Friday, April 24, 2015

Free speech means only thing: free speech!

There are nutcases everywhere.  Even at academic conferences.

The other day I was checking out the exhibitor booths.  And I was shocked to find a booth with a banner that read "Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization."  With a whole bunch of information brochures and documents.  Of course, I didn't want to grab any of the papers.  But, I scanned a few without touching them.  It felt creepy like hell.  It caught me off-guard; I just didn't expect such a nutcase to have a booth at the academic conference.

Naturally, I was tempted to click a couple of photos.  But then as a brown-skinned person with an accent, I chose to avoid that action.  I didn't want to confront the maniac working that booth, when one of the papers there made it clear that immigration to the US is a problem!  I stood there for a couple of minutes.  Two people stopped to chat with the maniac.  And then one other person went into the booth.  Guess what?  All were white men.

Later, as I always do, I checked my Twitter feed, and wanted to find out what people were commenting about the conference.  (Hashtag #AAG2015.)  One of the tweets was this:
More than anything else, I now had the photo that I wanted to take but did not.

If it were a tad clearer then you would be able to read what was in that paper on the top-right.  So, let me tell you what it was: a boastful statement that they were banned at two meetings of the AAAS, which is the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

When I was there at the booth, I thought it was interesting that the AAAS had kicked them out but the AAG had not.  Which is what I made sure to note in my reply tweet:
I am feeling mighty good about my professional association for granting the space to this nutcase organization, even when a much larger--and more influential--scientific community had apparently banned them.  It is easy to ban such nutcases.  But, it is way more awesome to permit them to make fools of themselves.

Free speech means making room for nutcases too.  I love free speech, even if the speech from nutcases makes me want to puke!


Ramesh said...

Indeed, the best way to let crazy ideas die away would be to allow their proponents to air them fully . Give them every opportunity to show how great their ideas are.

The only trouble with my own "idea" is the continued existence and , obvious success, of Jaya TV and Fox News :) If anybody in the US thinks Fox TV is extreme, please point them in the direction of Jaya TV to make them realise how "fair and balanced" Fox TV is :):)

Anne in Salem said...

I think I am missing something, perhaps because I can't read most of the posters. Hannah Jones tweeted about Eugenics, but the only poster I can read is about halting population growth. I fail to see the connection.

Sriram Khé said...

Anne, more info on that group here:

Maybe I could have provided the link in my original post itself ...

Ramesh, a few years ago, in one of the many opinion essays that did not get published (!) I wrote that perhaps Fox News and the Indian TV channels like Jaya TV are what the future will be--technology provides us with possibilities to listen/watch only those that appeal to our way of thinking. The web makes it all the more easy to be in echo-chambers. I suppose the editor didn't care for that take ;)

Anne in Salem said...

I read a bit, as much as I could stomach, of the website. Yuck.

Sriram Khé said...

There are plenty of those "Yuck" people and organizations ... not only on this issue but on plenty of other issues too ... :(

Most read this past month