Opening (and Then Quickly Closing) Minds

Here’s an op-ed piece from the NYT by Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is the author of “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.”


Feigning Free Speech on Campus

DESPITE high youth voter turnout in 2008 — 48.5 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds cast ballots that year — levels are expected to return to usual lows this year, and with that the usual hand-wringing about disengagement and apathy among young voters.

Colleges and universities are supposed to be bastions of unbridled inquiry and expression, but they probably do as much to repress free speech as any other institution in young people’s lives. In doing so, they discourage civic engagement at a time when debates over deficits and taxes should make young people pay more attention, not less.

Since the 1980s, in part because of “political correctness” concerns about racially insensitive speech and sexual harassment, and in part because of the dramatic expansion in the ranks of nonfaculty campus administrators, colleges have enacted stringent speech codes. These codes are sometimes well intended but, outside of the ivory tower, would violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. From protests and rallies to displays of posters and flags, students have been severely constrained in their ability to demonstrate their beliefs. The speech codes are at times intended to enforce civility, but they often backfire, suppressing free expression instead of allowing for open debate of controversial issues.

read the rest

And in a related story, Rowan Atkinson recently came out against hate speech provisions of the Public Order Act.(!)


Mr. Bean star calls for repeal of British hate speech law (w/video)

LONDON, October 26, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Rowan Atkinson, one of Britain’s most popular film and television comedy stars, has told the government that the hate speech provisions of the Public Order Act must be repealed to uphold the country’s ancient traditions of freedom of speech.

He said he wanted to counter “the Outrage Industry: self-appointed arbiters of the public good, encouraging media-stoked outrage, to which the police feel under terrible pressure to react.”

A “new intolerance” is being fed by Section 5, the “insult” wording of the Act, he said. “A new and intense desire to gag uncomfortable voices of dissent.”

“‘I’m not intolerant,’ say many softly-spoken, highly educated liberal-minded people,” Atkinson said. “‘I’m only intolerant of intolerance.’ And people tend to nod sagely and say, ‘Oh yes, wise words, wise words.’ And yet if you think about this supposedly inarguable statement for longer than five seconds you realize that all it is advocating is the replacement of one kind of intolerance with another.”

The law, he said, is “indicative of a culture that has taken hold of the program of successive governments that with the reasonable and well-intentioned ambition to contain obnoxious elements in society, has created a society of an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature.”

read the rest . . .

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