Our Rising Generation of Censors: Stanford and Davis Expose America’s Anti-Free Speech Movement

Below is my column in Fox.com on the recent controversies at Stanford University and University of California at Davis where students sought to prevent others from hearing conservative speakers. These are only the latest manifestations of a growing anti-free speech movement across our campuses.

Here is the column:

When Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez left her class this week, she faced a chilling scene. Hundreds of black-clad students wearing masks over their faces stood menacing around her chanting “counter-speech is free speech.”

The students were outraged that Martinez apologized to U.S. Circuit Court Judge Kyle Duncan after he was prevented from speaking to students and faculty last week. These law students believe that conservative viewpoints are “harmful” and thus should not be allowed to be heard on campus. In a twisted concept pushed by many faculty members, they believe that silencing others is an act of free speech.

The same views were evident on Tuesday night at the University of California at Davis, though with a more violent element. Another large group of black-clad protesters wearing masks attacked a venue that was to host a speech from conservative speaker Charlie Kirk.

Police and students attending the event were assaulted, leaving at least one officer injured. The protesters smashed windows, hurled eggs, and used pepper spray to attack the University Credit Union Center and those who wanted to hear Kirk.

It is the face of a rising generation of censors and speech phobics that has been carefully cultivated by many in academia. Our institutions of higher education have become academic echo chambers where opposing views are no longer tolerated and preventing free speech is claimed to be acts of free speech.

A chilling poll was released by 2021 College Free Speech Rankings after questioning a huge body of 37,000 students at 159 top-ranked U.S. colleges and universities. It found that sixty-six percent of college students think shouting down a speaker to stop them from speaking is a legitimate form of free speech.  Another 23 percent believe violence can be used to cancel a speech. That is roughly one out of four supporting violence.

They are getting these values from faculty members. Many schools have largely purged their ranks of conservative and libertarian faculty. This trend is supported by anti-free speech websites like Above the Law where Editor Joe Patrice defended “predominantly liberal faculties” and argued that hiring a conservative professor is akin to allowing a believer in geocentrism to teach. He also mocked surveys showing that conservative students are fearful of speaking freely in class, dismissing these students as “just… conservatives being sad that everyone else makes fun of them.”

What is notable is that Martinez did not even pledge to hold students accountable for stopping the speech by Judge Duncan. Yet, that is still more than other law deans. When Professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech” at CUNY law school, CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech. (Bilek later cancelled herself after using a controversial term in a meeting and resigned).

At the University of California, Santa Barbara, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display.

These students have been raised from elementary schools to law school in a speech phobic environment where free speech is treated as harmful. That was evident in the disgraceful Stanford event.

Stanford DEI Dean Tirien Steinbach shocked many by condemning Judge Duncan at the event. It was not surprising to many of us who have watched free speech protections plummet on campuses for decades. When Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to step in to allow him to speak, Steinbach stepped forward and, after voicing support for free speech, joined the mob in denouncing Duncan for trying to speak despite those who opposed his views. She asked “‘even in this time. And again I still ask: Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Judge Duncan responded “What does that mean? I don’t understand…”

Judge Duncan’s confusion is understandable …. unless he has been on a college campus in the last decade. He was still harboring the outdated notion that higher education is based on a diversity of opinions and viewpoints, not orthodoxy.

The argument that stopping free speech is free speech is nothing more than a twisted rationalization. Protesting outside of an event is an act of free speech. Entering an event to shout down or “deplatform” speakers is the denial of free speech. It is also the death knell for higher education in the United States.

The presence of Antifa at the Kirk event was another predictable element.

I testified in the Senate on Antifa and the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States. I specifically disagreed with the statement of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler that Antifa (and its involvement in violent protests) is a “myth.”

It is at its base a movement at war with free speech, defining the right itself as a tool of oppression. It is laid out in Rutgers Professor Mark Bray’s “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” in which he emphasizes the struggle of the movement against 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.’”

Bray quotes one Antifa member as summing up their approach to free speech as a “nonargument . . . you have the right to speak but you also have the right to be shut up.”

However, the most chilling statement may have come from arrested Antifa member Jason Charter after an attack on historic statues in Washington, D.C. After his arrest, Charter declared “The Movement is winning.” As the hundreds of black-clad Stanford Law and violent Davis protesters can attest, he is right.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University and a practicing criminal defense attorney. He is a Fox News contributor.

54 thoughts on “Our Rising Generation of Censors: Stanford and Davis Expose America’s Anti-Free Speech Movement”

  1. Regarding the assertion, made several comments earlier, that antifa is a “myth”, the speaker apparently has forgotten what happened in Portland a few short years ago. I don’t know what the national news coverage was, but as an Oregonian, I watched in horror as the local television channels covered nearly 300 straight nights of violence promulgated by antifa. Believe me, out here, we know it is no myth. I am very sad to say that downtown Portland has never recovered. Once vibrant stores are now boarded up, either moved to the suburbs or closed altogether. I understand that the city has lost population, I assume for a variety of reasons, not just because of what happened in that one terrible year. But I will never forget watching fires burning at the federal courthouse, the screaming crowds, and thinking “what have we come to?”

  2. Jonathan: Some of your loyal followers have challenged my comment about the imminent criminal indictment of the Trumpster over his hush payments to Stormy Daniels. “Iowan2” thinks 100 lawyers for 6 years have looked at the case and “all precedent is against prosecution”. That’s the same thing Trump says in his Truth Social rant against Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. And we know Trump us an authority on the law. Right? “b” says I am “mentally ill and obsessed” to want Trump to be indicted. “edwardmahl” has a more straightforward Q: “What is his crime supposed to be?”. We will have to wait to see what the indictment alleges. But we can speculate. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations. He went to jail. But poor Michael didn’t do that by himself. He had a co-conspirator–i.e., Donald Trump. Trump could be charged under the same statues. Every co-conspirator is equally liable.

    Buy this could prove a difficult case for Bragg’s office. For starters Cohen is a convicted felon and will be Bragg’s principal witness. No doubt Trump’s attorneys will use cross examination to point out Cohen’s conviction as a reason not to believe him. They might ask Cohen about other crimes he may have committed for which he was not prosecuted. They might try to imply Cohen made a deal with Bragg to testify against Trump in exchange for a non-prosecution agreement. But convicted felons often testify against the higher ups in RICO cases and the principals are convicted. Being a convicted felon doesn’t mean you are not telling the truth.

    As I have pointed out in other comments the more serious and threatening case to Trump is AG Fani Willis down in Georgia. She says indictments there are also “imminent”. The Special Grand Jury recommended indictments of 15 individuals–most likely including Trump for election fraud and other crimes. Willis has the advantage–she has the “smoking gun”–Trump’s recorded call to Brad Raffensberger. And now it has been revealed Trump made other recorded calls to Georgia’s elected officials. He called Georgia House Speaker David Ralston–trying to get him to convene a special session of the state legislature to overturn Pres. Biden’s win. Ralston refused. Say what you will about the NY case it is Fani Willis who has the more solid case.

    So for all those on this blog who think the Trumpster did nothing wrong–not in NY, not in Georgia, not on Jan. 6 and not at Mar-a-Lago you are about to have a brutal awakening!

    1. And this has what to do with suppression of speech by the Leftist gangsters? Other than the peripheral aspect of the Biden Crime Family being protected by the same neo-Marxist trash that infests the so-called news media and the federal “law enforcement” agencies themselves?

      Your guy is the worst maggot-infested pile of corruption in US history, with the possible exception of another Democrat, LBJ, with the proviso that we still aren’t sure if he ordered the hit on JFK, went along with it, or just fronted for the cover-up. We do know for sure that he was at least in on the third option as proven by the curiously ignored 14 minute gap in the Dictaphone tape for Nov. 23, 1963 just as Hoover and LBJ begin to discuss Mexico City (David Talbot’s book about the Kennedys, Brothers, has the explanation). I suppose you believe Frame 313 is a shot from behind too?

    2. You, Dennis, are so un, mis, and disinformed that it is frightening.
      Let’s sum up the situation, shall we? The democrats stole the election to install a demented pedo puppet moron, handed you crushing inflation and interest rates, gave billions in cash and weapons to the Taliban, weaponized your DOJ and FBI, and are driving you into WW3. The democrats have weaponized Big Tech to censor you and promote their propaganda and lies.
      The Trump ‘trio of indictments’ are political hit jobs serving as 2024 election interference and a media distraction from covering what Biden admin, the Biden Crime Family, and the psycho Democrats are *actually* doing to this country.
      The democrat party is destroying law and order in this country — intentionally — and you are cheering them on. Shame on you.

    3. Answer this Dennis, if this is the strongest economy in over 40 years — as Biden keeps lying to us — how do you explain 3 banks failing in ONE week?

      1. Fed Chairman Powell in comments today (3/22/23) said U.S. GDP is expected to be 0.4% this year. Meanwhile Back In The U.S.S.R. (apologies to P. McCartney) GDP is expected to be 2.2% despite the ‘crippling sanctions’ imposed after the start of the Ukraine invasion.

  3. “[Antifa] is at its base a movement at war with free speech [. . .] your right to say it.’”

    Bray quotes one Antifa member as summing up their approach to free speech as a ‘nonargument . . . you have the right to speak but you also have the right to be shut up.’” (JT and quoted by JT)

    “Shut up” how? By initiating physical force and using violence.

    I do not understand why you are so reluctant to take the obvious next step: Antifa is a domestic terrorist organization.

  4. Word is the National Lawyers Guild is funding these speech ending protests and black hoodie clad disruptions, and they have plans for all across the USA already set.

  5. Please check back with me when a biological male gives birth, people catch a disease when the wrong pronoun is used and when anyone in the university audience drops dead when the hear any conservative word.

  6. Social Movements

    I’ll go out on a limb and make some ominous predictions here & there.

    This Article immediately reminded me of: May 4, 1970, in Kent, Ohio [Kent State].
    It’s when the differing Movements come-to-head from opposite directions.

    The way I look at it at this time is this: By years-end the U.S. will be fully engaged in an Overt-Proxy War with Russia in the Ukraine and a Covert War in the Balkans. And there maybe even talk of a Draft, although that would be a buzz-kill for any Democrat seeking the 2024 Presidency.

    These Antifa Influencers (During the 70’s Movement(s) they were called ‘Militants’) will be taking a backseat to the Military Operations at hand (The Headlines).

    The Thing is, All this Anti-Free Speech “malarkey” will be Off-the-Table as Free Speech-for-Peace will be front and center, and the Movements Focus on Campuses will be back in the Quads and Street.

    Kent State was a paradigm-shift (pivotal) in Social awareness of bringing back Soldiers of all proclivities, and ending the Military War.
    (Give Peace a Chance).

    Of course I could be completely wrong, and I certainly hope so.



  7. OT,
    Trans-identified biological male daycare worker charged with sexual abuse of infant in Kentucky
    “Kentucky transgender daycare worker Maria Childers is accused of sexually abusing a baby while changing the child’s diaper, according to official documents. ”

    This is the kind of sickness Democrats endorse.

  8. “We need to murder pro-life Democrat politicians”
    – Jane Fonda

    Imagine if someone stated what Jane Fonda said but removed the word “pro-life” and inserted the word “Democrat” in its place. We all know what would happen.

    Democrats are the enemy of Democracy in America

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