I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the podcast Cancelled, hosted by Rob Rosen and Desma Simon. My segment was about 30 minutes long, and we covered not only my situation at Cornell Law School, but also developments more broadly in higher education.

The photo of me sent to me by Rob makes my face seem bloated, while he and Desma look sharp. Thanks Rob! I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.

The podcast focuses on cancel culture and free speech. You could say I’ve been cancelled, and I considered that for the title of this post, but people might misinterpret such a headline.

Have I been cancelled, or just attempted cancelled? I guess it depends on what you consider to be the essence of cancel culture — is it the process that is the punishment, or only the result?

You can listen to the podcast at the embed below (or the link above). Scroll forward to minute 32 for the start of my segment.

Here are some excerpts (mostly auto-transcript, might be some transcription errors):

WAJ: I think there’s no question that that is one of the things that has contributed to this, that there is a concept out there, which has developed over time, that if your words make me uncomfortable, therefore that is something I have a right to stop. I have a right to be free from that discomfort. There are people who use the term that your words actually are violent. Your words are causing physical harm to people. Uh, and I faced this because I gave a speech several years ago, 2017 at Vassar college. And it was after Charlottesville. And I felt it was very important to explain why even what is commonly called hate speech is both constitutionally protected and is better dealt with by more speech than shutting people down. And the reaction to my appearing at Vassar was an attempt to stop my appearance, um, that that was considered a, to pose a physical threat to people on campus that I would want to talk about constitutional protections for what some people call hate speech.

* * *

Q. So two questions for you, one, why do you think people are afraid of open and honest dialogue? Because I mean, clearly it’s not, it’s not something that’s practice anymore, and I’m curious to know your opinion on it. Why are people afraid to have a face to face conversation about topics that they may not see the same see eye to eye on?

WAJ: Well, I don’t know. I, it’s very strange to me, particularly at a law school where we’re taught about the adversarial system in court and that the way you reach a higher truth or a better truth, or maybe the truth, whatever that is, is by two sides, arguing it out and taking opposing views and the judge or the jury hearing those opposing views gets to reach it. So I think it gets back to the why they won’t do it. And I can only speculate. I mean, they they’d have to tell you, I think the why is that they are not used to people on a college campus are not used to having their views, challenged….

Q. Gotcha. And then the other question I had is, you mentioned that some of the complaints that you got was the timing that you wrote  these posts. And, and I am curious to know, you know, because I mean, these are very sensitive subject matters, you know, especially to George Floyd murder, but I’m curious to know why, why did you write these so soon? I mean, did you, why?

WAJ: I think it was all over the news and it was something I was familiar with and I’ve written about controversial things in the past. You know, we’re a website that deals with what is happening now, and that was happening now. And I did write about the George Floyd killing and, nobody’s complaining about what I wrote about that….Nobody’s criticized me for that. And that’s the same approach we’ve taken. We have covered self-defense shooting cases dozens of times over the years, and sometimes we’ve come out and we do not believe there was an excess excessive use of force. And other times we’ve taken the other view. We go based on the evidence,

* * *

Q. So last question, give us some hope, what can happen? What can we do? Is there any reason to be optimistic that once again, debate, free speech, free exchange of ideas will become something that’s valued again, in the society and on campus?

WAJ: I consider myself a hopeful person. I don’t like false hope. I think the situation is extremely bad right now. I think that it has been getting worse over the years. I think there is a backlash building, but it is a repressive environment on many college campuses. And I think it has gotten worse in the last three months.

Q. So, real quick, one last question for me. What would you say to all of those people, the faculty that signed the letter against you, the students, all of that, what would you say to them? Knowing that they attempted to get you fired.

WAJ: I’d say to them that you tried to hurt me, but you ended up hurting the law school and you ended up hurting the students and that you’ve done serious damage to the institution and that you need to reflect on your own values and your unwillingness to engage with people.

For my next appearance, I will be appearing on the podcast “Burned at the Stake.”

 

 
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