ContraPoints on Free Speech

The following video is by far the best defense of the left-wing position on free speech (namely, that “hate speech” should be banned) that I have ever encountered.

I know, from her other videos, that the speaker in the series has a masters degree in philosophy, and I think, given the arguments she makes, that she is very intelligent.

It is part II of a 2-part series. Part I was nowhere near as good. In it, she cited Christopher Hitchens as representing the “free speech” point of view, and showed him claiming that Nazi Holocaust deniers are deserving more protection of their speech than others, and then she claimed, by the same principle, that “victim” demographics deserve more protection than other groups and that “hate speech” should therefore be banned on college campuses. She also shows Hitchens, during Q&A, telling an idiot asking a stupid question to shut up and refusing to address his question (ostensibly, therefore, violating the questioner’s “right to free speech”).

I don’t think Hitchens speaks for all the right, and in addition there is a BIG difference between claiming that some people need “extra protection” (a dubious proposition to begin with) and claiming that ANYBODY has such a “right to not be offended” that we should start shutting other people up. Hitchens never said that, because Holocaust deniers, in his view, deserve “extra protection”, that no one should be allowed to offend them.

So here’s the second video, which is much better.



With the example of “Paddy’s Bar”, she does demonstrate that a complete absence of rules is rarely feasible if you want any good outcome.

So I agree with the video that a forum usually needs boundaries in order for the discussion to be productive and enlightening. But that is speech within one forum. That means that if you want to say something that is banned in other forums, you have the right to set up your own forum and set rules that you find acceptable. That is “free speech”. The left has been deliberately interfering with the ability of forums that they don’t like to exist, sometimes by rioting or pulling fire alarms, and that is “censorship” and it’s wrong.

She talks about the fact that there are few black philosophy majors.  And she talks about two micro aggressions that she knows of from her six years in college. In the first case, a black student dropped a class because the lecturer had used the term “negro”. In the second case, a black woman asked a white male philosophy lecturer why there weren’t more black philosophers, and in his answer he mentioned slavery in ancient Greece.

Now, I don’t think either of those events were very egregious. The word “negro” is old-fashioned, but it’s not a terribly hateful word. The micro aggression was certainly not enough to justify dropping a class over. And in the second case, what answer was the black woman expecting? When people discuss the history of oppression, they mention slavery all the time. I suspect that the speaker feels that any explanation the lecturer gave for the absence of black philosophers, other than injustice, would have been deemed an offense.

I had to think about it for awhile, and I think I realize what happened. And it demonstrates the flaw in the author’s position.

In the video, she says that philosophy departments all over the country have meetings now and then about “Why aren’t there more black philosophers?”. She doesn’t describe how the conversations go, but I figure that the speech restrictions that most of academia operates under prevent an accurate answer to the question.

Philosophy is a tough major. Graduating philosophy students have the second highest IQ of any major, outperformed only by physicists.

There is an overwhelming consensus of intelligence researchers, liberal and conservative, that the IQ of the average black American is 10 points lower than that of the average white American.  That’s a big difference. There is not a clear consensus about why this is. To minimize controversy, let’s adopt one of the least offensive theories, namely lead poisoning. Minority neighborhoods have more lead pollution than white neighborhoods, and it is well-established that lead poisoning lowers IQ.

So given that blacks have, on average, lower IQ, we would expect them to be under represented in high-IQ majors in general, not just philosophy, but also in, for example, STEM fields, and that is, in fact, what we observe. So that is probably why there are fewer black philosophers.

Now, to express the opinions in the preceding two paragraphs is MUCH more offensive than the micro aggressions against blacks that the video describes. I suspect that neither ContraPoints (the speaker in the video) nor the rest of the philosophy department are willing to entertain those notions for a microsecond. So it is impossible for them to reach an accurate conclusion.

What happens in the absence of being able to accurately answer this question, that philosophy majors are constantly asking themselves?

Their ideological blinders forbid any answer other than “injustice”. So the speaker in the video concludes that racism on campus must be to blame. The problem is that, in spite of having spent 6 years in college, she can’t remember observing much racism (in fact, of the two micro aggressions described, she only saw one, and the other was related to her second hand). So she blows these two teeny tiny moments of fleeting emotional discomfort up to monstrous proportions and concludes that massive censorship is likely to solve the lack of black philosophy majors.

When the black woman asked the question about why there weren’t more black philosophers, it might have been rude to start talking about racial differences in IQ. On the other hand, by bringing the subject up, wasn’t she opening the door to all possible explanations?

What the liberal rules of acceptable discourse do is impose a dogma that there is no explanation for a difference in outcomes between groups other than “injustice”. They then talk about group differences in outcomes all day long and conclude that injustice is rampant. And that’s inacurate. And that wrong conclusion is reached because of censorship.

The video says that Milo Yiannopolous should not be tolerated on campus, because most of what he does is bait and bully liberals (which I agree is most of what he does), and in fact, his presence undermines, rather than elevates, the quality of campus debate. I don’t agree with that. If Milo were barging into other forums and discussions on campus and disrupting them, I would agree with her. But that’s not the case. Milo wants to have a lecture in his own forum, and only those interested in listening to him will attend (and bear in mind that that is a TINY minority of the students). As long as he sticks to his own forum, I can’t see a compelling case against allowing him to speak, as long as his speech is legal, which it generally is. I disagree with most of what Milo says, but he has made a few good points. Milo likes to pick on transsexuals (which I don’t agree with), but I think the maker of the video is letting her status as trans and her resulting opposition to Milo’s speech cloud her judgment here.

She talks about “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”. She describes the origins of the concept in gay bars where anyone who expressed homophobic opinions was ejected so that the gays could relax and be themselves. But she utterly fails to address the news stories reporting campuses having rooms with play dough and movies of frolicking puppies, where students could retreat when overwhelmed, and the news stories reporting that students retreating there complaining of their “dearly held beliefs” being challenged outside.

It comes down to “forums” again. Yes, it is necessary for leaders of forums to be able to enforce rules, including evicting troublemakers. Some colleges have problems where any student organization that uses college facilities has to accept all students, meaning they can’t eject anybody. So when Christians try to hold a Bible study, Christian-hating gays show up and are deliberately rude and disruptive and make it impossible for the Bible study to happen. So you need a “safe space” for Christians, a forum where they can eject anybody they see as problematic.

But the “safe space”, whether it be for gays, Christians, or transsexuals, doesn’t have to be the whole damn campus. Any forum should be free to eject (or verbally bully) anyone who is deemed disruptive, according to the sole and final judgment of the organizer of the forum.

One thing that ContraPoints gets close to saying, while discussing safe spaces, without saying it directly, is that racist, sexist, and homophobic speech is so ubiquitous that it needs no toleration — everybody is constantly bombarded with those points of view, so there is no need for them to be tolerated in an intellectual environment.  But that’s not true.  Jonathan Haidt’s book reports that research he did showed that conservatives understand liberals better than vice-versa.  I think part of the reason for that is that the liberals control the non-Fox mainstream media and Hollywood, and most public school teachers are liberals, so it is very, very hard for anyone to get through life without getting the liberal viewpoint.  An urban liberal, on the other hand, can very easily go through life without any exposure to conservatives other than straw men erected by liberal sources.  And this goes completely into very educated people.  In the September 2017 issue of Scientific American, there was an article about the dearth of black physics faculty in universities, and the article claimed that there was no observed racial IQ difference.  Now, even Ezra Klein, the editor of Vox, and vehement opponent of the book The Bell Curve, agrees that there’s 10 point difference.  But whoever wrote that article in Scientific American, and all the editors who approved the article, live in such a filtered liberal ideological bubble, that they are isolated from that basic and relevant fact.

One thing that never, ever, seems to cross ContraPoints’ mind is that defining “hate speech” is difficult, and that most contemporary definitions prohibit sane discussion of important topics.

  • We need to discuss affirmative action.  How much should there be?  Some would characterize any argument against increased affirmative action as “hate speech”. So if the conversation takes place on that basis, no company can hire any white males until every minority or female applicant has been hired.
  • We need to discuss immigration. Many would characterize any concept of an undesirable immigrant as “hate speech”, meaning that the only conclusion we can reach is completely open borders.
  • We need to discuss “Black Lives Matter”.  It’s obviously “hate speech” to claim that any blacks are criminals.  So the only conclusion that a “hate speech” free conversation can reach is that police must never arrest any black person no matter what they do.

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