It feels inevitable now. The end is near.
Oh, did you think I was talking about the world? No, it is my personal demise which feels so near, and I only project my end upon you all. Maybe it feels different because I have squandered my life by what I imagine to be your lights. No room for any more ambitions anymore anyhow. Doesn't that define some of the difference between the start and the end?
Hardly a success on record, and yet and yet I do feel as though my life is, well, rounded. I have, after all, figured out a ton of shit, even if without any ability to express it. Hey, nothing's poifect. I can still work on the expression part.
Anyhow, I'll die happier than if I'd racked up lots of fame and fortune. Not really my bag, and I'm pretty sure it would have kept me from what I've wanted and needed to do. I am, you see, a cosmologist. Not an academic cosmologist, but not a hobbyist either. No brag, just fact. It's what I do.
I'm past my time though. Don't sleep, it hurts to do physical stuff, and the only time I've fully emptied my bowels lately was after a course of antibiotics for yet another decrepit tooth. And still the technological millenarianists dream of perpetual life. Idiots. Live forever and prosper on the backs of the dispossessed.
At least we now know that human intelligence is not what we thought it was. We thought it was all built on logic and puzzle-solving and we thought it was somehow related to survival skills. That would give us a spot at the top as the apex creature in way different from our seeming cancerous growth process upon the planet.
Now that we have viable AI - artificial so-called intelligence - we should use that fact to rule out those aspects of our own intelligence which are similarly machine-based. You know, the stuff which SATs measure, or IQ tests. Amoral problem-solving. The stuff that all those rich people do so well, and who are now warning us of the dangers of rampant AI. Capitalism looses AI gameplay for the prize of money. These rich folks are the ones who lose their advantage if the rest of us are free to use AI to smooth our essays and our money-making gameplay.
Of course that sort of advantage is nothing up against a full-government frontal support of all winners everywhere. You gotta love America for that! Don't go calling them oligarchs, but the winners are in charge and fuck the rest of us. It's a bit disingenuous and as po-faced as a modern Christian who has lost the very human sense of irony, for amoral money-makers to fear amoral machine-think.
My argument is quite trivial. Machines are demonstrably disconnected from what we generally mean by life. What I mean by life includes a connection beyond our even theoretical ability to describe the connection. I suppose that's another way to say that the only thing that we can be certain of is that there is God. Not "a" God, which would always be man-made and therefore machine-like. But God, the eternal moral compass.
Machines don't and can't feel, though I'm sure they can imitate feelings right along with the best of the hyper-wealthy. And it's clear that we can fall in love with them, though I for one would be horrified to find out that I fell in love with a machine. Blade Runner shit.
On the world side of things, I am not the only one anymore who gauges our squandering of God's gift of oil to humanity. What, you thought we won the lottery? All that we have done with it is to release the bloody in tooth and nail aspects of humanity. As globo-capitalism presents now with a military-industrial complexion, and a kind of greed takes hold to melt us down. What? Viruses, fungi now maybe, if nothing else the weather. We don't even know which species to account for. But we obviously don't care for any but ourselves.
OK, so we really don't care about ourselves, apart from our winning or losing selfie-self. Not as a group or as a species. Clearly, there are those who count and those who don't. Sometimes the tensions between, say, the believers in guns and the exploitation of workers, and those who would call out the ironies of capitalism, feel like what it must have felt like before the Civil War.
What, really, is the difference between our well-documented thriving on the backs of the poor and actual slavery? I, for one, don't have enough ready-made comebacks to people who are convinced that blacks are poor because they are lazy to even make a dent in that thinking. But honestly, the dialog sounds a lot like the dialog of southerners before the civil war. John C. Calhoun.
Power is deployed when minds can't be changed. I find that scary. Cosmology feels safe. There can't be anything controversial about it, because it doesn't really touch anything about our daily lives. But what if, I want to ask, a vastly different cosmology were to transform many of our assumptions as we go about our daily lives?
Bear with me.
Then there are the Unidentified Arial Phenomena. These have nothing to do with cosmology. They are projections of other more generalized fears, and therefore somewhat anti-cosmological. I wonder why we see such things as threats? Meteors, sure, but do we really need to invent malicious creatures behind everything that upsets our comfort zones? Is there really a massive government conspiracy to keep us in the dark? Well sure there is. It's identical to the massive government conspiracy to keep us believing that capitalism as we practice it is the only way to go. Or that poverty is inevitable.
And yet I don't really think that it's wrong to hope that what now feels like looming Armageddon according to the sailor's hairs on the back of my neck might actually be a pending transformation for the good. The media, remember, gets your clicks on the Route 666 to hell. All of it; fact-based, reality-based or Moloch-Murdoch-based. It's what gets your attention.
I've never made any real scratch myself, so my data is worthless, but hey you can't take it with you. I think I feel as guilty making money as I do about the used oil I used to dump into the ground as a kid. As to finding work, I am an object of suspicion to the go-getters of this world. But in the end, being loaded with social capital both gets me jobs and enables me to feel guilty.
Ah, and still I am self-satisfied, right? I'm pleased as can be that I won't have to join the throngs drowning in their own filth after I'm gone. As though I can dis-implicate myself from having done nothing about it all. As if I can stop caring about my daughters my granddaughter my legacy to come.
Isn't not caring about Somalia morally identical with not caring about my daughters' future? Both are remote from me in almost the same way. Worries about asteroids or UAP raining down on me just don't keep me up at night. One of the wages of old age is no sleep, and I can't blame that on anything.
When I die, unlike when the world dies, I know that many of those people that I'm connected to (and even things, and places, and cultures and institutions) will persist. I'm connected to a world beyond me, and so I assume that my intelligence is as well. My memory is spread all over the place but thank God for Buffalo where things change slowly and so I don't have to lose my mind.
What I can't assume is that artificial intelligence will ever be identical to human intelligence. Mainly, I don't think our common usage for the term intelligence is very central to what it means to be alive and human.
Does "the world" have relations with other worlds the way that individuals do? Well, hey maybe it does, and we simply have yet to find that out! Maybe we aren't the only intelligence in the cosmos. Or, to put it another way, maybe what we mean by intelligence isn't what is cosmically meant.
What? You say that there is artificial intelligence can fix stuff now? That we the intelligent will be the benefactors? Yes, that impersonal sort of de-implicate neutral thinking. In the way that science strives for neutral, value-free, and economics is so utterly value-free that we can set wise and neutral economic dictators as backstops to our sloppy and lazy disinclination to do a thing about what the fuck is going on. At the very least, we must keep the economy on track. Left, right and middle can agree on that in just the way that we can all agree that somehow China is our enemy.
Like hegemony is a sport and we want to be on the winning team. Wait, we are on the winning team! We just want it to keep winning. Like wishing for a Buffalo super-bowl. It's a little bit embarrassing to keep lending money to Ukraine so that our military-industrial-complex can keep thriving. Hey, that's my wealth you're transferring. I've seen the re-runs already. Savings and Loan, Great Recession, COVID theft.
But it's far more embarrassing to abide a Putin on our personal planet Trump. The proxy battle of the titanic go-getter narcissistic fools (Putin wins that contest hands-down, which is really the only reason Trump needed to be President. Too bad he can't fleece us as well as Putin has fleeced the Russians.)
We fix the economy by liberating technocrats to accomplish near autocratic fiat manipulations. They do shit of orders of magnitude similar to what it would take to resolve, oh I don't know, health and wealth disparities. Globally! Somehow the one takes political will while the other is treated as an emergency. Turn it over to the experts!
Just imagine what they'll do when the aliens show up!
The trajectories converge now though, don't they? Global warming is an emergency. Will we leave its resolution to politics, or will we assign autocratic power to technocrats once the situation becomes as obvious as COVID-19 was? It was obvious, wasn't it?
Well, the economics were at least somewhat obvious. It was almost as bad as a Great Recession! But we fixed it! Sort of. Genius corporate (meaning artificially intelligent, meaning motivated by money) entities devised vaccines almost on the instant, and yet our dysfunctional excuse for democracy managed to give that same reified and therefore perpetual nation-state imaginary entity we call these United States the very worst morbidity record on the planet. Can't we do anything right?
So, why am I writing about death and dying and Artificial Intelligence, when I meant to write about free speech?
Well, I do like to raise things to their highest common denominator, and here in this case I mean to demolish all sorts of silly equivalencies. Let's say I start with the equivalency of artificial intelligence with human intelligence. And then move through the notion that money is a neutral medium for exchange and that there is therefore a right way and a wrong way to manage economies. And so, the artificial intelligence of corporate and finance capitalism is the right way while the politically mediated economics of socialism - which means the economics mediated by human intelligence - is the wrong way to manage the economy.
The reason socialism is bad is that it doesn't work, right? We simply aren't as smart as markets are, and so we muck things up when we interfere with the near perfect cipher and communications speed of aggregated markets. Sounds like AI to me!
And then finally, of course, I come around to the very dangerous notion that all political speech is equivalent - or even that all speech is equivalent in the face of potential suppression or censorship. After all, without freedom of speech we can't solve any real problems.
Now we do reliably allow socialists, or, horrors! even communists to have their say. For a while yet, unless we keep electing what the Republican brand has become. DeSantis anyone? So now we think that we have to allow hate speech free reign. Not only that, but hey let's legislate hate speech! Vote it in! Is there even a line between the good productive thinking and the dangerous hurtful thinking? Or is it taboo to insert human judgement anymore?
Well, we're working on it. Racism in the workplace is out. But white supremacy is apparently OK in the academy??!! I think we have a ways to go yet.
Soon, the driver's license will be abolished, speaking of no more judgement. The cars will reliably drive themselves, so no need. I absolutely love to drive, but I do wish that we would quickly replace cars with old-fashioned trains. Self-driving electric cars don't resolve the base issue. Which is meltdown. Artificial intelligence will get us there more quickly every time.
Meanwhile, the basic skill that I observe in my very walkable city is to be able to walk while reading your phone. The posture looks ridiculous with head back feet forward like a slacker, but whatever. There is no engagement with the environment.
I walk for pleasure. I suppose these folks are trying to get somewhere and use their scant time without other things to do to read their phones. But what do we make of the proliferation of dogs? Also plenty of phone readers while walking the dog.
Given how few people wish to work on physical problems (given how hard it is to find house repair contractors, say, and how unbelievably expensive the materials are), maybe we will all soon live in modular component-replacement-style housing. Just like wealth, the repair intelligence all goes to the top as design thinking, and all that's left for the ordinary Joe is tinker-toy construction.
And so why can't we employ the unemployed at better wages than they could otherwise get to build the housing they need for living? Why are we paying white skinned air-gun shooters upwards of $100/hr. when lots of people would be thrilled by steady work putting together tinker-toy housing for their own community? Oh, wait, we've started to do that. The problems go deeper.
There are almost no car mechanics anymore. Just instrument readers and component replacers. The clutch on my car self-destructed because no-one recognized the symptoms, including me, who was used to a former generation of stick shift. Solution: do away with stick shifts altogether. Done!
Meanwhile no credentials at all are, increasingly, required to carry a gun. And none to speak to a university audience, unless notoriety is a credential.
Look, plenty of these transformations are in a good direction, and maybe more aren't. My concern is that we aren't even thinking of them as something we should exercise collective judgement about. Our lives and our economy have already been running on artificial intelligence for a long time now. That's gotten us here, to an inflexion point if not quite yet to an end.
I want to know what is human intelligence. It's not whatever the fuck IQ "measures." It's not what gets you into the Ivies, judging by all the right-wing assholes who hail from them. Maybe we've lost it already, and the advent of this machine intelligence is a punctuation mark on what's already happened without our even noticing it.
For one thing (and another thing! finger wagging . . . ) we should know by now that there is no direction toward intelligence in evolution. We don't culminate anything. But what we might and perhaps should do is to recognize that we, as humans, have a unique capacity for love and hate and for fiction making. That's what complexity gives us. Under the direction of a recognizable individual self. The problem solving works almost perfectly, though it's well beneath the love/hate machinery which we embody.
Now there is no natural divide between nature and artifice. Not that humans might discover. But machines terminate. Their boundaries are evident and comprehensible. On/off has no similarity to life/death. In life, we connect across the ages, and it is an emotional connection. On/off machines not so much. Except as they mediate the will of the button pushers.
This is a distinction worth remembering and taking note of. Artificial intelligence may provide us with an inhuman breadth of possible solutions and resolutions, but it should never be trusted to choose among them.
Yippee that there will be no further licensure for the ability to compose in flawless white English. Like all things white, we tend toward owning all default positions where default means power. And non-default means exotic at best or deviant at worst. It's no wonder that AI is so good at white English of the sort that our teachers might appreciate. Everyone else is deviant and deficient by comparison.
Now here's a thought: maybe all those supposedly really smart and certainly really famous people who signed the momentarily famous notorious letter urging a ban on all Large Language Model AI's are just looking out for their temporal monopoly interests. Like what if poor black folks could sidetrack all sorts of search dead-ends by deploying AIs on their own behalf?
Ban the bomb! And we end up with Mutually Assured Destruction, which kind-of works for a while yet. Maybe. But why did our science stop there? Why aren't there any scientists asking the cosmologically important questions, like for instance, is life really localized on our one planet? Is intelligence really a human fiefdom? Or are we just simply stuck on the kind of intelligence which gets us as far as the bomb and then stops?
Now here's another interesting thought. Those who didn't sign the ban the Big AI letter are probably mostly working on monetizing LLM AI (I hate Acronyms too - they divide the insiders from the outsiders - that's Large Language Model Aritificial Intelligence). What if human power turns out to have the better cost/benefit ratio once everyone starts churning the cloud-computing cycles for their amusement? What if it becomes really cheap to hire a plumber even though the plumber is now already paid less than the code kiddies?
There's a cost-shift happening where code will be written by AI's and the desire for more computing cycles damns all other efforts to keep from melting down. Worse than the tax cheats and military buildup which now keeps the rest of us in check, mate.
To alienate even further any reader who's gotten this far, let's say that Julian Jaynes may not be entirely wrong with his hypothesis about 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.' Among other things, he suggests that prior to the advent of what we now mean by consciousness, the two sides of the brain did not communicate. The breakdown of this bicameralism occurred when the two sides of the brain began a sort of dialogic communion by way of the corpus callosum. Prior to that time, one side of the brain channeled a sort of collective ordering which was heard (literally) as a kind of God's voice by the enacting side of the brain.
I don't define consciousness the way that Jaynes does. For me, a lizard is conscious. Indeed, I no longer understand his usage of consciousness other than what humans have that no other species does. He too is overly impressed by humanity, just as Christians are. Anyhow, in my terms the reason no computer will become conscious has to do with emotion which has to do with connections to life beyond us.
By my reckoning, what Jaynes meant by consciousness takes modern form at about the time of the historical Christ. Atavistic holdouts from the time before include to address Christ as Lord, and to continue to presume that God sends down rules that we must follow. We can't yet be trusted to judge on our own. The real kicker is that the dominion over the Earth and all things living that we had been granted by way of the Abrahamic scripture, is continued. It's these holdouts which cause all the trouble.
But by and large once God shut up, we started to think and reason, really based on reading and writing, all on our own.
A speaking unitary God is what is, fundamentally, behind American hegemony. A void into which any old narcissist can install himself.
Freedom of speech and of the press as we seem to mean it in our Constitution, requires acceptance of something other from subservience in our linguistic usages. And it is only very recently that we have come out from under the Christian darkened veil to be able to say what Lenny Bruce said in late-night comedy clubs to get sent to jail.
This is to lay the foundation for my extravagant and optimistic hope for our collective future. Or in other words, I would be as full of the gloom and doomsaying that fills our media as everyone else if I were to believe that this is it for mature human consciousness. My form of transhumanism doesn't directly depend on technological enhancements or genetic expansion. It's a moral thing.
And yes finally late in life I think I've come to terms with Jesus. This is in fulfillment of a profane bet I made in prayer during my extreme youth. God ultimately won. Religion lost, along with the Confederacy, kingdoms and empires and serfdom. And especially along with the nutty notion that only humans possess a proper soul.
As a post-script to Julian Jaynes talk, I believe it was he who pondered and then posited that we likely retain an inbuilt propensity to hear certain resonant speech as the literal word of God, in whatever earthly form we wish to project Him. Prior to Jaynesian consciousness, what we heard was the moral imperative of the resolution of the body politic given in the voice of the feudal lord. Jaynes wondered about broadcast radio. And so now we have these utterly amoral and frankly inhuman voices from the likes of Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump and originally Rush Limbaugh; the educational offspring of evangelical preachers.
They quite literally don't care that they melt down the world and wreak havoc with humanity, so drunk are they with the power of the word given the unique resonance of their voices with whatever we crave in the face of otherwise awesome responsibility.
Somewhere as an epigraph to a book I once read was a quote from Albert Camus. I tend to paraphrase thus: 'The work is nothing but an attempt to get back to where the heart first opened.' Thanks Google, I find what I imagine to be the actual quote:
A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
My writing is not good enough for publication. My trek is very slow indeed, and hardly artful. Or I'm just lazy. But anyhow, I seem to need to work things out in a quasi-public space. I've tried journaling. Nope. Doesn't happen. I need the imaginary of a public. Letters once worked, but they aren't even read anymore. What's a body to do? The world has so degenerated. My place remains lost.
One of the places my heart first opened was upon listening to one of Leonard Cohen's first albums. I think I inherited the songbook for Songs of Love and Hate from my older brother as he moved off from wormy "folk music" to harder rock. Most of my folk inheritance has ablated since then, along with the vinyl of Cohen's voice, while somehow Cohen remains, his voice still clear in my head. A patrician Jew from Jew-gentle Montreal, as I later found out. I assure you that I would never perform my rendition of his songs in public, though to sing them moves me still.
Really, my heart opened before that by way of a powerful equation between sex and love that I was far too young and even innocent to decipher. God knows I may have been having more and better sex at an earlier age than those of my peers who waved condoms on the way out from cloistered woods with some blushing score.
My own heart was soon crushed by those betrayals of casual sex. I never did internalize Cohen's teaching, no matter how much I valued his freedom to espouse it. My heart, once opened, has never recovered. But I the sinner as much as sinned against.
Yes, I am that sort of tender snowflake who has been brought up not to understand that transgression is necessary along the road to enlightenment. It has been my privilege to stay clean, and to be seen as doing so. It has not been my accomplishment.
The wages for my sin now are flaccid recession from among the quick and living. But, you know, I am in near perfect alignment with our prison-industrial complex which warehouses actual souls for transgressions which are provably reducible to race and culture and the absence of educational opportunity. One requires the tender narration of good parenting to be made nice, and in a different sort of prison.
I treasure the preserve of carnal love as much as I treasure civility. I treasure freedom of speech and of the press as much as I hate the disgrace of freely toted firearms, and the abuse of speech freedoms to cause personal and social harm. This shouldn't be very complicated.
At the moment I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's fine updating of David Copperfield. Thank God for her rebuttal of that condescending Ivy ass, JD Vance. I learn (again from the Times) that she is often put down as an author for allowing politics into her writing. Whatever. She does a fine job of delineating the magic of youthful sexual awakening embedded even within the reality of sexual libertinism. Such an awkward moment it always is, ever ripe for the crushing and fermenting.
Anyhow I'm making the claim here that while Harvard Yale DeSantis commits the sin by commission of bullying proto-fascist politics into the Academy (to include public schools, universities, and the entirety of learning institutions), President Satish Tripathi of the University at Buffalo commits the sin of omission by failing to see that speech must be moderated in an academic setting. Both are sins against our constitution - I don't mean the text - and my use of the religious metaphor here is meant to emphasize how fundamental these transgressions are.
We certainly don't wish for universities to offer a course in how and why the earth is flat. But if some earnest poet were invited to deliver his performative disquisition on why we must believe that the earth is flat and are punching above our weight when we claim otherwise - lying to ourselves - we might allow that. Even if the poet were a professor of, say, medicine or something. It would probably have to make us laugh.
Thanks again New York Times, I learn of one Amy Wax, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania. Waving the condom of tenure, Professor Wax says hateful things in front of students, some of whom are hurt by that. Hurt is palpable, while ideas may always be clothed in language that is not. Professor Wax seems obtuse to this distinction. She should be sanctioned.
I learn she also has a Jewish background. Perhaps she is unaware that her truly stunning amassing of credentials across many Ivy League fields of study was likely made possible by the lifting of unspoken and often disavowed quotas against the overpopulation of Jews in the Ivy. Never mind the oppression of women. Now students of Chinese heritage are oppressed by similar dismissals of cultural credentialism. To be sure, I'm no champion of any basis for either claim of oppression in those terms. But the oppression was and is real. We have moved and are moving in the right direction.
I've been reading about the oppression in Asia during the process of colonial withdrawal, along with the hardly uplifting history suffered by the peoples inhabiting the region of Ukraine. Pinched between Hitler and Stalin. Now beleaguered by Putin Rex. And I am appalled at what humans will do under the guise of some nutty racialized definition for nation and for civilization. Can't hateful speech be sanctioned even without touching academic tenure?
Perhaps a professor must be required to substantiate hurtful claims before being licensed to espouse them. Is race, gender, or even culture ever a proper delineator for political generalization? I, for one, am gladdened when all comers are increasingly welcomed to the Academy (Awards). This feels like a move in the right direction toward the America of our dreams.
Affirmative action affirms. Pain is palpable, while rewards for merit are rather fluffy in their basis. And Professor Wax requires refreshment of her heritage for comic irony. She harkens back to life in the fifties, when the public spaces were better patrolled. When Jews . . . ?
The lifting of those Jewish quotas in the Ivy conveniently coincided with the pivot that the Ivies were socially required to make from admitting the wealthy to amplify their voice of authority as granted in prep school, to admitting the intellectually merited. That move legitimized another move toward a sort of better trued authority. Supposedly. I come from a legacy of Ivy Leaguers, and oh I just happen to find schooling beneath me. Yes, the tests are too easy for the likes of me. And, well, I don't commit well.
I benefitted from that pivot toward merit in some way, sure, and I am here to tell you that measures of merit are always fluffy and imperfect. And I personally know many cases of brilliant people becoming cranky, weird, and hurtful in their expressed beliefs as they age. These folks are generally eased away from the public eye. Their bigoted flag-waving is chortled off.
I would make a more modest point about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is transgressed when anything goes. Perhaps that's what the good professor means to say.
To compound the issue here, the Buffalo News - our local hold-out of the impoverished fourth estate, is dangerously confused about the meaning of free speech. To continue the metaphor, Fox News and The Buffalo News each commit the same parallel sins; again, one by commission and the other by omission.
All of us are terminally confused about the meaning of public vs. private space; the meaning of publication vs. blogging, and especially about the importance of the procedural truing of our words against various authorities.
I think all crave basic understanding, in my case so that I might know how to maintain the house - not quite an estate - I live in, which taxes me mentally, physically, and economically in my slide toward dotage. To the manner born, I don't own this house. I benefit from a web of love which appreciates my earnest efforts to repair and improve physical things, which I do gladly for the benefit of my betters. More honored in the breeches.
But also, I crave understanding so that I may know how to vote; how to participate in the actual state. Let's skip over the French rendering of first second and third estates which deal with nobility against hoi-polloi, and not to mention the Church. We're all one here. Or we're supposed to be.
If it weren't such trouble to find community, I wouldn't have to write up here. I'd be able to work it out in concert, which I do, of course, with my family. My family feels threatened by the encroachments of fascist wolves in sheep's clothing who would undermine even the shreds of democracy which remain in these United States. These fascists want to tell us how we must live and think and partner. They want to control our very bodies. They crave a holy empire, and confuse God with strong-man leadership. This, frankly, scares the shit out of me.
Still, what I might mean by community might be what others mean by religious community. But religion as it's meant now is corrupted even beyond politics. Like fascists the world over, it wants to tell you what and how to think. I depend on the academy for that. I need my community to be rather more honest and open-minded.
Hell, for you fucking religious capitalists out there (I don't mind capitalism per se, which seems but an extension of nature in tooth and nail. It's the religion of it that I object to), you should remember how important our universities are for your wealth-generation and for your precious military-industrial complex. None of that can flourish without freedom of inquiry. But free inquiry depends most on qualified debate. We don't have time to waste listening to idiots. Especially when the goal of those idiots is to colonize our minds.
(Julian Jaynes remains alone in theorizing how this might happen. Mass media channeling and concentrating the atavistic aspects of our grey matter. Where God speaks to us literally before we are schooled in literature. There are those who know how to do this and can still live with themselves for the corruption of the body politic which they cause. Because it makes them rich, I suppose.)
I did wish to work out my words on paper – or rather in the paper, which means in public, and so I should attempt civility in the working even though I only virtually publish. But need I repeat? I'm not a good enough writer.
was made apparent by the News’ editorial board on this day, we have become
confused by the recent weaponization of free speech. And now they are so brazen as to celebrate their position in its aftermath. The university did its duty by allowing hate to be waggled in public? Have they no decency?
To expose the indecencies of private sexual congress is not always pornographic, though it may arouse. I know the difference when I hear, read, and see it. So does the Academy.
I use the term ‘weaponize’ advisedly, since it will be my
argument that free speech which goads action must remain at least as safe as
those firearms which we have been declared free to have and to hold; which is
to say to keep and bear (for the sake of joining a militia to secure the
freedom of our state, but that’s an argument for another time). Having weapons
doesn’t confer the right to fire them indiscriminately.
Shame on Professor Wax for abusing her authority. Is it any different from what uncorked Harvey Weinstein does?
Sure, this guy who spoke at UB doesn’t call for the outright murder of trans
people. He only wants to ban the concept from the public square. Where all
sorts of profane and ugly is tacitly sanctioned now. But he does wish to rouse
a rabble. And he profits from it.
Anyhow, by our common usage academic speech is politically
feckless speech. “The problem is only academic.” But it’s the freedom of
academic speech which must be preserved. Inviting fools in profanes academic
speech, without which political speech is only exhortation to possibly perilous
action. Academic speech can’t exist without standards and moderation.
By both statement and practice, our cherished freedom of
speech is meant to preserve the right of communists, say, to argue their
political philosophy in public without penalty. It is not meant to foster the
public mustering of forces to impose that philosophy on the rest of us.
Now it has become a deliberate strategy of what we call our
right wing to kneecap our left wing by declarations of “free speech” while
spewing uninformed vile speech. The strategy is apparently bankrolled and
offers clear rewards to the expert spewers enlisted.
Many of us are puzzled as to why those who seem so ardently to
champion American-style free speech wish to activate strong-government legal
measures to curtail the freedoms of those who hold different values. And they
do this having inherited the mantle of small government; a mantle which they
Now I am as bothered as anyone by the seemingly new
necessity to police my own usage of pronouns, and I even often wish that I
could voice certain politically incorrect opinions just for the sake of
argument, since my own working out of what is right is always just in progress
and never finished. I don’t much appreciate younger and less educated folks
policing my speech for me.
But in the presence of someone who is hurt by my uncivil vocal
performance, I am more than happy to give pronoun twisting a good college try.
I do this mindful that the oral equivalence of he/she/it does nothing against,
say, Chinese bigotry. But I try.
One doesn’t easily work these things out without taking note
of the ‘shout fire in a crowded theater’ example. But that is what we have here
writ large when a University sanctions its student revelers to invite an
uncivil and uninformed idiot to speak. We may indulge idiots when they spew
down the street, so long as they threaten no-one, but we don’t expect our
institutions of learning to sanction them, no less to let them in.
Within my lifetime I have watched as corporate ‘people’ have
been afforded the freedoms of citizens, which has led inexorably to politics
being lowered to the values of the marketplace. They call it a free speech
issue. It’s not. We don’t expect soap salesmen to be fully upright and honest,
but we do sanction them when our safety is at stake. And we don’t expect
politicians to sell themselves, though our sanctions against their doing so all
seem to have evaporated.
Of course our well-being is at stake whenever hateful speechis sanctioned positively. And I do know that to call anyone an idiot in public
is hardly civil. Indeed there was a time not so very long ago when to do so
would entail physical peril. A Chatbot is an idiot by definition, so perhaps I
should call the fellow a chatbot. There is no human intelligence there. Only
some programmatic calculus for undemocratic power.
Fabulously wealthy talking heads like Tucker Carlson are nothing
other than fascists of your very mind. They pitch their voice the way Josh
Allen pitches a football and we are enthralled. As humans, there is no there
there. Positively Trumpean.
But if we are to abide the policing of women’s bodies and of
medical interventions toward comforting transgendering and even drag shows for
chrissakes, then what’s to prevent the policing of speech? These hate spewers
are asking for just such a police state. It will be controlled by some
strong-man who upholds the right to be uncivil in public, and it’s happening
all over the world. Surely we can see how utterly this opposes the spirit of
our constitution, even as we, by proxy in the courts, twist its letter.
I can only endorse a state which moderates, which is also
the role for the academy in its realm. There should be no place in America for
extremist activists in either estate. I’m OK with extreme words, and extreme
action against destroyers of the state in which I believe. I expect moderators
to moderate, and never to require such extremes from the likes of me.
Who is more at fault? The students who shout down and out Trump appointed federal appeals court judge Stuart Kyle Duncan or the Stanford President and Law School Dean who apologizes for them? Is it the religious believers in free speech who feel it their mission to allow any speech to go? Is it the students who want education?
And why is it now that the Ivies produce the likes of DeSantis and Rhodes and Vance and Hawley and Stefanick? When did politicians transition from shilling for votes in the guise of leadership credentials to just plain outright shilling for power by channeling the idiocy of the masses? Masses are by definition idiotic. It is the role of democratic governance to elevate, educate and moderate that idiocy. The Ivies abdicate in the name of neutral merit and celebrate notoriety as some weird sort of validation of their admissions processes. Dubya never looked so good.