Wouldn’t I love to be invited to address the faculty of Harvard, the UN General Assembly, the joint houses of Congress? Imagine what that would do for my blog traffic. I’d even have to create a special section in my CV: “August Bodies Addressed.”

That sort of thinking is what makes “deplatforming” necessary in the first place. It is not, I think, primarily a matter of policing what ideas are discussed in the public square, or even about protecting college students from being triggered by unpleasant ideas. The objection is to conferring legitimacy on speakers whom people associated with the venue do not wish to confer legitimacy.

I’m not sure that’s an inappropriate end. Let’s suppose that there’s a speaker touring the country with the lecture, “The Final Solution: Lessons Learned and Possibilities for the Future.” I don’t want that speaker advertising his address with, “Mr. So-and-So has previously addressed the faculty of Harvard, the UN General Assembly, the joint houses of Congress.”

I also don’t want the speaker’s speech to be surpressed. Part of that is based on an American impulse toward freedom, but part of it is based on the conviction that ideas need not be frightening if we take the time to educate ourselves. The more horrifying the idea, the more important is for each of us to be able to explain from first principles why the idea must be rejected.

But here is my conclusion about deplatforming:

If being hosted by a by a venue confers prestige upon the speaker, then that venue ceases to be part of the marketplace of ideas.

The mistake that people make in criticizing deplatforming and cancel culture is to assume that these prestigious venues should have been expected to be part of the marketplace of ideas in the first place. Academia is nothing if not a carefully curated set of ideas. I intend no criticism: I wouldn’t attend an academic conference that accepted papers uncritically. But let’s acknowledge the reality.

But debate is not about status. Free inquiry cannot be saddled with the requirement for respectability.