Short Take: Disingenuous Speech About Disingenuous Speech

The word disingenuous gives a gloss of intellectualism to what is referred to using a more vulgar word by those of us who aren’t members of the intellectual class. Bullshit.

As members of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, we — the presidents of colleges and universities throughout this community, and supporters — feel it is important to speak out and make a distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech. We further attest that hate speech has no place at our colleges and universities. Inappropriate messages, such as banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility, are not welcome or accepted.

Aside from his redundancy issues, Northwest Vista College president Ric Baser‘s op-ed is, of course, bullshit. And this isn’t just Baser, but a position endorsed by some serious folks.

Dr. Ric N. Baser, President
Higher Education Council of San Antonio
Northwest Vista College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Bruce Leslie, Chancellor
Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Veronica R. Garcia, President
Northeast Lakeview College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Scott Woodward
VP for Academic Affairs and Dean
Oblate School of Theology

Dr. Diane Melby, President
Our Lady of the Lake University

Dr. Mike Flores, President
Palo Alto College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Robert Vela, President
San Antonio College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Adena Loston, President
St. Philip’s College – Alamo Colleges District

Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, President
Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Dr. Taylor Eighmy, President
University of Texas at San Antonio

Dr. Jim Antenen, Executive Director/Dean
Wayland Baptist University – San Antonio

Marise McDermott, President and CEO
Witte Museum

Dr. Danny Anderson, President
Trinity University

[San Antonio] Mayor Ron Nirenberg

It would be one thing to say that they are against “hate speech,” whatever that means. Who isn’t against hate speech, given that it’s a phrase calculated to convey a negative without conveying any actual meaning. There is language I find offensive, that I refuse to use (and refuse to let anyone else use here, for example, because I can). But these are the words I deem to be hate speech, and while I am the dictator of SJ, my idea of what’s too awful to allow is mine alone. I can’t stop you from using those words anywhere but here.

The difference is that these folks are trying to impose their sensibilities on others by wrapping them up in the pretty pink ribbon of disingenuousness. Hate speech is unwelcome? Fair enough. Nobody has to embrace language or ideas they find offensive. I don’t. You don’t. They shouldn’t have to either.

But to claim there is “a distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech” is to be disingenuous. It’s bullshit. It’s not the law, it’s not rational, it’s not true. And when academics spew nonsense designed to undermine thought, even en banc, it shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Teaching, research and critical thinking are the founding pillars of higher education. Each and every day, we witness incredible learning opportunities for our students, faculty, staff and community members.

This is certainly true, and it’s for that reason Baser’s warm and fuzzy, and facially false, words need to be subject to critical scrutiny using the language most appropriately non-disingenuous as possible. Baser is full of shit.

H/T Turley

21 thoughts on “Short Take: Disingenuous Speech About Disingenuous Speech

  1. Jeff Gamso

    It is bullshit, certainly. But largely, I think, not because the content is so dangerous but because it’s almost entirely content-free.

    So there’s a “distinction between diversity of thought and disingenuous misrepresentation of free speech.” Sure there is. Whatever the latter means (and is there any “misrepresentation of free speech” that isn’t “disingenuous”?) , it’s certainly something distinct from the former. Not apples and oranges but apples and coffee pots; they’re not even in the same category.

    And whatever might be “hate speech” or “inappropriate messages” won’t be welcome or accepted? Which means what, exactly? They’ll be denounced? ignored? given a stern talking to? responded to with powerful arguments? reeducation camps and eleven-point programs? Or, of course, excluded and anyone who says them either banished or, perhaps, beaten mercilessly and then burned at the stake of higher values? Damned if I know.

    On the other hand, in it’s vacuousness, it suggests a tolerance for the worst responses to whatever. Because it’s so damned important to hate anyone who hates or says hateful things.

    Bullshit indeed! Sigh.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re probably the right guy to ask about this, given your experience in the Academy. Does he believe this or is he just being disingenuous? And if he believes this, how did he end up being a college president? Inquiring minds don’t get it.

    2. David Meyer Lindenberg

      Another fine example of the genre I tried, and failed, to fisk a few weeks ago. Pretty amazing that academics can now claim to be writing about free speech while actually putting unadulterated nonsense on the page.

  2. Jeff Gamso

    He probably believes it – or thinks he does which is functionally the same thing. And that’s how he ended up being a college president.

    Remember that the two main parts of the job of college pres are (1) making the school look good to the public and (particularly at state schools) the politicians and (2) raising funds – which is closely related to 1.

    1. SHG Post author

      I would have thought his preventing his faculty from having to cringe at cocktail parties would have counted for something, but then, I’m no academic. (And reply button, please?)

  3. Jeff Gamso

    Remember BOMFOG? The acronym William Safire culled from Governor Rocky’s constant reference in his speeches to the “brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of god”? Same idea.

  4. B. McLeod

    It’s all ridiculous, but the stupidest part is that “banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility” doesn’t really mean “banners and flyers that are meant to provoke, spread hate or create animosity and hostility.” Instead, it operationally translates to “anything a basket of dicks trying to rule the world may decide is offensive.”

    1. DaveL

      “anything a basket of dicks trying to rule the world may decide is offensive.”

      All right, who leaked the title for the next George R.R. Martin book?

    2. the other rob

      They come in bags, too.

      [Ed. Note: A link to a website selling a bag that says “bagful of dicks”? Seriously?]

      1. the other rob

        Someone sent it to me and, in my current under-caffeinated state, it seemed apposite. In hindsight, I should probably have extracted the link to the picture and used it instead.

  5. Norahc

    I keep hoping one day people will realize before its too late that you can have Free Speech or Hate Speech but not both.

    1. Jeff Gamso

      Of course you can have both. If you have Free Speech, it’s pretty certain you’re going to have Hate Speech as part of it.

      What you can’t do is have one and ban the other – or maybe you can, at least legally, should the Supreme Court decide to create another category of constitutionally unprotected speech.

  6. Matthew S Wideman

    College administrators sound more and more like corporate managers of the 1980’s and 1990’s with lots of discussion about diversity, synergy, and empowerment. Without any substance or discussion about what the words they say mean to actual policy. I am not concerned with such a banal and disingenuous statement. I get concerned that this language is going to affect the next generation of college aged kids. My only hope is students will challenge this language during their tenure at school.

    1. Mark Sinton

      There is a reason that college presidents sound like corporate managers: most now come from the corporate world. Is it any wonder then, that a college president coming from a corporate mind set is going to spout the same nonsensical corporate speak?

  7. Ray Lee

    From our academic friends north of the border, in an open letter from the staff of a university’s communication studies department:

    “Public debates about freedom of expression, while valuable, can have a silencing effect on the free speech of other members of the public.” [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

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