Guy W. Farmer: Free speech on college campuses
The University of California at Berkeley, which once championed free speech, is now censoring anyone who doesn’t conform to the university’s politically correct standards for campus speakers. The most recent victims of this PC policy are right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter.
Although I don’t agree with what Yiannopoulos and Coulter are saying, I defend their right to say it on the campuses of taxpayer-supported universities like UC Berkeley. The First Amendment to our Constitution guarantees political extremists on the left and right can publicly expound on their incendiary beliefs and ideas as long as they don’t advocate violence or shout “Fire!” in a crowded auditorium. But these days it seems only liberals and “progressives” are welcome on U.S. college campuses.
Let’s consider the troubling situation in Berkeley. Last February masked, rock-throwing thugs prevented a speech by obnoxious extremist Yiannopoulis, who was fired by Breitbart News, and late last month 20 “protesters” — mostly violent anarchists — were arrested in Berkeley as right and left-wing extremists battled in the streets over whether conservatives should be allowed to speak on campus.
As the New York Post opined in an editorial, “The answer to disorder is order. Put on extra security, keep non-students far from the campus event, and have police trained and ready for trouble.” The problem in Berkeley, however, is local police answer to a far left mayor and city council who side with anarchists and rioters.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who has never held a real job, is believed to be a member of By Any Means Necessary, an anti-fascist Facebook group who participated in the riots that erupted last February because of the scheduled Yiannopoulis lecture. According to the conservative website Lifezette, the Berkeley riots were organized by Antifa, “a network of far-left anarchist and communist groups that orchestrate violent protests and attacks against populists, conservatives and anyone else they deem to be ‘fascists’ or ‘Nazis.’” Lifezette alleged that video of the Berkeley riot “showed Antifa street fighters throwing bricks and explosives into the crowd.”
The New York Post reported UC Berkeley’s cancellation of Coulter’s speech followed Black Lives Matter’s disruption of a UCLA speech by conservative Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald and efforts to muzzle her the next night at Claremont-Pomona College. And in March, the Post continued, “goons stopped American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray from giving a talk at Middlebury College” in Vermont with one professor injured by violent rioters. The rioters “proudly deny the free speech rights of people whose writings they haven’t even read,” the Post concluded, adding that such actions on publicly supported college campuses call for “new management.” Amen!
Politically correct speech is also in vogue at my alma mater, the University of Washington in Seattle, which recently offered me the opportunity to spend my retirement money on an alumni seminar on “white privilege.” Self-confessed white person I am, I could have heard “anti-racist writer and educator” Tim Wise tell me how “racial (white) privilege impedes progressive social change for all,” which reminded me of how I enjoyed white privilege by washing dishes in a sorority house to put myself through journalism school.
And just last month I missed a lecture on microaggressions by someone named “Toure’,” an alleged journalist, author and cultural critic who talked about “microaggressions — the subtle acts of hostility and ‘othering’ faced by minorities as they navigate society.” After reading that subtle warning I urged my Mexican-American children to find “safe spaces” where they could play with Legos.
Well, so much for free speech. It was nice while it lasted.
Guy W. Farmer, a veteran journalist, believes in Free Speech.