If I could scientifically prove to you that the physical effect of left-wing speech was indistinguishable from violence, would you agree with me that it should be banned and criminalized? Yes? I knew my readers were reasonable people.
Of course liberals would counter with wailing about ‘free speech,’ but Bolshevik speech isn’t free. It’s hate. And if we don’t remember the lessons of the Red Terror, Holodomor, Killing Fields, and the Johnson Administration we are doomed to repeat them. Never Again is our motto.
I’ll stop there. Since the excerpt above should be sufficient to acquire real estate in Carlos Slim’s failing blog. Liberal critics might find pseudo science-based calls for banning their speech to be ham-handed pap consisting of single-lane principles and political expedients, but after we get them doxxed, fired, and incarcerated I think they’ll have more pressing matters about which to worry.
And that’s the thought process–if indeed there is one–behind a recent piece in the New York Times regarding science’s novel role in suppressing shitlords. The author is a professor named Lisa Feldman Barrett (presently hawking a book that, in her opinion, “could revolutionize psychology, health care, the legal system, and our understanding of the human mind.” That’s an impressive range of revolution. So you’ll certainly want to grant her trite hypocrisies their due berth. The core of which can be described as follows:
The speech of right-wingers causes stress in the leftists who want them permanently mute. This stress takes a physical toll that is tantamount to the violence leftists cheer when visited upon their opponents. Thus if those on the right insist on living, they should do so silently so as to maximize the health and longevity of their enemies.
You can see how such an innovative approach has revolutionized probate courts around the country.
Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life.
Reading words can kill neurons and shorten your life. I can assure you Ms. Feldman Barrett proceeds to prove her thesis.
Your body’s immune system includes little proteins called proinflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation when you’re physically injured. Under certain conditions, however, these cytokines themselves can cause physical illness. What are those conditions? One of them is chronic stress.
Your body also contains little packets of genetic material that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. They’re called telomeres. Each time your cells divide, their telomeres get a little shorter, and when they become too short, you die. This is normal aging. But guess what else shrinks your telomeres? Chronic stress.
It would be gauche to spend time in these pages boasting about the length of my telomeres. And so I will leave that chore to those pleasantly exhausted women with the experience to comment. Though her point in citing these retiring chromosomal appendages is to secure a tenuous pontoon bridge for just long enough to march the credulous across the crevasse from speech to violence.
If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence. But which types?
Which types of speech are equal to violence? In a comforting example of our shared humanity, both alt-right and NYTs readers could guess the answer in equal instantaneous time. But while you hang in delicious anticipation of that, Feldman Barrett wants to draw an important distinction.
The scientific findings I described above provide empirical guidance for which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn’t be acceptable on campus and in civil society. In short, the answer depends on whether the speech is abusive or merely offensive.
Offensiveness is not bad for your body and brain. Your nervous system evolved to withstand periodic bouts of stress, such as fleeing from a tiger, taking a punch or encountering an odious idea in a university lecture.
People far too often deploy obviously false LOLs online. The acronym has almost morphed into a defensive tic for weak comment warriors. Though I honestly laughed out loud at that last sentence. As if merely having a predator’s teeth meeting inside your neck were comparable to the agony of contemplating gender binary. Come on, are tigers really that scary? I suppose that depends on just how distasteful their perspective is.
Entertaining someone else’s distasteful perspective can be educational. Early in my career, I taught a course that covered the eugenics movement, which advocated the selective breeding of humans. Eugenics, in its time, became a scientific justification for racism. To help my students understand this ugly part of scientific history, I assigned them to debate its pros and cons. The students refused. No one was willing to argue, even as part of a classroom exercise, that certain races were genetically superior to others.
I wonder what her students would say are the pros and cons of a massive global dysgenics program. Though I don’t wonder if any of them would be willing to argue whether one race was more evil and exploitative than others. Remember, there’s no superior races, only an inferior one.
The author then proceeds to apply precise academic rigor in differentiating between acceptable bad speech, and the bad speech that is violence.
That’s why it’s reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering.
On the other hand, when the political scientist Charles Murray argues that genetic factors help account for racial disparities in I.Q. scores, you might find his view to be repugnant and misguided, but it’s only offensive. It is offered as a scholarly hypothesis to be debated, not thrown like a grenade. There is a difference between permitting a culture of casual brutality and entertaining an opinion you strongly oppose. The former is a danger to a civil society (and to our health); the latter is the lifeblood of democracy.
Look, I’m not going to defend Milo Yiannopoulos. If the professor is determined to ban the speech of homosexual jews, I won’t stand in her way. But the nuance she is trying to impart is quite clear for those willing to see it. Noxious hatemongering speech is criminal violence. While repugnant, misguided, and offensive speech is the lifeblood of democracy.
As we all know with any legitimate scientific discipline, results must be repeatable. So I interviewed a dozen migrant Guatemalans to validate that they could distinguish between bad noxious hatemongering, and good repugnant, misguided, offensiveness. In unanimous response I was assured that Quetzalteca liquor is an example of the latter. So if Amerindian squatters can clearly delineate the contours between noxious and repugnant then surely the contemplative antifa contingent, in their seventh year of sociology, can do the same.
I’ll conclude by cutting to the quick of this silly woman’s charade. Since liberals have mandated that absolutely no public policy may be candidly discussed, both speaker and audience are obliged to wrap and peel layers of signaling and implication from the presented text. Feldman-Barrett is at core attempting the ancient coward’s gambit. As a liberal, she wants the right silenced aside from a small, pliant cohort of avuncular conservative toadies, whose existence she tolerates as proof of her speech defending bonafides. Right wing speech is permissible only when impotent.
Establishing that principle of defense is important since she realizes the totalitarian left tends to run far past its leash. So when its claque of imbeciles come to howl at her door for some unknowable future ‘ism, she wants to preserve safeguards that her own “misguided” speech won’t end in spectacular fashion. It’s all destroy who I hate, but don’t hate me. And when you’re constructing a narrative that transparently self-serving, the only rhetorical space you have to work within is the millimeter between noxious and repugnant. Personally I wouldn’t want to try squeezing through that in a hurry.