Return of Son of “Not a Free-Speech Issue” One More Time Again


If you have been paying extremely close attention to every single thing I’ve said over the last several months, then by now it may have become possible for you to deduce that I don’t think religious stuff is true.*  So, if any of you ran across the recent news item about an Iowa Community-College Instructor being fired for contradicting the Bible, you may have expected an essay from 1585 about it.

    *(Actually, I scream at the top of my lungs constantly and in no uncertain terms that religious stuff is not true.  Hence, phrasing the opening line this way is unexpected.  The result?  Comedy!)

Well, you were right, and here it is.  What you may not have expected, however, is that my response would consist primarily of ripping on the people who are defending the instructor in question.  I don’t think they’re wrong to defend him — I just think they’re doing a shitty job.  In order to understand why, you’ll need to read the initial article first, so here it is (cut-and-pasted, instead of as a link, because whenever I post a link to a news item it goes dead in like two days):      

*                        *                        *                        *

Teacher: I was fired, said Bible isn't literal
The community college instructor says the school sided with students
offended by his explanation of Adam and Eve.


A community college instructor in Red Oak claims he was fired after he told his students that the biblical story of Adam and Eve should not be literally interpreted.
    Steve Bitterman, 60, said officials at Southwestern Community College sided with a handful of students who threatened legal action over his remarks in a western civilization class Tuesday. He said he was fired Thursday.
    "I'm just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college and have a master's degree, a couple actually, have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job," Bitterman said.
    Sarah Smith, director of the school's Red Oak campus, declined to comment Friday on Bitterman's employment status. The school's president, Barbara Crittenden, said Bitterman taught one course at Southwest. She would not comment, however, on his claim that he was fired over the Bible reference, saying it was a personnel issue.
    "I can assure you that the college understands our employees' free-speech rights," she said. "There was no action taken that violated the First Amendment."
    Bitterman, who taught part time at Southwestern and Omaha's Metropolitan Community College, said he uses the Old Testament in his western civilization course and always teaches it from an academic standpoint.
    Bitterman's Tuesday course was telecast to students in Osceola over the Iowa Communications Network. A few students in the Osceola classroom, he said, thought the lesson was "denigrating their religion."
    "I put the Hebrew religion on the same plane as any other religion. Their god wasn't given any more credibility than any other god," Bitterman said. "I told them it was an extremely meaningful story, but you had to see it in a poetic, metaphoric or symbolic sense, that if you took it literally, that you were going to miss a whole lot of meaning there."
    Bitterman said he called the story of Adam and Eve a "fairy tale" in a conversation with a student after the class and was told the students had threatened to see an attorney. He declined to identify any of the students in the class.
    "I just thought there was such a thing as academic freedom here," he said. "From my point of view, what they're doing is essentially teaching their students very well to function in the eighth century."
    Hector Avalos, an atheist religion professor at Iowa State University, said Bitterman's free-speech rights were violated if he was fired simply because he took an academic approach to a Bible story.
    "I don't know the circumstances, but if he's teaching something about the Bible and says it is a myth, he shouldn't be fired for that because most academic scholars do believe this is a myth, the story of Adam and Eve," Avalos said.  "So it'd be no different than saying the world was not created in six days in science class. You don't fire professors for giving you a scientific answer."
    Bitterman said Linda Wild, vice president of academic affairs at Southwest, fired him over the telephone.
    Wild did not return telephone or e-mail messages Friday. Bitterman said that he can think of no other reason college officials would fire him and that Smith, the director of the campus, has previously sat in on his classes and complimented his work.
    "As a taxpayer, I'd like to know if a tax-supported public institution of higher learning has given veto power over what can and cannot be said in its classrooms to a fundamentalist religious group," he said. "If it has ... then the taxpaying public of Iowa has a right to know. What's next? Whales talk French at the bottom of the sea?"

*                        *                        *                        *

Okay.  Now, granted, the primary problem here is with the fact that a teacher was fired for saying the Bible isn’t literally true.  This is a problem because the Bible is, in fact, not literally true, which means that the teacher who said so was, you know, right.  So, just so I don’t get ahead of myself here, I'll begin with a response to the people who fired, or supported the decision to fire, him.  Here is that response, in its entirety:

“Of course the Bible isn’t literally true — what are you, retarded or something?”*

    *(For a more detailed version of this response, the reader is directed to every single other thing we have ever written, or, for that matter, anything that has ever been written by a smart person, anywhere on the planet, throughout the entire history of time.**)

    **(NOTE:  Until fairly recently, some smart people had to lie, in order to avoid being burned at the stake by stupid people.)

That being out of the way, I can turn to my principal agenda:  delineating the ways in which, as usual, even though the initial conservative attack was wrong, the liberal response was the most inefficient, counterproductive, ass-backwards response possible, and has made the situation a thousand times worse.  

Why is this?  Because, as far as I can tell, the liberal response was to run around yelling “Free Speech!”, even though the issue has absolutely nothing to do with Free Speech.  In days past, I've touched once or twice on the fact that no-one seems to have any idea what Free Speech does or doesn’t mean, but since apparently no-one was listening, I’ll have to do so again. 

So:  what Free Speech means is that the government can’t arrest you and put you in jail for what you say…  AND THAT’S IT.  The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee you a national forum in which to say it (so the Don Imus thing was not a Free-Speech issue), and it doesn’t mean that people can’t be mad at you about it (so the Michael Richards thing was not a Free-Speech issue).  And Free Speech certainly doesn’t mean that a school can’t fire a teacher over what he or she says — i.e., as a general principle it doesn’t mean that this is never okay.  Yes, the First Amendment means that it is perfectly legal to jump up-and-down screaming “cunt, nigger, assrape” for an hour, but it doesn't mean you're not an asshole if you do so, or that other people aren't allowed to be pissed at you, and it certainly doesn’t mean that a school couldn’t fire a teacher who did so in class (only that he doesn’t also go to jail).  In terms of constitutional law, the Bitterman firing was no more a Free-Speech issue than that time your Mom slapped you for saying “boner” during Thanksgiving dinner.

If they have any kind of Civics, Law, or Poli-Sci professor at this school, then they should have known this (ideally, any given American citizen would know this, because it concerns what the First Amendment does or doesn’t mean, which is kind of important).  So why is the default liberal response to this incident all about Free Speech?  Because most Liberals don’t have the balls to stand by the proper defense of “He was right, you idiots.”*

    *(They could also go with “In order to be an accredited college, you can’t teach that religion is true, and those weird religious colleges that do so are not legally colleges, and their degrees are no different from if some guy just started teaching classes in his basement and handed people pieces of paper that said Degree from the University of Some Guy, and by the way we are a public college supported with taxpayer money which makes the whole thing a million times worse.”  That would be good too.)

After all, how can they?  The Academic Left has spent the last two decades having people fired for saying all kinds of equally true things (usually about gender issues) on the grounds that the statements were offensive — and not that they were false, because remember they have also been saying that there’s no such thing as the truth — so now that it’s finally dawning on the Conservatives to turn around and say “That professor’s statements offended me — stick a fork in him, he’s done,” what is the Left left with? 

The Bible isn’t literally true, but it sure is filled with great metaphors:  reap the whirlwind,” for example. 

In fact, many ancient texts are filled with great metaphors.  Here’s another:  “Hi, my name is the Academic Left!  Oh, look!  A giant fucking wooden horse that says All Truth is Relative on the side!  I think I will fucking drag it inside the walls of the fucking college!”

Once you’ve cemented yourself to the warrant that no opinions are superior to any other opinions — and indeed, in some cases, that empirically provable things are not even superior to empirically disprovable things — then you are obliged to treat every situation like this as though it were no different from a high-school teacher accidentally saying “fuck” after dropping his notes.  The exclamation “fuck” is neither true nor false, but simply objectionable to many people — and once you’ve chucked true and false, objectionable is the only criterion left.

The professor who got fired himself even pusses out and defends his remarks with an appeal to “academic freedom.”  But what’s the implication there?  What is “academic freedom” supposed to mean, as a general principle?  That professors should be able to teach whatever they want?  Of course not.  No teacher would actually believe this, because this would mean that it would be not only acceptable but equally good if, for example, a Math teacher taught that the multiplication tables were invented by koalas, an Art professor taught that Michaelangelo’s David is made entirely out of cotton candy, or a History professor taught that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by the Joker.

So, why would it not be acceptable for professors to teach these things?  Is it because they’re objectionable?  No.  If someone told you that the David was made of cotton candy, you wouldn’t be offended — you might think it was weird, but it wouldn’t fuck up your self-esteem, because it doesn’t have anything personal to do with you.  The reason that these things are, you know, bad things to teach as opposed to good things to teach is not because they would offend anyone, but because they are not true.

Conclusion?  Whether what a teacher says is true is important, and whether it pisses people off is not — or, at least, is less — important.  What Mr. Bitterman said about the Bible not being literal is true, and therefore it was okay.  Period.  If you don’t like it, then don’t go to college.

The most frustrating part of all this is the fact that, deep down, most smart people in the country know this already, but are afraid to point out the fact that this is all the entire situation really amounts to.  Many intellectuals — especially in academia — are afraid of the example that would be set if they were to come right out and say “Look, tough shit, but we’re smart and you’re not, and I’m sorry but this Bible stuff is a steaming load, and I know you don’t think so, but remember three seconds ago when I said you weren’t smart?  There you go.”  We don’t want them to act like that, so we don’t act like that, even though we should be acting like that because we’re the ones who believe the stuff that is actually true.  It’s like in high school, when you get in fight that’s a push-fight at first, but then the other guy starts punching, only you don’t want to start punching too because you think this will just make it worse, so you just keep pushing even though you’re getting punched.  But you know what?  He’s already punching you!  You can’t “make it worse” because he’s already punching you!  Punch him back!  Punch him back, you pussy!  He’s not going to revert to pushing if you refrain from punching, because THIS IS NO LONGER A PUSH-FIGHT!       

How many times am I going to need to say this?

Anyway, so we do the real-issue-avoiding “Free Speech” thing because we think that it will make them hate and fuck with us less.  But it actually makes them hate and fuck with us more, because if all we say by way of defending our assertions is “Free Speech,” it implies that we are effectively admitting that what we believe is no better than what they believe (when we really know it is better, but are just shy).

“Free Speech” is the bare-minimum, lowest-common-denominator possible defense for the voicing of a particular opinion.  All you are saying is that it is not against the law to say that thing, which is not very persuasive.  Ideally, you should have an argument for why the thing is true or should be believed, in addition to the fact that is it not against the law — unless you accept the warrant that “all things that are not against the law are good ideas,” which you really shouldn’t.  Rubbing poop on your face isn’t against the law either, but that doesn’t mean it’s just as good an idea as not rubbing poop on your face.

You want to do something to help out with all this?  Here is what you can do to help:

Stop saying “That’s just your opinion” about things that are facts.*

    *(Yes, this also applies to situations where the fact would make someone feel bad.**)

    **(In cases where you are unsure, ask a smart person, or look up the answer in something written by a smart person.  For example, if we weren’t sure about something to do with physics, we would read a book by Stephen Hawking, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you don’t understand something — not just decide that there’s “no such thing” as the thing you don’t understand.***)

    ***(No, this does not make you a Conservative.  It makes you a Liberal who is not nuts.)             

The issue of whether someone is “insistent/mean” or “humble/nice” about their beliefs cannot be separated from and prioritized over the question of whether they have good reasons for believing them.  And as it happens (you would think this would be an advantage), we have good reasons and they don’t.  Just because people who write pop songs like to rhyme “teachers” with “preachers” a lot, that doesn’t mean that we are actually doing the same thing.  Their shit is made-up, and our shit is not.  Yes, it may seem like the same thing to a kid who doesn’t particularly like being made to sit still for a long time while an authority figure tells him what to believe, but you know what?  He’s a damn kid, and he’s wrong, and it is our responsibility to explain why, just like it is a doctor’s responsibility to operate on people when people require operations, even though having an operation is not fun.

Yes, people have the right to refuse the operation and die instead.  People also have the right to drop out of college and remain stupid instead.  But if they choose to remain in college, then smart people have to do their fucking jobs.  You are not “unfairly” forcing your “opinions” onto people any more than a surgeon is “unfairly” cutting someone up with a knife, so get over yourselves.  It is necessary, no-one else can do it, and you have a responsibility.  This Bitterman guy sounds like he was one of the good ones, but we guess he works at a gas station now, so oh well.  That’s show busin—  uh, I mean, school.

If you think my rhetoric is too harsh here, just ask yourself what you think the point of school is.  Your options are as follows:  Either we make kids go there for six hours a day for 17 years (counting college, since college is just High School Part II now) so they can…

    a)  hear things that are true from smart people, because it is good to know true things.


    b)  hear random opinions from random people for no reason.

Here’s a hint:  If you see this as a “Free Speech” issue rather than a “He’s right, you idiots” issue, then that means your answer is “b,” in which case we should just give up and not have such a thing as school.  If you think we should have such a thing as school, then this position obliges you to admit that certain things are true while other things are false — and not to this person or for that person, but true or false period.  If you think that the point of school is just to tell people “nothing is true, so believe whatever you want,” then why should that take 17 years?  It’s one fucking sentence — we could just put up a sign someplace.

Okay, I’ve sounded “mean” for a couple of paragraphs, so now I’ll switch things up and demonstrate how magnanimous I’m capable of being.  I’ve never explicitly said so before, but I actually don’t think that schools should teach, as an official part of the curriculum, that God does not exist.  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  This is simply a logically obligated application of my general position that only facts (since we are speaking informally here, the word facts includes theories that have been tested in every way possible and are thus obviously fucking true, so no messing around with the word theory, wiseguy) should be officially mandated curriculum, and that no facts should be excluded from the curriculum.  Since “God does not exist” is not a verifiable fact, it should not be mandated.

Here, however, are some other things, which are verifiable facts, and so can and should be included: 

    1.  There is absolutely no evidence that God exists (different claim from “God does not exist”).

    2.  The belief that God does not exist is infinitely more rationally justifiable than the belief that God exists (different claim from “God does not exist”).

    3.  All claims that have ever been made by all religions to the effect that their religions are true, in whole or in part, are either impossible to check up on or have been objectively disproven (different claim from “God does not exist”).

    4.  All historical or scientific claims supported by religion that contradict secular history or secular science can accurately be said to be false to the same extent that the statement “giraffes can fly” can be said to be false (different claim from “God does not exist”).

See?  None of those claims is the same thing as “God does not exist,” so I stand by my magnanimous proposal that there is no need for schools to teach that God does not exist.  But since what the instructor in Iowa said is covered by fact #4, there’s no reason for religious people to be mad.  And to think people say I’m mean.  In fact, many people—

    Hypothetical Religious Interlocutor:  Aha!  I have you now!

    Me:  Ah, shitballs.  What is it this time?

    HRI:  You admitted that the existence of God cannot be disproven!  

    Me:  Well, yes, I did.  But so what?  Neither can the existence of vampires.


    Me:  No, no, I mean…  Listen, just calm down, Hypothetical Idiot.  Forget about the vampires.  What was it you were going to say?

    HRI:  Well, if you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, then that means it’s possible that God exists, which means it’s possible that God is omnipotent, which means it’s possible that all the stuff in the Bible really happened, since with God all things are possible!

    Me:  Really?  All the stuff in the Bible?

    HRI:  Yup.  Boy, I’ve really got you this time.

    Me:  Even the really impossible stuff, like the Tower of Babel?

    HRI:  Yes, because with God all things are possible.

    Me:  Okay, but in the case of the Tower of Babel, God didn’t want the people to build it, so why would he have helped them?

    HRI:  Um…  You’re gay!

    Me:  Yes, of course I am.  See you next time.

Anyway, as I was about to say, a big part of the problem now is that many people who don’t actually agree with the Conservatives about Religious Thing X or Religious Thing Y being true still sign off on the idea that those things should not be contradicted by teachers.  The method by which they arrive at this position, as far as I have been able to discern, is to look at the fact that the controversy seems new — i.e., there wasn’t a ton of stuff on the news about conservative kids being insulted by college 20 years ago, but there is a lot of stuff on the news about it now — and conclude that the professors must be getting meaner, and saying a bunch of stuff they didn’t used to say, and that they should just go back to saying whatever it was they used to say before this was a problem.

But actually, smart people are saying the same shit we have always said (i.e., true shit).  There were plenty of professors saying that Adam and Eve didn’t literally exist 20 years ago, or 30 or 40 years ago.  The actual reason that this wasn’t as big a problem in the past is that until very recently, people who believed that the Bible was literally true didn’t go to fucking college, not counting trade or vocational schools, and in the cases where someone who did believe that all the shit in the Bible is true somehow wound up in a real school, they at least knew better than to openly have a shit fit if the teacher said that the Earth goes around the Sun, because once upon a time it was acknowledged by the culture at large that there is such a thing as being smart, and that smart people are smart. 

Eventually, though, even real schools realized that they could make money off of these people, since they’re all dumb and white and hence get no financial aid, and started admitting them in droves, and the pantheon of fake majors came into being.  (Are advertising and marketing really two different majors?  And what the fuck is communications?)  Of course, this necessitated that colleges turn into high schools. 

Lubchenko learn nothing.

I realize that not everybody wants to become a philosopher, and that’s fine.  If there are people who want nothing more out of college than Grammar Boot Camp for Future Office Grunts and a piece of paper at the end, whatever, it’s their life.  But over the course of their four-year grammar-boot-camp experience, these people are occasionally going to end up in the same classes as people who are actually in school to learn smart shit for the sake of smart shit — and all we ask is that they refrain from fucking this up for everyone else.  What the people who take the side of the offended religious students in situations like this fail to consider is that it was not one-on-one tutoring:  there are dozens of other, non-stupid kids in the same class, and they have a right to hear the smart version, because that’s what they came for.  In the case of the Bitterman firing, the objecting students were watching the class on a video feed in East Bumfuck — so, we as smart people go out of our way to set up all this inconvenient shit just so you can get an education too, and then you get us fired because you’d rather stay stupid, fucking up our lives and the educations of the other students in the process?  Yeah, we’re really oppressing the shit out of you, you ungrateful redneck ’tard.  The next time a professor says some shit that’s too complicated for you, how about you just space out and doodle a picture of Calvin pissing on whatever type of truck you don't like, instead of calling a lawyer?  

And hey, aren’t you always saying we’re the ones who are “too litigious?”

But the opening of the doors to the spoilers wasn’t the final nail in the coffin of truth.  This was driven in courtesy of what the Academic Left decided to start doing in the late ’80s: subjugating education to self-esteem — i.e., not only allowing, but encouraging students (as well as the professors themselves) to make up whatever crazy shit they wanted as long as it made them feel better.  You want to believe that personality differences between men and women have no genetic basis?  Sure sounds to me like it would make people feel better.  You want to believe that the ancient Egyptians were “Black people” in the modern sense, even though we have a ton of evidence to the contrary and it contradicts your other belief that race is a social construction?  Well, there are certainly people who would like to believe this, so yeah, whatever, go nuts.  You want to believe that the concepts of attractiveness and unattractiveness were invented in 1953 by an evil corporation located on a secret skull-shaped island?  Well, that one would be difficult to — oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were fat; in that case, go right ahead.  You want to believe that AIDS was invented by the CIA?  Well, it is a good idea to distrust the government, but learning the real reasons why requires research, whereas making up stupid shit is easy, so best of luck to you with that.  You don’t even know what the fuck your paper is about, because it makes no sense?  Just keep screaming that making sense was invented by men, and you’ll be fine.

I could go on for quite a while with the funny examples of this, but the point has been made.  Unfortunately, however, it took quite a while for the point to be made to academia itself.  To be precise, this didn’t happen until the following conversation took place, in an unnamed professor’s office, at an unnamed school, sometime in the late '90s…

    Religious Kid Who Got into College Somehow:  Good afternoon, Professor.

    Professor:  Hey, what’s up?  Have you thought of a topic yet?

    Religious Kid:  Yes, actually.  I’d like to write about how the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

    Professor:  Well, I’m afraid you can’t, because it’s not.  It’s a shitload older than that, and there are a million different ways to prove this.

    Religious Kid:  Well, maybe you could have convinced me of this once, but the thing is, I was listening when you were speaking with that last student, who said she wanted to write her paper about how men are only attracted to hot women because hot women are on TV, which you can also disprove a million different ways, only you told her it was fine because science only serves to reinforce arbitrary social conventions.     

    Professor:  Okay, yes, that is what I told her, but…

    Religious Kid:  So which is it?  Is science true or not?

    Professor:  Okay, it’s like this:  science is true, but when ugly girls believe science isn’t true it’s a good thing, and when religious freaks believe science isn’t true it’s a bad thing, so I’m going to tell her one thing about science but tell you a completely different thing.

    Religious Kid:  Do you really expect me to just shut up and not make a big deal out of this?

    Professor:  Would you?  Because that’d be great.

    Religious Kid:  Let me think… um, no.  (slams door)

    Professor:  Oh, well.  At least there’s only one person like that in the whole country.  What’s the worst that could happen?

By now, of course, we know what the worst that could happen was:  all the shit that actually has been happening in this country for the past six-and-a-half years, and a Left that was either powerless to stop it or too scared (and in case you were about to say that a lot of the worst-that-could-happen had nothing to do with stupid religious shit, we’ll remind you that stupid religious shit was the only reason Bush even got elected or re-elected, and so it indirectly caused everything else). 

I’ve already been over a lot of the things you could be doing to help, but in case any of you happen to have a time machine, there’s one more:  you can go back to the late ’80s and warn the Academic Left about the consequences of all the stuff they’re about to spend the next 20 years saying.  They may have trouble understanding you, so you’ll probably want to explain it to them in terms that they will find familiar and comforting.  So, here is a succinct illustration of the problem, modeled on a prominent public-service announcement from their day.


    Academic Liberal:  Are these your “to”s and “for”s?

    Bill O’Reilly:  Wha…?  No…

    Academic Liberal:  My students said they heard them on your show.

    Bill O’Reilly:  One of the guests must have—

    Academic Liberal:  Must have what? 

    Bill O’Reilly:  Look, professor, they’re not mi—

    Academic Liberal:  Answer me!  How long have you been arguing that one thing can be true “for” one person and another thing true “for” someone else?  That all knowledge is simply “opinion” and that anyone who says otherwise is an “elitist” who is “biased” and “oppressing” you?  Who taught you how to do this stuff?


    Narrator:  Liberals who shit on the truth enable Conservatives who shit on the truth.

(fade to black)

This message was brought to you by The 1585 and the Partnership for a Shitting-on-the-Truth-Free America.

read more awesome 1585 essays.

like and follow The 1585 on Facebook.

blog comments powered by Disqus