“The expressive rights of others.” Quite the phrase, isn’t it? That’s the new free speech, at least applied to those with repugnant viewpoints. In the ongoing effort to quell dissent, this is the new rallying cry of the decidedly exclusive conservatives and lovers of fascism.
…The intent of these bills isn’t to protect student speech; it’s actually to suppress it in favor of guest speakers who, at times, support white nationalism, LGBTQ discrimination and other hateful worldviews. By funding the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, wealthy conservatives are enabling the promotion of hate speech while stifling student dissent. Whether or not Koch, for example, agrees with the hate speech he indirectly sponsors, he certainly benefits from a more friendly academic environment for far-right ideologues who often deny climate change and praise his extreme brand of tax- and regulation-free capitalism.
The Goldwater Institute’s model bill allegedly ensures “the fullest degree of…free expression,” but it explicitly states that “protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity shall not be permitted and shall be subject to sanction.”
It goes on to say, “Any student who has twice been found responsible for infringing the expressive rights of others will be suspended for a minimum of one year, or expelled.”
Under this code, imagine that a student protests a climate change denier and gets a brief suspension. Then the College Republicans group brings in a full-on white nationalist. Will this student do what she thinks is right and protest a racist who’s given a platform at a respected university, or stay home because she’s risking expulsion? This campus “free speech” legislation is essentially an attack on student speech and an elevation of ultra-conservative ideas that many people in university communities think have no place in American society.
“These laws would create a chilling effect on students who reject the idea that white supremacists or climate deniers are simply representing an ‘opposing viewpoint’ that should be tolerated, and who are rightfully relying on their first amendment freedoms to stop the rise of fascism and prevent global climate catastrophe,” Wilson, UnKoch’s senior researcher, told AlterNet. The group has been conducting research into Charles Koch’s considerable ideological donations to higher education, most of which goes toward free-market programs.
Charles Koch Foundation representatives say that conservative views are underrepresented in higher education, and the foundation’s massive university donations—which fund free-market academic centers, professorships, grad students and lecture series—are necessary for academic freedom. This view is shared by other conservative billionaires and higher ed donors including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who recently said to the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “The education establishment [tells you] what to think…the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”
“the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.” Okay, then why are you doing just that? Oh, because you don’t mean that at all, no. You’re fully in favour of free speech, er, expressive rights, as long as those expressive rights are extolling the virtues of white supremacy and fascism. Anything else, not so much. It’s of minor interest to note how much the cons have jumped on the branding wagon. “Different words will make it great!” No, they won’t. To paraphrase Shakespeare, fascism by any other name would still stink.
Legislators in some states including Illinois and Tennessee have introduced bills in 2017 that explicitly mention sanctions on student protesters. Illinois’ bill, proposed by two Republicans, lifts this language, and additional passages, nearly verbatim from the Goldwater model. Also sponsored by Republicans, the bill in Tennessee—nicknamed the “Milo Bill” after an event at the University of California at Berkeley featuring the racist “alt-right” icon Milo Yiannopolous was canceled due to protests—directs universities to enact free speech policies that include “sanctions for anyone under the jurisdiction of the institution who interferes with the free expression of others,” and it gives faculty “the right to regulate class speech.”
In North Carolina, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest intends to work with legislators on a Restore Campus Free Speech Act, which would create “a discipline policy that would punish students who shout down visiting speakers or deprive others of their right to free expression, a tactic commonly known as the ‘hecklers’ veto.'”
Last year, Forest floated a measure calling on the University of North Carolina’s board of governors to create a system-wide policy that would impose harsh penalties, including expulsion, on students, staff and faculty members who disrupt classes, public meetings or events. The Koch-funded Generation Opportunity lauded the effort at the time. Forest has said that yelling at a guest speaker “has never been free speech,” and he’s called campus protest methods “terrorist tactics.” No one introduced a free speech bill that year.
Other proposed laws, like North Dakota’s, which was introduced by six Republicans, omit sanctions provisions but state that a university may restrict student speech if it blocks entrances to buildings, obstructs traffic or interferes with events. Much of the North Dakota bill comes directly from the text of the Goldwater model legislation.
That’s by no means the end of it, either. Alternet has a good, in-depth look at the “new” expressive rights of others, and how it will strip a great many people of their expressive rights. Recommended reading.