How Freedom of Speech Will End in America

If censorship by the government ever comes to America, it will happen because of a rationalization. The rationalization will sound something like, “Free speech is dangerous. It causes physical pain.” In other words, just as hitting, assaulting or killing someone is (properly) a crime in a free society, we’ll also start to hear that “verbal violence” is likewise a crime.

In fact, it’s already happening. For one thing, the federal government spends huge amounts of money on college campuses. Despite the fact that taxpayers have no choice about supporting schools like UC Berkeley, Berkeley gets to decide if having conservative speakers come to campus is the same as instigating verbal violence. Berkeley can issue the ban outright or do so indirectly, or passive-aggressively, by saying things like, “Well, conservative speakers cost a huge amount of money for security.” Effectively, conservative or any right-leaning speakers, deemed the politically incorrect of our current era, are shut out of campus because federally funded schools declare they’re too dangerous a risk.

How convenient.

If you want to fight censorship, you’ve got to challenge the idea that someone is assaulting you merely by having and expressing a point-of-view you dislike. Because on college campuses, that’s the idea gaining momentum. Ideas that gain momentum on elite college campuses eventually make their way into state legislatures, Congress and ultimately the Supreme Court. If you think our system of government somehow prevents it, you’re absolutely wrong.

In his September 22nd article, Thomas Fuller of the New York Times—a publication which is no fan of free speech outside of its own—lends credence to a peculiar position towards the First Amendment: its use can cause physical harm.

In a piece exploring the current state of conflict over speech on the campus of UC Berkeley, Fuller seems all too happy to give a voice to those who would quell the right of free expression, particularly those opposing a leftist view. Quoting Professor Katrin Wehrheim, a native of Germany, who was recently one of many teachers canceling classes in anticipation of Free Speech Week — a lecture series sponsored by an on-campus conservative group — Fuller notes:

“It’s just not safe to hold class. This is not about free speech. These people are coming here to pick a fight.”

You see the rationalizations here? Conservative/libertarian/right-wing or any other incorrect speakers generate controversy. Conservative or right-wing speakers challenge the status quo. They get people stirred up. It could be risky. So we shouldn’t have them anywhere near the university. This is despite the fact that universities claim to foster debate of a diversity of ideas, and despite the fact that virtually all universities are funded by state and/or federal tax dollars.

It’s not a long stretch from “Conservative speakers are too controversial for campuses” to “conservative speakers are too controversial for society.” Watch. That will be the way freedom of speech finally disappears in the United States. They’ll claim it’s too dangerous. They’ve already won the universities and most of the media. They’re coming for your free speech next.

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