Phi Beta Cons

Disinvitation Season Now a Year-Round Affair

The term “disinvitation season” just doesn’t mean much anymore. It implies that there is a specific time of year when disinvitations peak. But we are quickly learning that every season is ripe for intellectual intolerance at America’s colleges and universities.

In September, there was the illiberal push to disinvite Ayaan Hirsi Ali from addressing a group at Yale (courageously resisted by Yale’s administration and President Peter Salovey). Then, we had the disinvitation of George Will from Scripps College (thankfully not mimicked by the leadership at Miami University). Now, not even comedian Bill Maher is safe from the mob. From Politico:

A student petition at University of California, Berkeley, aims to prevent Bill Maher from speaking on campus following his recent comments on Islam. 

The petition, which now has more than 2,200 signatures and is circulated on change.org, demands that the university revoke its invitation for the liberal comedian to speak at a December commencement ceremony.

“Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for,” the petition reads. “Bill Maher’s public statements on various religions and cultures are offensive and his dangerous rhetoric has found its way into our campus communities.”

Of course, as is the case in almost all of these instances, the issue is not whether Maher’s statements or values are worthy of defense. Maher may be a buffoon, and his ideas may be wrongheaded. The issue is the now-prevalent attitude that the right to speech is subservient to the “right” to never be offended—a notion reinforced by UC-Berkeley’s own Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, earlier this year.

As defenders of free speech have long noted, once we begin to build walls protecting us from those with “offensive” ideas and words, those walls will only grow higher and higher, until hardly anyone can surmount them. 

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