Civility Linkblogging: Balancing Civility and Free Speech

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week’s articles, on the whole, highlight an important question about civility: how can we balance it with free speech and the free exchange of ideas? In that vein, we have a write-up of a panel discussion at the University of Arizona. We have a response to author Salman Rushdie’s lionization of free speech, even at the cost of civil dialog. And we have some advice: that the best response to free speech that offends us is more speech — not violence.

If you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at editor@instituteforcivility.org. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Panelists Balance Free Speech, Civility
Posted by Terrie Brianna at The Daily Wildcat, April 30, 2015

A friend of Barber’s and member of Kozachik’s Ward, Patterson said that the conversation on freedom of speech and civility is very important.

During the panel, Patterson referred to a bumper sticker he has seen around Tucson that implies a support for guns.

“We have to find ways to help people, who are civil people, find their voice in ways that can be heard and not be uncivil,” Patterson said. “Beyond that, we have to face a culture that promotes violence. We have movies and television … [and] a culture that says the way that we deal with conflict is through violent action.”

Respond to Free Speech You Don’t Like with Civility
Posted by Jennifer Hancock at The Bradenton Herald, May 1, 2015

Assaulting people whose speech upsets us is unacceptable. If we want to live in a civil society, where speaking your mind does not means risking your life, we must start respecting the rights of people who disagree with us. We have to stop enabling bullies who attempt to silence speech with violence. We must insist on civility and stop rationalizing away this violence as somehow justified.

The correct response to speech you don’t like is more speech; not death threats or violence.

‘Pussies and Wimps’: Why Salman Rushdie’s Plea for Free Speech Rings Hollow
Posted by Derek Edyvane at The Conversation, May 6, 2015

Civil self-censorship can help to create a more constructive discussion. It can also help to create a more democratic discussion in which all voices are heard. And to stand up for civility of this kind when everyone else is yelling can actually be quite a courageous thing to do.

That being said, there are certainly some valid free speech concerns about the appeal to civility. Throughout history, powerful elites have used particular understandings of what counts as civil or polite and uncivil or impolite behaviour as a way of stifling the speech of disadvantaged groups.

What Eye Contact — And Dogs — Can Teach Us About Civility In Politics
Posted by Alisa Chang at NPR.org, May 8, 2015

There’s a common perception that looking a dog in the eye can make it uncomfortable. That would certainly bolster the Minnesota theory. But dog behavioral expert Clive Wynne at Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory said it’s more complicated than that.

“A dog that’s wagging its tail happily while it looks another dog in the eye is maybe communicating something friendly,” he said, “whereas a dog that growls and has its hackles raised in a very tense body posture — the eye contact may just intensify that threat.”

In other words, eye contact for dogs is like eye contact for humans. When there’s genuine goodwill, eye contact can be a positive thing.

Constructive Listening Can Build Civility in Politics
Posted by Robert Lillegard at The Duluth News Tribune, May 9, 2015

I had the most unusual conversation about politics the other day…. Really, the strangest thing about the conversation was what it was missing.

Polarization.

It actually dawned on me partway through the talk. We’d disagreed on everything from the recent looting episodes to the justice system, but insults hadn’t come up. We hadn’t questioned each other’s motives or called each other names. We hadn’t accused each other of ruining America. Everything was perfectly … civil.

Civility Linkblogging: Education, Religious Expression, and Free Speech

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

Welcome back to civility linkblogging. In this recurring segment here at the Civility blog, we highlight discourse in print and around the web that engages with notions of civility, either by expounding on some aspect of it we might not otherwise think about, or by showing us civility — or lack thereof — in action.

This week’s links come at the nexus of what we here in the United States think of as the First Amendment. The majority of our articles this week are about religion, free speech, and civility. We have one that offers some guidance on the limits of free speech in an educational context; another that points toward a balance between religion, politics, and civility; and a third about policing civility in one of the world’s largest collaborative scholarly projects — the Wikipedia.

If you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at editor@instituteforcivility.org. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

The Humanities Can Help Us Rekindle Notions of the Common Good
Posted by Bernard L. Kavaler at The CT Mirror, January 20, 2015

Nearly half of millennials – significantly more than any other generation – now accept the notion that incivility is part of the American political process. But in a recent poll by Weber Shandwick, nearly one in four millennials believe civility will improve over the next few years, two to four times the percentage of other generations. While 56 percent of millennials say the Internet and social media are making civility worse, they remain optimistic.

Given the dizzying changes and challenges that demand our response, common ground and the common good are too often viewed — to our collective detriment — as unwelcome capitulation, unbridled naiveté, or utterly unattainable.

Civility and Free Speech in Education
Posted by David Moshman at The Huffington Post, January 21, 2015

What to do? Nothing in any Supreme Court decision requires censorship. Far from promoting civility, censorship is itself uncivil. Teachers can and should promote civil discussion without censoring or punishing uncivil speech. They can be models of civility, can urge and remind students to respect each other, can engage students in serious argumentation, and can evaluate the quality of their arguments. None of this requires censorship.

Sometimes there will be controversy about what gets said and sometimes there will be efforts to prevent or punish uncivil ideas or modes of expression. We should not assume that if academic freedom is threatened the First Amendment will come to its rescue. Rather than rely on wishful thinking about constitutional law, educators at all levels must clarify and explain the academic basis for academic freedom and promote policies that protect that freedom for all.

Civility Is a Currency We Must Value
Posted by Martin Flanagan at The Age, January 24, 2015

Culturally and politically, I belong to the West. I happen to believe in parliamentary democracy… That people can routinely commit appalling deeds while claiming to be acting in the name of religion is precisely why I do not wish to live in a religious state. I want my daughters and granddaughters to have access to the social rights and liberties that have been hard-won by women in Western societies. I believe in a secular democratic society and intend to do my bit defending it.

What I am arguing for is civility. To quote a diplomat’s wife from the 18th century, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” As for Ali Faraj, he and I’ll keep talking. About what? About everything. At the moment, he’s badgering me to take him for a trip around Tasmania. He knows I’m from down there and wants to see the place. Ali loves Australia.

Incivility Is on the Rise. Five Ways to Avoid Being Part of the Problem
Posted by Michelle Powell at AL.com, January 26, 2015

Millennials reportedly experience bad behavior on a daily basis. And admittedly, they are themselves the culprits four in 10 times, yet Millennials are the very generation with the most hope that things will get better.

The 2014 report shows 23 percent optimism for improved civility in future America as compared to no more than 11 percent from the other generations.

So what does all of this mean for business? According to the study, an uncivil work environment has caused 27 percent of millennials to quit a job. And because of poor treatment by a company representative nearly half (49 percent) have either stopped patronizing a company or told others not to support that business.

Civility, Wikipedia, and the Conversation on Gamergate
Posted by Philippe Beaudette at the Wikimedia Blog, January 27, 2015

Civility is an important concept for Wikipedia: it is what allows people to collaborate and disagree constructively even on difficult topics. It ensures people are able to focus their energy on what really matters: building a collaborative free encyclopedia for the world.

A group of trusted, long-term volunteer English Wikipedia editors (known as the Arbitration Committee) is now reviewing the conduct of the editors who participated on the Gamergate controversy article discussions. Their mandate is to review editor conduct, and address disruptions so that Wikipedia can remain a civil, productive place for all editors. They may do so through issuing warnings, bans, or other means.