Thursday, August 13, 2020

Chomsky on the Harper's letter about free speech and "cancel culture"... 
...which he of course signed, but which has been controversial with the wokerati. From the interview:
The letter is anodyne. It's a simple statement that it's worth being careful to preserve freedom of speech. The main attack on freedom of speech was not discussed there. It's the mainstream establishment, which for years has been engaged in massive cancel culture.
Philosophers are idiots
A university must tolerate, and even welcome, those who follow evidence and argument to conclusions that are false or unpalatable; but it may reject those who seek a platform for hatred or deception. That is why it counts counts against Middlebury College when its shouts down Charles Murray but it counts in favour of Berkeley when it excludes Milos Yannopoulos [sic].
Universities would deserve criticism for rejecting a presentation by the authors of the Nuremberg Laws, but would be right in rejecting a speech by a rabble-rousing journalist who promotes them.

Similar from Farrell
The way that the Kennedy School used to think about fellowships, as Elmendorf describes it – which I think is the only sustainable way for it to think about them – is as no more and no less than a way to facilitate debate and conversation. This is one of the things that universities are supposed to do – bring a diverse group of people into debate, reflecting a broad set of constituencies. That Chelsea Manning is anathema to other fellows like Morell should be neither here or there – the job of the university is to provide opportunities for both people like Manning and people like Morell to participate in public debate, without necessarily feeling the need to pronounce on the merits of either.
Chomsky has the habit of answering email and I wrote him one. He might recognize the name. Family connections.
The authors of the letter you signed defend their own right to cancel speech they don't approve of. 
None of this is about free speech; it’s about acceptable speech. Limits on acceptable speech are a fact of life. That's why outsiders get on soap boxes. Normative assumption is a powerful thing. And editors are called editors because they have the power to choose what they print. But the NYT Op-Ed didn’t go through standard channels. It wasn’t edited or reviewed. It didn’t follow even their own formal process. And it included falsehoods that staff saw as blatant.

I wouldn’t expect the Times to publish an op-ed that didn’t fit their narrative. That’s why monopolies are bad and free speech is important.

I defend the rights of Nazis, but I wouldn’t expect the Times to publish Hitler without comment. And it didn’t. But the people behind the Harper’s letter think arguments for a one sate solution in Palestine are beyond the pale altogether, with no place in "civil discourse” or blablabla.
You’re allowing yourself to be used as cover for their hypocrisy.
He wrote back and we danced. Four notes back and fourth. The last:
-We’re done.You’ve never understood politics for the same reason you’ve never understood language. It’s not mathematics.
I’d like to reproduce our exchange but I won’t do it without your permission.

-You don’t have my permission. But I agree that we’re done.
I'll break my word, but only brief quotes.

He defends signing the Harper's letter regardless of the fact that the people behind it and many of the cosigners are hypocrites. I told him he could make the effort to defend the principle and separate himself from those who don't follow through, but he can't see the authority behind his name absent the fact of the words he signed. He can't or refuses to see language as a tool beyond its logical function. The false humility of denying he's Noam Chomsky.  Of course within linguistics he's famous for his arrogance. He said no one denies that the editors at the NYT have the right to refuse to publish an op-ed. He seemed unaware of Tom Cotton's piece and James Bennett's resignation, referred to in the Harper's letter without naming the participants. After I described the events at the Times he still denied there's any relation. On acceptable speech he responded as if I were making a moral argument and not describing a sociological fact. He said we might disagree about what's unacceptable, which for him meant calls to bomb Iran "now instead of waiting". He doesn't read; he argues from assumption, but now we know he thinks Iran's a threat. Iran is not a threat, but Chomsky's still a Zionist. Anti-Zionism still isn't acceptable, but it's closer than it used to be. You don't read op-eds defending it in the Times, but you will. Change takes time. Chomsky prefers the timeless; he imagines an ideal transparency in language and then in politics, both held in check only by malign forces.

I've said it dozens of times: post-war rationalism is a disaster. Chicago school economics, Quine, Chomsky, von Neumann and Clem Greenberg. Varieties of the gothic. And Chomsky began his career arguing that linguistics could be modeled on physics.

Cathy Young, recommended by Williams.
The other charge against Weiss — her support last year for a Stanford law student who denounced a campus event with left-wing Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley and assailed Valley as a trafficker in anti-Jewish hate — raises equally thorny issues. Valley’s work frequently uses nasty Jewish stereotypes and Nazi parallels to skewer pro-Israel American Jews as well as Israeli politicians. (In fact, he’s been praised by David Duke.) If people objected to a campus event with a black far-right troll who used blatantly racist tropes to mock black Democrats, I don’t think Weiss or most other signers of The Letter would see that as an outrageous attack on free speech.
Valley's book has a forward by Peter Beinart.

Chomsky now has a tag. It reminded me that Zizek already had one. And we had a more interesting conversation. Z's a bit of a fool, but he plays the role. Chomsky's a pedant and an ass. My mother called him humorless and a dry stick.

Chomsky: "It’s a truism that a statement is evaluated by its contents." It's neither a truism nor is it the case.
Serendipity (the ghost of Panofsky) and (comedians).
repeats  "the poverty of the stimulus".  two posts.

More than ten years ago an experimental psychologist described to me her experience and others', dealing with and navigating around Chomskians. At this point it's devolved into a cult.

Sept. 2022, Uju Anya and the Queen 

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