Hate Speech: The Blog Defense

I know, I know, it is not the main point of the story. I can’t help but be amazed, though, at one of the defenses this embattled professor gave. So, yes, he compared sexual-assault accusations to “spin the bottle.” And he called the Democrats the “sissy party” and suggested that all judicial appointees be required to commit sexual assault. He defended his comments as satirical, but he also gave, to my mind, a much more poignant defense.

langbert

Sure, I said it, but I didn’t think anyone was listening…

Here’s what we know: according to Inside Higher Ed, Brooklyn College Professor Mitchell Langbert made some pretty outrageous public comments after the Kavanaugh hearings. For example, Prof. Mitchell opined,

If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex.  The Democrats have discovered that 15-year- olds play spin-the-bottle, and they have jumped on a series of supposed spin-the-bottle crimes during Kavanaugh’s minority, which they characterize as rape, although no one complained or reported any crime for 40 years.

The Democrats have become a party of tutu-wearing pansies, totalitarian sissies who lack virility, a sense of decency, or the masculine judgment that has characterized the greatest civilizations: classical Athens, republican Rome, 18th century Britain, and the 19th century United States. They use anonymity and defamation in their tireless search for coercive power.

The Kavanaugh hearing is a travesty, and if the Republicans are going to allow the sissy party to use this travesty to stop conservatism, then it is time found [sic] a new political party.  In the future, having committed sexual assault in high school ought to be a prerequisite for all appointments, judicial and political.  Those who did not play spin-the-bottle when they were 15 should not be in public life.

Predictably, students at Brooklyn College protested. Such hateful speech, they insist, should be grounds for Langbert’s termination.

In his defense, Prof. Langbert revised his blog post, adding an introductory disclaimer describing his post as satirical, that his point was precisely to underscore the ridiculousness of the current political climate. As he put it,

It is intended to be taken in the same light as Swift’s claim that Irish children should be eaten. I was surprised to learn that some readers took me literally, claiming that I advocate rape.

To this reporter, the satire in Prof. Langbert’s original post is pretty easy to miss. I might call it an example of hyperbolic rhetoric, but as a high-school English teacher, I would never use this example to illustrate the complicated genre of satirical writing.

SAGLRROILYBYGTH might disagree about whether or not this counts as satire, but this morning I’d like to focus on a different aspect of this case. When asked about his controversial blog post, Prof. Langbert offered a much sadder defense as well. Not only was it meant to be satirical, Langbert said, but usually only about twenty people per week visited his blog.

Does that make it okay? We all know some forms of speech are not protected. For example, shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater is not acceptable. However, what if you shouted “Fire” to an empty room?

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