Peter Singer no-platformed by pro-disability protestors at Canadian university

On the topic of politics and effective altruism, I was somewhat surprised1 to see the following pop up in my Facebook feed:

What began as two conflicting defenses of free speech soon hindered discussion of any kind, as the Effective Altruists and protesters battled with the volume to deafening proportions. Protesters used a megaphone to read prepared text to the audience, and numerous audience members shouted back at them to leave.

One protester even temporarily unplugged the adapter connecting Effective Altruism’s computer to the projector before fleeing out the side door of Cinecenta. The club was able to quickly start the video back up with a replacement adapter.

All the while, Singer’s TED Talk and Q&A continued, and the room grew cacophonous. Shouts of support for Singer’s free speech were met with chants of “eugenics is hate” and “disabled lives matter,” and neither side showed any signs of backing down.

[the] protest [was] on the grounds of Singer’s past defense of the right of parents to euthanize severely disabled infants.


Protesters argued that giving Singer a platform was implicitly supporting the murder of disabled people, and that his views supported eugenics


Singer was in fact asked to address his views on euthanasia, but his answer was inaudible over the din of the auditorium.



Increasingly, I feel like our politics is being dominated by a meta-debate about who we are allowed to:

Whilst this latest event is part of a narrative about bad epistemology in contemporary politics2 that I have been interested in for a while, even I was shocked that things have gone this far; I should lose some Bayes points.   

I would consider this to be something like a near miss. Making a simple extrapolation about the amount this type of activity and its reach in terms of topic, I would suggest that we can expect more of it - both in terms of similar incidents, and in terms of other effects or incidents that share causes and ideology with it.

Anyone who was as surprised as I was probably needs to update their beliefs a bit here: we are in the outrage/doxxing/no-platforming age whether we like it or not, and all that stuff is terrible for thinking clearly. 




1: So surprised, in fact, that I am still wondering whether this is a hoax EDIT: We have some confirmation in the comments that this legitimately happened

2: and it applies to both sides, though I am not claiming that I don't have my own personal biases and hobby horses

Comments (10)

Comment author: Julia_Wise 08 March 2017 09:56:51PM *  10 points [-]

I spoke with one of the event organizers before the event. It's not a hoax.

Edit: It's also not new. This kind of thing has been happening to Singer periodically since the 1980s. I think it's easy for us to see it as more of an aberration than it is.

Comment author: Buck 09 March 2017 09:40:11PM 9 points [-]

As I wrote on Facebook, I think that we should not respond in any way to this. You might be interested in some of the discussion there.

Comment author: itaibn 12 March 2017 02:34:05PM 3 points [-]

Suggestion: The author should have omitted the "Thoughts" section of this post and put the same content in a comment, and, in general, news posts should avoid subjective commentary in the main post.

Reasoning: The main content of this post is its report of EA-related news. This by itself is enough to make it worth posting. Discussion and opinions of this news can be done in the comments. By adding commentary you are effectively "bundling" a high-quality post with additional content, which grants this extra content with undue attention.

Note: This comment was not incited by any particular objection to the views discussed in this post. I also approve of the way you clearly separated the news from your thoughts on it. I don't think the post goes outside the EA Forum's community norms. Rather, I want to discuss whether shifting those community norms is a good idea.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 14 March 2017 07:23:06PM *  1 point [-]

you are effectively "bundling" a high-quality post with additional content, which grants this extra content with undue attention.

A post which simply quotes a news source could be criticized as not containing anything original and therefore not worth posting. Someone has already complained that this post is superfluous since a discussion already exists on Facebook.

Actually if I had to criticize my own post I would say its weakness is that it lacks in-depth analysis and research. Unfortunately, in-depth analysis takes a lot of time...

Comment author: RyanCarey 14 March 2017 08:34:08PM 0 points [-]

Posting news together with analysis, arguments, and a few opinions is great. If you find yourself posting news and polemics together, you should think really hard if they should rather be split.

I don't think this post is too bad.

Comment author: AlasdairGives 08 March 2017 09:24:45PM 5 points [-]

According to my facebook this topic has had 156 comments on the EA facbook group already. I don't want to repeat or diminish those comments here so what is the purpose of opening a parallel discussion here as this seems like a topic which has attracted a huge amount of EA discussion already?

Comment author: the_jaded_one 08 March 2017 09:39:45PM *  12 points [-]

Facebook requires that you give your real name to post an opinion, be part of the group etc. That is certainly a serious limitation to open discussion, and this topic in particular exacerbates that problem.

Not everyone will necessarily want to comment on this issue under their real name.

Also, I presume this forum exists because someone decided that something other than Facebook is required. Are we questioning this logic in general? Or are we making a special case of this issue? Why?

But if you would be so kind as to post anything you see as particularly relevant, I would appreciate it.

Comment author: LKor 09 March 2017 07:03:05PM 4 points [-]

+1 this. Hate FB. EA is the only reason I semi-regularly think about returning.

Comment author: DonyChristie 15 March 2017 10:56:56PM *  0 points [-]

That's useful to know. What other online presence besides this forum would you recommend people use?

Comment author: LKor 20 March 2017 02:18:30PM 0 points [-]

I'd be happy to join a slack channel. (I'm already on the .impact slack).

I think there's some sort of RSS feed produced by FB groups. I'm going to look into subscribing to that, although I don't know if there's a way to write back to the group with that interface.