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The Right has embraced cancel culture Did it ever really believe in free speech?

Echoes of 2020 (David Ryder/Getty)


January 11, 2024   6 mins

The hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman has had a busy few months. Mere days after the October 7 attacks, he was calling for the names of any university students who signed letters blaming Israel to be added to a public list — to make sure they didn’t get jobs in the future. In December, he led the social media campaign against former Harvard President Claudine Gay following her disastrous senate hearing — tweeting more than 100 times about her — until a mysteriously-funded dossier documenting her historic plagiarism instances helped ignite a flurry of negative headlines that finally forced forced her resignation. Last week, he floated the possibility of funding the same research against the leaders of MIT, Yale, Princeton, Stamford, Penn and Dartmouth. He might even invest in a startup to do it for him.

All of this activism has propelled him from just another Democrat megadonor and lockdown enthusiast to the latest hero of the political Right. But while you can understand conservatives’ excitement at sticking it to overpromoted DEI hires at elite universities, there has been a distinct lack of questioning over his methods. Putting the plagiarism to one side, surely conservatives should deplore these tactics on principle: publishing lists of people guilty of political wrong-think on university campuses, abandoning the much-vaunted value of free speech, orchestrating pile-ons and demanding resignations on social media. This is what they have been campaigning against for years.

This won’t be popular among my many conservative friends, but since the terror attacks in Israel on October 7 and the divisive war that followed, the tenor, emotion and heavy-handed tactics employed to control the current debate across campuses and throughout our institutions reminds me of how the BLM narrative was ferociously politicised during the summer of 2020. Back then, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the people who lost jobs for incorrect political positions were almost entirely those who were critical of BLM or leftist identity politics. Since October 7, while the circumstances of each termination vary, the firings have all been of people holding pro-Palestinian views.

The departure of Gay, along with Liz Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, has given conservatives much to celebrate. Activist Christopher Rufo sees the whole event as a “successful strategy for the political Right”, while politicians such as J.D. Vance regard Gay’s defenestration as a decisive victory against DEI hegemony. But their original crime — the event that made them a target — was the refusal to crack down on pro-Palestinian activists in the wake of October 7, followed by their congressional testimony on the subject of anti-semitism on campus. The video clip of each leader apparently failing to condemn alleged calls for the genocide of Jews has gone viral worldwide, and on the face of it seems impossible to defend.

But if you watch the full hearing, instead of just the clips, it is very clear what took place. Republican attack dog Elise Stefanik spends her entire questioning slot trying to trap the university heads in specific logical sequence: first, do they agree that calling for “intifada” and chanting “from the river to the sea” are direct calls for genocide? They refuse to concede this point, insisting (I think reasonably) that both terms are context-dependent, and that students must be allowed to express political opinions even if they are personally abhorrent to university administrators. At the end of the hearing, in her final round of questions, Stefanik returns to the theme, asking in summary whether calling for genocide of Jews constitutes bullying and harassment and is against their colleges’ code of conduct? If they were to answer a simple yes, then every student calling for “Intifada” or chanting “from the river to the sea” would have to face disciplinary proceedings, so naturally each university head refuses to bow to that logic and continues to insist that each incident would be a “context-dependent decision”. Hence the now-infamous smirks: everyone in the room could see what the congresswoman was trying to get them to say.

In the event, Stefanik won the day, because their prevaricating clip looked just as bad out of context. She went on to point out the hypocrisy of university administrators spending the past decade training students that “fatphobia” and “using the wrong pronouns” constituted violent and dangerous speech and yet couldn’t condemn actual calls for genocide. The argument landed. But consider the principles that have been conceded in the process of deploying it: not only should the most hateful and extreme interpretations of every word or phrase be used when judging them, but speech is, after all, violence. These are far-Left ideas that conservatives were supposed to be against.

During the height of BLM furore, the far-Left pursued and cancelled high profile targets by inflating the risks posed by conservative speech. In 2020, James Bennet, editor of the opinion desk at The New York Times, was forced into early retirement after running a column by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton. In it, he called for the military to disperse violent BLM riots sweeping the country. Such was the political tenor at the time that the Times’s labor union claimed the article was a call to “invoke state violence” against racial minorities — the mere publication of the piece, the union claimed, placed “Black staff members in danger”. Bennet issued an apology and promptly resigned. And yet the column contained no demand for violence against Black Americans. When the National Guard was indeed called in to restore order by a variety of mayors and governors, just as Cotton had requested, there weren’t any instances of soldiers harming minorities. Was this so different from the current campaign against the university presidents?

The new mood in the political Right goes far beyond Claudine Gay. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his presidential bid promising a war on “woke censorship”, is now demanding the removal of Students for Justice in Palestine, a group his administration claims provides material support for terrorism. This may well be a radical organisation with, at times, poorly informed views. And its toolkit did appear to glorify Hamas’s paragliders. But rather than ban the organisation outright, would it not be more prudent for conservatives to address its insensitive shortcomings in the cold light of day? The Left has long attempted to cancel conservative leaders on campus who were accused of legitimising torture and advocating for pro-American death squads — policies that one might find odious but which should be debated, not deplatformed.

Where direct violence isn’t being threatened, shouldn’t we trust students and readers to digest and assess for themselves? Is it not the duty of a university to allow students to grapple with contentious beliefs and slogans in the marketplace of ideas? Authoritarian states such as Russia and China stigmatise and remove dissenting views on foreign policy on university campuses, broadly categorising any protest as dangerous to national security — Western democracies should be wary of following this path.

Even supposedly neutral academic studies are beginning to show some of the same motivated reasoning that has infuriated conservatives in the other direction in recent years. Exaggerated claims of racism have abounded since 2020, when a widely cited University of Michigan study claimed to have found surging hate incidents against Asian Americans. A closer look at its methodology, however, showed that the researchers counted every major public figure who raised the lab-leak hypothesis to explain the origin of Covid-19 as an example of “anti-Asian” racism. Hardly an example of overt bigotry.

Today, the highly influential Anti-Defamation League has reported a nearly 400% increase in antisemitic attacks across the country. There is every indication that antisemitism is on the rise worldwide, and that Jews are uncomfortable and unsettled with the rising heat of the argument. But the presentation of evidence must be rigorous if it is not to be dismissed as propaganda. In fact, the ADL study counted rallies and protests among its list of hate incidents, including a recent rally by Jewish Voices for Peace and other pro-Jewish groups opposed to Israel’s occupation and military assault on Gaza. This is only one example, but it is a prominent one that cheapens the charge — and by conflating all criticism of Israel’s government with antisemitism it ignores precisely the distinction that some pro-Palestine activists need to be reminded of.

As usual, politicians are the worst offenders and the quickest to jump on a new division for partisan advantage. Democrats have long leaned on fear of fringe white supremacists and minor hate groups to galvanise voters: President Joe Biden even launched his campaign with images of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, to draw a comparison with President Donald Trump. Now, Republicans are capitalising on fears of terrorism and anti-Jewish discrimination. Republican groups are flooding competitive districts with messages denouncing opponents for failing to condemn campus protest rhetoric. In a sad twist, the Republican House committee overseeing academic issues went from hosting hearings just months ago that proclaimed the “ability to speak freely to build one’s knowledge is a cornerstone of the American system and postsecondary education” to demanding speech rules.

No group better embodies this shift than Ackman’s conservative supporters. Gone are the days when appeals to “free speech” were a useful defence for them in the culture wars on race and gender. Instead, its virtues have been abandoned amid a climate of fear and outrage. Ultimately, this calls into question whether these conservatives really believed in free speech in the first place. And this, I fear, could end up being their undoing. For perhaps more than anything, in America, the past months have revealed how swiftly the tables can turn when it comes to censorship. Whatever happens in the coming weeks, however many more academics are defenestrated, the Right should be careful what it wishes for.


Lee Fang is an investigative journalist and Contributing Editor at UnHerd. Read his Substack here.

lhfang

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
3 months ago

Gone are the days when appeals to “free speech” were a useful defence for them in the culture wars on race and gender.
But they were never useful. That’s the point. Appeals to free speech as a principle by the right have always been summarily dismissed by the left as a smokescreen for bigotry and other unpleasantness. The story of free speech on campus over the last sixty years is one of a receding tide. The equilibrium of the previous two decades has been profoundly unstable: leftists are free to say what they please, while rightists on campus are fundamentally muzzled. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, free speech divided upon itself cannot stand. Either there will be free speech for everybody, or free speech for no one. This current arrangement of “free speech for leftists, restricted (or absent) speech for rightists” cannot long endure. For the moment, it appears, unfortunately, that we are headed into a long, dark night in which everyone’s speech will be monitored and policed–in the interest of public safety, of course. The one glimmer of hope is that perhaps, having been subjected to their own policies, left-wing administrators will realize the folly of their prior words and actions, and restore true freedom of speech, if only for their own self-preservation.
Personally, I’m not holding my breath.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago

I disagree. The point about principles is not that you adopt them when they are useful. You defend your principles always, and most fervently precisely when they are most inconvenient.
I remember during the heady days of 2020 when it seemed like the Left were the new insane dominant paradigm, calling on my friends to remember the days when Republican neocons waged wars on behalf of the military industrial complex, and tried to make burning the American flag a crime.
How quickly we can return to that!

54321
54321
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

“These are my principles. And if you don’t like them, I have others.”
Groucho Marx

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

‘Seemed’

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Graham- You’re falling into the Left Wing Motte Bailey Bait and Switch. You’ve been Mystified.

When the Right complained about “Cancel Culture” the Left responded with “Consequence Culture” claiming a right to speech but not a right to be free from the social consequences of it. The Consequence argument won the day from a legal standpoint. A private employer has the right to take action against viewpoints inconsistent with it’s values. The Right complained about the Left’s Cancelation behavior but most educated people did not allege it was a legal question.

You’re conflating legal standards with standards of fair play. Where the legal standards have been established there is no reason for the Right to bow to the Left’s culture war. A war that THEY CLEARLY started. To say, the Right has some kind of principled duty not to apply the same standard is playing into the Left’s game. They intended to weaponize this issue against the Right from the start. I see no reason to bow to bad faith actors.

Kat L
Kat L
3 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Excellent comments

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I completely disagree.
It’s at some level academic to try to draw a hard distinction between legal and social consequences. The legal derives from the social and (to a lesser extent) vice-versa. In any event, I made no mention of legality here.
My simple point is that free speech is the right way to go. Unless you can establish a clear and direct incitement to violence (e.g. “Dear Twitter followers, Benjamin Goldberg, who lives at 123 Jew Lane, needs to be killed. You all know what to do.”) then the Rivers to the Seas stuff is free speech. You might not like it. I certainly don’t. But that is precisely when we are duty bound to defend student’s rights to say it.
Engaging in cancel culture IS playing the left’s game.
In the long run, a principled approach always wins. That is because the principles in question are the right ones: they take us back to the very foundations of our civilisation – in fact to the story of Adam and Eve.

David L
David L
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

We’ve tried playing nice, and look where it’s got us. We’re up against people that have all the power and increasingly all the wealth.

We’re losing. Unlike previous elites, our progressive overlords are spiteful and vindictive.

El Uro
El Uro
3 months ago

The one glimmer of hope is that perhaps, having been subjected to their own policies, left-wing administrators will realize the folly of their prior words and actions, and restore true freedom of speech, if only for their own self-preservation.
You underestimate the ability of the left to mutate

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
3 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

That’s why I said I wasn’t holding my breath.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
3 months ago

Well said. I think mutually assured destruction is the only way out of this. I get very tired of people who don’t want to treat the culture wars as a war – that is how we got here in the first place. Claudine Gay is an odious person – a perfect example of how far universities have fallen – making her walk the plank was an excellent symbolic victory that signals that none of them are untouchable anymore.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

It’s a stronger position to hold the mirror up than to resort to t*t for tat. You can’t then be subjected to any subsequent shouts of ‘hypocrisy’ sent back in your direction.
Although of course neither will you be able to experience the delicious frisson of schadenfreude…

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
3 months ago

Quite right. The very idea of the Far Right getting into the cancel culture is abominable. One thinks of the H-word.
So, now, can we Far Right fascists sit down with nice DEI scions of the concrete industrial complex and agree to put an end to cancel culture?
Hello? Bueller? Anyone?

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
3 months ago

I like Lee, and subscribe to his Substack.

Having said that, he has gone *mega super agro* on the Israel / Palestine issue, as his Twitter feed will attest. He obviously really, really hates Israel, and the Jews. Noted.
…to each his own. But of course, it does cloud the analysis here.

In terms of this article, he starts by noting that Ackman is a Democrat (megadonor) …but immediately spins that, somehow, into a critique of the right …for like, erm, not disagreeing with him enough when he goes after a serial plagiarist and diversity hire… wait, what?!

This is not entirely coherent, in my view.

The right wanted meritocracy. So they are delighted when a prominent diversity hire and serial cheat, has fallen. That is entirely consistent with their beliefs and values.

Ackman was a leftist. But one who “got mugged by reality” and is now realising that there is a rising malignancy on his own side. He a Harvard alum, and he is not remotely pleased to see the college debauch it’s reputation — he any many other alumni are furious.

The ADL are so awful and deranged that I don’t know why we even reference them anymore (except in derision).

Lee is a very talented writer and journalist, but I think his extreme emotion on this matter may clouding his analysis. This is not his best work.

Having said that, I will continue reading his Substack, as I think he is very smart (and we are all allowed to have blind spots!).

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

I’ve been very disappointed by the response from Glen Greenwald as well. I guess it’s a good reminder that we can’t agree on everything. We can still respect the person, even if we strongly disagree with their perspective on a particular issue.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes, agreed.

William Brand
William Brand
3 months ago

The left started it. Now they are getting a piece of there own medicine!

Oliver Butt
Oliver Butt
3 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

Then we have descended into pure tribalism where it doesn’t matter what is being fought over, but just which team you are in.
I think the wild uncritical support for Israel, including exhortations to bomb Gaza into the stone age, that Palestinians are all animals, that they are retards etc etc, is just like the sudden adoption of feminism because they also dislike the trans lobby. The right is, very sadly, showing itself to be complete hypocrites.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
3 months ago
Reply to  Oliver Butt

Just like the left though, correct? The left are complete hypocrites as well, and in times of crisis one has to choose a side. I consciously decided to stand with Israel, not uncritically though, as I don’t approve of everything Israel does, but the invasion of Gaza is an act of defence that followed an attack. In essence, Hamas declared war on Israel, and frankly has been doing that since its inception, and now people are moaning that they don’t like the consequences.

I was appalled by the celebrations seen in Gaza, by all accounts these celebrants were ordinary people, in the hours following the attacks. Hamas doesn’t care about Gaza and the people; their goal is the destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews. Apparently, many if not most Gazans support this objective, and I want nothing to do with such individuals.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 months ago
Reply to  Oliver Butt

Or maybe the right has decided to start playing by the rules established by the left. The hypocrisy charge is weak tea. When people on the right talked of cancel culture and the like, they were told to shut up and stop with their isms and phobias. Now suddenly, the left is wetting its pants at having to live by its own rules, which incidentally is among Alinsky’s rules for radicals.

Kat L
Kat L
3 months ago
Reply to  Oliver Butt

Nah the only thing that stops a force is an equal counterforce. They’ve gotten away with this crap for far too long because no one with power would stand up to it.

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
3 months ago

Has conservatism ever believed in freedom of speech? Of course not, and the simple reason for this is that Conservatism is not Liberalism. Not even American Conservatism has been or is committed to absolute freedom of speech and of the press, the way some typical liberal like John Stuart Mill would be. Not even Edmund Burke, for all his Whiggery (which was considerable to the very enpd of his life), was foolish enough not to recognize the danger not only the continued existence of Revolutionary France (in whatever form, republican, bonapartist, constitutional monarchist, it didn’t matter), but also the danger posed by internal revolutionaries in England itself, and I have no knowledge of his ever opposing any restrictive measure taken by the government to suppress revolutionism, even Burke did die in 1797 and (obviously) did not live to see the final defeat of Revolutionary France in 1815.

You know what the problem with liberalism is? What always trips them up, and not only with regard to free speech, to many, many things? It’s the ridiculous notion that exactly the same laws and the same rules should always be the same for every single individual, without regard to the consequences this intentional neglect of the obvious, objective, inherent, inevitable, natural (in the ontological sense) inequality, not only between individual human beings, but also between groups of human beings as well.

That is an inherent and logical flaw in liberalism, and to the extent that liberalism cannot make the necessary practical compromises with reality, the problem for liberalism, and for the rest of us who have no realistic choice but to suffer to live in liberal societies, including on the question of freedom of speech, will be to swing from the extremes of absolute libertinism of expression and of suffocating suppression of everything an everyone. As long as it is symmetrical, right? As long as one, acts as if the maxims of one’s action were to become through one’s will a universal law of nature, right?

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
3 months ago

A lot of blather to cover for your key belief that people shouldn’t operate under equal laws but that someone – you perhaps? – would decide that some people or groups should have restricted rights.

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

You should re-read the post as it doesn’t appear that you understood it.

Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
Juan Manuel Pérez Porrúa
3 months ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

To paraphrase Ms. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who is reckoned to be a liberal (in the European sense, in the Millian sense) by supporters and detractors alike: La Ley es igual para todos, pero no todos somos iguales ante la Ley. The law is the equal for everyone, but not everyone is the equal before the law.

Laws, or rather the law (in the German sense of “Rechtsordnung”) is the same for everyone, as it is applied territorially, but that does not in any way, shape, or form, mean that the law (das Recht) doesn’t make distinctions between individuals or groups. A very clear historical example (and I refer to this for the purposes of giving an example) of this the Roman Law of Persons, which regulated in detail the inequality between Master and Slave, Husband and Wife, Father and Children, Guardian and Ward, and Citizen and Alien, and also, and perhaps this is the most important issue, how concrete individuals could move between these established categories, each with its different rights and responsibilities, according to their nature, because Roman law applied within a defined territory.

starkbreath
starkbreath
3 months ago

Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to be arguing that there should be equality between individuals but the state has the right to determine how much equality each person should be permitted, in other words a caste system. How would ‘concrete individuals move between established categories’ under the Roman Law of Persons, exactly? Me parece que sería mejor que usted hablara sin tener pelos a la lengua.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago

I respect Fang as a journalist, but he’s totally missed the boat on this issue. The right is not responsible for the resignation of these Ivy League villains, they were trapped by their own double standards.

How can they possibly waive away perceived antisemitism – even if Jewish students are mistaken – when they punish staff and students for silly micro aggressions? They can’t have it both ways. The right simply pointed out the hypocrisy – and that’s what it should do.

I also reject the argument that the right should simply stand by and do nothing while progressives destroy the institutions essential for a healthy society. I’m no fan of cancellations, but we should shout from the rooftops everytime one of these progressive imbeciles does something stupid.

Mark Gray
Mark Gray
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well said

patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Gray

I agree with you …she was hoist on her own petard. Where I do agree with the author is the over-use of the term anti -semitic and the sometimes hysterical intimidation of those with opposing views on the Palestine situation does smack of cancel culture. Survey data in the UK suggests public support for those with gender confusion and/or dysphoria has taken a big dip. May this be a warning to all who abuse power to intimidate opponents (and the apologists who are happy to watch whilst this happens).

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
3 months ago

Isn’t the point that, for the left, there is no true and false, but only power and the lack of it. Their’s is a “will to power.” The right is busy distinguishing right from wrong. Two ships passing in the night.

Bryan Tookey
Bryan Tookey
3 months ago

Oooh: a rarity… I like 3 types of comments: in 3rd place are comments that summarise my thinking but better than I can probably do (like Jim Veenbaas original comment), 2nd place is comments that present new facts to me, And in 1st place (and rarest of all) are comments like this: a profound insight that is new to me. Thank you for this comment @Michael McElwee – I like it a lot.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
3 months ago

This is precisely how the left has managed to seize power. They are obsessed with power and seek it at every opportunity. Those who consider right and wrong, and truth and falsehood, are far more likely to understand the dichotomy of power and responsibility and be reluctant to take on positions of great responsibility. The left consider themselves to be the good ones, they are social justice warriors, all they have to do is seize power and implement their ill-considered, frequently bonkers, occasionally evil policies and the world will automatically become a better place. The wise recognise power corrupts and take steps accordingly to limit power. The left is blinded by their belief they are morally superior and believe nothing they do is wrong as long as it furthers their aims. They use being on the wrong side of history as a weapon to beat others with and yet have learned nothing from history probably because their knowledge and subsequent understanding of history is so limited primarily because they view it through a Marxist lens.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
3 months ago

A good point. I agree with you that progressives are unscrupulous in their politics but I think describing it as a “will to power” is too kind. It suggests that they have some constructive aim in mind whereas most are merely concerned with pitting various groups against each other in order to lead to the overthrow of the West in its various guises. They are relentlessly negative beneath their deceptively amiable buzz words.

One of the intellectual roots of the “woke” was the disillusioned Marxists of the 1930s – 60s who, after the failure of most western working classes to support Revolution and the degeneration of the Soviet regime into barbarism, sought new tactics – such as “cultural hegemony” (Gramsci), the delegitimisation of right wing discourse (Marcuse) and gaslighting the bourgeoisie into committing political suicide (Freire) – in order to produce their hoped for utopia of freedom, equality and comradely solidarity in western societies. They have been misguided but they saw themselves as ultimately benign. One may disagree without feeling contempt for them.

Modern progressives have adopted the unscrupulous tactics but not the optimistic vision of a blissful end state. They are committed instead to never ending struggle between ever redefined “privileged” and “marginalised” categories. The disillusioned Marxists were prepared to break eggs in order to make an omelette. The woke just want to break eggs and, in particular, western eggs. They make Mao launching his Cultural Revolution seem like a constructive statesman. It is perhaps best described not as a a “will to power” but authoritarian nihilism.

Chipoko
Chipoko
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Very well articulated!

harry storm
harry storm
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Good comment until the comparison putting Mao (50+ million dead) as more benign than the current lot of progressives. After they’ve killed more than 50+ million, then yes, Till then, no way.

Chipoko
Chipoko
3 months ago

“… for the left, there is no true and false, but only power and the lack of it …”
A profound insight. Thank you!

bill norton
bill norton
2 months ago

Greed for power, the lust for debasing truth and its value is hardly the province of the left. Ever watch Fox News? Listen to Donald Trump? The left and right aren’t two ships passing; they’re heading in the same direction but following different maps.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago

Similarly the term racist is deliberately over-used to silence opponents

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s true that they employ a double standard. But the solution to that is not to double down on the bad. It is to condemn the first bad standard and refrain from engaging in the second one.
I.e. stop the attacks on free speech when it comes to gender, but also stop the attacks on free speech when it comes to Rivers and Seas.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I agree. Surprised at the downvotes.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I have no problem with not sanctioning students who chant about Palatine being free from the river to the sea as it is precisely the sort of vacuous slogan that some well intentioned student that knows little about the history of the conflict might be induced to chant merely meaning no more bombing and Jews and Arabs should be able to exist in amity in a unitary free state. I have spoken to students who think like that. The phrase is deliberately ambiguous precisely to encourage as wide acceptance as possible.

What the intellectually sub-par Presidents failed to say was that those actually calling for the genocide of Jews in a University attended by Jews should be sanctioned. The phrase is a clear threat to Jews. No need to witter on like shifty fifth form debaters that it depended on the context.

There is a good conversation on YouTube between Glenn Loury and John McWorter that highlights how Claudine Gay became promoted well beyond her merits. Gay was not sanctioned because of her opinions but because she was exposed as not being up to the job of representing the University. She got off lightly given the paucity of her publications and the extent of plagiarism revealed. She still forms part of the faculty and retains her absurdly high salary for low grade intellect.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Efforts have been made to attack the bad. How’s that working out?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

How on earth can someone compare those two issues when talking about free speech? Calling for the genocide of an entire race of people does not qualify as free speech. Case closed.
Don’t agree? Then substitute the word Black for Jews and see what happens.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

In sentiment I agree, but in practical terms, I fear that train left the station a while ago and won’t be coming back. I think the reality is that the conflict is going to have to play out for a while and we’ll have to witness some ugly results before both sides pull back and realize neither will ever completely defeat the other and they’ll have to compromise for the sake of civil order.

Ali W
Ali W
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I agree that the ideal solution would be to not suppress any “hateful” speech, assuming it doesn’t disrupt classes, etc… But if there is going to be a code of conduct restricting speech, it needs to be enforced equally.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
3 months ago
Reply to  Ali W

Precisely.

Simon S
Simon S
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Exactly. Plagiarism was a ruse to sack Gay because of the furore over her perceived anti-Israel position without Harvard having to defend their double standard on free speech.

harry storm
harry storm
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Agree about rivers and seas, but not when it comes to unequivocal genocidal calls.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Quite right Jim. The liberal configuration always depended on a precognitive shared set of values – rooted in Judeo Christianity and held in place by a high degree of civic National mutual identification. That has all gone. The vessel is broken. It’s zero sum politics now and the left has declared war. We no longer have truth universities as Haidt says but social justice universities. I’m an academic and I see this every day. Jordan Peterson is right. Those institutions are irredeemable. We have to build new ones. Into the breach … dogs of war etc

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
3 months ago

As a libertarian and a pacifist at heart, I am sad to say I agree with this sentiment. I don’t like the idea of conflict but if one side is determined to eradicate the other through whatever means fair or foul, and regardless of whether the ‘sides’ represent nations, religions, cultures, or political ideologies, then conflict is inevitable.

tug ordie
tug ordie
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Exactly this, the insane people who have been fed and are feeding our youth terrible ideas have been given unchecked license to operate for far too long and the rot has gone deep. The right and/or anyone sane cannot simply sit by and let them continue to subvert our society. I agree, some elements are not great (ruining anyone’s lifelong career prospects at ~21 is gross), but we need to both fight this ideology and provide a clear alternative. Progressive ideas make society worse, that needs to be made as clear as possible. I blame no one for not wanting it to infect their business, or community

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago
Reply to  tug ordie

ruining anyone’s lifelong career prospects at ~21 is gross
It does not stop the left and the media when the offender is deemed to be right-wing.

Paul Rodolf
Paul Rodolf
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Here, here! or is it, Hear, hear? Either way perfect comment.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The “aggression” here is a song. I think it’s clear that speech that made non Jewish white students uncomfortable would be fully acceptable to all, including Mr Ackman

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

This is the point though. Ignore the hypocrisy – who cares? (ever heard of the Tu Quoque fallacy?)
The Right either believe in free speech on campuses – in which case let the Left say whatever they want. Or they believe in qualified free speech – in which case they’re no different to the progressives.
The hypocrisy is irrelevant. What is the principle? If you are arguing that the Left are hypocritical if requires you to first accept the validity of their argument that free speech should be qualified. Which also compromises the Right’s own argument that the right to free speech should be unqualified.
I detest the debate over hypocrisy. It doesn’t get us anywhere. It only makes us measure the other side against standards we disagree with in the first place!
Personally i’m an oppressive progressive so think that the right to free speech should not be absolute but those on the Right used to disagree!

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

“If you are arguing that the Left are hypocritical it requires you to first accept the validity of their argument that free speech should be qualified. Which also compromises the Right’s own argument that the right to free speech should be unqualified.”
Sounds like unassailable logic to me…

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I don’t think there are many free speech absolutists out there, on the right or the left. Most people have some reasonable limits. Personally, I don’t have an issue with someone’s right to chant from river to the sea etc… I don’t like it. I think it masks a deeper hatred of Israel and the west in general, but who am I to say? In regards to Gay et al, the right wasn’t responsible for their resignations. Right wingers like Rufo simply laid bare the double standards. All these Ivy League schools are run by progressives. Ultimately, it was they who persuaded these presidents to resign.

Ali W
Ali W
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

and that students must be allowed to express political opinions even if they are personally abhorrent to university administrators. 

This is my biggest beef. I agree with this statement, but it isn’t what has been practiced in recent years. Students have been questionably penalized for “hate speech” at universities, and my takeaway from the hearings was the profound bias in these penalties. All we want is for the codes of conduct to be enforced equally, rather than used to eliminate ideological opposition.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed. In the same way that you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight, you must do battle on their turf using some of the same tactics. The misguided notion that conservatives can remain above using such tactics and win the debate has passed.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Not to mention the “conservative” he targets is, by his own admission, a “Democratic mega-donor”.

laura m
laura m
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed. Gay was not canceled, she was exposed for her academic incompetence and ideological devotion. Her prior actions against prof Roland Fryer and Ronald Sullivan should have resulted in dismissal.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Outing hypocrites and high priests ok woke isn’t cancel culture.

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Precisely this.

David L
David L
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

All I saw was some nasty, smug INGSOC leftists finally getting a taste of thier own medicine.

harry storm
harry storm
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

100% correct.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago

Ackman and other Jewish people are feeling existential terror. They have witnessed recorded documentation of their women and children being slaughtered like farmyard animals (worse actually) but, instead of facing condemnation, the perpetrators are being egged on and championed by a college he once attended and to which he has donated millions of dollars. I would be furious too.
This debate about free speech is similar to the tactics used against Christians. They get endlessly attacked and ridiculed, but when they finally do stand up for themselves, they”re condemned for not turning the other cheek. This article is pure gaslighting.

B M
B M
3 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

You don’t think Gazans are feeling existential terror?

P N
P N
3 months ago
Reply to  B M

I’m sure they are. That’s what happens when you go around committing acts of sadism and sexual violence on people in an effort to wipe them out. They’ll know for next time won’t they?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 months ago
Reply to  B M

How does that make what happened on October 7 right?

John Lammi
John Lammi
3 months ago
Reply to  B M

They voted for this

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
3 months ago

This is weak stuff. Gay & the others weren’t trapped into saying what they said, they were exposed for the racist hypocrites they are by their own testimony. That Ackman funded digging to prove the fact that she is a plagiarist is no problem, he didn’t create the offense, just exposed what she did.
The paragraph criticing the examination by Elise Stefanik doesn’t even make sense. He records that to the question of whether calls for Intifada or chanting that river/sea nonsense constitute calls for genocide, Gay etc. did not accept that. Then he says at the end she asked them if calls for genocide would require disciplinary action, and states therefore that the trap was complete – anyone making those chants would have to be disciplined. But he’s wrong, their denial that the chants meant calling for genocide meant precisely the opposite!
It’s as if the author conflates cancellation for opinion with exposure of facts through forensic examination and investigation. The former is bad, the latter has been the role of the Courts or the press at their best for a very long time. The truth got out, these people are rotten cheats, and got the sack like any normal person.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

Speaking of hypocrites what happened to those on the Right who believed in free speech on campuses?

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Probably homeless and unemployed after some Twitter loon got them fired for using “coloured person” instead of “person of colour”.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
3 months ago

Free speech disappeared about 20 years ago in the UK. UnHerd is now so bad that you know beforehand what will be allowed and what will be left out.
I am not talking about the phantom censor here. If I said, FOR EXAMPLE, that I supported the Palestinians, one of the members would red flag me because it wasn’t the accepted view on UnHerd. I expect this post to be red flagged because people don’t want to read how narrow minded they really are.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago

It’s true that UnHerd seems to be fighting a battle against the very forces it was supposed to be an alternative to.

Arkadian Arkadian
Arkadian Arkadian
3 months ago

It has to be said, they do censor comments here, with the excuse that someone flagged it, i.e. got offended. They do say that they would make it reappear after checking it, but that’s usually 1-2 days later when the article is a thing of the past. In other words, they make sure that troubling content is put on ice.

Said that, I think I would ban some of the trolls in here (champagne thingy, for example) because all they do is, indeed, troll. Maybe they should give the chance to mute people, so that you don’t see their “output” anymore.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
3 months ago

I honestly think that in many cases an approval is triggered by certain terms. I have had that happen to me; there was nothing offensive in the comment, but it did contain the word “s.x”.

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago

If you’re going to make that claim you need to provide examples. I have not seen any evidence of viewpoint suppression.

The only threads I’ve ever seen deleted were threads with Champagne Socialist when the entire thing descends into personal insults.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
3 months ago

Mr Fang describes Elise Stefanik as an “attack dog”, but how else was Ms Stefanik supposed to do her job? Claudine Gay’s legal team had given Ms Gay a script to read from: you can see Ms.Gay glancing down at it before answering questions. So Ms Stefanik’s only line of attack was to create a context in which Gay’s pre-prepared response would be exposed for exactly what it was, a vacuous, lawyer-provided, catch-all, fob-off phrase. Plagiarism and lack of control over campus intimidation were a couple of the charges against Gay, but a post at that sort of level implies you should be able to think on your feet when you are in a tight spot. And Ms Gay clearly couldn’t.

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
3 months ago

Precisely. The questioning was designed to expose the hypocrisy of “leaders” who use pre-approved and politically correct language in line with current thinking. No deviation from the norm is permitted. Ms Stefanik did what needed to be done to expose those tactics.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
3 months ago

The University Presidents were simply idiots and intellectually not up to the forensic examination of their opinions. It is very easy to say that calling for the genocide of Jews is something we would sanction but that chants of “from the river to the sea” are sufficiently ambiguous in their meaning not to attract sanction. No reference to context is required. They are simply pseudo-intellectuals. In the case of Claudine Gay the fundamental shallowness of her intellectual pretensions was subsequently exposed by an examination of her pitifully small and partly plagiarised body of publications.

It is nothing to do with them standing up for free speech. Few free speech advocates support calls for mass murder to be protected. What many and not just on the right find hypocritical is that these dishonest hacks have been previously so keen to shut down and sanctions trivial comments that question their ideology.

Ackerman is not a man of the right but a cancelling leftist who just wants this to be extended to speech that supports the Palestinian cause. Of course those on the right are delighted to see the left taking chunks out of each other and for a prominent over promoted DEI fanatic getting a very limited put down = she just lost her Presidency but retains the salary and lectureship. Not much of a cancellation compared to Kreigman who lost his job at Thompson Reuters for questioning the false idea that blacks are shot by US cops in disproportionate numbers.

This article is as shallow as the academics exposed by Congressional questioning.

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago

Being wedded to principles is the reason the political right has been losing power since the 1960s if you want to be generous, or 1789 more properly. Labelling the pathetic ADL which has done so much damage to the right as right wing is the most foolish thing I’ve yet seen written.

rupert carnegie
rupert carnegie
3 months ago

Spot on. 

The comments section of UnHerd provides one of the milder examples. Prior to October, it had been dominated by critiques of progressive rhetorical tactics and support for free speech and open debate but after the Hamas raid it was overwhelmed by a single viewpoint intolerant of any dissent. Many of the vices of the progressives suddenly became acceptable if practised by those supporting the simplistic Israeli line. 

One should not be too outraged or surprised at this inconsistency. In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, nuance would have been odd. In any case, free speech has always involved rumbustious debate. What surprised me was that the effect did not last a few weeks but persisted. I began to wonder if bots, troll farms or their volunteer equivalents were active. Allegedly the Israeli government has been spending a small fortune. I would prefer to think the UnHerd moderators were neutral though I know some doubt this,

It is certainly true that the methods that many found objectionable when used by the “woke” have a long history. I am sure the Athenian sophists and Cicero studied and had terms for these tactics. In the last fifty years, the pro Israeli lobby in America have been prominent users. It was adroit in building a bloc of unquestioning political support for Israel by various means. Eventually solidarity with Israel became the automatic Pavlovian response of the US political class. 

One approach was to expand the definition of antisemitism from hatred of Jews to include criticism of the state of Israel. Given the horror felt about the Holocaust, this conflation of antisemitism and anti Zionism enabled successful attacks on any opponent and delegitimisation of otherwise sensible criticism of Israel’s policies.

I suspect, however, that the Israelis are finding – just as the progressives are discovering – that ultimately these tactics backfire. Suppressing opinion by these methods works well for a while but in the end those views that have been delegitimised by word games and intimidation re-emerge in an even more vigorous and virulent form. Conflating antisemitism and anti Zionism has ensured that attacks on Israeli policy now lead to hostility to individual Jewish students irrespective of their views. In America, the revolt against the pro Israeli orthodoxy in the under 30s looks likely to end the United States’ unquestioning support for Israel. The Israeli lobby has had a surprisingly good run using these tactics; now they need to find some new ones. 

I suspect that the defenestration of Gay will be one of the last victories of this tendency. It is also noticeable that, if the initial motivation appeared to be her tepid defence of Jewish students, the accusations had to be framed as much in terms of plagiarism and DEI excesses as antisemitism. The latter accusation is losing its sting with the wider public through overuse.

Free speech and good faith debate are still values worth supporting. We cannot defend them selectively or inconsistently. 

As a start, we should invariably ridicule anyone who starts to redefine words in disingenuous attempts to win an argument or smuggle in a policy. Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – as well as antisemitism – should return to their dictionary definitions.

P N
P N
3 months ago

“One approach was to expand the definition of antisemitism from hatred of Jews to include criticism of the state of Israel.”
It’s extraordinary that a subscriber to Unherd, after the months of explanations, still doesn’t get it: criticism of the state of Israel is not per se antisemitic; however it is antisemitic when, as is usually the case, Israel is singled out for criticism for defending itself. Further evidence of antisemitism can be seen when compared to the silence over the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people due to state actions or terrorism in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and China, to name but a few.
Calling for “Intifada” or chanting “from the river to the sea” is full-on antisemitism for which I hope no explanation is needed. 
“Conflating antisemitism and anti Zionism has ensured that attacks on Israeli policy now lead to hostility to individual Jewish students irrespective of their views.” Victim blaming.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 months ago
Reply to  P N

Calling for “Intifada” or chanting “from the river to the sea” is full-on antisemitism for which I hope no explanation is needed.

That is rather problematical. Either call means taking sides with the Palestinians in their war against Israel, and cheering for your side to win. Personally I take sides with Israel, against the Palestinians. I very much would prefer peace, but pushed to extremes I would rather see Netanyahu and friends ethnically cleanse the Palestinians than I would see Hamas conquer Israel and redo October 7th on a grand scale. Hamas is likely to be the more murderous of the two. But taking sides with Israel does not mean I am islamophobic. Why, then, should siding with the Palestinians in their war automatically mean you are antisemitic?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
3 months ago
Reply to  P N

You are entirely right that the same explanations have been provided with minimal variation for three months.

I am surprised that you do not see the similarities between your style of argument and that of the “woke”: the repetition of assertion, the use of insults – racist, white supremacist or transphobe in their case; anti-semite in yours – the manipulation of the meaning of words, the refusal to engage in reasoned debate etc. To me, it seems obvious. I suppose we all live in our own bubbles.

As to my main point – that your style is about to become counter productive – time will tell. A year ago, when I said on UnHerd that the pendulum was about to start swinging back on some woke issues starting with trans but spreading into DEI etc, I encountered much scepticism and a few doubts about my sanity. It has however moved as I forecast. We will see if there is a similar swing against your pro Israeli advocacy by insult over the next year. Personally, I think you will need to change tactics.

P N
P N
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Nice try. I explained to you why singling out Israel for criticism is antisemitism. It’s clear, it’s simple, it’s not using insults or assertions and it’s widely accepted. I could also explain why singling out any race or ethnicity for criticism is racist without insulting you. I wonder why you feel insulted? Maybe the truth hurts… well, if the cap fits that’s on you not me.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago

You are fighting a ‘losing battle’ unfortunately.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
3 months ago

Not sure. Two months ago I would have been voted down heavily. Now detractors and supporters are evenly balanced . In two months time … ?

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
3 months ago

I have thought for a long time that the push to identify problems with the modern political state of Israel with antisemitism was very unwise. There are all kinds of problems people can have with a nation state, from disagreement with specific policies, to their historical actions, to issues around their culture, or problems with their institutional set up. In the case of Israel – as with a few other countries – this is likely to be complicated by the way it was established, which some people may take issue with.
If any or all of these are definitionally antisemitic, what that suggests is that Jewishness, per se, is connected to these concepts and actions.
I am not sure that is the road anyone should want to go down. I don’t think it’s accurate for one thing, Jewishness isn’t inherently connected to those ideas.
But what happens when people see one or more of those things as seriously problematic, but take at face value that the claim they are irrevocably connected to Judaism? It will not always work as a stick to beat people who are scared to be called antisemites into supporting certain ideologies, in some cases, they will instead believe that this proves Judaism is simply immoral.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
3 months ago

The simple fact is that the free speech argument during the early part of the decade didn’t work. At best, the left viewed it as very much a secondary issue, but more often than not, as a way of enabling hate (at least their definition of it). The only way to fight them, is to use their own tactics against them, and the results so far speak for themselves.

54321
54321
3 months ago

I find a lot in this article to agree with. But would raise two points.
First, I have long argued that many people of good faith on the political Left will come to regret joining in/enabling the rush to censoriousness. Restrictions on speech always ultimately favour the powerful.
In other words, this was always going to rebound on them because eventually their opponents were going to turn the same tactics against them. Which is not even to mention the inevitability that factions within the political Left itself will adopt these tactics against each other, as we’ve seen with the demonisation of Gender Critical Feminists.
Unfortunately the “cancellation” cat is well and truly out of the bag now and I doubt it will ever be persuaded back in. Much like how 25 years ago we were bemoaning the use of negative attack ads in political campaigns as demeaning to democracy but now they are just accepted as part of the business-as-usual of politics.
Secondly, Gay and Magill have been rightly “convicted” in the public consciousness but for essentially the wrong reasons. Under American law calling for genocide in an abstract way is almost always protected as freedom of speech, so yes, it should be context-dependent. (In the UK the law is different and it would likely be incitement.) If Gay and Magill were indeed good faith defenders of freedom of speech they would have been entirely right to respond something like:
“Our institutions defend the right and principle of freedom of speech enshrined in the US Constitution and defined under US law. Any speech made on our campus will be judged by those standards.”
But it is blindingly obvious to anyone who has been paying attention that they are not good faith defenders of freedom of speech. They and their institutions are avid promoters and enablers of speech codes, “words are violence” censoriousness and the whole panoply of restrictions with which Progressives have sought to defeat their political opponents. Fundamentally this is why their freedom of speech defence was so half-arsed and landed so badly. They didn’t believe it as they were saying it and nor did anyone else who has been paying the slightest attention.

Dominic A
Dominic A
3 months ago
Reply to  54321

Gay et al selectively apply either ‘the rules of schools’ (duty of care, in loco parentis etc), or the adult rules (free speech etc) – whichever best supports the truth, their politics, their standing with the students; their standing with the feared SJWs.

Chris Maille
Chris Maille
3 months ago

There is a little difference between the many fired BLM critics and the two (two, due, dos, deux, zwei …, one and another one, not three, or more, just two) fired DEI bureaucrats: the fired BLM critics spoke out in defense of reason, whereas the TWO fired DEI bureaucrats were fired because of actual misdemeanor (plagiarism in one case of TWO) and the unbelievable hypocrisy to defend calls for the genocide of Jews with free speech, after having banned, cancelled and destroyed countless people for not more than questioning the DEI ideology.
DEI is a cancer and it needs to be excluded from polite society as quickly as possible. It is a destructive and harmful ideology whereas criticizing racial riots is NOT harmful.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
3 months ago

The Congressional investigations of university policies is more concerning. I don’t have a problem with a private person campaigning against a well-funded and powerful group of activists.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Lillian Fry

If schools receive govt funding, politicians should have the right to critique the way that money is being spent.

Richard C
Richard C
3 months ago

A prime example of a false equivalence.
Claudine Gray failed at her job, cost the university hundreds of millions in contributions and as a plagiarist brough Harvard into disrepute.
A ridiculous article.

P N
P N
3 months ago

“…he was calling for the names of any university students who signed letters blaming Israel to be added to a public list…”
How has that got anything to do with cancel culture? It’s the exact opposite. The signatories are having their opinions made public; they are being pushed into the spotlight, not hidden away. It’s their own fault if these opinions are abhorrent. The right doesn’t need to cancel the left, it just needs to expose the left so that people can see what they’re really like.
Calling for “intifada” and chanting “from the river to the sea” are not “context dependent”. They are blatant incitements to violence and illegal under English law.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 months ago

Unfortunately these days there is no place for rational balanced debate in the wider public arena – there is just no patience for listening to / reading long winded nuanced arguments. It is all short tweets and video clips. The woke worked this out and weaponised it a long time ago. The anti woke have finally cottoned on to the same tactic.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
3 months ago

Those “neo-Nazis” in Charlottesville were federal agents and their paid actors. This entire article gets everything else wrong, too.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 months ago

I assume that is tongue in cheek or have you been watching too much Alex Jones or like minded individuals

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

About half of the far right extremists you’ve ever seen are informants or actual state employees.
https://theweek.com/michigan/1012357/jury-acquits-2-men-in-plot-to-kidnap-michigan-governor-the-normalization-of

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

This Michigan case is a clear example of the Dems weaponizing the security state to influence the election. The FBI announced the charges Oct. 20 during the election campaign. Biden immediately used this to scare voters about the extremism of MAGA. It was only after the election that we learned most of thf people involved were FBI informants.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 months ago

This won’t be popular among my many conservative friends,
You mean the people who notice how you said next to nothing for several years while the left was engaging in the very tactic you now find objectionable? No, I suspect your convenient awakening won’t be popular at all, but that’s how it goes. Anyway, the right is not responsible for Claudine Gay’s words or actions or her underserved elevation to Harvard leadership, nor is it responsible for the other academics who don’t have a problem with genocide, so long as it’s aimed toward certain groups.
Gone are the days when appeals to “free speech” were a useful defence for them in the culture wars on race and gender. 
The days of free speech died when Team Biden climbed into bed with the social media platforms and began silencing dissenting voices on Covid, Hunter’s laptop, and other issues. The days of free speech died when the legacy media willingly went along with the shutdown of inconvenient ideas and thoughts. The days of free speech died when the campus became an activist zone rather than an institution of higher learning.
Please stop with the sanctimony and the pearl-clutching. The left has done this for years but it’s only now a problem because the right has decided to play by the same rules? I have no time for that sort of thinking. It’s a bit like all the progressive Jews who suddenly realized that DEI meant attacks on them, too. They were silent, even acquiescent, when the mob was attacking random whites, males in general, and anything resembling a conservative. Like Fang, many of them are not being guided by any principle; they’re just upset that the monster they tolerated and often supported has turned its sights on them.

Chipoko
Chipoko
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

“It’s a bit like all the progressive Jews who suddenly realized that DEI meant attacks on them, too. They were silent, even acquiescent, when the mob was attacking random whites, males in general, and anything resembling a conservative.”
I have many valued Jewish friends around the world and respect the Jewish faith and culture. Israel is a democratic nation, created under the auspices of the United Nations, that deserves the support of the western democracies, such as they are in the Woke Era. However, it is also true to observe that many of the progressives that spearheaded the Woke revolution (from Marx onwards) have been Jews, not least those at leading universities in the USA and elsewhere. Perhaps these individuals in recent times are now beginning to appreciate the vicious nature of DEI and the Cancel Culture, and the evil they have nurtured in the long march through the institutions.
The revolution eats its children!

Peter Spurrier
Peter Spurrier
3 months ago

A good article, I think. If we are genuinely in favour of freedom of speech, we will tolerate the expression of views that we hate.

P N
P N
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter Spurrier

Provided such expressions do not include incitement to violence, which these clearly do.
There is also a difference between censoring speech and shining a light on speech. Providing a list of the signatories of a letter is shining a light on speech. The signatories should be grateful their views are being more widely publicised.

Guy Haynes
Guy Haynes
3 months ago

I’m sure that the Free Speech argument is being used as a tool by some on the right, just as it has been on the left in the past. I’m equally sure that many of those on the left shouting loudest for cancellation of consevative voices had previously played the Free Speech card for all it was worth when the prevailing narrative didn’t match their beliefs.

So the question is surely this – if you genuinely belief in the tenets of free speech (as I do for what it’s worth), is the best way to achieve your goal (1) to earnestly make your case every time the Left drives someone else out of polite society, or (2) show them the hard way that censorship is a truly awful thing by making them play by their own rules?

I’m no fan of Saul Alinsky, but several years of anecdotal evidence seems to show that option (1) has been pretty ineffectual, whereas option (2) might have a much greater chance of success.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
3 months ago
Reply to  Guy Haynes

Your option “2” though immediately does two things.
1) It undermines the principle you are trying to uphold, which is a moral contradiction.
2) It opens you in turn to the accusation of hypocrisy, and worse, it’s a completely accurate accusation. Essentially it is doing what you are accusing people like Gay of doing.
AT that point, there is no winner, right and left are simply mirror images of each other, out for power with no real principles involved. Who “wins” then?

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
3 months ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

Same as it ever was.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
3 months ago

“I don’t want an anti-Semite working for my company” is not cancellation. The students can still say whatever they want, and employers are free to accept or reject that student as they wish.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

Does that work if you substitute the word N*GGER for “anti-Semite”?

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
3 months ago

That analogy doesn’t work. The proper substitute would be not wanting to hire someone who calls for the death of black people publicly. Freedom of association.

Carissa Pavlica
Carissa Pavlica
3 months ago

Those comments and slogans are not context dependent when the very universities where they are chanting them provided their context for saying them. The only way for a true debate, one that doesn’t include calling for annihilation of one group over the other, is that both groups are explored reasonably and without bias. Bias is the key, and university students receive it heavyhandedly, making them unable to perceive the nuances of either history or the present.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
3 months ago

“…political wrong-think“?????
Seriously???????? Since when is calling for Jews to be exterminated “political wrong-think”? Conflating this with questioning the wisdom of shutting down the global economy, or whether masking should be mandated is simply demented.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
3 months ago

With all respect, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. For decades, the left has been on a quasi-religious crusade against racism, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, etc. I can still remember a few days after the 9/11 attacks prominent left leaning politicians publicly fretting over discrimination against Muslims and middle easterners. The first so-called laws against ‘hate crimes’ were passed in the 90s to much consternation from the right. A couple of decades later and ‘hate speech’ policies on campus and in corporations begin to pop up. We’re already rolling down the slippery slope that leads to the end of free speech, and it all came from the same place. I’m loathe to use the ‘they started it’ argument, but this is a rather extreme case.

The fact is, the right largely took the free speech libertarian approach for most of this time, and they lost ground continually. Grassroots anger built. It didn’t break into main stream politics because party leaders kept it out of view and limited candidates who toed the party line. Along comes Donald Trump who has no respect for anyone or anything but himself. He broke all the unwritten rules and defeated the party leaders and suddenly all the backlash against ‘wokeness’ ‘diversity’ ‘multiculturalism’ is no longer constrained to the far reaches of the internet and talk radio. Now it’s front and center of the party agenda. It’s an unfortunate, but probably inevitable development. It’s not possible to engage in the sort of cultural crusading the left attempted without triggering an equally vicious response. Naturally, given an obvious opportunity to hoist an opponent on their own petard, the Trump wing of the Republican party was going to take it. Ten years ago the entire hullabaloo over the student marches supporting Palestine might have been quietly ignored, but not now. Now there are no guardrails, no norms, no mores, no unwritten rules of decorum that anybody respects. In their attempt to redefine and game those rules, the left has gotten it all thrown out the window. Humanity often creates its own monsters, and the Frankenstein of ideological intolerance is more a monster of the left than of the right.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to put this toothpaste back in the tube. For better or worse, the accepted norms of 2010 are gone forever. Now the conflict must play out for better or for worse. Whether new norms and new standards emerge from the damage the conflict causes remains to be seen.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The fact is, the right largely took the free speech libertarian approach for most of this time, and they lost ground continually.
As the pendulum is wont to do, it has now become its inevitable swing back and will land on roughly the same point on the other side of the middle. As you point out, the rules have changed and no amount of wishing is going to change that, at least not any time soon. It’s comical how authors like Fang twist themselves into knots because one side responds to the new rules while ignoring the side that created them. Spare me the hysterical cries of “hypocrisy.” Being civil did not work. Warning that the targets would eventually fire back did not work, either. And here we are.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Well said.

David Yetter
David Yetter
3 months ago

One of the people from your side of the Pond that the American Conservative movement that was enlivened by William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review back in the days of the Cold War always held with great respect and admiration was Lord Acton. In regard to the question about the Right respecting free speech, two things must be borne in mind. One is summed up by a quotation from Lord Acton I keep parked in a note on my computer desktop:

At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success.  

         

 — John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

The other is that “the Right” has never had any meaning more coherent than “all those opposed to the Left.” Those of us on the Right who very much want to conserve the American Founding have a great deal of respect for free speech. Some of the “auxiliaries” with which we are now associated, not so much.

T Bone
T Bone
3 months ago
Reply to  David Yetter

You’re getting twisted into the Left’s trap of perpetuating institutional capture. Free speech is a legal right to say something but as the Left correctly pointed out and set as a standard, it is not a cudgel against social consequences. The Right has argued that many have been canceled for publicly stating traditional views. But those views were inconsistent with the ruling orthodoxy and conservatives were effectively pre-censored or frozen out of institutions.

Complaints and outrage fell on deaf ears because it wasn’t a true First Amendment question. The only recipe for combatting institutional capture, is recapturing institutions. Not holding the Left to their own standards that they used to capture institutions is insane.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
3 months ago

This is beyond funny. The left has free reign for years destroying people lives for as much as saying that there are two sexes, preventing people fromo speaking on campuses for being conservatists, censoring and deplatforming everyone from stand up comedians to university professors. Then the start openly supporting genocide of Jews and finally some people have enough. Here comes “free” press: “you have no principles”. Mr Fang, what left has been doing cannot be cathegorised as infringement on free speach, they stared a war. And in a war all this BS you are pushing in your article goes through the window. We do not demand free speech, we demand that the scumbags, who spent their “professional” lives destroying people, go away. Cry harder.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
3 months ago

As an attorney with decades of trial experience, I was aware of the context the author identifies, wherein the university presidents were attempting to be careful in their answers because it is true that every utterance of slogans such as “from the river to the sea etc.” is arguably not an explicit call for genocide. The witnesses were obviously coached in advance to be careful not to fall into that trap.
It seems they were not coached, however, as to the way to best respond to Stefanik’s baseline simpler question about specific calls for genocide. The witnesses stuck to their script but the script was inadequate in this scenario. An intelligent, careful answer would have been to say something like “Of course, explicit calls for the murder of Jewish people, or of any group, would violate our policies against bullying.” Stefanik would then have had to get back into the weeds of discussing exactly when non-explicit language is definitely a call for violence/murder/genocide. According to Stefanik—and this makes sense to me as someone who has participated in countless hearings—Stefanik’s questioning strategy was to ask the first question about genocide as a baseline, thinking that the witnesses would of course have to agree that calls for genocide were wrong. Stefanik was then going to move on to questions designed to show that “from the river to the sea” etc. ARE calls for genocide. That’s when the “context” answers by the witnesses would have come into play.
Instead, the witnesses stuck to the script that was designed to avoid being held responsible for not punishing “from the river to the sea” types of expression—they should have recognized that this was a different type of question, and then turned the general genocide question into an opportunity to show that their colleges did not endorse calling for the murder of any person or group.

SIMON WOLF
SIMON WOLF
3 months ago

Woke totalitarians have taken over amongst every public institution and many corporations in the UK despite the UK Govt being run for the last 13 years by ‘liberal conservatives’ who choose to play defence for years.
It is now with ethnic conservatives like Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman who stand upto the woke totalitarians that things have became to change.
Contrary to this article Elize Stefanik was brillant and it is because of her that Gay and Magill had to go.If Fang had been in Elize’s shoes (or Kemi and Suella) then nothing would have changed

G M
G M
3 months ago

I think Fang misses the point of what is happening.

It’s like saying during WW2 both the allies and the Axis used guns so they’re both equally bad.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago

“The Right should be careful what it wishes for.”
For year we have seen people thrown under the bus by the left-wing media for minor infractions who then rejoice their victory.
All the protestations made not a jot of difference.
What alternative is there?

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
3 months ago

Thank you. A very interesting article.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
3 months ago

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Old saying.

Tony Coren
Tony Coren
3 months ago

Attack dog? I didn’t see her patient insistent polite questioning that way. That’s a dog whistle by Fang (pun intended) if ever there was one
But ..bottom line, when your enemies fight dirty, its entirely reasonable useful & effective to give them a taste of their own medecine
As Private Mainwaring in Dad’s Army used to say: “they don’t like it up ’em them Germans do they.”

Kat L
Kat L
3 months ago

Aside the ridiculous attempt to equate the two completely different circumstances, the only thing that stops the left is an equally forceful punch in the nose from the right. As soon as they see that they will be forced to live with the rules they wrote they will cease being bullies. They have to be routed out utterly. The conservatives have sat wringing their hands for far too long.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 months ago

As Orwell pointed out The Left Wing Middle Class sneered at physical courage, patriotism and British culture which included competitive sports and the willingness to debate. The vast majority of the Left Wing Middle Class are physically feeble and hate contact sports ; where are the boxers and rugby players? Most LWMC hate overcoming physical challenges so few are in heavy engineering- mining, construction, oil, heavy mechanical. Consequently, the LWMC wish to becomer dominant without physical and intellectual competition, so they remove it. The LWMC who was a mining engineer who boxed and played Rugby League was extremely rare.
Most LWMC support Darwin yet they ignore the fact that evolution favours the organism which adapts fastest to the new environment. Africa cooled down and the rainfall was reduced 5 M years ago and the jungle decreased in area. Our ancestors adapted to the large areas of grassland by becoming bipedal. This means one can cover four times the distance on the same amount of food compared to primates who walk on four limbs.
Various courtiers said Canute so powerful he could control the sea. To prove them wrong Canute had his throne placed below high tide and ordered the sea not to come in. He failed as he expected and proved his courtiers wrong.
The LWMC believe they can outwit, the Universe and the Laws which control it by cancelling those they disagree with; they cannot.

harry storm
harry storm
3 months ago

There’s a huge logic fail in this article with regard to the hearing that led to the resignations of the Ivy League presidents. First the author notes that the presidents “refused to concede” that terms like “free palestine and “from the river to the sea” were calls for genocide and stated instead that these terms were context dependent and that students must be allowed to express political opinions even if they are personally abhorrent to university administrators (like the author, I agree with the presidents about that).
But then the author says that if the presidents were to answer yes to Stefanik’s question about whether calling for genocide of Jews constitutes bullying and harassment and is against their colleges’ code of conduct, “then every student calling for “Intifada” or chanting “from the river to the sea” would have to face disciplinary proceedings.”
Why? The presidents refused to concede that those terms were necessarily calls for genocide. So why would the answer to the straightforward question about whether calls for genocide against Jews constituted bullying, harassment and was against the colleges’ code of conduct mean that students could be disciplined for using terms like “intifada” that the presidents specifically said were context dependent and not necessarily calls for genocide.
It makes no sense. Better editing was required.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
3 months ago

I have been thinking something very similar to this – the political right is going to have to be very careful here not to become what they have recently opposed.
There is a cyclical nature to these things, when I was younger it was more often the right looking to disallow certain ideas – Harry Potter books in schools for example, not because of transphobia or racism, but because they involved magic – and in my experience all human beings are vulnerable to the temptation to disallow freedom of thought. In many ways, it, and free speech, are unnatural to human beings and so they need to be defended carefully. And it will often mean allowing people to say things we think are terrible.
There is a particular temptation here for the right, because the left are currently so full of hypocrisy around freedom of thought, it’s difficult not to hope to see them hoist by their own petard. But it’s a pleasure that needs to be resisted if it means abandoning the principles oneself.

starkbreath
starkbreath
3 months ago

The underlying theme here, which Fang seems determined not to acknowledge, is that Rufo and Ackman have held individuals to account for morally and ethically repugnant behavior while the woke crowd on the other hand doesn’t judge behavior on its own terms but according to who the behavior is coming from. One approach is straightforward and clearly defined, while the other is built on a logic and science defying, incoherent and gratuitously vindictive ‘ideology’ that seeks authoritarian power over others. Woodward and Bernstein vs the Red Guards.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
3 months ago

Ackman is not calling for censorship. He’s calling for accountability, i.e. consequences. If Harvard students are stupid enough to openly support Hamas, they are putting themselves and their future at risk. Social media is like your personal dairy, but everyone can see it. Think before you post or join in some activity that may affect your future. Better yet, educate yourself so that you are not confused about reality.

Noraz
Noraz
3 months ago

This argument is fallacious. Everyone is free to express vile views (going along with Hamas narrative is vile) and, similarly, everyone is free to look at these views and conclude that the persons holding them may, or may not, fit in their environment. Espousing such views and then hiding behind a tree so that you’ll not be noticed shouldn’t though be an option. If you think these views are correct then stand up and be counted.