If Only Chancellor Wise Read John Stuart Mill…

From On Liberty:

Before quitting the subject of freedom of opinion, it is fit to take some notice of those who say, that the free expression of all opinions should be permitted, on condition that the manner be temperate, and do not pass the bounds of fair discussion. Much might be said on the impossibility of fixing where these supposed bounds are to be placed; for if the test be offence to those whose opinion is attacked, I think experience testifies that this offence is given whenever the attack is telling and powerful, and that every opponent who pushes them hard, and whom they find it difficult to answer, appears to them, if he shows any strong feeling on the subject, an intemperate opponent….With regard to what is commonly meant by intemperate discussion, namely invective, sarcasm, personality, and the like, the denunciation of these weapons would deserve more sympathy if it were ever proposed to interdict them equally to both sides; but it is only desired to restrain the employment of them against the prevailing opinion: against the unprevailing they may not only be used without general disapproval, but will be likely to obtain for him who uses them the praise of honest zeal and righteous indignation. Yet whatever mischief arises from their use, is greatest when they are employed against the comparatively defenceless; and whatever unfair advantage can be derived by any opinion from this mode of asserting it, accrues almost exclusively to received opinions. The worst offence of this kind which can be committed by a polemic, is to stigmatise those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. To calumny of this sort, those who hold any unpopular opinion are peculiarly exposed, because they are in general few and uninfluential, and nobody but themselves feel much interest in seeing justice done them; but this weapon is, from the nature of the case, denied to those who attack a prevailing opinion: they can neither use it with safety to themselves, nor, if they could, would it do anything but recoil on their own cause. In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, from which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degree without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion, really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them. For the interest, therefore, of truth and justice, it is far more important to restrain this employment of vituperative language than the other; and, for example, if it were necessary to choose, there would be much more need to discourage offensive attacks on infidelity, than on religion.

If only Chancellor Wise would read it.


  1. Mushin June 16, 2015 at 6:52 am | #

    Cory what happened to the notion of the Magna Carte in western uncivilized genocidal governance?

    It was 800 years ago today that the crack in the armor of Western Patriarchal Imperialism arose in the Magna Carte when 150 wealthy elite challenged both State and Church authority regarding liberty, freedom and human rights. Following WWII the insanity of human genocidal war was re-articulated in robust debate in the notion of a United Nations adopting the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” that recently has been expanded to include the ancient ancestral nobility of original landlords in “Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” The recent genocide in Gaza strip in the middle-east created an uproar by humanitarians worldwide and maybe this is a moment of truth to look directly into the evolving mirror of the Magna Carte. I can’t imagine John Stuart Mill’s comment offered would have been possible if the Magna Carte had not been formulated in 1215.

    Today any honest zeal of righteous indignation of any citizen in Western Patriarchal Imperialism is considered an act of terrorism. The political monkeys of elitism is now tearing apart any shred of civility in the notion of participative democracy and western political economic bean counters hold humanity hostage in regulatory capture rent control designed to harness any employment of honesty and justice in our common senses as human beings. Steven Salaita is the latest example of unending eternal list of challenger’s to the militance of Plato’s Cave in higher notions of education cordial hypocrisy making every professor an elite prostitute for the ringing of the bell of immature narrow minded arrested adolescence in our reasoning and complicit ignorance of masses of people stupidity allowing the power of money in employment to determine the ethics of decision making powers in institutional discourses.

    What a shame? The Magna Carte Evolving Mirror is DOA in birthing the 21st century. Chancellor Wise is proving it as a symbol of arrogant aggressive reactivity in this moment of truth. Man’s narcissistic subjective relativism of individuality as allows herself to be reduced to a robotic monkey in technological genocidal insanity claiming faster, better and cheaper old worn out mistaken observer errors is capable of stewarding future leaders and children see the lie and are self organizing. Maybe it is time to storm the Admin of the University of Illinois demanding change and reframing students rights to fire bean counting narcissistic borderline administrators suffering from mental illness based of self-importance?

    Patriarchy’s Culture of Death is Now Contempt for Life, Living, Humanness Itself!

    “At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! Had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

    Frederick Douglass

    The same old refrain grows louder by the moment.
    Thank you for stirring empathy in our human nature….

  2. gstally June 16, 2015 at 4:35 pm | #

    And if Mill had ever seen the comment section of the internets I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts the man’d eat his hat.

  3. Neel Krishnaswami June 17, 2015 at 5:21 am | #

    @gstally: I would take that bet. Mill spent a lot of time arguing with Thomas Carlyle, who (in addition to being a great writer) was an racist, classist jackass on such a colossal scale that he could probably even disgust gamergaters.

    For instance, in 1849 Carlyle wrote an essay opposing the abolition of slavery in Jamaica entitled “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question”. Then, because this wasn’t racist enough for him, a few years later he had it republished with the new title “Occasional Discourse on the N—-r Question”. (One of the ironies of history is that this is the essay in which Carlyle bequeathed the world the description of economics as “the dismal science” — but he thought it was dismal that classical liberal economics opposed slavery!)

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