The Corner


Professor Pushes the Ridiculous ‘Words Can Be Violence’ Notion

Professors say lots of ridiculous things that advance “progressive” notions about the world. It’s hard to top a recent New York Times article by a psychology prof at Northeastern who argued that there is a scientific basis for believing that words can “shorten your life” and therefore some speakers should be kept off college campuses.

As I explain in today’s Martin Center article, while there is indeed science showing that prolonged stress, of which words could play a role, can be physically damaging, that simply doesn’t apply to the situation of guest speakers (or for that matter, any other kind of speech on campus), since whatever “stress” might be caused by listening to someone who presents ideas you disagree with, that is of short duration and you’re free to leave if you just can’t stand hearing what the person has to say.

The professor in question, one Lisa Feldman Barrett, admits that it’s not bad to hear challenging ideas, but thinks there’s a line to be drawn between those who present debatable arguments (such as Charles Murray) and those she claims are just spreading hate (such as Milo Yiannopoulos). Even if that fuzzy line made scientific sense (listening to someone who really just spewed hatred is, after all, merely short-term stress), there is no reason to think that it would be respected by campus social-justice-warrior types who love any excuse to keep their philosophical enemies from speaking.

Sorry, professor, but words are not violence and all you’ve done is to fan the flames that are consuming free speech on college campuses.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Most Popular

White House

For Democrats, the Party’s Over

If the Democrats are really tempted by impeachment, bring it on. Since the day after the 2016 election they have been threatening this, placing their chips on the Russian-collusion fantasy and then on the phantasmagoric charade of obstruction of justice. The attorney general accurately gave the ingredients of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More