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Melissa Click, a University of Missouri professor who teaches communication and journalism, was caught on tape threatening a journalist for covering a campus protest. She was subsequently fired for this and other such incidents she incited.

What Went Wrong?
Campus Unrest, Viewpoint Diversity, and Freedom of Speech

The French political journalist and supporter of the Royalist cause in the French Revolution, Jacques Mallet du Pan, famously summarized what often happens to extremists: “the Revolution devours its children.” I was thinking about this idiom—and its doppelgänger “what goes around comes around”—while writing a lecture for a talk I was invited to give at my alma mater California State University, Fullerton on the topic: “Is freedom of speech harmful for college students?” The short answer is an unflinching and unequivocal “No.”

Why is this question even being asked? When I was in college free speech was the sine qua non of the academy. It is what tenure was designed to protect! The answer may be found in the recent eruptions of student protests at numerous American colleges and universities, including Amherst, Brandeis, Brown, Claremont McKenna, Oberlin, Occidental, Princeton, Rutgers, University of California, University of Missouri, Williams, Yale, and others. Most of these paroxysms were under the guise of protecting students from allegedly offensive speech and disagreeable ideas—defined differently by different interest groups—with demands for everything from trigger warnings and safe spaces to microaggressions and speaker disinvitations.

Between the 1960s and the 2010s, what went wrong?

Students at Rutgers University protest a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos by smearing red on their faces and shouting 'hate' when he challenged them to hear other points of view.

Students at Rutgers University protest a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos by smearing red on their faces and shouting “hate” when he challenged them to hear other points of view.

The Problem

Trigger warnings are supposed to be issued to students before readings, classroom lectures, film screenings, or public speeches on such topics as sex, addiction, bullying, suicide, eating disorders, and the like, involving such supposed prejudices as ableism, homophobia, sizeism, slut shaming, transphobia, victim-blaming, and who-knows-what-else, thereby infantilizing students instead of preparing them for the real world where they most assuredly will not be so shielded. At Oberlin College, for example, students leveled accusations against the administration of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and the ne plus ultra in gender politics, cissexist heteropatriarchy, the enforcement of “gender binary and gender essentialism” against those who are “gender variant (non-binary) and trans identities.” The number of such categories has expanded into an alphabet string, LGBTQIA, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual and any other underrepresented sexual, gender, and/or romantic identities.1 This is not your parents’ protest against Victorian sexual mores, and the list of demands by Oberlin students would be unrecognizable to even the most radical 60’s hippies:

  • The creation of a school busing system for Oberlin, Ohio’s K–12 schools, paid for by the college.
  • The establishment of special, segregated black-only “safe spaces” across campus.
  • A more inclusive audition process in the Conservatory that does not privilege Western European theoretical knowledge over playing ability.
  • The creation of a bridge program that will recruit recently-released prisoners to enroll at Oberlin for undergraduate courses.

The most audacious demand was “an $8.20/hour stipend for black student leaders who are organizing protest efforts.” These students wanted to be paid for protesting!

As often happens in moral movements, a reasonable idea with some evidentiary backing gets carried to extremes by engaged moralists eager for attention, sympathy, and the social standing that being a victim or victim sympathizer can bring. Soldiers suffering from PTSD, for example, may be “triggered” by the backfire of a nearby automobile, but no one has proposed that automobile manufacturers put “trigger warnings” on cars to accommodate soldiers. As well, the Harvard psychologist Richard McNally points out that trigger warnings may have the opposite effect for which they are intended, because “systematic exposure to triggers and the memories they provoke is the most effective means of overcoming the disorder.” McNally sites an analysis by the Institute of Medicine, which found that “exposure therapy is the most efficacious treatment for PTSD, especially in civilians who have suffered trauma such as sexual assault.” In other words, face your problems head-on and deal with them. An additional problem with trigger warnings is that the number of triggers has expanded to the point where nearly every speech and lecture could contain triggering words, turning communication into a moral hazard. Finally, who determines what is “triggering” anyway? The very concept is a recipe for censorship.

Safe space, according to the organization Advocates for Youth, is “A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or challenged on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect, dignity and feelings and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.” Some such places even contain pillows, soothing music, milk and cookies, and videos of puppies.

In addition to infantilizing adults, this practice often means protecting students from opinions that they don’t happen to agree with, or shielding them from ideas that challenge their beliefs, which has always been one of the most valuable benefits of a college education. In any case, college campuses, along with the cities and states they’re in, are already designed to be safe from violence and discrimination based on the rule of law enforced by the police and courts. In point of fact, most of these colleges nestled in American cities are among the safest places on earth. If you want to build a safe space for people who really need it, go to Syria or Somalia. And if this opinion triggers you or makes you feel unsafe then you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in the world.

Microaggressions are comments or questions that slight, snub, or insult someone, intentionally or unintentionally, in anything from casual conversation to formal discourse. According to the University of California publication Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send, examples include:

  • Asking, “Where are you from or where were you born?” or “What are you?” This implies someone is not a true American.
  • Inquiring, “How did you become so good in math?” (to people of color) or suggesting “You must be good in math” (to an Asian), which is stereotyping.
  • Proclaiming, “There is only one race, the human race” or “I don’t believe in race.” This denies the significance of a person of color’s racial/ethnic experience and history.
  • Opining, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” or “America is the land of opportunity.” This suggests that the playing field is level, so if women or people of color do not fill all jobs and careers in precise proportion to their population percentages, it must mean that the problem is with them, or that they are lazy or incompetent and just need to work harder.
Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send

Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send (click image to enlarge)

Yes, language matters, and some comments that people make are cringe worthy (e.g., saying “you people” to a group of African Americans, or “you’re a girl, you don’t have to be good at math”). But do we really need a list of DOs and DON’Ts handed out to students and reviewed like they were five-year olds being taught how to play nice with the other kids in the sandbox? Can’t adults work out these issues themselves without administrators stepping in as surrogate parents? And who determines what constitutes “hate,” “racist” or “sexist” speech? Who it happens to bother or offend? Students? Faculty? Administration? And as with the problem of trigger words, the list of microaggressions grows, turning normal conversation into a cauldron of potential violations that further restricts speech, encourages divisiveness rather than inclusiveness, and forces people to censor themselves, dissemble, withhold opinion, or outright lie about what they believe.

An incident at Brandeis University in 2015 is instructive: when Asian American students installed an exhibition on microaggressions, other Asian American students claimed that the exhibit was itself a microaggression that triggered negative feelings, leading the president to issue an apology to anyone “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.” Agreed, blurting out “Why do you Asians always hang out together” is lame, but at this point in history it just makes the communicant sound more like a bore than a bigot, and more deserving of eye rolls than public humiliation.

Brandeis University microagression display, later declared a microagression

Brandeis University microagression display, later declared a microagression (click image to enlarge)

Speaker disinvitations—cancellations of invited speakers—have been accelerating over the past decade. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), 257 such incidents have occurred since 2000, 111 of which were successful in preventing the invited guests from giving their talks. In 2014, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was invited to give the commencement speech at Brandies University, where she was to also receive an honorary doctorate. After students protested, citing her criticism of Islam for its mistreatment of women, the administration caved into their demands and Ali was no-platformed (as it is called in England). Worse, in this theater of the absurd, students from U.C. Berkeley attempted to no-platform the comedian and social commentator Bill Maher for his alleged “Islamophobia,” code for anyone who criticizes Islam for any reason. Maher delivered his commencement oration nonetheless, telling the very liberal student body that “Liberals should own the First Amendment the way conservatives own the Second Amendment,” pointing out that apparently irony is no longer taught at this birthplace of the 1960’s free speech movement. This was topped by students at Williams College who, in October 2015, succeeded in disinviting Suzanne Venker, author of The Flipside of Feminism. Venker was invited to participate in the college’s “Uncomfortable Learning” lecture series but, well, she made some students feel too uncomfortable. “When you bring a misogynistic, white supremacist men’s rights activist to campus in the name of ‘dialogue’ and ‘the other side,’” whined one student on Facebook, it causes “actual mental, social, psychological, and physical harm to students.” Physically harm?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali web banner

Banner from the website of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The effects of such protests are often the opposite of what the protesters sought. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s speech, for example, was printed in the Wall Street Journal where it was seen by that paper’s 2.37 million readers, many orders of magnitude more than would have heard it on campus. Bill Maher turned his Berkeley brouhaha into a bit for his HBO television show Real Time, which carries over four million viewers. More irony.

What may have started out as well intentioned actions at curbing prejudices and attenuating bigotry with the goal of making people more tolerant, has now metamorphosed into thought police attempting to impose totalitarian measures that result in silencing dissent of any kind. The result is the very opposite of what free speech and a college education is all about.

Why such unrest in the academy—among the most liberal institutions in the country—surrounded as these students are by so many liberal professors and administrators? Here I will offer five proximate (immediate) causes, one ultimate (deeper) cause, and some solutions.

Proximate Causes
1. Moral Progress
The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom (book over)

Visit the Moral Arc website for more information about the book, or click one of the following to order the book right now from Amazon, Shop Skeptic, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, iBooks, Kobo, and IndieBound.

As I document in The Moral Arc, we have made so much moral progress since the Enlightenment—particularly since the civil rights and women’s rights movements that launched the modern campus protest movement in the first place—that our standards of what is tolerable have been ratcheted ever upward to the point where students are hypersensitive to things that, by comparison, didn’t even appear on the cultural radar half a century ago. This progress has happened gradually enough on the news cycle measure of days and weeks to be beneath the awareness of most observers, but fast enough that it can be tracked on time scales ranging from years to decades. For example, remember when interracial marriage was a divisive debate? Me neither. But recall the now-jarring words of the trial judge Leon M. Bazile, who convicted Richard and Mildred Loving in the case (Loving v. Virginia) that ultimately made its way to the Supreme Court in 1967 and overturned laws banning interracial marriage: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Same-sex marriage went through a similar evolution as interracial marriage, culminating in the 5–4 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2015 to make same-sex marriage the law of the land, another data point in the long-term trend toward granting more rights to more people.

Interracial marriage and same-sex marriage are themselves the legacy of the rights revolutions that first took off in the late 1700s when the idea of rights was invented and then demanded, first in the American Revolution (starting with the Declaration of Independence in 1776), then in the French Revolution (with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789), inspiring subsequent rights revolutions and documents (for example, Declaration of the Rights of Woman in 1791). The result, two and a half centuries later, has been the abolition of slavery, the eradication of torture, the elimination of the death penalty in all modern democracies save America, the franchise for all adult citizens, children’s rights, women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, and even the rights of future generations to inhabit a livable planet. Who knows, perhaps one day soon we’ll even grant rights to Artificially Intelligent robots. In other words, most of the big moral movements have been fought and won, leaving today’s students with comparatively smaller causes to promote and evils to protest, but with moral emotions just as powerful as those of previous generations, so their outrage seems disproportionate.

2. Transition from a Culture of Honor to a Culture of Victimhood

In a culture of honor one settles minor disputes oneself and leaves the big crimes to the criminal justice system. Over the past two decades this has been eroded and is being replaced by a culture of victimhood in which one turns to parent-like authorities (faculty and college administrators, but not the law) to settle minor disputes over insults and slights.2 The culture of honor leads to autonomy, independence, self-reliance, and self-esteem, whereas the culture of victimhood leads to dependence and puerile reliance on parental figures to solve ones’ problems. In this victimhood culture the primary way to gain status is to either be a victim or to condemn alleged perpetrators against victims, leading to an accelerating search for both.3 A student at the University of Oxford named Eleanor Sharman explained how it happened to her after she joined a campus feminist group named Cuntry Living and started reading their literature on misogyny and patriarchy:

Along with all of this, my view of women changed. I stopped thinking about empowerment and started to see women as vulnerable, mistreated victims. I came to see women as physically fragile, delicate, butterfly-like creatures struggling in the cruel net of patriarchy. I began to see male entitlement everywhere.

As a result she became fearful and timid, afraid even to go out to socialize:

Feminism had not empowered me to take on the world—it had not made me stronger, fiercer or tougher. Even leaving the house became a minefield. What if a man whistled at me? What if someone looked me up and down? How was I supposed to deal with that? This fearmongering had turned me into a timid, stay-at-home, emotionally fragile bore.

It is not that there are no longer real victims of actual crimes, but it is a disservice to them to equate the trivial peccadillos of microaggressions or triggering words with brutal rapes and murders. A feminist named Melody Hensley, for example, who was once the Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry in Washington DC. claims that years of online stalking and social media trolls gave her PTSD on par with that of combat soldiers, disabling her from being able to work. Not surprisingly, war vets were not sympathetic.

3. From Anti-Fragile to Fragile Children

One response to the 1970s and 1980s crime wave was a shift toward “helicopter parenting” in which children were no longer allowed to be, well, children. The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explains why through the concept of anti-fragility: “Bone is anti-fragile. If you treat it gently, it will get brittle and break. Bone actually needs to get banged around to toughen up. And so do children. I’m not saying they need to be spanked or beaten, but they need to have a lot of unsupervised time, to get in over their heads and get themselves out. And that greatly decreased in the 1980s. Anxiety, fragility and psychological weakness have skyrocketed in the last 15–20 years.” Those kids are today’s college students, and as a consequence they have brittle bones and thin skins. An example of an anti-fragile person with strong bones and thick skin is the model Isabelle Boemeke, who tweeted what she does when verbally harassed on the streets by ogling men:

4. Puritanical Purging

Social movements tend to turn on themselves in puritanical purging of anyone who falls short of moral perfection, leading to preemptive denunciations of others before one is so denounced. The witch crazes of the 17th century degenerated into such anticipatory condemnations, resulting in a veritable plethora of nonexistent sorceresses being strapped to faggots and torched. The 20th century witnessed Marxist and feminist groups undergoing similar purges as members competed for who was the purist and defenestrated those who fell below the unrealizable standard. On the other side of the political spectrum, Ayn Rand’s objectivist movement took off in a frenzied build up after the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1959, but by the time the philosopher-novelist died in 1982 most of the insider “collective” had been expunged for various sins against the philosophy, from listening to the wrong music to challenging the founder on any point of substance or minutia. Such purification purges are among the worst things that can happen to a social movement.

witch hunts

Pre-emptive denunciations lead to witch hunts.

5. Virtue Signaling
Yale college master Nicholas Christakis (in blue shirt) is verbally assaulted by a student who accused him of not doing enough to censor the wearing of Halloween costumes that could be seen as offensive. 'Who the fuck hired you?' the girl with the backpack screamed at the professor.

Yale college master Nicholas Christakis (in blue shirt) is verbally assaulted by a student who accused him of not doing enough to censor the wearing of Halloween costumes that could be seen as offensive. “Who the fuck hired you?” the girl with the backpack screamed at the professor.

Related to puritanical purging is virtue signaling, in which members of a movement compete to signal who is the most righteous by (A) recounting all the moral acts one has performed and (B) identifying all the immoral acts others have committed. This leads to an arms-race to signal moral outrage over increasingly diminishing transgressions, such as unapproved Halloween costumes at Yale University, which led to a student paroxysm against a faculty member, a cell-phone video of which went viral and nearly brought the campus to a stand still. This is an example of what Maajid Nawaz means by “regressive liberalism,” where freedom of speech and expression are sacrificed in the name of tolerance, which is actually intolerance. One of the first acts of totalitarian regimes is to restrict dissent and free speech, so perhaps it should be called totalitarian liberalism.

An Ultimate Cause

A deeper reason behind the campus problem is a lack of diversity. Not ethnic, race, or gender diversity, but viewpoint diversity, specifically, political viewpoint. The asymmetry is startling. A 2014 study conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that 59.8 percent of all undergraduate faculty nationwide identify as far left or liberal, compared with only 12.8 percent as far right or conservative. In a 2015 study published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Arizona State University psychologist José Duarte and his colleagues reported that 58–66 percent of social science professors identify as liberals, compared to only 5-8 percent as conservatives. Given the power of beliefs to drive actions, college students today stand next to no chance of receiving a balanced education on the most important topics of our time and for which social science is best equipped to study.

Ratio of Democrats to Republicans among social scientists

This graph captures the political bias problem well. From: Klein, Daniel B. and Charlotte Stern. “Professors and Their Politics: The Policy Views of Social Scientists.” Critical Review, 17, p. 264. (click image to enlarge)

What goes around comes around. Today’s liberal college professors were radical college students in the 1960s and 1970s, protesting “the man” and bucking authority. One reason faculty and administrators are failing to stand up to student demands today is that they once wore those shoes. Raising children and students to be dismissive of law and order and mores and manners leads to a crisis in consciousness and the rejection of the very freedoms so hard won by their parents and teachers. A generation in rebellion gave birth to a generation in crisis. Thus it is that the revolution devours its children.


There is no magic bullet solution to the problems the academy faces today, but as liberals have known for some time it takes decades—even generations—to right the wrongs of the past, so solutions are likely to be incremental and gradual, which is almost always a good thing when it comes to social change, as it leads to less violent and more peaceful actions on the part of both activists and their opponents. Contra Barry Goldwater, extremism in the defense of liberty is no virtue; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no vice.4

Hiring practices fall under this rubric. If the academy is already comfortable with and active in seeking to diversify its faculty by ethnicity, race, and gender, why not viewpoint as well? Given the entrenchment of tenure this will take time, but as that scribe of moral progress Victor Hugo observed, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”5

In the meantime, viewpoint diversity can be increased almost overnight by inviting speakers from a wide range of perspectives—political, economic, and ideological—even if (or especially) if they are offensive to faculty and students. And no more disinvitations! If you invite someone to speak, honor your word, own your decision, and stand up to the cry bullies (as they’re called in this neologism). The assignment of books and papers for students to read—especially for courses in history, English literature, the humanities, and the social sciences—can and should include authors whose positions are at odds with those of most academicians and student bodies. And professors: in addition to assigning students articles and opinion editorials from the New York Times, give them a few from the Wall Street Journal. Balance The Nation magazine with Reason magazine, The American Prospect with The American Spectator, National Public Radio with Conservative Talk Radio, PBS with Fox News.

Viewpoint diversity, however, is subservient to the deeper principle of free speech, which should be applied indiscriminately across the academy, as it should across society and, ideally, the world. What does free speech mean? First, it does not mean that you can lie about someone. Libel laws are in place to protect people from defamation that causes reputational and financial harm. Second, free speech does not mean that the government, public institutions, or private persons, businesses, or publications are required to promote or publish the opinions of others. As the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, for example, it is not incumbent on me to publish articles or accept advertisements just because we’re in the business of publishing. Institutions should have the freedom to restrict the speech of anyone who utilizes resources within the jurisdiction of its own institution, such as a school newspaper. The government, however, cannot restrict citizens’ speech just because it finds their opinions distasteful, offensive, or critical of its policies. (Exceptions have been made for treason and the passing on of national secrets to enemies, but crying “fire” in a crowded theater was most likely an exception that proves the rule.)

Holocaust deniers, creationists, and 9/11 truthers, for example, should have the right to publish their own journals and books, and to attempt to have their views aired in other publications and media venues, as in college newspapers and web sites, but no one is obligated to publish them. Alex Grobman and I wrestled with the free speech issue in our 2004 book Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? As we opined: “Being in favor of someone’s right to freedom of speech is quite different from enabling that speech.” But we chose to write a book about their movement and arguments, quoting them extensively because, we believe, “In the bright light of open discussion the truth will emerge.”6 And although I declined to publish an ad submitted by a Holocaust denier in Skeptic (running an advertisement in our magazines carries the imprimatur of endorsement), I did debate Mark Weber, the director of the Institute for Historical Review (the leading Holocaust denier organization) in a public forum they hosted.

The freedom of speech has been one of the driving forces behind moral progress because it enables the search for truth. How? There are at least five reasons:7

  1. We might be completely right but still learn something new.
  2. We might be partially wrong and by listening to other viewpoints we might stand corrected and refine and improve our beliefs. No one is omniscient.
  3. We might be completely wrong, so hearing criticism or counterpoint gives us the opportunity to change our minds and improve our thinking. No one is infallible. The only way to find out if you’ve gone off the rails is to get feedback on your beliefs, opinions, and even your facts.
  4. Whether right or wrong, by listening to the opinions of others we have the opportunity to develop stronger arguments and build better facts for our positions. You know that the world is round and goes around the sun, that evolution is real, and that the Holocaust happened. But can you explain how you know these facts? What are the best arguments and evidences for these facts? Could you articulate them clearly and succinctly in a debate or conversation? As John Stuart Mill noted in his classic 1859 work On Liberty: “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”
  5. My freedom to speak and dissent is inextricably tied to your freedom to speak and dissent. Once customs and laws are in place to silence someone on one topic, what’s to stop people from silencing anyone on any topic that deviates from the accepted canon? The justification of censorship laws in the consequentialist argument that people might be incited to discrimination, hate, or violence if exposed to such ideas fails the moment you turn the argument around and ask: What happens when it is you and your ideas that are determined to be dangerous? It is the Principle of Interchangeable Perspectives that I introduced in The Moral Arc: For me to expect you to listen to me I must be willing to hear you. If I censor you, why shouldn’t you censor me? If you silence me, why shouldn’t I silence you?

This argument against censorship was well articulated in Robert Bolt’s 1960 play, A Man for All Seasons, based on the true story of the 16th century Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More, and his collision with King Henry VIII over the monarch’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. In the play a dialogue unfolds between More and his future son-in-law Roper, who urges him to arrest a man whose testimony could condemn More to death, even though no laws were broken. “And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!” More entices.

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that.
More: Oh? And when the law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast…and if you cut them down…do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.8

For our own safety’s sake we must grant our devils their due. END

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. His book The Moral Arc is now out in paperback. Follow him on Twitter @michaelshermer.

  1. This list comes from a memo sent to all faculty at Chapman University in the context of a workshop we were all invited to attend on safe spaces related to students who fall into one of these categories.
  4. Barry Goldwater’s famous line, which I’ve reversed, comes from the 1964 Republican Convention: “Let me remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” A clip of the speech can be seen on YouTube.
  5. The original French sentence, from the final chapter of Hugo’s book Histoire d’un Crime (The History of a Crime), is: “On resiste a l’invasion des armees; on ne resiste pas a l’invasion des idees.” “One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”
  6. Shermer, Michael and Alex Grobman. 2000. Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say it? Berkeley: University of California Press, 13–14.
  7. One of the earliest and still strongest defense of free speech was made in 1859 by the utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill in his classic work On Liberty, still in print and available for free online.
  8. The complete script of A Man for All Seasons is available for free online.

This article was published on March 22, 2016.


76 responses to “What Went Wrong?
Campus Unrest, Viewpoint Diversity, and Freedom of Speech

  1. Robert says:

    “Trigger Warnings” are especially offensive to me because the Left is culturally appropriating psychological terminology developed for treating combat veterans. Until these college students have served in combat, they have no right to use this term.

  2. Russell Seitz says:

    Politically Correct academics have broadened the boundaries of self parody by becoming the victims of their own semantic aggression.

  3. Graham2001 says:

    I much prefer the term “liberal intolerance” coined by weird fiction author Caitlin R. Keirnan.

  4. Jim Hauck says:

    My experience is that there are few moderates or right leaning professors in the physical sciences. I taught over a period of 41years at over a dozen colleges and universities in socal, and cannot remember meeting one. I do not have statistics, but would estimate that left-wing/ liberals outnumber moderates and right-leaning people at least 4:1 and probably closer to 10:1.

  5. Joshua says:

    ==> As I document in The Moral Arc, we have made so much moral progress since the Enlightenment—particularly since the civil rights and women’s rights movements that launched the modern campus protest movement in the first place

    And here you seem to not even recognize the importance of the patter that you, yourself, speak about.

    At each point along this trajectory of progress, the powerful have complained about the erosion of their inherent power advantage. And even if in the past there were examples of over-reach, where the balance tipped in unfair ways against the existing power elite, in the end it became the noise against the signal of increasing access to fair representation among the full spectrum of citizens.

    So in what way do you distinguish the existing context from the previous decades of progress? What is the objective manner in which you differentiate what is going on now – as an example of a coddling and intolerance – from, for example, objections decades ago against flying the Confederate flag, which then would have been considered over-sensitivity by a majority of the public but is now considered to be a legitimate example of unacceptable aggression?

  6. Joshua says:

    ==> A deeper reason behind the campus problem is a lack of diversity.

    Stated w/o any explication of the supposed causal mechanism.

    How does this work, exactly? How does the lack of diversity cause this phenomenon? How would the lack of diversity on college campuses explain the far more extensive culture of victimhood we see when we turn of Fox News and see endless complaints about living in a tyrannical state and suffering from the “War on Christmas?”

  7. Denzil, from Down Under says:

    Well said sir. Unfortunately the virus is spreading and is starting to appear in Australia. Certainly there is a bigoted intolerance of anyone who does not fit the progressive template in our daily affairs. Of course for some (and I take my lead from the incomparable Hitchens) this is a challenge to relish. However the situation in universities is becoming so utterly stupid I am confident that the tide will eventually turn because even the proponents will be embarrassed. I won’t hold my breath waiting for university leadership to do their job!

  8. Rob says:

    Fantastic article. Thank you for writing this.

  9. Oliver Manuel says:

    The immediacy of the Sun’s powerful pulsar core to the daily affairs of all mankind may restore society to sanity if Nature has the courage to publish the paper on “Solar energy” (submitted March 15, 2016, tracking number NCLIM­16030433).

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  10. Truckin Pete says:

    So, does the end justify the means? (according to KMK “if not then what does?”) always? ever?
    jury nullification? pay ransom to get one’s kids back?

    Maybe it’s all about priorities.

    PS: Fox mocks Emory U students -

    My thanks to Michael and all commenters for the good reads.

  11. None Taken Podcast says:

    I’ve begun referring to the victim narrative as “victimhood appropriation.” They’re stealing someone else’s victim narrative to make it their own. The easiest way to be a hero without actually doing anything is to take the role of the victim, and therefore the survivor.

  12. Richard Spacek says:

    I’m afraid you are mistaken, Mr. Shermer. You wrote “McNally sites an analysis.” That should be “cites.” Other than that. . . .

  13. Kate Gladstone says:

    Not only do the protestors against Oberlin’s administration want to be paid for protesting (as long as the protestors are the correct color, of course), the protestors want to be paid _by_ _the_ _same_ _people_ _that_ _they_ _are_ _protesting_ against_.

  14. Kate Gladstone says:

    What happens if I enroll at Oberlin (or any other college) and let them know how horribly, horribly deeply I am triggered by _trigger_ _warnings_?

    And what happens if I have/develop/am diagnosed with a mental condition (such as a memory issue or a learning disability) that prevents my learning and using the increasingly multiplying details and refinements of the ever-proliferating trigger warning commandments and other regulatory elaborations of Political Correctitudinosity? Am I thereby — for reason of “physical or mental ability” or lack thereof — excluded from “safe space” and all similar protections, that I’m told are an absolute requirement to protect me? — and that I am nevertheless commanded to defend for everyone else?

  15. Wolfbeckett says:

    Only one argument I’d make about this article, specifically relating to the sentence:

    “Over the past two decades this has been eroded and is being replaced by a culture of victimhood in which one turns to parent-like authorities (faculty and college administrators, but not the law) to settle minor disputes over insults and slights.”

    Maybe just because this article is focused on college campuses so it’s somewhat outside the scope, but you failed to mention that there ARE indeed instances of the regressive leftist types trying to use the law to silence their critics. They have routinely failed, but they have tried. See the recently concluded trial of Greg Allen Elliott, where he was accused of harassing a feminist on Twitter. See the trial of Eron Gjoni. Not actually a campus issue, but the accusers in these cases are the exact same people causing the campus issues, just a few years older, all part of the same whole.

    So, beware, while they’re on campus they’ll try to use the administration instead of the law to get their way, but they won’t be on campus forever, and when they are jettisoned into the real world some of them at least WILL start to eye the court system as the next daddy figure to turn to whenever they have a problem.

  16. Lizzie says:

    “This magazine sucks.” And if you don’t agree with me, then you’re a rotten doody!

  17. Tod says:

    Oh man! (or women :) I don’t think I’ve ever read anything where the comment section was just as entertaining as the article itself. Good to see all those different opinions eloquently written. Almost answering the article like “you want different opinions?! Here ya go buddy!” Whether you agree or disagree with Shermer, the responses it generated is overall good cause it can open up a dialogue. I guess ? At least that’s what I learned in school… Is that right? Wait I’m wrong…. Meh whatever.

  18. Kent McManigal says:

    I enjoy being exposed to ideas, attitudes, and opinions I find repulsive. Countering them allows me to understand why they are (usually) wrong. And when they are right, it eventually causes me to adjust my own ideas. I’d rather be right than never change my mind. I can’t agree there is no right to falsely shout fire in a crowded theater, though.

  19. Eric says:

    Great article! Thanks Michael!

  20. Bob Carroll says:

    Great article. Spot on! It is hoped, though, that the vulgar thugs who demand to be protected from anything offensive are just the loudest voices on campus and are not representative of the rest of the students.

  21. Humanist3000 says:

    Most of our universities have been taken over by the left, which believes in political correctness. The left does not believe in the freedom of speech. Political correctness overshadows the truth and poisons everything. No discussion of Islam/Islamism is allowed without political correctness…etc.

  22. JerrySTL says:

    It all boils down to a power grab by some students and a few faculty. It’s going to be sad when these students get out into the ‘real’ world. Hopefully they got a marketable degree.

  23. Steve Funk says:

    Uh oh. Schumer said “faggot.” Burn him at the stake.

    • JC says:

      He’s just trying to get away with saying a hurtful word to draw attention to himself because he’s article is just a bunch of empty bullshit.

      This magazine sucks.

      • tpaine says:

        I thought he was being quite niggardly with his use of inflammatory nouns.

      • Lance says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I assumed the usage of the word “faggot” was used to refer to the “bundle of sticks” used to set fire to the stake someone was tied to.

  24. Daniel says:

    I’m sorry, but this article starts off with a false premise, and goes from there. That is, there is no evidence that college campuses were ever bastions of free speech and tolerance of diverse view points, and Shermer presents none except for a quote from Bill Maher. Professors and intellectuals that, say, supported the Vietnam War or might have opposed the Civil Rights Act were branded as Nazis and subjected to other forms of civil disobedience by the parents of these same students that Shermer now complains about. I imagine the young Republicans at Berkeley were just as reviled in the 60s and 70s as they are today. I know quite a few of these social justice warriors. In the words of that cheesy 80s anti-drug ad, “I learned it from watching you, dad!”

    But more to the point, what’s really going on here is that what you could loosely call “anti-racism” is deemed by the people Shermer is complaining about and their enablers to be as unquestionably true as, say, natural selection or the heliocentric model of the solar system. While Shermer is of the mind that even creationists should and can be engaged in a civilized and orderly debate, others, like Richard Dawkins believe that debating creationists gives them more credit than they’re entitled to. Both would agree, however, that a creationist should be denied tenure in a university’s biology department, or that a holocaust denier should be denied tenure in the history department. (I imagine Shermer might even agree that a biologist that is an outspoken holocaust denier should be denied tenure, but maybe I’m wrong on that one). Neither would be wrong to come to that conclusion, by the way, for the simple reason that creationism is not true and the holocaust really did happen. The fact that Dawkins doesn’t give them the time of day — which is really what the modern day college activists are, at bottom, doing to their perceived intellectual opponents, although they express it in a more infantile way — while Shermer is more willing to debate them, doesn’t make Shermer any more “tolerant” of their views than Dawkins is.

    Learned Hand said that the spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. You could say the same thing about real, actual tolerance.

  25. JC says:

    Use of the gay f-word was a lame baiting attempt to draw criticism and sound edgy. Stopped reading. Won’t share.

    • Churchyard says:

      A faggot is a bundle of sticks. That’s often what you would construct a pyre around. There are faggots on most U.S. government buildings and some of the money as well, as they were contextually a symbol of power particularly in the Roman Republic and Empire.

      If you think its “baiting” to use a word correctly, you’re kind of proving his point.

      • Bob says:

        They’re only faggots if your going to burn them. The symbols you are referring to are fascia. The collection of sticks is much stronger than any one stick, a symbol for the strength of the collective people.

      • Donnski says:

        Good one!

  26. ebohlman says:

    Terminological issue: what you describe as “culture of honor” is actually called “culture of dignity” which, in the developed West, largely succeeded the older culture of honor. In a culture of honor, individuals are expected to aggressively defend themselves against all insults and injuries without the help of formal authority. The society envisioned by ISIS/ISIL/Daesh would be an example of an honor culture.

    Your point otherwise stands: having moved from an honor culture to a dignity culture, we now seem to be creeping into a victimhood culture.

    On viewpoint diversity in academia, one roadblock is the presence of an anti-intellectual streak in much of American conservatism; Ronald Reagan himself once said that universities shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing intellectual curiousity. That’s naturally going to shift the balance of those who go into academia. It should also be noted that party ID isn’t really a good proxy for political orientation; there are plenty of right-of-center Democrats, especially outside big coastal cities, for example. Nonetheless, it’s something that needs to be overcome.

  27. Chuck johnson says:

    Spot on Michael! This is an excellent treatise on what freedom of speech is and why it is important. Very few, if any, countries have freedom of speech as it is practiced in the US. It is unfortunate that so many young people in particular don’t fully appreciate what we are guaranteed by our traditions and constitution.

  28. Alan in Washington DC says:

    Years ago, comic Henny Yougman had this joke:
    “Two psychologists pass each other in the hall. One says to the other, ‘Hello’, and the other says, ‘Hmm, I wonder what he meant by that…'”

    Once upon a time that was funny. Today, that second psychologist probably went to the University of California and would cry foul for the micro-aggression perceived against them.

    Good article.

  29. Jason Rabin says:

    The article makes some good points, but I don’t feel there are any real solutions here.

    If you’ve spoken with the type of person who advocates for “safe spaces”, rails against “microaggressions” and “privilege”, or who demands the suppression of speech he deems offensive, you’ll immediately see the problem.

    You can’t reason with them. No, really, you can’t, no matter how hard you try. People need to have a commonality of shared assumptions in order to discuss any topic rationally. Everyone needs to agree on certain foundational facts (this is a dog, this is a cat, this is a car…). You won’t find any such common ground with them.

    These people are reality benders. Their ideology is a funhouse mirror that distorts all the light coming in. Their subjective experience becomes their reality. If they feel that your speech is hateful, then it’s “hate speech” and they’ll feel entirely justified in doing whatever is necessary to shut it down, end of story.

    The nearest analogy I can think of is taking an atheist and having him try to convince a deeply religious person there is no God. I remember a Jamaican friend asked me if I believed in God. I said no. His response: who created the universe then?

    I wasn’t going to debate him. I’m not going to debate people who perceive all opposing viewpoints as attacks on their personal integrity. Doing so would be pointless. They’re on Mars, you’re on Venus. There is no point of intersection.

    • Ryan England says:

      Jason, you say, “People need to have a commonality of shared assumptions in order to discuss any topic rationally. Everyone needs to agree on certain foundational facts (this is a dog, this is a cat, this is a car…). You won’t find any such common ground with them.”

      This is an interesting point. Notice the various schools of “postmodernism” and literary criticism that have become so prevalent in recent decades. Some of which assert that there is no inherent meaning in text beyond the emotional reactions that they produce in their readers. Couple that with an ideological take on critical theory which views some or another “hegemonic system of oppression” to be all pervasive, including in the very structure of language and thought itself, and you’re left with a person for whom the very basic meaning of words will differ greatly from yours. Interaction with them will be impossible, as they’ve been so conditioned to see anything outside their pseudo-academic cocoon as being some oppressive juggernaut, out not only to oppress them, but to eradicate their very identities.

      Our academic institutions have failed. And this failure is deep and systemic. I doubt academia can be reformed from within now. Some kind of investigation and intervention on the federal level is needed, I suspect.

  30. Janice Muir says:

    Reasoned and articulate – sanity for an insane morning. Will share this with my daughter.

  31. Mr. Rothach says:

    Another thing to be added to the solutions list is an extra course students need to take (which grade level I’m not sure would be best): Social Skills. Plain old civility and proper decorum. This would solve the microaggression problem, in my opinion. Students are taught how to use computers, bake cakes and whatnot-but are they taught how to be human in all this? That has not been my experience with the educational system, which is entirely focused on getting marketable skills and passing grades so one can get a high-paying job to pay off one’s crippling student loan debt.

  32. Bry Hitchcock says:

    As you mentioned, there are some legitimate needs on the left that get clouded in the outrage and victim culture. One of those legit needs is for respect or at least equality for people who do not fit the “acceptable” gender norms of society.

  33. Frank Stagg says:

    Robot rights? I guess you racked your brain to come up all the rights anyone could think of with the glaring exception of fetal rights.
    How ironic Mr Shermer that, in an article calling for more viewpoint diversity, you neglected one of the main fault lines in American political life today, that is Choice vs Pro Choice.
    Who on campus today speaks for the rights of the unborn? I guess for the Left the idea of granting rights to a robot is lest distasteful than granting rights to a fetus.

    Furthermore, I would maintain that the rights of the Left and far Left are heavily supported and even subsidized by the vast majority of the media and academia. The “old boy network” works as well today for the Left as it did in the past for the establishment.
    Your statement “Second, free speech does not mean that the government, public institutions, or private persons, businesses, or publications are required to promote or publish the opinions of others.” belies the fact that in the case of Left wing causes promotion is the rule rather than the exception.
    You and your fans will point to FOX News and talk radio but these outlets are reactions to the last 50 years of Left wing indoctrination and propaganda.

    • Brett says:

      Right to personal autonomy supersedes the right of any other living being to life.

      That’s the reason you have to check the box “organ donor”. Just because someone else will die without your kidney, doesn’t give them the right to take your kidney without your approval.

      Even if you’re dead.

      The dead have rights to how their body is used. Why shouldn’t women?

  34. Pete Burkard says:

    Ricardo Almeida is exactly right. Those who have a problem with Shermer’s acceptance of the scientific consensus on climate change would be analogous to rejecting a diagnosis by the most learned doctors in a given field in favor of some hear-say on the street that you’d be better off going to a clinic in Mexico. The scientific method is the best thing ever developed by human beings to get at the truth. Rejecting it is not skepticism but foolish and dangerous cynicism, often with a hidden selfish agenda behind it.

    • Justin Burch says:

      Those who suggest that truth in science is determined by a consensus of experts (in the case of climate change self appointed experts) know absolutely nothing about the history of science or the scientific method and should probably just shut up and stop looking ignorant.

    • Gordon Trenchard says:

      “scientific consensus” is an oxymoron, and anti-science.

  35. Justin Burch says:

    Excellent article however you have missed one critical point. I have yet to meet any actively functioning leftist activist group that does not have a lot of strength of leadership and provision of resources that can not be traced back to Islamic supremacists and extremists. For example, in our city Saturdays are protest days and the guy who organizes the protests and has the van that carries all the signs is a proPalestinian activist who supports every lunatic fringe leftist group demonstration and they, in return, always turn out for his antiIsrael demonstrations. Similarly, the most vehement of the leftist crowd always has a substantial antiIsrael component. In the pictures of the violent Trump protesters there is always a Palestinian flag or two. The riots in Ferguson were initially organized by a Muslim extremist group claiming that Brown was a “shahid” and the only building firebombed outside of the central part of town was the church of the pastor who publicly claimed the “shahid” title was wrong and that Brown was a Christian. There is a huge amount of money being poured into the campuses of the USA by Wahabbist extremists for the pursuit of “activism”. And what is that activism always aimed at? Silencing disagreement, demonizing Israel and Jews, subverting free speech and justifying inappropriate often violent reactions to anything the individual deems offensive, and the destruction of democracy and the protection of women against male aggression. This fits very nicely into the oppressive world vision of Islamic supremacism where apostasy is met with violence and death, and women must be segregated and separated for their own protection against the male sexual aggression they provoke. Until we look squarely at all this activist funding from Wahabism streams in our society and its effect in our universities, we can’t understand what is going on.

    • Dan Lynch says:

      Interesting screed. All that’s missing is evidence. And you know what they (we) say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

  36. Jesus says:

    I am totally in favor of the Prof Melissa Click and stopping the CNN student reporter because his information was going to be used by the Corporate media to attack the student movement. An example Chris Cuomo (CNN) reporting from Cuba said the the cuban newspaper Grand Ma, means grass (grama in spanish) was a grass root newspaper. No Grand Ma was the name of the boat the cuban revolutionaries went from Mexico to Cuba. This type of ignorance is what is put out there by this Corporate press (CNN). That’s why it was a defense mechanism of the protesters against the desinforming press. Give Prof. Melissa Click her job back.

    • Frank Stagg says:

      Wow Jesus, did you miss the point! I’d say clueless is an understatement. Good luck for the upcoming Easter.

    • Buddha says:

      Now I’ve heard everything…….Jesus is advocating violence against innocents.
      Why don’t you just tell the truth, and instead of saying “I am totally in favor of stopping the student reporter”, just come out and say “I am totally in favor of using violence to remove the student reporter.”
      It’s perfectly OK to disagree with people’s positions, but violent people like you and Melissa Click have no place in our civilized society. Violence/force/coercion are the opposite of freedom.
      Check out the comments section in this ridiculous attempt by Click to deflect blame for her wrongdoing…….and you’ll see the 99% of the liberal WP readers also disagree with her.

  37. Pim says:

    Thank you Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurter Schule.

    When you understand Marxism is a religion and these students are holders of Marxian ideas (through the medium of critical theory as developed by Gramsci and the Frankfurter Schule) than you will understand their zealous behaviour.

    • James Avo says:


      The actions of these students have nothing to do with Marxism. I’d be hard-pressed to find anything from any of Marx’s writings (or Engels’, Lenin’s, or Trotsky’s writings) which in anyway relates to supporting what is being described in this article.

  38. JDAG says:

    Mr Shermer, you are bang on with this one. I don’t agree with every single point, however, I appreciate the tone of the article, and I do understand your stance.

    I’d like to address this to skeptonomist: Assuming that a speaker is paid by the university and the lecture is relevant to its courses and/or current affairs, I believe the university administration should choose the speaker. Students who disagree with the speaker’s philisophy/view point/agenda/position can choose not to attend. I find it highly ironic that students (or anyone, for that matter) who find another person’s viewpoint objectionable, would then attempt to impose their viewpoint on others.

    Get a grip, people. Real life is nothing like kindergarten.

  39. Mike Lloret says:

    Thank you for the excellent article.

    I would like to point out that your statement “…the elimination of the death penalty in all modern democracies save America…” is accurate only if you consider Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea to not be “modern democracies”. They have and continue to use the death penalty, except for South Korea which currently has a moratorium (I believe their last execution was in 1997): Japan executed 3 in 2015, Singapore executed 2 in 2014, and Taiwan 6 in 2015.

    If your definition of “modern democracies” doesn’t include these countries, though, then you seem to be correct about death penalty elimination.

  40. lun says:

    Not really sure what this has to do with skepticism, but in any case, one should apply skepticism to a lot of what Michael Shermer says here.

    First of all, a lot of the anecdotal episodes he recounts are based on tabloid retelling. One can see a much more equilibrated article on these issues, of all places, on a humor site:
    I cite from the article:
    Here, I’ll do one for you: You know how college students these days keep kicking speakers off their campus if they don’t agree with them? Even Obama thinks that’s a bad idea! Turns out that if you go and read what the students actually say, in a lot of cases they aren’t trying to kick the speakers out — they’re just protesting (challenging an idea directly — the exact thing we want them to do) and the speakers are choosing to leave (refusing to engage with people who disagree with them, the exact thing we’re criticizing the students for doing). So wait — is the point of this controversy to tell college students they can’t voice their disagreements and that they have to keep their opinions to themselves? Sorry — who’s the enemy of free speech, again?
    (A much more “academic” argument, but with basically the same points, can be found here
    : )
    Secondly, censoriousness is a lot stronger on the political right, and it has always been. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was facing student protests.
    Steven Salaita was FIRED because some pro-Israel students found his tweets offensive. And he doesen’t even get mentioned in articles like this, perhaps because the authors agree a lot more with Hirsi Ali then Salaita.

    Same story for Helen Thomas, who was again repeatedly disinvited and also denied career awards (after a career much more illustrious than Hirsi Ali), because she said something un-PC. Going back in time, no one mentioned freedom of expression during the “roosting chickens” crusade against Ward Churchill (yes, at the end they found some misconduct. Does anyone believe he would have been investigated if he wasn’t saying offensive things?).
    Or, a few years earlies, for the Smithsonian’s closure of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s exhibition because concentrating on the victims was “offensive” to average Americans?
    If students from marginalized groups today can occasionally be censorious its because they, once they get an ounce of power, are copying the aggressive censoriousness the American establishment used on them for decades.

    In reality, most of what Shermer protests here are _exercises_ in free speech which an intolerant national press and academic administrators want to curtail.
    Its his right to write it of course, but please dont insult our intelligence by saying this has anything to do with skepticisim and reason.

    • Billy Collins says:

      You are looking at incidents abstracted from the surrounding climate. One thing you are missing is that right wing speakers are barely ever invited to speak in the first place, which you have to take in to account when addressing dis-invitation or disruptions from speaking.

  41. skeptonomist says:

    If students are in charge of inviting commencement speakers, then for a minority to try to rescind the invitation afterwards is wrong. But in many cases the choices are made by the administration. Probably the thing to do is be sure that the process of invitation is open, so that disagreements can be hashed out beforehand.

    Trying to insure that politics on campus mirrors that in the outer world is not a good idea. The fact is that highly educated people who are devoted to the pursuit or knowledge or teaching have very different political ideas than business people or politicians themselves – they are more liberal in the sense of “progressive and open-minded” as my dictionary defines the word. Young people are normally more idealistic and usually progressive than older ones. There are some departments which do try to maintain what amounts to political conformity – and not just leftist – but this rarely applies to an entire university. The most extreme cases of political bias are probably religious institutions.

    • BERNIE1815 says:

      Oh my! You have, presumably and likely unwittingly, proved the author’s point. Academia desperately needs an infusion of those with different viewpoints.

  42. MeowCat says:

    A significant factor here is that a mob mentality swept over a crowd and then was taken up like a banner by Melissa Click. A couple ignorant students who put a perceived personal injustice over the 1st amendment and human rights. The reporter did nothing wrong and was not infringing on anyone’s space or rights. Based on the one video I watched he did a wonderful job standing his ground until he was physically bullied. I hope someone was on hand to process with these students what they did. It should be mandatory that they talk with a knowledgeable professional about these issues. It could be an educational opportunity for them. Melissa Click, on the other hand, should have known better and I agree she should have been fired.

  43. Randy Weiss says:

    The final quote, the dialogue between More and Roper from “A Man For All Seasons” is the perfect rebuke to Trump & Cruz’s rhetoric about abridging the rights of Muslims (not to mention US laws) in their current response to the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.

  44. T Maz says:

    “As often happens in moral movements, a reasonable idea with some evidentiary backing gets carried to extremes by engaged moralists eager for attention, sympathy, and the social standing that being a victim or victim shamer can bring. ”

    The lack of self-awareness is stunninig. This is precisely Shermer’s position vis-a-vis global warming. He runs with the crowd rather than providing a skeptical viewpoint, closely questioning the ‘faith.’

    • Leo says:

      Could’nt agree more! Might global warming be man made (full – half – few %) or not – to belive because everyone (who counts) says so is a weak argument.
      Nevertheless, “infantilizing students instead of preparing them for the real world” is not the issue – they already come infantilized and deny any confrontation with anything not cosy – and, after all, isn’t everyone entitled to get everything for free? Including respect, standing, recognition, etc.?

    • Ricardo Almeida says:

      1) That Mr. Shermer sides with the scientific evidence on global warming is not “running with the crowd”, but a rational stance based on facts.

      2) You confuse skeptical with cynical. The skeptic will evaluate evidence, make conclusions based on such evidence wherever it leads even if it disproves a previous belief. The cynic will stand by his position and not be moved by any new evidence, no matter how damaging to his position. This happens a a lot with most science denier movements (flat-earthers, Inteligent Design proponents, anti-vaxers, etc.)

    • kamwick says:

      Perhaps that’s because he is relying on science, rather than faith.

    • Daniel A. Gautreau says:

      Shermer prefers to accept the conclusions of the (fairly small) crowd of scientific researchers who are qualified to evaluate assertions about climate science rather than be among the much larger crowd of unqualified self-styled “skeptics”, whose essential claim is that climate scientists are incompetent, fraudulent, or deeply divided or undecided,or all of these. To say that he “runs with the crowd” is equal to calling him a witless conformist. Personal insults toward someone who disagrees with you on a non-personal matter is unacceptable in this forum.

  45. Larry Nocella says:

    Good stuff as always, Mr. Shermer. I just heard your interview on the Joe Rogan podcast. Very much enjoyed it. Keep up the good work and all the best.

  46. Bill Morgan says:

    On your bar chart on lower right, it is Democrat not Democratic!

    • Al says:

      You’ve apparently been watching Fox News too long.

    • Steve Funk says:

      Why are Republicans entitled to the adjectivial form but not Democraticans? You sound like GW Bush, possibly our worst president.

    • Rodney Kirby says:

      Sound like a lot of kids with too much time to fill. Maybe they would be better occupied with what they are there for. Learning! For a start, try teaching WORLD

    • Rodney Kirby says:

      Sound like a lot of kids with too much time to fill. Maybe they would be better occupied with what they are there for. Learning! For a start, try teaching WORLD history instead of just American history. They may just learn a few lessons from the past instead of growing up so ignorant of the real world

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