Phi Beta Cons

Millennials Miss the Mark on Free Speech

In September, at UNC-Chapel Hill’s sixth annual First Amendment Day celebration, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Greg Lukianoff explained to a full auditorium of students and professors that those expressing the most antagonism toward free speech today are Millennials, people in the 18-30 age range.

While that contention seems to go against our intuition, a cursory glance at a typical college campus reaffirms Lukianoff’s findings, what with “trigger warnings” and campus speaker “disinvitations” becoming ubiquitous throughout the country. 

Not only do the “progressive” students who support such free speech incursions seem to be offended by the slightest emotional and intellectual pinpricks, they also want to shut down debate and muzzle their enemies’ voices. 

One such authoritarian “progressive” is Zach Traynor, a Dartmouth student who recently wrote an op-ed for his school’s newspaper stating that America “has gone too far in allowing people to say whatever they want, and should curtail speech that is obviously harmful to society, such as hate speech.” He writes:

Those in support of aggressive civil liberties will protest: What is stopping the government from moving past sensible restrictions on free speech, once they are in place, to something more Orwellian, as in China or other authoritarian regimes? At face value, that is a fair question, but given America’s deeply-held cultural norms and the power of the Internet and social media, such a scenario is highly unlikely. We need only small but significant change to the freedom of speech in this country: namely, the prohibition of unambiguously destructive, hateful speech.

Have Mr. Traynor’s reassurances allayed your concerns, “aggressive civil liberties” advocates? 

Jesse SaffronJesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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