The rudest response to my ACORN post on the Yale listserv didn't bother me as much a private* email from another alum who I'll call "Healthy Discussion." Here's the body of her email in full:
"Your [listserv] email does not provide much room for debate or healthy discussion, and therefore I do not see the merit of your posting on this listserve,The central problem with this email lies in the word "offend." Humor columnist Dave Barry explains what I mean in a video made by the folks at FIRE. He begins (at 1:55) with this observation:
unless your purpose is to offend those who may disagree with you."
the one place where you'd think free thought and free speech and conflict of ideas would be most encouraged [, the University,] has somehow become the most restricted and constricted and most intellectually constipated area of American life.Then (at 2:32) he performs a wonderful riff on the O-word:
Any time anyone says that he or she is offended by anything, that's all you have to say--that's the magic word--"I'm offended"--and everybody just backs down and says "Oh my god, we don't want to offend anybody." . . . At some point the right to voice your opinion got trumped, at least in the universities, by the right not to be offended . . . Which makes a complete joke out of the concept of intellectual diversity and intellectual freedom.Here's the thing about important and difficult topics: you can arrive at a healthy discussion from almost any starting point. But you can't have a healthy discussion if the fear of even mildly offending anyone stifles the discussion before it starts.
TOMORROW: ACORN, Yale and the double standard on free speech
*It was not part of the public listserv conversation.