Phi Beta Cons

Re: Diluting Anti-Semitic Harassment Policy

Candace de Russy broaches an interesting subject in her post about the federal government’s investigation of “anti-Semitic harassment” on college campuses. Clearly, colleges in general–and Middle Eastern studies departments in particular–have become hotbeds of virulent anti-Israeli sentiment and even anti-Semitism. (Stanley Kurtz has been on this beat for awhile, and it’s a real problem.)
But there is something troubling about some of the groups who are calling for a federal investigation of campus anti-Semitism. Namely, it seems that some of these well-intentioned defenders of Israel are tempted to adopt some of the same speech-suppressing tactics that have been so shamefully employed by the academic Left.
One of the ways that campus leftists have succeeded in stifling speech that they disfavor is by disingenuously labeling it as “harassment.” Harassment is not constitutionally protected, they claim, and in this limited claim they are quite correct. What they ignore, however, is that “harassment” has a narrow legal definition, which is based on the time, place, and manner of speech–not on the speech’s content. So when some campus leftists call for “harassment policies” prohibiting “lewd jokes” or “racially offensive expressions,” they are in fact broadening the definition of harassment beyond its legal parameters, thereby advocating the censorship of constitutionally-protected speech.
Now some opponents of “anti-Semitic harassment” seem to be doing the same thing. The Anti-Defamation League, for example, claims that “anti-Semitic harassment” is exemplified by: “anti Jewish slurs”; “Fliers containing anti-Semitic messages or leaflets from virulent anti-Semitic groups”; “anti-Jewish or Holocaust-denying letters-to-the-editor or advertisements printed in newspapers.” The United States Commission on Civil Rights, which de Russy mentions, implies that anti-Semitic harassment includes “anti-Israel literature and promotion of Jewish stereotypes.” But that’s all protected by the First Amendment. We should not expect the federal government to investigate such things, much less to censor them.
In the name of preventing “anti-Semitic harassment,” we should be wary of censorship. As advocates of individual liberty and defenders of the Constitution, conservatives can and should fight puerile bigotry in accordance with their principles–through the marshalling of public outrage and the power of argumentation in the free marketplace of ideas.

Most Popular

Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More
Elections

About That ‘Broken Algorithm’

Of all the loopy assertions made at the press conference President Trump’s legal team conducted last Thursday, the one that has been most roundly derided is the since-ousted Sidney Powell’s claim that the national popular vote was such a landslide for President Trump “that it broke the algorithm that had ... Read More

The Rural Way

Almost every national Election Night reveals the same old red/blue map. The country geographically is a sea of red. The coasts and small areas along the southern border and around the Great Lakes remain blue atolls. Yet when the maps are recalibrated for population rather than area, the blue areas blow up, ... Read More

The Rural Way

Almost every national Election Night reveals the same old red/blue map. The country geographically is a sea of red. The coasts and small areas along the southern border and around the Great Lakes remain blue atolls. Yet when the maps are recalibrated for population rather than area, the blue areas blow up, ... Read More
U.S.

The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash

The backlash is coming. It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions. We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ... Read More
U.S.

The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash

The backlash is coming. It already seems clear that the first major political and cultural eruption of the Biden years will be a roiling populist backlash against the next round of COVID restrictions. We saw this sentiment play out in sporadic anti-lockdown demonstrations last spring, and it has driven ... Read More
Elections

A Hard Look at Those Post-Election Legal Efforts

On the menu today: Michigan certifies its vote totals; the General Services Administration starts the transition; and it’s time for a hard, unflinching look at the president’s post-election legal efforts. What Did the President Get from His Legal Team? Michigan and Georgia have certified their election ... Read More
Elections

A Hard Look at Those Post-Election Legal Efforts

On the menu today: Michigan certifies its vote totals; the General Services Administration starts the transition; and it’s time for a hard, unflinching look at the president’s post-election legal efforts. What Did the President Get from His Legal Team? Michigan and Georgia have certified their election ... Read More
History

From Hate to Heroism

Welcome to “The Tuesday,” a weekly newsletter about language, culture, politics, and, lately, relentless book-hawking. To subscribe to “The Tuesday” and receive it in your inbox, please follow this link. From Hatred to Heroism Daniel Cordier, when he was young and getting started in life, did not seem ... Read More
History

From Hate to Heroism

Welcome to “The Tuesday,” a weekly newsletter about language, culture, politics, and, lately, relentless book-hawking. To subscribe to “The Tuesday” and receive it in your inbox, please follow this link. From Hatred to Heroism Daniel Cordier, when he was young and getting started in life, did not seem ... Read More
Elections

It’s Only ‘Free and Fair’ When We Win

Indeed, this is astonishing: https://twitter.com/felixsalmon/status/1331295033325219840 In 2018, after two years of media spinning tales about shady Russian infiltrators in our government, 67 percent of Democrats believed that Putin’s gremlins had bored into our voting machines and altered the outcome ... Read More
Elections

It’s Only ‘Free and Fair’ When We Win

Indeed, this is astonishing: https://twitter.com/felixsalmon/status/1331295033325219840 In 2018, after two years of media spinning tales about shady Russian infiltrators in our government, 67 percent of Democrats believed that Putin’s gremlins had bored into our voting machines and altered the outcome ... Read More