On 9/14/2015 Bernie Sanders gave a speech at the ultra conservative Christian Liberty University. He was not greeted with catcalls or demonstrations- in fact the loudest ones there were Sanders supports brought in for the speech. He received polite applause at various portions of his speech.
Campuses across the United States have become ground zero for silencing free speech. Universities founded to encourage diversity of thought and debate, have become incubators of intolerance where non-sanctioned views are silenced through bullying, speech codes, “free speech zones,” and other illiberal means.
The illiberal left yearns for a world sanitized of information that offends them. Rather than truly educate students, the illiberal left would rather “protect” students from some of the greatest works of American or world literature. Under these “trigger warning” rules, how would professors teach Dante, Shakespeare, or just about any great book of literature beyond the narrowest politically correct confines?
We need to abandon the childish and illiberal idea that universities are meant to be emotionally “safe” places where students are never offended, never have to defend their beliefs, or never have to encounter a view or idea or fact they dislike. The goal of a college or university should be developing intellectual rigor that comes from the free clashing of ideas.
It seems absurd, except to the illiberal left, that on a college campus, sharing ideas, handing out flyers, even distributing copies of the Constitution, has to be relegated to a limited space controlled by university administrators. 3 Free speech zones ostensibly exist to create a “safe” environment for the expression and exchange of ideas. In reality, they serve as tools to regulate and discourage dissent and free speech. These bureaucratic roadblocks dissuade students from engaging in peaceful expression and protest, both of which should be regular occurrences on college campuses.
Courts have repeatedly held that a “free speech zone” on a public campus is unequivocally unconstitutional. Yet these zones continue to proliferate on the campuses of taxpayer-funded institutions.
It is becoming sadly predictable that whenever a prominent conservative, or even an insufficiently leftist liberal or moderate Democrat, is invited to be a campus commencement speaker, that speaker is often forced to withdraw because of student or faculty protests. In 2014, for example, protests from lefty students and professors compelled two of the most accomplished women in the world— former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde— to withdraw from delivering commencement speeches to Rutgers, and Smith College, respectively.
In 2006, a series of speeches by anti-immigration reform leaders brought out the worst in liberal activists. Fire alarms were pulled to interrupt a speech by Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo at Michigan State’s law school. The same tactic was used at Georgetown to disrupt a speech by Chris Simcox, a Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leader.
In his 2012 book, Unlearning Liberty, Lukianoff wrote, “The fans of religious liberty for Muslims are often vehemently on the other side when the group in question is Christian. Between 2002 and 2009, dozens of colleges across the country threatened or derecognized Christian groups because of their refusal to say they would not ‘discriminate’ on the basis of belief. These colleges included, to name a few, Arizona State University, Brown University, California State University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, Texas A& M University, Tufts University, the University of Arizona, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Mary Washington, the University of New Mexico, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Washington University.”
When they aren’t besmirching dissenters from their worldview as racist, sexist, and misogynist, the illiberal left are hurling racist, sexist, and misogynist attacks against those they wish to delegitimize in the public square. It’s a sad irony that those who claim to stand against racism or sexism turn into unrepentant bigots if it will help delegitimize their ideological or political opponents.
And conservative women? Well, while reigning as the uber-liberal at Current TV, Keith Olbermann wished conservative S. E. Cupp had been aborted by her parents and called conservative pundit Michelle Malkin a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.” Bill Maher dismissed Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann as a “bimbo” and called Sarah Palin the c-word and a “dumb twat.” Ann Coulter is routinely referred to as “Mann Coulter” on liberal blogs which shows how dumb sighted they are because she is an attractive women.
We should all make efforts to invite people who hold different views into our worlds. Contrary to popular thought, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It breeds understanding and tolerance.