The Gazette’s Allison Hanes weighs in on the Andrew Potter debate:
We live in the age of the digital lynch mob, where our slightest missteps get magnified, stupid remarks snowball and ill-considered words live on in infamy. Potter is not the first to be scorched by the blowback from this vicious cycle.
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The modern tools that are supposed to foster societal discussion have a tendency to drown out dissenting views and become echo chambers of outrage. It is regrettable there can no longer be criticism without consequences, that ideas can no longer be challenged without resulting in a chill effect.
I agree. I also thought Andrew Potter’s column was ill-researched, ill-advised and lame. But I don’t think he deserved to lose his job over it. Everyone — academics especially — should have freedom of speech, which includes the freedom to sometimes be wrong. And if you’re wrong, people can call you out for it. And you can admit you’re wrong and learn from it. That’s how we all get smarter. But to silence voices just because we don’t like what they say? That hurts all of us.
I’m not so concerned with Potter in particular. By most accounts, the guy is a jerk. But in what happens the next time a professor says something that people don’t like?
The “pile-on effect” is one of those unfortunate consequences of social media that is hard to keep in check.