Whatever happened to free speech ?

Recently, the University of California-Berkeley, made news by disallowing conservative political commentator, Ann Coulter, from speaking on their campus at the invitation of a conservative group of students.  On some campuses, this may not be news…the other campuses are not the home of the “Free Speech” movement.

Listening to one of my favorite “Center=Right” podcasts on Ricochet.com, I was reminded of the capriciousness of Progressives. During the Vietnam War era, Berkeley, California was home to some of the most politically radical individuals in the United States. Local and state obscenity laws made certain types of speech not just immoral, but illegal! When a nationally known comic was prosecuted under those laws, it made news, but students from Berkeley made the larger noise as they protested the war in Vietnam.

Daily clashes with police about what they considered their right to free speech made the national headlines. These weren’t silent protests, either…they were violent. In the late 60s to early 70s, their right to free speech was recognized, and the classical liberal ideal of free speech was adopted. Free speech may be offensive, but the robust American system should be able to handle it.

Fast-forward to the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century and we see the Progressives tearing down the very thing they wanted established back in the 1960s. Generalizing the experience of Ann Coulter, (because, unfortunately, it has been repeated across the country) a Conservative group on a college campus invites a Conservative commentator to speak on said campus. Approval is given by college officials and Progressive students and faculty (sometimes referred to as “snowflakes” because they are so precious) rise up and demand protection from the violence of the words of that commentator.

They demand the event be cancelled! If the event isn’t cancelled, they hold protests (sometimes even violent ones) designed to create an atmosphere of fear and a lack of safety, then complain that the presence of the Conservative commentator will create…wait for it…an atmosphere of fear and a lack of safety. They say they cannot learn in an environment that would allow for the harmful words spoken by a Conservative commentator, and protest that they should be given safe spaces, free from the psychological violence of Conservative ideas.

So, in two generations, we have gone from the birth of free speech to student, faculty AND staff shutting down speech because they don’t believe in it. We may not be there now, but if you squint, you should be able to see the coming of a crossroads where the West will have to make a decision as to whether they prefer to adopt a more European position of actually prosecuting speech the ruling class doesn’t agree with, or embracing the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Founding Fathers and teaching our students how to defend both that right and their ability to win a logical argument…instead of creating the special, precious little snowflakes we’ve been busy creating for the past generation.

About the Author

Doug Wagner

A strong background in executive leadership in the non-profit and municipal and federal government sectors with demonstrated success in such diverse areas as media, marketing, communication, public policy, politics, Lean processes, budgeting, market research, and organizational development. Specialties: Professional and organizational development, executive level marketing, communications, public relations and policy making experience, including: United Way organizations and school districts. Local, state and federal government operations; local, state and federal politics, lobbyist, government relations, media and communications (both consulting and on-air personality), crisis and emergency preparedness communications, advertising consultation.


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