Repressive Tolerance: “Once they get you to change your language, you have now complied with their ideology”
My interview on Fox News Digital about word policing: “It’s just a way of imposing their political viewpoint on everybody… It is simply a power play.”
I was interviewed by Fox News Digital on the issue of speech policing, and the implications for society.
Here are excerpts from the article, Colleges only getting worse by ‘manifesting authoritarianism’ with ‘word policing’, professor warns:
Cornell Law Professor William A. Jacobson warned that colleges and universities are “manifesting authoritarianism” by removing “problematic” words and firing staff that don’t abide by left-wing ideologies.
Jacobson said he believes the increase in stories about word-banning on college campuses is a manifestation of what is referred to as “repressive tolerance,” wherein tolerance serves to preserve a repressive society by neutralizing opposition to impose forms of authoritarianism.
“They monitor your language, they get you to use language that only they approve, and once you’ve done that with somebody, once you’ve done that with a campus, that’s enormous control,” he told Fox News Digital.
There are numerous examples of colleges attempting to change the language of faculty and students, according to Jacobson. He pointed to the implementation of author Ibram Kendi’s antiracism agenda in staff training sessions as one of the more recent examples.
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Jacobson said the removal of the words “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” from the college curriculum and its perceived negative connotations among faculty and students is a perfect example of how university debates have been skewed and truncated.
He said that administrators and faculty who advocate for open borders do not want the words “illegal” or “illegality” applied to people who illegally cross the border.
Jacobson also claimed that the people engaged in word banning on campuses come almost entirely from the left, utilizing speech control as a “power play.”
“They don’t really care about the origins of these words. They don’t really care about the history. It’s just a way of imposing their political viewpoint on everybody,” he said.
Numerous other stories of word-banning at colleges have cropped up over the last several months, which Jacobson predicted was a sign that things on college campuses are “only going to get worse.”
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While he noted that a confluence of factors has impeded the free flow of ideas at colleges, Jacobson pointed to the introduction of “microaggressions” as the most negative concept in the last decade.
A microaggression is a term for when verbal, behavioral or environmental “slights,” whether intentional or not, communicate hostile or negative attitudes towards “stigmatized” and “culturally marginalized groups.”
“It turned everybody into a potential victim. Everybody’s potentially offended regardless of the speaker’s intention,” he said.
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“There are very real-world consequences,” Jacobson said. “And it only takes one professor being disciplined or fired, or one student expelled to scare thousands of students, or hundreds of faculties. It creates a very chilling effect.”
Here’s the video interview, which was edited down from a longer interview:
Video Transcript (auto transcribed, may contain transcription errors):
I think this is a manifestation of what is referred to as “repressive tolerance,” where in the name of tolerance, they actually use it to assert authority and control over people. They monitor your language, they get you to use language that only they approve. And once you’ve done that with somebody, once you’ve done that with a campus that’s enormous control, who gets to decide what words are offensive, who gets to decide what is hate speech? And in each of these cases that have been covered in the news in the last multiple years, you see that there is a particular political viewpoint attached to them. Once they get you to change your language, you have now bought into, you have now complied with their ideology.
You never know what word that’s commonly used. Completely uncontroversial is all of the sudden going to get you in trouble. Is all of the sudden going to get you called a bigot or a racist? Even though three days ago that word was perfectly normal.
This is not the Soviet Union where you rat out your neighbor because they committed some offense. If administrators were to send that message, I think a lot of that would stop. Unfortunately, administrators tend to send the opposite message, which is that monitoring your classmates’ speech is an appropriate thing.
I think that the argument that just because you’re not going to jail or you’re not being fired or you’re not being kicked out of school because you said a word that six months ago was considered completely normal and now is not. I think that’s a dodge. I think that’s evading the issue. We’re talking about a campus culture here and we’re talking about a culture which only tolerates, for the most part, left wing political viewpoints and the policing of words is part of that repressive culture. So it it feeds off each other.
There are instances where people are brought up, complaints are made to bias response teams, so uttering these words can have very serious consequences, particularly for students, but also for faculty. There are many examples in the past few years made even worse after the death of George Floyd, where faculty have been attacked, where faculty have been threatened with termination or where faculty have been terminated. And it only takes one professor being disciplined or fired, or one student being brought up on charges to scare thousands of students who are hundreds of faculty.
I don’t think that any of these instances reflect a true concern about the origin of a word or a true concern that the word itself is racist in some way. It is simply a power play.
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