Two things can be true at once.

1. Emma Camp is a privileged, snowflake, libertarian/conservative UVA undergrad that didn't deserve an editorial in the NYT. Enough with defending her right to not be offended for speaking whatever nonsense she chooses to speak. (I say things my classmates don't like and it makes me sad)

2. Mike Pence should be allowed to speak in all his nutty, religious glory and the students should be able to ask him questions that expose his undeniably ignorant, small minded, vision of what constitutes humanity.

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Thanks for posting an excerpt from The Atlantic piece on social media (bit.ly/TheAtlanticonSocialMedia). My wife has long been railing about how the Twitterverse is ripping apart our society, but I still hung in there. Muted people I didn't want to hear. Tried to send messages of peace when tempers flared. But one person - ten persons - a million persons cannot fight the algorithms that monetize outrage. So this AM, I deactivated my Twitter account. I simply will not participate - even with the best of intentions - in the destruction of our civil society.

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Charlie, love the newsletter today but it's in the wrong order. You buried the lede, my friend. I advise everyone to read the Jonathan Haidt article in The Atlantic and you will view the free speech debate going on at UVA in a much different light. UVA is a symptom, not the disease. Social media is the infecting vector and unless we recognize that we will continue to ram our heads against the same brick walls and ivory towers.

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If we nuked social media out of existence today, we would be a lot better off. Things would improve even more if smart phones stopped working.

Too many people live too much in the virtual space of social media and not enough in the real world. I grew up before all of this (internet, personal computers, smart phones, even cable TV) existed.

That doesn't mean I am a tech illiterate or do not understand what is going on--I started programming in HS, did mainframe programming in Cobol, Fortran and PL/I back in the 80s, Novell certified, Cisco certified, taught Cisco networking and A+, taught digital graphic design for over decade.

Social media is poison... at least as it is currently constituted.

As is niche media.

As is all the BS that passes for information... the whole infotainment industry. Lump in "reality" TV with that mess. too.

Here is the thing that people, in general, do not seem to get:

In order for a society to function there must be a core structure of values and principles that must exist and it must be shared. If this does not exist, then you have a society that is waiting to fail and collapse.

This is particularly true of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural societies with a large geographic extent, such as the United States. This becomes even more crucial when you have a democratic political structure of some sort.

Note that I am talking about society NOT about culture. They are different things. Society, NOT ethnicity. Different things.

We are now in the midst of such a collapse. It is playing out before our very eyes.

It is only going to get worse. Only going to get more extreme at the ends.

Authoritarianism becomes attractive because it promises a resolution to the issue--a return to a shared world, even if by force. This is particularly attractive if you think you have the force and the will to pull it off.

The siren song of the authoritarians will only become stronger as time passes until it drowns out everything else--until people welcome it as a relief from the chaos and confusion. Liberty dies with thunderous applause.

One people. One nation. One leader... it resonates more in German.

It's a complex thing, owing its genesis to many factors, but the outcome is usually the same. It's usually not pretty. There will be a lot of losers, including a lot of people that think, initially, that they are winners.

The answer lies in creating that common set of values and principles. This is impossible to do, frankly, without silencing or canceling people. Both the Right and the Left know this and understand it (if not necessarily why). The reality is that certain things cannot and should not be said. certain people should not be allowed to speak. The narrative cannot be broken, the lie cannot be revealed, else it all falls apart.

Because they are passionate/afraid/angry and activated one or the other IS going to dictate the answer... because the people in the middle are not angry/afraid/passionate.

Maybe they should be? Before it is too late... it may already be too late.

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Apr 12, 2022·edited Apr 12, 2022

I still do not understand the so called threat to free speech from the left, especially the aspect chosen to be highlighted here. There are only so many speaking slots at universities. The universities have final say on who gets to speak. This isn't a public park. Why can they not exercise control over who they think is important enough to speak? The speech as violence argument is poorly stated but I don't think it is unfounded due to how the Trumpist right operates. They regularly find opportunities to be given reputable platforms. They then insert at least a line or two supporting some lie that will incite their followers to hate outgroups. It's never a direct exhortation to violence but they know what they are doing and where it leads. They then trumpet that soundbite or link to the story far and wide via social media and the name of the reputable platform gives it plausibility to people beyond just those who have drunk the kool-aid.

That cycle needs to be stopped somehow or are we just going to let them destroy truth and spread hate without a fight .... because free speech? I mean I'm open to suggestions on how to break that cycle with more precision and effectiveness but I'm not open at all to "woke left cancel culture bad" statements. They are totally empty and useless.

The self censorship mentioned is more concerning to me but not that concerning. I've always felt the need to self sensor from the majority which for most of my life has been the "moral right." It ain't new or ever fully going away as it is human nature. I think the increased intensity and reach of the pressure to self censor we are experiencing now fixes itself once we aren't under threat from a conservative fifth column that has intentionally weaponized free speech and when we've reached a new social consensus respectively.

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Charlie, you ask a good question:

“But where had Emma Camp gotten the idea that her school might have a problem with intolerance and illiberalism? Where could that notion have come from?”

But then you proceed to provide no real answer. UVA, the school, is allowing Pence to speak. They are not caving to the demands of the student newspaper. Even near the end of this section you highlight an open letter from faculty supporting UVA’s decision to allow Pence to give his speech:

“Last week, 17 faculty members at UVA released an open letter supporting Pence’s right to speak on campus – and invited the student editors to ‘renew their dedication to this fundamental University value.’”

Where is the illiberalism of UVA? It’s not here.

Is it the illiberalism of the students themselves? University students have been hotbeds of illiberalism since there have been universities. Are we supposed to be shocked that a bunch of 20 to 22 year olds think they know everything and are loud about it?

Emma Camp was upset because she felt her peers didn’t like what she was saying so she self-censored. No where in her piece or in any follow-up piece has evidence been provided that Ms. Camp endured actual, real-life censorship. She claims her and her friends worried they might receive failing grades from a professor for their unpopular speech. But no failing grades actually handed our because of their speech has been shown.

I don’t know if it’s an age thing, I’m 54 myself, and us olds like to look at what the youngs are doing and saying and complaining about how radical kids are these days. Kids have always been radical. They will continue to be radical. It’s not the end of civilization.

As for the Emma Camp and UVA issue I think this is one of the weakest hills to defend against the “woke mob” because there is nothing more here than a student who felt some peer pressure but no real consequences regarding her unpopular speech and a university that is letting an unpopular speaker have his time to talk while a portion of the student body isn’t happy about it. This has been going on for hundreds of years and it hasn’t been the end of society and it won’t be in this case either.

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Ten years ago, I was in grad school at a lesser-known, but well-respected Ohio university. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were going to be featured speakers. I had no intention of going because I felt like I knew what they were going to say and didn't have time in my life for it. Some people in my cohort were going to go and suggested I go with them. Those people were almost entirely international students some of whom represented minorities in their home countries. They thought it was better to hear them out that to ignore them.

Their well-reasoned argument won me over. We sat in a small group and listened. They were every bit as out there as I expected. Then they took questions from students. Some of those students were not asking questions to engage them, but some of them did ask thoughtful questions to which Geller and Spencer did not have reasonable answers for.

I was particularly proud of my international friends for reminding me that it's better to engage with people than to ignore them. We like to think we corner the market on this ideal, but it's really international.

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Apr 12, 2022·edited Apr 12, 2022

This free speech fight in public schools actually goes back to the Satanic Panic of the 90's and the mandatory public closeting of LGBTQ folks, so even though the left may have started the most recent iteration of this fight during the BLM rise, it has a much longer history on the right as they tend to be more culturally-protective of their children from new trends that are culturally confusing to them. They think being gay is a *learned behavior* rather than a natural-occurring minority of any given population--seriously, even animals have gay/bisexual members, etc. and that's not considered a learned behavior in any other field of biology that I'm aware of. Even with all of that evidence on deck, many conservative parents still think that their kids can be "groomed" into being gay because the base problem with that way of thinking is that people think being gay or bisexual or trans is a learned trait rather than a naturally-occurring one.

Until conservatives realize that being gay is not something kids learn from adults, they will continue to scream and shout about "groomers" because they have been doing so since at least the 1990's and haven't learned a damn thing since because this way of thinking is passed down from generation to generation (Tim Miller actually cites the Briggs Initiative from the 70's as the start and I'm inclined to agree with his timeline). People (and animals) are sometimes born with both a penis and a vagina (intersex individuals) and I would just like the people who think that only god determines biological/gender sex to tell me which biological/gender sex god wanted intersex people to be, because they are some of his own works/creations aren't they? Is a child born with both a penis and a vagina a girl or a boy to these folks? Do they think gender identity plays a role in that situation, or that gender is still "just a social construct"?

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I have always been a social progressive, but the UVA student paper p/o/v and that of many university liberal arts faculty members across the country w/r/t speech is nothing less than pure Bolshevism. It has absolutely no place in American academia. It - and its cousins being passed by red-state legislatures - need to be eradicated, the sooner, the better. This nonsense does more to inhibit social and political progress than to enhance it.

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"Weapons-grade illiberalism"? And below, JVL is quoted: "Conservativism, as it exists in the wild, not as an academic construct, no longer has any attachment whatsoever to free speech, except as a cudgel with which to pursue the exercise of power against its political opponents.” I'm with JVL. Colleges and universities are exactly the venues where young people forge their understanding of great concepts such as free speech. This process doesn't always look or sound nice. The current generation of young people has seen the authoritarian far-right corrupt and weaponize "free speech" to the extent of rendering the notion unintelligible and endangering lives. Heather Heyer, murdered in Charlottesville by a white nationalist the day after neo-Nazis marched with torches through the UVA campus, was one such life. Regarding Mike Pence, let us not forget that he sought every way possible to avoid thwarting trump, stayed silent about the pressure campaign being mounted against him for weeks, and only voiced his intention to carry out his constitutional obligations the day before violence broke out at the nation's Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Is it really unconscionable for students to protest Pence's presence at their school as a public speaker? Is it really "illiberal" to protest against such a man, who through acquiescence enabled violent, hateful speech from trump for 4 years? I think not. Especially at UVA, which was invaded by a pro-trump white supremacist mob. Context matters here. The trump years and the current Republican party are forcing a reconsideration of what free speech is--and is not. As usual, our students are leading the way.

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Not a Mike Pence fan, but claiming merely offering him a platform endangers lives is completely insane. With the rhetoric coming from these sectors, the only life I can possibly see being endangered by platforming Pence is Pence’s.

Most people are sensible enough to see such claims for what they are. But, while these deluded folks are a vocal minority, they do stifle free expression, and it’s a smallish minority that ruins things for everyone else.

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Charlie, what on earth are you talking about? No really. Are you really, seriously, arguing that the right banning words and instituting censorship is due to... self censorship? Is that your arguement? Because it's not a good one. Whatever happens on college campuses, that's vastly different than using the power of the state to criminalize speech. And you can't be saying that 'oh, well, liberals can be intolerant so the right is doing the same thing.' That's nonsense. That's like saying in response to someone making a fire pit, you burned down their house.

Furthermore, the reason they were being dunked on was because they weren't being silenced! Who on earth thinks getting a NYT op ed is akin to being silenced? Next you'll say that Carlson is being silenced because he only gets a spot on television every night.

Beyond that, colleges and universities are not for debate! Schools are not for debate! They never have been! The point of going to school is not to debate the professor, it's to listen to them. The person who constantly feels the need to challenge the professor on everything is not helping anyone. Yes, sharing ideas can be good, but academically that only happens at the graduate level and the doctorate level, as it should! Because the reason you go to lectures and are going to college in the first place is to learn from the people who are teaching you. It's not to debate the teachers!

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As regards Republicans creating states run by whackadoodles, consider Colorado, where the county clerk under federal indictment for tampering with the election machinery and results in Mesa County got double the vote percentage to be officially supported by the party for her run at becoming Secretary of State - in charge of election integrity! - followed by the party giving their imprimatur to a moron too stupid to know that if he became governor and the election tamperer was convicted, governors cannot pardon those convicted of federal crimes (as he promised he would to wild applause). The cherry on top of this rotting pile of stuff you scrape off your shoe was the candidate for Senate who is the leading Big Lie promoter in the state legislature, who was at the 1/6 treason rally, got the party support. And then the state chair of the party, who had tried to get the vote stealer to drop her candidacy after she was indicted, tweeted CONGRATS! to the party for their weekend achievement.

Thank god I left that place the Monday after I got my HS diploma the previous Friday.

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I blame the stupidification of America on Big Fossil Fuel. The strategy in their goal-line stand against the forces of climate activism has been to deny science and nullify truth itself. The Koch brothers, oil men, created the Tea Party. Vladimir Putin, an oil man, created Trump. The Big Lie had its origins in Texas, from a computer security company apparently financed by Texas oil interests.

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The GOP tried to overthrow the government and has elected officials openly working with Neo-Nazis, but tge real problem is a young woman feels silenced at an elite university

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Twitter is a sewer and it has always been thus. I never thought anything significant could be said in sixteen characters and I think I been proved right. The increase in number of characters allowed has not improved the situation.

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