Tag: Free Speech

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I have been a big fan of Lawrence Lessig for years, mainly for his work versus SOPA, PIPA, and earlier fights. But his latest campaign is a different matter altogether. His MayDay PAC just completed a pledge drive that raised $5M to “reduce the influence of money in politics.” Fighting flooding with water, or something. Preview […]

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Left-Wing McCarthyism at the University of Hawaii


HawaiiAs a graduate student at Texas A&M, and later at Princeton, I studied how unfair allegations and unfair investigative practices had chilled freedom of speech in the United States during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. Having suffered from the political repression of China’s Cultural Revolution, I can testify to the collective madness that destroyed the lives of millions. I consider McCarthyism a similar political horror, though generated by the American Right and less destructive than the Chinese nightmare.

Yet today, more than half a century after the death of McCarthy (and, we had thought, his method of waging politics) Left-wing McCarthyism dominates the discourse of too many college campuses, supposedly the home of learning. Unfortunately, the campus where I teach, the University of Hawaii, is among them.  With collective identities of gender, race, and class dominating practically every discussion, both in and out of classes, professors seek to protect themselves from attack from the politically correct through ritual obeisance. Liberal arts education is no longer even slightly “liberal,” (a word derived from the Latin “libertas,” or liberty, subsequently resurrected by the civic culture of early modern Europe). Students are systematically discouraged from questioning the new orthodoxy, sometimes through bullying and sometimes through the threat of ostracism, enforced by “speech codes.” Administrators have at best become apathetic in promoting a free exchange of ideas and have signed on as sensitivity police.

 Consider Rutgers, “The State University of New Jersey.” Condoleezza Rice had been scheduled to give the commencement address this spring. An African-American success story, Dr. Rice has served the academy as a professor of Political Science and Provost at Stanford University and has served America as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Who can doubt that, having risen from modest beginnings in the hothouse environment of the 1960s South, she would have much of value to impart to the graduating class at Rutgers? And yet, the faculty approved a resolution calling for the university to disinvite her.  Dr. Rice gracefully withdrew from the graduation ceremony in order to preserve the harmony of the celebration. It should have never come to that.

Tolerance is Dead


DanSavageRaunchy gay sex columnist (and sometimes political activist) Dan Savage has been caught up in a perfect storm of liberal identity politics. While speaking at the University of Chicago last week, Savage used the word “tranny” – a slang term for transgendered people – in the context of “reclaiming” words that might otherwise have a negative connotation.

In a perfectly ironic turn of events that followed, a self-identified transgendered student in the audience is now saying that he/she was deeply hurt by Savage’s use of the “reclaimed” slur.

The Illinois Review reports the details:

FIRE Study: ‘Disinvitation Season’ Is Getting Worse


shutterstock_150667244It’s not just a question of perception; the push for speakers (commencement and otherwise) to be disinvited from campus has gotten worse.

As I wrote in a long piece today in the Huffington Post:

So far, FIRE has discovered 192 incidents in which students or faculty have pushed for speakers invited to campus (both for commencement and other speaking engagements) to be disinvited since 2000. Eighty-two of those incidents were “successful” in that ultimately the speaker did not speak. Of those 82 successful disinvitations, 53 occurred via the revocation of the speaker’s invitation to campus, 17 were from speakers withdrawing in the face of protest, and 12 were “heckler’s vetoes” in which speakers were shouted down, chased off stage, or otherwise prevented from speaking.

Bloomberg Chastises Thought Police at Harvard Commencement


Jannis Tobias Werner / Shutterstock.comMichael Bloomberg just wrapped up quite a commencement address to Harvard grads. Titled “Don’t Major in Intolerance,” the political independent and former mayor surprisingly took academia’s thought police to task:

In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left-wing ideas. Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than here in the Ivy League. In the 2012 presidential race, 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. That statistic, drawn from Federal Election Commission data, should give us pause — and I say that as someone who endorsed President Obama. When 96 percent of faculty donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a university should offer. Diversity of gender, ethnicity and orientation is important. But a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.

Campus Tells Hawaii Students They Cannot Hand Out Copies of the Constitution; Students Sue — Greg Lukianoff


Less than four months after a student in California was told that he could not hand out copies of the Constitution—on Constitution Day (September 17), no less—two students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo were told by a campus official that they could not hand out copies of the Constitution  to their fellow students at UH Hilo’s student organization fair in January.

When one of the students protested that they were acting within their rights, the official replied, “It’s not about your rights in this case, it’s about the University policy that you can’t approach people.”

Enlightened Elites Are Kindly Granting You A Grace Period In Which to Dissent — Merina Smith


What do you think of the public statement signed by a cadre of intellectuals entitled Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have BothThe statement, signed by supporters of gay marriage, calls for more tolerance in the debate over the issue, pointing to recent incidents like the controversy surrounding Brendan Eich:

We support same-sex marriage; many of us have worked for it, in some cases for a large portion of our professional and personal lives. We affirm our unwavering commitment to civic and legal equality, including marriage equality. At the same time, we also affirm our unwavering commitment to the values of the open society and to vigorous public debate—the values that have brought us to the brink of victory.

An Open Letter From Charles Murray to the Students of Azusa Pacific University — Peter Robinson


Because Charles says it all, I post this — this brilliant and biting and sad letter — without comment:

I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.”

Ricochet’s Greg Lukianoff on the State of Free Speech in America


The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), helmed by Ricochet’s own Greg Lukianoff, recently hosted a panel discussion at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia about “The State of Free Speech in America.” 

Greg was joined for the discussion by Stanley Fish of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, University of Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner, and Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution. National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen moderated the debate.

Brandeis, Hirsi Ali, and the Echo Chamber Generation


Last week, I wrote, once again, about “disinvitation season” on campus, the time of year when students and faculty join together to demand some voices not be heard on their campuses.

Shortly after that, however, the biggest controversy this season erupted at Brandeis University when the university decided to revoke the honorary degree it was planning to give to feminist and atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 

First-in-the-Nation Law in Virginia Bans Unconstitutional Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’


On Friday, April 3, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a first-of-its-kind bill that effectively designates all outdoor areas on Virginia public campuses as public forums. This has the practical effect of not allowing campus speech to be quarantined into ‘free speech zones.’ I wrote a column announcing the news over at The Huffington Post:

Students in Virginia might be surprised to know that the open areas on campus were not already public forums, but the Virginia state legislature has made it official. The bill, authored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly unanimously. My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), urged the passage of the bill, and FIRE’s own Joe Cohn testified on behalf of the legislation in hearings in both legislative houses.

SCOTUS Campaign Finance Ruling: Right Outcome, Wrong Reasoning


Yesterday, the Supreme Court occasioned much gnashing of liberal teeth by striking down one more piece of the federal campaign finance laws. At issue was the fact that, while the law limited an individual’s contributions to any candidate to $2,600 per election, it also sets a ceiling of $48,600 in cumulative giving to candidates.


A Debate on Free Speech


I recently accepted an invitation from Jeffrey Rosen at the National Constitution Center to talk with my University of Chicago colleague Geoffrey Stone about the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, establishing the standards by which reporting about public officials can be considered to be defamation or libel.

In this conversation, we discuss whether this was a positive step forward for the free press or whether it needs to be revisited. Hear the debate below:

Crowd Control or Message Control?


Over at SCOTUSblog, there is an interesting analysis of a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.  The case, Wood v. Moss, stems from a 2004 incident in Jacksonville, Oregon, where President George W. Bush was campaigning for reelection. When President Bush deviated from plans and chose to dine in the outdoor patio area of a hotel restaurant, Secret Service agents and local police had to improvise so as to maintain a secure perimeter around him. 

Protip from Dartmouth Student to UCSB and Stanford: Run Over Free Speech with Your Car — Greg Lukianoff


Being offended is what happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged. And if you make it through four years of college without having your deepest beliefs challenged, you should demand your money back.

I have been saying that in speeches on campus for more than a decade. Even though the line often gets a laugh, the idea that students have a “right not to be offended” seems more entrenched on campus than ever.