Speech Codes

A post from “College Misery” makes an interesting point about freedom of speech, censorship and assholes…

I’ve long said that I’d rather have people like Fred Phelps speak their minds than have them spew hatred in private..

The post from College Misery makes the point I’ve made in the past, that the elimination of public expressions of bias and hatred doesn’t change the thoughts and actions of those who hate — they simply learn that they ought not speak those things in mixed company.

The thing is, words are the least harmful expression of hatred.  It’s much more harmful for a person not to be hired because of their race or gender.  It’s more harmful to be denied housing because you are a same-sex couple.  It’s significantly more harmful to be beaten up because you’re transgender or the “wrong” race for the neighborhood.

Whomever you are, there are people who think you’re inferior.  As a woman in philosophy, this isn’t an uncommon concept for me.  As a tenured faculty member at a very good community college, it has little effect on me.  As a feminist who is also 42, I know how to give a withering look to a bozo who condescends to me at a conference.  As someone who has had a breadth of experience in her life, I know how to put sexist assholes into perspective.

I also know how to make people “not exist” — in my terms, that’s a category of people I won’t trust, won’t willingly work with and generally I don’t give a hoot if they like me or not.  Their worldview is way too different from mine and to understand their worldview I’d have to significantly change my own and I’m not willing to make that kind of compromise.

The PC speech movement seemed to be a good thing — it was based on the idea that if terms were eliminated from polite conversation, the offensive ideas they represented would follow.  It doesn’t seem to be the case. It also isn’t the case that it matters if some asshat doesn’t like me, because I don’t like them either.


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