Opinion: Why college students are trying to suppress free speech

An anti-fascist counter protester clashes with Auburn police before Tuesday’s appearance by white supremacist Richard Spencer. Three people were arrested for disorderly conduct. (AJC Photo / Chris Joyner)

Had you remained deceived about the ubiquity of open discourse on America’s college campuses, recent weeks should have set you right.

At Claremont McKenna College in California, protesters a couple of weeks ago physically blocked the entrance to a building where the conservative author Heather MacDonald was to speak. MacDonald has criticized what she calls generally, in a recent book, “The War on Cops,” and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. In return, the group has falsely branded her a “notorious white supremacist fascist.” Last month at Middlebury College in Vermont, students who had swallowed gross mischaracterizations of the libertarian political scientist Charles Murray shouted him down from a stage, then assaulted him and faculty members accompanying him from the lecture hall. At the University of California-Berkeley — once again a kind of epicenter for protests about free speech, only this time in opposition to it — officials first cancelled, then on Thursday said they would allow, a speech by commentator Ann Coulter. This followed the cancellations of other talks at the school by people lumped into a “right-wing” category. Closer to home, a white nationalist’s appearance at Auburn University sparked a confrontation between his followers and a ragtag group of “antifa” (anti-fascist) protesters.

This scene may yet come closer to home still. The specifics of these speakers’ messages aside — and they fall on a spectrum, in my view, that starts with the respectable MacDonald and Murray before sliding down to Coulter and then much further to the others — what is disturbing is the way these students oppose ideas they find disagreeable, by physical force and even violence. It leads Larry Arnn to ask a question surely on the minds of many:

“Why would a bunch of 19-year-olds rage and take over college campuses, and demand the redefinition of 300-year-old colleges, the oldest in America, accuse their entire history of racism, cause adults’ careers to be disrupted or ruined, and demand complete changes to the curriculum – they, having never completed a curriculum? … What leads those people, who 10 years ago were just little kids and five years ago were hardly adolescents? Why do they do this?”

Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College in Michigan, who was in Atlanta last week for a symposium the classical liberal arts college hosted here, offers an answer: “They’ve been taught to do this, in the classroom.”

Specifically, Arnn says, students today are taught “that your consciousness is — to use a term of art in Marx — formed by things in your background, things that happened to you, and things that happened to those who have come before you.” That, he says, “makes you a victim of those things.”

It also means people are permanently divided into groups based on their backgrounds: race, ethnicity, but also convictions and even occupations. “Once that becomes the sovereign doctrine,” he says, “the purpose of higher education is not any more transcending those things, it’s emphasizing, liberating, promoting those things.”

This perversion of the purpose of higher education is what we’re now seeing play out on college campuses.

“If you hold people who are supposed to be members with you in a college … in contempt, and will speak to them only with loud scorn,” he says, that is “destructive of what a college is supposed to be. In other words, you’re supposed to be civil to each other, and you’re supposed to contrive your arguments so they meet academic standards, which means a real quest for the truth of the matter, and not just the assertion of the thing that you think.

“When that goes, the college is closed, effectively. And we’re two or three steps beyond that now.”

Those of us who were not so taught in our classrooms might see these students’ tactics as a tacit acknowledgment their own ideas and arguments are unpersuasive. Here Arnn, who has studied and written about Winston Churchill, cites the great Briton on opponents of open dialogue:

“Look what they’re afraid of: words, just words. They will not have them spoken. Is that not a sign of their weakness?”

Reader Comments 0

134 comments
Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

 in a recent book, “The War on Cops,”

Golly, that's someone you want to hear.

Claver
Claver

4 colleges out of 4000 in this country.  Or 0.1%.  And only a fraction of the students even at those 4 colleges were involved.  But, yes, let's brand all college students as intolerant. 

Robert1959
Robert1959

Kyle, where do we draw the line - what is appropriate vs what is not appropriate "free speech"?  For example on your job at the AJC you can not openly practice hatred, fear and bigotry or you will face the consequences of your actions (fired). Many of your loyal readers are members of America's homegrown terrorist group(s) from the extreme fringes of the alt-right (kkk/white nationalist/supremacist/militia's/birther's etc.).  You give these fanatics a place to voice their concerns without fear of retribution.  As a respected journalist you understand where to draw the line and you hold your readers accountable.  How will college campuses know the difference between what is appropriate and what is not appropriate "free speech"?  Who is holding college students accountable for their actions ?  This is where the problem begins with - "Free Speech".  You call me the N-word and I will take matters into my own hands and kick your butt.  Free speech can erupt into violence if there are no rules and no one is held accountable for their actions.

Jackalope
Jackalope

That's the hazard of living in a free society. You may actually hear things that are offensive. The challenge then is to refute the statements you deem unacceptable through your own logical argument NOT by forcing everyone else to conform to what you personally like or don't like. You have the freedom of speech. You do not have the freedom of not being offended. And btw, should I call you a name you find offensive and you find yourself unable to handle it intellectually, that there are laws that protect free speech. Laws against battery for example. And, should you decide to become offended around the wrong person, even "Stand your ground" laws. Much better to respect the rights of others just as they respect yours.

breckenridge
breckenridge

The druggie gasbag  Ann Coulter is a truly awful person. The youngsters should have waited until she showed up and then pelted her with raw eggs.


Trump is backing away from building his ill-advised wall on the Mexican border.  It's good to see him showing such flexibility, especially since such a wall would be massive and ineffective waste of money.  Well done Donnie boy.

Jackalope
Jackalope

@breckenridge "pelted her with raw eggs"
You kids really don't have much of a handle on the law do you?  Might want to find someone who can explain the word, "Battery" to you when it doesn't apply to your cell phone.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

 But a lot of people don’t seem to want to look at Venezuela, because that would be uncomfortable. A few years back, a lot of them were praising Venezuela as a model of socialism, the same way they praise Cuba. Here’s just a small sample: David Sirota in Salon proclaimed Venezuela’s “economic miracle” thanks to Hugo Chavez’s “full-throated advocacy of socialism” and “fundamental critique of neoliberal [i.e., free market] economics.” Left-leaning celebrities traipsed to Caracas to pay their respects. Bernie Sanders declared just a few years ago that “the American dream is more apt to be realized in…Venezuela” than here. He concluded by asking, “Who’s the banana republic now?”


A requirement for becoming a member of the democrat party; you have to be a colossal ignoramus.


http://thefederalist.com/2017/04/24/left-socialism-denial-holocaust-denial/

Resist Trump
Resist Trump

@AndyManUSA#45

"Colossal ignoramus" is someone who claims to be a Christian but who is all ga ga over the anti-Christ. You know any such people, IReportYouWhine? ;)

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Trump cussed, demanded the removal of adversaries from public meetings, and has lied repeatedly.  Having set the stage, he is inheriting his own world of fascist insistence on domination and control of others.  Fortunately, he is trying to do it in the United States where the rights of all are written down and enforced.  Hence - even hateful crack-pots like Ann Coulter will be protected from physical abuse and allowed to speak (somewhere and quietly).

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Excellent observation by Mr. Arnn, though I would add it's become dangerously trendy. 

Is that not a sign of their weakness? 

Without question, it is!

metitotktodd
metitotktodd

Has the sick psychopath racist bigot rapist narcissist liar bully Fascist Hitler wannabe Trump who cheated to steal the election with the help of the Russians, the FBI, voter suppression and the crooked media been impeached yet?  Make America Hate Again.  Make America Racist Again.  Make America White Again.  Make America an Oligarchy of the 1% Again

Jackalope
Jackalope

Man! That's the worst whine I've heard since November. Next time don't nominate the most corrupt person on the planet and you might like the election results better.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

Geez, the next door numbskull bemoans everything Trump, but when he got to the military I quit reading. The military loves Trump not because he's one of them but because he supports them. The Christian community supports Trump, not because he's one of them but because he supports them. Trump, tapped into the conservative traditionalist base and that is exactly what Regain, did, sorry libs you're in for a very rough ride.

Starik
Starik

@SGTGrit What about the constant lies and errors? Trump is all BS, all smoke and mirrors.
And another draft dodger.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@SGTGrit The Christian community abhors Donald Trump - a Satan of greed and evil.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @SGTGrit  You must really be talking about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama since you included BS, smoke and mirrors, constant lies and errors.

Robert1959
Robert1959

@SGTGrit lol.  Trump is a "draft dodger" and the military depises him.  He is "Commander In Chief" but Trump still has not put his "boots on the ground" in any combat zone.  Trump can not delegate that responsibility.  Trump is a coward.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Here is something else the libs won't want to hear -


“Former Energy Department Undersecretary Steven Koonin told The Wall Street Journal Monday that bureaucrats within former President Barack Obama’s administration spun scientific data to manipulate public opinion.”


I told ya.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@AndyManUSA#45 Worrying about what the gov. is doing is a trap....is smoking mirrors...is deception. Worry about what those who control the gov. are doing.

Robert1959
Robert1959

@AndyManUSA#45 You have about as much credibility (0%) as your hero Donald "birther" Trump, 1st white nationalist POTUS.  Trump is a "habitual liar" and so are his supporters.  How pathetic and deplorable.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

Free speech ?  I am a white supremacist. I believe that the white race and the Christian church are favored by God. All that  we do is justified.


Rhetoric like this will  incite people. It has no basis in fact and is offensive. How do you expect people to react to those promoting this idea. ?


This view is not conservatism and should never be associated with conservatism. Ann Coulter....Steve Bannon....Sean Hanity....Limbaugh.....Bill O'Reilly...Tucker..... are intellectual frauds.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@jezel You mean we now have unlimited government? Have you ever heard of something called the Constitution of the United States?

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

Political conservatism means limited gov....period. We need for the GOP to stick to this premise and to promote the idea that....the role of gov. is to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.


And insuring competition in the market place is paramount.


The Democratic party is doing what they have always done.....fill in the gaps. Helping those who have fallen into the cracks.


When we can agree on the difference between a hand out...and a hand up.....we will be better off.


I do hope that you will write articles exploring the role of government. The burden of saving our Democracy rest with the GOP....not with the Democrats.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

@MarkVV @jezel Our gov. is over stepping when it enters into our personal lives...abortion issues....privacy issues....issues involving religion and morality. We can make our own personal decision....that is not the role of government.....to make those decisions for us.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@jezel @MarkVV Nor is it the role of the government to pay for such deprivations either. Leave the tax payer out of your immorality.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

i think it's a bit more complicated than this (at this point).  I almost feel like we're watching a play and everyone has a role to follow.


Ann Coulter decides to speak at a university.  There are a number of colleges where her appearance would go unnoticed. But she chooses Berkeley & is aided & abetted by a group on the campus.  She picks Berkeley because she knows they will be the most upset and she's sure to get a lot of attention. 


Now the 2nd actor comes in, stage left. Activists.  They know they're being played but they don't care...their role is to be outraged and upset...bordering on violence...even if they know that ignoring Coulter all together would take away all of her power.  They just can't help themselves....they see a red towel, they charge.  


And then everyone here joins the chorus. 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@AndyManUSA#45  As long as no violence broke out. I'm fine with the shouts. Did the rep listen?  Obama tried to set an example with hecklers by listening to them and responding to them with respect.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"Why would a bunch of 19-year-olds rage "   They are adults.  Trying to lump them in with children is a disservice to the age of majority. They are voters.                    They also have freedom of speech. They can use their voice to protest if they want to.    However, violence is not the answer. If you actually see violence result, then investigate that.   But just because these adults are protesting, don't act like they aren't adults just because they are students.     And to answer the question, those 19 year olds are raging because they see people use inflammatory language to divide us.  Ann Coulter is high on the list of people using inflammatory language. Is she doing it because she believes it or because she's a "performance artist" to try to sell books?  Either way, being called out for inflammatory language is not a crime. Students not wanting inflammatory language on their campus is not a crime.  A school administration listening to their students is also not a crime. It's also not a crime if the school administration does not listen to their students.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Totally disingenuous. Did they protest Hillary calling a broad swath of upstanding citizens "deplorables"? Anything more divisive than that? One example of millions . . .

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

The liberals hate America with a purple passion. They welcome unfettered immigration because it undercuts wages, dilutes the ability for teachers to educate our children, increases crime, alienates vast swaths of our society, increases the costs of health care, raises your tax burden to pay for government provided benefits, among many other negatives. It is doing great harm to this nation. If the average clueless infant spent any time at all thinking about the damage being done to their country and their future, they would become Republicans. That is why their leaders won't allow them to hear the truth or even have a seed of thought planted into their empty heads.


Fact

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@AndyManUSA#45  "The liberals hate America with a purple passion. They welcome unfettered immigration because " Wow. Just Wow.  you race bait liberals there, and then jump into an anti-immigrant stance so xenophobic that it makes your head spin.                     How about this: punish companies that pay illegal immigrants under the table. punish companies that pay illegal immigrants less than minimum wage.    That never seems to happen, so the companies just keep hiring and paying sub-par wages (see: slave labor.)   If they are punished correctly, all those jobs will vaporize.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 When a total stupidity is presented as a fact, one knows it comes from a sick person. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Let us not forget; the adults and elders of these infantile youth ENCOURAGE such activities. 


"Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake. - obozo


This includes, among many other forms of "resistance," shouting down their Congressman. 


Now, on the other side of the coin, show me where one lib was denied the right to voice their opinions by a Con audience or group.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@AndyManUSA#45  There are many congressmen not even having town halls because they are scared of actually answering for their actions. That is denying people the right to voice their opinion.  If you represent people, listen to the people. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@AndyManUSA#45 What is your problem with the quote from the former President?You have a disagreement with the Constitution?

Starik
Starik

It appears that the worst of the protesting is by people dressed in all-black with masks and frequently with sticks or similar tools, hoping that things get out of hand.  These people are probably not students.

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

@Starik


Probably not students- but certainly leftist thugs to be sure. Most are probably white kids from wealthy families who graduated with worthless sociology degrees who can't/don't want to find real jobs. So they're confined to being nothing more than angry idle rich kids with nothing more to do with their time than cause trouble. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik  Then the students should speak out strongly against it and I don't see that happening.