Flanagan: Free Speech Is A ‘Nuisance’ On College Campuses

Writer and author Caitlin Flanagan argued that free speech has become a “nuisance” on college campuses on Friday’s broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time.”

Flanagan said that college students today are “the inheritors of 30 years of identity politics, and that’s part of the problem. … That means that instead of saying we all have general principles by which we live, and seek to sort of understand our lives, that I’m going to stand up for the feminist cause, I’m going to stand up for a particular racial or ethnic cause, and I’m going to fiercely guard that and completely stand on the side of that issue.”

Flanagan added that she didn’t blame the students themselves because “when kids come to college, when they come to any school, they are, by definition, they’re ignorant. They don’t know anything yet. And it is the moral obligation of their teachers, of the adults who work in that institution to teach them something to relieve them of these great burden of ignorance. But there are so many professors who have completely abdicated that position, and have just cravenly ceded to whatever these poor kids, who don’t know anything yet, what they come and say that [is] just reinforced by the professors, and the whole system is now being run by these kids who are paying the tuitions that pay the salary.” Later she said, “the people who teach there, should be instructing them, that they should have free speech, they should have an ability to inquire, they should be able to ask any question, they should be able to write anything, and subject themselves to the academic — a rigorous intellectual discipline, and that’s largely gone.”

Flanagan also blasted colleges for luring in students who then rack up student loan debt, dubbing colleges a “country club.” She pointed out that she doesn’t necessarily disagree with progressive political beliefs, but that when she was young, growing up in Berkeley, CA, kids who were really progressive were “paying a tremendous personal cost for these political beliefs. But nowadays, these kids, mom and dad write huge checks, they’re extremely privileged. They’re extremely pampered, and they run around complaining that they’re the victim of these microaggressions.”  She also stated, “if you and I went to the south Bronx, and we found some 19-year-olds there, and we said, ‘How much of your day do you spend worrying about microaggressions?’ They wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Because they know that we live in a violent country with a gun problem.”

Host Bill Maher jumped in, “you know who else doesn’t care about them? Doctors without Borders. Because they’re actually doing something to help the world. Not just sitting on the Internet like virtual vigilantes pointing out the bad person.”

Flanagan concluded, “I don’t think it’s a war we have to worry about, because we’ve already lost the war. And I think that the culture war is over, the other side won, and at this point free speech is nothing more than a nuisance.” And “It’s over. I mean, the things that you were observing 20 years ago, and that you’ve been discussing in the last 10 or 12 years, they’re letting America — they were at one point letting America know what would happen, what the logical end of these things was. We’re there. It is the logical end.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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