Posted by Jay Livingston
Liberals, as Jonathan Haidt has documented, argue on the basis of only two principles or “moral foundations”: Hurt and Fairness. Conservatives add other bases for their positions: Loyalty (vs. betrayal), Authority (vs. subversion), and Sanctity (vs. degradation). Also Liberty, which Haidt later added to the original five. (A summary of Haidt's moral foundations is here: http://moralfoundations.org/.)
So conservatives have lots of ways to justify what they want. If hurt and unfairness are not in plain sight, conservatives can fight against betrayal or subversion. But liberals, absent real hurt or unfairness, must have recourse to finding micro-hurts and micro-unfairness from micro-aggressions.
This week’s example comes from Georgetown law school (source: Inside Higher Ed). Justice Scalia was an undergrad at Georgetown and made several visits to the law school. Shortly after Scalia’s death, a law professor (Prof. G___ , to use a 19th century construction) sent out an e-mail to students and faculty eulogizing Scalia – his jurisprudence, his wit, his writing, and his refusal to trim his sails to the winds of political correctness. Scalia, said Prof. G____, stood steadfast in putting Constitutional principles ahead of the particular interests of classes of people, classes based on race, gender, or economic standing.
Some other professors objected to this e-mail, not for its content but for its effect on students.
|Some of them are twenty-two-year-olds, less than six months into their legal education. Leaders of the Black Students Association, the Latino Law Students League, and two women’s groups reached out to us to tell us how traumatized, hurt, shaken and angry were their fellow students. Of particular concern to them were the students who are in Professor G____’s class who must now attend class knowing of his contempt for those who disagree with Scalia. How are they now to participate freely in class? What reasoning would be deemed acceptable on their exams?|
I think most people would doubt that students at a top law school would be “traumatized” by a professor stating his views about Scalia. Are these ambitious 20-somethings such delicate flowers that they must be protected from legal positions they disagree with lest they be “traumatized, hurt, shaken”? If so, maybe they should choose a different profession. Lawyering ain’t beanbag. And must a law professor, in the interest of fairness, pretend that all opinions are equally valid?
Conservatives will probably tell these students to stop their whining and sniveling and to man up (or attorney up). Conservatives could also argue on the basis of Liberty. People, even professors, should be free to expound their opinions; nobody should censor them.
There’s nothing new here, except . . .
It was the other way round. I reversed the actual facts. The Georgetown law professor who sent the e-mail, Gary Peller, came to criticize Scalia not to praise him. The faculty who then accused Peller of traumatizing the students are Scalia supporters. The hothouse flowers in need of protection are the student conservatives and libertarians. (“Leaders of the Federalist Society chapter and of the student Republicans reached out to us to tell us how traumatized, hurt, shaken and angry were their fellow students.”)
When the claims of injury and intimidation on one side and the accusations of hypersensitivity on the other are bouncing back and forth like this, it’s hard to tell the pot from the kettle.