Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Oh Fantastic"

2- What’s the difference between politely arguing an offensive point and shouting it? Is one more hate speech than the other, and do we want the courts to decide such things? Shouting fire in a crowded building is a crisis moment, where words arguably becomes action, do we want to artificially create more of those moments? I don’t think so.

Some would argue that offensive speech can be harmful to minors; but even agreeing with that, adults should be what they’re called: “adults.” Life is and needs to be experience, and experience is often painful. I know rationalists are opposed to experience, but most people think that’s a problem. I don’t give a fuck if some whiney-assed neat-nick [sic!] motherfuckers want to take their ball and go home when someone’s rude to them, but I’m not going to be lectured on civility by a Zionist concern troll right out of the last years of the Raj. It’s your rationalism that makes you so fucking unaware of just what your words mean. You’re argument Professor B. is lazy and half-assed. Come back to the sandbox and grow up.

37- “Here’s a question for all the die-hards: is there a fundamental human (moral) interest in being able to use racist and sexist speech to express contempt for others?”

Here’s a question for you; and I’ve asked it before: who decides the distinction between offensive ideas –which I think you would defend on grounds of free speech [am I wrong?]- and the offensive manner of delivery of those ideas: between ideas and rhetorical devices?

What my obsession regarding this place comes down to concerns the indifference to the significance, literally: the signification- in the physical act of communication. Ideas are immaterial and general. speech is material and specific. Nearly every author on this blog ignores the distinction, as they fail to understand the justification the moral pessimism behind the choice for the rule of law. That’s why Harry Brighouse can ask a question that’s so irrelevant to the debate.

65- Harry Brighouse: But everyone knows that there are effective epithets expressing contempt for black americans, and there are reasons why there are, and people who use those eptihets in that way know what they are doing and why they are doing it. So, I agree that there is propositional content behind eptihets, but I think they are not, actually, propositional speech acts, and I think they are known not to be by those who use them."

70-“Propositional speech”
And what other kind is there?
Does the even tone of this article [Tyler Cowen on New Orleans, for building shantytowns] make it any less grotesque? By your logic you’d defend Eichman’s words but not Hitler’s. Why even try to draw a line if you don’t have to? Why police anger and not ideas? Intellectual conversation as teatime hobby, the Genteel Tradition lives.
The underlying logic of liberal defense of zionism is that liberals have the image of Jews as nice people, and the image of Arabs as something else. It’s social proximity and nothing else. Legislating niceness does nothing, and it helps to avoid the issues. The Negro Problem; The Jewish Problem; What Do Women Want? Why Are They All So Angry? Why Can’t They Be More Polite?
Because people won’t listen unless they’re forced to.

76-Propositional speech:
Banning not The Merchant of Venice but only it’s performance?
CB in the post: “Third, if we are trying to implement such a conversational ideal…”
impossible. You can’t “implement” such an idea you can only foster it. Regulations can’t replace people. In the same way the question is not whether or not there should be written constitutions and bills of rights but whether or not debate itself is fostered, encouraged, under whichever system. Constitutions force discussion to be in the form of variations on a given theme. Some would prefer their discussions freeform, I prefer indoctrination from childhood into the rights and obligations of democracy and near absolute freedom of speech in adulthood. But more important than speech is inquiry. It’s not the right to perform the Merchant of Venice that’s important, it’s the right to hear it performed. And if you don’t think there’s a propositional value to the performance of Shakespeare then I don’t know what to say.
And am I the only one here is is annoyed by the assumption that only libertarians would be bothered by these arguments?

98- But no one has responded to my points, which had to do with the underlying logic of the question, not whichever answer you end up with. Separating propositional and “non-propositional” speech is akin to separating political and non-political speech (and I think Bork or someone of his ilk has made that argument). And what about the difference between the reading and performing of The Merchant of Venice? How much credence are we going to give sensibilities of the professionally thin-skinned, and how long till their skin gets to be as thin as parchment? How is it that Tyler Cowen’s article on New Orleans does not bring out howls of disgust? I really have no idea, other than that people who know him think he’s a nice guy. Polite or not, he’s an idiot and an asshole
Since so many homes were destroyed, the natural inclination is to build safer or perhaps impregnable structures. But that is the wrong response. No one should or will rebuild or insure expensive homes on vulnerable ground, such as the devastated Ninth Ward. And it is impossible to make homes perfectly safe against every conceivable act of nature.
Instead, the city should help create cheap housing by reducing legal restrictions on building quality, building safety, and required insurance. This means the Ninth Ward need not remain empty. Once the current ruined structures are razed, governmental authorities should make it possible for entrepreneurs to put up less-expensive buildings. Many of these will be serviceable, but not all will be pretty. We could call them structures with expected lives of less than 50 years. Or we could call them shacks.
…To be sure, the shantytowns could bring socioeconomic costs. Yet crime, lack of safety, and racial tension were all features of New Orleans ex ante. The city has long thrived as more dangerous than average, more multicultural than average, and more precarious than average for the United States. And people who decide the cheap housing isn’t safe enough will be free to look elsewhere—or remain in Utah with their insurance checks.
Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties. Low rents make it possible to live on a shoestring, while the population density blends cultural influences. Cheap real estate could make the city a desirable place for struggling artists to live. The cultural heyday of New Orleans lies in the past. Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again.
And If you’ve read Eichmann in Jerusalem you’d think that he should certainly pass the civility test, even if Mein Kampf, or at least Hitler’s public speeches do not.
By limiting speech you limit the ability of the public to hear, be aware and understand; freedom of speech is much less important than the freedom to listen. And what about the fact of pity and condescension, the need of the strong to protect those they consider weak? Democracy assumes equality. What does that response assume?
Hate speech that doesn’t reach the point of incitement is a category that has more to do with the self-regard of well meaning liberals than the self-representation of outsiders of minorities. It intends to help more than it actually does.

Most people may be children, but for the purposes of politics it makes sense to treat them as adults. As in everything else, the logic of the lowest common denominator- of low expectations- is a self-fulfilling prophesy. What’s next, “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a model for the treatment of post partum depression?

101-There have been attempts to ban, or limit access to Huckleberry Finn for the use of the word “nigger,” and there are other examples as well. [and I think this is the first bit of empiricism to hit this thread. And then there’s the Butler decision] Since the record shows that unimaginative minds are often offended by any number of things, and given how argument works by way of precedent, and how time can alter meanings, we have to wonder at unintended consequences.

It’s always amused me that liberals who have no patience for theories of original intent defend propositions assuming that they will only lead where they want it to go. Once the state can define the meaning of a word, we get into problems.

117- “is there a fundamental human (moral) interest in being able to use racist and sexist speech to express contempt for others?”

As usual, you’re interested in ideas, not people; more interested in the idea of civility than the best way to achieve it. I haven’t accused you of bad faith, only of self-absorption.

You’re making the argument for dividing political from nonpolitical speech. You really want to do that? What’s the meaning of nigger in Huckleberry Finn? Of self-hating Jewishness in Portnoy’s Complaint? of sex in Lolita?
I think it was Kenneth Koch who argued that poetry is language crafted literally into a higher form. To which my response before thinking was to mumble Eliot’s cut and pasted phrases: “hurry up please, it’s time.” Nothing special about that except context. And of course he plagiarized not only from daily life but also from crap: “O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag-It’s so elegant So intelligent.”
Engels: ” [I was] just illustrating the difference between propositional and expressive utterances.”

Expressive: Asshole!
Propositional: “Asshole!”
Sorry Engels, it can’t be done.

You can’t be a philosopher if you’re not sure of the meaning of words. You can’t be a writer if you are.
This is getting down to the failures of American philosophical liberalism and its wishful relation to intentionality. If Naturalist Epistemology means never having to look in the mirror, it’s a recipe for ghettoization and irrelevance.
As to commercial and non-commercial speech, I’d have to run down all the possible reinterpretations of a rule and see how the meanings could be bent or expanded over time. At some point however, and this is what academic philosophical liberalism can not not understand, a society is not based on rules but values. Rules don’t allow for contradiction, values are dynamic and flexible, even paradixical. They’re made for elisions. If my multimillionaire stockbroker finds billionaires a little distasteful it’s because he’s been raised to feel that way. It’s not an abstract or intellectual decision, it’s simply a fact. He’s been socialized, as a social democrat.
I’m not interested in creating an enclosed non-contradictory formal logic; I’m only interested in a world with fewer Brett Bellmores (and Tyler Cowens). We’ll never get to the second without giving up on hope for the first.

133- hb, you’re talking about ideas, I’m talking about data. You’re talking philosophy I’m talking history. You’re talking about how people should behave, I’m talking about how they have and do.

“All things considered, I do not think there is a case for saying that the UK, without a bill of rights or a Supreme Court to implement it, is any less just or free than the US.”

I’ve been called a free speech absolutist, that doesn’t leave much room for a court to intervene. But if we were both in England we’d be having the same argument. I haven’t mentioned the constitution once I think. I’ve talked only about the principle of free speech.

I also said that it’s not so much judicial review itself as an actively engaged populace and a culture of debate that are of primary importance. I’m all in favor of making voting mandatory, but at this point I don’t think getting rid of the constitution is such a good idea. Nathan Newman argues that the reliance on judicial review by the left is a mistake. I agree. It became something of a fixation: the moral superiority and certainty of the elite. I’m not sure it was a mistake 40 years ago, but at this point the intellectuals are more conservative than the majority, and the democratic base is more populist than those who claim to be their betters. ['populist' was sloppy] Academic discussion is has become concerned solely with ideas. While the statehouses are slowly filling up with democrats, Brian Leiter pals around with Richard Posner and Henry Farrell chats economic eugenics with Tyler Cowen. It’s a bit like Turkey where the modernists have become the conservatives. And I say that as a secularist. But Richard Dawkins model of secularism is the Turkish military.

141- ” It’s like an exercise in rabbinic logic.”
To them maybe, and to you, but to others it brings out a (moral and ethical) requirment to examine the record:
What have been the effects of similar attempts and what have been their effects as precedent? How have the arguments been expanded over time? Not what “might be” but what “have been” the unintended consequences?
It’s like listening to an economist argue that if the data doesn’t fit the theory then the data is wrong. “It must be!”
And this is how to make policy?
I argued for freedom of speech and the response was a lecture on judicial review, as if I was arguing for the power of judges over the power of the people, or from the first amendment and not the principle behind it! I was arguing against the power of any one over any other. b and b are the self-righteous moralists. They’re willing to assume that the people are the state, and to defend the tyranny of the majority (or is it the tyranny of the “just?”) They’re assuming that eveyone will look to the original intent. And they can’t even acknowledge the irony.
Their rationalism and yours (and brett’s) all have too much in common.
“And THAT is exactly the problem with rejecting non-contradiction. A person may like to think that they’ve got some kind of moral/ethical principles, but if those principles are self-contradictory, they can be manipulated to justify ANYTHING.”
Brett, people who are entirely consistent in their lives and action exist only in fiction. think of Socrates or Christ. You’ve made enough arguments here and at Balkinization based on little more than paranoia and bile that no one has much reason to think of you as rational. And now you argue for the brittlest definition of logic. Believe me you’re not alone.
I’ll use the same question I asked last time this came up:
Are Jews in American culture white or not white [A or Not A]?
The answer of course is that it depends on context.

146- “The principle is roughly freedom from government interference with speech, which is a rather different thing.”
You’re quibbling. No one has argued for absolute “free” speech. I even called it secondary to freedom of inquiry: not freedom to speak but to listen. And for the 3rd[?] time, there’s the problem of the easy and lazy equation of the people with the state, as if were no (dark) history of that to examine.
” ‘Such people also tend to be eager to expand the definition of immorality’
This is just ad hominem…”
No, that’s a reference to the well known historical record.
“This is a straw man…”
No again, for the same reason.
” ‘Ellen Willis’ essay …’
This is essentially an argument from authority”
No, it’s an invitation to read Ellen Willis.
I linked to an article about the Butler decision. mq brought up McKinnon. I mentioned attacks on Huck Finn. There’s data on all this everywhere. Why do you insist on thinking that history is irrelevant to the discussion of rights and obligations? That’s the question I have for you and the others:
Why do you insist on thinking that history is irrelevant?
I’ll repeat that I think it’s because you’re more interested in preserving your own tidy logic and your own sense of moral seriousness than in dealing with the complexity of a world shared with others. You’ll call that an insult and I’ll say I have history on my side.
Why is International PEN is based in the UK, if there is no First Amendment to defend? What’s the point?
Oh that’s really a great question.

152-Abb. none of my questions were answered.
I am opposed to hate speech legislation for reasons I’ve laid out here. I am opposed to hate crimes legislation, not because hate crimes don’t exist but because officially designating them as such accepts the categories of otherness that we are trying to eliminate. I consider affirmative action problematic for the same reason. I say problematic because in some instances it may have been the only way. Still, look up Derrick Bell; or debates over school funding. Real estate taxes are not a good way to fund local education.
And as far as Europe is concerned, specifically Germany: no, it has not come to terms with its past. But to understand that you have to read between the lines, and look at post war culture, not just post war regulations. And this blog does not pay attention to gaps and elisions, only to confirmed sightings. If I describe German culture as numb, as autistic, (and I’m not the only one to say that) the response is incredulity.
Here is another example of unacceptable imprecision on my part:
I think it is all well and good for the people of the United States to think of themselves as “having an interest” in the reform movement in Iran. I am opposed to the government of the US claiming to “have an interest” in that movement. you can extend that logic to other examples, even within a country. Liberals assume that rules can be made to express concern. But rules don’t measure the distance for example between concern and pity, and that is the most important distinction in interaction among people. Conservatives think concern can not exist outside the family, and liberals think it can be legislated. Both are wrong. Liberals can not accept the fact of ambiguity in language because then rules would not be enough to solve our problems. The one thing liberals, who are individualists at heart, are unwilling to change is themselves. That’s why Brighouse and Bertram and others think only in terms of “ideas” because ideas are concrete, they can be measured.
The logic of this site begins with naturalistic epistemology and individualism, described as “true.” Both are fictional constructs. As fictional as the the pretense that laws are enough to make a society whole.

And as to free speech and corporations as people, I’m not the one who measures the social as as an aspect of the economic or as a gathering of contract forming monads. I described the process of socialization of my Norwegian stockbroker. He did not choose to be this way: he is not a rational actor, and never has been. He is not “free.” He is constrained by obligations within the world that made him, as we all are. And for an asshole, he’s not a bad guy.

And as far as being polite. I don’t apologize to members of the libertarian cult, or their drinking partners. I suppose i should just attack Tyler Cowen’s idea’s and not him. But these people are his friends and somehow can’t even condemn the ideas, because he is their friend. I’m sure some people feel the same way about Charles Murray.
I have no patience left. And I’ve earned the right to feel contempt.

154, Chris Bertram: SE: I’ve never met Tyler Cowen in person, nor did I support the ban on the Sex Pistols (“even as a child”), nor do I take kindly to people who describe me as a “Zionist concern troll”. I could go on with the further itemization of absurd things you have said in this thread. I might say “I’ve earned the right to feel contempt”, but “get some help” might be more appropriate.

Meanwhile, please don’t bother commenting on a post of mine ever again. Your comments will simply be deleted.

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