All posts filed under: Free Speech

Poetic Injustice and Performative Outrage

On February 13, after almost a two month delay due to the U.S. government shutdown, the National Endowment for the Arts finally announced its recipients for the 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry. For most of the winners, this was an occasion to celebrate on social media. But for Rachel Custer, the elation of finally being able to announce the prestigious grant (one of 35 out of nearly 1700 applicants) came with the dreadful anticipation of the outrage that would (and did) predictably follow. This was nothing new for her. Last summer, when Anders Carlson-Wee proudly announced the publication of his new poem, “How-To,” on Facebook, Custer was at home in rural Northern Indiana, watching as controversy erupted online. “I felt that sick feeling in my stomach,” she says, as the initial joy of Carlson-Wee’s post got quickly sucked out with each hateful comment he received. “I knew so well from the many times I read similar threads about myself. And I just felt immensely bad for him, and so disdainful of anybody who would say …

Are Anti-BDS Laws an Assault on Free Speech?

Last month, Senator Marco Rubio introduced the “Combating BDS Act”—“S.1,” for short—which, if passed, would enshrine the right of state and local governments to boycott companies that boycott Israel. “The purpose of this law is to say…that we, Congress, are giving the states permission to do this,” David Bernstein told Vox, clarifying that under S.1 a state could forbid government contracting with such companies and not risk legal trouble because of it. (Since federal law supersedes state law, and Congress controls foreign policy, courts could theoretically argue local antiboycott laws violate the constitution because Congress has not officially sanctioned them. S.1 would change that.) The act came hot on the heels of a report by The Intercept that a Texas speech pathologist had lost her job after she refused to sign a pro-Israel “loyalty oath”—allegedly a condition of employment in 26 states, with similar laws pending in another 13. This, of course, was somewhat exaggerated. Though several states do restrict contractors, including sole proprietorships, from boycotting Israel, nowhere is support for BDS criminalized, much less …

Why Do People Tell Me I’m Not Allowed to Write?

When I first started writing, it was on something of a dare. In 8th grade my friends and I ate lunch in the librarian’s office in the school library. We’d had enough of the cafeteria, with its cliques, nasty comments, and seating hierarchies. Since one of us worked in the library helping shelve books (it wasn’t me), we bought our ice creams and fries in the lunch line and hightailed it to the bright, lovely library that took up the center core of the building. Picture The Breakfast Club‘s library, but sized down for middle school. These library girls were badass. The wittiest, smartest, cattiest, snarkiest girls and I sat around the librarian’s conference table, and with the doors closed, we could say anything we wanted. What we mostly wanted to talk about would have gotten us into trouble in the lunch room, and one day Bree said we should write a story together, incorporating some of this material. I think it was Bree, but it might have been me. We took out some loose …

Against the Militancy of the French ‘Decolonial’ Movement

The following statement was published in Le Point on 28 November, 2018 and is reprinted here with their kind permission. Translation by Holly Haahr. The militant initiatives of the “decolonial” movement and its related associations1 are multiplying at the rate of several university and cultural events per month. These different groups are hosted in the most prestigious academic institutions,2 theatres and museums.3 One such example was the seminar “Gender, Nation, and Secularism,” hosted by the Maison des sciences de l’Homme at the beginning of October, which was presented with the racialist references “gender coloniality,” “white feminism,” “racialization,” and “gendered racial power” (i.e: the power exercised by “whites,” which is systematically prejudicial to the individuals they call “racialized”). However, while presenting themselves as progressive (anti-racists, decolonizers, feminists…), for the last several years these movements have been diverting their efforts away from individual emancipation and freedom in favor of objectives that are completely at odds with republican universalism: racialism, differentialism, and segregationism (according to skin color, sex, and religious practice). They go so far as to invoke feminism to legitimize …

The New War on Comedy

Comedy has had a well-understood purpose: to entertain, to push boundaries and to keep us honest. Historically, the court jester was the one person allowed to publicly mock the all-powerful king perched upon the golden throne. It is for this reason that when a storyteller wants to illustrate a ruler’s descent into madness, we see him begin to turn his ire towards the lowly jester: It is worrying then that the ever more powerful social media guns of the Social Justice Left are being aimed squarely at comedians. In December, American comedian Nimesh Patel was pulled off stage by students for doing woke (and funny) jokes about race. A few days later, I made headlines when I refused to sign a “behavioral agreement” to perform at a student comedy gig which insisted that I not joke about religion, atheism and 10 other “isms,” as well as demanding that my jokes be “respectful and kind.” Given the public ridicule of the students and widespread support for the comedians in these cases, you’d be forgiven for thinking …

The 2018 Free Thought Awards

Quillette’s success comes from a group of writers compelled to express the truth as they see it. We couldn’t be prouder of our association with so many inspiring, talented free thinkers. From the dozens, we give a special nod to these five for their stellar contribution in 2018. STUART REGES Free Thought Award for Courage Stuart Reges, lecturer in computer science at the University of Washington, made headlines after his essay exploring the gender gap in computer science was published. The follow-up to his original essay documents the institutional blowback he endured for expressing his empirically validated opinion that, on average, men and women tend to have different occupational interests. Reges’ writing reflects a high level of intellectual integrity in the face of opposition. HIS WINNING WORK: Why Women Don’t Code Is It Sexual Harassment to Discuss this Article? URI HARRIS Free Thought Award for Original Contribution Using the analytical tools popular within the humanities and social sciences, Uri Harris has offered original insights on the social justice movement and critical theory itself. Taken together, …

Denial and the Free Speech Crisis

In a recent article for Quillette, Dan Meegan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Guelph, argues that the restriction of freedom of speech we hear about in the news is a rarity in Canada—and that it is certainly not an issue at the University of Guelph. Respectfully, Meegan is absolutely wrong on this latter point. In fact, freedom of speech has been repeatedly repressed at the University of Guelph, and this has been going on for at least a decade. Meegan explains that in his nearly 20 years at the University of Guelph, he can’t recall even one time his students protested the expression of an offensive idea. Not even when he discusses research on gender differences in his evolutionary psychology unit. The only time a student objected to one of his reading materials, she talked to him about it politely. So, he argues, while there is much ado about freedom of speech, it’s not at issue in Guelph. Nevertheless, as a former University of Guelph student, I’ve witnessed the suppression of …

“I Now Understand How Nelson Mandela Felt”

My name is Titania McGrath. I am a radical intersectionalist poet committed to feminism, social justice, and armed peaceful protest. In April of this year, I decided to become more industrious on social media. I was inspired by other activists who had made use of their online platforms in order to spread their message and explain to people why they are wrong about everything. This week the powers-that-be at Twitter hit my account with a “permanent suspension” (a semantic contradiction, but then I suppose bigots aren’t known for their grammatical prowess). This was the latest in a series of suspensions, all of which were imposed because I had been too woke. The final straw appeared to be a tweet in which I informed my followers that I would be attending a pro-Brexit march so that I could punch a few UKIP supporters in the name of tolerance. Don’t get me wrong. I have always supported censorship. Major social media platforms have a responsibility to ensure that we are expressing the correct sort of free speech. Twitter’s decision to …

Theorising Out Loud

Of late, the Left has again become rather taken with the notion that marginalised groups suffer under unfettered speech. Ergo, it is argued, “Social Justice Warriors are the true defenders of free speech,” because selective censorship helps to compensate for power differentials and open public discourse to a diverse range of voices. Those concerned about the stifling of free expression are chastised for their ignorance of this insight into the workings of discourse. But this theory isn’t especially new, and it has a beleaguered history of which its proponents seem to be unaware. Recent progressive suspicion toward free speech has relied for much of its authority upon the writings of feminist philosopher Catharine Mackinnon, who waged a war on pornography during the 1980s along with Andrea Dworkin. Together, Mackinnon and Dworkin wrote and advocated for local Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinances, which redefined pornography as a violation of women’s civil rights, in part because they alleged that pornography raises rates of sexual violence. Mackinnon also argued that pornography more broadly reinforces societal misogyny thereby suppressing women’s …

Is It Sexual Harassment to Discuss this Article?

Jordan Peterson recently tweeted that, “The STEM fields are next on the SJW hitlist. Beware, engineers.”  I’m convinced that Peterson is correct and I feel that my ongoing case has allowed me to see a likely avenue of attack from those who support the equity agenda. They will characterize any discussion of sex differences, no matter how calm and rational, as a form of gender harassment which in turn constitutes sexual harassment. In other words, if you dare to discuss the science of sex differences—even at a university—there’s a good chance that you’ll be accused of violating US law. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up and explain in more detail. For me, it started when Google fired their engineer James Damore for daring to suggest that men and women are different and that those differences can explain much of the gender gap in tech. I was disturbed by Google’s unwillingness to explore these ideas and I spent nearly a year discussing gender differences at the Paul G. Allen School of …