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The New Intolerance of Student Activism (theatlantic.com)
166 points by gearoidoc 619 days ago | hide | past | web | 269 comments | favorite



I found one quote in an op-ed in the Yale Herald regarding the controversy especially surprising and revealing.

> They [Erika and Nicholas Christakis] have failed to acknowledge the hurt and pain that such a large part of our community feel. They have again and again shown that they are committed to an ideal of free speech, not to the Silliman community.

It is simply incredible to see anyone criticized for having a strong commitment to the freedom of speech. It's all the more amazing that it happened in a newspaper and on a college campus. The paragraph (as well as the rest of the piece) also seems to acknowledge that the demands of the protesters are at odds with the rest of the community's right to free expression. At a minimum, it acknowledges that the Christakises' position is one of principle, while failing to respect that fact.

The newspaper is offline now, but the op-ed was located at http://yaleherald.com/op-eds/hurt-at-home/. It's still available in Google's cache.


For those who have read the letter and are wondering what the big deal is:

"There was so much coded language in that e-mail that is just disrespectful," said Ewurama Okai, a junior.

I, too, read the letter, which was my impetus for doing further research of my own. It seems pretty benign and progressive when read with no surrounding context (as the author presents it), so I found it hard to believe that some of the smartest students in the country would have such a poor reaction towards it. Clearly there is a larger theme that many here are failing to discuss, which is the wide perception of a pervasive and ingrained culture of racism at Yale.

It's unfortunate but understandable that some students got so worked up that they behaved poorly and acted on emotion, rather than rationally, which they later did with the petition and various letters/articles addressing the issue.

We should be focusing on the overall themes of the argument rather than the specific anecdotes of what one student said or did which may not be representative of the entire body.

See my (downvoted) comments below for a more thorough discussion between myself and tptacek.


> so I found it hard to believe that some of the smartest students in the country would have such a poor reaction towards it.

Intelligence is orthogonal to wisdom. They could theoretically be the smartest students in the country, but even if so that doesn't mean they're wise or emotionally stable. I would recommend that you obey your own judgement here.


Occam's Razor. All direct evidence points to students being utterly misguided to the point where you're tempted to call it a mental healthcare issue, and you have reasons to believe this is an endemic problem in US colleges.

If you see a house burning you call the fire department, you don't start speculating that maybe it's a movie set.


"It is simply incredible to see anyone criticized for having a strong commitment to the freedom of speech."

That's because you ignored the word "ideal". It's not saying he can't have a commitment to freedom of speech. It's saying that he can't excuse not taking the students concern seriously because of it. Just because I like to promote e.g. human rights doesn't mean it's appropriate to troll every military thread on HN about it. Anyone can hold stubborn views and it's fine to do so, unless it's actually your job to takes peoples concerns seriously.

> When students tried to tell him about their painful personal experiences as students of color on campus, he responded by making more arguments for free speech. It’s unacceptable when the Master of your college is dismissive of your experiences. [...] We are supposed to feel encouraged to go to our Master and Associate Master with our concerns and feel that our opinions will be respected and heard. [...] He seems to lack the ability, quite frankly, to put aside his opinions long enough to listen to the very real hurt that the community feels. He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate.

Cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Ayaleh...

It's almost never about opinions in these cases, but about trust. If you're unrelenting now, what says you want be that when I have some other concern?


  And I don’t want to debate.
The sickening part of political discourse is how often people will eagerly explain their beliefs without any willingness to listen, investigate, or understand other perspectives.


In the particular context given, it seems more like an attempt to say "I will not submit to sealioning under the flag of reasoned debate".

Mind you, that's not saying that the perception of sealioning is necessarily correct, but it certainly reads to me like the perception is there.


I was not familiar with the term "sealioning" until I looked it up[1]. Frankly it sounds like an name you call your opponent when your not-so-well-thought-out ideas can't withstand debate or criticism.

A: I think the moon is made of cheese.

B: Why do you think that? Do you know of any evidence?

A: Sea-lioning! I will not debate you!!

1: http://simplikation.com/why-sealioning-is-bad/


It may not apply in this case, but it's absolutely a real thing. It's a method used by a lot of "polite" internet harrassment and forum trolls, for example, by demanding that people re-justify themselves on things that have already been discussed to death.

An example in practice is the talk page for Gamergate on Wikipedia, where organized brigades of trolls spent so much time re-asking the same questions over and over that at least for a while (I haven't checked if it's still the case) the mods there started topic-banning anyone who posted something already answered in the FAQ on the page.


> It may not apply in this case, but it's absolutely a real thing.

No, it really isn't.

Here's the real backstory of "sealioning": Group A made some assertions. Group B refused to accept their assertions. Group A decided that what was called for was yet another in a long list of mechanisms for dismissing and invalidating criticism. And here we are.

You can't just wave a hand, or a rhetorical gimmick lifted from a webcomic, and make your critics go away. They will never go away. There are still people who think that the earth is flat or that vaccines cause autism or that GMOs are dangerous. If you hurl abuse at them and find tricks like the "sealioning" accusation to dismiss them, you're just sinking below their level and making them look like the rational ones. A better policy: let the fools ask their foolish questions. If you are right, you have nothing to fear, and all the fools will accomplish is inadvertently help you educate the onlookers.


That perception seems necessarily incorrect to me, since the Master is defending himself directly against accusations from the students. Sea Lioning, as I understand it, refers to a person derailing a discussion to which they are not a direct party. To dismiss the defense as Sea Lioning would be to demand he simply accept your censure and bow to your demands, entirely robbing him of his agency.


> Sea Lioning, as I understand it, refers to a person derailing a discussion to which they are not a direct party.

That's what that email (very politely) did, though, didn't it?

However well-intended it was meant, it was a reply to "please be considerate about your costumes" with (to paraphrase much more bluntly) "well, why should we care about college students being offensive or inoffensive?".

It's the kind of thing that is worth discussing in the abstract, but it would be hard to argue it's not tangential to the original topic.


Did we read the same email? It's at https://www.thefire.org/email-from-erika-christakis-dressing...

"I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students."

The original email coaching students on acceptable costumes had 13 signatures from Yale administrators and faculty. Erika's email was NOT asking why anyone should care, it was asking why the students should not be their own agents.


You're selectively quoting the sensible lead up in the e-mail. The question whether student should be their own agent isn't relevant, since the first e-mail doesn't prevent them from being that. Rather it asks people to reflect on their choices. If she really was concerned about the faculty's control over students she wouldn't herself have tried to influence the students, but rather raised her concerns with the faculty itself.

The whole thing seems premeditated rather then fueled by student concerns when you consider she has written an article on the subject: http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/23/have-adults-ruined-hallowee...


| If she really was concerned about the faculty's control over students she wouldn't herself have tried to influence the students

That doesn't follow. Furthermore, she was signing her single name to her response to a letter signed by 13 administrators and faculty. If anything, her dissent might have reduced the appearance of a cohesive insertion of Yale authority. What I have quoted was near the heart of her message and sensibly supported throughout.

Her Time article was on the same theme of the insertion of adult control over Halloween. Is this supposed to reveal a "premeditated" crime?


I don't really see you making any arguments here.

* Her letter tries to influence the students she had authority over as her position as associate master. It was implicitly co-signed by her husband, the master. The letter was only sent to those students.

* Most of the rest of the letter has a different questioning rhetoric tone, of course no one can make you see that if you don't want to.

* The article shows she had an agenda and wasn't just reacting to the letter. It bring into question whether she is appropriate for the roll as associate masters since she apparently thought promoting her own agenda was more important than good relations to the students.


I just have no idea how he though publishing this rant wouldn't undermine his position as Master, especially since his wife is the Associate Master. The answer is he probably didn't think, which doesn't exactly work in his favor. It's almost like he is being schooled in politics by the students. There's a reason why you usually have a number of co-signers on these things.


> We are supposed to feel encouraged to go to our Master and Associate Master with our concerns and feel that our opinions will be respected and heard.

What's missing: "Respected and heard" does not necessarily equate to "agreed with." It seems more like these students are pissed that the Master is not agreeing with them, but instead is respecting and hearing their opinions while agreeing to disagree.


> It is simply incredible to see anyone criticized for having a strong commitment to the freedom of speech.

There does seem to be some kind of a racist pattern at Yale which I would imagine violates at least some free speech law:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/2015/11/07/purp...

http://www.businessinsider.com/yale-university-racism-on-cam...


Which "free speech law" would that be which is being violated here?


Freedom of speech and expression can exist as a concept outside the limited bounds of codified law.


Sure, but in that conceptual form they're not laws. The original comment seemed pretty confident about some law that was being violated, so I wanted to know which one it was.


Sorry, the mobile design has subtler indentation and I lost track of who's us and who's them.


I'm a little disgusted that this self-evident fact is greyed.


>>> I would imagine violates at least some free speech law:

>> Which "free speech law" would that be which is being violated here?

> Freedom of speech and expression can exist as a concept outside the limited bounds of codified law.

I didn't downvote it, but it's pretty obvious why it got downvoted.


They seem to be okay with freedom of speech for themselves, but not for the freedom of speech that goes with a reaction. Furthermore, why should freedom of speech trump community? We all recognize that in certain groups you don't just say whatever you want for the sake of it (e.g. try that at work and see how long you last); harmony within a community is important. Arguing for knowingly offensive speech/actions negates the importance of harmony.


Per the letter she isn't arguing for offensive speech, she's asking (among other things) when does certain speech (here represented by costumes) become offensive? A paraphrase: Why can my friend's 5-year old white daughter dress as Mulan, but a 22-year old white woman can't? That's a valid question. She's not declaring that the latter is ok, but asking why we currently accept the former and not the latter. At what age is the distinction made between "Oh, she's so precious" and "She's appropriating a culture that's not her own!"?

And if you want to go with community and what's appropriate. It's a fucking college. Colleges are places of discussion, learning and debate. College is the place to be offended. To learn why something is offensive, why something else is not, and determine whether offense is appropriate or not.


As a non-American, what is wrong with a 22-year old white woman dressing as Mulan ?


For some people, altering what other people do by acting super offended is the only power they will ever experience. The text of the offense is not important and does not have to make any sense to you.


I love this comment and idea put forth.


I don't know. But some people find it to be crossing a line. I don't get it, but I'm also not in a particular minority group (religious minority in my area, but I don't get upset about sexy nun costumes) that's commonly discriminated against.

Some people might see it as cultural appropriation. But it's a fictional character. Similarly, my ex-girlfriend often (with the approval of her Taiwanese and Chinese friends) dressed in some traditional Chinese outfits for Halloween for several years. None took offense, they encouraged it!

It's really hard to tell what's going to offend and what's not.


The concept of cultural appropriation as somehow offensive is misguided in my opinion, but

"with the approval of her Taiwanese and Chinese friends"

Is the wrong argument to make. It's the equivalent of "I say offensive black jokes around my black friends and they think it's funny."


The aggrieved always initially present their offense as being representative of the entire community of x. Saying "my friends are OK with it" is a way of saying "you don't speak for all X" and puts them in a position of replying "well maybe the people who know you best and live in your community aren't offended, but they should be according to this essay on critical race theory.


The idea of Chinese people being a "minority group" makes me laugh. It is so absurd that it must be a strawman.


Depends on where you are. And even if globally or even regionally they aren't, in the US there's a history of legal and extralegal abuse of Chinese immigrants. And then go back and look at the way they have been represented in numerous movies and tv shows over the decades in the US. It's not a pretty picture.

Calling them a minority group may not be accurate, but there certainly is or was racism/nationalism/religionism targeted against them.


So you could say that cultural appropriation has nothing to do with foreign cultures, but is more of a conflict between different American subcommunities.

If a person is Chinese, born and living in China, it seems highly unlikely that they would care about what Americans say or do.

If a person is an American, who speaks American English, lives in America, but also has Chinese ancestry: appropriation of their identity is more likely to be a problem.

As far as Halloween goes this is all hypothetical, because I'm not totally convinced that anybody is sincerely hurt by 'appropriative' costumes.


I'm not sure that Mulan is really that much more of a stereotype than, say, Shan Yu or even the emperor. They're all Greek style heroes : rejected by their parents/city/mother/... (or at the very least against their wishes) who go off to save the world from some evil villain lacking depth, and they get some desirable significant other as pretty much the only reward.

Same story as Lilo & Stitch in many ways. I bet real aliens would be offended too, and frankly all humans should be offended at how the black suits are portrayed.


The argument would be that it reduces an important world culture to a cartoon stereotype.

(It is a stupid argument.)


There is a tendency for white people to take reduction of other races and wear them as a way to make fun of that race/culture. Black face is a good example. The group of people being made fun of see this as another way of not being recognized for anything but their cultural stereotype. The line for this, however, is not universally agreed upon. Some seem to advocate that any cross-cultural dress-up is offensive, other believe any criticism at all is a violation of their 'free speech'.


In the context of this discussion, that statement borders on the offensive.

There's a tendency for people of all races to take reduction of other races and wear them as a way to make fun of that race/culture.

To presume otherwise is to fall into the same trap as the students being discussed here.


Sure. But not all races are in charge in America, so it hardly matters. White people are the ones who enslaved black people, kicked American Indians off of their land, etc. The offensiveness is ultimately in the context of historical power. Without this context, it's all made up. This is precisely why the protests against the museum in Boston were nonsensical: the US doesn't exert cultural dominance over Japan.


>But not all races are in charge in America, so it hardly matters.

Bollocks: it is of pivotal importance. There is always going to be some group with more power than the others, regardless of whether the difference is based on race, class, handedness, or simply having more power than other groups.

Blaming one race for problems implies that, if another race was in power, there wouldn't be problems. Which is A) racist and B) exactly the kind of thinking that keeps getting us into this situation, over and over, as some of us struggle towards a more enlightened and egalitarian future, rather than engaging in group shaming and futile identity politics.

Until we can start accepting that in-group bias is simply an extension of out-group prejudice, and that no group of people is immune to it, we are just going to keep bickering and fighting and struggling to dominate each other.


So you're telling me that as someone who comes from a historical power structure, I'm not allowed to have feelings? That I cannot be offended by a book about "Stuff White People Like," because of the "context of historical power"?

That I am to be judged solely by my race and not as an individual? That standards should be different for me because I'm white?

Hardly seems the world Dr. King was envisioning.


>So you're telling me that as someone who comes from a historical power structure, I'm not allowed to have feelings? That I cannot be offended by a book about "Stuff White People Like," because of the "context of historical power"?

The purpose of expressing offense to speech or content is to draw attention to historical power imbalances that have enabled the abuse of one group at the hands of another. Because no one has the power to control your feelings unless you allow them to, I would not presume to tell you how to feel.

However, if you're arguing that "Stuff White People Like" is an example of how a dominant American group denigrates 'white culture' and is indicative of further systematic abuse of white people, I'm happy to take you to task on that claim, as it's demonstratively false.

The same mistake is being made by these Yale students: they're focussing on their feelings and demanding that their government (in this case, the administration) take action against the people hurting their feelings. This has not worked and never will. You cannot legislate people's beliefs. You can only attempt to reason with them or draw their empathy through education. Some will believe you and join you, others will disagree.


Nothing. Very sensitive people get pissed over anything and everything. Sadly those people have time on their hands to write, picket, and generally get attention.


I'm not saying that you have to agree with it yourself, but if you are willing to accept that other people believe there is something wrong with it in the first place, that question seems obvious enough to not even merit asking. We are lenient with children because we accept that they don't know any better, and the cutoff is as gradual as the one for the age where it's okay to ask "mommy, why is that man chocolate colored?" in a grocery store.


For reference here is Erika Christakis's original email:

http://pastebin.com/egSQGfgK

Describing it as "knowingly offensive" seems pretty crazy to me (though obviously others disagree).


> They seem to be okay with freedom of speech for themselves, but not for the freedom of speech that goes with a reaction.

The concept of freedom of speech exists to preserve people's ability to communicate and express ideas. The "reaction" you refer to is merely an attempt to control the behavior of others. They are not equivalent.


There is a disturbing trend over the past few years of using social activism as a pretense for outright harassment and bullying. The most disturbing part is that it allows the harassment to happen completely out in the open. The harassers will gladly sign their own name to the actions, with the implication that if anyone should question them then their detractors will be the next target.

Welcome to the New McCarthyism.


What I find baffling is the lack of adult conversations about such issues.

The writing I saw attributed to Erika Christakis was thoughtful, constructive, and polite. It didn't attack anybody, but promoted a viewpoint that talked about inclusion and the difficultly that can be experienced when attempting to understand the viewpoints of other groups. It's not at all combative.

I guess it just seems plainly self-evident to me that sensible discussion would be far more constructive towards solving the issues at hand. Harassment achieves almost nothing.


The loud people get the attention. A 'strident voice' who openly wants to kill all men and talks about gay people as a single entity gets more attention and exposure than the more reasonable folks because they're louder, won't stop, will use their followers to attack dissenting viewpoints and because more reasonable people still see them as being on the same 'side'.


It's interesting that the particular way these sorts of people are loud is enabled by the proliferation of social media. A side effect of society being more connected.


What I find baffling is the lack of adult conversations about such issues.

Perhaps because the conversation is being dominated by teenagers? The 'catastrophism' that the article cites is actually a normal psychological trait shared by teenagers. What's really at fault here I think is our binary definition of adulthood - none of the students excoriating their dorm 'master' here should really be considered psychological adults.


There has been a cultural trend in America, for the past several decades at least, to believe that how you feel is the most important thing, regardless if those feelings have any rational justification. I feel it is just another manifestation of anti-intellectualism. Seeing a display such as this from students at Yale is especially disturbing.


The "right to never be offended" is pretty much accepted as being part of the bill of rights :)


Every time I come back to this thread I have to remind myself that all this outrage is (incredibly) over an E-mail about Halloween costumes. Just when I'm sure we've all run out of more things to get offended over...


It's cognitive dissonance. People have always sought out ideas and philosophies to justify actions that they knew were wrong and were uncomfortable with. The scary part is sometimes they're not even aware of it or the harm they're causing.


How does this not apply to article and most of the comments to this page? The way to differentiate an unfounded opinion from a qualified one is to examine it's arguments. That requires a level of quality that neither the article, which is nearly incoherent, nor most of the comments do.


I have to ask, how is this article "nearly incoherent"? I mean, I would've liked the original letter to be posted in its entirety a bit higher up in the article, but the details on the events and various parties involved came across clearly to me.


It's not necessarily that it lacks what happened (or at least what the author says happened), but that it's hidden under rhetorical fluff and opinion. The author spends his time coming up with adjectives rather than explaining why you should agree with him or actually discussing the heart of the issue. Maybe incoherent isn't so much the right word as embellished. Take this example...

> With world-altering research to support, graduates who assume positions of extraordinary power, and a $24.9 billion endowment to marshal for better or worse, Yale administrators face huge opportunity costs as they parcel out their days.

or the text surrounding the e-mail

> Erika Christakis reflected on the frustrations of the students, drew on her scholarship and career experience, and composed an email inviting the community to think about the controversy through an intellectual lens that few if any had considered. Her message was a model of relevant, thoughtful, civil engagement.

> It’s hard to imagine a more deferential way to begin voicing her alternative view. And having shown her interlocutors that she*respects them and shares their ends, she explained her misgivings about the means of telling college kids what to wear on Halloween.

It's weird how much someone supposedly advocating having an open-mind are telling you what to think without explaining why. Then you get HN comments saying how respectful her e-mail was, without talking about the issues themselves. It's written for someone that agrees with the premise of the article and won't question all the embellishments. It's apparent even by the title.


I have 10 minutes left before I won't be online for 5 hours. So let's talk about the issues.

Why shouldn't adult students be able to govern themselves with regard to Halloween costumes?

Why do adult students require guidance from administrators to determine what is and isn't allowed?

Why are adult students upset that someone has asked these questions?


1. Bogus premise. The students aren't objecting to the idea that adults can govern themselves. They're objecting to other problematic claims in the letter.

2. Bogus premise. The original mass-email offered advice about choosing non-offensive costumes, and that advice was so general that nobody could have mistaken it for "guidance"; it was, rather, a set of questions to ask about your costume choices. It was Erika Christakis who reframed it as a set of guidelines, suggesting at the same time that Yale culture was going to police Mulan costumes.

3. The students are upset that the letter hand-waves away concerns about racial sensitivities and stereotypes by making comparisons between childrens costumes and choices made by adults in a climate where there had been real racist incidents at Halloween.

(I don't agree with the students but you should be able to summarize their arguments accurately if you hope to refute them.)


This is the rub, isn't it? In other contexts, these adults would be raising children, holding down full-time jobs, or leading squads in the Army. That we have contexts -- at allegedly elite universities, no less -- where they are not expected to be emotionally capable of handling a Halloween costume or an op-ed they disagree with is somewhat terrifying.


You're not talking about the issues, but offering some questions that I'm supposed answer while you don't participate and I get rewarded by downvotes.

That the faculty offers guidance doesn't seem to be much of an issue since that is what the article commends Nicholas and Erika Christakis for doing. Why there should be guidance is argued in the original e-mail on costumes [0]. That someone is upset doesn't seem to concern the author much when they don't agree with his viewpoint.

This is the problem with basing discussions on low quality articles. Let's look at the e-mails instead.

The first e-mail is arguing it's point.

> Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.

The second e-mail offers:

> Which is my point. I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can’t defend them anymore than you could defend yours. Why do we dress up on Halloween, anyway? [...] Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. [...] Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.

https://www.thefire.org/email-from-intercultural-affairs/ https://www.thefire.org/email-from-erika-christakis-dressing...


You say adults as if that means they instantly know all.


This means they should know by now. Surely some of them got most of what's expected by age 14


It could apply to any number of people, situations, contexts, etc. I was referring to it in the context of the comment I was replying to.


[flagged]


You're conflating unrelated issues in order to bolster your arguments and justify vigilantism.


[flagged]


>The code of conduct doesn't say it (though at least one version did) but the atmosphere currently is that it's impossible for a woman or ethnic minority to be the perpetrator.

It's funny you mention that - the code of conduct Github tried to adopt actually did specifically say it through their 'reverse racism/sexism' clause, aka It doesn't count as racism or sexism if your target is a straight white guy.

https://github.com/todogroup/opencodeofconduct/issues/84


That idea is nowhere in evidence here.


I'm confused, what do you mean by "here"?


No. That is simply a fiction made up by people who claim to be "harassed" when told to stop being an asshole.


> The harassers will gladly sign their own name to the actions, with the implication that if anyone should question them then their detractors will be the next target.

> Welcome to the New McCarthyism.

New? How does this differ from the Old McCarthyism?


>> "New? How does this differ from the Old McCarthyism?"

I'm not the OP, but I think the OP's claim is that this McCarthyism pretends to be about social issues instead of pretending to be about communism.


Communism, as presented and as applied, was and is nothing but a social issue.


Undoubtedly true in one sense of the word. But "social issues" for today's Yale undergrad probably pertain more to The Patriarchy and racist microaggressions than to the things that most self-professed communists discuss.


Well for one thing, in the Old McCarthyism, you could be called to testify before HUAC about your communist links, and there were industry-wide blacklists running.


Some of this current mindset want employment blacklists now. In some cases, they don't wait for a blacklist to take effect. They attack a person's employment directly to send a message.


Arguments about what people "want" aren't very interesting, since they mostly involve us trying to read other people's minds and then debating the meaningless results we get from doing that. Does some rando wants blacklists for everyone who likes Mulan? I'm sure. I don't care.

To repeat: If you think even an incident like this Yale thing are reminiscent of McCarthyism, you should read more about the actual history of McCarthyism.


I think it's fair to say "McCarthyism" to refer to efforts to impose ideological homogeneity even if they don't precisely replicate some implementation details. Which is not to say every time somebody says "shut up" it counts, but visit to HUAC need not be a minimum qualifier. (Hell, since McCarthy wasn't on the HUAC, even Old McCarthyism might not pass that test.)


I think it's extremely significant that the agent in McCarthyism was the Federal government, and that is what made it such a dangerous phenomenon. Not just for the people directly affected, but indirectly due to purges in the State Department, chilling effects on the civil service, and encouragement to demagogues for decades thereafter.

I understand the analogies in principle, but they leave out this key distinction.


Who cares who the agent is if the outcome is the same?


He just tried to explain how the outcomes aren't the same.


Well, I'm starting the to see the beginnings of the same things. Different departments, different areas true. But it's the same.


I highlighted the meaning Zikes provided for New McCarthyism, which applies as fully to Old McCarthyism and to many other related periods. I'll highlight it again:

> The harassers will gladly sign their own name to the actions, with the implication that if anyone should question them then their detractors will be the next target.

This characterizes a witch hunt. Old McCarthyism was a witch hunt. The satanic-abuse-slash-pedophilia day care scare was a witch hunt. What we have now is also a witch hunt. Cultural trappings may vary -- the House of Representatives was more heavily involved in hunting reds than usual; the day care scare saw more involvement from the judiciary.

This isn't a resurgence of McCarthyism, it's the same thing in new clothes. But I wouldn't think of this as coming from people remembering what happened in the 50s and thinking "I bet I could make this work today". It developed organically then, and it's developing organically now. This kind of thing is the natural state of human society; it will emerge when the culture doesn't restrain it, rather than being initiated by some unusual problem element.


Witch hunts are bad because

1. The hunt is for something that doesn't really exist

2. Because the accusations have no base in reality, those targeted have no way to defend themselves

3. Those targeted are executed

I don't see how any of those apply here.


You mean we haven't hit number three yet.


'Are you now or have you ever been overheard joking about dongles?'


I remember that episode, but I was thinking of the more recent shenanigans done against Sir Tim Hunt and others.


You can really take your pick - there have been so many incidences.

Comet guy's 'offensive' shirt was a big one


because there's no mccarthy now and nobody is being asked or nearly blackmailed to identify their colleagues at work as communists so they can be brought to a hearing to make admissions or even answer questions at all. So


It's a resurgence. The old McCarthyism died out after awhile, and he is saying this is it coming back, and thus "new" to distinguish it from the people who were going after "commies".


It's of the "left" rather than the right.


Anyone remember when students seemed to be actually fighting for freedom of speech, and universities were about challenging people's ideas and assumptions? What went wrong all those years ago?

Seriously though, this sort of thing worries me more than any government activity or corporatism. Who needs authoritarian politics where (what seems like) a decent amount of the next generation wants to shut down anything they deem 'offensive' or 'uncomfortable'?


What worries me is that it is almost entirely intellectually devoid of content. There are these words "privelege" "microaggression" "appropriation" "problematic" and many others which do have some meaning in some cases but generally are used to express group identity and ostracize those who don't use the language of.. social justice? This entire movement isn't really about ideas or arguments it's about group identity -- people who "get it" and people who don't. And group identity is very flimsy here: especially if you're a white male god forbid beware, you can be part of it but if you ever say the wrong word or give someone the wrong look or even take the time to carefully consider any position other than the default your membership card is revoked and let the smearing and hate and abuse begin.

The videos there were particularly poignant and eminently predictable: student expresses group identity with the 'victimization culture' and screams and shouts over careful, thoughtful, measured academic, ignoring his statements and refusing to accept his right to even have an opinion. Student body watches in silence, possibly supporting the abusive screaming student, possibly in support of the professor but absolutely terrified to say anything lest they become a target of hate and abuse and country-wide public harassment. I'm not sure people with this attitude are mature enough to belong at any university, much less one of our best -- learning requires patience, respect, and an openness to other ideas. But maybe there's an opportunity there to teach them if they stay, it would just take a firm and brave stance from college administration -- the cynic in me suspects they'll find a way to fire this professor rather than that.


"This entire movement isn't really about ideas or arguments it's about group identity"

I'm curious whether you recognize this as your opinion, which is valuable to you because it flatters your own political beliefs, rather than an objective analysis. You've provided no evidence; you're just arguing with a straw man here. Maybe it's time for a new hobby, bro.


I'm not sure if this is exquisite parody or a genuine response which does nothing but prove my point by responding to thoughtful argument with literally nothing other than a personal smear attack, the technique characteristic of the culture I am describing. You might as well have just said "check your privilege, bro" and ended your post -- there's literally nothing else there.

You will of course find all the evidence you need in TFA: the letter, the video, and if you need more it's readily available just look around. Welcome to actual discussion where we do not simply cite facts relevant or not and claim victory but provide thoughtful analysis and intellectual critique and arguments. Take a philosophy class more advanced than the "intro to rhetorical devices" one that taught you that the phrase "straw man" is a good one to throw out at random in an argument and you'll begin to understand.


> What went wrong all those years ago?

It probably had to do with the general shift towards substantially more jobs requiring a college degree as a condition of employment, regardless of any actual relevance to the position, and at the same time parents pushing children towards college regardless of personal aptitudes or preferences.

The quote from the article is striking:

> It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here.

That's not the attitude of someone going to college because they see it as a method of intellectual development. It's the attitude of someone going to college because they see it as a required phase in their life that has to be done to tick off the checkboxes to enter professional life.


I interpreted the "creating a home" bit as referring to it being a residence hall, not a classroom.

I don't have a problem if people don't want to face swastikas made of human feces in their homes -- different school, but sounds like the same kinda idea, http://www.salon.com/2015/11/09/amid_racial_justice_protests... -- because free speech at all times in all places isn't the single most important thing ever, especially when people are living together.

(edit: fixed a broken link)


The basic premise of the residential college system at Yale (and elsewhere) is to bring intellectual development (read: challenge) into the home. It's quite literally on the brochure.


What intellectual development is fostered by smearing "swastikas made of human feces" onto a dorm's wall?


Well, that's the thing, these two things aren't even in tension at work here:

The students want their homes to be free from racist shit (literally, in this case) and the administration responds with "intellectual development!" which is cowardly and nonsequitor.

As if you either get to be coddled (i.e. not wanting pervasive racism to filter into your living quarters) or you get to be challenged to grow intellectually (in practice, a shockingly conservative--for a university--position of "nothing's wrong, everything's fine!").

They're not working at cross-purposes, the claims of intellectual development are just a weasel word defense of the status quo; a staus quo where a lot of people of color apparently feel the continual sting of systemic discrimination.

Or, taken more positively, the administration is giving these students a chance to experience, first-hand, the concepts that power concedes nothing without a demand, that collective action is a powerful force for change, that sometimes people have to get their hands dirty and fight for things, and so on.


Remember when professors actively made you confront ideas that you felt were uncomfortable to explore yourself and examine if you had any inner biases? Those were the professors whose classes you _wanted_ to attend...


>What went wrong all those years ago?

It's always been there. Except now, they have the power of social media. Do you find a view "problematic"? No problem. Just round up a few thousand like-minded cohorts and burn the heretics.


What's funny is that a lot of the times the people in power would seek to ban certain books because they were (supposed to be) harmful mentally. Now the students are turning around and almost saying, 'you were right, take these books away!'


What went wrong is that social justice activists don't buy the whole "challenging people's ideas and assumptions" line anymore exactly because of incidents like this one. Some Yale staff sent out a letter very politely asking students to think about their Halloween costumes and how they might be seen by minority students, and were accused of violating student "free speech" for it - not because the letter placed any restrictions on their costumes, but just because it might make white students uncomfortable wearing certain things. Then when students protested this, apparently it meant university wasn't about challenging people's ideas and assumptions anymore and they just wanted to be coddled. Apparently it's not "coddling" to demand that the white students aren't made uncomfortable by thinking about racism, though, because reasons - just like it's not "free speech" and part of the university tradition of "challenging people's ideas and assumptions" to ask them politely to do so.


Same here. I want to believe that it's just a minority of students, but it's like every day there is a new incident like that.

It was reported that most of the administration in colleges is composed of liberals. To be clear, I have nothing against liberals but the over-representation of a specific political/societal opinion in an education setting is not a good thing. And I would say the same thing if it was mostly conservatives in charge of education.

And to contrast with what I just wrote, I don't think colleges are responsible (not directly at least) for this new trend, I think they just go with the flow and try to cater to students to attract them, they just give them what they want (safe spaces, puppy time, trigger warnings, etc) to make sure they can keep bringing revenue.


While a large part of what you're saying is correct, I think the problem you're describing isn't cultural liberals (who are tolerant of dissenting views), but rather cultural authoritarians. These people are on the left, but they are not liberals.


I mean... while that may be correct in some semantic sense, it's not a useful distinction. If you took a survey of the groups described in the article, 90% would self-identify as liberal. So the distinction you draw isn't really helpful for clarifying the issue.


Sure. But as a cultural liberal, I think the burden is on actual liberals to disown authoritarians. Otherwise the same thing will happen to the left as what happened to the right in the early 2000s: the end of rational thought, and everyone who disagrees 'hates America' (now 'hates minorities'). And similarly a whole bunch of bad things will happen as a result.


> Otherwise the same thing will happen to the left as what happened to the right in the early 2000s

Well, the only disagreement I have is that you think that hasn't happened yet.


Don't you think we're pretty much already there? Isn't the first tactic of liberals to call "racist" and "intolerant" everyone who dares disagree with them? Isn't Hillary's main argument that she's a woman, therefore you should vote for her otherwise you hate women?

I came late to America and have no interest in politics (I can't even vote) so I want to believe that I'm able to observe and make a fairly impartial judgement. To me there is no difference between conservatives and liberals, the only details is you either hate America or minorities as you pointed out. Politics in America is sports for the educated.


Actually, I do think it is an essential clarification. Both groups claim to be "liberal" but they often have dramatically different interpretations of that term.

> If you took a survey of the groups described in the article, 90% would self-identify as liberal.

This same statistic probably extends to the faculty and administrators trying to maintain a semblance of intellectualism at universities. They identify as liberal and came of age in a time when that actually meant supporting free speech.


Of course it's a useful distinction. You could choose something else, like 90% of them wore jeans. But that doesn't mean jeans wearers are the problem.


Very true. I guess my confusion comes from the fact that "liberals" is often associated to "left-wing" while "authoritarians" is linked to "conservatism". In the end, they are actually orthogonal concerns.


I think it is a tiny minority of students but the weapon these students are using (public humiliation, being abusive and hateful after trying very hard to establish a position of weakness) doesn't discriminate and I think the silence from the rest of the student body and administrators is primarily out of fear. This weapon can destroy anyone no matter how careful or respectful or noble so the simple fear of it is what keeps the administrators and other students silent.


Interesting observation. Can't understand why you have been voted down!


Sweeping characterisation of college students as "liberals", especially in a thread where they're being accused of illiberalism.

It's the continuation of the US 'culture war'.


OK, you used the word "illiberalism". It's a good word, and perfectly expresses your point. It has a nice, clear meaning.

But "liberal" has two meanings: It means the opposite of "illiberal", that is, in favor of human freedom. It also means "to the left on the political spectrum", which is a completely orthogonal meaning. (The political left can be as anti-freedom as the political right, and historically, I'm not sure which side has been "better".)

Whether or not you like it, both definitions of "liberal" are in common usage. If anything, the political usage is more common than the not-illiberal usage.

That means regarding it as "culture war" to call the college students "liberal" is... swimming against the tide? Trying to fight an unwinnable war? Not a good occasion for getting up in arms, at any rate.


Using the word "liberal" to describe leftist policies is a U.S. invention that emerged out of the New Deal and was later hammered to death by neoconservatives who began abusing it to describe profoundly illiberal ideas, or really anything they disliked.

It wasn't some grassroots movement, it was a conscious propaganda technique. "I never use the words Republicans and Democrats. It's liberals and Americans." - James G. Watt.

It'd be like if one day people started completely uncritically and unironically referring to "libertarians" as "authoritarians". Sure, it's human language and anything goes, but it wouldn't be any less pants-on-head idiotic.

Fun fact: the politically conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal Party.


Don't disagree with anything said here, except...

I'm an Aussie. The Liberal party, despite its often illiberal stance recently, actually has a pretty broad church of opinion within the party.

The party is definitely conservative and largely push against changing the status quo, but actually there are a lot of different views within the party.

It was only recently that Tony Abbott prevented this free contest of ideas within the party room with his "Captain's picks" (a cricketing term where the captain of the team gets to pick team mates) and allowed his chief of staff to be a "gate keeper" between him and the party, which led to policy disagreements that festered within the Coalition (National Party - largely country people - and the Liberal Party) or otherwise known as the LNP. It was an utter disaster and eventually the party elected to boot him from the leadership position. This was despite the fact this happened in the Labor party twice already and they largely won an election because they campaigned on stability!

If you accept the dictionary definition of "liberal" as the acceptance of another person's viewpoint, then I'd consider the Liberal Party to be just that -"liberal". The Abbott years were an anomaly.

Ironically there are many times I've seen people from the U.S. argue the LNP are a libertarian party. They are most definitely NOT libertarians!

I don't like the Liberal Party because of their stance on climate change and asylum seekers. With Malcolm Turnbull in charge, their stance on climate change has changed but it will take some time to unravel the stupidity of the Abbott Government's policy decisions.

I'm hoping Turnbull will change or come up with a better asylum seeker policy. Right now, there is very little difference between the ALP and the LNP.


Aren't the Libs named for their economically liberal philosophy, not because they are, I guess, socially liberal?


Ironically, it was the Hawke and Keating governments who ushered in economical liberalization of the Australian economy. So, no. Not really.


So if it emerged out of the New Deal, it's got about 80 years worth of becoming entrenched in standard usage.

You quote James Watt. That was 30 years ago.

This ship sailed a long time ago. You aren't going to change everyone else's usage here, no matter how hard to tilt against that windmill.


Except it's nothing more than American slang, plain and simple.

You may not believe that words have meanings, but I actually put value into semiotics and semantics.


I do believe that words have meanings. I just don't believe that they have cast-in-concrete, good-for-the-rest-of-time, works-in-all-societies meanings.

OK, it's American slang. We're talking about an American college here, and I suspect that the majority of the people in the conversation are Americans. That means that you are the one insisting on using words in ways that are not the standard meaning.


This is a pretty international website, I'd like to understand why you believe that mostly those in the U.S. are interested and involved in the discussion of this issue?

Besides, you assume that everyone in the U.S. have the same understanding of the word "liberal". It's always good to have these terms discussed and clarified.


> This is a pretty international website, I'd like to understand why you believe that mostly those in the U.S. are interested and involved in the discussion of this issue?

I believe (though I do not have the data to prove) that the majority of people on this site are in the U.S. (Not just in this conversation, on this site.) It therefore seems appropriate that U.S. definitions be accepted. (Other definitions should also be accepted/tolerated, of course, but the U.S. definitions should always be accepted - not because "it's the US!", but because those terms are used by the majority of the people here.)

vezzy-fnord has been complaining about the use of the U.S. term in this conversation. If he/she wants to say that the term may not be understood by others who are not in the U.S., that's fine. But vezzy-fnord's stance has been more that our use of the term is wrong. I disagree with that position - language is defined by usage, after all.

[Edit: I mean that the proper definition of a word on HN would be how that word is normally used by the majority of people on HN, not how it would be normally used by the majority of people in the world. Again, this is not intended to be saying that the U.S. definition is the only right one for HN - we should accept other peoples' usage as well. But telling the majority that their use of the term is incorrect... well, I think at best it's wasting a lot of peoples' time.]

> Besides, you assume that everyone in the U.S. have the same understanding of the word "liberal".

Thanks to our media's simple-minded casting of everything as "liberal vs. conservative", yes, pretty much everyone in the U.S. has that understanding. (Fewer people seem to have the understanding of "liberal" to mean "not illiberal, in favor of personal liberty". I wish it were otherwise.)


>That means that you are the one insisting on using words in ways that are not the standard meaning.

Which is, incidentally, a very liberal (using the American connotation of the word) thing to do.


Wrong. The U.S. definition is the non-standard one, unless you consider it to also be the world. No other country defines "liberal" as anything similar.


That's not the definition of the term "liberal". To be liberal means to accept or respect behaviour or ideas different to one's own.

Your definition of liberal more closely matches the definition of "libertarianism".


From dictionary.com:

> 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.

> 2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.

> 3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism, especially the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties.

> 4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.

> 5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.

> 6. of or relating to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.

> 7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.

So I'm not sure that I see a valid basis for your complaint.


When I reviewed the comment, there were no responses. It would be so much better if this was expressed as a comment. I was genuinely curious about the downvotes, not because of the score but because I wanted to understand the sentiment!

FWIW, the GP didn't make a sweeping statement that all students were liberals, but that it was reported that student administration is largely composed of liberals.

Now that is a bit problematic, because a. It doesn't state where this is reported so it's hard to counter, and b. It doesn't define what is meant by the term "liberal"... But these are all things to ask for clarification on.

If we could ask for clarification in a respectful way (I'm guilty of not being respectful I'm afraid) these threads would be a lot more enlightening as the discourse would flow more freely and clearly.


the over-representation of a specific political/societal opinion in an education setting is not a good thing

In the US context there is very much a reason for this: the right is hostile to intellectualism per se, and occasionally hostile to non-pragmatic education itself.

discourse

It's rather rare that the people one is speaking to in a comments thread actually change views in it, especially to the extent that they start off using codeword language. It's more for the 'benefit' of bystanders. And a bit of good old fashioned point-scoring.


Discourse allows for dissemination of ideas. It's not important to change the other person's opinion, but it's good to argue ideas.

Comments sections aren't solely for the benefit of the two people hashing out their views, but also for all those reading them.


You're confusing "liberal", the US political affiliation, with "liberal" and "liberalism", the philosophy.


As vezzy-fnord is arguing nearby, they're not unrelated.


Link: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10535836

The more I read that posters comments the more of a fan I become. Not because I agree, but because it makes me think. I honestly don't say that lightly.


The sweeping generalization that college students are liberals is completely warranted.


I don't think the fact that liberals dominate the ranks of most universities is actually related to this phenomenon. Faculty liberals are from the time of student activists favoring free speech, not opposing.

Though maybe that is part of the problem: it's harder to have a coherent argument when two very different camps both use the same overarching ideological name to define their diametrically opposed views.


The Christakis family is quite powerful at Yale, certainly in comparison to the students trying to get them replaced. They were Co-Masters at a Harvard house, and one of them extended that position to Yale. In 2009, one made Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_A._Christakis)

Yale students do not get to run their own university. So when they want to replace some backwards, incompetent administrators, they must turn to activism. They can't merely decide to hire better ones.

> "this sort of thing worries me more than any government activity or corporatism."

Thanks for sharing your priorities. Government and corporations are the dominant power structures which lead to international mass murder ("war"), subordination/obedience, surveillance, mass incarceration... But students replacing backwards administrators are most worrying of all.


> The Christakis family is quite powerful at Yale, certainly in comparison to the students trying to get them replaced.

From what I can see, it does look like he's an outstanding academic. But unfortunately that doesn't help much against an angry, offended mob.

> some backwards, incompetent administrators

Which part of the polite email that was sent would you describe as "incompetent" or "backwards?"

It's a sad day when you see students petitioning for professors to be removed for treating them like adults.


I think the poster may have a point. Student activity is an indicator of where society in general is going. If students are so easily swayed by their definition of intolerance, it can have serious ramifications throughout society.

Those students become the next consumers, neighbors, managers, politicians, lawyers, judges, and, indeed, activists. Their power is not in angry protests, it manifests slowly, in the kinds of products people sell or buy, or laws we promote or demonize.

The reason I suspect student intolerance is perceived as a big problem is that for whatever nasty things THE SYSTEM is up to today, those students represent who will run it tomorrow.


There were approximately 20 students that I saw in the video. Out of thousands. I think society is going to be okay.


And yet I can't read HN without seeing this garbage.


As an outside observer, I'm interested in your position. What have (or haven't) the Christakis's done to deserve the "backwards, incompetent administrators" moniker?


Government and corporations are essentially the norm, we have gotten used to them though they are admittedly much worse: a student culture that is focused on faux-victimization and hate and abuse and refusing to even acknowledge the existence of much less an attempt to understand the opinions of others is something that is altogether new. The future leaders of the country thinking in lockstep with each other and joining forces to humiliate, demean, silence, and abuse anyone who dares think differently is dangerous as well, but more importantly, it is new.


> The Christakis family is quite powerful at Yale, certainly in comparison to the students trying to get them replaced.

Will that still be the case, if the students succeed in getting them replaced?

> Yale students do not get to run their own university. So when they want to replace some backwards, incompetent administrators, they must turn to activism.

Should they be able to remove any administrators that they want to? How many students should it take?

> They can't merely decide to hire better ones.

If they could, would they have the ability to judge which ones are better, and which ones are worse?


All of this smelled to me like a teenage power struggle from the get go.


[deleted]


> So when they want to replace some backwards, incompetent administrators, they must turn to activism.

If you're pointing that at the Christakises, I seriously question your judgment. At least in this situation, they acted with considerable patience, forbearance, and restraint.


The problem with this article is that the author is claiming that all this outrage is over one email, and thus the reaction is disproportionate and damaging.

The outrage might be over the top for a single email, but that is not the context experienced by the students protesting. As a white guy with a good job, the Atlantic author and I share the privilege to experience race if and when we choose. From that perspective, it's easy to call this "a fight over Halloween costumes"

For the women who say they were turned away from a "white girls only" party, and for many others, it's not a fight over an email about Halloween costumes. It's about having administrators who acknowledge the reality that they experience on an ongoing basis:

It's worth reading another side of the story before jumping to conclusions: https://medium.com/keep-learning-keep-growing/what-s-really-...

When you see all the context that the Atlantic author, Mr Friedersdorf, chooses to ignore, you should think about the political agenda behind a piece like this.


I understand your point of view, but let's be honest here -- college campuses have become so PC that they have knee-jerk reactions to even Jerry freaking Seinfeld [1].

People have become too sensitive to everything -- everything. When everyone feels that they are being victimized constantly how do you move forward? How does anyone accomplish anything? Did someone look at you this morning? Might have been a micro-aggression. Did someone say hello, but you detected a "tone" in their voice? Fucking sexism!

Perhaps these students might focus more on moving our country forward as they take the reins rather than being apoplectic over incidents that no one, including them, will remember in five years. There are very large racial issues in the US, but these are not them.

I read the medium.com article and feel that it has an equally political agenda behind it.

Both are people yelling "look over here!", but neither with realistic solutions to those problems.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/08/jerry-seinfeld-coll...


This is argument from anecdote.

"everyone feels that they are being victimized constantly" is a pretty bold claim. You offer no concrete evidence to support this. Instead you link to Jerry Seinfeld also claiming, without providing evidence, that colleges are too politically correct.

Is there too much sensitivity? I'm not saying there isn't. But you've offered nothing to support that claim other than a lazy "you know those PC college kids, amirite?" Well, no, I don't. I've heard some things I think are pretty silly, but how prevalent are they actually? Frankly, if this thread is anything to go on, anti-PC people spend plenty of time whining about how they're constantly victimized by political correctness, and I wonder how much of it is just projection.

You've taken this one incident (which, in the context of the "No Black Girls" parties and other details Fridersdorf deliberately left out, isn't even convincing on its own) and blown it out into "everyone feels that they are being victimized constantly." It's lazy and does nobody any good. Try going a week without using the words "always" or "never" unless you're referring to an actual tautology.


> This is argument from anecdote

So? Just because you can play logical fallacy bingo with someone's point of view, does not mean that they can't express it.

That was my opinion, not a formal debate argument entry in a PC convincing contest.


I don't see how that really explains the exchange with the student.

"By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. ... You should not sleep at night! You are disgusting!"

Regardless of what's happening elsewhere, this student's primary concern does appear to be the email.


In fairness, the activists have done themselves a major disservice for protesting this email. By doing so, they've made that the focal point and it's just not a very compelling argument.

If protests were primarily over the party, then a lot more people would be supportive.


Thank you. This is the first comment I've seen on the Yale controversy that actually points out the larger context at Yale and New Haven. The school mentioned that students should think twice about wearing blackface for Halloween because there are people here who might actually do such a thing.

There is a stark division of class which is invisible from most people's computer screens, but is very uncomfortable living here. Most of the people who attend Yale are highly privileged. But, if you're not part of the university, you are probably living in poverty here. Seeing this video being recontextualized by the Internet as part of this "Us vs SJWs" debate is infuriating.


Every time I see a comment starting with "Thank you." here, and specially on Reddit, I read it as "I now feel better because what you wrote aligns with my views, and that somehow makes them valid".

It doesn't make them valid.

I've also read the article and it's more than about just the email or the racism: it's also about how giving up to bullies and censorship leads to abuse and injustice.


I was thanking them for adding important details about the context of this video, which has been overlooked in the conversation by the majority of the commenters I've seen.


I'm glad you mentioned this. I was on the fence initially and even had a bit of a spat with Popehat on Twitter over it (blocked by him now, heh). In the end, I'm getting really tired of people taking one side of an issue as the universal truth when there's much more going on. Some people may not be good at explaining things like the woman in the FIRE video, but that doesn't seem to be the entire story or even a significant part of it.

Worse yet, some are taking this as a launching point to dispose of the "safe space" concept without knowing what exactly defines a "safe space." For people who don't have anything to lose (white, rich, heterosexual, and non-transgender) this is fine. But for the rest of us who depend to communicate and get support on safe spaces online and offline it's a big deal.


In the end, I'm getting really tired of people taking one side of an issue as the universal truth when there's much more going on.

This is what I find missing in most discourse anymore. It's like nobody has a feel for nuance anymore so every issue is black or white and couldn't possibly be anything else.



From that article:

> made it seem like Yale students are only rallying because of an email sent by Professor Erika Christakis, which suggested that people should feel free to wear culturally insensitive costumes on Halloween.

Having read that email, if that's all they chose to understand from the email, then I don't trust this as a source one damn bit.


I fail to see any major difference between that Medium article and quotes in the Friedersdorf's piece.

It would be reasonable to speak about missed context if students protested something that was an example of a larger issue. But that's not the case. They protest something that they view as a symbol of that larger issue. Example. Symbol. Different things, but it seems people no longer can tell them apart.

I mean, really, Halloween costumes? What's next? Banning toy soldiers to protest war?


It's a shame that those stories of the racial discrimination experienced at Yale haven't been the central point instead of this letter.


Most troubling is that no one stands up to these bullies. I saw this firsthand as a student at a similar institution in the last few years. The faculty, administration, student leaders, and even trustees at these schools are split between a minority who support the activists and a majority who dare not speak out, lest they become the next target. Instead of standing firm and true to the age-old academic principles of free expression, inquiry, and exchange of ideas, they try to appease these groups in hopes that they'll go away or move on to another target. But each extorted victory only emboldens them more.


They appeal to these groups because they bring money. I go to a Jesuit school and they appeal to these groups as well (even if they couldn't care less about Jesuit values) because well, they pay.


I have a theory that the Internet has done two things to make people less tolerant of others, instead of more.

First is the echo chamber phenomenon, which I'm sure we are all familiar with and requires no further introduction.

Second, I suspect, is the amazing speed at which technology has upended the world. Where technology can have an impact, it can change things at light speed compared to what our parents and grandparents put up with.

Take TV for example. For decades, televisions were tiny, expensive black-and-white boxes. Then after a while they became affordable, small-but-not-tiny black-and-white boxes. Took a bit longer until color television was the standard, less time for decent resolutions to be expected, even less for HDTV/4K. Not to mention the proliferation of content from 1-5 channels to thousands.

I believe that as technology changes life at a rapidly increasing pace, people's expectation of a rate of change is accordingly affected. We want things now, or tomorrow, or next week if we're really looking forward.

Mix that attitude with an echo chamber and you have a sizable cohort of well-meaning young people who are perturbed - if not outraged - that the societal ills of thousands of years of cultural development haven't been resolved yesterday, and anybody who calls to question the new attitude or the speed of its implementation must have a racist/sexist/pro-refined-sugars agenda.


As long as the change is a good one, it's for the best that it be done quickly. Look at how quickly public opinion shifted on gay marriage and marijuana legalization relative to similar issues in the pre-internet age. I expect that most people on hn approve of those changes and are therefore happy that they don't have to wait another 30 years for them to be enacted.


When I saw the reemergence of postmodern feminism and critical theory brewing up over the past couple of years or so, initially on fringe alt-media like Tumblr blogs, I just expected it'd be another brief intellectual trend that would fizzle out.

Nope, it exploded into an all-out culture war I couldn't have imagined.

Unsurprisingly, all this identity politicking has been met by a swift reactionary movement in bile like The Daily Stormer becoming surprisingly popular given how niche the ideology generally is. It's a buffoonish competition of "more persecuted than thou".

Meanwhile, liberal values get to bite the dust.


Only $13.81, new: http://www.amazon.com/Closing-American-Mind-Education-Impove....

> The student explodes, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position?! Who the fuck hired you?! You should step down! If that is what you think about being a master you should step down! It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here. You are not doing that!”

Bloom places a heavy emphasis on extolling to college students the virtues of western intellectual tradition, and reactions like this one show why. Willingness to entertain ideas that could cause social disharmony is actually pretty unusual among world cultures. It's unusual in the western world, but even more so nearly everywhere else. It's not the natural order of things. It's a discovery, an achievement, but one that can be lost to time.


From what I have experienced in college so far is that either a student has experienced something or not, and the students who have not experienced something are the ones to protest. Students who have not experienced racism or Genocide-from the article- only know it from what they learned in school, online, or some other medium. So when they think they hear something that is about those "things" they jump up and go crazy. The last part of the article is what I am mostly talking about.

I could also talk about the first part too, like the video of the girl yelling at Nicholas is so interesting. You want to stand up for something, yet you cannot have a conversation about it and just yell at the man?


When political correctness goes wrong...

Seriously though, what is wrong with people these days that they can't even have a dialogue?

Is this the result of the us vs. them propaganda started by George W. Bush? The result of an education system which forces students to only memorize, and not to think? The result of a generation of helicopter parents?

Regardless, it's scary to think that in this day and age in which we consider ourselves so 'progressive', people attack others' beliefs (even very moderate ones) with a zeal that would make ISIS proud...


> Seriously though, what is wrong with people these days that they can't even have a dialogue?

Postmodernism. Seriously.

When you teach that there is no real truth, that "truth" is merely a sociological construct, that all speech is only about power (because it literally cannot be about truth), and a bunch of impressionable 18-year-olds listen and believe you, and start to act on what they believe, this is what you get. Why would you expect something else to happen?

[Edit: slight softening of language, so that it was not unintentionally accusative.]


Not going to lie, wasn't expecting an answer. I really like your explanation (if not the direction it may lead society)...

Edit - your language was fine. I still like your explanation. Provocative language belongs in discussions like this regardless, even though I didn't take your message that way.


I think understanding this situation completely requires an enormous amount of empathy. Whether one agrees with the protesters or not, it's unfair to characterize them merely as fighting against freedom of speech. I am sure they recognize the speech aspect of this, but to them, that is second to what they perceive to be the central issue: equality. Arguable perhaps, but I hold that the issue of equality trumps that of speech.

This issue is related is part of a larger trend whereby arguably minor transgressions trigger significant protest (see the Atlantic's coverage of Oberlin). My take is that after an oppressed class completes the initial leaps and bounds toward equality, tactics of old (e.g. nonviolent peaceful protest) cease to effect further change. New tactics therefore must evolve in order to close the remaining gap. This gap is relatively small, but its size isn't the point - the fact that a gap, based merely on class identification, exists at all should not be accepted.

The current tactics might not be perfect - I posit they are still evolving. But they do effectively utilize available resources and processes (e.g. content virality) to draw massive attention to issues.

As for their characterization by MSM (e.g. the protesters are "bullies", they have fostered what is uncharitably called a "victimhood culture") we are simply observing (or participating in) the attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance between evidence of social inequality and the intellectual status quo.


It's pretty crazy to me that I fought with my campus 10 years ago for pro-speech issues, it seems the administrations haven't gotten any more tolerant of speech (if anything less tolerant) and the students now seem to be fighting the administration in the opposite direction!

I think there are mix of issues going on here that are getting handled oddly.

1) Debating ideas versus the validity of groups. In my opinion if there's overt racism, there is room for the campus to intervene to make sure they have an inclusive environment. However if they're debating something (intentionally picking something else) like whether or not there should be dogs on campus or whether or not dog owning is a good idea in the abstract, this is a completely fair discussion. Unfortunately both types of discussions are happening which is making the debate more difficult.

2) Offensive speech Some people will hold and express ideas that others find offensive. As long as this speech is not designed to directly dehumanize or devalue contributing members of the community this probably has to be allowed to have a healthy dialogue.

3) Lots of poor judgement. I suspect many of the incidents (other than the overt racism which is separate) that have crossed the line were not intended to be offensive, but I think some of them were deeply offensive. If you do something deeply offensive I think it's reasonable to be received with a somewhat hostile reaction (demands for apology, anger towards group, etc). This is probably not the most effective way to engage people, better to try to explain why what they did is deeply offensive. I think it's completely reasonable for the school to try to encourage a positive, thoughtful interaction between people without trying to police every minor injustice.


This line pretty much summarizes the issue: "They’re behaving more like Reddit parodies of “social-justice warriors” than coherent activists"


Reminds me of the "In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas" NYT op-ed [1] that lists a lot of similar scenarios to the one at Yale.

I have no problem with an NA group asking participants to respectfully focus on recovery and minimize talking about all the crazy shit you did as an addict -- participation is voluntary, after all. Imposing a similar "safe space" in the real world is obviously impossible. Attempts to ostracize those who dare suggest that a university campus should model the real world instead of a safe space is really insidious.

[1]http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/opinion/sunday/judith-s...


If the students articulated a reasoned response instead of acting out an emotional catastrophe; they would be ignored. The real issue is the 'viral promo' culture which encourages ridiculousness and outrage.


The author fails to give this story proper context, and it seems like many in this thread have not read the article and are simply venting based on the title and a brief glance over of the author's arguments.

This is not a demonstration of "SJW" or students acting like sheltered children. It's about students protesting against a campus culture that they feel discriminates against them. Such as when a frat house explicitly banned black girls from entering on Halloween. [1]

This is the closest the author comes to addressing the real issue, rather than picking anecdotes and quotes to defend his thesis while hyperbolically [2] bashing the "activists":

Some Yalies are defending their broken activist culture by seizing on more defensible reasons for being upset. “The protests are not really about Halloween costumes or a frat party,” Yale senior Aaron Lewis writes. “They’re about a mismatch between the Yale we find in admissions brochures and the Yale we experience every day. They’re about real experiences with racism on this campus that have gone unacknowledged for far too long. The university sells itself as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, it often isn’t.”

But regardless of other controversies at Yale, its students owe Nicholas and Erika Christakis an apology. And they owe apologies to other objects of their intolerance, too.

This is bad and misleading journalism written to generate views and stoke a flame war by bringing in the popular theme of college-student-as-inept-coddled-child-who-fights-for-trivial-things-and-bullies-others.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/11/0...

[2] This beggars belief. Yale students told to talk to each other if they find a peer’s costume offensive helplessly declare that they’re unable to do so without an authority figure specifying “any modes or means to facilitate these discussions,” as if they’re Martians unfamiliar with a concept as rudimentary as disagreeing in conversation, even as they publish an open letter that is, itself, a mode of facilitating discussion.


I read the context for the article in several other places, and the original Christakis mail, and I think you're incorrect.

There was apparently a racist incident at a frat house, but Christakis had nothing to do with it. The ire Christakis faces appears to derive entirely from the email Erika Christakis wrote. When the girl in the campus quad screams at Christakis that he's disgusting, should resign, and should not be able to sleep at night, she's yelling because he refuses to apologize for the email.


I, too, read the letter, which was my impetus for doing further research of my own. It seems pretty benign and progressive when read with no surrounding context, so I found it hard to believe that some of the smartest students in the country would have such a poor reaction towards it.

This was the big deal, apparently:

"There was so much coded language in that e-mail that is just disrespectful," said Ewurama Okai, a junior.

I'm not arguing against free speech, but it seems like many interpreted her comments to be accepting of a pervasive and ingrained culture of racism at Yale.

It's unfortunate but understandable that some students got so worked up that they behaved poorly and acted on emotion, rather than rationally, which they later did with the petition and various letters/articles addressing the issue.

We should be focusing on the overall themes of the argument rather than the specific anecdotes of what one student said or did which may not be representative of the entire body.


> "There was so much coded language in that e-mail that is just disrespectful," said Ewurama Okai, a junior.

What's a code? It's a way for a sender to send a message to a recipient without anybody else being able to understand it. For a racist, say, coded language can be a very useful way of hiding their racism and still communicating.

But if you get hyper politically correct, and compile every possible word that you could possibly perceive to be a code word for any possible oppressor in any possible context, well, you get so many words that even a reasonable, thoughtful communication trips your detectors.

But for it to be code, the sender has to intend to send the code. For example, if I'm tapping my foot at random, and the Morse Code translation of those taps offends the person in the next cube, well, sorry, but I don't actually know Morse Code, so I wasn't sending a coded message.

So: Was the language in that letter "coded language"? Or are the students so hyper-sensitive that everything is "coded language"? My guess is that they're hyper-sensitive.


To me, it sounds like it's a crime to be wrong about something regarding racial issues at Yale.

The Genius annotation of the letter makes a lot of totally reasonable arguments, reasonable enough that I would characterize the whole letter as "somewhat wrong-headed" now. But so what?


Exactly. If this is really about black people being turned away at parties or a general culture of racism at Yale, that is what should be raged about. Putting up a sacrificial victim in a politics by proxy is pure scapegoating in the theilian sense:

http://blakemasters.com/post/24578683805/peter-thiels-cs183-...


So if something is wrong, you fix it!

I'm not sure that calling for the Christakis' resignation is the correct remedial action, but if you were being discriminated against, wouldn't you be angry and ready to fight? Especially if you were promised a safe haven from racism and discrimination at one of the country's most elite schools?

Most of the stuff I've seen on Facebook from Yale students has been directed towards the frat, so I'm surprised there isn't more of a mention of that whole incident in this story either.


Well here's "activism" in a nutshell for you. By screaming, spitting on people, and trying to oust them from their jobs, the protesters have assured that virtually nobody who isn't already on their side is going to care about their concerns.

If the Chisakises had an actual problem with racial insensitivity, their opponents were given ample opportunities to allow Nicholas and Erika to hang themselves with their own words --- the protesters wrote open letters, had campus debates, &c. Instead, they jumped the gun.


The sad thing is that HN is responding in a similar manner, with people quick to judge and condemn the students as spoiled children.

I don't have a horse in the race, and I wanted to call out the author's blatant bias, and yet I was immediately downvoted to the bottom of the thread.

I am disappointed to see these knee-jerk reactions gaining consensus when we have precious little insight into the issues at hand and how they are actually being dealt with.


Do you mean this annotation? http://genius.com/8083073


The frat incident happened two days after the email that provoked the ire, for what it's worth. Also, the email seemed to be the main point of contention in the videos on 11/5: https://www.thefire.org/yale-students-demand-resignations-fr...


That interpretation still presumes that it is wrong for a culture of racism to exist at Yale. To the contrary, I would say that Yale's affirmative action policies make it inevitable.


seems to me like a huge part of the problem here is treating the screeching of tantrumming children as if it were the reasoned speech of mature adults.

at some point the university administration needs to simply stop acknowledging this as an acceptable form of communication. it isn't. once those children leave the university they'll discover that for themselves all too soon.


As a liberal, I am embarrassed by the simplistic display of liberal values at Yale.

It all seems rather childish. Erika wrote the most open wise letter that basically expressed the desire to not render judgement.

The students are angry that they didn't want to judge others.

Sounds a lot like the troubles Jesus got into personally.


[deleted]


"Intolerance" has never meant "violence," and it's baffling that you suggest that we reserve the word for cases of threats of violence.

Nobody is suggesting that it's not free speech to call someone racist or demand their resignation. Free speech can express intolerance.


[deleted]


It depends on the manner of attack. I called out a friend (claimed libertarian views) for his view that "tax is theft", when he was paid by the government with money collected via taxes. His views are antithetical to his work situation, that's criticism.

What I didn't do: I did not call for his firing from his position for his views, that would be intolerance, and not criticism.


I mean, sure. Calling astrologers idiots and asking Yale not to hire them is intolerance towards astrologers qua astrologers.

The professors didn't call for any students expressing different opinions to be expelled.


If I were to say that I don't think gay people should be allowed to get married I would be called intolerant. If I were to say that I think islam is dangerous for democracy I would be called intolerant. But I would just be challenging someone's ideas.


I cannot agree with the idea that denouncing racism or call for the resignation of someone who has shown to have racist views is intolerance.


Anyone who says "apologize to me" is a schoolyard bully imagining themselves as Rosa Parks.


There are situations where the only way to create progress is for the perpetrator to realize that what they did was wrong, why it was wrong, and try to fix things (as much as possible). It's not a totally wrong concept.

The way it's being applied on college campuses is insane.


College is changing so much. Ten years ago college was a place where you went to be challenged in your beliefs, ideals, perceptions on reality and society, and be regularly offended by people and ideas that were not your own. I can't imagine trying to go to college today. We've traded freedom to learn and express ourselves, for the freedom to be free from anything uncomfortable or offensive in any way. WTF.


The use of poisoning language is what has given them power for so long. Luckily their overuse of labeling everything to be problematic/racist/sexist is going to be their downfall. When air conditioned offices began to be labeled sexist [0], reasonable people began to see through all the bullshit.

It is sad that the absurdity has been allowed to go on for so many years before the average person decided to be reasonable and push back. I'm glad that people are finally waking up and realizing that a culture where dressing up for Halloween is "potentially offensive" is absurd [1].

I fear a world where I can no longer purchase a kimono because it has been labeled as "potentially offensive" and "cultural appropriation" of the Japanese people by a group of disproportionately white "progressives". While ignoring how the Japanese people feel about it, of course. Also - even if you were Japanese you wouldn't be allowed to wear a kimono. After all, it is possible to appropriate your own culture [2].

[0] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11760417/Air-co...

[1] http://www.geneseo.edu/community/show-your-true-face-2015

[2] http://www.mrctv.org/blog/ontario-high-school-halloween-cost...


If the students are bullying, then name them! The only way I can see to stop a bully is to fully expose them.


This is exactly the tactic those bullies use on their victims. "But it's okay because we're on the right side" is exactly the reasoning they use, as well.


But right or wrong is what is of actual importance. Your attitude of relativism is at the heart of anti-intellectualism: the belief that there is no difference between right and wrong, it's all just opinion. I do believe in right and wrong, and I believe you should fight for what is right using the best techniques you can.

Saying that effective tactics should not be used because bad people also use them only disempowers those under attack.


I do believe in right and wrong, but I do not believe that there are no bad tactics, only bad targets. Internet vigilantism isn't going to work out for anybody, it'll only perpetuate the cycle without resolving the core issues.


But who's the judge of right and wrong? And is it right to do wrong to those who are doing wrong?


That's not the tactic at all. The Professor was open about who they were. The bullies were bullies not because they named the professor but because they demanded she be sacked.

The professor was brave enough to put her name to her opinion. I think those opposing her should also be as brave and let their names be known and let everyone see their responses. If that is negative because of the way they expressed them, then they might see that their behaviour is not terribly acceptable.


That's not a globally applicable principle. Kidnapping a person and locking them in a cell is wrong when a private citizen does it, but it's right when the state does it (after properly handled arrest and a fair trial and so forth, of course.)

Honestly, I used to agree with you on this, but I'm starting to think that this craziness isn't going to end until the "activists" start getting a taste of their own medicine. And it's not like they won't claim they're being persecuted anyway...


The state takes actions under reasoned and measured approaches (barring obvious bad actors), whereas the private citizen/vigilante approach historically does not practice reason or restraint in their application of justice.

It's far too easy for activists and anti-activists alike to get caught up in the crusade, and it's not hard to imagine that someone names an "activist in need of a taste of their own medicine" that gets piled on before anyone realizes a mistake was made and an innocent was punished, perhaps even irreparably.


Well, you're definitely right about that. But it's worth keeping in mind that vigilantism is much more likely when the state (or equivalent organization, such as the university in question) declines to enforce order.


Who was it that said "You have freedom of speech, not freedom from speech" ?


Universities are dead a source of innovation and critical thinking. They'll probably lumber along for another century or so from pure inertia, but the people with really new, radical ideas are going to go elsewhere.

Between the censorship, "safe spaces" where people refuse to even think about an idea they find offensive, the decline of academia as a viable career path, and the overwhelming tuition costs, I think talented and ambitious people are going to be spending as little time as possible at universities in the future.


At least part of the blame lies in these colleges' Women and Gender Studies departments. I don't know if any of you have ever taken a WGST class, but at my school (Ivy) it was essentially institutionalized activism. People were taught that they were victims. It had very little intellectual depth, no alternate theories were taught, and the students who did best were the ones who "felt" the strongest about the "injustices".

These students then take these lessons out into the open, and are infernally convinced that they are Right and everyone else is wrong. It is shameful that these pseudo-philosophies are allowed to be taught in school as if they have any intellectual depth. Their only purpose is to radicalize the students into being loud self-righteous people.

So there's that, plus there are completely ineffectual helicopter parents who have coddled their children so much that they grow up spoiled. I saw the video of that person at Yale shouting at the professor - if my mother saw me do that she'd slap me in the face. What a despicable display of disrespect towards a reasonable man.


> People were taught that they were victims.

As opposed to what? Teaching that we live in a fantasy world where everyone is actually treated equally?


There's a middle ground between victimhood and equality.

"To accuse others for one's own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one's education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one's education is complete." - Epictetus


No surprise that literally the worst article on the Yale race issue would be the one that shoots up HN.

> Erika Christakis' ... message was a model of relevant, thoughtful, civil engagement.

That is a parody of bullshit.

She refers repeatedly about "censure and prohibition but do read the email she is complaining about [1] and tell me where the requirements are:

[1] http://pastebin.com/TLGSdaTg

> Yale is a community that values free expression as well as inclusivity. And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression... There is growing national concern on campuses everywhere about these issues, and we encourage Yale students to take the time to consider their costumes and the impact it may have. So, if you are planning to dress-up for Halloween, or will be attending any social gatherings planned for the weekend, please ask yourself these questions before deciding upon your costume choice

From the genius annotations to her email [2] by April Joyner:

[2] http://genius.com/8083098

> it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde-haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day

This is an example of a straw man argument. The original email from the Intercultural Affairs Council said nothing about blond-haired children wanting to be Mulan—or children at all. The email listed “wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface” as examples of Halloween costumery that could be culturally insensitive. Christakis also likens college students, most of whom (legally speaking) are adults, to young children.


There are plenty of things in Erika Christakis email I disagree with too. But the student protesters aren't demanding that their disagreement be heard. They're demanding that Nicholas and Erika Christakis resign from their position over it.


My main point here was the tone of Friesendorf's article and his ridiculous glorifying of Erika Christakis' email which starts off 'I don't wish to trivialize' and then proceeeds to (foreshadowing) actually trivialize the issue by reducing concerns about college students in blackface to 6 year olds wanting to dress up like Mulan.

For the larger issue of whether her husband or she or both should resign/be fired or not that's a more complicated issue and I don't see much of a serious conversation in the comments here. For people who's job description includes being "responsible for the physical well being and safety of students" to be this tone deaf on race[1], resignation strikes me as a legitimate demand.

[1] "Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended." The less said about 'look away' as a policy, the better. As far as 'telling people what is offensive', correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that exactly what was happening in the first place when they sent out an email that essentially said 'maybe don't be an asshole this Halloween'?


Your reaction seems strong, but I still thank you for sharing the original e-mail (through the annotations).

It seems like both the original e-mail and the response were both within reason actually. Remember the second e-mail was not just responding to the first e-mail, but also to the reaction to the first e-mail.

Email 1 tldr: You might not realize that people find your cultural stereotypes offensive, please be considerate (although the explicit list of costumes felt a little too much like trying to give a pre-approved list of costumes).

Email 2: Not all things that are offensive should be banned, engage with people.

I however suspect that on the student level the discourse seemed much less civilized which is why the whole thing is blowing up.

I actually don't think the blond-haired girl example is a complete straw man. She was just trying to show that there was a large area between "probably okay" and "probably not okay" where people probably weren't able to agree, but people could still put outer bounds on. Also while this might not have been a complaint in the original e-mail, it very well could have been a complained the reaction to the first e-mail generated.


The Atlantic (and, unsurprisingly, the current season of South Park) have done a great job highlighting the problems that extreme PC-culture can create.


I'm not gonna get down the rabbit hole of discussing if these students are coddled or if they behave like little kids, but it is very scary how their first reflex is always to go after the job of the person who disagrees with them.

In today's society it is incredibly violent to go after another person's job. It is what they've been doing for many years, 8 hours a day, it is a way to provide for their families. You're basically trying very hard to hurt a whole household just because one person disagrees with you.


When you've never had to work to provide for yourself and others, it's very hard to imagine the damage done from someone losing their job.


It is certainly a misguided and disproportionate tactic, but it is not a violent one.


This is absolutely violence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IEFD_JVYd0


No, it's not. It's yelling. Yelling is not violence. Words mean things, and if you need an illustration, think of all the times the police have used the false equivalence between discourteous or angry speech and violence in order to harm people.


Damn, that was rough on that poor guy who had to stand there and be bullied like that. I'm half a globe away from this and at the moment that lady started shouting my blood started to boil. Also, it's absolutely not ok to shout at someone, it's a very dick move.



It is violent, not physical violence but it is violent. Especially in a world where people toss around the ideas of microaggression, death by a thousand cuts and others.

How is publicly shaming someone and aggressively lobbying for them to be fired not violent?


It may be aggressive, but it is not violent. Violence is generally understood as the use of physical force.

Violently going after someone's job would be punching their boss in the face until they agree to fire the person.

EDIT: Speaking from an American English perspective, anyway.


You know, I agree with you. But in a world of "microaggressions" and a systematic devaluation of the meaning of English words, I'm not sure the people you're sort of defending would necessarily agree.


If you mean the students, they'd call it violence when it was done to them, and not violence when done to the administration (or others they disagreed with).


Likely they would not. That does not mean we should cooperate with them to change the meaning of words to confuse people.


I confess, I'm not myself an English native speaker, but there seems to be a proper definition for non-physical violence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence#Non-physical


That's not a definition, it's a modern attempt to hijack the emotions associated with violence into a non-physical setting.

Definitionally, violence is physical. Redefining it to include non-physical acts is pure politics, and I for one will not let it pass without calling it out for the bullshit it is.



I mean, if I stretch the definition far enough, Ghandi's nonviolent protests were actually a (nonphysical) violent assault on the East India Company. So it's a question of where you want to draw a line.

Wikipedia talks about nonphysical violence in the context of a "power relationship," where someone with a significant amount of power/control over the victim is the instigator. Things like emotionally abusive relationships. A bunch of people with no direct authority over you trying to get someone fired for inappropriate behavior doesn't fit that narrative.

If you told me people were violently going after someone's job, 100% my assumption is going to be "so they burned his garage down and threatened that his house is next unless he quits?" (or something along those lines). Calling phone calls and #FireBob tweets coming from people of no authority "violent" is an attempt at grabbing all the emotional baggage that comes with the word and attaching it somewhere that it doesn't belong.


If you think of the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" (ironic in this context, isn't it?) making someone lose their job is closer to the sticks and stones side.


Statements are not violent, even if they have harmful effects.


Considering the reactions here to this incident, I wonder if at some point there will be a counter reaction by certain colleges.

I wonder if some universities will start advertising that they don't care about "safe spaces" and "puppy time". In the end, in the US, universities are in it for the money, and there seems to be a market for students who want to learn and not have to deal with this BS.


The danger of cultural waves like this is that there might not be a market for schools that stand up to it. If this mentality is prevalent enough in a whole generation of students, there may never be a school willing to stand up to it. It'll just become the new normal.


Come on now. There will be at least a school that stands up to it. There are still universities that ban premarital sex, for crying out loud.


Sure. But will they be around in another generation? If so, will they still hold on to their (current) set of values?


> universities are in it for the money

Which is why a lot of college are pandering to these people. They make them a lot of money.

> and there seems to be a market for students who want to learn and not have to deal with this BS.

I don't think colleges would necessarily brag about it, just not pander or do anything. Maybe I am wrong, but I haven't seen any engineering colleges do stuff like this. People just go, learn, and come out.


Alternate theory: Professors may go on leave accept lucrative private industry jobs then come back 5 years later to a promotion. Mean while people who have social and institutional power will continue to pretend that these students were a threat to the status quo.


It is unfortunate, but traditional liberals will have to ally with some rather distasteful right-wingers to end the insanity.


SJW's are authoritarian, much like distasteful right-wingers. These people are like a secular version of the Christian Right.


Wow, I never saw it quite so clearly like that. You are right. The SJW angle really is the "logically" equivalent doctrine of religious dogma.


"Left" and "Right" are better thought of as maternal versus paternal authoritarianism. Neither has any use for rational, independent thought.


PCU into the Netflix queue!


As far as I can tell, all the students in this outrage should be expelled. I doubt even a community college would want them; let them wallow in obscurity and reflect on their misdeeds.


It's their position as victims that lets them get away with these actions in the first place. Further "victimizing" them will only give them more power. It will let them further capitalize on the "David vs Goliath" war against the university itself, and the media will inevitably side with the underdog victims.


I disagree.

Expel them, escort them off campus, get restraining orders to keep them away both physically and virtually. Shut down all of their student accounts and access. When they resist toss 'em in jail and sue them.

Responding weakly to this kind of madness (and it _is_ madness) will only lead to anarchy.


Individually, they are expressing freedom of speech. What is the basis for expulsion, jail, and civil suits?


No reason need be given for expulsion. Yale AFAIK is a private university and business and can do as it wishes.

The reason for jail would be violation of a restraining order. The reason for civil suit would be damages to the university's image or property.

The problem could be cleared out in 3 days and not a stir of it left after a week, were the administration willing to maintain control of their campus.


[flagged]


This unfortunately matches the rhetoric of the students themselves, which is exactly what we should not be doing.


No it doesn't. They want to leave. Let them face the consequences of their own stupid actions. A respectable institution (not saying Yale is or isn't) shouldn't have to deal with such ridiculous bullshit and should stand behind its professors, especially those who have given them decades of service.

What would you do? Fire the professor for standing up for the students? These students are so fucking stupid, they don't even realize the professor is standing up for them!


That's actually the part I don't understand. This professor was actually complaining that the institution should stop treating them like babies and trust them to do the right thing. How can these students get offended by that?


Virtually all of these students are happy to not be treated like babies themselves. What they are complaining about is that their classmates who disagree with them may be trusted to do the right thing. And how can they do the right thing if they disagree with me about what is right? Clearly the only solution is for the school to force them to behave the way I want them to. The right way.


Except that the school didn't force them to do anything, and didn't even suggest that it was going to do so - it just asked them, very politely, to think about how their Halloween costumes would look to minority students before they embarrassed themselves. Apparently this is an attack on free speech because it might make white students uncomfortable wearing blackface, though. The students are protesting someone who literally demanded that the university not ask people to think about other's views because it might make them uncomfortable, and called it free speech, and apparently this is them demanding to be "coddled". Because some speech is more free than others.


You may have missed some sarcasm.

It's clearly not an attack on free speech. The real criticism is that it's prioritizing free expression aka speech over other rights.


As much as I'm sure many of us feel this in our hearts, let's not.


Yeah, let's fire the professor.


Why not, are you afraid of hurting someone's feelings?


I think it's rather a matter of being an unproductive line of discussion. One of the key points to take from this article is that throwing your toys out of the pram because you disagree with others' viewpoints is counter-productive at best and illiberal at worst.

I'm vehemently opposed to the kind of activism described here, but 'if you don't like it then fuck off' is exactly the wrong attitude and will not solve this problem.


There comes a point, though, when you may have to say that they are disrupting the proper functioning of the university enough that they have to go, for the good of everyone else...


That's probably the worst possible outcome.

These people are PAYING to go there. They are PAYING to live there. Are you saying they should have to put up with harassment and bigotry in addition to that?


[flagged]


> Why don't I let the professor himself explain it to your dumb ass

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