Robert Shvern has refined his opinion of the Mary Jane Hitler controversy.

It comes down to two camps really. Either you believe in the free will of others or you want to control them.

Those who believe in life, and consequently in others, see a wide range of diversity in the world. People are different and consequently many ideas exist, at least from people not swamped in normative social convention.

In a free society we aren’t required to all agree on our opinions, preferences, viewpoints or interpretations. Neither should we be required to silence ourselves or lie in accordance with custom. In unfree societies, people have to stay silent or openly lie to say what is expected by authorities. Whether the punishment is gulags, work camps, summary execution, or disrupting one’s livelihood, the method is the same: force over freedom, destruction over rationality.

It’s fairly easy to force a population to repeat arbitrary ideas without ability to consider their assumptions and consequences. History shows that the only defense to mob thinking is rational discourse somehow finding a way to escape the conformist fury of the mob.

If you don’t like an idea, speak out about the idea, not the person saying it. Surely you can attack speakers and destroy a few lives by attacking people, but this only shows you lack an argument against the idea. The people communicating ideas are only messengers and rarely have anything to do with the origin of the idea or its reasoning. Attacking people does not defeat an idea, but it boldly demonstrates an instinct for cruelty and unconcern for others.

I support free speech of all varieties and viewpoints for the same reason as the ACLU defends unpopular legal defendants. If free speech only consisted of ideas with which the majority agree, then it would not be free speech at all, but only communication controlled by mob rule. I don’t want a society that restricts ideas to those approved by the mob. I believe that thinking people can figure out ideas for themselves and need no well-intentioned controllers or censors.

A gentle tolerance of diversity and polite civility allows human knowledge to increase instead of increasingly constricting intellectualism to lowest common denominator mob rule.

Remove the blackness from your heart and have a little faith in mankind.


1) It would be convenient if the (funny!) YouTube videos on this page did not start automatically.

2) We are all in favor of “tolerance of diversity and polite civility” at EphBlog. Perhaps this should be our new motto.

3) Did I mention that I had a fun 30 minute conversation with Robert Shvern yesterday? Good times! The best part of EphBlog is all the interesting people you get to meet. The conversation was officially off the record, but now that Shvern is threatening me with legal action I feel, uh, less well-disposed toward him than before. I guess I need to work on that “blackness from your heart” stuff.

Anyway, I actually had an idea for how this might all work out for the best. I proposed that Shvern agree to stay away from the Williams campus for the next two years. (It appears that the College has done nothing to prevent him from visiting as often as he likes.) In exchange, all usages of his last name would be removed from EphBlog.

People on campus who find him threatening would not need to worry about his presence. Shvern would no longer have this be the number two hit on Google for “Shvern.” Everybody wins!

Unfortunately, Robert Shvern does not want to take this deal. He wants me to remove these two posts (and the associated comments). He wants to get lawyers involved. Good luck with that!

4) This may get a great deal uglier. That’s no worry for me since I have excellent legal counsel and all the time in the world. Others should, however, be careful in their participation going forward. There is little real anonymity on the internet and Robert Shvern has demonstrated an inclination to sue those who make disparaging comments about him. Write at your own risk.

5) Since the internet is a great place to get free legal advice, perhaps some of our lawyer-readers could comment on the issues involved, especially with regard to our comment threads. Could Robert Shvern successfully sue on the basis of what has already happened?

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