There has been a lot of conversation lately in regards to the First Amendment, especially our freedom of speech. It is essential that the debates on this topic continue, in a civil manner, because we are seeing far too many examples of people violating others freedom of speech.
Are College Campuses in Danger?
A startling study by the Brookings Institution found that nearly a fifth of college students think it is appropriate to use violence to prevent someone who is “known for making offensive and hurtful statements” from speaking. If you thought that was bad, over half of the students believed it would be acceptable to disrupt the speaker by “loudly and repeatedly shouting” to prevent the audience from listening to the speaker.
“The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education database, which defends students’ and professors’ First Amendment rights, documented 286 efforts to disinvite scheduled campus speakers between 2000 and 2014,” reported The Daily Caller.
Although the database documented a higher number of left-wing groups who wanted to disinvite invited speakers, groups on the right wanted to also disinvite speakers. Unfortunately, even the issue of violating free speech, which is apparently more observable from those on the Left, is not a partisan issue. Conservatives, blinded by the fact that they too are spewing the same anti-American rhetoric and anti-free speech sentiments, need to take a step back and reflect think about their actions before they call a liberals snowflakes.
In a place where students are supposed to expand their minds with new ideas and grow intellectually, we actually see the opposite occurring.
Between the rise of Antifa to the always present social justice warriors and alt-right provocateurs, the current anti-free speech movements can be clearly observed when conservatives like Ben Shapiro and other political speakers such as Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos go to speak at universities. They, along with other speakers, constantly face protests at their events and in some cases, they aren’t even allowed to speak, either because the violence has gotten too dangerous or because the school administration deems the speaker to be anti-Muslim or anti-LGBT.
Things have gotten so unbelievably out of control that some school administrations are offering counseling sessions to their students if a speaker who they don’t like will be on campus. The most recent case of an administration coddling their students was during the Ben Shapiro speech at UC Berkeley. According to The Daily Signal, Berkeley offered counseling sessions for students because they were “deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging. No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe.”
Speakers like Shapiro, Murray, Yiannopoulos, and others alike, continuously face protest not because they are armed with weapons, but because they are loaded with opinions. Opinions, that although are at odds with one another, are completely at odds with the views of those on the progressive left. Now while you may not agree with certain things that these speakers say, or in the manner in which they say it, they have the freedom to speak on any issue they want and that same freedom extends to those who are protesting.
Although protesting isn’t the main issue, it is the fact that the Left, and the institutions they control, actively try to justify the silencing and violence against conservatives or anyone that has an opinion they don’t like by saying that those beliefs are “hate speech,” or worse, violent.
Is Conservative Speech Violence?
Northeastern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett tried to explain this in her op-ed in the New York Times, in which she singled out Murray and Yiannopoulos. She said that because of specific scientific findings, there should be a guide as to “which kinds of controversial speech should and shouldn’t be acceptable on campus and in civil society.” The scientific findings, which have more to do with chronic stress due to long-term abuse, have nothing to do with listening to a speaker on your campus for no more than two hours. That is to say, if the speaker hasn’t been run out of the school by a crazed mob before then.
Nevertheless, we can see that the Left is trying to use science as the reason and justification for denying someone their freedom of speech, their First Amendment rights. Yet, when science proves that unborn children deserve personhood because it’s a human being, well that science doesn’t count. When science shows that it is unethical and dangerous to have a young child transition into a different gender, it doesn’t count because you’re obviously a bigot.
George Leef, the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, statesthat although the science that Barrett cites in her article is correct in the sense that “verbal abuse can bring on stress that causes physical damage,” the issue is that “there is no apparent connection between chronic stress and merely listening to someone speak, for a while, no matter how provocative his words may be.”
“Why would [listening to Yiannapolous] be any worse than listening to a provocative speech by a far-left Democrat declaring that Trump and his supporters are fascists?” asks Leef.
Regardless of whether someone uses offensive speech to convey a political message, “offensive speech” is protected speech according to Cohen v. California (1971). In the opinion of the court, Justice Harlan stated that if:
We cannot indulge the facile assumption that one can forbid particular words without also running a substantial risk of suppressing ideas in the process. Indeed, governments might soon seize upon the censorship of particular words as a convenient guise for banning the expression of unpopular views. We have been able, as noted above, to discern little social benefit that might result from running the risk of opening the door to such grave results.
Although Cohen v. California was merely about someone wearing a jacket that said “F-ck The Draft” in protest to the Vietnam War, the fact is that you can’t deny someone their freedom of speech just because you don’t agree with it. Using speech that is offensive is different than using speech that can be used to incite violence that could lead to the harm of others.
You see, for liberals the freedom of speech and the First Amendment only protect their own views and actions. Anyone who disagrees with them or provokes their emotions is causing damage to their well being and should be silenced and thrown in jail because they are literally Hitler.
Forget about the progressive college liberal who proudly waves the communist flag around college campuses, as if communism hasn’t been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. Don’t remind anyone that most liberals are pro-abortion, which literally kills hundreds of thousands of unborn children every year in the United States alone. And don’t even mention their violent protests against conservatives on college campuses. None of that counts.
Furthermore, the Left has somehow found a way to conflate traditional conservative values with bigotry.
For example, voicing the wrong opinion on abortion, meaning not agreeing with the murder of innocent children, is seen as hate speech because you are perpetrating a “war on women,” according to The Huffington Post.
Believing and proclaiming that marriage is between a man and a woman will undoubtedly bring great shame upon your family name because you are clearly trying to deny the LGBT community of their God-given rights.
The double standard is not just dangerous, but it also does not allow for any civil discussion on any important topics which in fact will affect millions of people in the United States and abroad.
Furthermore, the manner in which liberals have interpreted the First Amendment is both “hypocritical and scary,” says Edwin J. Feulner, the founder, and president of The Heritage Foundation. To them, the First Amendment would read:
Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, etc. … providing such speech or activities do not offend. If any offense is taken, citizen whiners, being necessary to the security of a politically correct state, shall from time to time suppress the offender’s free speech rights by any means necessary, including, but not limited to, required sensitivity training, ‘re-education,’ and loss of income.
The answer to the question of “when is it okay to deny someone their freedom of speech?” is an emphatic NEVER. There is no true justification for denying someone the freedom of speech, no matter how sensitive you may be. It doesn’t matter if your spewing anti-Zionism like Linda Sarsour or racist remarks like Richard Spencer. No one should be denied their freedom of speech.
Originally published on Turning Point News.
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