Where free speech goes to die


For a change of pace, here’s an important National Review essay about the failure of American academe to protect free speech and to encourage debate on the widest possible range of ideas.

“The problem is not that conservatives have lost faith in the mission of the university, but that too many universities have discarded their sacred commitments to dialogue and truth in favor of ideological crusades,” a couple authors write in.

I’m center-left, but I’m with these guys 100 percent. Yes, the GOP has degenerated into calamitous intellectual dishonesty. But academe has transformed from a place where ideas can be tested against each other — with citizens who can think critically s the result — to, in come cases, a sanctimonious thought police.

“Indeed,” the authors write, “the mandarins of the academy now openly spout Orwellian arguments for speech suppression based entirely on feelings. Earlier this month, Northeastern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett penned a piece for the New York Times titled “When Is Speech Violence?” that claimed the mantle of “science” to argue for campus speech restrictions.

“Before that, an April Times op-ed by NYU’s vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech,” justified censorship on the grounds that subjective emotions should be privileged “over reason and argument,” and that “[freedom of speech] means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.”

“Disappointingly, the author never quite got around to specifying just who will determine the criteria for this “balancing.”

Food for thought.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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