Online survey of 800 full-time undergraduates conducted by McLaughlin & Associates and sponsored by Yale University’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program found that a startling number of colleges students believe that violence is justified to silence what they consider to be hate speech. Today we discussed an FSU student arrested for battery in a confrontation with conservative students. I will be having a debate at Rice University over calls for schools and government to outlaw hate speech. As with many in the free speech community, I have been opposed to such criminalizing of speech.
In the case of Miller Young, various faculty members publicly supported Miller-Young. Some publicly denounced the media and the victims in this case. History professor Paul Spikard wrote to object to the court that Miller-Young is the victim of “an energetic smear campaign . . . fomenting racial hatred and rallying right-wing political sentiment.” He insisted that the media was intent on displaying another example of “an Angry Black Woman.” What is striking is that Spikard opposed even a mandatory anger management class in the case. Faculty made every excuse for a professor assaulting people with opposing views on campus. One letter from the court came from Eileen Boris, a professor in the Department of Feminist Studies, Bwho tried to deal with the fact that Miller-Young is smiling during the assault and both she and her students appear to be proud of their actions in the video. Professor Boris dismisses the video record as misleading and inaccurate. She explained to the court that “[i]f she appears smiling on camera, she is ‘wearing the mask,’ that is, she is hiding her actual state through a strategy of self-presentation that is a cultural legacy of slavery.” I was equally disturbed by the response by Michael D. Young, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs which seems to treat the pro-life demonstrators as the problem while encouraging faculty and students not to attack such “outsiders.”
With responses like the one at the University of California (Santa Barbara), it is little surprise to see that students believe that violence is sometimes the answer. Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech. The CUNY Law Dean, Mary Lu Bilek, even argued that shutting down free speech is free speech.
That is not the only influence. I have also discussed how Antifa and other college protesters are increasingly denouncing free speech and the foundations for liberal democracies. Some protesters reject classic liberalism and the belief in free speech as part of the oppression on campus. The movement threatens both academic freedom and free speech — a threat that is growing due to the failure of administrators and faculty to remain true to core academic principles. Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray, the author of a book entitled “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” is one of the chief enablers of these protesters. Bray speaks positively of the effort to supplant traditional views of free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase… that says I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He defines anti-fascists as “illiberal” who reject the notion that far right views deserve to “coexist” with opposing views.
Bray says that the protesters do not “see fascism or white supremacy as a view with which they disagree as a difference of opinion.” Their goal is not co-existence but “to end their politics.” Bray and other academics are liberating students from the confines of what they deem the false “allegiance to liberal democracy.” Once freed of the values of free speech and democratic values, violence becomes merely politics by other means.