August 1, 2020

"I believe in free speech but more so in good editing. This piece is unintelligible."

The top-rated comment at an article that I was going to blog, tried to blog, but gave up on blogging... until I saw that the way to blog it was to blog that comment: "The 'cancel culture' debate gets the fight for free speech entirely wrong" by Eve Fairbanks (WaPo).

Here's a quote from the article that I'd picked out, then gave up on: "A robust defense of free speech sounds impossible to dislike. But if you interrogate it, you somehow end up proving the absolutists’ point: that they cannot voice 'anodyne' opinions, as they’ve characterized them, without attracting accusations of bad faith."

72 comments:

Nonapod said...

I can't read the article. I'm curious who this person categorizes as "the absolutists" when it comes to free speech. Are they the people who think that the whole idea of "cancelling" people is completely at odds with anything resembling free and open discussion? Or are they something else?

Big Mike said...

I think Eve Fairbanks is lamenting that one can’t simultaneously support free speech and yet prevent speech that bothers some people at the same time. Did I get that right?

Nonapod said...

And I know the commentor was being facetious, but I definetely believe in free speech more than good editing. But in fairness, in certain situations it can be difficult to have free speech without good editing.

Michael said...

It is written in Woke so you can either understand it or you can’t.

Ken B said...

There is nothing surprising here. The interrogation of the anodyne is ineluctably problematic within spaces of racialized discourse. Everyone knows that.

Bryan Townsend said...

The French have a useful term: "intellectual formation." Sadly, the forming of minds with the capacity for intellectual inquiry and discussion has fallen by the wayside. So now we have the darkly comical spectacle of people who are really incapable of clear thought writing opinion pieces for the Washington Post.

robother said...

I'm sensing a theme of the day: turkeys. (The fisherman's friend aside, of course).

rcocean said...

*I* couldn't blog ms. fairbanks quote, since I don't understand it. How does one "interrogate" an argument? The rest is just gobbledygook.

Temujin said...

So weird. I started reading the article and blood started dripping from my ears. Is this a planned attack on the brain?

gilbar said...


folk that don't know how to write (or edit), think that a 4 syllable word is better (effectual) than a 2 syllable word. The writer should have spent time WRITING, that I'm sure that she spent instead looking in a thesaurus (the worst of all literary dinosaurs).

Jeff Brokaw said...

Free speech absolutism is pretty easy to define, actually. It’s always permitted, with the exemptions being the few carved by the Supreme Court in 200+ years of judicial review.

Done. Does that help, Eve? People much more invested in the idea than you have thought about this before. A lot. Believe it or not!

Most of these clowns have no idea what the First Amendment means, the limits on it, or why it matters. They’re just little brownshirts with better ideas than that little German guy, or so they tell themselves.

Johnathan Birks said...

They laid off or bought out their editors years ago. WaPo is edited by algorithm anymore.

ga6 said...

Carrying the oft used phrase "baffle 'em with bullshit" to extreme heights.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Worrying about “bad faith” in examining free speech is getting into mind-reading and thought control. Absolutely not okay. Ever.

The words are the words, and they mean what they mean. The End.

Wince said...

The privilege of publishing a pronoun-laden rough draft means never having to confront the possibility that your thinking is bullshit.

Fernandinande said...

"Whole groups of people have been underrepresented in American life and should, at this juncture, be listened to more attentively."

Maybe there were, and still are, good reasons why they weren't listened to in the the first place. Bad writing about confused ideas, like that emitted by Eve Fairbanks, is a very good reason.

Related: Atlantic: Beware of Readers Who Know More of the Facts Than the Journalists Do

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Left-progs: "shut up" - in all the varieties.

While we trash the civic buildings of Portland and the hack-D press ignores it all.

rehajm said...

It is written in Woke so you can either understand it or you can’t.

I feel the need to invest in a protocol droid that can translate woke...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The article is obviously written as Lorem ipsum text. That is what Woke Speak is. A placeholder for some random thoughts that might, maybe, surface later. If they ever do have any coherent thoughts, that is.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unintelligible gobbldegook.

rehajm said...

There's a pantload of things people are believing in more than free speech nowadays...

chickelit said...

Can't read the article, even after search for a chink in the paywall. So the article is best forgotten.

tcrosse said...

Those wokesters sure do love the word "interrogate".

frenchy said...

Hey, it's hard to come up with a cogent approach simultaneously promoting and squelching freedom of expression.

Mark said...

Most of what appears in MSM today is unintelligible crap.

The excerpt in the post I could at least understand.

Francisco D said...

Big Mike said...
I think Eve Fairbanks is lamenting that one can’t simultaneously support free speech and yet prevent speech that bothers some people at the same time. Did I get that right?

That is my read.

The author strikes me as a postmodernist clown and a totalitarian at heart. If you reinterpret language and control intellectual discourse, you can control the people. That is what Marxists do.

mezzrow said...

Interrogate gives the game away. CT at work here. Don't have to read it.

It's not addressed to you, Althouse. That's why it doesn't make sense. This is written in Woke, fershurr, fershurr, and thus its purpose is to transmit talking points to the other believers. If you aren't Woke, there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Don't ask inconvenient questions.

Mark said...

Having not read the WP piece, too often "editing" is an exercise in hijacking and censorship, either changing the meaning/message of what is written or suppressing it or both, particularly when it is not the author who does the editing.

gadfly said...

Gobbledygook!

"A robust defense of free speech sounds impossible to dislike. But if you interrogate it [have conversation with a concept], you somehow end up proving the absolutists’ point: that they cannot voice 'anodyne' [unobjectionable and inoffensive] opinions, as they’ve characterized them, without attracting accusations of bad faith."

Interrogate (verb) 1.ask questions of (someone, especially a suspect or a prisoner) closely, aggressively, or formally. As in: question, put questions to, cross-question, cross-examine, quiz, probe, catechize, sound out, interview, debrief, pump, grill, give someone the third degree, put the screws on, worm something out of someone.

anodyne (adjective) not likely to provoke dissent or offense; inoffensive, often deliberately so. "anodyne New Age music"
Similar: bland, inoffensive, innocuous, neutral, unobjectionable, unexceptionable, unremarkable, commonplace, dull, tedious, run-of-the-mill

Narayanan said...

Q: is it free speech to have editor intervene before publication?

in that sense twittering Trump enjoys his freest of all speech.

Jason said...

Jeebus this is bad. Even by woketard standards.

Paco Wové said...

"if you interrogate it, you somehow end up proving the absolutists’ point"

So, the absolutists are correct. But that conclusion is intolerable. Dilemma!

"Interrogate". Feh. <spit> <spit> <spit> Excuse me, have to wash my mouth out now.

Mark said...

Having read the WP piece now -- or at least most of it -- it is clear that despite her protests to being part of some more-reasonable third group, that she is in fact a member of the critical, power-focused, radical progressive leftist first group. The problem is that she sees the problems with this group and wants to be seen as apart and different, but in the end, she is still one of them.

In some ways, sounds rather familiar here, doesn't it?

traditionalguy said...

Huh?

n.n said...

They're playing with a double-edged scalpel. They want to abort the baby and keep her, too, but we are not going along with their consensus. They need to lose their quasi-religion, their relativistic code of ethics.

Ironclad said...

I read the article. It boils down to MY speech is SO important that it must silence yours. The Red Guard used much the same logic in their ideological purges too.

Academia has developed Critical Theory that says - we are right and anything you say is not only wrong, but racist too (with a cherry on the top). Hopefully this will be the pyre that burns down what passes for Universities today.

Rick.T. said...

The fundamental mistake is in thinking that the 'cancel culture' is fighting by the same Marquess of Queensberry Rules you are. They are street fighting kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

Or in more popular culture...

Butch Cassidy: [Walks back, and Harvey tenses to begin the fight] No, no, not yet. Not until me and Harvey get the rules straightened out.
Harvey Logan: Rules? In a knife fight? No rules.
[Butch throws dirt in Harvey's eyes and kicks him in the groin, who falls to his knees]
Butch Cassidy: Well, if there aint' going to be any rules, let's get the fight started. Someone count. 1,2,3 go.
Sundance Kid: [quickly] 1,2,3, go.
[Butch knocks Harvey out]

Unknown said...

“Absolutist” is the preferred term to describe anyone who appreciates the right to free speech. -willie

tim in vermont said...

I saw an interesting comment, maybe it was here, maybe on Twitter, where when it was pointed out that free speech doesn’t protect a person from “consequences” like losing their livelihood or whatever, only from the government, and somebody pointed out that employers in the Jim Crow south used to fire blacks who registered to vote. They weren’t the government, after all, it was only “consequences.”

Narayanan said...

mezzrow said ...
... CT at work here.
----------==============
CT = critical theory?!

Q: so why do I see it claimed to be Marxist leftist in many comment threads?
since Kant (his successors and followers) called his works "Critical Philosophy"
but Kant is admired extolled by rightist academics.

gilbar said...

somebody pointed out that employers in the Jim Crow south used to fire blacks who registered to vote. They weren’t the government, after all, it was only “consequences.”

i'll take that bait. Was that a condition of employment? Did it apply to All workers ?
Is someone SO STUPID, that they don't see that what they're talking about is discrimination; not 'consequences'?

rcocean said...

I love how Gadfy quotes the dictionary. Go read quote. Tell me WHO is being interrogated in that Fairbank quote. And don't give me some vague BS, like "its obvious" or "its there". Which is what you will do.

tim in vermont said...

"The fundamental mistake is in thinking that the 'cancel culture' is fighting by the same Marquess of Queensberry Rules you are.”

I remember the quote “You will never tear down the master’s house with the master’s tools.” Which in one way seems absurd, of course you could, but in another way, it describes what they are doing. There is also a line from the Dylan song “When the Ship Comes In”

And the words they use
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as their spoken.


Another verse is

And they’ll raise their hands
Say they’ll meet all of our demands
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharoah’s tribe
They’ll be drowned in the tide
The hour that the ship comes in.


It’s an interesting song.

robother said...

The Gestapo and KGB had the same problem: their interrogations lead to people stereotyping them as a "cancel culture."

tim in vermont said...

gaffy complains about this, but still wants to hand the woke left complete and utter victory as the woke run an old man whose brain has already popped once to cover for the future president the woke folks want as veep who couldn’t get elected any other way. After it’s over, elections won’t matter.

I don’t give a nation built on avoidance of hard facts regarding the real world very long though.

Jupiter said...

"For some, defending free speech has become a tool to bully others into silence."

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Steven said...

The incomprehensibility is a necessity.

There are three possible positions. You can endorse a norm of free speech without consequences, you can endorse a norm of letting anyone and everyone impose whatever private-sector consequences they like, or you can endorse a norm where your faction is given the power to enforce orthodoxy.

If you make the first case, you have to oppose cancel culture. In the second, you have to deal with the fact that in a country that's 37% conservative, 24% liberal, the inevitable result of such a norm will be that the left will be disproportionately silenced. In the third, making any comprehensible argument exposes yourself as a totalitarian.

Earnest Prole said...

It makes about as much sense as believing free speech is foundational for civil society while simultaneously believing civility is bullshit.

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

We have antitrust laws to protect businesses and consumers from powerful commercial interests, but we seem to have effectively very little protection of our fundamental 1A rights, even if the biggest threats to them are from companies that could not exist but for ARPA and DARPA, paid for by the people, or possibly the even bigger threat from China. Banning TikTok is a step in the right direction.

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

For instance, I’m banned from Twitter, so I can’t be part of the discourse, 1A or no, and Facebook suspend me so often that I gave up.

Althouse has sometimes banned some of my comments, but it’s her blog , and I don’t blame her. Yes, I sometimes say things even more offensive than most of you know. At least she hasn’t banned me completely, because she actually believes in free speech, bless her little heart!

Bob Loblaw said...

I feel the need to invest in a protocol droid that can translate woke...

An easy droid to make, since woke always translates to "Shut up, bigot!"

Jason said...

Tim in Vermont: I saw an interesting comment, maybe it was here, maybe on Twitter, where when it was pointed out that free speech doesn’t protect a person from “consequences” like losing their livelihood or whatever, only from the government, and somebody pointed out that employers in the Jim Crow south used to fire blacks who registered to vote. They weren’t the government, after all, it was only “consequences.”

People who think freedom of expression is limited to the First Amendment are idiots.

The mob has always been a major threat to freedom of expression. Our natural rights are inalienable against the state and the mob alike.

tim in vermont said...

"Marquess of Queensberry Rules you are.”

Now the rules are set by Katy Kingsbury at the NYT.

mezzrow said...

Q: so why do I see it claimed to be Marxist leftist in many comment threads?
since Kant (his successors and followers) called his works "Critical Philosophy"
but Kant is admired extolled by rightist academics.


Critical Theory was formulated by disaffected Marxists, but its current use is better described as Marxian rather than being Marxist in nature. The distinction is that classical Marxism was based on class distinctions while the current wave is based on identity groups. The Marxian logic used to form the newer conclusions is related to Marx's use of it to build his version of the class war. The envisioned future war is over identity, not class. Its called "Marxist leftist" in many threads because many threads are not formulated to withstand interrogation like yours.

That's quite a reach to drag Kant into this. I'm critical of your attempt to do so.

ALP said...

Is anyone else missing Christopher Hitchens as deeply as I am? I would love to read what he would have to say about current events. I miss his writing terribly - this is a good time for a re-read of his "Letters to a Young Contrarian" or "Why Orwell Matters".

Mark said...

People who think freedom of expression is limited to the First Amendment are idiots.

Thank you, Jason. And thankfully your correction made it through moderation before I was about to point out the same thing.

The First Amendment applies only to restrain government. The free marketplace of ideas is essential to any civil society and is broader than any man-made constitution.

Joanne Jacobs said...

I once was part of a Greek chorus in a parody play for a local theater. Speaking intelligibly as a group is very, very hard. (The guy playing the main character didn't know his lines. We had to ad lib to get him on track. Try doing that as a chorus.)

As a former copy editor and a former op-ed columnist, I don't care for the use of "interrogate" as a synonym for "question." It makes the reader stop to figure out the meaning. When readers stop, they often decide it's not worth it and go do something else. Competent writers write clearly.

RigelDog said...

Naranayan said: CT = critical theory?!

Q: so why do I see it claimed to be Marxist leftist in many comment threads?
since Kant (his successors and followers) called his works "Critical Philosophy"
but Kant is admired extolled by rightist academics. }}}

I kan't address why Kant termed his works "Critical Philosophy" but I can address what Marx has to do with Critical Theory. CT begins with Marx's proposition that all of human society consists of economic groups that struggle for power. The relationship between groups is always ordered such that one group oppresses and the other is oppressed. Critical theorists took the idea of humanity being divided along economic lines and declared that there are many other bases for human groups such as race, sex, and class--but that the oppressor/oppressed dynamic is always in place.

The Godfather said...

I've said it before here: Leftists supported free speech when they felt that Rightists were in charge of the institutions that mattered: The early days of the Cold War up until some point fairly late in the Viet Nam War. Since then, the Left has increasingly taken control of the Academy, the Media, and now the Technosphere. It took awhile, but now, they have the power to prevent speech of which they disapprove, and so they do. They don't believe in free speech with which they disagree, no matter what they claim.

JAORE said...

when did it fall out of fashion to write and speak in a manner that communicates clearly?

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

Would it be okay for a company to fire employees for voting as long as it applies to all employees of that business?

Bait taken, hook set, fish landed!

Jupiter said...

I don't think it is unintelligible. I actually slogged through the whole dismal thing, and it is merely incoherent. She would like to mount a defense of cancel culture, preferably one based upon the right of people to be heard. Apparently she continued the attempt for several paragraphs, but the necessary logic failed to emerge, so she threw in some family history (Daddy issues, I'm thinking), and then offers us the hopeful example of modern South Africa, where she spends much of her time, and which she believes is a hopeful model for America's demographic future. She appears to be saying that things will be much better once America's Black majority has democratically assumed political power, because Black people just inherently have more respect for freedom of expression than bigoted and dictatorial white people like herself.

Howard said...

Extreme nutjobs of all stripes label themselves the opposite of what they really are. The woksters are in a fugue state.

gilbar said...

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...
Would it be okay for a company to fire employees for voting as long as it applies to all employees of that business?


and Jar Jar? you think that THAT would be a 1st amendment issue? Really?

Greg The Class Traitor said...

JAORE said...
when did it fall out of fashion to write and speak in a manner that communicates clearly?

When teh Left discovered that their ideas are all pathetic crap that is easily taken apart any time rational discussion is allowed

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

Gill, would it be okay? Would it be lawful? Would it be a violation of worker’s civil rights?

Jersey Fled said...

I have nothing to say.

Neither does Eve.

Nichevo said...

The First Amendment applies only to restrain government. The free marketplace of ideas is essential to any civil society and is broader than any man-made constitution.


Against this, I would observe that the United States was founded under the institution of the code duello, which allowed people to shoot each other (or use swords, etc.), over things like blows or other material injuries (like fraud, adultery, breach of promise, dishonoring one's sister, etc.), but also insults.

We call each other names, like faggot, bastard, son of a bitch, motherfucker, shit-eater, cunt, slut, whore, traitor, fascist, commie, liar, cheat, and more and worse, all the time here, that in 1800 would have caused endless dates involving pistols for two and coffee for one.

Maybe it's better now, but in the founding of this nation there was absolutely no private immunity of speech. You spoke, and you faced the consequences, just not from Jefferson or Madison or Jackson.

Sam L. said...

It's "bad faith" all the way Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooown.

Mark said...

It's telling that the first example of the free marketplace of ideas you would use is personal insults.

Nichevo said...


Blogger Mark said...
It's telling that the first example of the free marketplace of ideas you would use is personal insults.


So? What's your point? Brooks beat Sumner half to death with a cane on the House floor over a policy issue. He chose to take it as a personal insult.

ken in tx said...

"somebody pointed out that employers in the Jim Crow south used to fire blacks who registered to vote. They weren’t the government, after all, it was only “consequences.”

I doubt the premise of this statement. I am sure that this may have happened in a few cases, but it was not the general rule. The kind of employer who would hire blacks in the first place, were not the kind who supported Jim Crow policies. Segregation was forced on most businesses by the law. Woolworth did not care who sat at their lunch counters as long as they paid their tab. Neither did Greyhound care where their ticket buyers sat. The law forced them to care. The people who supported Jim Crow would not have hired blacks because they did not want them around.

Stephen St. Onge said...

"JAORE said...
"when did it fall out of fashion to write and speak in a manner that communicates clearly?"

When expressing stupid ideas became mandatory at Left publications. You don't want to make it CLEAR that you are expressing nonsense.