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You know who else also opposed free speech?

[ 222 ] May 23, 2014 |

Scott’s post linking to Chris Taylor’s thoughts on various bits of meta-commencement commentary alerted me to this Onion article actual op-ed by Yale Law School professor Stephen Carter.

Scott and djw have already pointed out that commencement speeches are highly ritualized forms of institutional identity maintenance, and therefore political gestures of a very specific kind, rather than occasions for real intellectual engagement, let alone actual debate.

So Carter’s protest that objecting to showering Condi Rice et. al., with honors (and money) at commencement ceremonies is an example of shutting down legitimate academic debate is nonsense on its face, and I’m not going to belabor it.

Nor do I want to comment on Carter’s remarkable contempt for the people whose debt-leveraged tuition payments fund his salary, at Taylor does a fine job of thrashing him on this score.

Instead I’d like to comment on the appalling intellectual laziness of Carter’s complacent description of what universities are supposed to be doing:

In my day, the college campus was a place that celebrated the diversity of ideas. Pure argument was our guide. Staking out an unpopular position was admired — and the admiration, in turn, provided excellent training in the virtues of tolerance on the one hand and, on the other, integrity. . .

[On the other hand] there are your fellows at Rutgers University, who rose up to force the estimable Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and national security adviser, to withdraw. The protest was worded with unusual care, citing the war in Iraq and the “torture” practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency. Cleverly omitted was the drone war. This elision allows the protesters to wish away the massive drone war that President Barack Obama’s administration has conducted now for more than five years, with significant loss of innocent life. As for the Iraq war, well, among its early and enthusiastic supporters was — to take a name at random — then-Senator Hillary Clinton. But don’t worry. Consistency in protest requires careful and reflective thought, and that is exactly what we should be avoiding here.

The literary critic George Steiner, in a wonderful little book titled “Nostalgia for the Absolute,” long ago predicted this moment. We have an attraction, he contended, to higher truths that can sweep away complexity and nuance. We like systems that can explain everything. Intellectuals in the West are nostalgic for the tight grip religion once held on the Western imagination. They are attracted to modes of thought that are as comprehensive and authoritarian as the medieval church. You and your fellow students — and your professors as well; one mustn’t forget their role — are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages.

Again, leave aside the point that commencement speeches aren’t and as a practical matter can’t be occasions for genuine intellectual engagement and debate. What ought to astonish us here is that someone who is purported to be a serious scholar of, among other things, church-state relations, argues for a version of the academy that is both impossible to take seriously and a perfect reflection of the conventional wisdom regarding the academy’s failures (aka the supposed dominance of “political correctness”).

It ought to be obvious to anybody who thinks about for ten seconds that actually making the pursuit of a “diversity of ideas” and “pure argument” the paramount values of an academic institution –as opposed to, say, the pursuit of knowledge — is ultimately inimical to the latter. Consider one of an almost infinite number of possible examples: Should a university history department — in the name, needless to say, of tolerance for “unpopular positions” and the paramount importance of celebrating a diversity of ideas, arguments, and viewpoints — invite David Irving to give a talk on the disputed question of whether the Nazi regime operated extermination camps? Better yet, should Irving be appointed to a faculty position on some optimally tolerant history faculty?

Now it would be simply dishonest to try to wriggle out of answering this question by claiming that the question of the existence of the Nazi extermination camps is not in dispute. It’s in plenty of dispute — although, not, it’s important to emphasize, among actual historians. Now what is an actual historian? An actual historian is, among other things, someone who would be (unlike David Irving as of 2014, although not as of, say, 1970) a person whom it would be reasonable for a history department at a real university to invite to give a talk, or to perhaps consider appointing to its faculty. And there are certain historical viewpoints — such as the claim that the Nazis did not operate extermination camps — that properly disqualify people who hold them from being in that category.

The reason for this is that genuine intellectual debate quickly becomes impossible if tolerating the diversity of ideas trumps the pursuit of knowledge. And there isn’t any magical formula for determining when tolerating certain ideas interferes with the pursuit of knowledge to a sufficient extent that those ideas can’t be tolerated within an institution, such as the university, that values, or ought to value, the pursuit of knowledge above and beyond the toleration of diverse viewpoints. Indeed in one sense the pursuit of knowledge could itself be defined as an attempt to determine which ideas should and should not be tolerated within a community dedicated to its pursuit.

(I won’t comment here at any length on Carter’s trivialization of any protest against the war crimes of the Bush administration via the cheap rhetorical trick of simply assuming that the people protesting those crimes wouldn’t hold Democratic enablers of those crimes to the same standard, or on his remarkable use of scare quotes around the word torture).

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  1. Shakezula says:

    In my day,

    [Stops reading]

    • Kurzleg says:

      And even if you read further, his characterization of the climate at the academy is almost definitely inaccurate and more than likely distorted by Carter’s own nostalgia for a time that never was.

      • Lee Rudolph says:

        Evidence of climate change!!!

      • Shakezula says:

        Right, and while everyone does this, it takes a special kind of density to say that pure argument reigned in place chock full of post-adolescents/pre-adults. That’s cute.

        And this man is a law professor so unless he never allows students or his colleagues to speak in his presence, he must know that even specially-trained humans aren’t capable of engaging in pure argument.

      • ThrottleJockey says:

        I can’t really speak to Carter’s comments on the academic climate these days, but he does have a point about free speech and civic discourse. The contention that free speech rights are only at stake when 2 speakers are engaging in Lincoln-Douglass debates is a laughable.

        • Kurzleg says:

          The contention that free speech rights are only at stake when 2 speakers are engaging in Lincoln-Douglass debates is a laughable.

          Who, exactly, is making this argument?

          • Frank Despicable says:

            ThrottleJockey’s pooka.

          • ThrottleJockey says:

            Campos et al’s contention seems to be that a commencement speech doesn’t “really” count as public debate when of course it does:

            Scott and djw have already pointed out that commencement speeches are highly ritualized forms of institutional identity maintenance, and therefore political gestures of a very specific kind, rather than occasions for real intellectual engagement, let alone actual debate.

            So Carter’s protest that objecting to showering Condi Rice et. al., with honors (and money) at commencement ceremonies is an example of shutting down “legitimate” academic debate is nonsense on its face, and I’m not going to belabor it. (scare quotes mine)

            Logic this twisted could run a pretzel factory. Forcing speakers to bow out is in fact shutting down legitimate academic debate. Obama used his commencement addresses last year to discuss sexual assault–a topic of important public debate. Churchill used the occasion of his receiving an honorary degree to give his “Iron Curtain” speech. And of course George Marshall used a commencement speech to outline the Marshall Plan.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Forcing speakers to bow out

              What?

              Obama used his commencement addresses last year to discuss sexual assault–a topic of important public debate. Churchill used the occasion of his receiving an honorary degree to give his “Iron Curtain” speech. And of course George Marshall used a commencement speech to outline the Marshall Plan.

              These highly atypical examples still don’t give anyone an inalienable right to gobs of tuition money to mouth platitudes to a captive audience. And implicit in your argument is a contempt for the free speech rights of the less powerful.

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                Rice doesn’t own Rutgers and she has no more “right” to give a speech there than I do. That being said, a commencement speech is absolutely a forum for public discussion and debate. Suggesting otherwise as Campos does above is myopic.

                What we really have here is a clash of First Amendment values. On one hand we have free speech (Condoleeza Rice), and on the other hand we have freedom of association (protesting students). Both are free to exercise their rights. I value civic engagement, however, and I think these types of protests–while wholly legitimate–diminish civic discourse.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  That being said, a commencement speech is absolutely a forum for public discussion and debate.

                  Not at all for the latter, and a very low-value forum for the former.

                  What we really have here is a clash of First Amendment values

                  There are no First Amendment questions involved at all here.

                  I value civic engagement, however, and I think these types of protests–while wholly legitimate–diminish civic discourse.

                  If your definition of “civic discourse” is “students whose tuition money goes to honor people should have no say in who is honored,” you desperately need a new one.

                • BoredJD says:

                  I think he’s saying that “First Amendment values” are at play here even if there’s no legal question, here, the value embodied by allowing rich, powerful people to say what they want very loudly without any sort of social or practical consequences.

                • ChrisTS says:

                  Jesus. STOP. Rice’s 1st Amendment right to speech was not impacted in any f+ckin way.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  First, I never said First Amendment “rights” were implicated, I said Free Speech “values” were implicated. Second, these artificial & wholly arbitrary constraints you’re erecting serve no other purpose than to restrict content (or speakers) with whom you disagree–plain and simple. We don’t privilege books anymore than we privilege tweets, and yet you’d like to see commencement speeches get little to no free speech protection. This is a study in contrasts since you seem to want to give professors’ tweets maximalist protection. If there’s anyone who see this its a poli sci prof and an ethics prof.

                  Finally, these protests amount to nothing more than a preemptive heckler’s veto. Do we know if the protesters speak for the majority of students?

                • Hogan says:

                  First, I never said First Amendment “rights” were implicated, I said Free Speech “values” were implicated.

                  Dude, it was just over an hour ago:

                  The contention that free speech rights are only at stake when 2 speakers are engaging in Lincoln-Douglass debates is a laughable [sic].

                • BoredJD says:

                  Methinks you don’t understand what a “restriction” on free speech is. My telling you I don’t want to shop at your store because you have a framed picture of Adolf Hitler on the wall is not a restriction on your speech.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  Sorry for being unclear, I meant to say “values” not “rights”. I was explicit that she had no more right to speak there than I do. That being said, a preemptive heckler’s veto absolutely does circumscribe free speech. Academia should foster free speech instead of restricting it. In this case just 50 protesters kept someone from speaking whom thousands of others may have wanted to hear. This is political correctness on steroids.

                • BoredJD says:

                  What was stopping those thousands of others from mounting an even more effective campaign to uphold the invitation?

                  If I have a party and invite 50 people, and 45 of them don’t know you and don’t care if you come, and 5 of them absolutely hate you, I’m probably not going to invite you, especially if I don’t know you that well. That seems to be what happened here.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  An active and agitated minority can frequently get its way–only a third of colonial Americans supported revolution. It could be that the majority didn’t want to hear from Rice, but its more likely they just didn’t care. Of the 4 commencement speakers I saw speak at my college there was only 1 I genuinely looked forward to (fortunately it was mine!)

                • Academia should foster free speech instead of restricting it.

                  When it’s free as opposed to costing $150000 for stupid platitudes from a failed war criminal let me know.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Finally, these protests amount to nothing more than a preemptive heckler’s veto.

                  The planned protest was to wear buttons saying “Ask me about Birgeneau”, not exactly a shouting down.

                  But keep on championing the suppression of speech of many in favor of overpromotion of the speech of the rich, powerful, and wrong.

                • BoredJD says:

                  “An active and agitated minority can frequently get its way–only a third of colonial Americans supported revolution.”

                  Or that’s just how you get disinvited to parties. Context matters, and what people are saying is that commencements are just more private, ceremonial affairs than public debates, campaign rallies/party conventions, or lecture series’.

                • Ronan says:

                  TJ, you should meet GoDeep. He’s got such an expansive view of the first amendment that it includes breaking into peoples houses and taking pictures of them (if youre a blogger or provocateur!) ; ) Now, where is he..

                • Col Bat Guano says:

                  It could be that the majority didn’t want to hear from Rice, but its more likely they just didn’t care.

                  And their indifference should count more than the people who opposed honoring her?

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Sorry for being unclear saying the exact opposite of what I now claim I said and self righteously claim not to have said, I meant to say “values”rights not “rights” values unless someone called me on it..

                  FIFY!

                  I was explicit that she had no more right to speak there than I do. That being said, a preemptive heckler’s veto absolutely does circumscribe free speech.

                  Which is why you want to preemptively circumscribe any form of oppositional speech? *Good job*!

                  Academia should foster free speech instead of restricting it.

                  Which is clearly what the students were attempting to do and clearly what the speakers and administration (and you) are attempting to fight tooth and nail.

                  In this case just 50 protesters kept someone from speaking whom thousands of others may have wanted to hear.

                  “Kept” in the sense of “voiced opposition and provided a path forward but the chickenshit who was in charge when police batoned students under his care bowed out, but the president decided to get someone else to perform essentially his offensive function”, well sure. How *isn’t* that like being thrown in the gulag.

                  This is political correctness on steroids.

                  This is most true of your position. But, by all means, continue your campaign to crush dissent, discussion, and anything but a robust culture of freedom of idea.

                • BoredJD says:

                  I could understand ThrottleJockey’s position if the invitation of politically controversial or important public figures fit in with a culture of commencements as a time to reflect on current events, social/political issues, etc. etc, and all speakers were encouraged to speak on those topics. Then you’d want academia to encourage a range of views, even those that the audience doesn’t agree with.

                  But as the OP points out this is ridiculous: commencement isn’t about that, and “encouraging free speech” at commencements is about as minimal a goal for a university as encouraging free speech at pep rallies or private fundraisers for rich alumni.

                • ChrisTS says:

                  So, we’ve clarified that you did mention rights, not just values.

                  Next, let’s focus on the fact of the reference to the 1st Amendment. The only ‘value’ implicated in a constitutional guarantee of free speech is a political/legal value: the value of protecting citizens from state suppression of speech.

                  There is no 1st Amendment ‘value’ relevant to the Rice business. None. Zip. Nada.

                • Hogan says:

                  freedom of idea.

                  I see what you did there. And I love love love it.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  I’m surprised, ChrisTS, that a self-desribed ethicist doesn’t get that free speech values at the university exist apart from First Amendment law. By your standard there are no free speech values in academia. I’ll remember that the next time David Guth tweets about guns. Oh, wait, there’s no free speech rights on campus, and the University of Kansas has decreed that there will be no more David Guths. I’m glad that’s alright with you.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  Ronan–I stay far, far away from pancakes. I’m partial to french toast myself. We’re celebrating the start of summer here in the States this weekend. Happy Summer to you!

                • I’m surprised that each and every argument you offer has been so terrible and you keep going. There is some value of Wrong Enough that you cannot reach and I feel for you.

            • Shakezula says:

              Forcing speakers to bow out is in fact shutting down legitimate academic debate.

              Yawn.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Obama used his commencement addresses last year to discuss sexual assault–a topic of important public debate. Churchill used the occasion of his receiving an honorary degree to give his “Iron Curtain” speech. And of course George Marshall used a commencement speech to outline the Marshall Plan.

              None of those are examples of debate, or taking part in a debate. Powerful government officials used the platform to issue their message.

              I’m no criticizing such a thing, just pointing out that it has nothing to do with debate.

              • calling all toasters says:

                Well, you should have used the word “speech,” instead. Then ThrottleJockey would have a point.

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                I think public speeches are part of a public debate. We don’t need the formalism of lecterns, stop watches, and Lincoln-Douglass debate rules to have a public debate. In fact, that’s what I’m really objecting to, the notion that commencement speeches aren’t part of our civic dialogue just because most are monotonous.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  But why would you imagine that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the United States Secretary of State, or the President of the United States would be unable to give, and have covered, a public speech unless they’re given a commencement slot?

                  Making sure they get to give their speeches in front of audiences in silly garb seems like the least necessary defense of free speech ever.

                • calling all toasters says:

                  Just to be clear: it’s not the students, faculty, or anyone else associated with the university or attending the commencement who are engaging in debate. They are simply to provide legitimization for launching the speech into the wider world.

                  So why should they do that for someone they find abhorrent?

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  Toaster–They have every Freedom of Association right to protest who gives their commencement speech. If they don’t want to associate with Rice so be it.

                  Joe–Commencement speeches are just a venue. But we shouldn’t diminish that venue anymore than we should diminish the soapbox in the public square.

                • calling all toasters says:

                  So protesting that someone is unworthy of the venue diminishes the venue?

                  But at least nobody loses their right to freedom of association*, so it’s all good.

                  *Unless Birgenau runs the university in question.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  But we shouldn’t diminish that venue anymore than we should diminish the soapbox in the public square.

                  A soap box in the public square is there for anyone to use, and for anyone to listen at, or not. It’s actually a venue for free speech and open debate.

                  Not quite the same thing as honoring someone by giving them, and only them, some time to speak to a captive audience under the university’s colors.

              • Chocolate Covered Cotton says:

                Also, it’s not like sitting presidents or Secretaries of State don’t have other venues with which to express their ideas.

                • cpinva says:

                  “Toaster–They have every Freedom of Association right to protest who gives their commencement speech. If they don’t want to associate with Rice so be it.

                  Joe–Commencement speeches are just a venue. But we shouldn’t diminish that venue anymore than we should diminish the soapbox in the public square.”

                  congratulations! you’ve gone well beyond a mere “moving the goalposts”, right on into “lifting the field, flying it 3 states over, and dropping it” land. you are to be commended. your position(s?) on the issue, however, are still idiotic.

            • Bartleby says:

              Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech was not a commencement speech. It was given in March 1946, as part of a series of lectures endowed to “promote understanding of economic and social problems of international concern.” Which is different.

            • JL says:

              There’s no debate happening. It’s someone being honored by an institution by getting to preach to a captive audience of people who are ostensibly celebrating their own major achievement. There’s no opportunity for discussion, response, exchange of ideas, and the fact that people occasionally use the speech to bring up important issues doesn’t change any of that.

              Let the same people come and discuss their important issues at a regular non-honorary university speaking engagement where the audience gets to ask questions or give comments and where an opposing group can get their own speaker if they want.

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                You don’t think that’s a bit formalistic? When Obama gives a stump speech it doesn’t count as free speech unless there’s audience Q&A? Didn’t you give the example the other day about nuns standing at an ordination ceremony as an effective form of counter-argument? Wouldn’t that suggest that the ordination ceremony–really the same as a commencement ceremony–was an example of free speech?

                • Hogan says:

                  When Obama gives a stump speech, (a) he (or more specifically his campaign) is paying for the venue, not the other way around, and (b) no one has to attend if they don’t want to.

                • calling all toasters says:

                  Hey, Hogan, what about freedom of being forced to listen? It’s in the conservative constitution, right before freedom of shooting.

                • calling all toasters says:

                  Also, too: freedom of pocket 35 large because you have friends on the Board of Trustees.

                • Hogan says:

                  Hey, Hogan, what about freedom of being forced to listen?

                  I have every expectation that if I gave a commencement speech, the entire audience would turn on their iPods for the duration. And they’d be right to.

            • Nathanael says:

              A speech isn’t a debate.

              Sure, invite thuggish brutal guys who beat peaceful protestors to give commencement speeches — *with a response period* for the opposition to give the counter-speeches.

              Marshall and Churchill weren’t opening debate at all.They were attempting to speak ex cathedra, fairly successfully.

              The Marshall Plan was already committed. Churchill didn’t allow those who disagreed with the goofy “Iron Curtain” concept (Austrians, for instance?) to speak against it.

          • CJColucci says:

            Fox News? They put up a graphic I’m too busy to find about a “Lincoln-Douglass” debate. I don’t recall whether it included a head shot of black activist Frederick Douglass rather than doughface Senator Stephen Douglas.

        • ChrisTS says:

          Free speech rights are only at stake when states attempt to suppress speech.

          Other than that, carry on.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          The idea that free speech is substantively lost when extremely powerful people with a wide variety of venues to express their overrepresented (yet bonkers) views withdraw from a ceremonial occasion in response to extremely mild (yet correct, eloquent, and honest) pushback from extremely less powerful, but wildly more invested, people.

          Seem what actually happened when Bowman spoke. His views were magnified (as the wire articles show) and the fact that his spin was outright false (if you read the letter, it’s awesome, respectful, and smart) was completely lost.

          We all evidently agree that supporting some people’s speech in certain ways results in a net diminishment in the marketplace of ideas and free discourse. The difference is that your view actually diminishes the values you purport to uphold.

          • Nathanael says:

            Yeah.

            Bowman proved himself to be arrogant, immature, and a supporter of police brutality.

            Hopefully any further attempts to invite him to give commencement speeches will be cancelled.

        • jack says:

          Now that’s funny. Free speech? There’s nothing “free” about it. Everyone connected to commencement addresses paid. The government paid, the graduates paid, their parents paid. Condi was going to be compensated (not just a nice fat check but they usually cover travel costs, pick up their tab at the finest restaurants available, ect). Why shouldn’t the people who’s cash funds the University have a say in who gets the honor (and swag) of addressing them? Condi is free to speak whenever and wherever she likes. Real rights are being eroded every day in this country. Let’s focus on preserving the few we have left rather than whine about the poor, oppressed Condi Rice’s of the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m not sure when the last time I saw someone use “In my day” except to set up a joke.

    • Joseph Slater says:

      Beat me to it. Not only is he wrong on the specifics (I was in college several decades ago, and trust me), but really, anybody who begins a sentence “In my day. . . .” who isn’t consciously attempting parody should be roundly mocked.

      • Shakezula says:

        I start riffing on the 4 Yorkshiremen Sketch and can’t stop giggling.

        “In my day professor glued yon’s lips shut if ye didn’t engage in pure argument.”

        “Glue? Loooxury! My professors took pneumatic staple gun to our faces if we didn’t follow Robert’s Rules of Order at all times!”

    • joe from Lowell says:

      In my day,

      [Stops reading]

      The important part is, I had an onion tied to my belt.

  2. Kurzleg says:

    This Goodreads comment about Irving’s book is a gem.

  3. Barry Freed says:

    I won’t comment here at any length on Carter’s…remarkable use of scare quotes around the word torture.

    And he purports to be a “Christian.” I’ve heard of those. I think I may have even met one or two in my life. Haven’t seen many around lately though.

    Fuck him with a rusty chainsaw.

    • Scott S. says:

      That’s the thing that bugs me — that there are people out there, and actual academics at that, who think torture is just a fucking joke, as long as it’s done by Republicans to brown people.

      • Chris says:

        Ditto prison rape, IMO.

      • ThrottleJockey says:

        You had me thinking Stephen Carter was John Yoo’s long lost twin. So I Googled. He’s not. This is what he has to say on torture:

        Torture is wrong for all sorts of reasons, from its affront to basic human dignity to its violation of fundamental human rights. Making a moral case is not difficult.

        But don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.

        • So-in-so says:

          Since Carter is the one putting quotes around “torture”, we have to assume that he falls into the camp that says torture is wrong but what the CIA did (water boarding people over 100 times!) isn’t torture.

          Not an insufficient grouping within Bush apologists.

        • John (not McCain) says:

          Yeah, it’s not possible to think that torture is wrong and that the CIA didn’t torture anybody, which is obviously what Carter thinks. He is, therefore, John Yooesque. Try not to soil your big boy pants.

          • ThrottleJockey says:

            Again, no reason to let your opinion be informed by facts.

            Again, let me emphasize, I am not defending the morality of torture, or of other methods of enhanced interrogation.

            If you’re going to accuse a black man of something at least make sure the black man did it. One George Zimmerman is enough thank you.

            • Shakezula says:

              The long weekend beckons. Can you just skip the usual gyrations and give us the family anecdote that proves calling Carter an asshole is totally like shooting someone in cold blood?

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                You of all people should protest when blacks are accused of crimes we didn’t commit. And I’m sure you have enough of your own family anecdotes to know that yourself. If you don’t we can discuss.

                • Shakezula says:

                  You of all people should know that being an asshole is not a crime, therefore to call Carter an asshole is not to accuse him of a crime (or to shoot him in cold blood).

                  Shame on you for attempting to shut down discourse by equating the two. To make up for it, you’ll have to provide two family anecdotes.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  Oh, ok, so as long as they don’t accuse black people of crimes, its ok to falsely accuse them of something? Maybe I was wrong and you don’t have any experience with being falsely accused of anything. That must be a privilege of the Talented Tenth.

                • Shakezula says:

                  Oh, ok, so as long as they don’t accuse black people of crimes, its ok to falsely accuse them of something? Maybe I was wrong and you don’t have any experience with being falsely accused of anything. That must be a privilege of the Talented Tenth.

                  Please rephrase your comment in the form of a family anecdote.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  No family anecdote. All I know is that when black people don’t hang together we hang separately. But perhaps you’re down with that.

                • Guggenheim Swirly says:

                  To make up for it, you’ll have to provide two family anecdotes.

                  Oh, I hope one of them is the one where his aunt let 11-year-old him and his brother “sweep the house” for potential intruders after coming home to find the place had been burgled whilst they were out!

                  Because that was precious.

                • Shakezula says:

                  No family anecdote. All I know is that when black people don’t hang together we hang separately. But perhaps you’re down with that.

                  Now surely you have an anecdote for this one. Perhaps a story your grandfather told you when you were just a little derplet perched on his knee.

                  No? Well, I think you’re holding out on us, but maybe you’re saving the goodies for when you launch your defense of Rice. People are saying nastier things about her than they are Carter!

                • Col Bat Guano says:

                  So, pointing out that he put quotation marks around the word torture (which he did, in fact do) is falsely accusing him? Do you know what “falsely” means? Regardless of what he may have said in other forum, in this letter he implied that what Rice condoned as NSA was not torture.

                • ChrisTS says:

                  As Shak points out, no one is accusing Carter of a crime. Nor is anyone “falsely accusing” him of anything.

                  If the ‘accusation’ is that he is a pompous apologist for the Bush administration, that is a matter of opinion – not one of fact.

            • Kurzleg says:

              I still would like to know why you think Carter put quotes around the word torture. It seems incompatible with the quotes you’re posting.

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                How would I know why he chose to do that? Perhaps he used it to differentiate torture from ‘enhanced interrogation’, since much of the mainstream media seems afraid to call ‘enhanced interrogation’ torture. I put much more stock in his explicit statements than in 1 punctuation mark though.

                • Scott S. says:

                  How would I know why he chose to pancake that? Perhaps he used it to differentiate waffles from ‘enhanced French toast’, since much of the pancake media seems afraid to call ‘enhanced French toast’ waffles. I put much more syrup in his explicit waffles than in 1 pancake mark though.

                • Kurzleg says:

                  It just seems like a strange thing to do given his more or less unequivocal statements on the subject.

              • calling all toasters says:

                It’s not incompatible.
                1) Torture bad.
                2) Bush Administration ordered thing that were called torture.
                3) Bush Administration good.
                4) Therefore, things called torture were not really torture.

                • jack says:

                  Exactly. It’s reflexive for unrepentant keyboard generals of that bygone era. And this is the “tell” as we say in poker.

                  “As for the Iraq war, well, among its early and enthusiastic supporters was — to take a name at random — then-Senator Hillary Clinton. But don’t worry. Consistency in protest requires careful and reflective thought, and that is exactly what we should be avoiding here.”

                  See? Some Democrats were supportive. That obviously means the people who conceived and executed the war are absolved of any blame. Because consistency!

        • Hogan says:

          Carter observes that while Obama has issued an executive order banning torture, he has continued the tactic known as rendition, which allows American forces to seize designated enemy combatants and move them to other countries for interrogation. Obama’s executive order mandates that the treatment of those detainees be monitored, but many of the countries in question routinely torture prisoners. The net effect, Carter concludes, is that the Obama administration has continued the use of coercive interrogation, but that “American hands will no longer be dirtied.”

          Perhaps, Carter suggests, Obama has no choice. The purpose of detaining terrorists is less to deplete their ranks, as in a conventional war, than to gain information about their confederates. Carter argues that at times torture may produce crucial knowledge. So, despite avowed principle, torture becomes, if not unavoidable, then at least tragically logical. Carter himself adheres to the Christian philosophy at the foundation of just war theory prohibiting “the intentional infliction of evil in pursuit of good.” President Obama, he suggests, may feel he has no such luxury.

          • ThrottleJockey says:

            That sounds like a fair characterization. Obama ain’t a saint. Carter makes the very limited point that torture may occasionally work. Obama–or perhaps John Brennan–may feel like they have to occasionally try it. Carter says that efficacy doesn’t justify implementation though.

            • Hogan says:

              In other words, he’s waffling.

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                That’s not a waffle, that’s a distinction. He says that its unequivocally wrong, but nonetheless may occasionally work. The former is a normative statement, the second is an observable fact. Apples and oranges. “Using slave labor is wrong, but it may allow you to produce cheap products.” A normative statement vs an observable fact.

                • Kurzleg says:

                  But what does “working” have to do with anything in this context? It’s almost like Carter’s arguing that principles are for the little people and go out the window once one’s in a position to uphold them.

                • Hogan says:

                  More like “Torture is wrong, but I can’t really blame Bush or Obama for doing it.” Which is consistent with minimizing the issue through the use of scare quotes.

                  But there I go, gunning down unarmed black teenagers again.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  My read is that Carter is just acknowledging the tension between values and efficacy. If we executed everyone who commits a crime we could lower the crime rate but obviously executing someone for stealing a loaf of bread conflicts with our values. Its healthy to recognize the tension.

                • jack says:

                  So, regarding the use of torture, the only difference between Bush’s policy and Obama’s policy is Obama is real sorry about it? Actually, that sounds about right.

                • Chocolate Covered Cotton says:

                  Does it matter to you that he’s completely wrong about its efficacy? To say, “torture is wrong but it works so we should allow it” is pretty horrible when it doesn’t actually work. Not for providing useful information, that is. Extracting confessions and terrorizing populations are where torture’s efficacy lies.

                  The only things that torture is good for are evil. As soon as you concede the false point of its efficacy, you’ve rationalized its use.

                • Nathanael says:

                  There is no “tension between values and efficacy”.

                  Torture doesn’t work for getting information; Carter is simply wrong about this. It’s great at getting *false* information! But this is never a good thing to do.

                  Likewise, if we executed every criminal, the crime rate would increase quite quickly. Because evil people would abuse the system to execute non-criminals. And those evil people would be committing crimes. But even if we tried to execute them, they’d be in a position of power and we probably couldn’t…

                  …some would say this is already happening. Anyway, the point is, efficacy is crucial.

              • jim, some guy in iowa says:

                do pretzels go with pancakes? I’ve very recently- within the last few minutes actually- started to wonder about that

          • Kurzleg says:

            Carter himself adheres to the Christian philosophy at the foundation of just war theory prohibiting “the intentional infliction of evil in pursuit of good.” President Obama, he suggests, may feel he has no such luxury.

            But Carter wouldn’t adhere to it if he happened to be president? So much for principles. The writer may be mis-characterizing Carter when he uses “luxury” in the last sentence, but if accurate, principles sure don’t have much to recommend them as far as Carter is concerned.

        • calling all toasters says:

          Barry Freed says:

          And he purports to be a Christian.”

          Throttles replies with:

          You had me thinking Stephen Carter was John Yoo’s long lost twin.

          But don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.

          Question: can you spot who is not letting the “facts get in the way”?

        • Bloix says:

          The article you are citing is a particularly infuriating example of a “reasonable, even-handed” argument. Carter says, off-handedly, off course torture is bad and we shouldn’t do it, but you know, it works.

          What he never acknowledges is that it can work in very unusual, limited situations: where the torturer knows to a certainty that the captive person holds specific, easily verifiable information. That’s the example that he gives.

          When you torture masses of people, and you don’t know whether they know anything or not, you get crap. Most of the victims don’t know what you think they might know. You don’t believe them when they say they don’t know, so eventually they just make up stuff so you’ll stop, and you can’t tell if what they say is true or not.

          Of course, if you don’t care if what they say is true, then it’s a great way to “prove” the existence of conspiracies – witches and covens! Doctors’ plots! Slave revolts!

          But Carter never goes near it.

          http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/11/stephen-carter-torture-can-be-wrong-and-still-work.html

          • Bloix says:

            PS- here’s the money quote from Carter’s
            “anti-torture” article:

            “one does not have to endorse whatever our own interrogators may have done to recognize that had they not done it, Osama bin Laden might still be safe in Abbottabad, plotting another attack.”

            Yeah, this guy is anti-torture, all right.

            On OBL and torture:
            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/may/09/osama-bin-laden-torture1?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

          • ThrottleJockey says:

            I’m not sure why you find it infuriating. What makes you think normative values necessarily make the most effective public policy? When there’s a conflict we should go with our values, but values come at a cost.

            • Bloix says:

              I find it infuriating because it’s written in bad faith. “I agree with you that torture is bad bad bad, but y’know, we got bin Laden because of it.” Which is false, but what the hell.

              It’s New York Times op-ed page liberalism.

          • Nathanael says:

            Actually, even if the torturer knows that the torture victim has specific information, torture STILL doesn’t work for getting that information.

            There are a number of examples throughout history where the torture victim said “OK, fine, the truth is XXX.” And was telling the truth….

            …and the torturer didn’t believe the victim and *kept* torturing the victim. So then the victim made something up, something which *seemed more plausible* to the torturer… but wasn’t true.

            Torture is extremely effective at getting the torture victim to lie in an attempt to please the torturer. It doesn’t get the truth, because even if the torture victim tells the truth, the torturer probably won’t believe it…

        • djw says:

          The “fact” you appear to have unearthed is that he denounces torture, or trivializes it and covers for its perpetrators, depending on which is called for in the argument he’s making at the moment.

          • ThrottleJockey says:

            He doesn’t trivialize it. He only says that it may at times produce results. That’s a factual statement whether you like it or not. Just because torture is wrong doesn’t mean it never works. Facts are facts and values are values, stop trying to mix them. Some journalists have said torture wasn’t involved in the capture of Bin Laden, others have said that it led to our earliest leads on him (so the evidence is ambiguous). Either way, the idea that torture never works is a convenient fiction.

            • djw says:

              The scare quotes are obviously and clearly trivializing.

            • Col Bat Guano says:

              Either way, the idea that torture never works is a convenient fiction.

              True. The SS had some success getting members of the French Resistance to talk. Wait, what was your point?

              • SFAW says:

                The SS had some success getting members of the French Resistance to talk

                I heard it was their use of bullshit German accents, saying things like “Answer ze kvestion, old man” and “Vere are your papers?” that drove the frogs over the edge.

            • SFAW says:

              the idea that torture never works is a convenient fiction.

              So true. I know that Jack Bauer has used it to get fantastic results – in less than 24 hours.

              I’m trying to think of another example, can’t recall any at the moment, but I’m sure they’ll come to me.

              Maybe if my wife waterboarded me, I’d produce that information.

            • herr doktor bimler says:

              Some journalists have said torture wasn’t involved in the capture of Bin Laden, others have said that it led to our earliest leads on him (so the evidence is ambiguous)

              Any statements from journalists are worth precisely Wibble, because journalists do not have security clearances. Any reporter who claims “that [torture] led to our earliest leads on him” is speaking as a sockpuppet for Cheney.

              • I’m glad that Throttle Jockey is here to instruct the rest of us how torture isn’t bad and how calling somebody out on the question of the ‘effectiveness’ of torture is just like shooting them in the head.

                • SFAW says:

                  I’m glad that Throttle Jockey is here to instruct the rest of us how torture isn’t bad

                  Actually, he’s saying that people objecting to Carter’s trivializing of torture by saying/writing “torture” is what’s bad. And of course, he’s right, because ipso facto, QED, and LSMFT.

                  My only question is: does the use of scare quotes mean Carter is literally trivializing the use of the word torture, or figuratively.

              • dk says:

                Some American journalists might have security clearances. Part of the “embedding” concept.

            • Nathanael says:

              The idea that torture ever gets useful information is a convenient fiction. It doesn’t. Ever.

              And no, of course it didn’t lead to any leads on bin Laden.

  4. NBarnes says:

    his remarkable use of scare quotes around the word torture

    He’s kinda giving the game away doing that, don’t you think?

    • postmodulator says:

      There’s hardly any game to give away. He claims that he’s defending the right of everyone to share their viewpoint, even viewpoints with which he disagrees, but he is (likely because of Reasons) most vehement that a viewpoint with which he agrees be shared.

      There are a small number of genuine First Amendment zealots in the world, but they are dwarfed by the number of people who think the First Amendment makes a pretty good cudgel.

      I forget who it was here who raised the point, what benefit exactly is the US getting out of its purported free speech absolutism? That’s really stuck with me.

  5. Chris says:

    Cleverly omitted was the drone war. This elision allows the protesters to wish away the massive drone war that President Barack Obama’s administration has conducted now for more than five years, with significant loss of innocent life.

    You know, it MIGHT simply be that these protesters think the targeted killing of terrorist leaders is acceptable military behavior, when inflicting harm on helpless captives who have ALREADY been neutralized as a threat is not, nor was invading a country utterly irrelevant to the 9/11 attacks.

    I am not speaking for myself: I don’t rightly know what I think about the use of drones. I only point out that disagreeing with one or more of the military/security state’s practices does not commit me to disagreeing with each and every last one of them. This has the logical consistency of “ah HA! You SAY you hate apples and oranges! But you don’t hate mangoes! HYPOCRITE!”

    • cpinva says:

      “You know, it MIGHT simply be that these protesters think the targeted killing of terrorist leaders is acceptable military behavior, when inflicting harm on helpless captives who have ALREADY been neutralized as a threat is not, nor was invading a country utterly irrelevant to the 9/11 attacks.”

      it might also be the fact that neither pres. Obama or former sect’y of state Clinton were scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Rutgers. I could be wrong. also too, that one group of students doesn’t protest their school’s choice for commencement speaker doesn’t, by definition, mean that any other group of students, protesting their school’s choice of commencement speaker, are being hypocrites.

      are you certain this item wasn’t “Onion Baked”, it’s too full of overtly obvious foolishness, to have really been penned by a yale law prof.

    • JL says:

      It might also be as simple as “Neither Barack Obama nor any member of his foreign policy team was scheduled to speak at their commencement, but Condi Rice was.”

      I mean, anecdotally, most of the people that I know who would bother to protest Condi, as opposed to silently disapproving, are also strongly anti-Obama’s-targeted-killing-policies, but I am not sure what the point of bringing Obama into your protest about Condi Rice’s planned commencement speech would be.

  6. Diana says:

    Carter’s not typical faculty at Yale Law school. He once gave a take-home exam that consisted in its entirety of handing his students a draft of an article he was writing and asking them to critique it. The rest of the law school does not deserve the reputation he’s got.

    • cpinva says:

      ” He once gave a take-home exam that consisted in its entirety of handing his students a draft of an article he was writing and asking them to critique it.”

      so, prof. carter holds the yale law school esteemed, “Jonah Goldberg Chair of Literary Competence”?

    • KRK says:

      Actually, there’s a surprising amount of that. When I was there, a very highly regarded (and popular with students) professor spent the entire semester of at least one advanced Con Law class having students critique chapters of his forthcoming book. I was a complete yokel in that milieu, but even I could tell that was a joke. But a lot of students eat it up, think they’re being treated like peers rather than drudges.

  7. James Nostack says:

    I’m kind of proud that, whatever the faults of my law school education, Professor Carter had zero involvement. I spent a lot of money to learn very little, but I at least know when someone is making a serious argument, which seems to be more than Professor Carter or the Bloomberg Review can say.

  8. JoyfulA says:

    Carter also writes lousy novels that display this same lack of logic.

  9. LosGatosCA says:

    What these Rice (and Bush II) apologists are really fighting against is accountability for that administration’s actions. They rightly see this as the start of mainstreaming the contempt for their torture policies, mendaciousness, and criminal negligence in running our country and its reputation into the ground.

    That’s what this debate is really all about. If Rice, who was more a willing pawn than an architect of those policies, gets this type of public shunning then there’s no hope for the admitted war crime perpetrators.

    They completely understand that it’s quite possible that when Bush II’s obituary is written it will start with the illegitimacy of the Supreme Court selection and end with his escaping criminal prosecution for his and Cheney’s publicly admitted war crimes. And in this narrative, 9/11 is seen as just another failure of that administration to understand its responsibilities and act accordingly. That’s their real fear and I hope that its fully, and more so, realized.

    • Chris says:

      They’ve already escaped accountability. But, like Wall Streeters breaking the economy and profiting from it, it’s not enough to get away with something. You have to be loved for it, and not just by your peers or even by a majority, nothing less than universal approval will do. Otherwise, you’re being oppressed.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        They haven’t escaped yet, there’s hope.

        The first step is mainstream acceptance that their conduct was malignant, that’s starting to happen now. Then the next step is that it was criminal. And then finally that the criminality needs to be formally addressed. That will never be unanimous – after all there are still Holocaust deniers.

        Honestly, I’d settle for a general consensus that their actions were criminal in some cases and criminally negligent in others. That’s not justice, but at least it would be our society’s acknowledgement that their behavior was outside the norms of US values and policy.

        • Nathanael says:

          The older war criminals have probably escaped personal accountability; they’ll likely die of old age before they’re charged criminally for their crimes against humanity. The younger ones we may be able to get.

          History will remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney the way it remembers Jefferson Davis, however. We can make sure of that.

      • JL says:

        Was it one of our esteemed LGMers who made the comparison a while back between them and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine villain Gul Dukat, for exactly this reason?

      • joe from Lowell says:

        They’ve already escaped accountability.

        The ballgame ain’t over.

    • Epicurus says:

      This. Professor Carter seems much more exercised over any critique of the Bush Administration and its myrmidons than in addressing the very real wrongs of torture (no quotes necessary.) He is clearly yet another dweller in the ivory tower who has too much time and too much money on his hands. He’s entitled to his opinion, but he’s 100% wrong.

  10. Ken Houghton says:

    “the ‘torture’ practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency”

    BREAKING: Yale Law Professor Outs “Soldiers” at Abu Ghraib as members of the CIA

    That he also fails to understand why the Head of the NSAon day several RU graduates’s parents and friends of parents were killed by terrorists would be disinvited is just lagniappe.

  11. tbrookside says:

    I won’t comment here at any length on Carter’s trivialization of any protest against the war crimes of the Bush administration via the cheap rhetorical trick of simply assuming that the people protesting those crimes wouldn’t hold Democratic enablers of those crimes to the same standard

    I agree with the rest of your piece, but why is he wrong to assume this?

    I haven’t seen any – ANY – mass protest of speaking engagements by Senator Clinton on this basis.

    So why shouldn’t I assume that Democrat enablers of the Iraq War won’t be held to the same standard? That is a perfectly reasonable assumption.

    • Rob in CT says:

      The moment anybody actually attempted to prosectute a Republican for war crimes, this would come up, and would be a valid issue.

      However, we’re not even close to that. Now, we’re talking about mildly curtailing the job prospects of the architects of the war & torture regime.

      What happened to Hillary in the ’08 primary? She lost it, mildly curtailing her job prospects (instead of being POTUS, she became Sec. State, and now seeks to become POTUS 8 years later).

      Condi Rice lost the ability to make $30k off a speech. Seems roughly comparable, really.

      • jack says:

        Hilary didn’t execute the war. She didn’t fire a general who correctly suggested the war’s aftermath would require a large number of US troops for the foreseeable future. She never manufactured false evidence to justify the war (yellow cake uranium, aluminum tubes, ect). She was one senator who cast a vote that was regrettable and wrongheaded. Twenty-nine other Democrats also voted for the war including Joe Biden. They were weak when they should have been strong. But a hundred years from now, history will remember the Iraq war and the Neo Conservatives who brought it to fruition.

        On the subject of Obama’s anti war stance, he wasn’t a senator then and so didn’t cast a vote. He had the benefit of hindsight. Of knowing how things turned out before having to take a stance that mattered. I am not so sure, given his history, if Obama was a senator and had to vote on the Iraq resolution, he would have voted “no”. I remember him promising to filibuster the FISA law. That was during the heat of the primaries. By the time that bill came up for a vote, Hilary had already ceded the nomination to him. He not only didn’t filibuster the bill, he voted for it, saying he would fix it later. We’re still waiting for “later” to arrive.

    • calling all toasters says:

      I haven’t seen any – ANY – mass protest of speaking engagements by Senator Clinton on this basis.

      Ah, yes, I can still remember Hillary setting up a torture regime, suborning false intelligence reports, ordering the UN inspectors out of Iraq….

      Oh, I’m sorry. You had some extremely stupid point to make and I interrupted.

      • tbrookside says:

        Hillary voted for the war.

        That makes her responsible for the war.

        By definition.

        The list of national security policies undertaken by the Bush administration that Clinton materially opposed during her time as a Senator is extremely short.

        Your post is actually a great example of my point. Even the suggestion that someone who opposes Rice should also oppose Clinton sends you into a fit.

        • calling all toasters says:

          I voted for Hillary. I guess I’m responsible for the war.

          Or perhaps you reason like a stupid child, raised on talk radio.

          • SFAW says:

            I voted for Hillary. I guess I’m responsible for the war.

            Mr. Toasters, I have The Hague on Line 2 for you, they’d like to have a chat with you …

        • SFAW says:

          Hillary voted for the war.

          That makes her responsible for the war.

          Oh, do you mean President Hillary Clinton, who swept the Dem primaries in ’08 because people loved that she voted for the AUMF?

        • ChrisTS says:

          Then, everyone who voted to allow the President to decide if military action would be needed is responsible for the President’s decision to invade Iraq.

          FIFY

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Hillary voted for the war.

          That makes her responsible for the war.

          By definition.

          No, she voted for the AUMF. The passage of an AUMF, instead of a war declaration, is “by definition” an act of avoiding responsibility and putting it all on the President.

          The list of national security policies undertaken by the Bush administration that Clinton materially opposed during her time as a Senator is extremely short.

          Indeed, but “failure to appropriately oppose” the entirety of Bush’s national security policies is a few steps down from “created and presided over a system of torture.”

          To say that voting the wrong way on an AUMF is no different from ordering torture is to say that ordering torture is no different from fighting a war. The Geneva Conventions indicate otherwise.

      • SFAW says:

        Ah, yes, I can still remember Hillary setting up a torture regime, suborning false intelligence reports, ordering the UN inspectors out of Iraq….

        You seem to be forgetting – how convenient! – that Hillary, as National Security Advisor, did NOTHING to facilitate communication between the FBI, CIA, et al., prior to 9/11, something which might have prevented that destruction. THAT ALONE should have earned her the scorn of those Lie-beral elites.

        Oh, wait … did I say Hillary? No, it was someone else, I wish I could remember who … thinking, thinking …

    • Hogan says:

      He wrote a whole book in which he explained why that assumption is just fine (although with the polarity reversed–it’s not that Obama is as bad as Bush, it’s that Bush is as good as Obama).

      I’m guessing that Carter is also just speaking up for his and Rice’s tribe, the Talented Tenth.

    • JustRuss says:

      While I’m not going to defend Hilary’s support of the war, let’s not forget there were several hundred congress people who voted the same way. That’s not the equivalent of being an insider in a regime that cooked up dodgy intelligence to sell the war. To put it simply, Bush & Co were the cons, congress were the marks. We shouldn’t let the marks off the hook, but they’re not nearly as evil as the cons who were selling the war, and who went on to authorize torture.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        Yes, I would go with this. They are guilty of believing a stupid con they should not have believed. They bear some responsibility for that. They should be reminded and shamed about it for the rest of their natural lives. But their guilt is not even in the same ballpark as the guilt of the lying con men and women of the Bush administration.

    • SFAW says:

      So why shouldn’t I assume that Democrat enablers of the Iraq War won’t be held to the same standard?

      Most rational people seem to be able to distinguish between the people in Congress who voted the Preznit the Authority to Use Military Force, and the people who Made Shit Up in order to push public sentiment (and Congress as a by-product) into supporting the Administration’s actions.

      But, apparently, not ALL people

  12. Rob in CT says:

    It’s funny. Not only can we not actually prosecute the Bushies for their crimes, but we apparently aren’t supposed to make them suffer ANY consequences. Like, say, not being able to make lots of money off of speaking appearances (on the students/tax payers dime).

    FUCK THESE PEOPLE.

  13. CB says:

    First of all, the scare quotes around torture are precious. And to equate the use of drones to the execution of the Iraq war is, while not toally off base, some great obfuscation.

    My favorite trick is to equate the Senators who were hoodwinked into passing the AUMF with the architects who planned, packaged, and sold the war. Totally the same, donchaknow!

    Lastly, I missed the part where Hillary was the one invited to speak.

    This peckerhead is really a Yale professor?

    • Rob in CT says:

      My favorite trick is to equate the Senators who were hoodwinked into passing the AUMF with the architects who planned, packaged, and sold the war. Totally the same, donchaknow!

      I mostly agree. Some of those “hoodwinked” are reliably hawkish and probably didn’t need much hoodwinkin’ though.

      Agree in full with the rest.

    • pedantic nerd says:

      “My favorite trick is to equate the Senators who were hoodwinked into passing the AUMF with the architects who planned, packaged, and sold the war. Totally the same, donchaknow!”

      Homer: “Marge, it takes two to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.”

      • DAS says:

        From what I remember of the 2004 presidential race, the “argument” was that Bush & CO may have been lying bullies for hoodwinking Congress and squashing dissent, but at least they were our liars and our bullies — and in dangerous times like these we need a bully on our side. Meanwhile those Congresscritters hoodwinked into supporting the war: if they could be hoodwinked by Bush, how can we trust them with our national security?

  14. DAS says:

    So this

    You and your fellow students — and your professors as well; one mustn’t forget their role — are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages.

    was included in an essay written in response to protests about a commencement speaker? Now what could be more Medieval than everyone wearing robes and listening to someone speak in glittering generalities while stifling any desire to engage in any form of debate or protest?

    Personally, I’ve long reveled in the Medieval spectacle that is commencement. I actually hope someday to replace my mortarboard with a more ethnically/religious appropriate head covering. I think I would look dashing in it.

  15. CJColucci says:

    In Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, Carter goes on at length about some scholarship he ws offered on a “best black” basis and how traumatized he was to be offered that instead of some other, non-racial scholarship. Someone later investigated and found out that there was no such “best black” scholarship. Confronted with these facts, Carter acknowledge his error. He apparently wasn’t lying, but he had somehow, for years, been traumatized by the memory of an experience he simply had not experienced. Later, in a book he wrote about religion that I am too lazy to look up, he thought it a more significant comment on the alleged weakness of religion in American society that Somebody Out There criticized First Lady Hillary Clinton for wearing a crucifix necklace at the inmaugural parade than that the f*****g First Lady wore a crucifix necklace at the inaugural parade.
    After that, I lost any interest in anything Stephen Carter has to say.

  16. nic says:

    The tirade against Irving is a bit inapt. Irving is an unapologetic racist and anti-Semite of the highest order — and that certainly, in spite of its ‘political correctness’ would be (and should be) sufficient grounds to bar him from a tenured teaching position in any college or university. However, he was never a Holocaust denier in the classic sense and presently, holds and espouses views on the subject which are in line with most conformist orthodoxy (as he would put it), namely that: about 5.5 million Jews, comprising the bulk of Jewish men, women and children of all ages in several countries, were murdered; (I personally put put the figure closer to 6.5 million.) approximately half of those were murdered by specially formed commando units, primarily by being shot — often after having dug their own mass grave and being lined up beside them. About half of the remainder were killed in death camps especially equipped for mass executions and cremation; and the rest, somewhere between 1 and 2 million, perished in concentration camps sometimes the victims of the same techniques used in the death-camps, and other times by ad hoc measures and ill treatment.

    It’s true that he does emphasize the fact that many of the deaths in the latter group were due to poor treatment and makes the claim that that treatment was made inevitable by the wholesale destruction of German transportation infrastructure caused by enemy bombing. While perhaps over emphasized, Irving doesn’t claim that the Nazis couldn’t have prevented those deaths had they made an effort, instead he points out that the conditions were comparable to the appalling prison camp conditions of the Russians, and that death rates due to mistreatment were not especially different between the two countries. All of which are perfectly true.

    The other aspect in which Irving’s current views (those of the last 10+ years) are contentious is the degree to which Hitler specifically authorized the mass murder of Jews by poison gas in death camps.

    He doesn’t deny Hitlers goals in the invasion of Russia were specifically genocidal, both in the large across the board population reduction of Slavs that he wanted to achieve through starvation and pogroms, and the specific elimination of Jews who he authorized to be shot in mass as partisans. The only question in which Irving is outside of the mainstream is the degree to which Hitler approved of the industrial mass murder conducted by the death-camps.

    A short hand of his argument runs something like this: Hitler fully intended to remove the Jews from all territory within the Sphere of control of Nazi Germany, which was to be done through a combination of mass killings by commando units and expulsions. As Germany began to lose the war, expulsion became impractical, and therefor mass murder of the entire population became implicitly authorized. But the specific means were always left up to Hitler’s henchmen.

    Certainly the high level secrecy in which the death-camps were maintained verses the less strict secrecy’s of the commando killings implies that the regime was sensitive about it. And at least in part, the decision to use death-camps was based on the stress that commando killings placed on the SS units themselves. This lends some plausibility to the theory that Hitler had desired the Jews to be eliminated in the mopping up exercises after areas had been conquered, but his lieutenants felt this was too damaging to troop strength and therefor created a project to kill them industrially through the use of civilian resources. Personally I find the Idea that Hitler did not explicitly sanction the death camps, let alone that he was unaware of them very unlikely due to the jealousy and paranoia in which he managed maintained his power and played Nazi leaders off against each other. But a contrary view can’t be dismissed out of hand. And whether Hitler knew of the specific means in which those Jews sent to the death camps were killed, is to my mind, irrelevant with respect to either the scale or aspect in which Hitler’s crimes should be viewed.

    Irving’s previous skepticism, which he’s subsequently disclaimed, was with respect to the magnitude of Jews killed in the death camps: pointing out (correctly) that many of the concentration camps were substantially rebuild after having been demolished by the retreating Nazi. And that this was done in part for propaganda purposes as most of them were in satellite countries of the former USSR. In addition many of the reconstructed sites and filled with incorrect and anachronistic details. He also pointed out that the concentration camps could not have been equipped to have killed the millions attributed to them. This too is partially correct, the concentration camps themselves were not primarily organized for mass murder, that was the function, though not exclusively, the of the death camps which were much smaller and more fully destroyed by the retreating German troops.

    In all, Irving never denied that millions of Jews were murder, or that Hitler sanctioned the murders. Instead Irving’s notoriety was derived from his exploitation of the popular conflation of the death camps and the famous photos of the typhoid deaths in the concentration camps after liberation to peddle an obnoxious line that Jews were trying to cash in on the holocaust. Something bad enough, but not what Irving is generally accused of.

    • Paul Campos says:

      Irving was a completely unambiguous Holocaust denier from the late 1980s until he had a convenient conversion experience when he was put on trial in Austria in 2006. For more than 15 years he denied the existence of extermination camps in general, and gas chambers in particular, and he also claimed that the number of Jews who died in forced labor and concentration camps had been grossly exaggerated.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        Yep. The Nizkor site used to be a great resource on the various weird guys like Irving who are holocaust deniers and I researched this in the late 90s / early 00s when the French Muslim Holocaust denier was in the news. Blanking on his name right now.

        • Anna in PDX says:

          Garaudy, that was it. That was actually a free speech issue, one of those things that Voltaire coined the “defend to the death your right to say it” sentence about.

      • Philip Arlington says:

        The vast majority of Western intellectuals have no problem ignoring the significe and horror of genocides committed by Communists.

        If people only care about genocides committed by their ideological opponents, they are not really motivated by compassion or ethics, but by partisanship.

  17. Philip Arlington says:

    Invoking David Irving in a debate about freedom of speech on campus is about as useful as invoking Hitler in a debate about anything.

    I am a moderate progressive conservative. I believe in democracy with far more sincerity than most Western politicians. I visit your blog because I am interested in opposition to predation in all its forms, from law schools, to religious cults, to multi-level-marketing. I am a very public spirited person, but I have dozens of opinions which I could not freely express if I was an academic without being shunned and punished.

    Bias, group think and intellectual intimidation in academia are real. You are honest about law school, so it is disappointing that you cannot be honest about this other major problem in contemporary life which you are a part of.

    • I am a very public spirited person, but I have dozens of opinions which I could not freely express if I was an academic without being shunned and punished.

      Which ones?

    • ThrottleJockey's Pooka says:

      it hasn’t occurred to you there might be something wrong with your opinions?

    • Nathanael says:

      “Bias, group think and intellectual intimidation in academia are real. ”

      Well, sure. Look at what happens in economics departments to anyone who challenges the Worship of the Free Market.

      Or were you thinking of some other example? Honestly, nearly all of the severe intellectual intimidation I can think of in academia is committed by right-wingers. Outside the literature departments anyway.

      • Nathanael says:

        Oh! In linguistics, the Chomskyists intimidate the historical linguists and the genuine neurolinguists. That doesn’t line up along traditional political lines at all. The string theorists used to intimidate the real physicists — also doesn’t line up along traditional political lines.

  18. jkay says:

    My experience at even a ‘lite and expensive place WAS the fix in – ANTI-supergenius sportcaster Howard Cosell and the mediocrest Reagan Administration imaginable (in the ’80s).

    And Rice personally took away OUR freedom from internal spying under her personal responsibility.

    But wait, we’ve been forgetting even THINKING critism to the 1% is Nazism, or is it slavery today? I can never remember.

  19. JCougar says:

    This is what happens when people don’t have a real choice in the voting booth. We have a far-right fascist party in this country (the Republicans, the bad cops), and then we have a center-right party that occasionally throws out a civil rights bone once in a blue moon (the Democrats, the good cops), but only after the civil rights bone is popular enough that it’s a benefit to their electoral strategy–and not a moment before.

    As people continue to get screwed by a system that good-cop, bad-cops them out of all of their socioeconomic and political leverage and enriches the intellectually and physically lazy playaz and boyz that dress themselves up in intellectual “prestige” (while long ago having lost their ability to think critically–mostly due to having their ego masturbated so many times by this system that they have totally lost any perspective of self-awareness), they’re going to continue to lash out at a society of “elites” that talk a good game, but when the rubber meets the road, are only out to enrich themselves with fortune, fame, and self-congratulations–while nothing actually gets done.

    • Nathanael says:

      Well, people will lash out for a while. Then the demographics will finally get ahead of the elite, and the people will instead overthrow the elite.

      I hope this can happen peacefully. I expect the elite to start a civil war instead.

  20. skeptonomist says:

    How is it “free speech” when the fat-cat university administrators force the students to listen to platitudinous drivel from anyone, let alone war criminals? The whole business of paid* commencement speakers is probably pernicious, but if it has to happen the students should have a major say, in an orderly manner, as to who will speak. As a practical matter, this would tend to minimize disorderly demonstrations and other incidents.

    *Rice’s fee was from donors – another example of money acting as speech.

  21. […] Arkes, has yet another argument that a few people deciding not to give commencement speeches represents a major challenge to free speech because something. His argument does, it must be said, […]

  22. […] efforts to resist this particularly obnoxious form of pseudo-intellectual grifting.  (Carter thinks those efforts are a form of illegitimate censorship as […]

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