As always, the best parts of EphBlog are often in the comments. Consider this one from Professor Darel Paul:
In light of the many recent controversies regarding what is and is not acceptable speech / representation at Williams College (Yes: Jiz Lee, Suzanne Venker, Remi Kanazi; No: John Derbyshire, left-facing (i.e. non-Nazi) swastikas; Preliminary No: old murals of King Hendrick), perhaps what is needed is a kind of Miller Test for the community.
As my deconstructionist faculty friends would say, there is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start!
1) Who can tell if Paul is kidding? I honestly can’t! From Wikipedia:
The Miller test (also called the Three Prong Obscenity Test) is the United States Supreme Court’s test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.
On the one hand, Professor Paul could be serious. Williams does seem to have a problem in deciding what to allow and what not to allow. Given that, we need a procedure for deciding these issues going forward. Why not start with something like Miller?
On the other hand, he must be joking, purposely teasing the Williams administration — purposely teasing his boss Adam Falk? — about the stupidity of its current course of action. Would Williams really want to treat ideas — even ideas as unpopular as John Derbyshire’s — in the same way that provincial US local governments handled obscenity?
2) It is true that Williams now claims that Suzanne Venker would have been welcome if UL had not disinvited her. Does everyone really believe that, now that we know that Adam Falk considers “hate speech” a reason for banning someone from campus? I don’t know. Many Ephs thought that Venker was guilty of hate speech. The editors of the Record, for example, seemed to argue that Venker should not be allowed to speak at Williams, and for precisely the same reasons that Falk banned Derbyshire.
Poet Remi Kanazi, for example, who frequently speaks at SJP-sponsored events, represents Palestinian culture through work that attacks Israel as a “racist, apartheid state” that is “built upon the graves of Palestinians.” In one Facebook post from 2012, Kanazi wrote,“Dear Zionists: You have never ‘defended yourselves.’ You came in, stole land that wasn’t yours & maintained a racist state through massacres and brute force.”
There are certainly Jewish Williams students who are as offended by Kanazi as other Williams students are offended by Derbyshire. And, if they view that speech as “hateful,” then they are probably accurately describing their subjective feelings upon reading/hearing that speech. But, if you ban Derbyshire, why wouldn’t you ban Kanazi?