“American Society for the Protection of Philosophers” Proposed
In a comment in the ongoing discussion regarding the reaction to George Yancy’s “Dear White America,” University of Oregon professor of philosophy Naomi Zack puts forward the idea of an “American Society for the Protection of Philosophers.” She volunteers herself for it and asks interested others to contact her:
The American Philosophical Association should express support for philosophers (others also, but especially philosophers) who risk abuse and threats of violence in response to publicly airing views that anger members of the public.
There should be a statement of support and a standing voluntary committee to provide support and advice when something like what has recently happened to George Yancy happens again. We can be sure that it will happen again, although Yancy’s situation is ongoing. I volunteer to be a member of that committee. Are there other volunteers and does anyone know how to make this official?
Please email me if you are a member of the APA and interested in taking this up. The name is simple and straight forward:
American Society for the Protection of Philosophers. (I’m suggesting that this be an umbrella committee and then depending on need, it can divide later to specifically address other magnets for hate, besides race, e.g., gender.)
Does anyone know if there are similar groups for other professionals?Report
I imagine the philosophers who fall into this category might be quite a mixed bag. While those who point out systematic injustices are certainly subject to harassment and sometimes worse, philosophers who publicly support racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. views may also see themselves in this category. I would guess that a support group might have a hard time supporting members of both of those groups.Report
If it is sincerely about protecting philosophers’ intellectual freedom, it will have no more difficulty defending people of all controversial views than FIRE does.
And of course, the contrapositive is also true: If it has more difficulty defending people of all controversial views than FIRE does, it isn’t sincerely about protecting philosophers’ intellectual freedom.
I’m curious to see what it’s really about: philosophers’ freedom, or a certain ideology.Report
While I’ve no desire to downplay the seriousness of the threats and abuse received by professor Yancy, I can’t help noticing that the name of the proposed society wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson film. Please excuse my levity.Report
I would like to hear a bit more about what this group would actually do. What kind of support would they actually be giving and what difference would they be hoping to make? As Brian pointed out in a comment on a different thread, http://dailynous.com/2016/01/15/internet-abuse-of-philosophers/, death threats should be responded to by the police. And it far from clear to me that the APA should be taking a stance on abusive language.Report
If I were subject to serious bullying and harassment either online or elsewhere I would very much like to be able to report the incident to the APA and be referred to legal or other experts who are APA members and could advise me on my options. This probably would happen even now without the proposed official “society,” but it would be more convenient, efficient, and effective if some such group were formed with members who have the requisite expertise or experience in dealing with these sorts of issues. Of course, if violence is threatened the police or campus security should be notified and, of course, not all verbal abuse rises to the level of the kind of bullying or harassment that requires professional support and advice to deal with.Report
Avi, could you please explain your reasoning?
I understand why, if you were “subject to serious bullying and harassment either online or elsewhere” after, say, writing a newspaper article that some non-philosopher readers dislike, you’d be upset and want to do something about it.
What I don’t yet understand is why you feel the APA, or some other philosophical organization, would be the right body to report the incident to. People from all walks of life get harassed online for all kinds of reasons, or maybe even for no real reason. Philosophers make up a very small percentage of the overall population. I don’t see why philosophers would be in a better position to advise you or offer support than other people would.Report
If harassed, I think I would like to get advice from someone in my own profession who also has legal or other relevant expertise and experience in order to obtain a realistic understanding of my options for dealing with the situation. Of course, I could pay for an attorney’s time and discuss the matter with colleagues, friends, and family, but I think it appropriate that the professional organization I belong to as a philosopher could assist in dealing with bullying and harassment that happened in response to doing philosophy. I certainly wouldn’t expect the APA to have police powers and I would’t think anyone outside of the philosophy profession (and not everyone within it) would care about any official APA statement condemning the abuse.Report