Because It’s Not About “Decency,” But Control

Professor Garrett Epps sought to school me in political correctness, after I twitted that it wasn’t just a matter of “decency, manners and common sense.”

Translation: asking people not to be rude to you oppresses them.

Was that a better characterization of political correctness than mine? After all, don’t people have the right to tell someone that they don’t care for their “rude” words? Of course they do, but the problem is that it’s not about “asking,” or even “rudeness.” Ali Kingston, the student bar president at George Washington law school learned this the hard way.

George Washington University Law School wants to look into an incident where a student was accused of saying an anti-Semitic comment in a private conversation.

Ali Kingston, president of the Student Bar Association (SBA), was meeting with a member of the Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA) in September after the group failed to mention on an event’s poster that alcohol would be present, The College Fix reported Wednesday.

There was once a time that alcohol being “present” at a law school function was viewed as a feature, whether noted or not. And when it was present, it was usually served. And law students, as far as I can recall, liked it. Times change, however, and apparently it now requires a trigger warning before coming into the presence of booze, lest it attack a student’s lips without warning and traumatize them. But I digress.

JLSA accused Kingston of saying, “Tell your Jew friends, I’m coming for them, they need to stop violating the alcohol policy,” according to Above the Law.

Kingston offered an apology though she denied the allegation. She clarified that she never said, “Jew friends,” but said, “[T]he Jews,” The GW Hatchet reported.

The “apology, even though it never happened,” is a curious feature of the times as well, Tradition and reason suggest that if one didn’t utter the heinous words, there would be nothing to apologize for, and by apologizing, one conceded there was. But that’s no longer the case, given that no offense, real or perceived, is unworthy of an apology when someone else’s “truth” is involved.

But neither the denial nor apology sated the outrage.

SBA and JLSA, however, went public with the incident when they thought Kingston’s apology was “not satisfactory,” according to The GW Hatchet. The SBA Senate voted to ask Kingston to resign from her position on Oct. 23. Kingston has not stepped down.

If the person to whom Kingston spoke the offending words found them rude, then Epps would have them “ask” that they not be said, or perhaps for an apology. But then, that’s not remotely the case here, as GWU cranked up its investigative forces to eradicate the heretic who may, or may not, have uttered the rude words, “Jew friends.”

“I do not hate the Jews,” Kingston said, according to The GW Hatchet.

Even if she did, so what? She’s allowed to hate Jews. Plenty of people do. It’s not a good thing, but it’s her right to hate anybody she wants to hate. And indeed, quite a few very woke folks aren’t particularly fond of Jews these days, favoring the maligned Palestinians. Whether it’s my choice, or yours, is irrelevant. People are allowed. But I accept Kingston’s representation that she doesn’t hate Jews, even if she used the words “Jew friends.” I’ve heard worse and lived to tell about it.

But when the machinery of GWU cranks up to fix a problem like Kingston, it’s no longer one nice person asking one rude person to be better. It’s official, and it’s becoming increasingly official.

GW is supposed to launch a bias reporting site for the fall semester, according to GW Today.

Nicki Neily, president of Speech First, believes bias reporting systems prevent students from expressing sincere views. Speech First is an organization that focuses on protecting free speech rights of college students.

“Bias Response programs encourage students to take their problems to administrators, rather than to adjudicate the issues themselves. That’s a terrible message to send to students who should ostensibly be preparing to enter the workforce and the wider world,” Neily said to The DCNF in a statement.

GWU lawprof John Banzhaf, in his occasional email commentary, raised this case, asserting:

In this regard, Banzhaf notes that even the use of words which are clearly and obviously derogatory of those who practice the Jewish religion – e.g., “K*KE,” H**B or H*BE, H*MIE, J*WB*Y, etc. – are fully protected under the First Amendment and academic freedom, even when used in a public discussion, much less in a private conversation between people who are not in the group being denigrated.

Thus, insisting that those who happen to use those clearly insulting words – much less simply the word “Jew” – must be subject to an official university investigation is plain wrong if not unconstitutional.

The problem isn’t that someone said something rude, and someone else, offended by it, asked them not to do so. If that was all PC meant, then it wouldn’t be political correctness at all, but just the ordinary give and take between people that has always existed. Nobody suggests that people should behave rudely. Nobody suggests that anyone who takes offense shouldn’t be entitled to say so. Although, what constitutes “rude” these days seems to include rather common language suddenly imbued with offensive connotations audible only to people with particularly sensitive ears.

Rather, this is about the use of official mechanisms to enforce the eradication of impermissible speech, whatever that may be from hour to hour. Don’t be rude. Don’t be offensive. But if you are, at least in some very woke person’s mind, then the sweet vision Garrett Epps offered is shoved aside as the forces of political correctness use official means to “oppress” the heretic.

So no, it’s hardly so benign as asking people not to be rude. And when control is exerted by means of official sanction, oppression it is. Nobody has to like what someone else says, but silencing it by force isn’t “decency, manners and common sense,” even if that’s what the passionate would prefer to believe.

38 thoughts on “Because It’s Not About “Decency,” But Control

  1. Lee

    “I liked beer. Still like beer.”

    It made law school functions more pleasant for all involved. And it still does, at least at my alma mater.

    What’s next? Trigger warnings that there might be [gasp!] Republicans at a law school function???

  2. wilbur

    I don’t remember there being any sort of student association when I was in law school. Don’t these people have enough to do keeping their head above water scholastically and/or (like me) holding a part-time job?

    The article mentions an SBA and a JLSA. I wonder how many “A’s” there are at this school.

    1. SHG Post author

      We had a SBA when I was in law school, plus a few other As if memory serves. Their primary purpose was to serve beer. I was a big supporter.

      1. Steven Brecher

        My law school’s web site lists 27 student organizations in addition to an SBA and a JLSA.

        Might Big Law and university hiring committees like to see officer positions on a resume? That’s the only reason I can think of for some of these groups.

        1. SHG Post author

          Or every student deserves to be in a position of prominence in an org that’s meaningful to their identity.

        2. Lucas Beauchamp

          We had SALSA—the Scandinavian American Law Students Association. Not all members were Scandinavian; some even belonged to other ethnic student organizations. The group was known for its outstanding parties, including the one that featured every Scandinavian au pair in the Bay Area.

          Alcohol was served.

  3. B. McLeod

    First, alcohol could be “present” and “served” in the old days without being near so rapey as it is today. Hence, no doubt, the need for rapey-alcohol-trigger-warnings.

    As for the PC thing, it has indeed been an anti-speech, control ploy from the start. The “woke” demand others speak in a manner they deem inoffensive, but beyond that, they are increasingly batshit crazy in their proclamations as to what that requires. They are already well past the point of demanding that English pronouns must be modified, and will probably soon realize that they all need to be addressed with titles of nobility as well.

      1. Jyjon

        Titles in other fields aren’t necessarily all cracked up to what you may think. For example The Analyst-Therapists:


      2. Guitardave

        When i hear the word “rapey” i get feeling “punchy” about the face that spewed it!…..ack!……now see what you did? STOP TRIGGERING ME!!!

  4. Bryan Burroughs

    Seems like you are stretching on this one. I can see reason to be miffed at Bias Response Teams swooping in on random students, as you have rightly noted as concerning here and elsewhere. But that’s not what happened in this case, though. You have an organization asking its elected leader to step down because she said something slightly offensive while acting in her official capacity. I can’t get worked up over that. That sounds like basic politics: watch what the hell you say.

    Sure, the “offensive remark” was at about a .5 out of 10 on the scale. It was said directly to the exact organization who could reasonably take the most offense. When you talk with a Jewish organization, don’t say stuff like “the Jews,” “you Jews,” or any derivatives which might be construed as suggesting bias against Jews. It’s just commons sense. Should the JLSA get a little thicker skin? Of course. Is it unreasonable that they expect better from the president of the SBA? Not at all.

    1. SHG Post author

      I can’t get worked up over that.

      Mileage may vary, which would be fine if the issue was as limited as Epps contends, but the imposition of official sanctions turns the line over which someone can get worked up into a system of speech and thought control. That’s quite different than what Epps contends.

    2. Elpey P.

      Since the claimed context (conveniently ignored in subsequent reporting) was that she was repeating that phrase in response to a question that also used it, perhaps her antagonists should be under investigation as well. The rest of the accusation has the earmarks of contrived hearsay run through the journalistic rumor mill. Of course she nonetheless apologized, she’s a sacrificial ally.

      The Above The Law article tips its hand in its opening paragraph, where it yearns for a world in which anyone can be taken down by accusation alone, whether guilty or not. So it’s not even really about controlling speech, it’s about using that as a pretext for controlling people.

  5. delurking

    “The Democrat Party…”
    THAT’s OFFENSIVE!!!!. It isn’t the Democrat party, it is the DEMOCRATIC PARTY. Get it right and stop oppressing me. See, even Wikipedia says that “Democrat Party” is actually offensive.

    Everyone knows that a Republican is a member of the Republican Party and a Green is a member of the Green party and a Socialist is a member of the Socialist Party and a Libertarian is a member of the Libertarian Party and a Democrat is a member of the Democratic Party.

    No one every promised that the rules of language are sensible. You just have to know them.

  6. Appellate Squawk

    “Bias Response programs encourage students to take their problems to administrators, rather than to adjudicate the issues themselves. That’s a terrible message to send to students who should ostensibly be preparing to enter the workforce and the wider world.”
    On the contrary, that’s where they learn the valuable workplace skill of running to the boss any time someone says something they don’t like.

  7. N. Freed

    Wouldn’t have happened in an econ program. They call the parties with booze “liquidity preference functions”.

  8. Karl Kolchak

    Small point–I think sensible people who deplore what is being done to the Palestinians are able to differentiate between the Israeli government and Jews in general. After all, being an American doesn’t automatically mean you’re responsible for everything our government does–thank goodness.

    As for the term “Jew,” I once mentioned to my wife (who is Jewish, l’m not) that saying it made me a little uncomfortable. She thought I was being silly.

  9. anonymous coward

    The guy wasn’t trying to get a trigger warning about those libations, he was upset he wasn’t informed and found himself alone on the night of the function!

  10. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    JLSA accused Kingston of saying, “Tell your Jew friends, I’m coming for them, they need to stop violating the alcohol policy,” according to Above the Law.

    Kingston offered an apology though she denied the allegation. She clarified that she never said, “Jew friends,” but said, “[T]he Jews,” The GW Hatchet reported.

    I love the implication that she tried to get herself out of Dodge by claiming what she really said was “Tell the Jews, I’m coming for them.” Alas, the Hatchet tells me this is not so. According to a statement she apparently issued, she feels “deeply remorseful” for “fostering ‘disrespect and insensitivity'” by saying “I do not hate the Jews” in response to being asked why she hates the Jews. Which just makes no sense at all.

    Also from the Hatchet: Kingston said since issuing the statement, she has heard only positive feedback

    She and I must use different Internets.

  11. Mike-SMO

    Actually, this sounds like a counter-PC attack. You got all these fancy new Identity rules that we have to play by; try this one on for size. I don’t know if “trust the victim” applies, which gets extra bonus points.

    Nice play, guys., and guyettes, of course

  12. KP

    ““K*KE,” H**B or H*BE, H*MIE, J*WB*Y, etc. – are fully protected under the First Amendment and academic freedom, even when used in a public discussion,”

    If that is so, why are there asterisks there? Now I don’t know what words they are!

    English is getting harder!

    1. SHG Post author

      Having a right to use certain language doesn’t mean you want to use it. I’m not a fan of asterisks either, but that’s was his choice.

    2. MelK

      Maybe they just have a vowel problem? Just substitute other letters (or whatever strikes your fancy) and problem solved? Would it further degrade communication? (And isn’t that a goal, at this point?)

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