‘Freedom of Speech’ on American Campuses

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

The at-large left’s knowledge of the U.S. Constitution appears limited to having heard that America has one. One wonders if “progressives,” especially on-campus left-liberals, believe the Constitution, especially its First Amendment, has any intrinsic meaning other than “whatever we say.”

Liberal arts institutions once conducted vigorous debates on opposing ideas, a practice many American campuses have abandoned.

A 2018 Gallup poll revealed some ugly truths about the Democrat Party’s “high-minded,” self-superior student component among whom the word “inclusion” has become its antonym – a euphemistic excuse for excluding and/or silencing even scholarly conservative thought and speech.

Since 2018, America has experienced an increase in mob censorship, including shutting – shouting – down speaking events on liberal college campuses where open censorship is paradoxically excused as “more speech.”

Campus censorship is common, even at “premier” institutions. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression ranks the University of Pennsylvania as America’s second-worst campus for free speech, Harvard the worst.

Any institution that accepts government funding – including government-sponsored student loan remittances – should provide the same protections guaranteed by the Constitution’s First Amendment. If competing ideas cannot be heard, then colleges and universities risk sending – are sending – graduates into adult society with incomplete, untested, often highly-biased, politically-correct “certainties.”

Accordingly, society suffers. Witness the “woke” mind virus prevalent among undereducated, self-absorbed, often-unemployable young graduates who, nonetheless, remain convinced of their rectitude and moral and intellectual superiority.

Rather than the limitless mélange of competing ideas it should be, the left treats free speech as a zero-sum game. In suppressing speech, institutional activists counterfactually claim a “noble” purpose: setting aside “inclusive” opportunities for “marginalized” people to be heard.

Ironically, demonstrations have long been a campus “thing.” For years, dozens of “marginalized” activists have publicly shouted themselves hoarse.

In Gallup’s poll, almost half of students supported speech codes. Sixty-four percent believed “hate speech” isn’t constitutionally-protected and should be outlawed.

Translated, sixty-four percent thought that their cohort’s tender sensitivities limit the rights of others. Not coincidentally, the same kids reserve for themselves the exclusive – exclusionary – right to define “hate speech.”

In reality, liberals don’t believe in free speech at all.

Progressives only pretend that speech is a zero-sum commodity. The only certain method for anxious, insecure liberals to protect their moral/intellectual vanity and “win” arguments is to prevent their opponents from speaking and/or publishing.

Tellingly, 37 percent of students thought it acceptable to exclude conservative speakers from campus, and shout down the few who do appear.

Worse, ten percent of students surveyed believed in the use of violence to silence “disagreeable” speech.

Putting that in perspective, in spring 2023, about 16.9 million students were enrolled in America’s degree-granting colleges and universities. Statistically, then, more than one and one-half million(!) students are or could be in favor of using physical violence to silence others of whom they disapprove or with whom they merely disagree.

For further perspective, the German Nazi Party had about two million active members when it came to power following a 1932 election in which Nazis took about 33 percent of votes cast – roughly 20 percent of the German population. Party membership was only 5.3 million when Germany invaded Poland.

Clearly, some of America’s putative future “leaders” have made an impressive start on imposing their own repressive regime. These aspiring campus brown shirts are commonly indulged – and often encouraged – by like-minded faculty and administration Gauleiters. In fact, overt anti-Semitism has broken out on American campuses.

In recent congressional testimony on campus anti-Semitism, the presidents of both Harvard and Penn, where shocking chants encouraging Hamas’s unspeakably barbaric atrocities in Israel are being heard, were asked, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate [your institution’s] code of conduct or rules regarding bullying or harassment?” Their disgraceful, carefully-parsed equivocations laughingly referenced their commitments to free speech and ideological diversity – or something…

Apparently, “context” is important.

Daily, there are fewer Americans having first-hand, institutional memory of the Nazis’ sinister record, but anyone who has read history knows the appalling excesses of the German Nazi regime: national socialism, ideological indoctrination, mind control, censorship, gun control, state media, abortion, aggression and anti-Semitic genocide.

If today’s students, faculty and administrators were truly concerned about fascism and receptive to learning about that abhorrent political ideology, they would realize that many of them have become the tyrannical, anti-constitutional core of a genuine American fascistic movement.