burning books, silencing words on campus in the usa

an article about speech codes and hate speech and the notion, quite established nowadays, that

to be really tolerant, to be really multicultural, you… suppress hateful, mean, cruel, discriminatory thoughts and speech. To ensure civility you… suppress harsh or hurtful speech…

‘I always like to put the Buddhist argument for freedom of speech’, says Lukianoff. ‘Buddhists believe life is pain and they have a point. You do someone a tremendous disservice if you teach them that pain in life is a distortion of life. Because as soon as you start seeing hurtful things as being aberrations rather than part of normal human existence, then you start to see robust debate and disagreement as a distortion of the human experience rather than a part of the human experience…

Lukianoff says we have to move away from the idea that ‘words are like bullets’, that speech is a form of physical assault, and recognise that being argued with, even vociferously, is not the same as being beaten up. However, he says, ‘maybe words should wound. What’s so bad about that? The fact that words can hurt feelings, the fact that they carry emotional charges, is all the more reason for protecting them from censorship. Because the whole point of free speech is to have deep, meaningful, robust debates. We have to have deadly serious discussions about deadly serious things – and we can’t do that if everyone is listening out for potentially offensive words rather than thinking about and responding to the ideas being expressed.’

link to the full article in spiked:

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  1. Certainly we don’t want a bland world of kumbayah conversation but sometimes when people like Lukianoff talk…it makes me think of people who are too lazy to practice civility and want an out to say whatever they like. Being cruel, harming others, it’s a release for some…a “I’m tired of being nice because being nice is more work” mentality. And how silly to use a Buddhist outlook as a defense for using wounding words. He needs to go read more of the Dalai lama heheh. but then…I’m lazy and didn’t read the full article on spiked.

  2. it was a long article but i think lukianoff does want to be allowed to say whatever he likes..

    there were some good examples of censorship in the article, like a cartoon of nietzsche saying will to power which was deemed to encourage date rape or a mag which was shut down for running an ad by a guy who disapproved of paying reparations for slavery..

    so there’s certainly a left-wing right-wing culture war going on alongside the free speech aspect. but i guess thats been the case these 40 years.

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