Peterson and Harris ... part 3


#21

I’m sorry, I think I got carried away after the first couple sentences and didn’t continue with the rest of your response-- I’ll have to revisit. Thanks.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #22

There is such a thing as a kind of academic McCarthyism that is very real. At the same time I think it is an illusion that there has ever existed in any society or period something like a “complete freedom” of exchange. Such an “ideal” state (actually it would turn out to be anything but ideal) is actually self-contradictory. Think about this: so we have some academic ‘utopia’ where nobody/nothing has their ideas summarily rejected, but all are listened to and given audience for as long as they wish. Somebody will enter said ‘utopia’ with a fresh new idea that this openness is a bad idea because people are repeatedly being held hostage to every bit of tomfoolery and constantly having to put down flat-earth promoters, pro-nazi’s, ____ (fill in your bad-boy list here as desired). Yet our ‘utopia’ is bound to shut our concerned citizen down because he is promoting the one thing they have bound themselves not to do: the censorship of anything at all. So the moment a society begins to have some notion that there is a truth out there to be known (science and religion tread here, among other areas of thought too), that is the moment that they begin to depart from shown falsehoods. And when they do that, those promoting those falsehoods are going to experience something very like censure.

That is not to say that all these persons now finding themselves in ‘dark web’ fringes are promoting wrong things. Assuredly not. But they will need something more than the age-old “sky-is-falling” academic alarm to differentiate themselves from quacks and conspiracy theorists who also make their beds there.

I guess, in short, this is my way of saying that I don’t really think there is such a thing as “free speech”, if that is taken to be at odds with any organization that has any commitment at all to truth. Free speech as in the speaker won’t be imprisoned or threatened for advocating something - yes (unless what they are advocating is murderous, predatory, … - but there’s the dangerous ‘rub’ right there - getting to decide what all qualifies as ‘dangerous’.) But here in an affluent west, most of us aren’t speaking of those levels of threat (not from the government, anyway). No - we’re complaining if universities fail to give us unrestricted/unchallenged platforms for our pet projects. And while that can certainly result in an unfortunate narrowing of university agenda, it will also be a natural outcome at any university that values pursuit of truth. And that hopefully can continue to describe the university setting, though I acknowledge my naive idealism showing through there.

When somebody brings ‘poop’ to the discussion, I’m passionately in favor of calling it what it is, and having that person removed until such time as they learn the arts of higher discourse and pursuit of actual truth. I guess that’s my ‘moderator’ side showing through here.

I do admire much of the caste of characters now associated with the “IDW”, even while I must do so with reserve, not having listened to all of them extensively. I’m glad they’ve found a corner where they can model for the world what respectful discussion looks like. And despite all my thoughts above, I am inclined to agree that academia has a lot of strong ‘McCarthyist’ style strongholds right now, many of which would not pass my own sniff test as regards truth pursuit. So I can definitely see both sides of this.