John Canty ’88, a former op-ed editor of the Record and CIA agent, kindly sent along these thoughts on banning speakers at Williams. Relevant past discussions here and here. Day 3.

Having sung the praises of the Chicago Principles, with their insistence on the importance of allowing speech which is “offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed,” Canty writes:

Please let me clear that I have no problem with colleges banning speakers who are not spreading ideas but really spewing hatred.

Arrrgh! No sentence could better illustrate everything that is wrong with out-of-touch alumni, muddle-headed American “conservativism” and the ideological drift of Williams College.

1) You can (intelligently!) believe that Williams should ban John Derbyshire or you can believe that Williams should abide by the Chicago Principles. You can believe the first (Hi abl!) or believe the second (Hi JCD!). But for Canty to profess both beliefs in a single essay is just nonsense.

2) Does John Canty ’88 have any objective way of deciding which speakers are “spewing hatred?” If so, he should share it with the rest of us! Needless to say (!), he doesn’t. He, like many alumni, just want their memories of Williams to lie undisturbed, shrouded in the gauzy haze of Purple Mountains majesty and beer-soaked fellowship. And that is OK! Alumni are free to leave the running of Williams to Maud Mandel and others, to leave the hard choices to her and the Williams Administration. However, at EphBlog, alumni incoherence will be treated just as ruthlessly as it would have been back in a Williams classroom.

Canty continues:

I understand former Williams College President Adam Falk’s decision to ban a lecture by John Derbyshire or University of California-Berkeley’s move to cancel a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos. But I have major problems with efforts by students to silence all opposing viewpoints. In all too many cases, students either have worked to rescind speaking invitations or to disrupt campus lectures, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Harvard University (2014), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at Georgetown (2016), acknowledged police scholar Heather MacDonald at Claremont-McKenna (2017), and respected social scientist Charles Murray at Middlebury (2017). (See Michael Bloomberg’s 2014 Harvard commencement address: “Don’t Major in Intolerance.”)

1) Yiannopoulos’s talk was cancelled. But then, after complaints, he did speak. Berkeley, after some backsliding, has abided by the standards expected, by the Supreme Court, of state institutions. Anyone invited is allowed to speak, even if they are “spewing hatred.”

2) Students don’t seek to “silence all opposing viewpoints.” They only seek to silence some of them. Just like Adam Falk! And you!

More from Canty below:

Open debate becomes particularly crucial in a campus environment that already is dramatically tilted to one side. Michael Bloomberg noted that in the 2012 Presidential election, 92 percent of campaign donations from Ivy League faculty and staff went to President Obama’s campaign, a hammerlock of opinion that he found disturbing—and he backed President Obama! In this context, I would argue that Williams must go to the lengths of its duty and beyond, for example, to recruit that rare conservative scholar to its faculty, to let a speaker address the issue of tackling gang-related urban violence, or to raise that novel argument that US foreign policy may have actually done some good for the world!

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email