—April 19, 2015
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment is my favorite part of the U.S. Constitution. Not the amendment’s opening part. I mean, I believe in the free exercise of religion, but kind of hope no more religions are “established” as the ones already established cause enough trouble in the world. And that part about petitioning the government is kind of worthless, cause you can petition about your grievances until the cows come home, but good luck receiving any redress.
It’s the “freedom of speech, or of the press,” part of this amendment that stirs my soul, and the one I have actively supported since my rabble-rousing youth. It is the reason I rail against political correctness, which is so often used to furtively stifle free speech and oppress critical thinking.
To this day I believe the U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing by defending flag burning as freedom of expression. While I personally disagree with burning Old Glory, the fact that it is allowed as a form of expression is part of what makes America great.
I also find various garbage proclaimed as “art,” such as works by Robert Maplethorpe and others of his ilk, to be offensive; however, its public display, no matter how loathsome, is worthy of first amendment protection, too.
In my rabble-rousing youth, university and college campuses were bastions of free speech. On just about any given day you were likely to find all points of view expressed on any number of issues, not to mention plenty of public “bad taste” antics and other questionable displays by fraternal organizations and other social groups. All without any real fuss or overt animosity between competing factions or diametrically opposed interest groups. Students tended to discuss divisive issues, but for the most part did not try to suppress ideas and speech they did not agree with.
So I’ve got to ask: What the fuck happened?
How is it that in the span of roughly one generation, the ideal of free speech has been cast aside by most institutions of higher learning, with the apparent full support of a majority of professors and students?
Students aren’t taught about “freedom of speech,” because they are now being taught “freedom from speech.” Universities, colleges and many of their students seem to be focused on limiting just about any speech that might possibly cause offence, and stifling ideas that may run contrary to specific students’ beliefs. And with the emphasis on trigger warnings, safe spaces, microaggressions, speech codes, privilege of various sorts, and other popular politically correct taglines, “debate” is obviously now a foreign concept on campuses. Instead, students are being taught how to engage in “goodthink.”
Consider in just the past 10 days:
The State University of New York at New Paltz abruptly canceled a planned campus debate between a notable left-wing media critic and a notable right-wing media critic on “How the Media Can Sway Votes and Win Elections.” Certainly sounds like a well-balanced debate on an important issue. Unfortunately, one of the debaters had “extreme” right wing views, according to complaints lodged by at least one professor and several unidentified students. Can’t have that, now can we. . . even if balanced out by another speaker on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
Campus police forced University of Delaware students to censor a giant inflatable “free speech beach ball,” because someone had drawn a picture of a penis on the ball, along with the word “penis.” The students, who were promoting free speech values, were advised that campus speech codes and sexual harassment policies overrode any rights to free expression. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Young Americans for Liberty both issued protests to university administrators advising them that the campus police were infringing upon the students’ First Amendment rights.
And how about this for complete irony:
About 700 professors and students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison signed letters complaining about racism from campus police and administrators, and demanding that a student arrested for spray-painting graffiti on scores of campus buildings be given clemency for his actions and be allowed to graduate on time this May. The letters allege that police engaged in racism by interrupting an Afro-American studies class when they arrested the student vandal, and that administrators are guilty of promoting racism because they were more interested in protecting campus buildings than students—such as the vandal—who are fighting for social change.
The student vandal’s fight for social change included graffiti on 11 different buildings with such messages as: “THE DEVIL IZ A WHITE MAN,” “DEATH TO PIGZ,” “WHITE SUPREMACY IZ A DISEASE,” AND “FUCK THE POLICE,” among others.
Unbelievably, both the chief of campus police and university chancellor have issued statements of apology over the incident, with both vowing to review police practices. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vandal ends up serving as the university’s valedictorian during the upcoming graduation ceremonies.
So, Hash It Out: Is the politically correct induced dissolution of the First Amendment on campuses turning American universities batshit crazy?
—Published April 19 in Hash It Out!