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[P]
Jensen: "Against Dissent"

By wji in MLP
Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 01:59:58 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Professor Robert Jensen gave a talk Nov. 1 at the University of Texas titled "Against Dissent". Those of you familiar with Jensen know that he is involved in antiwar work, so, why the title? Put simply, Jensen thinks that 'dissent' as labeled and treated in American society means opinions that are against The Official Line, that are false/foolish/crazy, but still 'worthwhile' because 'everyone has a right to speak'.


But that's not where our analysis should end. We must think not only about the scope of formal freedoms, of legal guarantees, but of the context in which that speech happens. We must look not only at the actions of government, but also how wealth and power in the private sector affects these questions. We must ask about how free we are to gain access to the mass media channels through which most people get their news. While celebrating the expansion of formal freedom of speech, we must ask questions about how effectively citizens can exercise those freedoms in the world in which we live.



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If we ponder these questions, we come to a paradox: How is it that in the United States we have arguably the most expansive free speech rights in the industrial world and an incredibly degraded political culture? How did political freedom produce such a depoliticized culture?


I agree with Professor Jensen. It's common in our society to say something like 'Well, she has a right to speak, even if we disagree with what she says' and leave it at that - not refuting or denying the actual speech, but insinuating that the speaker is wrong just the same. [After all, McVeigh and the Unabomber had 'the right to speak'...] The tendency is to believe that the government does what it likes, and we can agree or disagree. If we disagree, well, we can vote in a few years.


What does it mean to live in a society in which the president can declare an unlimited war against unspecified enemies, then begin to fight that war with extreme brutality and disregard for the lives of innocent civilians, and a significant segment of the population simply does not care? When I ask such questions, people often say, "You have a right to your opinion; I support your right to speak."


I think that indicates a fundamental moral, political, and intellectual crisis. Free speech has come to mean not a process of engagement, but a right to shout into the wind. People see no reason or obligation to engage. This tells me that we live in a political system that has democratic features but is not a meaningful democracy. I say that because I believe a meaningful democracy requires an active citizenry. That is why I titled this talk "Against Dissent." Finally, I'll explain what I mean by that.


On a seperate but somewhat similar point, what's all this crap about 'bipartisanship'? Maybe this is just my experience with the Parliamentary system as opposed to American-style democracy, but, shouldn't the parties in the minority disagree with everything the government does? In Canada, the second-place party is called the 'Official Opposition'. Even on points where there is essentially no argument as to the final outcome, like declaring war in 1939 or imposing the War Measuers Act in the FLQ Crisis, opposition members have put forth barbed questions against the government plan. Isn't adversarial, even contemptous debate a better way to discuss issues than compromise on every issue?


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Poll
In US society, dissenters are...
o Whiny jerks with diplomas, looking for attention. 11%
o Annoying, but they have the right to speak. 9%
o Important, because they might just occasionally be right. 19%
o Under-represented in the mass media and government. 24%
o Allowed the right to speak, but systematically denied the right to make a full case for their opinions. [notice how this poll question is way longer than all the others? hmm...] 34%

Votes: 86
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o a talk Nov. 1 at the University of Texas
o Also by wji


Display: Sort:
Jensen: "Against Dissent" | 41 comments (40 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Party lines end at the border (4.40 / 5) (#1)
by wiredog on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:44:04 PM EST

There is a long tradition in the USA that "Party Lines end at the border". The parties can still be pretty partisan, the recent imbroligo over the airline safety bill being a case in point. And look at the Governors race in Virginia. That's been extremely partisan.

One problem facing the left on US universities is that their own ideas are being used against them. For years there has been a growth of intolerance of any conservative speech. "Speech Codes" are in place on many campuses. Now the intolerance has been turned around, and the speech codes can be used against their promulgators. There have been people on the left on college campuses who, for years, have been restricting free speech. Now their speech is being restricted. And what can they say "It's OK if we do it, but not if they do"? Yeah, right, that sounds good.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle

Speech codes? Really? (3.33 / 3) (#11)
by wji on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:47:23 PM EST

Well, that just makes me feel so good about American society. Any self-proclaimed progressive who wants speech codes ought to take a look at his own views... argh.


Heh, well, I guess I can see that with respect to gays/lesbians, minorities, or at least the people who claim to speak for them - the 'we need special protection' crowd. At my own (high) school, there is an 'Equity Committee' that is dedicated, among other things, to 'promoting anti-homophobia'. Gays have the absolute right to be gay, just as religious crazies have the absolute right to peacefully tell the gays they're Satan's toys. Ending discrimination should be done officially, through government, laws, schools, etc. Ending *ism is different - that's about people's right to express their opinions.




In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

Not so sure (1.00 / 1) (#28)
by greenrd on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 04:03:08 PM EST

just as religious crazies have the absolute right to peacefully tell the gays they're Satan's toys.

Hmmm... what do you think about Fred Phelps picketing Matthew Sheppard's funeral? I think it is ridiculous that a couple of protestors can be forcibly removed from a building by the police for shouting a question at a Coke executive, whereas some hate-spewing religious nut is allowed to picket a funeral. Double standards.

Anyway I think we should distinguish between legal rights and moral rights. I don't think people have the moral right to offend other people for no good purpose, but they should have the legal right.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Private property vs. public space. (none / 0) (#39)
by sonovel on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:39:32 AM EST

I don't know about the Coke case, but if it was in a building, it was probably private property. The other case was almost certainly a public space. But what is your point? If you support free speech, you can't imply that someone you disagree with shouldn't be allowed to speak. But obviously I don't get your point. Surely you don't mean that content should be used to determine what sort of speech is allowed? But it sure sounded like that was your point.

[ Parent ]
Am I missing something? (4.11 / 9) (#3)
by Otter on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:01:43 PM EST

Maybe I'm completely misunderstanding the point of this but -- he seems to be complaining that he only has the right to state and publicize his opinion but not to force everyone else to take it as seriously he would like it to be taken.

And this is an insight? The guy comes across as precisely the sort of leftist who mostly talks a pretty game but has trouble concealing just how frightening he would be if he ever really got any power.

my take (4.33 / 3) (#7)
by crayz on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:05:14 PM EST

What he's saying(at least partly) is that people are turning their brains off. I have seen the tendency myself, when people are confronted with different opinions, especially ones that falls outside of the standard spectrum of opinions, and they sort of chuckle, say "well, it's a free country..." and that's that.

I question how many such people could actually sucessfully argue their position against the "extremist" one - not even necessarily because the extremists are right, but because these people don't ever take a few seconds out of their day to analyze their own opinions.

They came to these opinions a while ago, maybe got them from their parents, or their friends, or they just heard a good speech, or whatever, and since then it's just "this is what I believe" not "this is why I believe it." Press them, and you will see either a very simplistic "why," or none at all. And that is very troubling.

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by nads on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:34:03 PM EST

Let's say Bob has come to believe in some fact or principle A out of tradition (i.e. his parents believed it, his neighbors did, etc., etc.). This particular principle and the matters it concern aren't of much importance to him, so he never attempted to understand it in any great detail. Now Bob goes to college, and he runs in to a group of people who believe in the negation of A. They go on spouting all these reasons for accepting the negation of A. Bob of course, doesn't know much about the particulars of A, nor does he care much about the matters that A concerns. But this group of psycho kids at college, cares very much about A. They have researched the negation of A, and have a number of reasons to believe the negation.

Now, bob has two choices, he can either spend a lot of time defending his position to a bunch of psycho kids at college. Remeber, Bob doesn't even care that much about A. Or he can just ignore them and say 'its a free country', and go on believing what he was brought up on. What do you think is the reasonable thing to do?

There are just too many things to 'care about', and not enough time to be able to back up your position on all of them. You just have to ignore controversy on things your eally dont care about or find of great importance imo.

[ Parent ]

That's not the full story (2.50 / 2) (#17)
by marx on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 07:47:07 AM EST

I agree with your argument so far, it's very clear. However, in reality, Bob doesn't just ignore them and say "it's a free country". Instead, he tries to silence them, or as in this case, attack the person instead of the argument. Here is I think a good quote from the talk:
What is it about this political culture that leads people to see a different political analysis not as something to be argued with, but something to eliminate?

So while I don't have a problem with Bob just ignoring things he doesn't have the time to think about, I do have a problem when Bob tries to eliminate it instead.

What I don't understand is why this happens. Maybe someone closer to the US public debate could explain this.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Why eliminate debate? (3.00 / 3) (#24)
by greenrd on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:26:08 PM EST

What I don't understand is why this happens.

I think nads post addresses this as well, somewhat. Bob doesn't think e.g. the situation of the Afghan refugees is very important, so he finds it obnoxious if the dissenters keep implying that he should find it important. I think this is probably partly because, as you yourself pointed out with your comparison to the Nazi Holocaust the other day, it would be very disturbing to see oneself as callously supporting or ignoring a barbaric policy targetting millions of innocent civilians - so there is a very strong incentive to block out any evidence and argument that suggests that that view might be correct - and of course, this mentality is partly unconscious. People don't literally go around thinking to themselves "I don't want to hear that I'm a callous bastard therefore I must ridicule the dissenters" - it's basically unconscious.

Interesting discussion. I've decided to +1FP it (not that I think it will go to FP.)


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

I have a problem with Bob (2.50 / 2) (#35)
by QuantumG on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:57:36 AM EST

Ever notice how close the words "ignore" and "ignorance" are? why do you think that is? Bob is an ignorant fuck who refuses to listen to reason. Now maybe if we're talking about what kind of ice cream Bob likes it's something we can live with, but when we're talking about Bob's assumption that blacks are lazy or his opinion that women are stupid, his actions have a direct effect on our society. In the case of a senseless war on an civilian population Bob's ignorance is one less voice trying to stop these atrocities.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
No, I don't think it's that (none / 0) (#30)
by Otter on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 04:40:52 PM EST

What he's saying(at least partly) is that people are turning their brains off. I have seen the tendency myself, when people are confronted with different opinions, especially ones that falls outside of the standard spectrum of opinions, and they sort of chuckle, say "well, it's a free country..." and that's that.

Well, I'm as in favor of "Graduates, as you go out into the world, keep an open mind towards new ideas..." as much as the next guy. But I don't think that's what this speech is. It's framed entirely in terms of how his views are perceived and questions the value of a political system in which dissent (again, his views) are not given adequate respect.

I guess what I find creepy about it is a) that this guy clearly has trouble with the notion that everyone doesn't necessarily think the way he does and b) the dismissal of free speech as bourgeois frippery when it doesn't go along with him getting the power he feels he deserves.

I think what it is is that the people who throw around words like "dissent" and "subversive" to describe their entirely risk-free advocacy (Jensen has a government-sponsored platform for his views, for chrissake and until recently, George W. Bush signed his paycheck!) fantasize about themselves as real-life dissidents, like those in Indonesia, Paraguay or Nigeria. People who smile at Jensen and applaud his right to free speech are ruining his drama and he's found a way to insist that they're oppressing him anyway.

[ Parent ]

Poll options (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by mami on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:08:34 PM EST

US society, dissenters are
1.) not asking, not answered
2.) silently depressed, silently angry
3.) cuddled, ignored
4.) ignored, cuddled
4.) standard answer: that's an interesting question, standard answer: all media is biased



What are you talking about? (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by M0dUluS on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:20:44 PM EST

I can go out and buy some dissent any time I like: I have loads of Barsimian interviews of Chomsky, Jello Biafra, RATM, Skeptic magazine, FreeBSD, I just bought a Che Guevara t-shirt and I have a Gore/Liebermann sticker on the Volvo Estate.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
Skeptic, Chomsky good. Gore bad! :) [nt] (1.33 / 3) (#13)
by wji on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:09:51 PM EST



In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
well..... (1.00 / 1) (#21)
by M0dUluS on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:30:43 PM EST

I agree with Gore/Lieberman bad. It was there for irony as was the Volvo. What do you make of Skeptic? I've got very mixed feelings about it, I really dislike the "Dumbth News" part, it always strikes me that they are clownish cartoons of weird behavior that really warrants further investigation. To scoff at it so much seems really at odds with the Baruch Spinoza quote which seems to be their mission statement: something like
"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them"
And then they're ranting about how stupid people are....sigh.
That said, I really enjoy a lot of their articles. I keep on meaning to go to some of their meetings as they're not too far from me, but I hear Shermer on the radio every Friday and don't feel the need to worship him at close quarters.

ANd now, my important question: What the hell does NT mean? I see a lot of people putting it in their posts....Not True? Not Trolling? No Toast?



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
NT == No Text (Apart From Sig, Possibly) (2.50 / 2) (#22)
by greenrd on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:14:32 PM EST

It means no text follows in the body of the message (except possibly a sig, which doesn't count), so if you're viewing in threaded mode, there's no point in clicking on it. It's just a polite hint.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Thanks (NT) :-) (none / 0) (#26)
by M0dUluS on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:47:35 PM EST



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
If this doesn't make the cut (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by johnny on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:30:34 PM EST

Please enter it in your diary. I would like to cite it in something I'm working on for a K5 story submission at some random future time.

Apologies to everybody else for this note to the author.



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

Excuse my ignorance, but (3.25 / 4) (#8)
by Phage on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:33:54 PM EST

But, I was under the impression that after Vietnam the US introduced legislation that stated that the Prez could start fighting for 20-30 days only. After that he/she had to go to Congress for permission to continue operations.

Is this true ? I am sure that someone out there would know this stuff.

If it is true, then the statement,

What does it mean to live in a society in which the president can declare an unlimited war against unspecified enemies, then begin to fight that war with extreme brutality and disregard for the lives of innocent civilians, and a significant segment of the population simply does not care? When I ask such questions, people often say, "You have a right to your opinion; I support your right to speak."

Is essentially meaningless, (and uses inflammatory language that is irritating to read.)The war must be ratified by as close as possible to vox populi to continue.

NB. Vox populi isn't necessarily your view just because you are one of the populi.


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros

Yes, that is true, but... (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by dram on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:42:55 PM EST

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks (I dont remember the exact date, maybe the 14th) the US Congress gave the president unlimited power to wage war as long as he checked back with them from time to time. And that is all that the War Powers Act requires. So both you and the speeker are correct, you are just talking about slightly different things.

-dram
[grant.henninger.name]

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the clarification (NT) (none / 0) (#12)
by Phage on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:54:15 PM EST


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros
[ Parent ]
oh jensen... (4.40 / 5) (#14)
by rebelcool on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:25:28 PM EST

so much of this should be taken in context of events at the univ. of texas (which I happen to attend).

Anyways, jensen said some things which prompted the university's president to call him an idiot more or less ('undiluted foolishness' I believe was the term). However, in the same line the president reaffirmed Jensen's RIGHT to be an idiot and said such a right was the hallmark of liberty.

Of course the more disingenous of the radical-leftist organizations on campus (which includes the campus newspaper at times) locked on to Faulkner's calling Jensen a fool. Shitstorm begins. Most students roll their eyes. Frothing leftists have a field day.

So Jensen bitches about being called a fool was just another example of his freedom being restricted by society. Poo-poo. Even the president has a right to call a professor an idiot, in an editorial comment. Such is the wonders of free speech.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

jensen (cont.) (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by rockwall on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:50:22 PM EST

I too go to that school, and I'll top you: I'm in a class taught by jensen right now called "freedom of expression." I'm one of fifteen or so students.

http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/attack1.htm is the piece that got jensen embroiled in a minor controversy around here. (And the term was "font of undiluted foolishness"; you had it correct, but lord knows I've heard it enough times in class). I think, though, that you sort of skew Faulkner's statement in his favor: he didn't need to remind everyone that bob jensen is entitled to free speech; it seemed to me as though the purpose of his statement was to call him an idiot (to appease the rich and powerful associated with the university, who were no doubt calling for jensen's head) under the guise of protecting his speech.

I don't really agree with either party in this matter. faulkner was out of line, and jensen... well. I see his point, but I don't agree with it at all. he's a nice enough guy, but I get the feeling that if you don't agree with his views, he'll go out of his way to shut you up in class. how ironic. fortunately for him, it's a pretty radical class, just about all of whom are willing to toe the party line.

[ Parent ]
Missing the point. (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Shpongle Spore on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:54:19 PM EST

Even the president has a right to call a professor an idiot, in an editorial comment. Such is the wonders of free speech.

Jensen is free to say things Faulkner disagrees with. Faulkner is free to publicly slam Jensen. Administration-hating students are free to raise a fuss over what Faulkner said. You are free to deride those students, and I'm free to call you a hypocrite for complaining about what some people said when all they've done is complain about what somebody else has said. Where does it end?

Free speech is a legal issue and nothing more. That I have the right to say something doesn't mean that it's right for me to say it. A more substatantial version of the previous paragraph with free speech references removed might look something like this:

Jensen's comments should be no suprise since professors are always on a quest to be provacative. It's part of their job. Faulkner should keep his personal opinions about Jensen to himself because spouting off in public about what a professor says just makes him look heavy-handed and petty. The students are probably mostly just pissed at Faulkner because parking permits cost so much, and this is a good excuse for them to complain, but their complaints are warranted since part of Faulkner's job is to represent UT to the outside world, and his comments clearly are not helping. I have no problem with what you said, so I shouldn't have called you a hypocrite, but I did it anyway to make my point. Shame on me.
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]

"That's nice, Mr. Jensen." (3.55 / 9) (#16)
by EdFox on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:56:38 AM EST

Jensen. Isn't this the "anybody who crashes a plane into the Pentagon has my vote" guy?

I've mentioned this before and I'll say it again. An unpopular view is neither intelligent, brave, nor in any way sensible merely because it is unpopular. The esteemed Mr. Jensen takes a lot of verbiage to wonder why the vast majority of people roll their eyes and say something nice while ignoring him whenever he starts yelling about the war. He seems to feel that he has a god-given fiat that requires everyone who hears his ravings to ponder them instead of just ignoring them.

I'll use an example to explain the point. All of us who have been to a major city have most likely come upon raving lunatics holding up signs that proclaim something akin to "The End of Days is Upon Us!". These madmen exercise their right to free speech by talking to themselves about black helicopters, UFO's, and the TV series "The X-Files". Every normal person who is accosted by these nutballs--trying to foist them off without starting a confrontation--rolls their eyes, says something nice, and ignores them.


His vote? Hardly. (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by wji on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:50:35 AM EST

It should need not be said, but I will say it: The acts of terrorism that killed civilians in New York and Washington were reprehensible and indefensible; to try to defend them would be to abandon one's humanity. No matter what the motivation of the attackers, the method is beyond discussion.

- Jensen, 'Sept. 11' Google search of the 'net and internal search of ZMag turned up nothing on that alleged Jensen comment. He actually seems rather pacifist to me.


And as for the rest of your comments, I don't know if it would change your opinion, but did you read the whole article? Jensen talks about that. His argument is that a constitutional right to free speech is no good if corporations & the State use their power to make dissenters look ridiculous -- whether it's by abbreviating their views, controlling the context, and presenting their opinions without the evidence they use to support them [Cut to Noam Chomsky, seeming like he's in the middle of a sentence: 'Reagan administration, which created one of the most destructive terrorist networks in the world...'], or even by picking the most ridiculous dissenters and focusing on their opinions [Cut to masked rioter throwing rocks at police, Quebec City]. I don't think he's saying everyone ought to agree with him, I think he's saying that an abstract guarantee of 'free speech' is no good if the entities which distribute the most information [Government, Media Conglomerates] are able to 'manage' dissent, even twisting it for their own purposes. Just my 7,200 rubles.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

not jensen (none / 0) (#29)
by rockwall on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 04:14:20 PM EST

in my class with jensen, we discussed the professor who made that remark. surprisingly, jensen didn't unequivocally support his right to make that sort of remark without getting fired. while not much less inflammatory, I don't think you give jensen quite enough credit for his remark. I certainly don't agree with them, but it seems clear they have a certain logic to them. certainly more than "anyone who bombs the pentagon has my vote".

[ Parent ]
Self-importance (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by ScuzzMonkey on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:53:16 AM EST

It sounds as if Jensen, having freely stated his opinion and finding that no one agrees with it, has simply decided that such a thing is impossible, what with him being so educated and smart and all, and that people must just not be listening. That's just ego, not discourse. Anyone else notice that it's always a crisis when anyone disagrees with such profound statements from such an obviously learned and intelligent scholar? I guess that's another downside to free speech--people start to take themselves too seriously when they hear themselves talk all the time. I also think it's a little amusing that someone who is essentially demanding engagement, that people listen and react to his ideas, is so opposed to the use of physical force. You can't demand anything unless you're willing to follow it up with force; how does he propose to solve his problem of no one listening to him? Continue to whine about it? I truly don't believe this is a major problem. It certainly seems that way with this particular grand issue, but I think that is just because people have trouble articulating how they feel about such a complex situation. I do not see much evidence for this alleged dis-engagement in other issues. People freely exchange spite and vitriol over issues ranging from the environment, to abortion, to flag-burning, often not even bothering to say "I support your right to speak" even though that's an unstated subtext to most political conversations in this country. And if Jensen truly thinks that we are not doing well in this department, perhaps he should spend some more time studying political systems in which free speech is not a major characteristic. On the bipartisanship point wji throws in at the bottom, I tend to agree to some extent. I do not, however, think that contemptous debate is somehow the opposite of compromise. Compromise is the ultimate goal of having an adversarial debate. And I don't think that the opposition needs to disagree with everything the government does (in the US, heck, they are half the government, anyway) just for the sake of disagreement. I'd much rather see advocacy of neglected issues, and it's not such a horrible sign if reasonable people can manage to agree on a few things without having to argue them into the ground all the time.
No relation to Happy Monkey (User #5786)
One good link diserves another. (4.75 / 4) (#20)
by EdFox on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:13:23 PM EST

There is a lovely response to this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Free Speech Doesn't Come Without Cost

And so, though Robert Jensen has the right to say what he does, his university's president has an equal right to call him a fool. When talk show host Bill Maher says the September terrorists were brave and American pilots are cowardly, his comments fully merit First Amendment protection. But the advertisers who yanked support from his show were also within their rights: That A may speak hardly means B must fund A's speech. (Mr. Maher has since retracted his comments.) Many orchestras are now refusing to perform work by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who called the World Trade Center destruction "the greatest work of art ever" (the only flaw, according to him, was that the victims "hadn't agreed to it"). Mr. Stockhausen is entitled to his bizarre views; to be boycotted is the price he pays.
I think that sums it up quite nicely.

In another note, I erred in attributing the odious "anybody who crashes an airplane into the Pentagon has my vote" comment to Jensen. As the linked article states, this comment was made by Richard Berthold, a professor at the University of New Mexico. I stand corrected.

Ironic (2.75 / 4) (#27)
by greenrd on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:52:34 PM EST

And so, though Robert Jensen has the right to say what he does, his university's president has an equal right to call him a fool.

The very first sentence, above, sets the tone and perfectly demonstrates Jensen's point: it points to free speech, without actually adressing his substantive political arguments about the war and intermittent blockades on Afghanistan. It is, very directly and obviously in my opinion, used as a blunt instrument of ridicule and diverts attention from the first-order substantive issues.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Exactly (2.50 / 2) (#34)
by QuantumG on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:43:55 AM EST

just because you have the right to say anything you want doesn't mean what you say is worthy of my praise. For both Jensen and his "opponent". Jensen has made an argument (sort of, it's not that good) and anyone responding to Jensen should be willing to respond with an argument -- otherwise sit down, you're out of your league.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Too bad this idiot can't get his facts straight. (none / 0) (#32)
by Mr. Piccolo on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 09:20:28 PM EST

*sigh* Yet another case of journalists twisting the truth. You can read the real story about Mr. Stockhausen's comments

Unfortunately, the way he put it made it easy to twist his words that way, but if you take the whole thing together, it is clear he was not condoning the actions in any way.


The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


[ Parent ]
hmf. (none / 0) (#33)
by Mr. Piccolo on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 09:22:28 PM EST

That would be here.

It's a conspiracy, I tell ya...


The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


[ Parent ]
Jensen: in praise of folly. (4.50 / 4) (#23)
by Apuleius on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:24:04 PM EST

First off, let's ask the obvious question: what has Jensen suffered in consequence to his "dissent"? So far, all he suffered has been people calling him a twit, including the UT president. Jensen, bud, my heart goes out for you. Clearly the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have been raining on you, even if you are a twit. I feel your pain.

Now, about "debate," let's ask the obvious question: is Jensen interested in pursuing any? So far, most professorial blathering about the 9-11 attack and the aftermath has been of the "teach in" variety, a venue designed by the Mutual Admiration Society to minimize the very debate Jensen calls for. If Jensen or Chomsky, or anyone else, is interested in debate, let's see them hold a round-table with the opposite wing. I won't hold my breath.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Yes, we are interested in debate! (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by greenrd on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:42:58 PM EST

If Jensen or Chomsky, or anyone else, is interested in debate, let's see them hold a round-table with the opposite wing.

That's rather unfair. I'm a leftist and I'm interested in debate - that's why I'm here! I'm sure you could get Chomsky onto a debate with serious opponents (i.e. people who don't resort to fallacious personal attacks or just recycle mindless platitudes, etc. etc.), as long as he wasn't limited to 5 second soundbites. The problem is (a) the mainstream media aren't interested, because he's anathema to them; (b) US media in particular is really bad for dumbing down political discourse into tiny little soundbites, worse than in say the UK, with the result that often, only the most simplistic "dialog" can take place.

The best venue for this is probably some form of writing rather than a live debate, because then you have more space to go into details and subtleties, and think about things in a cooler-headed kind of way, and do more research before making a response. But aside from trash talking Chomsky et. al. without actually seriously addressing their arguments, there hasn't been much real interest in debating Chomsky, Jensen etc. in the mainstream media at least. Therefore, it is the radical Left who are wishing the mainstream media would open up the debate, and the mainstream media who are more than 80% ignoring us (in my opinion). As far as I can see you are presenting the exact opposite of the truth.

Although, having said that, I don't deny that there are some who claim to be on the Left who don't like real debates. And certainly some of our arguments are weaker than others, and raise uncomfortable questions if one looks at them critically. But that's true of every political shade of opinion. Nothing particularly new there.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Here's a debate. (1.00 / 1) (#31)
by wji on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 05:12:09 PM EST

Do a gnutella/fasttrack/whatever search for 'Manufacturing Consent'. Can't remember if it was part 3, 4, or what, but there is audio of a debate between Chomsky and a member of the Dutch government. It's chopped up, though, I'd like to have the full version. Anyway, the guy walked out with some lame excuse. Doesn't mean everyone that disagrees with Chomsky is wrong, but it does pretty clearly demolish the line about Jensen/Chomsky/whoever being against debate.



In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

seems to me (2.00 / 1) (#38)
by Ender Ryan on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:39:20 AM EST

It seems to me that the reason for this is probably due to the fact that they have many, many, many complaints but have absolutely not realistic solutions to offer.


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Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

your neighbor is watching you - not big brother (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by mami on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 08:33:03 AM EST

How is it that in the United States we have arguably the most expansive free speech rights in the industrial world and an incredibly degraded political culture? How did political freedom produce such a depoliticized culture?
The tendency is to believe that the government does what it likes, and we can agree or disagree. If we disagree, well, we can vote in a few years.
I have chewed on this one quite a bit, because it's an observation any foreign student from Europe in the U.S. stumbles over and "can't get", so to speak.

I tried to answer myself this question like this, but am not sure, if it has any legal basis to stand on, it's mere "gut's feeling" talk.

Because anybody has the absolute right to free speech, anybody with the means (money) has the absolute right to broadcast his free speech, no matter what he says. So, free speech with money to buy the broadcasting or distributing medium, is more free to be heard than other free speech.

If the free speech is actually expressing something the majority of the population doesn't want to hear (because it's talking about a subject which arouses hate and fear - typical example, anything about racism or child pornography for example), the only defense one has in an absolute free speech rights societey is to ignore the speech and not answer to the arguments.

Counter arguments would acknowledge the dissenter and, so the saying goes, he doesn't deserve your attention. This reaction then leads, on the long run, to a society, which continuously is in denial of its dissenting members.

With regards to the other part, "the government does what it wants, and you can agree or disagree, well and if you disagree, you can vote in a few years", I would say that this is more or less true in any proportional representative democracy. But why is it a bit more true in the U.S. than in other European democracies ?

Seems to me, it has to do with the fact that political opinions are NOT really represented in political parties and that the elected representatives of the parties are not firmly enough hold accountable to their own (mostly non existing) official party's political agenda.

Most people don't see a connection between campaign finance and the way the electoral college and the voting rights are structured in the U.S. with the fact that an accountable diverse political party system can't be built in the U.S. How else do you explain that there is NO third party in the U.S., which represents dissenter's views, and that there are NO real party platforms (aside from pretty meaningless "small government" vs. "big government, big spenders" rhetoric)?

How meaningless that really is, can be best watched right now, where people from both sides of the aisle have trouble to formulate reasonable "air security" legislation. People seem to think they have to be "partisan" again to show that we have a "functioning democracy" and come up with the pretty silly legislation.

There is another consequence of the absolute freedom of speech rights philosophy as being the guardian of freedom and democracy. Let me make a silly example. It is clear that if I can say anything I want, (meaning I can harrass any K5 poster to be the most awful, biased and malicious troll on earth :-)) , and you get profoundly sick and tired of me.

What options do you have to deal with me ? You can ignore me, shouting back at me or never let a story through or punish me with the profoundly insulting (tzz, tzzz) measurement of denying me "trusted user"status. In your minds you have "profiled me" as being an "untrusting person". Shame on you. Now you end up doing exactly what you don't stand for. You do everything but discussing the issue.

What would my response be ? I will shout back, that you are all "profiling me" as the awful German dumb kneejerk woman etc. And I will complain bitterly about having to live in a group, where extensive "ethnical and political profiling" is done. That is unfair and is against the standard of being treated "equal in front of the law" That of course is also completely unacceptable. But hey, you have no other means to get rid of me. That's the problem.

Another example to make my point. As you can't get a handle to screen each passenger entering an airplane via ID card with whatever almost bullet proof authentication feature integrated on it (violates privacy rights and because of other civil liberty rights issues), you have to start to do "profile screening" leading in the end to a much more "unfree" society, because you have to watch "how I pay my ticket, how I look, why I buy only a one-way ticket, etc. etc." Completely idiotic measurements to "secure" that I am not a potential terrorist.

With all your freedom of everything rights you end up being quite unfree. You have to be on "alert". That means you have done the first step to a society, where not big brother is watching you, but any of your neighbors is. And that's the most unfree society I can imagine to live in.

You are now allowed to return to silence me, profile me, ignore me and continue with the political discussion. :-)

Mailing List Debate (1.00 / 1) (#37)
by priestess on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 08:35:12 AM EST

Lots of people here are basically saying that it is everyone's right to not listen, to ignore and stay ignorant. If I want to put my fingers in my ears and yell that you're an idiot then I have every right to do so. Nobody disagrees with this but it's missing the point entirely.

What Jansen appears to be saying is that there are people, not everybody by all means but those in power - those who have been elected as Representatives, who have a duty to represent. This means representing ALL SIDES of the debate. This certainly isn't what happened when the senate passed the terrorism bill for instance.

When some companies criticize free software they point to the disagreement and arguments and debate that goes on in public in the mailing lists or whatever and they say that Free Software has no direction, that it has no leadership. The copylefters have always argued that this debate is a sign of the health of the movement, that all avenues are being explored and all issues considered and no stone left unturned. This I agree with, but it's clear that in the current climate the political equivalent of those mailing lists are being shut down in the name of Supporting the Government, in the name of patriotism. Jansen is trying to point out that the strength of a democracy comes exactly from this debate, that the members of the senate have a responsibility to put forward all points of view for consideration.

Frankly I agree with him, if everyone on the Kernel mailing lists decided to just shut up and support Linus whatever he did so as to present a united front to Microsoft and other free software critics I would fear that the Code would suffer as a result, just as I fear now that democracy and freedom will suffer as a result of the stifling of debate in parliament and in the press.

Pre........

----
My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
Robots!
Re: Mailing List Debate (2.00 / 1) (#41)
by RHSwan on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 08:10:39 PM EST

It is not the job of our representatives in government to present all sides of the debate. If they do, then nothing gets done (which might not be a bad thing ;) ). Generally, they either follow the opinions of their constituents or do what they feel is best for their constituents. Jensen made several basic errors in his speech but the one of concern here is that debate on the best course of action can be very short, almost instantaneous. That is what happened to him. A large majority of the citizens had already decided on the best course of action by the time his commentary was made public. While a full and public debate on a course of action is extremely important in a democracy, the length of that debate is not predetermined. Because the majority of the citizens had already decided upon a course of action, and were not interested in an opinion suggesting an alternative course of action and a viewpoint of history they did not believe, what Mr. Jensen said was properly labeled dissent.

[ Parent ]
Jensen: "Against Dissent" | 41 comments (40 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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