Everything Old Is New Again

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The latest comes from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, via Ann Althouse. Home to 9/11 conspiracy theorist and all-around punching bag Kevin Barrett. This will look great on the armbands.

Here's an opinion piece in the Badger Herald by Robert Phansalkar, a UW student (majoring in political science and languages and cultures of Asia):

The [“Think. Respect.”] program calls for university students to search for forms of discrimination and harassment on campus, and when present, to download a “bias incident report form” to be submitted to the Student Advocacy and Judicial Affairs unit of the Dean of Students for a potential investigation. Implicit in this reporting scheme is that students who harass will be punished or reprimanded in some way….

Ironically enough, the university’s protection of students against bias includes political affiliation…

Here's a letter in response to that article by UW polisci prof Donald Downs (who wrote this book about campus speech codes):

It was good to finally see that a student journalist has grasped the fact that the program, as presently conceived, poses a threat to honest discourse and privacy on campus. The program encourages campus citizens to report not only acts of harassment or discrimination that constitute official misconduct, but all forms of “bias,” verbal and non-verbal, without that term being defined in a manner that is consistent with First Amendment principles. In other words, the present policy amounts to a speech code, as it encourages people to file reports on other people’s attitudes and speech that informants deem insufficiently sensitive.

We've come back around to a very old idea. Oh, I know you think we're going for a Godwin's Law violation here, but it wasn't new then, either. It was already ancient back in the good old days of the Spanish Inquisition.

When the Inquisition arrived in a city, the first step was the Edict of Grace. Following the Sunday mass, the Inquisitor would proceed to read the edict: it explained possible heresies and encouraged all the congregation to come to the tribunals of the Inquisition to "relieve their consciences". They were called Edicts of Grace because all of the self-incriminated who presented themselves within a period of grace (approximately one month) were offered the possibility of reconciliation with the Church without severe punishment. The promise of benevolence was effective, and many voluntarily presented themselves to the Inquisition. But self-incrimination was not sufficient, one also had to accuse all one's accomplices. As a result, the Inquisition had an unending supply of informants. With time, the Edicts of Grace were substituted by the Edicts of Faith doing away with the possibility of quick, painless reconciliation.

The idea wasn't new even then. Romans used it.

The frumentarii were the secret service of the Roman Empire. It had been long-standing policy of the Roman legions and armies of occupation to utilize informers and spies….

We have a junior jackboot brigade at Columbia and the secret police coming to Madison.

It will look great on the armbands.

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4 Responses to Everything Old Is New Again

  1. “The [“Think. Respect.”] program calls for university students to search for forms of discrimination and harassment on campus, and when present, to download a “bias incident report form” to be submitted to the Student Advocacy and Judicial Affairs unit of the Dean of Students for a potential investigation.”

    Sounds like the Hitler Youth, Version 2.0. But hey, at least they’re making the most of new technology?

  2. Black Jack says:

    Not so long ago there was near universal support for the proposition that: While I don’t agree with your opinions, and may find them objectionable or even repulsive, I will defend your absolute right to express those opinions

    My, how things have changed over the last 25 years, and not for the better.

  3. Pingback: Blue Crab Boulevard » Blog Archive » The Sounds Of Silencing

  4. Pingback: Blue Crab Boulevard » Blog Archive » Informer Nation

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