One of the better lines from today's conference was from David A. French, formerly of the Foundation of Individal Rights for Education (FIRE) and now of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), about how we subsidize anguish on America's campuses by actually conceding that a minority's pain is genuine or worthwhile and so we give them an in on censoring. As Daphne Patai, another panelist puts it, we allow their emotional blackmail because we concede to their power.
Friday, June 19, 2009
By Charles Johnson at 10:32 PM
I asked what to do about it when people call you a racist because for many students that's the worst thing that they can be called. How do you answer that remark without in a way, legitimizing it?
David A. French said that he has little patience for these kinds of arguments. Free speech requires toughness, so they say, and sometimes you're alone because of what you believe. "Cowboy up," says David French. And he pointed to the very brave soldiers who have died fighting for freedom abroad.
I would never downplay the sacrifices of the soldiers, but I would remind Mr. French that they chose that lifestyle. Many of us just want to get an education that is free from ideology and go about getting our degree. We're not soldiers for liberty and this isn't a war. And if it were a war, it's an assymetric war where unlike the soldier who gets to go home and see his family, the fighting is consent and always.
I think this "cowboy up" argument is largely a cop out and a means to say to conservative students, "grow a pair." But left unsaid is why does freedom of speech require toughness? It requires it because the enemies of free speech have increased the price of speaking one's mind. Maybe what we need to do is increase the price for the other side to censor. In a way, that's what FIRE does, but it's far too reactive for me.