Liberals (the left) used to claim to be the true defenders of the First Amendment, free speech, and rights of expression. Emphasis here is on “used to” – meaning in the past. But not now.
The “Baby Boom” generation grew up in the shadow of the “free speech” movement and supported the students (and others) who protested efforts (most notably at the University of California – Berkeley campus) to enforce restrictions on the use of demeaning speech (what today might be called “hate speech”) by political protestors. They claimed to be standing up for free speech, per se.
Now, ironically, fifty years later, liberal (leftist) students are enthusiastically engaging in violence to restrict, gag, and suppress free speech – at least to silence and muzzle the expression of views with which they disagree. In early March, hundreds of students at Middlebury College resorted to coercive mob tactics, including intimidation, violence, and shouting down to prevent an invited speaker from speaking at the college. The event had to be relocated (twice) and in the melee of student protests, a college professor who had agreed to moderate the event was physically assaulted by protesting students and suffered a neck injury.
The speaker was marginally controversial. Charles Murray was the co-author two decades ago of The “Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” which makes the claim that race relates to IQ scores. The biological-racial determinism suggested in the book’s thesis certainly is provocative (if not dubious). The book offers some overly-simplistic racial conclusions based on tenuous correlations.
His later book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” also is controversial. It analyzes class differences within one racial cohort that support his claim that the divergences in basic values, relationships and behaviors between the top and bottom socio-economic groups in this country have become so great that they threaten the integrity of the American dream.
If controversial, Murray, nonetheless, is a credible social commentator. He is the W.H. Brady Scholar at the respected American Enterprise Institute.
Of course, the AEI is deemed a “conservative” think tank. Among liberal students who have not learned to think for themselves, the label “conservative” seems to be a red flag that somehow made them feel justified in committing violence to silence the expression of views that they dislike.
Universities used to pride themselves on being places that welcomed challenging and controversial perspectives. Sadly, now, some marginal universities and some immature students seem to be committed more to the pursuit of the politically correct than to the cultivation of an environment that welcomes the responsible expression of differing (even controversial) viewpoints in the search for truth. Those censorial universities and students (and the future of our nation) are losers in the search for truth, and in the quest for the good, the ennobling, the constructive, and the progressive. Free speech is the first casualty of liberal’s enmity.
Yet it is amazing how some journalists and commentators have tried to blame President Trump for the violence at Middlebury College by some liberal students there. Indeed, some political scribblers try to blame President Trump for every ill in our country and in the world.
The sample printed below of five headlines taken from a list of eleven commentary articles featured in one (Free Press) current-news-and-commentary website on March 8th illustrates that nearly half of the headlines express criticism of the new president:
Emmett Rensin, “From Mother Jones to Middlebury: The Problem and Promise of Political Violence in Trump’s America, You won’t understand the resistance if you never stop judging it”; Max Boot, “Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him, The president’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish – they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience”; Micah Zenko, “A Day in the Life of a Discraceful Commander in Chief; Emile Simpson, Ego-Maniac Revolutions Don’t Last”; Stephen M. Walt, “How Not to Fix the Liberal World Order, Donald Trump’s in=house foreign policy intellectual doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
How is it that so many social, economic and political problems that arose and persisted for years under the prior administration(s) suddenly are blamed on the new (six-week-old) administration? How can we expect students to behave more maturely and think more critically when so many journalists writing in the media promote blatantly politically-biased, immature screeds?
Lynn D. Wardle is the Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law at Brigham Young University. He is author or editor of numerous books and law review articles mostly about family, biomedical ethics and conflict of laws policy issues. His publications present only his personal (not institutional) views.