The Corner

Free Speech and Its Campus Enemies

Free speech has come under such furious attack on American college campuses that this fundamental concept of civilization now belongs on the endangered-species list. Many students are opposed to free speech since they feel entitled to silence or even punish anyone who disagrees with them, or merely annoys them (that’s the point behind the furor over “microaggressions”). Also, some students, and even faculty members, buy into the notion that some ideas have been heard too much (e.g., arguments for private property and economic liberty) while others have supposedly been heard too little (e.g., the case for socialism), so out of “fairness” the dominant ideas should be suppressed.

The “speech must be properly controlled” faction has been winning, but at last a counter-offensive seems to be building. One group that has come to the defense of free speech is PEN America, which released a paper last month that is meant to advance understanding of the principles of free speech on campus. In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I give PEN America’s effort two thumbs up.

But the problem with it (and all such free-speech defenses) is that so many academic officials these days are inclined to say, “Sure, free speech is vital, but . . . ” But it must not make anyone feel excluded; but it must not trigger any harmful emotions; but it must not harass anyone, and so on. With so many voices on campus clamoring for restrictions on speech, the exceptions are swallowing up the rule.

Consider, for instance, the nasty incidents at Yale last year, where the university’s president, Peter Salovey, did nothing to defend two members of the Yale community, Nicholas and Erika Christakis, when they were viciously hounded by “progressive” students over the silly matter of appropriate Halloween costumes. (My piece links to a devastating article on that by one of Yale Law’s most famous graduates, Richard Epstein.)

For Salovey, free speech is important, but far more important to mollify irate students so they wouldn’t turn their anger on him.

Our higher-education system has been fully infiltrated by administrators like Salovey who think they must balance freedom of speech with bogus concerns such as “diversity” and “inclusivity.” With such people in power, free speech will keep eroding.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Film & TV

Joker: An Honest Treatment of Madness

When I saw that the New York Times and The New Yorker had run columns berating the new Joker movie, criticizing it not simply on cinematic grounds but instead insisting that the film amounted to a clandestine defense of “whiteness” in an attempt to buttress the electoral aim of “Republicans” — this is a ... Read More
Culture

The Origins of the Transgender Movement

Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from remarks delivered at a Heritage Foundation summit. I’ve been asked to talk about the origins of transgenderism and how it relates to children and their exploitation. But first, I would like to start with a little story. Yesterday I was wandering around ... Read More
Elections

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More