Sunday, December 10, 2023

Double Standards

New York Times opinion writer Bret Stephens has some good thoughts about the House testimony of the three Ivy college presidents on pro-Hamas demonstrations on their campuses. 

[T]he deep problem with their testimonies was not fundamentally about calls for genocide or free speech. It was about double standards — itself a form of antisemitism, but one that can be harder to detect.

The double standard is this: Colleges and universities that for years have been notably censorious when it comes to free speech seem to have suddenly discovered its virtues only now, when the speech in question tends to be especially hurtful to Jews.

The point came across at different moments in the hearing. Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican, observed that Carole Hooven, an evolutionary biologist, had been hounded out of Harvard (though not fired outright) for her views on sex categories. “In what world,” Walberg asked, “is a call for violence against Jews protected speech but a belief that sex is biological and binary isn’t?”

[Gay, Kornbluth and Magill] must decide: If they are seriously committed to free speech — as I believe they should be — then that has to go for all controversial views, including when it comes to incendiary issues about race and gender, as well as when it comes to hiring or recruiting an ideologically diverse faculty and student body. If, on the other hand, they want to continue to forbid and punish speech they find offensive, then the rule must apply for all offensive speech, including calls to wipe out Israel or support homicidal resistance.

I’ve cited just the nugget of the argument. Stephens has further examples of double standards and a clear statement of how they’ve been doing it wrong for decades and need to change.  

This is no new complaint. A standing joke among conservatives is that if progressives didn’t have double standards, they’d have no standards at all.