Phi Beta Cons

Whatever Helps You Sleep at Night

Over at FIRE’s blog, there’s news of a group of students who are pushing for the quashing of a pro-life display on their campus. A quote from one of the students involved provides a perfect example of how would-be censors have evolved to operate in the unique environment on campuses today. Quoth the student: ”I felt that I was being targeted by hate speech via the display and knew other people who felt the same way…”
Statements like this are commonplace, and are crafted to convince predominately left-leaning students and faculty that what’s being advocated is not really censorship, but rather the protection of innocent victims from some type of harm via “verbal assault,” to use a phrase that adorns some college policy manuals. 
In addition to the PR aspect of this phrasing, it also demonstrates an attempt by leftists to rationalize their own opposition to free speech. They’re not just trying to convince others that they’re not calling for censorship–they’re trying to convince themselves. Many of those on the left, especially on college campuses, like to fancy themselves as open-minded, free-wheeling, anti-authoritarian underdogs. So, when they find it convenient to mobilize the disciplinary machinery of the academy to stifle a viewpoint that they find distasteful, they have to convince themselves that they’re not really aiming to stifle anyone’s free speech–they’re just dutifully protecting some poor defenseless victims (usually women and minorities) from an assault by vicious white Republican males.

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