There are many very stupid ideas about free speech in academia. Perhaps the stupidest is this: free speech is a legal norm used to protect the powerful at the expense of the powerless, but exceptions to free speech will benefit the powerless. Nobody with a passing knowledge of the history of free speech takes this seriously.
Fans of censorship may have to learn the hard way. Consider the news of the last week. At Trinity College, an African-American professor of sociology has been put on leave after incendiary comments about the attempted assassination of Steve Scalise. At Essex County College, an African-American professor has been suspended for (rather mild, to my tastes) comments on Tucker Carlson's show. A liberal adjunct professor of anthropology won't be rehired after making incendiary and repulsive comments about the murder of a student visiting North Korea. In several Republican-led state legislatures, representatives are pushing bills to suspend or otherwise discipline students who disrupt campus speakers — a proposal that, while nominally in defense of free speech, raises concerns about overbreadth and selective prosecution.
Nobody realized this could happen, unless you count everyone who isn't a moron or a dogma-blind partisan. Exceptions to free speech — like exceptions to rights in general — are applied disproportionately by the powerful against the less powerful. That's the way the system works. Expecting other results is idiotic.
Vapid orthodox censorious hordes who have been pushing for the ouster and marginalization of conservative voices on campus: go back and rethink your life. Conservatives crowing over this worm turning: stop being assholes and step up to defend speech consistently. I don't care who started it; you're not an eight-year-old. Act like a grown-up with principles.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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