I gave an ethics training session for a local non-profit yesterday. At the end of the two hours, a staffer who was pursuing U.S. citizenship was obviously stimulated by the various issues and principles we had discussed and had many provocative questions, which he struggled to articulate in his second language, for he was Sorth Korean. “Why is it right for me to pay taxes to assist illegal immigrants?” he asked. “In Sorth Korea, they say we are decades behind the US is democracy, but Korean laws are enforced no matter who the law-breaker is. I see that law-breakers in the US who are rich and powerful or famous get special dispensations from the law. Doesn’t that mean that Korea is ahead of the U.S., at least in that respect?” (Gee, I wonder who he was referring to…)
He had insightful observations, as recent immigrants to the U.S. so often do. Finally he said, “Do you agree that political correctness is a great threat to liberty and democracy?”
Yes. Yes I do. I thought so the first time I heard the term “politically correct” in the Seventies, and was so certain that the concept’s loathsomeness (and the parallel loathsomeness of its advocates, frankly), ensured that it would be a short-lived phenomenon.
Which shows how smart I am…
Shortly after the July 7 massacre of five police officers in Dallas, Rohini Sethi, the vice-president of the University of Houston’s Student Government Association, posted this on Facebook:
The student governing body suspended her from her office and the group.
From the Houston Chronicle…
Student body vice president Rohini Sethi has been suspended by the SGA and is temporarily barred from participating in group activities. She is also due to attend a “diversity” workshop per the ruling….The University of Houston issued a statement this week that said the move is not a university action and doesn’t impact Sethi’s academic standing. “The University of Houston continues to stand firm in support of free speech and does not discipline students for exercising their constitutional rights,” the statement said.
The action came after minority student groups on campus condemned her statement as racist or “insensitive,”and demanded her removal. The accommodating president of the SGA complied. For her part, Sethi apologized and agreed to take a three-day cultural sensitivity workshop, though she wrote several Facebook posts defending her actions. Ultimately she was brought to heel, made a public statement along with the SGA head, and like a brain-washed prisoner of war, grovelled..
“I have chosen to take these steps on my own because of the division I’ve created among our student body. I may have the right to post what I did, but I still should not have. My words at the time didn’t accurately convey my feeling and cause many students to lose their faith in me to advocate for them. I will always continue to learn and be ready to discuss these issues.”
1. Little by little, bit by bit, American youth is being taught by episodes like this that official sanctions and penalties will result from non-conforming political and social policy viewpoints. This weakens the culture’s commitment to free speech and thought, and is a vile and un-American form of oppression. It is easy to separate the heroes from the villains in this matter. The heroes are those who condemn the speech-repressing responses like those of the University of Houston’s student government, the lazy cowards in the university’s leadership, which will not defend free speech, and any groups that regard censorship and chilling the freedom of expression as an appropriate or ethical tool of discourse.
The heroes are those who refuse to submit to this totalitarian trend, and who speak out against it.
2. Facebook comments are pure personal expression, and except in cases of true threats or libel, neither a college, nor a high school, nor any school, nor any organization supported by these educational institutions, should punish, threaten or intimidate students based on what they say on-line. To permit this is to chill free speech. Students who disagreed with what Sethi wrote were free to confront her, debate her, argue with her, vote against her and “unfriend” her. What the various students and the student groups chose to do was bully her and intimidate her, and in doing so threaten all free speech.
3. If the university administrators had any courage, integrity, sense of responsibility or common sense, they would take punitive action against the SGA for acting like the Communist Party under the Soviets or Mao. The university funds these anti-speech tyrants, and is complicit in everything they do. The official statement that the school “continues to stand firm in support of free speech and does not discipline students for exercising their constitutional rights” is outright falsehood. How does allowing organizations funded by and overseen by the school to punish free speech constitute “standing firm”?
Yechhh. University administrators should be recruited directly from the population of annelid worms, since clearly spinal columns are superfluous to their jobs.
4. Rohini Sethi is a little better, I will say grudgingly. However, those who lack the courage to defend their own rights to freedom of speech fail their fellow citizens and the nation as well as themselves. If one is not prepared to fight back when others try to censor you, then consider shutting up, or just allowing the politically powerful to script what you say in public or private. Sethi should not have apologized; she should not have agreed to re-education and indoctrination training, and her statement was capitulation, showing me that her own commitment to freedom of expression and diversity of opinion was weak already:
“I have chosen to take these steps on my own because of the division I’ve created among our student body….”
A typical brainwashed prisoner of war statement, this. ” I decided this on my own, and the threats, abuse, isolation and punishment had nothing to do with it.” Now we know she’s a liar, but a liar for the cause. A private message on social media doesn’t divide anyone or anything, unless they decide to divide themselves. The minority groups made the post divisive: make them be accountable.
“I may have the right to post what I did, but I still should not have….”
That is, “I should not exercise my rights when powerful forces don’t want me to.”
“My words at the time didn’t accurately convey my feeling…”
“and cause many students to lose their faith in me to advocate for them.”
..because only people who toe the ideological line, follow partisan cant, and fold in the presence of disagreement can advocate for them.
“I will always continue to learn and be ready to discuss these issues.”
Translation: “Tell me what’s RIGHT, O Ye Wise and Righteous Ones, and I will comply.”
Of this one he writes,
“The controversy of University of Houston shows how schools are now instilling speech regulation as an accepted part of academic environments. The result is a new generation of students taught that they must conform to majoritarian or official views if they want to be educated or avoid sanctions. The primary responsibility for this rollback on free speech rests with the faculty and administrators of our schools, who have often supported such notion of speech as “microaggressions” or hostile acts under school codes.”
6. Turley also unfortunately fell into the current unethical trend of misleading headlines. “University of Houston Student Suspended And Required To Attend Cultural Events For Writing ‘All Lives Matter'” is just plain false: she wasn’t suspended by the school, not did the school require her to attend anything. She was free to attend classes, and could have, as she should have, told the SGA to go suck eggs. And though it’s a minor point, she was under fore more for the “Forget #BlackLivesMatter” part of her message than the “All Lives Matter” statement.
7. She was 100% right that we should forget #BlackLivesMatter,” however. The movement is based on a lie (“Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”) and asserts a lie, which is that any rational person of any race believes that black lives don’t matter. The group advocates racism and hate; its methods are coercive and divisive, and its rhetoric has been responsible for many deaths, with more to come. They are exactly the wrong advocates for policing reform and justice reform, as their narratives reject core justice principles like due process, equal treatment under the law, probable cause and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Forget BlackLivesMatter indeed.
8. Even if the sentiment wasn’t fair and accurate, however, Rohini Sethi should not have been punished for expressing it.