Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The ad in question

For anybody who wanted to see the ad my last post was about, here you go.

UPDATE: Added a post title.

Free speech is good, even when idiots talk

I sent this in to the Lantern as a guest column. I kept it to 750 words so there were some things I would like to have said that I couldn't, but I think I get the point across:

The recent ad by FrontPage Magazine in the Lantern (rightfully) attracted a lot of negative attention. The sample of letters published by the editors all lamented the Lantern’s decision to publish it, claiming in various ways that the ad offended the standards of the community. Clearly, this is true, as the outcry against it showed. The ad was offensive on several levels; not only to Muslims, but to all of us who believe in religious tolerance, or, for that matter, basic logic and argumentation. I do not need to detail its flaws, and the letter writers of January 25th mostly didn’t feel the need to do so either. Indeed, they are obvious to the vast majority of people on this campus. I highly, highly doubt that anyone who read that ad without being already predisposed to view Muslims negatively was convinced to do so by what they saw.

But to those of you who think the Lantern should not have published this ad, I ask: Where did those community standards come from? In the Lantern of 1912, things much worse than that ad could have been written about Muslims (to say nothing of African-Americans, Catholics, Jews, and many other groups) and it would have been considered unremarkable by many on this campus and throughout our society. What has changed since then? The answer to that question, I believe, is that a free society talked these issues out and new, more inclusive, values have emerged. Admittedly, this process isn’t always pleasant; it often works specifically through incidents of offensive speech. In this particular case, through the Lantern’s publication of the ad, important issues were brought to the consciousness of everyone. Are those who believe the Lantern should not have published this ad really so worried about their ability to rebut its claims that they would rather not have this conversation? Are they so pessimistic about the critical thinking skills and common sense of the Ohio State community that they believe that it would be better for everyone to simply not talk about this?

On Sunday (1/29/2012) I read the statement (sorry, I can't find it on the web; if you want to see the whole thing, email me) from Javaune Adams-Gaston, Vice President for Student Life, in the OSU Weekly email sent to graduate and professional students. She said (in part): “Ohio State works hard to build a culture of inclusion, equity, and appreciation for diverse peoples and ideas, so it is disheartening when those efforts are undermined by instances of discrimination. This is not how we treat one another, especially at an institution of higher learning.” This is a very interesting statement that deserves to be unpacked.

First, it is an answer to the question I posed earlier. The answer seems to be that indeed, OSU’s administration (or, at least, one member of the administration) seems to have such a low opinion of all of us that they think they need to protect us from instances where we might need to critically evaluate a speaker’s claim. Evidently, they do not trust that we will not draw unwarranted conclusions from shoddy evidence like that prevented in FrontPage’s ad, and thus, they think that we cannot effectively participate in the marketplace of ideas. I find this troubling, especially given that developing such skills are one of the most important reasons we all are here.

Second, I believe that this statement reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of where a “culture of inclusion, equity, and appreciation for diverse peoples and ideas” comes from, and what the threats to such a culture are. A culture of inclusion does not arise because administrators from the Student Life office tell us we should have one. Rather, it is a byproduct of the free inquiry that we engage in here. It emerges from the encounters we have here with people of different beliefs and backgrounds. If our culture had been imposed from outside of us, it might be so brittle that a quarter-page ad in the Lantern could undermine it. Fortunately, our culture comes from within us, and is made of much stronger stuff. I believe the reaction to the ad is evidence that this is so.

understand the inclination to protect people from speech they will find offensive. Nobody enjoys reading something like the ad we all saw. However, it is important to recognize that some good came from the exchange that resulted. By having this conversation, we all did our part to build an inclusive culture at Ohio State. If the Lantern had shut the conversation down before it started, we would have been poorer for it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lawrence O' Donnell, and real liberalism

I saw this picture in a few different places on the web, and everywhere I saw it, I saw an accompanying argument about the party affiliations of the people who did those things. To be honest, I don't think that matters. The relationship between ideology and party affiliation is sufficiently fluid over the length of time they're talking about that you just can't tell much. More importantly, people should answer for (and celebrate) their own actions and beliefs, not those of others.

I happened to see this picture for the first time on the same day that I saw this Walter Russell Mead piece in the American Interest. Among its contentions is that many of those who claim the label "liberal" are engaged in a conservative, or even reactionary, project designed to preserve unsustainable levels of public spending against the increasingly obvious signs that doing such would demand a substantial diminution of human liberty. This sentiment goes back a long way and might be best identified with Friedrich von Hayek's essay (PDF, sorry) "Why I am Not a Conservative." I would suggest that the true heirs of those who brought us equal rights under the law (and remember, segregation was by no means a creature of free society) are those who are fighting for free speech against those who would muzzle it for those they disagree with. The true heirs of those who designed welfare programs to lift people out of poverty are those who are trying to put those programs on a sustainable footing and match them with a tax policy that will allow for the economic growth necessary to pay for them, not those whose strategy is to combine tax breaks for politically favored activities with big increases for others. The friends of liberty are those who realize that capitalism means profit and loss, not those who paid off the politically favored with taxpayer money, in defiance of the rule of law.

I wear the label of "liberal" with pride. You, Lawrence O'Donnell, are unworthy of it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health care is now political

I am amused by the waaaaaaaaambulance (NSFW) needed by the lefty blogosphere over the Stupak amendment.

Guess what, people. If health care is a government function, now every benefit is subject to the political process you love so much, including some you don't want to talk about. This is the way the government works. I do support the Stupak amendment, obviously, but this issue points nicely to one of the major reasons why the approach we're going to get with health care is not the best way. Market solutions don't work perfectly, but they do save our system from being thrown up for grabs into a public choice nightmare.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In which I respectfully disagree with my friend

My good friend Buckeyenewshawk is a Democrat, but he is a reasonably sensible guy and we agree on most things. Far worse than his creeping socialism, however, is his blindness to the virtues of Gus Johnson. Listen to this and tell me that Gus is not one of the most excellent announcers in the business. A great moment calls for a great call, and Gus delivered. I can only imagine what Joe Buck would have come up with: "Hmmm, Brandon Stokely seems to have the ball. How about that, Troy?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Detroit Labor Day Parade

No word in this story about whether or not anybody looked around and saw what the crown jewel of American industrial unionism was like today.