Matt Taibbi on National Public Radio’s trashing of free speech

September 1, 2021 • 9:15 am

It’s dispiriting to start the day dealing with an NPR piece like this, in which the New York branch produced a nationally-broadcast 50-minute discussion of free speech featuring no defenders of free speech. Instead, we hear from several guests who all advocate (without explicitly saying so) some kind censorship.

The issue, of course, is hate speech, which currently is permitted by the courts with a few carved-out exceptions (speech designed to cause predictable and imminent physical violence, harassment in the workplace, physical threats, and so on). The guests (see below) don’t like just those few exceptions, and think they should be expanded to deal with speech that causes psychological harm (i.e., offense) recognized as equivalent to physical harm. After all, psychological harm does produce physiological reactions. Ergo, they’re the same and should be treated the same under the law.

The discussion includes several mischaracterizations of the First Amendment (see Taibbi’s beef below), including workplace harassment seen as presently permitted free speech, even though it isn’t. And they go through past litigation by the courts the yielded the current construal of the First Amendment, but somehow manage to imply that these litigated cases show that perhaps the First Amendment isn’t so clear cut, and could use some more tweaking. Well, it isn’t clear cut, but I, for one, find the courts’ winnowing pretty damn good, and would be very wary of cutting back further on free speech. That would include prohibiting “hate speech”, which, after all, is some people’s “free speech”.

In the end, one has little idea of how or even whether the guests would alter the First Amendment. I get the sense that they want the amendment reexamined and changed, but they won’t go so far as to say that openly. (After all, it’s altering the Bill of Rights!) Instead, they make noises about “making a better world”, assuming that this will get rid of the speech that Andrew Marantz (the main speaker) finds offensive.  But there will always be bigots, as well as those calling for social change that other people find offensive. So yes, of course we should become less hateful and more empathic, but this show, after all, was about freedom of speech and the First Amendment, not a World of Love. The show is curiously inconclusive, except that you get the impression that all four participants want some kind of censorship. Have a listen to the show below, and see if I’m wrong (click on screenshot) below.

First, though, there’s this blurb on the site from WNYC:

“The right to throw a punch ends at the tip of someone’s nose.” It’s the idea that underlies American liberties — but does it still fit in 2021? We look back at our country’s radical — and radically inconsistent — tradition of free speech. Plus, a prophetic philosopher predicts America 75 years after Trump.

1. Andrew Marantz [@andrewmarantz], author of Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation — and our guest host for this hour — explains what he sees as the problem with free speech absolutism. Listen.

2. John Powell [@profjohnapowell], law professor at UC Berkeley, P.E. Moskowitz [@_pem_pem], author of The Case Against Free Speech: The First Amendment, Fascism, and the Future of Dissent, and Susan Benesch [@SusanBenesch], Director of the Dangerous Speech Project, on our complicated legal right to speak. Listen.

3. Andrew and Brooke discuss the philosopher Richard Rorty, whose work can teach us much about where the present approach to speech might take us, as a nation. Listen.

Throughout the show you’ll hear free-speech advocates characterized as “free speech absolutists”, although no advocate of the First Amendment, including me, thinks that all speech should be permitted. “Free speech absolutists” should its place beside other misguided pejorative terms like “fundamentalist atheists”.

And although Marantz makes fun of the slippery-slope argument, this is not something to be laughed off. If you start banning speech that offends others, who is to be the censor?  All the good liberals on the show think that The Decider will be another good liberal, but as we know from Trump and his minions, this is not the case. They want to ban speech that many liberals favor, as in the Republican-dominated drive to ban “critical race theory” (CRT) from being taught in schools. But, for example, CRT could simply be construed by teachers as an honest examination of slavery and of the genocide of Native Americans, which kids really do need to learn. Yet the laws being passed by state legislatures might ban even that.

And, as I’ve mentioned—as does Taibbi below—limitations on free speech were used to suppress the civil rights movement in the Fifties and Sixties. This is why it’s dangerous to make the argument that “offensive” or “hate” speech should be banned, restricted, or even attacked. As Taibbi says,

The most important problem of speech regulation, as far as speech advocates have been concerned, has always been the identity of the people setting the rules. If there are going to be limits on speech, someone has to set those limits, which means some group is inherently going to wield extraordinary power over another. Speech rights are a political bulwark against such imbalances, defending the minority not only against government repression but against what Mill called “the tyranny of prevailing opinion.”

This isn’t new; it’s a point that Christopher Hitchens made repeatedly in his defense of free speech.

But I’m jumping the gun. In his latest Substack column, which you can read for free (but do consider subscribing), Matt Taibbi comes down hard on NPR for this disingenuous show. Click on the screenshot below to read his shortish piece:

I’ll give a couple of quotes by Taibbi from this excellent piece, and wind up with a kvetch about how liberals seemingly want make society less liberal, which is what will happen when “offensive” speech gets banned.

What Taibbi says here is absolutely on the mark:

The guests for NPR’s just-released On The Media episode about the dangers of free speech included Andrew Marantz, author of an article called, “Free Speech is Killing Us”; P.E. Moskowitz, author of “The Case Against Free Speech”; Susan Benesch, director of the “Dangerous Speech Project”; and Berkeley professor John Powell, whose contribution was to rip John Stuart Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty as “wrong.”

That’s about right for NPR, which for years now has regularly congratulated itself for being a beacon of diversity while expunging every conceivable alternative point of view.

I always liked Brooke Gladstone, but this episode of On The Media was shockingly dishonest. The show was a compendium of every neo-authoritarian argument for speech control one finds on Twitter, beginning with the blanket labeling of censorship critics as “speech absolutists” (most are not) and continuing with shameless revisions of the history of episodes like the ACLU’s mid-seventies defense of Nazi marchers at Skokie, Illinois.

And, like Taibbi, I was stunned by the argument made by Powell about the ACLU defending the Nazi Party’s right to demonstrate in Skokie in 1977. Powell construes the whole thing as a case of psychological harm to Nazis as well as Jews, since had the Nazis been prohibited from marching, they would have been psychologically harmed. Ergo, if you think it’s not ok for Jews to suffer psychological damage by watching Nazis march, it’s also not okay for Nazis to be harmed by prohibiting their marching. That is about as disingenuous as you can get.

Taibbi points out the fatal flaw in this reasoning (his emphasis below):

I was stunned by Marantz and Powell’s take on Brandenburg v. Ohio, our current legal standard for speech, which prevents the government from intervening except in cases of incitement to “imminent lawless action”:

MARANTZ: Neo-Nazi rhetoric about gassing Jews, that might inflict psychological harm on a Holocaust survivor, but as long as there’s no immediate incitement to physical violence, the government considers that protected… The village of Skokie tried to stop the Nazis from marching, but the ACLU took the case to the Supreme Court, and the court upheld the Nazis’ right to march.

POWELL: The speech absolutists try to say, “You can’t regulate speech…” Why? “Well, because it would harm the speaker. It would somehow truncate their expression and their self-determination.” And you say, okay, what’s the harm? “Well, the harm is, a psychological harm.” Wait a minute, I thought you said psychological harms did not count?

This is not remotely accurate as a description of what happened in Skokie. People like eventual ACLU chief Ira Glasser and lawyer David Goldberger had spent much of the sixties fighting for the civil rights movement. The entire justification of these activists and lawyers — Jewish activists and lawyers, incidentally, who despised what neo-Nazi plaintiff Frank Collin stood for — was based not upon a vague notion of preventing “psychological harm,” but on a desire to protect minority rights.

In fighting the battles of the civil rights movement, Glasser, Goldberger and others had repeatedly seen in the South tactics like the ones used by localities in and around Chicago with regard to those neo-Nazis, including such ostensibly “constitutional” ploys like requiring massive insurance bonds of would-be marchers and protesters.

. . . .By the end of the segment, Marantz and Gladstone seemed in cheerful agreement they’d demolished any arguments against “getting away from individual rights and the John Stuart Mill stuff.” They felt it more appropriate to embrace the thinking of a modern philosopher like Marantz favorite Richard Rorty, who believes in “replacing the whole framework” of society, which includes “not doing the individual rights thing anymore.”

It was all a near-perfect distillation of the pretensions of NPR’s current target audience, which clearly feels we’ve reached the blue-state version of the End of History, where all important truths are agreed upon, and there’s no longer need to indulge empty gestures to pluralism like the “marketplace of ideas.”

Indeed, the “progressive” liberal “marketplace of ideas”, like a store in early Soviet Russia, stocks only one brand. That’s why John McWhorter, who wants to introduce another brand into the discourse on race, has been attacked so strongly. There’s a right way and a wrong way to think, and we needn’t even consider the “wrong” way.

Ironically, it’s the Left that’s been the most potent defender of free speech, and now it’s the Left that is oh-so-gently trying to get rid of it. The Right, of course, is far from exculpated on this issue, but if you review the last five years of FIRE’s “disinvitation database”, which chronicles campus attempts to stifle speech or deplatform speakers, a strong majority of the incidents come from the Left.

When NPR starts saying that we need to start hacking away at the First Amendment, or devise a new Constitution without “individual rights”, you know it’s time to cancel your subscription. You can use the money to subscribe to Taibbi’s site ($50/year), where you won’t hear this kind of odious palaver.

h/t: Cate

60 thoughts on “Matt Taibbi on National Public Radio’s trashing of free speech

  1. The guests (see below) don’t like just those few exceptions, and think they should be expanded to deal with speech that causes psychological harm (i.e., offense) recognized as equivalent to physical harm.

    I believe the law already has a principle to deal with this. Something like “not all injuries are harms.” Meaning I.e. that not every bad thing that someone does to you is legally actionable. So I see no problem with admitting/recognizing that hurt feelings are a “real” thing, even recognizing that speech could bring on something like a physiological panic attack or great stress. The fact that it does so does not automatically make it illegal.

    If there are going to be limits on speech, someone has to set those limits, which means some group is inherently going to wield extraordinary power over another.

    I fully agree with Taibbi here, and think this presents something of a ‘bell the cat’ problem for people who want government censorship.

    It’s why I advocate using a variation of the ‘you cut the cake, I select the piece’ game as an exercise in getting censorship advocates to understand the value of free speech. You play the legislature and decide what power the government has to regulate speech. I play the executive and decide what speech I’m going to use that power on. And oh by the way, you should know that I really don’t like your opinions…muhahaha. Now what sort of censorship powers do you want the government to have?

  2. I’ve made this point before, but if you don’t believe in free speech, then you don’t really believe in democracy. If you think that your fellow citizens cannot safely voice their opinions, or hear the opinions of others, then you really don’t believe that they are capable of self-government. At the end of the day, arguments for speech restrictions are made by people who can’t get enough people to accept their ideas. It’s the reaction of the crank.

    1. I don’t think that follows at all. Believing in democracy doesn’t require that you trust all people to be capable of self-government. It merely requires you to believe that democracy is less bad than all the other forms of government that have been tried.

      1. You got that right. The free speech added to the Constitution a few years later to appease the anti-federalist was not done in an atmosphere of democracy. The founders hardly used that word and they were far from wanting the opinion of the population. Voting for the president and the Senate was not allowed. Even voting for your House of Representatives was highly restricted. Kind of like the Republicans are doing with voting rights today. Democracy, you must be kidding.

      2. But democracy is less bad than other types of government for specific reasons. If you don’t believe you should accord other countrymen autonomy in matters like speech, you actually believe in one of those other forms of government.

        1. I do think that free speech is necessary for a democracy to succeed. Whether it needs to be 99% free or 95% free, I really don’t know and I don’t think anyone else does either.

          But the point I meant to make didn’t really have anything to do with free speech. It had to do with believing that all my fellow citizens are capable of self-government, or responsible enough to do it with reasonable competence. I don’t think my fellow citizens should all have free speech because I believe they are competent at self government. Quite the contrary, I’m sure plenty are not. I simply think that free speech is ethically correct and will also give best results, even though there will often be a price to pay. And even though I firmly believe that there are people that not only have nothing worthwhile to say but that actually cause damage.

          I don’t think democracy and free speech are good things because I believe humans are competent. I think they are good things because humans are often incompetent.

    2. Those that are calling for making more kinds of speech unlawful are not suggesting that it be done undemocratically. They would propose a law and it would be passed, or not. If passed, the government would be called on to enforce it.

      I’m not advocating for this as I am a free speech supporter but if that’s what our society wants, that’s what they’ll get.

    3. Nearly every American claims to be in favor of free speech. The proof is in one’s willingness to tolerate speech one finds abhorrent — a test very few of our fellow citizens can satisfy.

        1. Or maybe:
          I want you, I need you
          But there ain’t no way I’m ever going to support you
          Now don’t be sad
          ‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad…

  3. For an example of the chilling effect of laws regarding “hate speech,” consider Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Act. Before passage, critics expressed concern that it could easily be abused because it defined what was hateful by the existence of the offended. Complainants who contact the police are immediately labeled “victim” and the accused is then officially recorded as having committed a “non-crime hate incident.” It goes into the police record without trial, available to future employers or whoever decides to check.

    The particular issue front and center here involves discussions and opinions regarding sex and gender. Despite reassurances that expressions of gender critical beliefs (there are two sexes; people cannot change sex; gender identity is not innate and should not replace sex in law) would not be effected, it’s the very first thing which was.

    1. Indeed. And in other Scottish idiocy they have agreed a measure that will undermine the UK’s census records:

      People can answer the male or female question in Scotland’s 2022 census based on how they identify themselves rather than according to legal status, according to new guidance from the body responsible for the survey.

      Issued by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) on Tuesday, the guidelines tell people to answer the sex question according to how they self-identify, regardless of the details on their birth certificate or whether they have a gender recognition certificate.

      1. I am more curious than upset at that. Given that for a large western population the sex ratio at ages 0-14 is about 1.05 males to each female, asking how people self-identify gives us insight into whether the trans population is predominantly one sex over another and how it varies as a function of age. Second, since the big question of the day is whether there’s an increasing trend of younger women identifying as trans men, this sort of data could help answer that, tracking it as a function of age.

        It’s certainly not perfect data, and it would be really much more useful if the survey asked for both (sex and self-identified gender). But it’s a start.

        The Scots may actually be helping to bolster the more middle of the road ‘we need data on this’ movement, even as they attempt to support the far left instead.

  4. The comments on Taibbi’s substack are a fascinating free-for-all. Some of it awful, but lots of it insightful. And abundant (>700).

  5. This controversy over free speech must be understood in the context of a society disintegrating over cultural issues. It is one battle in a war fought on many fronts. On the one side are those that believe the country can only be understood as evil, ruled by white supremacists that will never voluntarily give up their privilege. The only hope for a just society is to forbid the speech of such people and pass laws that guarantee equity. Opposing them are those that feel persecuted by minorities that are assaulting traditional values such as God, religion, and guns. Also, for many, these minorities are somehow inferior to the white majority and have no place in ruling the country. Their means of fighting back against the barbarians include massive voter suppression, packing the courts with judges that support their views, and, if necessary jettisoning democracy to be replaced with a system ruled by an authoritarian.

    This is a war where no quarter is given or expected. The combatants are metaphorically in World War I style trenches. Occasionally, one side or another makes gains, but the battle lines move little. Similar to World I, the “atrocities” of the other sides hardens attitudes, compromise becomes more difficult. There is no end in sight, but the hatred and contempt grow. In my view the Trumpist right is by far the greater threat to the “values” of American society, particularly democracy. But, the far left is doing its best to undermine support for opposition to Trumpism. The left has a long history of shooting itself in the foot. It is impossible to predict whether the societal disintegration can be reversed. The immediate question is whether widespread violence will become the norm. Was January 6th a unique incident or a prelude to something far worse?

    1. Very much a prelude I will guess. Any idea that the far right Trumpers are more on the side of freedom of speech is just wrong. They are for restricting any and all speech they disagree with and look at the minority leader in the House, threatening his opposition with action simply because the committee investigating the resurrection have asked for phone information, well within their rights.

    2. On the one side are those that believe the country can only be understood as evil, ruled by white supremacists that will never voluntarily give up their privilege. The only hope for a just society is to forbid the speech of such people …

      Except that, if you have any chance of doing that, then you’ve disproved the premise.

    3. Also, for many, these minorities are somehow inferior to the white majority and have no place in ruling the country.

      Are you describing the Gavin Newsom supporters?

      1. Was January 6th a unique incident or a prelude to something far worse?

        January 6th was pretty pathetic. Perhaps the Puerto Rican separatists will show them how it is done again.

        1. Perhaps the Puerto Rican separatists will show them how it is done again.

          Perhaps if they were invited to Washington, DC, for a “wild time” by the president of the United States, told they had to “fight like hell,” and incited to action by the president, his family, his lawyers, and his allies in congress, they might.

          1. Absolutely, counsellor. There were no MAGA mobs behind the PR Nationalists, just a few NYers and PRs pretending to be the PLO. A pathetic show. There was no “PR News” in every home yelling pro-insurrection “stolen vote!” ALL. THE. TIME.

            D.A., J.D.

  6. I care much less about hate speech than I do about organized false speech as currently practiced by the GOP, Fox News, and the rest of that ecosystem. These are people that aren’t speaking what they believe but lying deliberately in most cases. For example, Ron Johnson, a Senator from Wisconsin, an outspoken promoter of Trump and the Big Lie, was recently caught on a secret mic admitting that Biden won the election and that there was no election fraud, at least not in his state:

    Ron Johnson says ‘nothing obviously skewed’ in Wisconsin election results

    The level of false speech here goes way beyond that covered by “all politicians lie”. It is a fraud perpetrated on the public for political advantage. We need to find a way to make this kind of speech illegal, or at least something for which a class action lawsuit can be filed.

    1. I agree, but this is really 2 separate, though related, problems. There already are a variety of laws that provide for legal penalties for various types of lying, for example fraud and defamation. These laws may not be as well formulated as possible and they may not be enforced consistently or well, and that’s one problem.

      The second problem is the extra special level of freedom to break that law that for some reason we grant high level politicians, especially federal ones. In the worst of cases perhaps the US Department of Justice will pursue a case. Otherwise it’s up to Congress, or the Senate, as an entirely political affair to remove one of there own from office, which almost never happens.

      I think a 3 strike rule might be worth trying. Get caught in 3 clear lies and you lose your seat. Except, as usual, who enforces the rules?

      1. Yes but libel, etc. don’t cover such lies as Trump’s Big Lie, as you point out. I completely understand the problem of placing government in charge of deciding between good and bad speech. My proposal is to avoid this by making it something decided by a judge and/or jury on a per-case basis, just as we deal with libel, etc. This eliminates having a single office that is open to corruption.

        Several kinds of lies are more destructive than they used to be. Social media and the speed at which all kinds of communication occur have broken the old methods by which lies get uncovered and the liars punished. If a politician lies about their opponent a week before the election, it is all over before things can be sorted out. When an entire party decides to lie about something, there are currently no mechanisms to deal with it.

        1. The usual way to bring charges of fraud (etc.) is for a prosecutor to bring the case. But prosecutors have enormous discretion and their decisions are always political, at least to the extent that they express priorities (targeting rapists and murderers more than drug abusers, for example). If our society were to crack down on political lies in the way you suggest, prosecutors would have to be bypassed, or the problem merely relocates.

          1. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think a prosecutor can charge fraud unless there’s some kind of contract involved and material losses. Can a prosecutor really charge almost the entire GOP for lying about election fraud? I doubt it. With the law as it’s currently written, the best we can do is nibble around the edges. We can wait years for the result of the ballot machine companies suing of Fox News, etc. but that doesn’t at all stop the politicians from continuing the lie. Many are lawyers and they know where the line is that they mustn’t cross or risk being sued.

    2. I really don’t think ‘politicians lie’ is a new problem that needs to be addressed with stricter speech laws.

      I think the way out of it is to do a better job of raising a pretty savvy electorate. Plus strong primaries and generals so that lied-to voters have good options to boot the liar they have become disillusioned with (even when they want to maintain their party vote – thus the reason for strong primaries).

      1. Sure, I would also favor a smarter and/or better educated electorate. Where can we get one? 😉 I don’t imagine that changing any time soon. Even if we could arrange it via better education, it would take decades before it took effect. Sorry, I don’t have that kind of time.

  7. “In fighting the battles of the civil rights movement, Glasser, Goldberger and others had repeatedly seen in the South tactics like the ones used by localities in and around Chicago with regard to those neo-Nazis, including such ostensibly ‘constitutional’ ploys like requiring massive insurance bonds of would-be marchers and protesters.”

    It was the violation of just such ploys to prevent civil-rights marches that landed Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Birmingham City Jail whence he penned his famous missive to the white clergymen who were urging upon him less aggressive protests.

  8. You are very much on the right track here specifically with lies from big media. The even bigger danger of the same with social media going unregulated and likely used to set up the next resurrection. Covid virus is going wild specifically due to this free speech environment. Phony cures are sold on line sending yet more people to the emergency rooms. The freedom is really wonderful.

  9. I find arguments to restrict speech extremely alarming, offensive, and injurious. They raise my heart rate and my blood pressure, the chronic stress caused by them increases my corticosteroid levels, especially glucocorticoid levels, raising my triglycerides and LDL, worsening my kidney function, my heart function, increasing my risks of diabetes and coronary artery disease as well as stroke, and impairing my immune function, increasing my risk of infectious disease and cancer. As such, their speech is causing me actual harm, and by their own measures, it should not be allowed to be heard.

  10. When NPR starts saying that we need to start hacking away at the First Amendment, or devise a new Constitution without “individual rights”, you know it’s time to cancel your subscription.

    Technically speaking, NPR isn’t a subscription service, although it duns listeners with its seemingly incessant membership drives seeking contributions. I stopped donating a few years back — and only in part because I was up to my eyeballs in the tote bags they invariably sent in return as tokens of their appreciation. 🙂

    1. ” . . . NPR . . . duns listeners with its seemingly incessant membership drives seeking contributions.”

      Even as (“even as” being a sometimes non sequitur locution the NY Times has increasingly used during the last several years to slip in veiled reportorial opinionating in reporting) advertising has become more frequent.

  11. The false premise of those in favor of censorship is that preventing the speech somehow fixes the problem. If nazis aren’t allowed to march, then nazis no longer exist.

    1. The issue you raise leads to this question: Does limiting or banning speech of groups such as Nazis significantly reduce their ideas from permeating to the general public and reducing their acceptance thereof? In other words, does banning hate speech reduce the number of haters? As an example, if the Weimar Republic had banned Hitler and his disciples from speaking would there have been no Hitler? Of course, these questions have been answered via a plethora of anecdotes. But, it seems to me that questions regarding the effectiveness of banning hate speech are empirical ones. If not already done so, valid scientific studies can help resolve the issue. If the answer is that the suppression of hate speech does not reduce the spread of hateful ideas then there is no need to even consider banning it. If the suppression of hate speech does, indeed, reduce the spread of hateful ideas then we encounter all the other negative repercussions that we are all aware of. At this point, we could have a political debate as to whether the suppression of hate speech is worth it or not.

      1. I’ve already posted on this topic a while back, and of course there’s no experiment, but circumstantial evidence says that banning hate speech doesn’t reduce hate:

        That’s not strong evidence, but banning hate speech sure as hell doesn’t ELIMINATE hate. And, of course, you’d have to define exactly what kind of “hate speech” should be banned. In many countries, for example, hate speech against religion is already a crime. It’s called blasphemy.

    2. I think the more dangerous false premise they make is that people they agree with will always and forevermore be the censors. Which is just baffling to me. We just got through 4 years of Trump, and the GOP has been in the White House 24 of the past 40 years…and yet we have leftists wanting to give the government censorship powers. Just crazy.

  12. Let’s be bipartisan on the First Amendment, which Trump criticized for being to lenient to journalists in shielding them from libel suits and NPR rejects on principal. Since we all agree that the First Amendment protection is too strong for journalists who commit libel, lets roll those protections back and start tagging journalists for falsely accusing people of being foreign agents or white supremacists or any other poisonous lie that regularly is emitted from our hosts on Fox News or MSNBC.

    1. I don’t believe I understand what you are saying but at the vary least it makes no sense. Trump’s criticizing of Journalist included the entire field of journalism — that it was fake, it was false and it was the enemy. This is in direct opposition to our first amendment which stands for a free press. But the cult ate it up anyway. What passes for journalism on any “news” show is what should be questioned. His position was, Fox news is good and all the rest are the enemy. That is why he did all his business with Fox. The only word for Trump and his attitude concerning the press would be despicable.

      1. Trump called for reform of libel laws:

        Restrictions on libel laws stem from First Amendment protections on speech. NPR broadly rejects the First Amendment, so they certainly cannot object to removing restrictions on holding journalists civilly liable for false defaming people’s reputations, thus it seems like we can have a bipartisan deal here.

        It is obviously fair that if journalists are against the First Amendment, we should start with abolishing the First Amendment for journalists, and letting the trial lawyers sue their pants off when they maliciously lie about a public figure. Further, once the trial bar lines their pockets for awhile, perhaps NPR would discover a new respect for the First Amendment.

  13. In the blue state “End of History”—as Taibbi astutely describes the goal of woke Progressive thought —ruling philosopher kings will prohibit all speech that might possibly, conceivably, or hypothetically cause hurt feelings. Especially hurt feelings among protected “minoritized” groups. The interesting sociological question is: why is this life attitude of anxiety and hypochondria becoming more and more commonplace?

    Here is a conjecture to answer the question. Average participation in the labor force among mothers with small children rose to about 61% by the mid-1990s, from 34% in 1975 and lower before that. A related statistic: the frequency of mothers of children under 18 in the labor force rose steadily from 28% in 1940 (and undoubtedly less before that) to 56% in 1980. So, a steadily rising proportion of the US population has had the early childhood experience of non-parental childcare. Could that experience underlie the steadily increasing obsession among US adults with possible, conceivable, or hypothetical victimhood?

    1. I have read that an increase of two-income families was paradoxically correlated with an increase of parental involvement. Anecdotally, the stereotype is that housewives of the 50’s and 60’s tended to send their kids outside and admonish them to be home for dinner when the streetlights came on, whereas working moms starting at the end of the century came home and spent considerable time supervising, interacting, and driving their children to scheduled play dates and activities. I’ve no idea if this is true, or in any way related to work status, or to “increasing “victim hood.” But I guess any vague speculations need to entertain a variety of possibilities.

      My recollection is that The Coddling of the American Mind considered a variety of correlations and explanations. As for me, I was a parent of young children before, during, and after the 80s-90s panic concerning abducted kids, and noticed a change in attitude and levels of supervision connected to that. But I’m not any sort of expert.

      1. ” the stereotype is that housewives of the 50’s and 60’s tended to send their kids outside and admonish them to be home for dinner when the streetlights came on,” If that stereotype is true, perhaps that experience
        reinforced children’s self-reliance, as Jon Haidt might argue. I have no idea if that is correct, but it might be worth considering.
        My conjecture was different though. Could it be that EARLY childhood experience of much time in childcare settings rather than with mum gave
        rise to the later, brittle, anxious/hypochondriac personality pattern?

        1. It could, though many if not most kids who went to daycare had warm relationships with their caretakers and other children, and looked forward to it, which would tend to count against that hypothesis. Another possibility involves children having a surfeit of loving adult care and attention, a positive which could have lead to the expectation that bullying and other problems will or should require the intervention of authorities. Again, not a negative — but too much of a good thing might have fostered a sense of dependency and/or the conviction that things are supposed to be fair and, if not, rules need to be enforced.

          A case maybe of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Plenty of children expected to be self-reliant and resilient were broken by cruelty and neglect.

    2. Let’s not ascribe one (pet, perhaps?) cause to a problem that has many, many contributors. Plus, I think you’ll find female participation in the WF resulted in the same or even parental time overall.

  14. I already did my bit to defund NPR. I had been a supporter for at least 25 years. I stopped about two months ago. On the phone I noted that I was retiring (which is true); but I later wrote a letter to my local NPR station explaining that I stopped contributing because they had gone (in about a year) from a news station (the best available to me) to an Identity Politics station, which I could not support.

    I joked to my wife (only slightly joking, it was nearly true) that the station couldn’t even report the weather without a statement along the lines of: And we know that the weather is a greater burden on the oppressed BIPOC that on the privileged dominant white majority.

  15. Is Borat producing NPR now?

    When step one is a new Constitution without “individual rights,” historically hasn’t step two been something like, okay, now we shoot all the Jews? Strikes me as a funny way to fight racism.

    I don’t want to say fascism, because Stalin and the Soviet experiment was extremely repressive of Soviet Jews, and Anti-Fascist movements started as Stalinist front groups, so historically you can stick it to the Jews even if you hate fascists (when you are not allied with them).

  16. This morning when reporting the top news at the top of the hour, in reporting the tightened Texas anti-abortion laws, NPR’s “Morning Edition” was good to employ the locution, “people who are pregnant.”

    Several months ago when NPR started running segments celebrating its 50th anniversary, on On The Media Brooke Gladstone words-to-the-effect endorsed the notion of reporters/journalists operating in the advocacy/”authentic” mode v. the objective mode. During the last several months I’ve seen/heard the locution “so-called objectivity” more frequently written/uttered. If memory serves me, On The Media used to consistently and extensively, if not exclusively, scrutinize/criticize the media. After Trump’s election, it changed its focus to criticizing him and his kindred spirits and conservative media. Since then I don’t recall the program much if at all focussing on the foibles of the liberal media and the Woke crowd.

  17. This quote by an anonymous Canadian student dating from around 2012 says it all:

    “Free speech is the right to educated speech. If you utilize your right to ‘freedom of speech’ but then are socially or politically apathetic, you don’t vote, educate yourself on social issues, if you are not involved in the community, if you are not involved in being a citizen, an educated citizen, you have no right to free speech.”

  18. Teaching evolution can cause great psychological harm to religious fundamentalists. Should it therefore be banned?

    I have a feeling that the only psychological harm that is problematic is that which harms liberal sensibilities…

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