

    @OP – What’s the best way we can address de-platforming in the course of dialog about difficult or controversial subjects?

    The real issue, is that many of these allegedly “controversial subjects”,
    are matters of established scientific evidence or historical record,
    so in fact are not controversial at all,
    except in the minds of bigots, uneducated readers of false news, junk blogs,
    or followers of ranting preachers!

    It seems we have a very prominent “ideology V science” deplatforming and sacking here:-

    http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/sacked-google-engineer-weighs-legal-options/news-story/55dfcf4b73f805ff813c73c0cd55fc3a

    A FORMER Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about gender differences said Tuesday he’s exploring all his legal options and has already filed a labour complaint over his treatment.

    James Damore, whose memo over the weekend caused an uproar online, said in an email that he was terminated late Monday for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” He said he considers his firing illegal because he had already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

    Damore’s memo, which gained attention online over the weekend, begins by saying that only honest discussion will address a lack of equity. But it also asserts that women “prefer jobs in social and artistic areas” while more men “may like coding because it requires systemising.”

    The memo says biological differences between men and women may explain why women are not equally represented in the technology industry.

    Google declined to comment on the matter, but an email from CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday called Damore’s memo “harmful.”
    Pichai he was cutting short a family vacation to address staff in a town hall Thursday.

    “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai wrote.

    OOOoh! Those offensive facts intruding into high tech industries! .. And this clown has been left in charge!!
    His address on Thursday should prove interesting, as it really ought to get HIM sacked if he does not urgently have a re-think!

    Apparently Google equal opportunities dept. needs an “expert opinion”, as it appears that James Damore only had a PhD in biology, and its Chief exec. and just-hired head of diversity, Danielle Brown, are incapable of using Google to look up information on the biology of embryonic development and neuroscience, which confirm Damore’s statements!

  35. Googles’ management statements are classical psychological projection by the ignorant ideologists, getting the whole issue backwards!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40859004

    A Google employee who wrote a controversial [??} memo about workplace diversity has been fired, the BBC can confirm.

    The controversial memo broke the firm’s code of conduct, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai said on Monday in an email to employees.

    The memo, shared widely at the weekend, suggested there were fewer women at Google due to biological differences.

    Mr Pichai said the text crossed the line due to it “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace”.

    Illustrating his ignorance of biology, and failure to use Google to look up scientific papers!

    Entitled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, the paper argued that “the abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership”.

    The author wrote: “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.”

    In his note to staff sent on Monday afternoon, Mr Pichai spoke at length about protecting free speech in Google’s ranks, and that “much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it”.

    But he added: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.

    “It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination’.”

    He said while harassing, intimidating, and sacking, James Damore for providing competent and honest information!

    The tech firm’s new head of diversity, Danielle Brown, had earlier criticised the memo saying it had “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender”.

    … Confirming HER gross incompetence at researching the biology of mental development!

  36. Alan #34,35

    Its absolutely clear that Professor Simon Baron Cohen is the guilty party here for declaring that Autism is the extreme end of the male personality. Inventing the personality axis of social-to-systemising that accounts for the five fold surplus of males over females of an aspie disposition or with clinical autism.

    only honest discussion will address a lack of equity.

    superb.

    (Well intentioned!) SJW’s especially those in positions of power are the biggest threat to themselves, those they wish to protect, and what they want to achieve. Safe spaces from truths are not tenable as the means of social engineering.

  37. Alan4discussion #35
    Aug 9, 2017 at 6:40 am

    But he added: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.

    This is political correctness gone totally off scale into the realm of stupid. Of course men and women have biological differences which make them differently suited to different activities. Men are physically larger and stronger. Even women of the same size as a man are generally not as strong because their lack of testosterone means they simply can’t generate similar amounts of muscle mass per kilo of body weight and the muscle they do generate has slightly less relative strength than male muscle tissue.

    Testosterone also makes men more aggressive, assertive, domineering and impetuous. This may well be very bad for dispute resolution but quite handy if you need to win a war.

    There are huge differences in male and female brain structure and the relative amounts of gray and white brain tissue, blood flow and chemical signal processing. Women tend to have better verbal skills and emotional processing, they are better at multitasking but less good at highly task focused activities. They can’t throw for shit of course and hence are crap at darts but they make safer, if slower, drivers.

    To deny any of this is absurd. Men and women are not identical any more than people and chimpanzees are. A sensible strategy is to capitalise on the differences rather than to deny or ignore them.

  38. Arkrid Sandwich #37
    Aug 9, 2017 at 8:45 am

    A sensible strategy is to capitalise on the differences rather than to deny or ignore them.

    We discussed this in this earlier linked discussion, where there are also some useful links, which apparently the top management of Google is not capable of finding using Google!! 🙂

    http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/44096/title/Sex-Differences-in-the-Brain/

    Developmental masculinization of the brain leads to significant structural differences in the brains of the two sexes.
    Some brain regions are larger in males; others are smaller.

  39. Phil,

    I agree with you that education, perhaps above all else, is the key to changing society for the better. (It remains true and obvious that well educated people can become moral monsters; but so can the uneducated.( Finally, the more educated the people are the less biddable they will tend to be.

    So we need a team of experts in the White House and we need to spend a lot more on improving the system of public education throughout the land. Charter schools are a way of defunding public schools. (By the way, I went to a public school for half a semester after I was expelled from a private boarding school. It wasn’t that good. All the kids there were working class. Not dumb, just different. I would say less sophisticated, less interesting for the most part. Definitely. I stood out like a sore thumb, had been at Columbia Prep, Friends Seminary, the best schools. The private schools are much better. My friends at these private schools were great kids, and all from upper middle class families. The parents were doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. my classmates were sophisticated and advanced, all lived on Central Park West and Park Avenue, listened to Lou Reed, etc. Now the ones that I am still in touch with are journalists, professors, doctors, etc. I assume that only a small handful of kids from that public school are now journalists and doctors and lawyers, therapists, teachers, professionals; but I could be wrong. That’s my assumption. There’s one public public school in Manhattan called Stuyvesant, which is an exception, but you have to take a test for that one. I didn’t go there, never applied. It was in between semesters.

    Question: why are private schools so much better? Can that ever change? Are these class divisions more or less permanent? I think it can change but private schools will probably always be better. Frankly I don’t know that much about the education system. Did you think I did?

    We had Obama for eight years. We had Clinton for eight years. Could it be that this isn’t so easy? I think it’s like health care and people in, say Alabama, still love Trump. That means they are not only biddable, they are pathetic and stupid.

    Entrenched interests in opposition to equality and everything public. “School choice” is just another con job.

    I shall, however, see what I can do – as the future of the country depends on it.

  40. Re Sex differences in the brain and link (#38)

    Why can’t the interior structures and inner processes of the brain be seen as a a reflection of the influence of behavior rather than as causes only? I would say that behavior influences biology. It’s too easy and almost mystical to assume that our personalities are shaped and formed by the brain. The brain and the body are not a first cause.

    These eternal articles about the brain with all the words, words, words, seem so misleading, inadequate and dull to me.

    –Galileo aka Dan

  41. Dan

    As someone (a guy) once said to me in a discussion of free will, just consider the differences in your behavior and mine, (over our lifetimes) that is influenced by the fact that one of us has the XX configuration on that chromosome and the other has the XY configuration. The production of testosterone that is a direct result of that Y chromosome, (correct me if I’m wrong) in the quantity that directly results in behavior that we regard as typically male – reproductive strategy and all behaviors around it, and then think of my XX related reproductive strategy and all the behavior all around that – biology really is destiny!!!

  42. Chaps (XX, XY), but particularly Dan.

    Sapolsky “Behave”.

    Must read. (Dan you must make an effort to catch up. It is just not adequate to profess as you do without knowing what is known. Your schtick is in there too, but so much more…)

    Back to education when a little more time permits…

  43. Dan #40
    Aug 9, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Re Sex differences in the brain and link (#38)

    Why can’t the interior structures and inner processes of the brain be seen as a a reflection of the influence of behavior rather than as causes only?

    They aren’t -as the links explain. It is not an either / or situation!
    The structures of the brain form in the womb long before the individual is capable of “behaviour”, although the behaviour and emotional state, nutrition, hormone balance etc. of the mother (and any sibling embryos) may well affect development patterns.

    I would say that behavior influences biology.

    It certainly does at later stages of development.

    It’s too easy and almost mystical to assume that our personalities are shaped and formed by the brain.

    Science does not do “assumptions”.
    The arguments about the balance of inputs between nature and nurture are long standing and complex.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nature_versus_nurture

    There are clearly genetic and hormone effects on embryonic development, but both physiological and mental human development, are flexible, adaptable, and moulded by the environment over time.

    Physical and mental exercises do change structures, aptitudes, and capabilities – up to a point! – If they didn’t, education would be pointless!

  44. Hi, Alan,

    It is not an either / or situation!

    I know. That’s why I said “only”.

    “Why can’t the interior structures and inner processes of the brain be seen as a a reflection of the influence of behavior rather than as causes only?”

    The arguments about the balance of inputs between nature and nurture are long standing and complex.

    Yes!

    “Assume” was the wrong word. You’re right.

    (I hope you don’t think I am just being oppositional – in other words, a pain in the ass, a provocateur; all of these ideas of mine, as invalid and tiresome as they may be, are honest and sincere expressions; I regard them as worthy of consideration.)

    Laurie,

    I am in over my head; I admit it. (I need to read more science!) But I will say this. Anatomy (or physiology) is not destiny; it is only half of it.

  45. Dan #45
    Aug 10, 2017 at 1:55 am

    The arguments about the balance of inputs between nature and nurture are long standing and complex.

    Yes!

    “Assume” was the wrong word. You’re right.

    (I hope you don’t think I am just being oppositional –
    in other words, a pain in the ass, a provocateur;
    all of these ideas of mine, as invalid and tiresome as they may be,
    are honest and sincere expressions;
    I regard them as worthy of consideration.)

    They are worthy of consideration.

    My point is, that they have already been extensively considered, by thousands of scientists and deep thinkers, with a whole string of experiments to confirm properties, and sort out and reject any flawed notions.

    What you are doing is trying to re-invent the wheel from a rock-bottom start without experimental data, – along with a few misconceptions, rather than reading up on the work which has already been done on the subject!

    The problem with advanced science for casual readers, is that science is “built on the shoulders of the mental giants of the past”, and without an understanding of the earlier work, the follow-on work built on it, cannot be understood. (That is why science articles often have active links with citations, describing and defining the evidence and terminology)

    Complex life-forms have many interacting organs, systems and mechanisms.
    It is no use trying to understand the interactions, without first understanding the structures, functions and mechanisms of the separate parts!

    You are not going to understand hormonal interactions without understanding the endocrine system, the organs which produce hormones and enzymes and the circulation of the blood which carries those hormones. https://www.britannica.com/science/human-endocrine-system
    You are not going to understand brain circuitry and the chemistry of neurotransmitters, without understanding biochemistry and electricity.

    @#40 – These eternal articles about the brain with all the words, words, words, seem so misleading, inadequate and dull to me.

    Without understanding of the earlier work for which the words are merely labels, like a novice gardener who has discovered a bucket of old plant labels, they are merely words, producing no imagery, and with no attachment to the physical reality of the beautiful garden they described.

    Only a gardener who has seen them attached to the growing plants, in the display beds, knows what they represent, or knows how to reconstruct that sort of functional arrangement from the tiny skeleton of information on the word labels.

  46. Alan

    What you are doing is trying to re-invent the wheel from a rock-bottom start without experimental data…

    I think there’s something to that. I have had friends, family members, and teachers, in various fields, tell me (and my last guitar teacher told me this) that I have “to learn to walk before I can soar.” They have also, to be honest, expressed astonishment on a few occasions. (it seemed to them that I knew more than I was supposed to know.) But not that often.

    I’m a bit of an odd character. Impatient.

  47. Dan #47
    Aug 10, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    What you are doing is trying to re-invent the wheel from a rock-bottom start without experimental data…

    I think there’s something to that.
    I have had friends, family members, and teachers, in various fields, tell me
    (and my last guitar teacher told me this)
    that I have “to learn to walk before I can soar.”

    I was out earlier tonight doing a guest spot with band, and took the opportunity to try out in front of an audience, a new song and arrangement I have written for my Martin 12 string guitar.

    We do need to start with a basic understanding and the right equipment, but then the results have to be tested, looked over by people with expertise, and possibly changed and improved, to be suitable for the platform where they are being presented.

  48. Alan4discussion #48

    …the results have to be tested, looked over by people with expertise, and possibly changed and improved, to be suitable for the platform where they are being presented.

    That’s very true.

    (I wish I could send you the link to a video of my current guitar teacher playing a solo jazz piece on an electric 12-string, back in the 90s; but I am afraid that that wouldn’t be appropriate – even on the open discussion thread.)

  49. Further to Alan4discussion #38

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40898213

    Google has cancelled an all-staff meeting to discuss a controversial memo about diversity written by former engineer James Damore.

    It is reported that some staff members were concerned about being singled out online if they were identified while they spoke out during the meeting.

    Which is understandable when people are sacked for presenting scientific evidence for the debate, in order to keep the real reseach-based information off the agenda!

    The firm said it would “find a better way” to help employees discuss the issues raised by the memo.

    Promptly reinstating Mr. Damore and sacking the unscientific ideological bigots who dismissed him, would be a good start!

    Mr Damore – was fired for breaking Google’s code of conduct.

    Actually NO!
    Mr. Damore WAS FIRED BY PEOPLE WHO WERE BREAKING Googles code of conduct by harassing him for stating scientific evidence!

    He had suggested in his internal note that there were fewer women in tech and leadership positions because of biological differences.

    According to Google’s most recent diversity figures, 80% of its tech workforce and 75% of its leaders are men.

    “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” Mr Damore wrote in his note, which was widely criticised.

    Which is sound advice to follow the evidence, rather than the ignorant uni-person quota ideology! The width or volume of criticism by the ignorant, is of no value in establishing facts!

    Mr Damore said he had been sent messages of support from some staff at the tech giant and he also received a job offer from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who tweeted “censorship is for losers”.

    Google’s new vice-president Danielle Brown said that Mr Damore’s view “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender“.

    Showing that SHE lacks the necessary scientific and management capabilities, to research and check information, and so looks like an unfortunate inappropriate appointment, who it seems, has been recently selected on a basis of ideology or filling quotas, rather than criteria of scientific, technical, and management capability!

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