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Solution to Bigotry is more Free Speech

February 22, 2012 – 8:31 pm38 Comments

We're surprised that this bully used the correct form of "You're"

By Larry Stillman

In an article I wrote in Galus Australis (November 2010), I said that “Hate speech is often characterized as ‘words that wound’, words that are deliberately intended to cause severe discomfort, stigmatization, a feeling of being sullied, and humiliation in the face of others.”  I also said that “Whether in the case of Jews slandering each other, others slandering Jews, or others slandering others (indigenous Australians, gays), what are the limits to free and particularly hateful speech in today’s environment when language and symbols are in endless play in different contexts?”

Now we have an episode that affects the reputation of the Jewish community because of who has said it (the son of Zelman Cowen), a highly educated Orthodox Jew with a Chabad background and a very modest association with Monash University.

Four years ago, The Age reported that Cowen spoke on behalf of a coalition of conservative Christians, Muslims and Jews saying that government “is indulging in social engineering in giving lesbians and single women access to fertility treatment, giving lesbian partners legal recognition as parents and allowing surrogate mothers.”

In the past week, more intolerant comments have come to light from an article Cowen has published about the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria program to prevent bullying of gay children in schools. Cowen has launched into a jeremiad against what he sees as modern secularism, liberal religion, and materialism resulting in the promotion of homosexuality.

According to those with much greater theoretical and practical insight into these matters, he is dead wrong on many counts, and I accept their counsel after having read his tendentious argument.

His opinions have been widely reported in the gay and lesbian media, as well as in MX daily (the freebie on trains), with a front page story.

I understand that thankfully, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has distanced itself completely from his remarks.  The problems of the Jewish Orthodox community with diverse sexuality can probably be better dealt with by those with more expertise in sexuality, bullying, religious prejudice, and institutionalized child abuse in Orthodox communities. This is something that Cowen should have addressed in his remarks if he was serious about morality.

But what has particularly angered gays and lesbians is the use by Shimon Cowen of his association with Monash University to provide credibility for his screed.  The byline to his article states that “Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen is Founding Director of The Institute for Judaism and Civilization, and is an Associate in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International studies at Monash University.”

Such is the concern over Cowen’s viewpoint that the Vice Chancellor of Monash University, Ed Byrne, when alerted, quickly distanced Monash from Cowen’s comments, while asserting the principle of academic freedom.  The Star Observer (a gay and lesbian newspaper) also reported a statement by Monash that “Dr Shimon Cowen is not employed at Monash. He holds an adjunct/honorary role (unpaid) in his field of research expertise – Jewish philosophy and theology – which is why he is listed in the staff directory”.

I have also raised the issue with the National Tertiary Education Union, and while the matter still has to be considered at a committee level, I know that the leadership would be appalled by Cowen’s stance, but at the same time, would also stand up for the principle of free speech.

As well as this, a group of academics in the Education faculty at Monash have condemned his views. I also understand that some academics want all ties between Cowen and Monash cut.

Monash University (and other universities) has a very large number of people in what are known as adjunct (what used to be called honorary) positions. These are provided to people on the basis of their qualifications or academic status, on the recommendation of faculties, as a means of providing them with some access to university resources (often the library), rather than the bowl of porridge or beer as was customary in medieval times. At one time, he had an adjunct association with the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization. I understand that he no longer has that association with the Centre, but he does have adjunct status attached to the Faculty of Arts.  I don’t know when this expires.

I have searched the Monash Research Profile directory to see the status of his research but as far as I can see, there is nothing, unless I am mistaken. Perhaps his work, such as the article that has caused controversy, has not been reported to Monash.   This lack of productivity may be taken into account when his appointment comes up for renewal.

Thus, it appears, as an act of generosity, Cowen, like many other people, has been given a leg-up to his professional career (though the website of his Institute has almost no content). Perhaps he has now overplayed his cards by publishing this dreadful article along with his Monash association. What can be done?

The terms and conditions of being an adjunct at Monash also include reference to Equal Opportunity and Human Rights legislation.   I suspect that any case brought against him would fail because he would claim that he was engaged in academic argument in good faith. Moreover, some people use their academic association to impress those who naively think that their views are officially ‘endorsed’.  Modesty is often absent in academia.

This is painful news for gays and lesbians, and others outraged by his comments. However, as far as I am concerned, the principle at stake is much the same as dealing with hate speech coming out of people like Frederick Tobin of the anti-Semitic Adelaide Institute, or for that matter, the right of SBS to broadcast the political drama, The Promise.   In the same way, while I think that Students for Palestine and some in the BDS movement a menace, I  have to defend their right to free speech, as I do to Joe Gutnick’s politics in Hebron with which I strongly disagree.   In a desire to censor or pull the rug on disturbing opinion, we can endanger everyone’s freedom of expression; because the problem is that it is very, very hard to draw the line correctly.

Thus, it is all too easy to turn people like Shimon Cowen into a martyr, particularly as he would become a pin-up boy of the conservative forces in this country who are engaged in a culture war against what they view as evil modernity.  It would also strengthen the forces of intolerance in the Orthodox community.

We also have to defend Cowen’s right to free speech, because next time “they could come after you.”  The Senate Inquiry of a couple of years ago into alleged leftist bias in higher education showed how little the principle of free speech is understood by those who see a left conspiracy in every lecturer’s class.  The danger is that those accusations of one sort or other could all too easy result in suppression of free speech and thought.  We should not forget until very recently, Australia and its States were renowned for their censorship zeal.

The solution to Cowen’s bigotry is more free speech, and at the same time a vigorous challenge to his views in a way that will educate the public, including the religious community.  He is welcome to defend his pompous assertions, but he will have to deal with people who are educationists, not specialists in Jewish philosophy and theology, as is Cowen. Peer review would be very cruel if he submitted his work to a respected educational journal, or even a moderate rabbinical school in the US or Israel.

And then, there may be Orthodox and more liberal Jews locally who are prepared to challenge him on religious grounds.  Cowen has clearly gone out of his area of expertise, covering his prejudices with a academic ‘gloss’ and that is his real weakness.

Show his ideas up for what they are –prejudiced rubbish, but don’t blame Monash University for supporting the principle of free speech by someone with a very modest, and possibly tenuous link to it.

Larry Stillman was a Committee member of Liberty Victoria for a number of years. He is on the Executive of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society, and is also a Senior Research Fellow at Monash in the Faculty of IT and with the Monash Oxfam Partnership.    However, these views are absolutely his alone.

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  • Ittay says:

    The speech given by Rabbi Shimon Cowen to the Life Vote Organisation is one of the most disturbing diatribes I have ever read by a Chabad Rabbi. Not only does he speak against the right of GLBT students to have an education free of bullying, he also advocates reparative therapy for people who are uncertain about their sexuality.

    This type of ‘therapy’ has been utterly discredited in Australia. In the States, the American Psychiatric Association has also released a statement concluding “Several major professional organizations including the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Academy of Paediatrics have all made statements against reparative therapy because of concerns for the harm caused to patients. Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality perse is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.”

    Furthermore, Dr. Abba Borowich, an Orthodox psychiatrist who practiced reparative therapy for Orthodox homosexuals for nearly 30 years has concluded in this paper that this is an ineffective course of therapy which only increased suffering among his patients and their families. (see below for a summary)

    One of the most offensive parts of his speech skirts awfully close to Godwin’s law in equating those who don’t see homosexuality as a mental illness with Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.

    In his speech he said “As the result of a doctrinal putsch in the American Psychiatric Association in 1973, followed by the American Psychological Association in 1975, the human being was redrawn, and what was formerly understood to be an abnormal behaviour – homosexuality – became normal and co-normative with heterosexual behaviour.“

    Later on in his speech he claims to be speaking on behalf of “the world faiths which acknowledge and accept both the Abrahamic precepts and the revelation at Sinai.” Maybe I missed something during parashah reading at shule, because I do not remember any instruction in the Torah regarding same sex attracted Jews who don’t act on this attraction as having an illness or requiring therapy.

    For those interested in reading a position that is actually based on halacha, I recommend this:

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Gosh, what an amazingly nasty piece of work you are. I quite understand that you don’t like him, but please don’t insult our intelligence by pretending that you’re defending his rights while you’re trying to have him fired.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    er Joe … do you mean fired from Monash? it’s not possible – he was never employed…

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Well said Joe in Australia. Larry Stillman is making a massive mountain out of a molehill, just like Mx and the gay lobby have done.

    Rabbi Dr Cowen has every right to comment in his own name on any issue under the sun. All that was needed in this case was a disclaimer at the end of his original article that his views are his own, much like Larry has done here.

    Perhaps one could infer that Larry’s main beef is, despite his protestations to the contrary, the good rabbi’s position on gays and education. Larry may well be a former Committee member of Liberty Victoria, but he is obviously upset by the rabbi’s opinions, even though Larry purports to accord him the right of free speech. Because Larry is ostensibly a proponent of free speech, he has therefore attacked the messenger for not correctly identifying himself and his views, i.e. denigrating the message by denigrating the messenger.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    BTW “jeremiad” appears to be Larry’s fanciful attempt at creative linguistics, but coupled with his inability to spell the name Cowen correctly (the first time it is mentioned, with reference to the former Governor General), it is obvious that his intellectual aspirations fall far short of the mark.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Mandi – Joe in Australia obviously means “removed from his position”, be it an honorary position or otherwise.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Rabbi Cowen is perfectly entitled to his views, repugnant or otherwise, whether he is or is not employed or associated with Monash.

    I have heard many an ‘associate’ (I use the term extremely loosely) of Monash express views which I consider absolutely horrid, apologist or ill-informed, both left and right wing, many of them made under the guise of being pseudo-intellectual academia.

    If their’s are permitted, so should any other.

    Credentials provided at the conclusion of many ridiculous opinions do nothing to validate the opinion. But for some reason the masses follow these ‘credentials’ and the opinions they support…
    …Probably because our society have learnt to mindlessly demand freedom of speech as an unfortunate substitute for freedom of thought.

    My question to Rabbi Cowen is how is it possible to teach kids about bullying without illustrating the kinds of situations where kids are being bullied? Isn’t the point of the program to teach kids to treat each other with the same level of respect no matter their size, ethnicity, socio-economic background, religion or orientation?

    This is extremely disappointing as I understood Rabbi Cowen to be a well educated, intelligent man, and I am hoping (although I am told I should not) that his comments have been misunderstood or taken out of context.

    Has anyone seen a copy of the program being used in the schools? Is it possible to post a link to it or be given a copy?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Harry – wasn’t Joe’s point though, that one should say what one means ?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    1) Since Galus is not a big time online newspaper, editing slips do fall through the hot metal cracks and will be corrected.

    2) A link to the program Safe Schools Coalition Victoria is at http://safeschoolscoalitionvictoria.org.au/, but can I make a plea that this NOT be the main topic here–the topic is one of the right to free speech, particularly free speech in institutions like universities.

    3) A number of respondents appear to have missed the point. I am defending his right to free speech whether or not he is at Monash. However, since he uses his status at Monash as a kind of credential buffer, we are entitled to ask: is he actually using that buffer for what he is supposed to be doing with it: for academic purposes (such as published journal articles or books, a core aspect of academic life), or teaching support etc(I had an appointment at Melbourne Univ at one time, but it rightly lapsed, because I was not doing anything with it).

    4) The assertion that the sexuality issue is a minor one is I think quite incorrect. There are pages and pages of coverage in this weeks Aus. Jewish News, including a strong criticism from Rabbi Fred Morgan from the liberal/reform perspective for Cowen’s imposition of a normative and prescriptive position on human behaviour rather than a recognition about its reality.

    5) I used the term ‘jeremiad’ because Cowen’s comments about homosexuality, secularism, materialism and so on are couched in a war of civilizations context–between what he sees as Noahide committments (and an absolutist position on Judaism) and godlessness. That position is fair game for debate.

  • Larry – an adjunct at a university is required to declare their affiliation when they write. It goes both ways.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    David, I assume you mean that Monash can get some kudos or tsuros (nice…) out of its adjuncts? A good point.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    But I can’t see any requirement by Monash to provide affiliation for adjuncts. It is context specific. e.g. If I write about things like free speech, I don’t claim to be writing it on the basis of my professional expertise in a particular area of social-technology research, though I could if it was about internet free speech I suppose. But by and large, I avoid using my Monash affiliation to butress my politics. One of the reasons for this is that in exceptional circumstances, remarks can be legally contentious or privileged, and a University will not protect you.

    This may seem irrelevant to some readers, but it can be a bone of contention, and it can be hard to draw the line. For example, there are people who deny climate change or evolution who appear to claim that they have professional scientific expertise, but their qualifications are not relevant. On the other hand, there are people like Chomsky who are polymathic–I will take up what I hope is a non-contentious topic here–whose work on E. Timor or the Vietnam War was critical.

    The other side of this is the ‘industrialization’ of knowledge, and not letting people step outside their formal areas of expertise in particular circumstances. Thus, we don’t let people with BAs work as brain surgeons, though centuries ago we had barber surgeons.

    On the other hand, using the Chomsky analogy above, there are people whose work in different disciplines does win the respect of the jury of peers or the public.

  • You keep suggesting that Shimon used his Monash affiliation to strengthen his case (and that you, self-righteously, don’t). There is no basis for this. As an adjunct, he is required to declare his connection.

    If you don’t like Monash’s policy on adjuncts, then complain to them (as you have). This isn’t necessarily a public debate.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    David, I was not clear in my prior posting. I should have been more exact. In the regulations about adjuncts,I can’t see any *requirement* to use it with all publications.

    This gets a bit technical


    In order that Monash University achievements and investment in research receive appropriate acknowledgement and contribute to all relevant measures of performance, Monash University must be attributed for research outputs in the following cases:
    Where resources and/or facilities of Monash University have been used in the research leading to the output. This includes contribution to salary of researchers, other funding, resources, facilities, apparatus, human and administrative resources;
    Where funds for research have been directed through Monash University accounts.

    These criteria may apply even where an author may subsequently have left Monash University, provided that one or more of the above conditions are met.

    Now the question is if Shimon Down has used any Monash resources in ‘research leading to the output’, ie his article. If he has, the attribution is correct, if he hasn’t well as a matter of courtesy, there should be no attribution.

    I am also pretty sure that ‘research output’ is the kind of thing that univerisite use for ‘measurement’ —

    ‘All research outputs, including traditional publications, such as journal articles, books, chapters and conference papers, as well as web-based publications, multi-media, works of art, performances, software and compositions;’

  • letters in the age says:

    nice to see you on insight larry.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Larry,
    While I strongly disagree with the views of R’ Cowen on this matter, I find the free speech issues here to be highly complex.

    I’m curious as to your opinion on Noam Chomsky. Chomsky’s expertise is in psycho-linguistics, and yet to those outside of this field (i.e. most people) he is primarily known for his political activism. Essentially, he’s made a career out of speaking outside his genuine area of academic expertise.

    And has Malki has also alluded to, in my campus days I came across a number of academics (in areas as unrelated as anatomy and health economics) who used their academic positions to take public positions against Israel that I found to be grossly ill-informed and bigoted. Of course, they did not acquire the fame of a Chomsky.

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing your concise opinion…

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I must say, I am not particularly in favour of academics using their titles and affilations as a credibility factor to the credulous, whatever the cause, in the same way I think that AM/AOs are a bit poncy. Comrade Citizen is a much better term :)

    However, a ‘PhD’ is supposed to indicate a modicum of sense –look at moi!

    In the US and the UK there is much more use of of labelling, I think because the concept of being a ‘public intellectual’ is much more developed than it is here. There still remains the notion of a scholar and the academy having a status as a repository of traditional social cultural ‘goods’, and the same applies to the concept of the ‘independent scholar’.

    Chomsky. I figure whether or not he was at MIT he would have been famous. He is an illiu, the boy genius with tenure at a very young age. He doesn’t realy play off his MIT status, if anything, MIT plays off him as well. You can’t speak in the case of some people as having ‘genuine’ expertise. We forget that some people really are polymathic and he is one of them. There is a dogs breakfast of people here–http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_been_called_%22polymaths%22

    What would you say about Jonathan Miller ‘just’ a doctor? or Charles Birch — ‘just’ a doctor, ibid, Gus Nossal Maimonides–just a doctor of med? Isaac Asimov?

    I used to clean house for someone in Boston who was both key to the genome project, a concert cellist, AND a brilliant artist, http://faculty.olin.edu/~hkeller/ — it is humiliating…

    Our culture is very binary, and finds it difficult to deal with multiple viewpoints and intelligences and competences. Another stellar example is Amartya Sen. What is he? An economist? A philospher? A sociologist?

    Labels are not always appropriate.

    The Israel/Palest issue captures our attention because it is a highly political issue on which it is possible to gain a reasonably informed if partisan position, and in the states, the principle of free speech in the academy is held firmly to because its enemies are so strong. Many people involved in the debate come from the humanities, law and so on so they think about issues of morality a lot (or, in sciences, they also think about issues of morality, war and peace and so on from the POV of science for good)

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Not concise, but these are complex issues. Academics unpack issues into complexity, then add footnotes to their own articles.

  • frosh says:

    I think there’s a tendency that when an academic (or a celebrity for that matter, such as an actor, author, or even an athlete) expresses a view we don’t like, we label them as someone speaking well outside the area of their expertise.

    However, when an academic or celebrity expresses an opinion we agree with, we have a tendency to label them a “polymath” (well, perhaps not normally that exact word).

    I’m not saying there’s a easy answer to this.

  • Baz says:

    Can i make a general suggestion that everyone read the Australian Jewish News this week ( i dont work for them) for a slightly more rigorous and balanced take on this particular matter.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Michael, a number of options to answer your devil’s advocate position, which are a silly provocation.

    1) The solution, taking one perspective is easy. Irving would not be appointed to a position at Monash. An easy case would be made both on his academic work, his associations with scum etc, that his views break any number of laws and that he is not a distinguished historian (refer to his lawsuit involving Deborah Lipstadt). It is also unlikely that if he had these views before coming to Monash, he would be appointed as an adjunct: there is no obligation to appoint anyone.
    He would be free to promote his views as he wished, but not under Monash auspices.

    2) Assuming that he already was an adjunct at Monash, and then began to promote his views–
    –A very strong free speech advocate would argue that the laws such as anti-vilification legislation are wrong , and his speech would be protected as a speech act.
    –The counter argument is that free speech does not mean that you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded picture theatre and not bear the consequences.
    The argument for terminating his presence would be that Irving’s activities are such that through his words, videos, presence at neo-Nazi rallies, and encouragement of Nazis and so on that he deliberately incites violence. This has been proven in a number of legal jurisdictions, this would also disqualify him from a position I suggest, since he causes deliberately causes public disorder and this is not acceptable as a aspect of university activity.

    3) A better comparison might be with Geoffrey Blainey and his offensive views about migrants which he published in the 1980s at Melbourne University. The perception of martyrdom, due to the actions of students in hounding Blainey, resulted in him being regarded by John Howard as a his favourite historian and also a favourite of right-wing publications such as Quadrant . Strangely, Cowen has also published a form of his culture war thesis in that magazine, despite its history of publishing material from the racist and revisionist right. Cowen certainly also shows a lack of judgement choosing to publish in such a magazine. [http://www.crikey.com.au/2008/05/15/quadrant-its-ok-to-be-a-nazi-if-youre-pretty/]
    I could spend a lot more time on developing the discussion, but I don’ t have the time currently.

    4) ) Your linked scenario is therefore overzealous and inflammatory, and it might be best to remove it because it is not reflecting reality. It is not a reflection of the situation at hand here. Cowen and David Irving are not in the same league and it is offensive make representations that it is the case and that your hypothetical applies to Monash University.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    A devil’s advocate is someone who, for the sake of testing an argument, takes a position that he or she does not actually support. In the present context you would be a devil’s advocate if you actually took Dr Cowen’s side and argued it to the best of your ability. I don’t think there’s a rhetorical term for your technique – perhaps it’s an application of Godwin’s Law?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I just saw this — Baz, the articles in the AJN are about the substance of his views on homosexuality and young people, not about the issue of free speech. But as someone said to me, why didn’t the AJN actually interview a young gay person who has been bullied? And why only men commenting: are women not capable of also writing about religious tolerance or intolerance.

  • Contrary to what David said above, an Associate in Monash University most certainly does not have to indicate his affiliation with the school every time he publishes something, but contrary to what everybody seems to be assuming there is nothing within this “jeremiad” to really suggest that he did. While the article does conclude with a brief bio, it is the sort of thing that one would copy and paste, and just as likely that it was the AFA who copied and pasted it as it was the rabbi himself. You have made it sound as though he is trumpeting his affiliation with the university, as though his connection with the department bolsters his message somehow, and I see no indication of any such thing.

    Secondly, Michael’s hypothetical, concerning David Irving, is not so absurd. The problem is not that David Irving is (apparantly) a Holocaust denier, but that he’s an idiot. Here’s a better example: ever heard of Arthur Butz? He was an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Northwestern University, Illinois. In 1976, only two years after receiving tenure, he published a book entitled The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry. In it, he argued that every aspect of the Holocaust (from the number of those who were “supposedly” killed, to the use of gas in killing them) was a complete fabrication, invented from whole cloth by those pernicious Jews, who use it to persecute the Palestinians.

    What is Arthur Butz doing now? Well that’s easy: he’s an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Northwestern University, Illinois. See?

    The university distanced themselves from his remarks, just as Monash have distanced themselves from the remarks of Rabbi Cowen, but there’s no law against an academic’s expressing his private views if he should wish to do so, and nor should there be. Dropping their affiliation with Rabbi Cowen would be the worst possible thing that Monash could do, and would set a very ugly precedent indeed.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Simon, a very good point, though I still don’t know if we have any low life of this sort teaching or researching in Australian universities .

    Butz has set himself up as a university idiot as detailed at http://americanloons.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/47-arthur-butz.html

    Note this statement from the President of the University on Wikipedia

    “Northwestern University Associate Professor Arthur Butz recently issued a statement commending Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s assertion that the Holocaust never happened. Butz is a Holocaust denier who has made similar assertions previously. His latest statement, like his earlier writings and pronouncements, is a contemptible insult to all decent and feeling people. While I hope everyone understands that Butz’s opinions are his own and in no way represent the views of the University or me personally, his reprehensible opinions on this issue are an embarrassment to Northwestern.

    There is no question that the Holocaust is a well-documented historical fact. The University has a professorship in Holocaust Studies endowed by the Holocaust Educational Foundation. Northwestern offers courses in Holocaust Studies and organizes conferences of academic scholars who teach in areas relating to the Holocaust. In addition, Northwestern hosts a summer Institute for Holocaust and Jewish Civilization. And most recently, a fellowship in the political science department has been established in my name by the Holocaust Educational Foundation. In short, Northwestern University has contributed significantly to the scholarly research of the Holocaust and remains committed to doing so.

    Butz is a tenured associate professor in electrical engineering. Like all faculty members, he is entitled to express his personal views, including on his personal web pages, as long as he does not represent such opinions as the views of the University. Butz has made clear that his opinions are his own and at no time has he discussed those views in class or made them part of his class curriculum. Therefore, we cannot take action based on the content of what Butz says regarding the Holocaust – however odious it may be – without undermining the vital principle of intellectual freedom that all academic institutions serve to protect.”

    This is an expression of the strong free speech principle.

  • letters in the age says:

    Eds: Irrelevant comment removed. You seem to have a history of leaving completely irrelevant comments on threads. If you’d like to discuss a different topic, we suggest you summon up a little bit of courage and submit an article to the editors (via email).

  • philip mendes says:

    Maybe I have missed something – but if we disagree with Cowen’s extremist views, why would we not write directly to him to tell him that, rather than addressing our complaints to Monash with whom he has at best a tenuous connection? It seems to me that some people on the Left have adopted the traditional tactics of the right – using smarmy legal processes or guilt by association to suppress views they don’t like.

  • Oh Philip, what on earth are you suggesting? It’s far more effective to turn this into a public debate involving people who would never get past the first page of Cowen’s paper, let alone be prepared to seriously debate the points he raises.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Well said Philip!

  • Larry Stillman says:

    David, since you and I agree for a change, and we see that Philip has missed the point of this discussion , are you referring to 1) debate on issues of sexuality, bullying and his critique of modernity vs traditional religious morality (as he sees it) 2) the linked free speech issue?

    I just need to be clear, because perhaps Galus actually needs to have another intelligent debate /discussion on sexuality and the orthodox community (assuming that #2 is now underway), even though Michael Barnett and Simon Holloway have written about it a few times.

    If you are also referring to the relative abstruseness of Cowen’s argument, then you have a point. He does see his views as part of a culture war, as presented in an article in Quadrant a couple of years go. http://www.quadrant.org.au/magazine/issue/2009/10/rights-as-a-weapon-in-culture-war, and this is mildly more readable. He’s a through and through conservative.

  • Larry – switch your sarcasmometer back on – I was agreeing with Philip!

  • Sam says:

    Philip is absolutely right in questioning why any one would alert Monash regarding Shimon Cowen’s paper rather than answer with an alternative view directly back to the author.
    As far as the free speech issue, what is the issue? Is it that Larry initially thought that we should gag R. Cowen before he published his intolerant rant, but then had the grace to realize that as the rest of us already had this privilege in Australia, he must be entitled to free speech also.

  • frosh says:

    Larry Stillman, that champion of freedom of speech, the founder of “Limmud X” (a protest against supposed denial of freedom of speech at Limmud Oz) has removed my comments from his Facebook thread, and blocked me on Facebook, because he doesn’t like that Ipost counter-arguments on his far-left threads.

    As predictable as it is, I still can’t help but me amused at the irony.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Not at all Ant. You have engaged in personally offensive cyber-bullying. That is why I have banned you. You don’t seem to understand the different between political argument and personally offensive abuse. I don’t have to put up with that.

    Running to your own magazine to promote your bullying is also pretty low.

  • frosh says:

    No Larry,

    “Low” would be blocking you from commenting on Galus.
    But that’s the type of thing you do, not me.
    Victory is mine!

    Cyber-bullying? P—lease!
    Is that how the far-left labels criticism and counter-arguments to stifle debate?

  • TheSadducee says:

    I would encourage you to kiss and make up but I might offend some of our more frum brother and sisters.

  • Frosh,

    “blocking you from commenting on Galus.” – lo tikom
    “that’s the type of thing you do, not me.” – lo titor


    Chassidim are able to kiss and make-up and no-one gets offended nor questions their masculinity ;)

    Let’s start improving the quality of comments and debate on here!!!

  • frosh says:

    “Running to your own magazine to promote your bullying is also pretty low.”

    Larry, how are my actions low?

    I understand you are using your Facebook wall to attack me, including such complete lies that I have (presumably physically) threatened you. Now, that’s LOW!

    What’s even LOWER is that I am blocked from your wall, and so cannot even defend myself. Lucky I don’t give a damn. I just want to point out your mendacious hypocrisy since you have written this article proclaiming yourself as a champion of freedom of a speech

    And yet you have not been blocked from Galus. You are welcome to come on this site and defend yourself.

    Now, which one of us truly believes in freedom of speech, and which one of us is abusing it?

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