By Ross Dubberly
“We have the most tolerant and generous young people we’ve ever had,” Hillary Clinton asserted at her nominating convention in 2016.” While this line was met with applause, many of today’s “young people,” especially young leftists, are anything but tolerant. In fact, I would argue, leftist millennials are among the most intolerant Americans that this country has ever seen.
A 2016 Gallup survey found that 69% of college students believe that colleges and universities should “ban” the use of “slurs and other language on campus that is intentionally offensive to certain minority groups.”
Moreover, the survey found that 63% of students believe that colleges should restrict the “Wearing [of] costumes that stereotype certain racial or ethnic groups.”
Similarly, a 2015 study commissioned by Young America’s Foundation and conducted by Kellyanne Conway’s the polling company, inc./WomanTrend found that although 97 percent of self-identified college-age liberals claimed to support the freedom of speech, 54 percent declared that the Confederate battle flag constituted a “hateful” symbol deserving banishment from any public display.
Of 1,000 college students surveyed, an astonishing 48 percent supported mandatory sensitivity training, and a whopping 53 percent believed that “choosing to use or not to use certain words can constitute an act of violence.” As David French of National Review wrote at the time, “Students support free speech, until speech gets politically incorrect.”
In other words, leftist students are supportive of free speech—as long as it does not employ “offensive” language, “stereotype” minorities, and is not tinged with “hate.” In their judgment, in other words, your right to speak does not trump their “right” not to be offended.
It would be an interesting question to ask these quasi-totalitarians just who, exactly, should be tasked with deciding which speech is offensive, stereotypical, and hateful. Ironically, liberals are the largest instigators of hate speech.
Manifestly, leftist college students today fail to understand that if the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech” then the Amendment is utterly meaningless. Why would we need constitutional protection for “love speech”?
It would be hard to imagine anyone further left than MIT professor Noam Chomsky, and yet even he professes to understand the importance of free speech:
Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.
But again, an astonishing percentage of left-wing college students today simply refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of an alternative viewpoint. And this refusal—the refusal to recognize their fellow man’s fundamental right to express himself, no matter how disdainful they may find that expression—should be terrifying to both conservatives and liberals alike. To empower an individual or group of individuals with the authority to decide who is allowed to speak is to enter totalitarian territory.
But, sadly, this is exactly where most of America’s universities reside today.
Ann Coulter and David Horowitz were prevented from speaking at UC-Berkeley; Robert Spencer was shouted down at the University at Buffalo; Heather Mac Donald’s speech at Claremont McKenna College was shut down; university police refused to remove protestors that were preventing Ben Shapiro from speaking at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; commemorative posters of 9/11 victims were torn down by a professor at Saddleback College; a violent mob attacked a professor and shouted down Charles Murray at Middlebury College. And this is only for the 2016-2017 school year.
Unfortunately, the problem seems to be getting worse not better. As Young Americans for Freedom National Chairman Grant Strobl has pointed out, 46 percent of events with conservative speakers hosted by YAF have been disrupted since the 2016 presidential election. Prior to President Donald Trump’s victory, the percentage was merely 15 percent.
Reversing this trend will be an uphill battle. But battle we must. Because, as President Reagan so aptly put it, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” And nothing is more certain to eliminate freedom than the suppression of speech.