This happened because of me apparently.
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I don’t think the post you replied to was a troll. Although most of it takes the form of hyperbolic rhetoric I still got the feeling that the emotion behind it was real. In fact, having seen some of Brendan in YT debates I think it’s in the vein of most of his work — designed to spark emotion, certainly, but also to prompt open discourse.

For the record, I disagreed with most of his statements and I appreciate that you took the effort to go line by line in your response. You have a nifty turn of phrase too. Me like!

However, I do feel that many of your rebuttals jumped to extreme examples and failed to address the more grounded aspects of his points, particularly around the issues of free speech on campus and language policing. You would argue that campuses are currently a place for the robust exchange of free ideas and that only hate groups are being banned? I wish that were the case. I think the reality is rather different.

What is happening now in the US is akin to what happened when the UK campuses of the late 1970’s veered towards anarchy and the student bodies began de-platforming, disinviting and shouting down speakers who were not hardcore lefties.

Left unchecked, this sort of behaviour leads to a poisonous social dynamic on campus. We’ve seen students getting their professors sacked for suggesting (in the gentlest possible terms) that Halloween is a bit of harmless fun and that maybe fretting about cultural appropriation isn’t the healthiest course of action on a day built around celebrating taboos. Steven Pinker is doing some good work in spotlighting these issues and I would urge anyone with an inquiring mind to check out his YT videos.

On the issue of language policing I wold point to the worrying trend towards compelled speech being enshrined into law, as it has been recently in Canada. Which means not merely having words that you can’t say, but having the law force you to address someone in a manner of their choosing. Penalties for failing to do so include fines or, in extreme cases, jail.

As a lover of language, this legislation is deeply troubling to me as it makes our speech far less functional, hands power to narcissists-in-waiting and makes the social negotiation of everyday life a potential minefield to the detriment of ALL parties involved.

I hope this doesn’t come off as too ranty as I would say that you made a fair and well-intentioned attempt to address Brendan’s points. I feel like you did a good job of sticking to the facts in most cases. But in others I think you kinda validated his endpoint by taking the strawman version of his argument and dancing with that instead of being substantive.

I think that approach is part of the reason why we are where we are.

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