October 27, 2021

How the Left Is Killing Free Speech

How the Left Is Killing Free Speech

Universities need to stop giving students caps and gowns when they graduate. Instead, I recommend they give them helmets and wrap them in bubble wrap. The reason is that in college they become so weak and bruise so easily that there is little chance they can function in a free society without hurting themselves. In fact, many college students are too emotionally immature to encounter classic literature without becoming emotionally unraveled.

Take Rutgers student Philip Wythe. Last year, he suggested that The Great Gatsby was so potentially traumatizing it should be accompanied by the following warning: “Suicide, Domestic Abuse, and Graphic Violence.” As Kirsten Powers aptly noted, “If (college students are) going to be traumatized by The Great Gatsby then they are going to find day-to-day life unbearable once they step outside the child-care programs that are passing for universities today.”

Students like Wythe don’t just wake up one day with the intellectual fortitude of a five-year old. It takes a lot of coddling to make these young adults as weak as preschoolers. One of the means by which this is achieved is the so-called campus free speech zone. These zones assume a default position that campus speech is disallowed until officially authorized.

An extreme example of this mentality was once found at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Their free speech restrictions limited discourse to a zone that was merely 0.1% of the physical area of the campus. In other words, students could traverse 99.9% of the campus without having to encounter potentially offensive speech. All speech was presumed to be unlicensed and prohibited in these areas. Fortunately, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) successfully sued the school and overturned the broad ban on speech at UC.

But the damage has been done to the broader campus culture. Speech zones, which limit the amount of discourse, are combined with speech codes, which strike at the content of discourse. Arguably, the latter are more dangerous because they advance the notion that one has a right to be unoffended. This is the mentality that actually encourages young people to proactively suppress speech they find offensive.

And we are beginning to see the effects. Michael Bloomberg, himself no political conservative, noted this trend in a commencement speech at Harvard University. Speaking specifically about the trend towards silencing commencement speakers, he said, “In each case, liberals silenced a voice of individuals they deemed politically objectionable.”

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