So here’s what I’m proposing. We create a data base of anyone who’s participated in a deplatforming. Anyone who’s signed a deplatforming petition. Anyone who’s publicly lobbied for such a deplatforming. Any administrator who’s caved to any such deplatforming campaign. Anyone involved in disciplinary action – even action that’s designed only to produce a chill – that’s a blind for a violation of academic freedom. Let’s call it the Retaliatory Deplatforming Registry.
A notice that one’s been named should be sent to the miscreant, in case she’s been wrongly identified. And that one’s name has been entered into the data base should be publicly accessible.
What does it mean to be so named? Censure. Censure by whom? By anyone who’s decided to fight fire with fire. If you’re involved in any kind of vetting – hiring, publications, conferences, even just polite society – disqualify her. There’s no need to tell her why her application has been rejected. In very short order she and her fellow travellers will have figured it out. But she can never be sure. And even if she thinks she is – even if her being disqualified is actionable – she can never prove it.
No doubt she and her fellow travellers will attempt to retaliate in kind. They’ll make a list of those they suspect of consulting our list, but they’ll have no way of confirming who to put on it.
In time – and it won’t take much of it – the academic world will be divided into three distinct camps: the original deplatformers, the retaliatory deplatformers, and those who’ve wisely decided to stay above the fray. And my suspicion is that, in time – and it won’t take much of it – there’ll be such powerful natural selection to stay above the fray that the first camp will wither away, and so the second can along with it.
Are there enough of us who’ve been keeping our heads down but who’d welcome a way to push back, provided, that is, and as indicated above, it’s at no risk to ourselves? Enough of us to make this work? All indications are that there are. But if not, there’s been nothing irretrievably ventured.
If the strategic question is settled, what remains is the moral one. Here we face a choice point, for which I need some input from my fellow travellers. If it’s wrong to deplatform, is it wrong to deplatform the deplatformer? Can two wrongs make a right? I’m inclined to say they can. But as a Hobbesian, I suffer from borderline psychopathy. So I should – and so I do – defer to my moral betters, from whom I anxiously await their timely advice.
Categories: Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots
As far as I can tell, there is no defamation in drawing up such a list. The list is simply a statement of publicly accessible matters of fact organised in a database. A virtual wall of names. That’s it. Since all on the list have publicly deplatformed, it seems they shouldn’t mind being on such a list.
If a deplatformer has already been passed over for a hire, a promotion, a conference. A dinner party. She might wonder if she’s already on SOMEBODY’s list. But how would she know?
Anyway. I’m looking for counter-arguments to Paul’s suggestions. Let’s try the following.
As Paul notes, there’s no way of confirming the retaliatory list has anything to do with negative social/career consequences a deplatformer might suffer. However, in some cases, being so-listed might boost the deplatformer’s social/career options. And she might be told that being listed has won the admiration of a peer or employer. But I don’t think that some might benefit from being listed is much of an argument against making the retaliatory list.
Another consideration. Retaliatory deplatforming might strengthen the resolve of some deplatformers. A deplatformer might take negative social/career consequences as part and parcel with doing what’s right in fighting the new Satan, believing the forces of darkness will always bear on the righteous. Namely her. But again, I don’t think that some might become more radicalized deplatformers is much of an argument against making the retaliatory list.
I do think that the moral outrage required for serial deplatforming is exhausting. And people have to have lunch. Some deplatformers might be relieved to find some justification, i.e. the list, for leaving their outrage behind. Some might become sensible social justice advocates, some might grow up, some might find job hunting too exhausting to care about deplatforming. But how would we know?
I guess it couldn’t hoit (to use a Paul Yiddishism) to give it a try.
Addendum, the name of the deplatformer is to be followed by the speaker(s) she deplatformed. A name alone won’t do. Nor will hearsay. Hence the list is a simple factual report. Jane Smith; controversial speaker at ATU (Ahmtellingon U …University), March5, 2020.