Lars Jörgen Pålsson Syll is a Swedish economist who is a Professor of Social Studies and Associate professor of Economic History at Malmö University College.
Last week The Stanford Daily reported a curious story concerning Niall Ferguson, a conservative historian who is a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. The story itself, although ugly, isn’t that important. But it offers a window into a reality few people, certainly in the news media, are willing to acknowledge: the bad faith that pervades conservative discourse …
Ferguson is, as it happens, one of those conservative intellectuals who hyperventilate about the supposed threat campus activists pose to free speech — indeed, calling the campus left the “biggest threat” to free speech in Trump’s America. At Stanford, he was one of the faculty leaders of a program called Cardinal Conversations, which was supposed to invite speakers who would “air contested issues.”
Among the invited speakers was Charles Murray, famous for a much-debunked book claiming that black-white differences in I.Q. are genetic in nature. Not surprisingly, the invitation provoked student protests. This was the context in which Ferguson engaged in a series of email communications with right-wing student activists in which he urged them to “unite against the S.J.W.s” (social justice warriors), “grinding them down” …
So what does all this mean for the rest of us? Mainly, it means that if you’re in any role that involves informing people — whether it’s in education or in journalism — you shouldn’t let right-wingers, as Ferguson would put it, grind you down.
These days, both universities and news organizations are under constant pressure not just to be nicer to Trump but to respect right-wing views across the board. The people making these demands claim to want fairness.
So you need to remember that this claim is made in bad faith. It has nothing to do with fairness; it’s all about power.