I work on a college campus, and I can tell you that we get more diverse political views than are represented on, say, Fox News. Public display boards are plastered with that Turning Point USA bullshit. The College Republicans routinely bring in speakers with inane points of view — anti-abortion, pro-religion, anti-environmental crap that I despise. If I, a left-leaning college professor at a liberal arts college, have no power to silence right-wing stupidity, then how can you claim that we have so much censorship power? If you’re so in favor of free speech, why do you complain about students using their free speech to protest?
Well, somebody understands that there is no free speech crisis on college campuses, at least.
“Chilling” is the word used in the Washington Post headline to describe college students’ supposed hostility to free speech. A new poll appears to indicate that 20% of college students believe it is appropriate to use violence to shut down hateful or offensive speakers. Thanks to a carefully orchestrated campaign, the notion that universities are hostile to the free exchange of ideas is slipping into mainstream opinion. It is a phony crisis manufactured by the same people who fuel the engines of climate denial. Right wing activists and donors are fighting to undermine universities because their values cannot thrive there. Modern conservatism is failing on campus because it shrivels in an atmosphere of intelligent, open debate.
That’s right. I do think if a speaker comes on campus to advocate for violence against certain groups, then we shouldn’t tolerate the intolerance, and they should be told to go speak at a Klan rally instead, and that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pelt them with milkshakes as they’re safely escorted away. That does not mean that we oppose a diversity of ideas…it means that doing harm will not be supported.
The idea that this reasonable assumption of non-destructive behavior is somehow “chilling” is a product of people like the Koch brothers or Dennis Prager or Charlie Kirk. They’re the ones who run the propaganda mills that are trying to shut down the free exchange of ideas and replace them with slavish dogmatism. They aren’t even very good at that.
More interesting than the flaws in the poll’s execution is the buried lede: the poll failed. Look behind the absurd headlines and the poll demonstrates the opposite conclusion. College students are much more open to free speech than the general public. If it’s “chilling” that 20% of college students misunderstand free speech, what word should we use to describe the quarter of the American public and almost half of Republicans who support censoring unfavorable media outlets. Also from this poll, the college students who identified as Democrats were more open to free speech than their Republican peers. And perhaps the most important lesson from these poll results: a carefully constructed poll can get a small minority of respondents to endorse almost anything.
The real problem is that a majority of college students have outgrown the reactionary Old Guard, the 1950s mentality that is crumbling away as the white majority recedes into an angry, resentful minority. Women outnumber men. The assumption of privilege is under assault.
What is really happening on college campuses? Young Americans, exposed to some of the most intellectually open environments that have ever existed in a human society, are rejecting the values of The Last Jim Crow Generation to an almost unanimous extent. This trend extends beyond politics. Younger Americans are making better, smarter, more morally admirable choices than their parents and grandparents in almost every respect. Today’s college students are less likely than their forebears to use illegal drugs, smoke cigarettes, or engage in dangerous or irresponsible sexual practices. They are less likely to get pregnant or marry early. Younger Americans are better informed, more tolerant of dissent, and less bigoted than older generations. They even have higher average IQ’s. Our political system is about to be rocked by a wider generation gap than we faced in the Sixties.
We should be proud that a younger generation is turning out better than we were, but no — instead, rich fucks just want to poison the well of new ideas. We have an opportunity here, to encourage people who could repair the damage my generation has done, don’t let the cowering guardians of the status quo burn it all down.
SC (Salty Current) says
Only a matter of time until Vote Republican – Make Gasoline Leaded Again.
Steve Bruce says
I think it is important to recognise that this campus free speech hysteria, although started by conservatives, has now been adopted by liberals and supposed leftists like Coyne, Harris, Pinker, Maher and Greenwald to some extent. Out of the above mentioned, Greenwald is the only one who actually consistently defends free speech. The rest are either too ignorant or just arguing in bad faith.
You might be interested in this podcast by my son. http://www.freshedpodcast.com/hutchens/
Ray Ceeya says
Every damn spring the dead baby brigade would show up on campus and install large format pictures of aborted fetus’ in the campus quad. It was disgusting sensationalistic propaganda and I hated it, but the campus was forced to allow it because of “Free Speech”. Every time I wanted more than anything to spray paint FUCK YOU on every one, but I couldn’t because “Free Speech?”
Just remember, you’re free to say whatever you want, and I’m free to call you an idiot/racist/asshole. And I’m also free to tell you to shut the fuck up.
“We should be proud that a younger generation is turning out better than we were…”
This is the one thing that has sustained me through all those Republican presidencies, congresses and senates.
Kip T.W. says
I like the idea of chilling hate speech with milkshakes.
You would think that if the modern conservative is set on the all powerful market and ever expanding growth and prosperity, then they should be in favor of education at all costs and should support with religious fervor higher education, That growth is dependent on innovation which is dependent on openness the free exchange of ideas. No you would be wrong regardless of what they say it is not how they act. that leads me to the conclusion that the conservative is in fact not in favor real growth at all not in favor of progress or the improving the conditions of anyone else.
it is a desperate attempt to prevent any change at all from their illusion of the nature of existence and the world they want it to be. they think they can control it but they would be better to go down to the sea and try and command the tides then think they can “have their cake and eat it to” change is a function of time and can not be prevented without sacrificing the growth and prosperity they claim to want.
You’re right about the younger generation, even out here in Guns & Jesus country (Columbine).
Conversation between my then 9-year-old daughter and her mother’s boyfriend:
“So, has your little fag friend Clint worn any pretty dresses to school lately?”
“John! Shame on you, you shouldn’t use that word!”
“Oh, I’m soooooo sorry, your little HOMO-SEX-UAL friend Clint?”
“And he’s not gay, John, he’s a girl stuck inside a boy’s body.”
Damn, I was 9 in 1970, and we sure have progressed a lot since then.
Related tale, Socialists of Iowa dinner during the awful 2016 campaign season, when the right swept the state.
10 or 12 year-old boy at our table: “I’m Tyler, what’s your name?” (To a woman with good-sized breasts and feminine features)
Boy: “Arthur? Are you a woman?”
Woman: “Does it matter to you if I am or not?” (Great reply, by the way).
Boy: “No. I was just…well…..oh wait, so you’re trans?”
Woman: “Close enough.”
Boy, smiling: “Oh my older sister’s boy…girl….um, romantic friend is trans too. I really like hi,…her…..THEM.”
Woman: “I’m glad”.
This too was in Guns & Jesus country, Steve King’s district, in fact. The times they are a-changin’.
That would put almost all people desiring censorship of dissenting opinions in the Republican category.
@2 Neither Harris or Greenwald are left wing. Harris and Pinker seem to regard any criticism of themselves as an attack on free speech.
Every time I wanted more than anything to spray paint FUCK YOU on every one, but I couldn’t because “Free Speech?”
@ 4 Ray Ceeya
I am sorry but I do not understand the problem. Why is the spray paint FUCK YOU not “Free Speech” just as the original message is? “Free Speech” does not mean a free ride (but I am not from the USA so I may be missing something)
Still as PZ was suggesting there is nothing wrong with slugging a Nazi.
Ed Martin says
@ jrkrideau Unwanted spray paint destroys property.
Ed Martin says
“A new poll appears to indicate that 20% of college students believe it is appropriate to use violence to shut down hateful or offensive speakers.”
“Hateful or offensive” is in the eye of the beholder. Let people speak. Mistaken notions are easy to shut down with a good argument.
@ Ed Martin, #13
Yeah, no. I don’t care who you are; Nazis talking about “gassing k****” is hateful and offensive. Particularly so, for the reason that unclefrogy so economically raised in #14.
Nazis, Republicans, and their fellow travelers are not mistaken. They don’t care about the truth of their beliefs. They care about preserving their power over the hated other, and they’ll tell any lie in support of that goal. You can’t out argue someone who claims Donald Trump is a beacon of truth, because they are not arguing in anything like good faith.