Hili dialogue (and Academic Freedom Conference)

November 5, 2022 • 6:30 am

Posting will be all but nonexistent today as the Academic Freedom Conference continues.  I have no time to report on it, but there will be more tomorrow (I found out that Jordan Peterson will be there, as well as Douglas Murray). I’ve also heard rumors that the students are planning some kind of protest. (They can listen to us via livestream but questions are limited to the meeting’s participants onsite, so they’re steamed.) Bari Weiss showed up with her partner, Nellie Bowles, who does my favorite weekly news summary,

What you get this Saturday, November 5, is Hili and a Mystery Photo.

Readers are welcome, however, to get a discussion thread going.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili’s fed up with the Internet:

A: What are you staring at?
Hili: I have the impression that magpies behave like internet users.
A: How so?
Hili: They are shrieking without any sense.

In Polish:

Ja: Czemu się tak przyglądasz? Hili: Mam wrażenie, że sroki zachowują się jak internauci.Ja: To znaczy?
Hili: Wrzeszczą bez sensu.
Here’s a photo from the meeting. What do you suppose you’re looking at?


This makes no sense as bats can’t read:

Oh, and the early Barbra resurfaces. Click to read:

a sample:

From Anna:

74 thoughts on “Hili dialogue (and Academic Freedom Conference)

  1. I’ve also heard rumors that the students are planning some kind of protest.

    What on earth would they be protesting about? “There are people on campus whose opinions I don’t entirely agree with”?

    1. I have no quibble with protests as long as they are not disruptive. Particularly if the energy of the protests can be corralled into some productive discussions

    2. (They [students] can listen to us via livestream but questions are limited to the meeting’s participants onsite, so they’re steamed.)

      I read the above parenthetical to mean that they’re pissed off because they can’t ask questions of the conference’s participants, even remotely.

      That is, perhaps, a charitable interpretation, but, if accurate, would make their discontent defensible, in my view. Open debate is, after all, a mainstay of the academic freedom at issue.

      Protest away, kids, just don’t disrupt.

      1. But “open debate” doesn’t grant a right to participate in any particular event, or a right to any particular audience. They have plenty of opportunities (blogs, newsletters, journals, etc) to ask their questions and present their views.

        1. When the issue of deplatforming campus speakers has arisen on this site, many of us who are near free speech absolutists have suggested that the better alternative would be for the would-be deplatformers to attend the event and ask probing questions.

          That is the opportunity that the Stanford students are being denied here. I said that this made their discontent defensible — not that they had any absolute right engage in such questioning (for providing such an opportunity in an event such as this would appear unfeasible).

          Your comment suggested that the protests were motivated by naught but pure petulance.

          1. If an event organiser wishes to have an open event, where people can turn up and ask questions, then fine. But, equally, there’s nothing at all wrong with organising an invitation-only event. It’s an entirely normal thing to do.

            And, yes, the protest is indeed pretty much “pure petulance” aimed at anyone with the temerity to disagree with them. More specifically, it’s a genuine but utterly misguided attitude that the expression on campus of views they disagree with causes them “harm” and so shouldn’t be allowed.

            1. But, equally, there’s nothing at all wrong with organising an invitation-only event.

              Absolutely. I agree. I don’t think it violates any regulation. The organizers are not obliged to open the event to a general audience.

              However, there is nothing wrong with cancelling invitations to speak as long as it is within the rights of the organizers. The cancelled speakers can seek other channels of expression. And I think that is what is happening at this event. Good for them.

              I don’t like cancellations. For me, I would rather not have speakers cancelled, especially in a university. But I wanted to point out the subjective nature of the issue: some may want an open debate but others not; some may want a speaker cancelled but others not; but, as you say, there’s nothing at all wrong with organizing an invitation-only event.

              But “open debate” doesn’t grant a right to participate in any particular event, or a right to any particular audience.

              I agree. But once again, an invitation may be revoked if it is within the rights of the organizers to do so. If the speech it legitimately cancelled, they can find other platforms from which to express their views. That I don’t like to live in a silly world like that is a different matter.

              My point is that when we start talking about what people have a right to or do not have a right to, or if there is anything wrong or nothing wrong in their actions, we may have to admit that some event organizers had a right, according to the regulations of the institution they were serving, to cancel an invitation to a speaker, even if coerced into doing so by a petulant and insecure mob. Tough. We can fight to change the institution or found an institution dedicated to free expression.

              And, yes, the protest is indeed pretty much “pure petulance” aimed at anyone with the temerity to disagree with them.

              Irrelevant to the legitimacy of the protest. I can’t disagree with your characterization: if you think it is ‘pure petulance’ then you think it is ‘pure petulance’, but people can protest for whatever reason as long as they do so within the bounds of the law. If they break the law or the regulations of the university, I want them to face the consequences.

          2. Freedom of association is not an affront to freedom of speech. Personally, I find that the quality of discussions usually suffers when there is an audience. The people on stage get distracted by the monkey business of status-seeking when they seek the approval of audience members making their zoo noises.

    3. Lemme save them some time. ” This meeting promoting free speech on campus is an act of violence. It does great harm, and makes me feel unsafe. My years in college are supposed to be from a safe space!”

    1. I think that S. Pinker’s legs are crossed in this picture (right leg over the left one) making it look a bit weird. The right foot is at the top, the left one below.

    1. Concur just based on past weit discussions – this guess brought to you by critical theory: I really have little knowledge but still proffer a position
      PS: our host may move the apostrophe inside the “s”.

          1. Well, let me guess, a diabetic or smoker with a rheological foot problem? Of course, they can still fancy them, but they would be well advised not to sport them.
            I very much like to look at them -some are really beauties of craftsmanship, but since a year or two I’m into more comfortable footwear. The furthest I’ll go are (proper) hiking boots when hiking.

            1. The best boots are custom made for your feet, which really makes a difference. For people who find regular boots hard to put on and take off, zippers are available. I would not want to wear them for running or mountain climbing, of course.
              Sadly, my bootmaker has retired.

              One of the nice things about living in the west is that you can wear fancy boots and a big hat in almost any situation, and often a fancy western shirt to go with them.
              My shirtmaker is Manuel Cuevas, and most of my hats are from Texas Hatters.
              That does not make me special, lots of cowboys who lack a fixed address have a shirtmaker.

  2. You were great! Clear, coherent, organized, and close to the time limit. 😀

    I was able to view much of Friday’s conference, up thru the lunchtime speaker and question time.

  3. The tower of the Hoover Inst, which originated in 1919 when Herbert Hoover gave Stanford President & his future Secy Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur, who served with/under him in President Wilson’s Food Administration, $50K to collect documentation on WWI, in order “to recall the voice of experience against the making of war, and by the study of these records and their publication, to recall man’s endeavors to make and preserve peace, and to sustain for America the safeguards of the American way of life.”

    Also where Christopher Hitchens was a Media Fellow.

  4. Joy Reid declared Thursday that the word “inflation” had, heretofore, been a word used only by journalists and economists, and that ordinary people didn’t use it until Republicans taught it to them. The implication being that it wasn’t a problem until there was a word for it, and wouldn’t be a problem now otherwise.

    1. I once read a story, so long ago I no longer remember the author, where the premise was that space aliens, unwilling to confront earthlings directly but wanting to invade nonetheless, contaminated the world’s air and water with, you know, alien chemicals or something. Anyway, this undetectable poison resulted in a catatrophic drop in the average human IQ, opening the way for invasion and world domination.

      Videos like the one linked above and, basically the entirety of this election cycle and the state of our government and politics is prima facie evidence that there are alien space craft lurking out there, somewhere, right now waiting for the effects of their chemicals to take full effect.

    2. I was born in 1970. Everyone my age heard the word as one of their childhood memories. Guess Joy thinks the republicans are going for the WIN.

    3. According to Wikipedia:

      The exact reason that Roman coinage sustained constant debasement is not known, but the most common theories involve inflation, trade with India, which drained silver from the Mediterranean world, and inadequacies in state finances. It is clear from papyri that the pay of the Roman soldier increased from 900 sestertii a year under Augustus to 2,000 sestertii a year under Septimius Severus and the price of grain more than tripled indicating that fall in real wages and a moderate inflation occurred during this time.


  5. I’m watching from cyberspace and monitoring the twittersphere. Yes, there may be a protest today. We’ll see. Best wishes today, Ceiling Cat.

          1. Ya learn something new every day! Not sure Oprah is much of an improvement on Orpah, though😬Did always know about Barbra.

        1. As kids my sister and I listened to her album “My Name is Barbra” over and over again (yes I’m gay). Until I later encountered someone named Barbara I thought that was how everyone spelled it.

  6. i) On this date in 1850, popular poet Ella Wheeler ( Wilcox ) was born in Johnstown in Rock County, Wisconsin. She skyrocketed to fame when a Chicago firm refused to publish a collection of her love poems, calling them immoral. As a result, when Poems of Passion was published in 1883, it sold 60,000 copies in two years. Although well-known for her moral and temperance poems collected in Drops of Water, Wilcox had a theatrical bent, veiled herself in unorthodoxy and enjoyed life as a famous socialite. Her poem “The Queen’s Last Ride,” about attending the funeral of Queen Victoria, launched her fame in Great Britain.

    She married Robert Wilcox in 1884 and they lived near Long Island Sound. They both became interested in theosophy and spiritualism and promised each other that whoever died first would return and communicate with the other. Their only child died shortly after birth and Robert died in 1916. Wilcox went to California to consult with a Rosicrucian astrologer to learn why Robert hadn’t contacted her.

    Although she practiced Christianity, Wilcox also embraced a somewhat progressive movement called New or Higher Thought and deserves to be considered an honorary freethinker on the strength of her four-line poem “The World’s Need.” She died of cancer in 1919.

    The World’s Need

    So many gods, so many creeds—
    So many paths that wind and wind,
    While just the art of being kind
    Is all this sad world needs.

    —Wilcox poem published in The Century quarterly (June 1895)

    ii) On this date in 1831, Harriet Teresa Frost ( Law ) was born in County Essex, England. The daughter of a small farmer, she was raised as a Calvinist “Strict Baptist” and taught Sunday school. In the 1850s she began debating with freethinkers such as George Holyoake but in the process “saw the light of reason” in 1855 and embraced atheism and feminism and became a salaried speaker for the secularist movement while her husband Edward, also a freethinker, stayed home to care for their four children.

    Law was president of the Freethought League in 1869 and was repeatedly elected to (but declined) the position of vice president of the National Secular Society. She bought the Secular Chronicle in 1876 and edited the paper, assisted by her daughter, until 1879. She wrote In her first month as editor, “[T]he Bible does assign women a distinct, and what is worse, a subordinate sphere, rendering her subject to man in nearly every relationship of her life.” She gave the paper a broader scope and published profiles of women freethinkers but sold it because it was losing too much money.

    Shortly after that, Law retired from public activities but remained a freethinker until her death. Her early retirement may have been due to ill health but was also partly a result of having been gradually edged out of the movement by Charles Bradlaugh, whose well-known hostility to socialism no doubt added to his already strained relationship with Law. She had also criticized his authoritarian style of leadership.

    Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s daughter, said Law was one of the first women to recognize “the importance of a woman’s organisation from the proletarian point of view,” adding, “When the history of the labour movement in England is written, the name of Harriet Law will be entered into the golden book of the proletariat.” (Marx, Engels & Lapides, 1990.) She died of a heart attack at age 65 in 1897.

    “At the height of her fame as a Secularist, Harriet Law referred to her religious past as evidence of the fact that even the most devoted of Christians could be made to see the light of reason.”

    —”Infidel Feminism in Victorian Freethought,” lecture by Laura Schwartz, Warwick University (Oct. 13, 2013)


      1. An excellent start. I know a couple of dual citizens who have then renounced their US citizenship, mostly because of the need to file taxes in both countries (not a problem for British/Canadian duals).

        1. I don’t intend to denounce my US citizenship, despite the f**king Orange Moron. Canadian taxes are always higher than US ones, which I generally don’t mind, but it’s not as if you pay double. I do hate paying the $1000 or so every year to an accountant to do my taxes. I used to do my own, but it has become soooo complicated to do both with all the extra US forms and it started to put me in such a bad mood – kind of Catch-22 where you need the bottom line to start one country’s and vice-versa- that I just turn everything over to Paul. There used to be an old guy at my accountant’s office who would bring in a desk drawer full of his papers every year and put them on the receptionist’s desk!

          1. The World Series broken bat flew right past the Phillies pitcher on its way toward second base. The pitcher ducked and still made the play on the ball.

  7. I like the hammer headed shark cartoon except for the mocking of ancient egyptian religious ritual, which is blasphemous.

    1. That was the best essay on religion being harmful instead of harmless I’ve ever read. I wish I could write like that.

    2. I would like to add another harm caused by religion to the list: It opens the door to magical thinking. If there’s a master controller above and beyond the forces of nature, we maybe don’t need to worry about global warming, or anything really. It all may be part of God’s plan or he could swoop in and save us with a miracle.

  8. Scott Atlas is just as one-sided as the other side was in his presentation of the Covid data (Covid was a horribly polarizing thing). It is near impossible to pinpoint/isolate causal factors in a multifactorial chaotic real life situation. But some things he said are empirically wrong. He said schools weren’t closed elsewhere, not true for many European countries, e g for Germany that did much better (and in fact the post hoc analyses in Germany came to the conclusion that nation wide school closures where one of the things that had an effect, which does not mean they were right or without problems). Targeted protection of the elderly works with community living elderly who protect themselves, but retirement homes turned out to be unprotectable under conditions of high incidences (pre-vaccines).
    All strategies jettisoned something.

    1. Wanted to add there were no additional deaths via the “lockdowns” in Germany. On the contrary, we had below the normal level of deaths for a while (fewer traffic, infectious disease, elective operation fatalities). Stopping non essential economy for Covid is a crime of the upper class against the poor in developing countries with a median age of 20 and crowded living arrangements without indoor sanitation. It is a different matter in highly developed, richer countries with a median age of 42.

  9. Really enjoying the conference! Your comments have been referred to several times, as if you were the keynote speaker. Nice.

    I’m really liking how civil people are, even in their disagreements. This is one of the few times that I wish I were still in academia and were there as a defender of merit, truth, and enlightenment values.

    My impression from the first day is that things are much worse than I had thought before. There was a great deal of pessimism in the calls to blow up the academy (metaphorically) and start something new. The one young professor from Duke sounded a shining note of optimism, but it would be difficult to clone tens of thousands of people like him. His laudable work is retail—one sale at a time—but what we really seem to need is something wholesale. The U of C model was brought up several times, but each time the discussant opined that the principles are either not being honored or are not being enforced. That’s unfortunate and adds to the pessimism.

    I missed this morning’s (Saturday) sessions because we had significant winds and a power outage, so my connectivity was nil. Looking forward to Pinker’s talk. Nice shoes. BTW!

    I think there really is something to Jonathan Haidt’s claim that social justice has displaced the creation and dissemination of truth (knowledge) as the purpose of the academy. If so, academia as we know it may indeed be doomed.

    The discussion around whether wokeness in the academy is just one (extreme) swing of a pendulum and that things will eventually swing back was highly relevant. Sadly, the argument that it’s not a pendulum but a monotonic and permanent change, seems to me to be the stronger argument at this point. I have long thought (and have opined here) that things will swing back toward normal, but only when we are facing an existential crisis (a nuclear war, a meteorite impact, collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet and massive rise in sea level), but I now doubt that even an existential crisis will restore normalcy. (I don’t want to test the existential crisis scenario.)

      1. I always found them to be stressful. My heart would sometimes pound when simply watching a dust up take place. Maybe I needed to develop a thicker skin, but never did.

  10. The conference is going well, I can report. Perhaps yesterday was better, but Douglas Murray made some good points in an interview with (ever odious and occasionally annoying) Jordan Peterson.
    Pinker’s was based on his current Rationality lecture. Which you can also see here, lately, with Dawkins on stage in London.

    NYC https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2020/06/10/photos-of-readers-93/

    1. Someone asked about how rationality can “win” in the battle of belief systems. The right answer, which Pinker gave, is that rationality wins because it’s practical (he didn’t use the word “practical”). It wins because people who are rational live better, longer lives. Also, it’s rationality that has given rise to TV, the internet, vaccines, seat belts, etc. Rationality works!

      But the questioner persisted in asking if rationality needs more than that to win, and the idea came up that it would be cool if rationality were more “cool.” That led me to wonder if rationality was cool during the early phases of the enlightenment. We’re the ideas of Jefferson, Locke, Kant, Descartes, Spinosa, and the others (not sure if they all fall into the “rationalist” category) cool? Or did rationalism only garner its supporters later? I ask this question seriously because I never thought of rationality as anything other than cool!

      1. Sadly, unlike Pinker and others, I do not see rationality as winning in the US Republic. Liars win. It starts with the despicable Liar-In-Chief and works its way throughout his election-denying co-conspirators, with the current and future members of Congress, to the right-wing media enablers, and so on. There are certainly some liars on the left, but they are single A compared to the major league liars on the right. The current GOP has no lower limit when it comes to truth and character.

  11. This last panel of the day leaves me so sad. Professors, young and old—people who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of knowledge for the good of all humanity—are subject to such horrible abuse. I can’t believe I’m watching this happen. Our colleges and universities are lost.

  12. Ceiling Cat,

    You probably won’t see this. But the cancel-culture wokelets are reporting the conference:


    David Sepkosi has suggested that reports go to Jon Levin:

    This is because the last speaker mentioned her previous use of the N-word. They were livetweeting the conference to try to find ANY possible thing that could be reported.

    Looking forward to your updates tomorrow and hope the attendees have a good time tonight.

    1. A complaint letter was just posted on Twitter:


      I don’t recall Amy Wax saying what she’s accused of, though she did mention something about group differences. As for Widdowson, she did use the “N-word,” though I thought she was referencing her previous use of it, not saying it. Regardless, the person who wrote the letter, from the looks of it, attended online in order to find something to report.

      1. Amy Wax is quoted here, as saying exactly:

        “The elephant in the room at this conference, the one subject that has not come up is race. The centerpiece of wokeness is that all disparities, all group disparities, are due to racism, racism, racism, racism. If people on the Right want to embrace meritocracy, and fight wokeness and be colorblind, they have to have an answer to that.

        They have to face up to the fact that the meritocracy will produce different outcomes by group. And they can’t shrink from that, and I think that is where I see them stumbling.”


        This is not the specific words “Black people aren’t as smart as white people”. But I would say it is indeed the concept, though expressed more politely in refined language. She definitely
        said the quiet part loud – very loud.

        1. Is there something wrong with saying that, even the quiet part? Or even with saying your “specific words”? I’m not trying to be contentious. I’m just asking if you are merely reporting her words or taking a position on them.

          1. The specific words are from the complaint against Wax, linked in Roz’s post where I was replying. Roz noted she didn’t recall that. I reported what Wax has been transcribed as saying. Further, my view is that though the wording given in the complaint is not exact, the complaint does fairly encompass there the substance of what Wax said – i.e. it is a paraphrase, but a reasonable one.

            As to “wrong”, I personally believe it’s blood-curdlingly racist, but also should not be subject to a formal complaint. That is, not all moral wrongs are legal (or quasi-legal) wrongs. The saying the quiet part loud is that Wax is blunt and direct about the racism conflict and calls for the implications to be vigorously defended. Most people on that side are very circumspect and indirect about it.

      2. Widdowson’s use of the N-word is entirely a reference to a revolutionary French-separatist manifesto from the 1960s that advocated violence against English-speaking Canadians with the goal of achieving an independent Marxist-Leninist Quebec state: Nègres blancs d’Amerique, published in English as White Niggers of America. The book is so obscure today that you have to refer to its full title, else no one will have the faintest idea what you are talking about: “that book by Pierre Vallières with the N-word in the title” would not ring any bells. (It’s in the Toronto Public Library’s card catalogue under its uncensored name.)


        The book has nothing whatever to do with Black America except to claim with ridiculous hyperbole that pure-bred French-speakers in Quebec (who were all white) suffered as badly under their English overlords since the Conquest of 1763 as Black people did under slavery and Jim Crow, just being dismantled at the time the book was published. To my vague recollection — the book had some brief cachet among my leftie poli-sci friends at school — Vallières intended no slur against Black people. His thesis was just that Anglos saw francophones as not fully human. Presumably that’s why the publisher rendered nègres thus and not as, say, “Negroes”, which was not a slur at the time. Plus I suppose it sold more books to Anglo poli-sci people, uncomfortable a read as it must have been in English.

        Her attackers at Mount Royal took the same tack as that Sepkosi guy.

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