Friday, December 22, 2006

Tell Us What to Think

 Here's a case of the academic namby-pambies if I've ever seen one: a professor in Nova Scotia has cancelled a debate on diversity because his opponent's views are "too offensive to be voiced on campus."

"It's all about providing a public stage for views which are considered by many Canadians as deeply, deeply offensive," said Devine.

Love the sly suggestion that the opponent's (who happens to be one Jared Taylor) views are somehow more offensive to Canadians than to anyone else. Mr. Taylor, as it turns out, is not a white supremacist. He's a white separatist, which isn't the same thing at all. White supremacy is indeed an "offensive" view - but I don't see why white separatism should be. It's a view I find foolish, personally, but that's a long cry from being "offensive." Certainly there's nothing "offensive" enough about it to warrant this kind of censorship. And indeed, isn't one of the points of academic institutions supposed to be to wall off a place where views that don't get as much airtime in the so-called "real" world can be expounded on and explored?

More to the point: if the debate is about the relative merits of "diversity," then I can't really think of a more appropriate opponent for Mr. Devine than Mr. Taylor. The very antithesis of "diversity," as Mr. Devine uses the term, is racial separatism, no? It really begs the question of what Mr. Devine was actually expecting in an opponent. If he didn't know Mr. Taylor was a white separatist when he invited him to speak, then what, exactly, did he think Taylor stood for? What search method did he use, if not, oh, say, reading some material from the person he invited? I guess what he was expecting was someone who doesn't think diveristy is an intrinsic good, but doesn't otherwise mind it. That's roughly my view - I don't mind meeting and befriending people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, but ultimately I think people are just people, we have more in common than we have things that separate us, and in any case ethnic background is an inappropriate criterion for admission to university, which should be based solely on academic promise. If that's what he was expecting, then he shouldn't have had any trouble finding someone to fit the bill. This opinion is common, as far as I know, and there are plenty of writers who espouse it. It's somewhat harder to find people like Mr. Taylor, who actually believe ethnic diversity is a negative. Indeed, one wonders what Mr. Devine has to lose in debating him. Taylor's viewpoint is so out of fashion these days (to the point of being virtually taboo) that I have trouble imagining a crowd at a university that would support him. Now granted, the article says the talk got mention on Stormfront, which is a discussion site for white nationalists. Maybe Mr. Devine was worried that hooligans would show up. It's a legitimate fear, and in my opinon also a legitimate reason to cancel the talk. But that isn't the reason Devine gave. What he said instead was that Taylor's views are "too offensive to be voiced on campus."

There is no such thing as a view "too offensive to be voiced" in what's supposed to be a free speech zone. Individual attendees can decide for themselves when they've heard enough, can't they? It's sort of the way I avoid the Jesus freaks when they preach behind Woodburn. They have nothing to say to me, and I have better things to do than listen, so I move on rather than stop. I find the suggestion that I should dedicate my life to something I've never seen nor felt a bit offensive, in fact. But nothing in what I just said in any way implies I want them banned from campus! Please! Ditto socialists. I find lots of left-wing viewpoints deeply offensive. The idea that I should give up wealth that I create to support layabouts at the government's discretion or else be carted off to prison, for example, strikes me as the root of all immorality. But again, you don't see me pressing to censor this view, backward and tribal though I think it is.

Academia is in a pretty sad state if people like Taylor are denied public forums. More importantly, if a champion of "diversity" can't handle a racial separatist, his natural opponent, then I really start to wonder what the intellectual basis for the "diversity" movement actually is? Does it even have one?

Here's the best part:

But Devine says academic debate has its limits.

Instead of a debate on Jan. 15, Devine will give a lecture on diversity including a summary of Taylor's views.

Wonderful! Because why hear a case from the source when you can hear a straw man version from one of its opponents instead?

I don't know what this is, but it's nothing like what academia is supposed to be. Let a thousand flowers bloom indeed.


At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless someone "cries fire in a crowded theater", why can't all sides be heard. Isn't that part of intellectual curiosity? What are people fearful of? Unless there is an effort to actually harm somebody or ignore their civil rights, I think it's a sign of narrow-minded thinking to ban speech. What happened to the first amendment? Is it only applied to warm and fuzzy thoughts?


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