Free Speech, Top Stories

How to Prevent Campus Deplatformings: Lessons from Harvey Mansfield and Concordia University

It’s been a year since Atlantic magazine hired, then abruptly fired, conservative writer Kevin Williamson. Shortly after the story came full circle, I caught up with a friend who then worked closely with the Atlantic. He told me that hiring Williamson had been a mistake from the get go.

“So you agreed with the decision to fire him?” I asked.

“Not quite,” he replied. “Imagine you have this friend who tells you he’s going to get a puppy. And you say, ‘Don’t do it. I know you. You’re not a puppy person.’ But he gets the puppy anyway. Then the weeks pass, and he comes to you and says, ‘You were right. I shouldn’t have gotten the puppy.’ But now it’s too late. Your friend is stuck with the puppy. That’s how life works.”

It’s an allegory I come back to often in this age of deplatforming. Universities have no obligation to invite any particular public figure to speak on campus. But once they’ve promised someone a platform, the stakes are raised: Both speaker and audience are invested in the outcome. If Speaker A is picked to appear at a university convocation, this inflicts no hardship on equally reputable Speakers B through Z. But if Speaker A’s appearance subsequently is canceled, this doesn’t restore A’s reputation back to the status quo ante. It has a net negative effect, because deplatforming generally is interpreted as signalling some real or imagined disgrace or defect (though that is changing, now that so many smart, reputable people have suffered this fate).

Last week, Harvard political philosopher Harvey C. Mansfield wrote an essay for The Wall Street Journal describing his own deplatforming from a commencement event marking the 40th anniversary of the Liberal Arts College (LAC), a small academic unit of Concordia University in Montreal. If this is the first time you’re hearing of the controversy, that’s because neither Mansfield nor the LAC seemed eager to make a big fuss about it.

Mansfield, an expert on Machiavelli and de Tocqueville (among countless other subjects), appeared more bemused than angry about his own deplatforming. But in his essay, he does express serious concern with the broader trend. Free speech of all stripes should be encouraged, he argues, because a clash of views helps us all make our way toward truth, or at least “a reasonable settlement” of competing claims; whereas deplatformers see speech “not [as] an alternative to power but [as] a form of power—political power—and political power is nothing but the power to oppress.”

The LAC deplatforming is a particularly interesting specimen of the genre because, as discussed below, it comes with a rich paper trail. But it also comes with an odd (and delightfully Canadian) twist, whereby the LAC tried to maintain the polite pretence that Mansfield wasn’t being deplatformed, even in the midst of his deplatforming. No, nothing like that. Instead, he had been victimized by a suddenly manifested lack of “consensus as to what [the school] wanted to achieve with this event.” In his vaguely worded letter to Mansfield, LAC Principal Mark Russell described his realization that his invitation committee had “acted in good faith but rather precipitously”—as if this were some sort of impulse purchase being sent back to Amazon. The LAC, Russell explained, had decided “not to proceed” with the speaking event. Which is to say, there likely will be an event—but Mansfield won’t be speaking at it.

When Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg fired Kevin Williamson, he was direct about it. Goldberg had known about an old Williamson tweet to the effect that “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.” But subsequent to Wiliamson’s recruitment to The Atlantic, it emerged that Williamson also had appeared in a podcast in which he’d doubled down on the subject. “The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post,” Goldberg said when he announced Williamson’s ouster. “Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”

In effect, Goldberg was saying, “Yes, I wanted the puppy. But that was back when I thought it was the cute little house-trained labradoodle from the ad, as opposed to the incontinent pit-bull who showed up at our offices.”

For Russell to make that same argument in regard to Mansfield would have been more difficult. The Harvard scholar is 87 years old. He doesn’t use Twitter or host a podcast. And though his views about feminism and the western canon are unfashionably stodgy, they also happen to have been detailed in books, journal articles, and other widely accessible media. The dog Russell got was the same one from the ad.

So in his letter to the LAC community, Russell had no choice but to fall back on the idea that Mansfield’s appearance might be “divisive.” The D-word now serves as one of those rhetorical devices that allow responsibility for a deplatforming to be diffused throughout an entire collective. (It’s not that this is a bad puppy per se, you see, just that we all have radically different attitudes toward it…) And in keeping with the doublespeak rituals commonly associated with such deplatformings, the Principal also assured LAC students, alumni and academics that “the [LAC] has always been a place where we encourage and value lively debate, and a multitude of ideas and perspectives,” even if the treatment of Mansfield suggested exactly the opposite.

* * *

While Principal Russell comes off badly from the above-rendered account, the deplatforming was not his decision alone: The whole LAC faculty voted on it. Moreover, insiders I’ve spoken to believe Russell truly was trying to defuse a bad situation in a way that brought the least amount of negative attention to both the school and Mansfield himself. I also give Russell credit for resisting any temptation to strike any sort of theatrically feminist posture, stage showy consultations with aggrieved students, or promise the usual avalanche of diversity consultants and affirmative-action hires—all moves that panicky administrators use to protect their own professional brands in moments of crisis such as this.

I will also concede that this was no ordinary campus free-speech controversy, as the scheduled event was a 40th anniversary celebration. It’s one thing for university administrators to grit their teeth and permit a controversial speaker to flit in for a regular guest lecture. It’s another thing when the flown-in star is presented as the centrepiece of a marquee campus celebration oriented toward fund raising, networking and, well, partying. (In the words of one alum, the 40th anniversary event is “basically a semi-formal piss-up with friends.”)

Mansfield himself is no Milo. But he did write a somewhat infamous 2006 book that, even at the time of publication, seemed out of touch with the times. Manliness offered the argument that modern men should look to venerable role models such as John Wayne and Theodore Roosevelt; and, by their example, develop timeless masculine qualities like “confidence in the face of risk” and “philosophical courage.” Which is fine insofar as it goes. Except that Mansfield flippantly overplayed his thesis in a way that left him open to critical attack (including an epic blast from philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum who really is an expert on the history of sex and gender). His broadsides against modern feminism, in particular, seemed to channel the era of petticoats and chaperones. “To resist rape, a woman needs more than martial arts and more than the police,” he wrote in one unfortunate passage. “She needs a certain ladylike modesty enabling her to take offence at unwanted encroachment. How dare you! But only a woman can be a lady, and the feminists have deconstructed ‘woman’ because they think it is a product fashioned by men.” In the current climate, it was predictable that some members of the LAC community would object to Mansfield’s selection—even if deplatforming him was the wrong decision.

News of such deplatformings has been coming thick and fast in recent years. Even in the days since Mansfield wrote his WSJ essay, a fresh controversy has broken at Middlebury College in Vermont, with administration officials trying to cancel a lecture by socially conservative Polish politician Ryszard Legutko on the basis of (dubious) “security” concerns. And so it’s tempting for classically liberal culture critics to tee off on every new outrage with rants about “cancel culture.” Yet the news isn’t all terrible on this front. Recently, Quillette editor-in-chief Claire Lehmann lavished praise on David Yager, President of Philadelphia’s University of Arts, for his full-throated defence of Camille Paglia, amid sustained efforts by activists at that school to censor or even fire the legendary social critic. FIRE, a group whose mission is to “defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities,” recently reported that, for the first time since it began collecting data, “one million students now attend colleges with FIRE’s highest free speech rating.” Even at Middlebury, long a byword for hyper-progressive wokedom, LGBT activists, to their considerable credit, explicitly declared that they were not seeking to shut the Legutko event down. (And indeed, the event went forward, albeit at a more obscure venue.) As FIRE director Greg Lukianoff has observed, students often are more tolerant of speech than their own professors and administrators. And by studying these controversies, we can find ways to encourage those voices of (relative) tolerance. Strange as this may sound, even LAC’s deplatforming of Mansfield does contain some hopeful signs for free-speech advocates.

After putting a call out on Twitter for information from the Concordia community, I was able to access lengthy discussion threads about Mansfield that played out on the closed Facebook page dedicated to LAC alumni. I found this material especially germane because it had been a group of a dozen LAC alumni (several of whom are active on this same Facebook page) that jump-started the campaign for Mansfield’s ouster back in February.

The group’s letter to Principal Russell, posted to the alumni Facebook group on March 1, asserted that Mansfield “traffics in discredited and damaging philosophies on gender and culture, including the primary of masculinity within intellectual and political pursuit—philosophies which many students and graduates of the [LAC] prove to be demonstrably false.” It also was claimed that Mansfield had spent much of his career “arguing against the vitality of women in scholarly pursuits, when history has already kept women out of the academy for centuries…With this in mind, we strongly urge you to reconsider the decision to invite [Mansfield] to address the 40th anniversary event.”

Certainly, the authors of the letter are no great champions of viewpoint diversity. But if we’re being fair, it’s worth noting that they at least framed their argument by reference to the actual content of Mansfield’s writing (even if the description of it is heavily torqued). They didn’t employ the now-common trick of medicalizing their argument by claiming that Mansfield’s appearance would cause them trauma, or be tantamount to “denying their humanity,” “erasing their existence,” “making them invisible,” or other such drama-class nonsense. Nor did they threaten violence or event disruption.

This may sound like faint praise I am offering. But these are troubled times on campuses. And there is at least one Canadian university professor who explicitly advocates pulling fake fire alarms to shut down speakers he claims to be dangerous. When Jordan Peterson showed up at Queens University last  year, some students resorted to violence in an attempt to break into the speaking area or disrupt the event. In Sydney, Australia, last month, hecklers sought to humiliate and drown out dissenting feminist writer Christina Hoff Sommers. Deplatforming is wrong in all its forms. But some of those forms are plainly more destructive than others.

The intense Facebook discussion that followed the posting of the letter was conduced largely by a core group of about two dozen alumni who appear to be in their 20s and 30s. One sign of hope that emerged: Everyone involved seemed to acknowledge, at least implicitly, that deplatforming is a bad thing, and that there would be some reputational damage to pay for canceling Mansfield. (Some members of the pro-deplatform faction signaled this concession by arguing that the letter sent to Principal Russell was too ambiguous to be presented as a deplatforming campaign, since all that was asked was that the school “reconsider” its decision—a disingenuous claim that was properly called out as such by others.)

As with most such Facebook discussions, this one branched off into all manner of micro-debates, which I will not attempt to summarize. But in general, I was struck by the respectful tone of the whole thing. With only the mildest exceptions, no one engaged in ad hominems, rattled on about who was allowed to say what, claimed to have suffered psychological injury, or attempted to get anyone else thrown off the page. Some participants even allowed a nod to the fact that people are complicated, and so a person whose views you disagree with may still be someone worth listening to. “I agree [that] a number of [Mansfield’s] comments could fairly be described as misogynistic and homophobic,” one alum wrote. “But you know what? We live in a culture where many people harbour some misogynistic and homophobic attitudes…Even if someone had said objectionable things or holds objectionable views we can still engage with them, debate them, even celebrate anniversaries with them.”

* * *

One of the most disturbing aspects of the deplatforming movement is the way activists stir themselves up into such a high state of moral panic that they come to portray their targets as monstrous apparitions from the depths of Hades. And in some cases, these movements produce mobs that say and do genuinely frightening things. (At the aforementioned Peterson event at Queens in 2018, for instance, protesters outside the speaking venue cheered when one of them yelled, “Lock ’em in and burn it down.”) Yet if you go up and down the entire LAC alumni Facebook discussion, you won’t find a hint of such hysteria—perhaps because these are young adults with jobs, and maybe even children, and so have more perspective than mere students. Several deplatforming advocates even took pains to indicate that they’d be happy to see Mansfield visit Concordia under more limited auspices. “Nobody is suggesting that he should be blacklisted from giving Machiavelli lectures,” wrote one. “Only that he’d a poor choice to give the keynote at the reunion.”

What is at play here? Are the alumni of LAC inherently more civilized than the students at Queens? Are Jordan Peterson’s views about women more rage-inducing than Mansfield’s? My sense is that the polite quality of the LAC deplatforming campaign had more to do with the context of their discussion. Unlike atomized Twitter users warring against each other from behind cartoon avatars, or masked protestors outside a lecture hall, these alumni comprised a small group of adults planning to meet together in real life. No one wants to be seated at a dinner dance next to the guy they’ve just been shrieking at on a Facebook thread. It’s awkward.

I think Mansfield is completely correct when he writes that those who lead deplatforming movements see speech “not [as] an alternative to power but [as] a form of power” and that “political power is nothing but the power to oppress.” Our politicians speak as if they are locked in Manichean winner-take-all electoral combat. And the political news we receive daily largely consists of rundowns describing who won the most recent battles, what terrain they now control, and what forces they have at their disposal for tomorrow’s fight. It’s only natural that students have come to see their campuses in the same way—as arenas for combat between good and evil.

In general, the presence of an “enemy” speaker isn’t threatening to student activists because of any actual message he delivers to audience members (even if this is what activists claim they fear), but because of what his presence is taken to represent symbolically—which is that the other side controls the battlefield, or at least some portion of it. By deplatforming him, on the other hand, you can send the opposite message. Stripped to its bare psychological essentials (and putting aside all the nonsense claims about the psychological damage supposedly inflicted by the mere presence of certain controversial speakers), this isn’t much different from warring soccer clubs fighting over the right to march and drink in this or that neighbourhood. (Among other things, this helps explains why each of these controversies ends with the activists making a long list of demands: It isn’t the substance of these demands that’s meaningful, but the  demonstration that they are in a position to make such demands. It’s a naked show of power.)

And so while I share Lehmann’s appreciation for the stiff backbone of officials at Philadelphia’s University of Arts and other schools where deplatforming has been rejected, we need more than just heroic administrators. The real root of the problem is the way members of the university community have come to conceive of their campuses—zero-sum battlefields that can be conquered in the same way Republicans and Democrats gain control of legislatures. Nor is it the case that this pathological conception of higher learning is exclusive to progressive ideologues: Both sides too often ignore the fact that universities are shared spaces where people with vastly different views must co-exist intellectually and socially—much like at a party, or, for that matter, on a Facebook group populated by friends who seek to remain friends.

One of the reasons campuses have become nastier places, I suspect, is that professors and students no longer spend their off time breaking bread together, but rather all grab their phones and fly off each to their own corner of cyberspace. Putting down the phones and having more “semi-formal piss-ups with friends” every once in a while would surely help matters—especially if they spanned ideological lines and didn’t merely replicate the self-segregating intellectual tribalism one sees online.

When I speak at universities and meet students, I find that the most resilient and successful specimens usually are the ones who span different communities within the same campus. You might have someone who, say, studies history, plays varsity soccer, performs in an amateur bar band, and volunteers with a religious group. Or someone who studies engineering, leads a weekend ski club, and hosts a show on the campus radio station. Not only do these students do a better job escaping from the cultishness of certain departments (especially in the “grievance studies” area), they also adopt a better understanding of a university as a patchwork of overlapping interests, ambitions, specializations, personality types and demographic groups. The more overlap you have, the less sustainable is the conceit of my-campus-versus-your-campus.

Which brings me back to LAC, whose leadership may still be planning a replacement program for the school’s 40th anniversary. While it’s unrealistic, at this stage, to simply re-invite Mansfield as a spotlight speaker, it might be possible to invite him as a co-speaker at a mixed program alongside a feminist of equal renown. And the specific feminist I would suggest inviting is none other than aforementioned University of Chicago philosopher (and Manliness teardown expert) Martha Nussbaum.

While it would be a blow to Mansfield’s ego to get demoted from star to co-star, I’m guessing he might do it if the event were presented as a means to reify Principal Russell’s (as yet empty) claim that LAC is a place “where we encourage and value lively debate, and a multitude of ideas and perspectives.” Nussbaum might be even harder to convince, but I’m guessing she might be tempted by the prospect of, in effect, turning her 2006 review of Manliness into a species of spoken-word performance art.

It’s a long shot, I know. But even an attempt to make it happen would send an important message about ideological pluralism. University shouldn’t be a place where warring intellectual tribes throw one another off platforms. There’s plenty of room on the stage for everyone, assuming we all understand that developing one’s intellect is easier—not harder—when we treat it as an act of collaboration and outreach.

 

Jonathan Kay is Canadian Editor of Quillette. Follow him online at @jonkay.

38 Comments

  1. Western Bluebird says

    A small side quibble on an otherwise thoughtful article

    „Our politicians speak as if they are locked in Manichean winner-take-all electoral combat. And the political news we receive daily largely consists of rundowns describing who won the most recent battles, what terrain they now control, and what order of battle they have at their disposal for tomorrow’s fight. It’s only natural that students have come to see their campuses in the same way—as arenas for combat between good and evil.“

    A short perusal through any historic newspaper will show you that politics has always been thus. So whatever the reason (And i have my own thoughts on this) for the students dismal behavior likely little if any is due to political news.

    • david of Kirkland says

      In US winner-takes-all elections, we effectively deplatform competing ideas in every election. 10% libertarian voters gets 0% representation. 45% democratic voters gets 0% representation.

      • Didn’t you mean that the ~40% of us who are Independent voters in the US get 0% representation.

        The Dems presently hold the House and command ~54% of the nine votes on the Supreme Court. Or were “democratic” and “libertarian” intentionally lower case? In that case, I have no idea what your talking about since faithful Republican votes are ~25% of the electorate in the US.

      • Tersitus says

        In this case the bad puppies are the bed-wetters at Atlantic and LAC who need grow up and learn to hold their water.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @Western Bluebird

      True but the students don’t much matter. As an adjunct universities for over a decade, I can attest that undergrads in general – and first/second year students are seen as cannon-fodder a few of which survive to become (your) grad students as unpaid assistants.

      College Presidents are pilloried for knuckling under to students but it’s the slice of faculty and administrstors who exploit students who imbue ideology in them and then leverage it for their own gain, often trading academic credit for demonstrations demanding sinecures for themselves or reciprocally for their cronies.

      New Diversity positions and mandatory trainings are money spinners for profs who teach those trainings and trade 2 of 4 classes per semester for a part-time admin role in the Diversocracy with the main responsibility of finding justification for a full-time role.

      This patent careerism as a cause is left out of analysis even by those who decry deplatforming, the cultivation of mental fragility in young adults and mobbing.

      • neoteny says

        Good comment, Reverend. Public Choice Theory can be applied to tertiary education staff, too.

  2. E. Olson says

    “Nor is it the case that this pathological conception of higher learning is exclusive to progressive ideologues: Both sides too often ignore the fact that universities are shared spaces where people with vastly different views must co-exist intellectually and socially—much like at a party, or, for that matter, on a Facebook group populated by friends who seek to remain friends.”

    Where does the “both sides” and “vastly different views” come from? You mention the Progressives (aka Leftists) as one side, but who are the other side? If you are referring to the Conservatives (aka Right) as the “other side”, I would again like to hear of some specific recent examples (say the last 20 years) where some Right-Wing campus group has deplatformed, disinvited, disrupted, or physically attacked an invited speaker to “their” campus. I would also like some examples of campuses where there are true “Right-Wing” coalitions of faculty, students, and administration with enough power and influence to shut down a disfavored speaker – perhaps something like Hillsdale or Liberty? But again, even if you can point to some “Right Wing” groups that have the power to pull off a disinvite, have they actually ever used it? If you can’t provide some decent examples, please do not try to once again place the blame for campus intolerance on “both sides”.

    • X. Citoyen says

      EO,

      I thought the same thing on reading that bit. The two sides in that FB debate appear to have been left-liberals and progressives, inviting the question as to whether the debate remained civil because the two sides had more or less everything else in common.

      All the same, I think Kay is right that the reality of meeting face-to-face has a moderating effect on people.

      • E. Olson says

        XC – I agree that face-to-face usually has a moderating effect, but I see no recent evidence that there is any segment of society except the Left which is actively trying to avoid such face-to-face with the Right or even center-Left. Those of us on the Right can’t avoid the Left even if we try because the mainstream media is almost all Left, the popular culture is almost all Left (even trying to invade sports), and education/academia is almost all Left. On the other hand, the Left has to purposely go out of their way to find the Right, but unfortunately most are instead veering hard Left to avoid exposing their ideas and policies to criticism and debate.

        • Stephanie says

          EO, yes, and the constant refrain about online echo chambers is similarly inaccurate, at least on Facebook. Leftists are far more likely to unfriend people with diverging viewpoints than conservatives, and gatekeeping of groups on the left and right is radically different.

          You can tell a group has leftist admin because they all ask variations of the same question: do you use people’s preferred pronouns? This is the most common litmus test, but sometimes you’ll be asked about your take on white privilege, the difference between sex and gender, ect. If you answer “wrong” you don’t get in. Groups run by conservatives or apolitical types ask joke questions.

          Even the lefty groups without a litmus test (or the rare ones that let you in despite expressing the “wrong” answer) have a laundry list of rules you can get kicked out over. I got immediately banned from a purported science group for questioning someone’s perspective on transgenderism. Conservative groups, in my experience, are much less keen on gatekeeping and banning. A Ben Shapiro fan group I joined has 50% of its posts coming from leftists, looking to kick up an argument.

          The vigorousness with which homogeneity is enforced in the lefty groups leads me not to doubt lefty Mr. Kay experiences an echo chamber online, but in my experience there’s no such thing to be had on the right.

  3. Nope says

    Please fix the typographical errors. There are at least three.
    Cannon – canon
    Its – it’s
    Pace – place

    • markbul says

      I suspect that the offenders grew up during the time when children were told that spelling and grammar didn’t matter – just ‘express yourself.’ It’s a lost battle – no one cares any more. Personally, I never correct commenters, but I will call out professionals.

    • Sydney says

      Hey, ‘Quillette,’ if you can afford a house lawyer, then you can afford a copy-editor/proofreader. Should it be the responsibility of readers to repeatedly pick up copy errors?

  4. GSW says

    “Certainly, the authors of the letter are no great champions of viewpoint diversity. But…”

    I do appreciate Mr. Kay’s research on the background of this case, thank you.

    I disagree that there is, however, room for his “but…” defence of the SJWs at the centre of this embarrassing story (however qualified.)

    Regarding free speech in liberal democracy, John Stuart Mill had it exactly right in On Liberty. Let’s be clear — the sole alternative is various shadings of totalitarianism.

    In Canada, where universities are largely publically funded, self-interested and tiny private lobby groups of students, faculty, administrators, or alumni with ideological axes to grind have no right to decide the boundaries of free speech on behalf of the Canadian society at large that foots their bills.

    If the SJW totalitarians have a quarrel with the process that selected Professor Mansfield, then reforming those committees or procedures should be their target through employing the ordinary rules of internal university politics — certainly not an attack on the dignity of Professor Mansfield himself.

    It would be difficult not to conclude that Concordia’s Board of Governors and their senior administrative cadre have failed badly in discharging their public responsibilities here.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @GSW

      Well said and at the heart of the matter. As mentioned above, I’d just add to your excellent description,
      ”self-interested and tiny private lobby groups of students, faculty, administrators, or alumni with ideological axes to grind…” that these axes are employed to promote cronyism, divert funds and facilitate other professional malfeasance.

      The ” well-meaning but mis-guided” narrative. Is perhaps true for many who acquiesce to such activism but isn’t for that tiny lobby. Their pecuniary greed and corrupt methods must be exposed to strip them of the benefit of the doubt which drives the aforementioned acquiesce.

      The legislative changes they demand are not only or even primarily to cram their ideology down everyone else’s throats, it’s to give them the power to hire their pals without scrutiny and siphon education and corporate HR budgets to their own use. The policies and diversicrat positions they legally mandate are for the faculty who theorised their need. In turn they create mandatory training as revenue streams for the faculty element of the cabal and for administrators posing as ”educators.”

      Thus exposed as petty grifters, their disproportionate clout will be greatly diminished.

      Evergreen State College in Washington state is a case in point. Bret Weinsrein objected to a cabal of diversicrat administrators/faculty (often part-time as both) who wanted to change policy to allow subjective personal criteria to determine hiring thus enabling cronyism and the inevitable drop in quality of teaching.

      It was months after the Day of Absence that he was pilloried as a racist; a spurious attack motivated by his opposition to that policy change and academic credit was given to students who successfully did the cabal’s dirty work for them.

      Those students are mostly gone and forgotten now and another cohort of exploitable cannon fodder is taking their place. They were defrauded by the promise of a college education and in a bat-and-switch were instead were exploited to advance the monetary fortunes of a small number of diversicrat administrator/faculty.

  5. X. Citoyen says

    Interesting take on events. I rather doubt Nussbaum would be a match for Mansfield, even though he’s 87. Martha has a public profile because she’s a card-carrying Democrat who regularly says all the right things in the NYRB. Mansfield has a public profile despite saying all the wrong things.

    • K. Dershem says

      Did you read her critique of Mansfield’s book? It’s undeniably substantive, and in my view quite compelling.

      • X. Citoyen says

        Martha begins the review by citing the same revisionist history about the Greeks and homosexuality that got her in trouble back in 1993. Of course, anyone who’d read anything she’s written (before or after) would know that Martha’s has a bad habit of projecting her progressive beliefs on past thinkers and places. This has made her popular with progressives and liberals, less so with people who know better.

  6. Elton H says

    Deplatforming is required when a group that is not confident in its ideology or core principles. They are afraid of “heretics” and all those who disagree have to be silenced.

  7. Joe says

    “…administration officials trying to cancel a lecture by socially conservative Polish politician Ryszard Legutko on the basis of (dubious) “security” concerns…”

    Using security as a rationale to deny first amendment rights (here in the U.S.) is a re-instantiation of the poll tax. You want to vote? You have to pay. You want to talk? You have to pay for security.

    • ms100 says

      @Joe

      Which is why Trump needs to utilize his free speech on campus EO as a very BIG stick. It’s time to make examples of a few institutions.

  8. markbul says

    “an epic blast from philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum who really is an expert on the history of sex and gender).”

    What the hell is “an expert on the history of sex and gender?” Who decides who has expertise, as opposed to just doing it? Presumably, an ‘expert’ doesn’t just discuss a subject – they get ir right. Obsessive ideologues are not necessarily – or even ever – experts. Stop and think about it – what exactly is ‘the history of sex?’ The word ‘gender’ wasn’t even used as it is today until the 1970s – try Google Ngram to see how the usage took off. No, the loudest, most strident and persistent voices are not ‘experts.’ And when the people who agree with you are the people calling you an expert, you probably aren’t in that case either.

    • E. Olson says

      markbul – you make a very good point, but I think you are missing a key element in how expertise is attained.

      You are an expert if you have done one or more of the following: earned a PhD, written a best-selling book, been in a big movie or TV show, started a company and earned a billion dollars, AND express the follow views: Republicans are Nazis, men are toxic, billionaires are greedy and don’t pay their fair share, Capitalism is bad because it creates billionaires and CO2, Socialism is good because it is fair and equitable and will protect the planet from global warming, renewable energy is good and the future, fossil fuel and nuclear power are bad, Christianity is evil and fiction, Islam is peaceful, Israelis are bad, Palestinians are good, capital punishment is evil, abortion is pro-choice, white people are bad, cops and border control are bad, no human can be illegal, and diversity is a strength.

      On the other hand, no matter what your accomplishments in life, no matter what obstacles you have overcome, and no matter how generous you are with your own time and money, you are a dangerous, violent, discomforting evil person whose speech must be stopped if you don’t believe the above, have doubts about the above, or heaven forbid have research results that refute any of the above.

  9. Stephanie says

    Are we similarly going to have it so that no leftist speaker can have a platform unless a conservative one is there to refute their points? If not, this is a double standard.

    I like the puppy analogy. Retracting an invitation, especially publically, is hugely disrespectful and should only be done when serious wrong-doing has occurred after the invitation was extended, like a crime.

    I’m not particularly heartened by the behaviour of these alumni. Yes, there was less screeching, which is indeed likely the moderating effect of adult life and the knowledge they will all have to see each other in the near future. However, in some ways it is more disturbing that these people seemed relatively in control of their emotions but still lacked the self-awareness to realise they were engaging in censorship. Supposedly such educated people should understand that clearly, so it is chilling to read them essentially say “censorship is wrong and we don’t want to deplatform” and in the next breath say “but we ought to try to get rid of this guy.”

    The mental gymnastics befits a liberal arts major. Is there anything in these curricula that aims to teach self-reflection and self-awareness?

    Sorry, I think I prefer the screeching brats. They are more honest.

    • E. Olson says

      Stephanie – don’t you know that only the Left is on the right side? Hence there is nothing to refute, and certainly no need to waste precious school resources on inviting someone from the Right (aka Nazis) to provide artificial balance and confuse the audience about the only true and righteous path to equity and justice. Furthermore, just think of the potential damage to the school’s Leftist bonafides if some Antifa demonstrators accidentally slugged the Leftist speaker who happened to be standing too close to the Nazi target.

    • ga gamba says

      Only conservative puppies are the ones with teething problems and who chew my shoe. Presumably, LGBTQ whelps’ and puppies of colour turds on the carpet are not only ignored, they can be fabricated (or imagined) into grand book cases, opulent coffee tables, and splendid lamp stands to decorate the faculty lounges and dining halls. These are valued and celebrated turds.

  10. I am no expert on Harvey Mansfield but I did read Manliness many years ago and the one thing I recall always brings a smile: his approving reference to the manliness of…Margaret Thatcher.

  11. thatsmysecretcap says

    What I don’t understand about these things is who invited this guy? I probably believe in the unique value of masculinity more than just about anyone, but I don’t run a liberal arts college. Who thought that an outspoken critic of feminism was a good choice for a keynote event speaker? Something else must be going on here. There is no way that anyone associated with higher education is unaware of the sword of wokeness hanging over their head.

  12. Lightning Rose says

    These “colleges” are no longer institutions of higher learning, preparing tomorrow’s leaders. They are day-care centers for the emotionally disturbed. They are FOSTERING emotional disturbance.

    I have to tell you; if I was in a hiring position right now, I’d be interviewing 100% white or Hispanic men. Who the hell wants to hire malcontents? These “feminists” etc. come with pre-installed “grievances” and unrealistic worldviews that frankly I don’t have time to deal with.

    Workplaces have a job to do. They don’t care about each employee’s ideological cant or “special” status. Only Google considers that a feature–for the rest of us, it’s a BUG and we don’t want it.
    “Colleges” better start figuring this out, before they graduate too many generations of whining head cases doomed to their parents’ basement and lucky to get work as a barista.

  13. Mec B says

    It seems to me to be a chicken and the egg analogy. Basically you have to have heard or read about Mansfield to know that you dislike him enough to NOT have him heard by others because it would harm these students/snowflakes. But then hasn’t he harmed you at the beginning by just reading or hearing him in the first place? And if you feel that you haven’t been harmed by his words, why would think that his words would hurt others if they haven’t hurt you?

    Maybe they believe that others are frankly too dumb to understand Mansfield. In effect these elite folks actually think they are the “catholic priests” of colleges who pass along information to others only as they see fit.
    Maybe I’m over analyzing…

  14. Sydney says

    Obviously, the disinvitation-because-he’s-conservative is pathetic on the part of Concordia. But it’s the new normal, no?

    This was the bit that interested me:

    “In Sydney, Australia, last month, hecklers sought to humiliate and drown out dissenting feminist writer Christina Hoff Sommers.”

    I hadn’t known about this. I read the linked article, and was gobsmacked at this little gem that screams, ‘American SJWs in an airlocked bubble!!’:

    “At the time, Gay told the Sydney Morning Herald she did not know who Sommers was when she signed on for the tour, a statement she repeated at both the Sydney and Melbourne shows on the weekend.”

    NYT opinion writer Roxane Gay did not know who Hoff Sommers is? Honestly?! God, NYT is pathetic.

    • AesopFan says

      Did Sommers sing “Edelweiss”and carry a Jesus statue too?

  15. Gordon Smith says

    In a way it is about eliminating all “impurity” from society. To demand the removal someone from any public space is to be 100 percent certain of your own purity and be unaware of your own capcity to be both wrong and “impure” yourself. Any movement that tries to eliminate impurity and hence be unaware of their own shadow has historically not ended well.

  16. Doug Eaton says

    I’m sorry, but the gratuitous apology for the “current climate” is a stalwart defense of the current climate, which can be described as, “it’s okay for left-wing intelllectuals to be provocative, but not for those on the right.” The entire enterprise of lucubrating on an intellectual’s entire body of work to pounce upon one slightly contentious thing they might have said is essentially a left-wing tactic and underwrites the whole concept of de-platforming, not to mention firing, harassing, demeaning or general excluding.

    There can be no wishy-washy acceptance of de-platforming or the “current climate” as a whole because it defiles freedom of expression and honorable debate.

  17. Paul Burrows says

    This discussion really makes Canadians seem very polite even when they are being intolerant. However it is worth remembering that Dr. N. Rambukkana of the Lindsay Shepherd (Sir Wilfrid Laurier University) affair got his PhD from Concordia University in 2009.

  18. phoffman56 says

    Retired from academia, and never really spoke out about similar matters before, but I have long wondered whether maybe universities should adopt a change from public lectures towards ‘public debate opportunities’, at least in the sense that one would always have a designated ‘disputer’ with a definite, reasonably lengthy opportunity to reply. This would be awkward for graduation ceremonies, but not as impractical as it might seem. When the subject was something as seldom controversial as mathematics (my field), it would usually be just a pro-forma sort of thing, though the ‘disputer’ would be stuck with having to attend the talk. But even in physical sciences, having such a person plus an introducer/moderator/discussion referee might defuse particularly unreasonable people with little appreciation of free speech.

  19. Joana George says

    “She needs a certain ladylike modesty enabling her to take offence at unwanted encroachment. How dare you!”

    I’m so curious if this is true. I can’t make sense of it, but I do often get the feeling that men sort women into sluts and respectable women. The first get harassed, the second get protected. It seems to be oddly binary as well…

Comments are closed.