Opinion: Campus censorship-by-mob is unacceptable

A protester clashes with Auburn University police before Tuesday’s appearance by white supremacist Richard Spencer. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

I am not exactly a fan of professional provocateurs such as conservative author Ann Coulter, embroiled this week in a dispute over whether she will be allowed to speak at the University of California at Berkeley. The same is true of her more overt comrade in arms, neo-Nazi white racist Richard Spencer, who was allowed to speak at Auburn University Tuesday night only after a federal judge intervened and ordered the university to do so.

In both cases, university officials attempted to bar the controversial speakers by citing fears that their appearance would inspire violent protests. But in both cases — in almost all such cases — such reactions are wrong.  Government officials are not only obligated to allow such speech on college campuses and elsewhere, they have a positive duty under the First Amendment to ensure that the safety of those speaking is not compromised in any way.

That is even true — especially true — if the speakers and their message offend every sensibility.

It has to be acknowledged that in a majority of these college-campus cases, those whose free-speech rights are being threatened by mob action are conservative, while those demanding that speakers be silenced and banned from campus are generally liberal.  Such actions contradict and undermine the very philosophy that the protesters claim to espouse.

Barack Obama, for example, probably feels much the same as I do about Coulter and Spencer and the type of hatred they inspire and then feed upon. But in an interview a couple of years ago during another spate of campus free-speech incidents, the then-president got it exactly right:

“We also have these values of free speech, and it’s not free speech in the abstract. The purpose of that kind of free speech is to make sure that we are forced to use argument and reason and words in making our democracy work. And, you know, you don’t have to be fearful of somebody spouting bad ideas. Just out-argue them. Beat ’em. Make the case as to why they’re wrong. Win over adherents. That’s how things work in a democracy.

“And I do worry if young people start getting trained to think that if somebody says something I don’t like, if somebody says something that hurts my feelings, that my only recourse is to shut them up, avoid them, push them away, call on a higher power to protect me from that. … Does that put more of a burden on minority students, or gay students, or Jewish students, or others in a majority that may be blind to history and blind to their hurt? It may put a slightly higher burden on them. But you’re not going to make the kinds of deep changes in society that those students want without taking it on in a full and clear and courageous way.”

Protest is fine; protest is indeed mandatory when confronted by hateful rhetoric. But a movement or society that justifies the shouting down of unpopular voices robs itself of its legitimacy.  It is an act of fear, not of strength, an attempt to use brute force to accomplish what words, ideas, rationality and decency can and should accomplish much more effectively.

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2282 comments
JayBook
JayBook moderator

Sheets.

And yes, I know it's late. I've been working hard, I promise.

rimsky
rimsky

@JayBook Y eah Right TD has been saying you are on vacation for soem crap like confederate soemthing.

Denise285
Denise285

Since Trump is a Repub, the investigation will last his entire first term.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@StraightNoChaser @stefpe @Denise285  When you make comments that are meant to tear others down you are focusing your psychic energy on decay, and the result will be a life of decay. An alternative is to spend so much time focusing on your own growth and development as a person that you don’t have any time to waste criticizing others. If you secretly feel weak and inferior, do something with your life to make yourself strong from the inside out instead of trying to solve your problem by pushing these feelings onto someone else.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@DownInAlbany @StraightNoChaser @stefpe @Denise285 He has tiny hands, he even knows that which is why he stood on a stage on national television and talked about the size of his whatchamacallit before children after Rubio mentioned the size of his hands.  Now what were you saying about me as a poster after you support two grown men like Trump and Rubio who clearly displayed despicable behavior?  Get your priorities straight Down's and worry about who you put in office and their display of bad character vs what I may display on a blog.   Better still write Trump and tell him how he needs to go see a shrink because he clearly has some deep seated psychological problems which are on display daily.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@DownInAlbany

When you post the work of others without giving them proper credit, it's called plagiarism. 

stefpe
stefpe

@Denise285 Yeah probably. Still though.. would've been fun to see him end his "presidency" in handcuffs.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Perusing Albany-boy's most recent posts, and it seems to be all Obama all the time. 


@Kamchak


Po old DIA is so jealous and intimidated


by a handsome educated intelligent Black man


that he can't stand it.


It's killing his old soul !


heeheeheeheeheehee

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

America has become, under Donald Trump, a nation lacking in both grace and class.  That is what 40 years of a brutal, selfish ideology, based on greed and looking after #1, primarily, has done to America.


Donald Trump does not have the wherewithal to foster greatness in Americans.  That would take a magnanimous spirit, which will never be Trump's.


Btw, latest poll:  Jon Ossoff beats Karen Handel in run-off, 44% to 42% in Georgia.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Then orange? Yeah. And mellow yellow. Then? Pink?

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

Cnn is reporting Mar a lago raised it's fee to join from 100k to 200k AFTER Trump was elected..

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

Well he's going to stop spending a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago..time to promote the next club...............

As the Florida summer heats up, President Donald Trump is expected to decamp from his weekend retreat at the Mar-a-Lago Club in West Palm Beach to spend more time at one of his golf clubs in New Jersey.

Now the sleepy town of Bedminster is bracing for the attention — and the security bills — that may follow.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@BuckeyeGa Emolument clause is going to get him impeached eventually if Russia gate does not get him first.  

gotalife
gotalife

Republicans sound alarm on Trump's troubles ahead of 2018

Panic mode.

Kamchak
Kamchak

Isn't it almost time for Albany-boy to blame Obama for something?

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Kamchak He's still working on splaining his last blame down below, his climate whatchamacallit post.

stefpe
stefpe

@Kamchak Personally, I'm eagerly waiting for td to tell us (again) about all those conservative judges drumpf will appoint.

gotalife
gotalife

Looks like folks are uniting to end rw extremism aka populism.

gotalife
gotalife

Stop playing ignorant politics with media's ignorant narratives and lets get to work on competing in the global economy.


It is here to stay.


Get over it.

justaniceguy
justaniceguy

Why is the tiny handed prezzy baby-man trying to tweet extort Dems for funds to pay for something he promised his hubered rubes that Mexico would "pay for"?

He's literally threatening to kick millions off insurance if he doesn't get funding to build a wall that he promised "Mexico will pay for"...

BLAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I don't get it... he said "BALLLLEEEVE MEEEE!!!"...

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@justaniceguy Because he's a pathological liar, that's why.  Besides he controls both houses so why does he need the dems?  Oh, that's right republicans who are not afraid of him or his base do not support his buffoonery either.