I testified in the Senate about the erosion of free speech and rise of violence on our campuses and in our streets. Antifa and related groups have succeeded in advancing anti-free-speech agendas as students and faculty justify attacks on those with opposing views. An example of the growing intolerance can be found in an editorial at the Daily California by staff writer Khaled Alqahtani. The August 12th column calls for violent resistance and denounced notions of civility in the public debate over racial and economic justice.
In his column entitled “This War Can’t Be Civil,” Alqahtani mocks those who seek non-violent change and while “quoting Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. about peaceful protest and resistance.” He declared “‘Radical love’ my ass. It disgusts me that the oppressors’ emotions and well-being (in all contexts, from institutions to individuals) are the first to be considered and accommodated whenever people question the validity of armed or violent resistance.”Alqahtani is willing to accept a role for peaceful protests but insists that people need to give violence a chance: “I’m not dismissing the power or impact of peaceful resistance. You may want to lead a silent march instead of setting a police station on fire. Sometimes, that may work best. What I’m criticizing is the constant rejection of violent resistance on grounds of respectability.”As will hardly come as a surprise to many on this blog, I believe that Alqahtani should have a protected right to espouse such obnoxious views. Of course, I strongly disagree with him and violent groups like Antifa who seek to intimidate or silence those with opposing views. I have previously stated, including in my recent testimony, that I believe students or faculty who engage in violence should be expelled or fired. Yet, free speech often means defending those who least deserve it but most need it. Alqahtani is one of those people.It is important to note however that conservative students have been punished for language viewed as threatening by others. We recently discussed a Stockton student who was charged after simply using a Trump background for a Zoom class and a comment left by a third party on his Facebook site. In this case, a student columnist directly called for violence but it was treated as protected speech. Likewise, Syracuse editors removed a columnist becauseshe questioned claims of “institutional racism” in another publication.
I agree with the decision here but the greater concern is sense of a double standard applied to conservative, libertarian or contrarian students. Universities have shown strikingly different levels of tolerance for controversial statements or images from the left as opposed to the right.
Alqahtani embodies the rising intolerance for opposing views and embracing of violence as a form a political expression. Tellingly, the Antifa Handbook starts with the following quote from Buenaventura Durruti: “fascism is not to be debated, it is to be destroyed.” These extremists simply define fascism in encompassing an ever-expanding range of views from capitalism to patriarchy to police.
We defeat hateful and violent views like Alqahtani by maintaining the principles that define us — and distinguish us from those who would embrace mob rule.