Notice how the shriveling of free expression smoothly proceeds to the next diminished staging post: Once upon a time, Berkeley professed to believe in free speech. Then it believed in free speech except for “hate speech”. Now it supports “serious” free speech, but not “hurtful” speech.
Well, we live in a world of hurt. Personally, I’m hurt by people who say they don’t like my cat album, or by the director’s decision to give me purple hair in this video. But what’s really hurtful is that KPFA and Berkeley can’t even be bothered to pretend to a principled defense of free speech. What is “serious” free speech? Not so long ago, arguments for same-sex marriage or tampons for menstruating men would have been dismissed as utterly unserious – indeed, preposterous. What KPFA means by “serious” speech is compliant, conformist speech that brooks no ideological dissent from the pieties of the day – on male menstruation, climate change, Islam, and whatever’s next on the list. You can be as “hurtful” as you like to cardinals but not imams, to climate deniers but not climate alarmists, to homophobic pastry chefs but not to gay newlyweds.
Its “emphatic support” of “serious free speech” is, thus, merely a regime of apostasy enforcement – which is why it has no place for an atheist such as Dawkins. More.
Mark is onto something here, but the underlying issue is that Berkeley, and thousands of other campuses, are not actually interested in ideas anymore. They do not want to be “hurt” because that is all that would happen to them. They are not attracted to ideas and cannot deal with them.
Thought experiment: What if Muhammed Ali had declined to fight Joe Frazier because Frazier might “hurt” him? Well, yes, he might. But wouldn’t that tell us that Ali did not really want to win the contention as much as he wanted to be safe?
It’s reasonable to want to be safe but achievement comes of taking risks, and campuses no longer wish to risk genuine contentions of ideas. Thin-skinned Muslims are even handier than thin-skinned sexual identity groups for the purpose of jettisoning the idea that one should be prepared for conflict of ideas.
Some think that in the age of the internet, university is mostly over anyway. There needs to be a better way for people who really want to learn to think and to defend what they believe to get an education.
Just in: Berkeley radio station cancels Richard Dawkins event over his criticism of Islam:
As for Dawkins’ question about why Islam gets a free pass, one reason is the constant use of the bogus term “Islamophobia” which invites people to engage in a category error, equating criticism of Islam to racism. Indeed, not surprisingly, that’s at least part of what happened here. From the NY Times:
Henry Norr, a former KPFA board member, criticized Mr. Dawkins in a July 17 email to the station. “Yes, he’s a rationalist, an atheist and an advocate of the science of evolution — great, so am I,” Mr. Norr wrote. “But he’s also an outspoken Islamophobe — have you done your homework about that?”
Many people who want to discuss world tensions intelligently and honestly will be trapped by that category error, which will be just fine with the tax- and loan-funded universities.
See also: Evolution News and Views on Dawkins dumped from Berkeley: Did it serve him right?
Dawkins dumped from Berkeley due to “hurtful words”