Conservatives Can, and Must, Win the Fight for Free Speech

 

George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Admittedly I tend to have a slightly dour outlook on the current state of the culture and politics, the side effect of being sucked into my own personal negative news cycle. My husband calls me a Negative Nellie, I tell him I’m simply a realist, which makes him laugh. Starting with an Orwell quote may not dissuade anyone from agreeing I have negative tendencies, but what if this quote is a signal of the impending doom of liberty in America, not in 1984, but now?

In universities and on college campuses across America, a recent and growing trend of suppression of speech is making headlines. The Heckler’s Veto (a situation in which a person who disagrees with a speaker’s message is able to unilaterally silence that speaker) has become the main tool of this suppression. The students leading the protests and interruptions claim people such as Ben Shapiro, Christina Hoff Summers, and Charles Murray are fascists spewing hate speech. Students are unwilling to hear any idea that strays from their leftist viewpoint; they cannot afford the opportunity for anyone to hear the speakers’ words. If you don’t have the right opinion, you aren’t entitled to an opinion- or worse, your opinion is wrong or hateful. This results in a serious problem in the intellectual development of our youth. A person who travels through life insulated from different ideas and perspectives than their own will never have the ability to articulate his own thoughts and beliefs. John Stuart Mill writes in his 1859 work, “On Liberty”, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.” The longer this behavior is allowed to continue, the more we will see the end of free speech and free exchange of ideas on our college campuses. We will graduate a generation of young people not only unwilling to listen to different ideas, but find them offensive. In his March 10 essay, “The Psychology of Progressive Hostility” Matthew Blackwell writes “People get angry at what they don’t understand, and an all-progressive education ensures that they don’t understand.” Anger in response to disagreement is not discourse. Self-reflection and intellectual curiosity may be difficult. It is human nature to dislike admitting one is wrong (speaking of arguments between me and my husband). But growing pains beget growth- intellectually, spiritually, and psychologically. We learn from our mistakes when we admit them.

We see this resistance tactic used by college students and it is no surprise it shows up in other aspects of society. The left is increasingly entrenched in its political beliefs and any challenge is met with a mob mentality fueled by emotion instead of reason. It is partly why the left’s basis for defending illegal immigrants on the’ ideal of America’s strength lies in its diversity’ is odd. Diversity is a strength, true, but for the left it is diversity of skin color that holds importance instead of a diversity of ideas which comes from life experiences, background, upbringing, socioeconomic status, etc. It brings out the best ideas from all corners of the world, not to satisfy a color quota. But if you point that out, you must be a racist. Karol Markowicz wrote about the feminist movement being anathema to diversity of opinion in her January 29th New York Post column exposing the “feminist” thought police. The feminist club is only open for women, and the men who tag along, if they uphold a particular narrative. Ms. Markowicz states it perfectly, “It turns out women thinking whatever they want is not good for feminism.”

While we wait to see how this will play out in America, our European and Canadian allies are in the midst of their own speech battles, and it appears freedom is losing. Recently in the UK, a Scottish YouTube comedian was found guilty at Glasgow Sherrif Court of a hate crime and could face two months of prison for posting a video of his girlfriend’s dog, ironically named Buddha, doing what appears to be Nazi salutes to receive treats. While certainly tasteless, does it rise to the level of incarceration? Apparently, the Glasgow court has found the answer to the everlasting question of what defines ‘Hate Speech’ and it involves bad comedy. In Canada, an interesting situation revolving around the world of CanLit (it’s a thing, look it up). In his article for Quillette on March 15, “Why They Hate Margaret Atwood”, Jonathan Kay details the feminist attacks on poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, who arguably created a Canadian movement based on satires of gender inequality, the oppressiveness of marriage and most notably wrote the The Handmaid’s Tale-the basis for the Netflix hit series. She recently was the subject of feminist ire from University of Alberta English professor Dr. Julie Rak who labeled her a “bad feminist.” Atwood’s offense? She signed a letter demanding clarity in the handling of a sexual assault case involving acclaimed Canadian writer Steven Galloway. Atwood and the signers of the letter did not pass judgment on the guilt or innocence of Galloway, they simply questioned the due process and procedures in a case that ruined the reputation and career of a literary giant. But to those entrenched in identity politics and the ‘convict first, maybe retract later’ wing of radical feminists such as Rak, Atwood’s actions were high treason. By coming together and forming a mob, the lesser poets and writers making up the CanLit circle could achieve a sort of fame and power they never could on the merit of their own writing. Refusing to accept there should be an open forum for examining Galloway’s case solidifies the idea there is only room for certain feminist views. The open-minded need not apply.

Eric Hoffer wrote in his book, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, “The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.” University students and administrators are setting the parameters of hate speech, and it appears conservatives are bearing the brunt. This is what we must fight against. It is related to what the philosopher John Stuart Mill described and warned against this in his 1859 work On Liberty that unpopular ideas help determine the truth in that it encourages new perspectives and critical thought. Conservatives are strengthened by the marketplace of ideas, by being forced to argue policies and views in a usually hostile environment. The left will appeal to emotion, to stir up a mob-mentality along a sort of tyranny-of-the-majority mold to suppress dissidents.

America is strengthened when we can have conversations and rational dialogue between people of differing views. The path to change minds and persuading people to our side is through rational argument, not shouting matches and intimidation. We can’t win the fight for freedom with less freedom. If we value liberty, we allow everyone to be heard, and the best ideas and policies will (hopefully) rise to the top. And here is my response to my skeptical husband on the flip side of my realism: the silver lining to the impending storm cloud is the hope that conservatives continue to value the free exchange of ideas; that the best rise to the top, and America continues on its path forward as a beacon of liberty and freedom.

There are 23 comments.

  1. I Walton Member

    It may be too late to reach these kids through rational argument because to use reason one must have some premises from which to reason. I don’t think they have any; total relativism has no content. We have to get them out school and into work and we have to destroy the public school system as we know it as soon as possible. I asked this on another threat, what is Trump’s Secretary of Education doing? A dozen or so charter schools won’t do the trick.

    • #1
    • March 20, 2018, at 4:18 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Larry Koler Inactive

    Good post. This is a fight that is thrust upon us and especially the younger generation that simply must treat this fascism for what it is.

    I often think that it’s a small faction in our country that is bullying the rest of us. And of course, this is why they project the spectre of bullying on the rest of society. This tactic protects their flanks while they are free to bully us.

    Obama is exhibit A in this and other things — like the damage he inflicted on the country on all things racial.

    • #2
    • March 20, 2018, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  3. Hoyacon Member

    It’s extremely difficult to implement change without the participation of some of those who are most affected. Unfortunately, most of those who are most affected have spent many years in public education. Try to get a substantial number of those individuals involved. The solution begins with education below the college level, and that’s a long, hard slog, involving parental involvement at every level. Not easy. At all. Hope that doesn’t make me a Negative Ned.

    • #3
    • March 20, 2018, at 6:42 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  4. Stina Member

    I Walton (View Comment):
    It may be too late to reach these kids through rational argument because to use reason one must have some premises from which to reason. I don’t think they have any; total relativism has no content. We have to get them out school and into work and we have to destroy the public school system as we know it as soon as possible. I asked this on another threat, what is Trump’s Secretary of Education doing? A dozen or so charter schools won’t do the trick.

    Then learn to use persuasion.

    Dialectic isn’t the only tool in the toolbox.

    • #4
    • March 20, 2018, at 6:54 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Mate De Inactive

    Great post Jenna. You and I are kindred spirits, my husband thinks I’m too pessimistic about the future about what is going on in the culture concerning freedom. I actually have a different take. I follow what the young folks are doing, and although what you see are young SJW’s shouting down speakers and causing riots at universities, BUT this is a minority of students. Yes and very loud and administratively supported minority, but still a minority. But these SJWs aren’t the “cool kids” they are annoying jerks who have to bring in the authorities because they want to take their ball and go home but their ball is a giant auditorium with a speaker talking about “offensive things”. No college students wants the hall monitor to come in and break up the fun.

    This left wing hysteria, I think, will have the opposite effect on the rest of the students. Most students just want to go to class, go to a party, maybe meet someone who they want to date. Most kids don’t want to start a revolution, because, that’s a lot of work and they really just want to finish college so that they can get a job and a cool apartment in some city.

    As disappointed as I am in our educational systems complete inability to actually educate our young people. I really think, that what we are witnessing, in this country anyway because we actually have a first amendment unlike European countries or Canada, is the death throes of a tyranny that knows it’s days are numbered. The monopoly on information is no longer available which is why we see the big tech companies trying to shut down the opposition. That is not a sign a strength. I pray for the future and I do think it will get worse before it gets better but it will get better.

    • #5
    • March 20, 2018, at 8:40 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. dnewlander Member

    An author friend of mine posted that article on Atwood yesterday and I read it on the plane yesterday (interestingly, after returning from Toronto on Saturday).

    I haven’t like the few things I’ve read of Atwood’s, all gushingly recommended by people I know. (Actually, I hated Handmaid’s Tale 30 years ago and returned the garbage that started with blaming George Bush for “global warming”.) So to see her being pilloried for not being true to her gender was very Jacobin.

    All of this has happened before. Too few Americans have studied the French Revolution. I certainly don’t think Trump is our Napoleon, but that person is out there, if things with the “progressives” and youth continue relatively unabated.

    Thanks for the post.

    • #6
    • March 20, 2018, at 9:32 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Larry3435 Member

    The motto of Harvard should be changed from “Veritas” to that great Ring Lardner quote that captures the ethos of the left: “Shut up, he explained.”

    • #7
    • March 21, 2018, at 6:50 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. Front Seat Cat Member

    Either the youth that are buying the lies and the teachers and politicians that are pushing it, change it, it will go forward and they will pay the price too. Several podcasts here have shared that the youth in Eastern Europe are likening these changes in the US to communism, as in we are embracing it. China is enacting the social report card policy – where you score points kept by the government if you behave – this will influence if you can board a plane, get a job, buy a car.

    What has happened to our country, i.e. victimization, is Saul Alinsky 101 – someone I never read about until Obama and Hillary who were devotees embraced his beliefs. I did a post on him.

    https://ricochet.com/archives/quote-of-the-day-series-quotes-from-wolves/

    Yet conservatives and others need to be the light and salt in these dark days, not a negative Nellie. Buy pocket Constitutions and disperse them (my neighbor does this), fly the flag, write good posts like this, donate to positive causes, read about faith and God’s promises, live life and make it a good one. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of lies where pessimism reigns.

    • #8
    • March 21, 2018, at 6:59 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. RufusRJones Member

    Higher education hijacked the “job signaling” function of college decades ago. They keep raising the price for no good reason and they keep telling you you have to do this. That is why they are not accountable for this stupidity. Look at Melissa Click’s CV.

    I want the Koch brothers to start non-accredited community colleges who’s sole purpose is to steal all of the non-STEM students. Education, not cartelized “job signaling” credit-ism. Then do something real that can ‘t be outsourced like a plumber.

    • #9
    • March 21, 2018, at 7:10 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Dr. Bastiat Member

    JennaStocker: Matthew Blackwell writes “People get angry at what they don’t understand, and an all-progressive education ensures that they don’t understand.”

    Great quote.

    And outstanding essay. Thanks.

    • #10
    • March 21, 2018, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Profile Photo Member

    I Walton (View Comment):
    total relativism has no content. We have to get them out school and into work and we have to destroy the public school system as we know it as soon as possible

    The enemies of freedom knew exactly the right target and the right ammunition. The Long March Through The Institutions did not start yesterday, and the marcher’s weapons were not placards in the hands of dupes shouting for LBJ’s head–but rather relativism in the hands of academics filling the heads of dupes. Those dupes spawned and their ideology now lets kids in kindergarten decide whether they are boys or girls. And whether or not they will nap when told to. We are living out Lenin’s aphorism about rope and hanging.

    • #11
    • March 21, 2018, at 8:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Unsk Member

    Most of our schools, colleges and Universities are public institutions, are they not? Why isn’t the First Amendment enforced at these schools ? There is no exception in the Constitution that allows this suppression, and the courts have no power granted to them that allows the courts to supersede Constitutional rights.

    There is no excuse or any legal shenanigans that should conceivably allow this suppression of free speech. None.

    All Administrators and teachers that allow this suppression of free speeches are violating the civil rights of those whose speech is being suppressed. Those Administrators and Teachers should be tried, convicted and sent to the Big Slammer for a very long time. These are very serious crimes and should not be tolerated anymore.

    • #12
    • March 21, 2018, at 8:07 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker Post author

    Thank you for the great conversation & feedback. It helps alleviate my pessimism! I do agree it starts before college, as we’ve most prominently seen in the aftermath of Parkland. Appeals to emotion in lieu of a rational discussion will not result in compromise, only an All or nothing mentality. The declining tolerance on the left is also a symptom? of closing off any interaction of non-like minded friends or colleagues. CATO did an excellent study on this recently. https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/state-free-speech-tolerance-america#hate-speech

    where the Hillary voters are more likely to stop being friends with Trump voters than Trump voters were to stop being friends with Hillary voters. It’s a trend that usually moves in one directs, sadly.

    • #13
    • March 21, 2018, at 8:14 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. I Walton Member

    AltarGirl (View Comment):

    I Walton (View Comment):
    It may be too late to reach these kids through rational argument because to use reason one must have some premises from which to reason. I don’t think they have any; total relativism has no content. We have to get them out school and into work and we have to destroy the public school system as we know it as soon as possible. I asked this on another threat, what is Trump’s Secretary of Education doing? A dozen or so charter schools won’t do the trick.

    Then learn to use persuasion.

    Dialectic isn’t the only tool in the toolbox.

    I think that’s what I’m saying, get them out of school and into the real world, the smart ones will figure it out because work struggle responsibility are the persuaders that actually work. I should have echoed the excellent article, and failure.

    • #14
    • March 21, 2018, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. fidelio102 Coolidge

    There is obviously a problem when education becomes indoctrination, as tends to happen when ‘liberal’ college professors become a dominant force. But how widespread is this phenomenon? How representative are today’s Yale and several Californian colleges of American education in general? Maybe it is too soon to panic. The Snowflake Syndrome may blow over or rather, melt.

    What is more worrying to me as a pro-European, but anti-EU, UK citizen, is how ‘hate speech’ is defined by courts in the UK, Scandinavia and Germany. How can teaching a dog to make a so-called Nazi salute be a ‘hate-crime’? Hatred of what? Jewish dogs? Give me a break!

    • #15
    • March 21, 2018, at 9:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Man Convicted of Hate Crime for Video of Dog Making Nazi Salute

    Forget the Free Speech for one moment.

    You can be thrown in jail because of your animal’s political jesters.

    What is this? North Korea?

    Late 17th century Salem, Massachusetts?

    I wonder how many years the monkey trainer for Raiders of the Lost Ark got?

    • #16
    • March 21, 2018, at 1:04 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker Post author

    Just as an add-on and part response to @Matede and @frontseatcat and others- I grew up in a home that was definitely conservative, but not overtly political. I felt my way through it and found a very small, rag-tag group of fellow conservatives in an extremely large public university. I went to a YAF summer conference and those two together really helped solidify what I, and we conservatives are up against. It made a huge difference just knowing I wasn’t alone in the “wilderness”. So if there’s any opportunity to help youngsters, either through YAF, or debate, or alternative newspapers, that’s encouraged. The more speech and voices and ideas are better. It helps expose the hollowness of the other side.

    • #17
    • March 21, 2018, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. philo Member

    JennaStocker: …My husband calls me a Negative Nellie…

    An excellent post.

    Forget that “Negative Nellie” stuff, I’m sensing more of a Gertrude…as in Himmelfarb. As I read through this piece my mind kept going back to On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society…and I don’t think it was just the multiple referenced to On Liberty. (After my last reading of “Abyss” I put the Mill book on my wish list with every intention of reading it soon. You have prompted me to move it further up the line-up.) A quick teaser:

    …the problem of liberty is no longer the problem of political liberty, of the struggle against a tyrannical regime imposing its arbitrary will on an oppressed populace. … The problem now facing liberty is a new form of tyranny, a “social tyranny” exercised by the populace itself over the individual. – Pages 75-76

    OK, now that I’ve started, I cannot resist one more:

    As liberty of thought is absolute, so is liberty of speech, which is “inseparable” from liberty of thought. Liberty of speech, moreover, is essential not only for its own sake but for the sake of truth, which requires absolute liberty for the utterance of unpopular and even demonstrably false opinions. Indeed, false or unpopular opinions are so important to truth that they should be encouraged and disseminated by “devil’s advocates” if necessary, for only by the “collision of adverse opinions” can the most certain of truths survive as live truth rather than “dead dogma.” – Page 78

    In many ways we are largely now a society of “dead dogma” and I’m not nearly as optimistic as you. I fear that “abyss” is an all too appropriate term for what is ahead.

    • #18
    • March 21, 2018, at 7:18 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker Post author

    @philo “As I read through this piece my mind kept going back to On Looking Into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society…and I don’t think it was just the multiple referenced to On Liberty. (After my last reading of “Abyss” I put the Mill book on my wish list with every intention of reading it soon. You have prompted me to move it further up the line-up.)”

    Agree! And now I will have to read “On Looking Into the Abyss” Thanks for the tip & kind words.

    • #19
    • March 22, 2018, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker Post author

    A recent case of a law professor under fire at U Pennsylvania Law School. Amy Wax is being railroaded for speaking of statistical truths, but in true Orwellian fashion, the Dean withholds such admission information for privacy and safety of the school. She also voiced her opinion on the decline of culture the negative consequences, especially to minority families . https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/mar/17/amy-wax-penn-professor-under-fire-claiming-black-s/

    • #20
    • March 22, 2018, at 10:20 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. E. Kent Golding Member

    You want an educated future generation? Take your kids to Bible Study Fellowship. They will not only learn critical thinking, they will have some actual meat to think about. Can’t learn to think unless there are big important things to think about and wrestle with.

    • #21
    • March 23, 2018, at 2:36 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  22. RufusRJones Member

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    You want an educated future generation? Take your kids to Bible Study Fellowship. They will not only learn critical thinking, they will have some actual meat to think about. Can’t learn to think unless there are big important things to think about and wrestle with.

    We need to be honest that for most people, higher education is utterly over paying for credit-ism and “job signaling”, not any real human capital improvement. It’s a scam and a racket going in one direction–bad. 

    • #22
    • March 23, 2018, at 2:50 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. RufusRJones Member

    It makes me crazy that self-righteous conservatives can’t see the fundamental issues around saying that higher education is only about getting a job or criticizing the original concept of liberal arts. None of these people see the problem from the 30,000 foot level, but they go on and on. 

    They need to atomize the whole thing so people can get a good value either on their general human capital development or their remunerative return on investment. 

    Also the NCAA and the BCS are fascist crime syndicates. Mafia. 

    • #23
    • March 23, 2018, at 3:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes