The Atlantic: Campus Free Speech Crisis Is Worth Talking About

Demand Democracy free speech protest
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A columnist for leftist publication the Atlantic recently made the case that everyone should be concerned with the state of free speech on campus, which Breitbart News has been reporting for years.

Columnist Conor Friedersdorf believes that the word “crisis” is not a strong enough word to describe the threats against expression principles on campus. Why? According to Friedersdorf, the word “crisis” suggests that the threats are limited to this period in time. Friedersdorf believes that speech rights need to be continuously protected.

There is no free speech-crisis on campus, they insist — and I agree. A crisis is a discrete period of anomalous trouble or danger. As I see it, free speech is perennially under attack. It always requires liberals in every era to aggressively protect and defend it, against governments to safeguard the First Amendment, and against nongovernment censors when they have power to do harm.

Friedersdorf goes on to lay out a persuasive case for the importance of speech rights. He argues that free speech principles allow society to most effectively seek the truth.

Nowhere is this never-ending project more vital than in higher education. Campus-speech restrictions jeopardize society’s ability to seek truth and advance knowledge in the very institutions ostensibly dedicated to those pursuits, even as they tend to undermine justice and equity. “Let them talk,” Henry Louis Gates advised in a masterful 1991 essay of that title, where he discussed how the campus speech codes adopted in that era disproportionately oppressed people of color.

Friedersdorf is not without his reservations about agreeing with conservatives on the campus free speech issue. He argues that many on the far-right end of the political spectrum have exploited the campus free speech crisis to stir prejudices.

Stoking false narratives about tenured radicals is one way those fascists pander to prejudice against intellectuals, Jews, and diversity; undermine the structurally liberalizing force of academic freedom; and consolidate support among authoritarians. Abroad, Stanley notes Viktor Orbán’s successful effort to oust Central European University from Hungary. He draws a connection between that situation and the fact that conservative legislators in red states are slashing funds for public university systems. And he believes that populist-right media outlets are mining the unrepresentative behavior of powerless undergraduates as fuel for cynical, sinister propaganda.

Stay tuned to Breitbart News for more campus free speech updates.


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