Friday, October 23, 2015

This isn't supposed to be a free-speech blog.

But here we go again.

So, recently, a Brown University student wrote a column for the student newspaper speculating on whether white people have an agricultural privilege. While stupid lunatic stuff is common at expensive colleges, it's the reaction that matters here.

In a bit of teamkilling, other Brown students attacked the first columnist, but not for writing something stupid. Instead, they attacked the columnist's right to write something stupid at all.

Of course, that's par for the course for the modern university. No longer a place to ask hard questions, it's not a place of play-do and puppy videos. But that's not the uniquely bad part of this incident.

This is:

Censorship has a particular meaning that has been lost in these debates. Censorship is the exercise of power to suppress challenges to the status quo. People of color calling attention to racism does not constitute an overbearing power structure that will limit free speech. The oppressed by definition cannot censor their oppressor.
This is a trick that was first created in the racial sphere: that one group, no matter how much they may express racial hatred or claim racial superiority, cannot be racist because they are "oppressed". ("Oppression" itself is defined along racial and ethnic lines in this context) And only "Oppressors" can be racist.

Here, the word is defined to apply only to the restriction on speech of certain policy positions and not others. So, according to this definition, student groups who literally censored a debate transcript on free speech aren't actually censoring the transcript, despite replacing words with variants of [expletive deleted], because the students are "challenging the status quo".

But the Oppression Olympics only count for defending Progressive positions, as "oppression" is not based on actual immediate power structures, but on hypothetical power structures that break down on political and racial lines.

A black student who takes a right-wing position on an issue in opposition to the campus dogma, the administration and local media is dismissed as having "internalized oppression", and a white student who does is part of an established power structure despite having every actual source of power set against him.

In the reverse, a student that parrots the position of the college administration, local government, student body and campus police is "challenging the status quo" solely because he holds Progressive views. "Challenging the status quo" is a kind of doublespeak for "holds the right position" which is often the status quo on campus.

So, in true Orwellian fashion, "challenging the status quo" means supporting it, being "oppressed" means having the power structures in support, and censoring is criticism of the non-mainstream view, not stripping funding from student newspapers or literally censoring transcripts.

Up is down, black is white, male is female, and you must comply and comply enthusiastically.

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