Friday, February 19, 2016

Universities, Free Speech, and Bravery

Yesterday, Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, disgraced himself, the college that he leads, and the institution of free speech that he has claimed to support. He did this by disinviting John Derbyshire, the mathematician and commentator, from speaking at Williams for a student-run program called "Uncomfortable Learning," a series specifically designed to bring serious but alternative points of view to the expensive (this year's tab: $63,290) and coddled purlieus of Williamstown, Massachusetts, where nearly all the faculty are left-leaning and the students, with rare exceptions, are timid if irritable politically correct babies...

John Derbyshire's unpardonable offense is to have opinions about race that differ from those certified by the examining board of politically correct attitudes. Those opinions mandate, for example, that it is OK to say "Black Lives Matter," but not "White Lives Matter," or even "All Lives Matter," which is held to be racist (yes, really). It's OK to say that you believe in genetics, but you must never, ever ask questions like: "Is intelligence or social behavior heritable?"  That, too, is held to be deeply racist, just as asking questions like "Do men, in general,  display greater aptitude for math than women?" is impermissible. (And note well: you can't even ask the questions, let alone answer them in the wrong way.)

John Derbyshire inadvertently burned his bridges with the politically correct establishment back in 2012 when he published an article expressing some of his thoughts on the realities of race in contemporary America. You can read his offending column here and learn a bit more about his views from an interview he conducted with Gawker here...

By his disreputable actions yesterday, Adam Falk has indisputably joined the ranks of the neo-McCarthyites who, basking in the conviction of their own virtue, present themselves as staunch defenders of free speech just so long as there is no cost to do so.  link
Then there should be a cost.

I'm not against having "horrible" people speak at universities, or against appropriate protests by those who who still allow a person to speak (rather than disrupt or cause speeches to be canceled).  I'm certainly against horrible people being held up as exemplars, though, as was the case a year and a half ago at UCLA.

Update, 2/20/16:  I'm always up for A Modest Proposal:
After my column appeared, a friend of liberty at Williams pointed out to me that the college library contains some books written by Derbyshire.  He said two, but a little investigation revealed that the Sawyer Library actually contains four printed books by Derbyshire...

Indeed, let us now move to my modest proposal.  If  John Derbyshire is a practitioner of "hate speech," as Adam Falk assured us he was, then how can Williams College, an echt correct institution where everyone believes (or at least says) the same thing about all contentious issues regarding sex, race, the virtues (or, more to the point, the vices) of traditional American values and, oh, so many other things — how can Williams, I say, countenance the presence in its midst of not one, not two, but FOUR books by the swine Derbyshire?

Adam Falk made a preliminary gesture by disinviting John Derbyshire from coming to Williams. But surely, when Williams has in its possession four of Derbyshire's books,  that is too timid a response.  He and the deans and all right-minded (by which I mean left-leaning) students should organize a public holocaust of Derbyshire's books.  After all, the works of someone who is guilty of expressing contraband opinions must not be allowed the implicit endorsement of space on the shelves of Sawyer Library....Burning his books in public, with appropriate expressions of contrition laced with smug self-satisfaction, should go a long way towards providing a much needed catharsis.  The event should, of course, be filmed and made widely available as a model of how the contemporary American college and university ought to deal with speech that its self-appointed guardians disagree with.  It is sure to be an exemplary performance, and I am only sorry (though I am not surprised) that the Williams library has no books by me to add to the conflagration.

1 comment:

Ellen K said...

Do you think that library has a copy of Farenheit 451?