“Your Speech is Violence”: How the Mob is Using a New Mantra to Justify Campus Violence

Below is my column in The Hill on the increasing justification of violence by the left on our campuses by declaring speech itself “violence.” It is part of the license of our age of rage for many who want to silence opposing viewpoints. There is, however, a way to end this anti-free speech movement sweeping through higher education.

Here is the column:

“Silence is violence.” When those words became a popular mantra years ago on college campuses, I wrote that the anti-free speech movement was moving toward compelled speech while declaring dissenting views to be harmful.

Today, it isn’t just silence that is considered violence on college campuses. It is also speech, as both faculty and students are actively shutting down opposing views on subjects ranging from abortion to climate change to transgender issues.

Recently, many people were shocked by a videotape of Hunter College professor Shellyne Rodríguez trashing a pro-life student display in New York. Most were focused on her profanity and vandalism, but there were familiar phrases that appeared in her diatribe to the clearly shocked students.

Before trashing the table, she told the students, “You’re not educating s–t […] This is f–king propaganda. What are you going to do, like, anti-trans next? This is bulls–t. This is violent. You’re triggering my students.”

The videotape revealed one other thing. At Hunter College, and at other colleges, it seems that trashing a pro-life student display and abusing pro-life students is not considered a firing offense. Hunter College refused to fire Rodríguez.

The PSC Graduate Center, the labor organization of graduate and professional schools at the City University of New York, supported that decision and said Rodríguez was “justified” in trashing the display, which the organization described as “dangerously false propaganda” and “disinformation.”

Rodríguez later put a machete to the neck of a reporter, threatened to chop him up and then chased a news crew down a street with the machete in hand. Somewhere between the machete to the neck and chasing the reporters down the street, Hunter College finally decided that Rodríguez had to go.

Rodríguez denounced the school for having “capitulated” to “racists, white nationalists, and misogynists.” She explained that her firing was just a continuation of “attacks on women, trans people, black people, Latinx people, migrants, and beyond.”

The redefinition of opposing views as “violence” is a favorite excuse for violent groups like antifa, which continue to physically assault speakers with pro-life and other disfavored views As explained by Rutgers Professor Mark Bray in his “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” the group believes that “‘free speech’ as such is merely a bourgeois fantasy unworthy of consideration.”

As one antifa member explained, free speech is a “nonargument…you have the right to speak but you also have the right to be shut up.”

When people criticized antifa for its violent philosophy, MSNBC’s Joy Reid responded to the critics that “you might be the fascist.”

Faculty members have followed this sense of license to silence others. Former CUNY law dean Mary Lu Bilek even insisted that disrupting a speech on free speech was free speech. (Hunter is part of the CUNY system.)

The same week as the Rodríguez attack at the State University of New York at Albany, sociology professor Renee Overdyke shut down a pro-life display and then allegedly resisted arrest.

Just last week, the Pride Office website at the University of Colorado (Boulder) declared that misgendering people can be considered an “act of violence.”

This week, University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers declared that some of those boycotting the store Target over its line of Pride Month clothing were engaging in “literal terrorism.” (He insists that he was referring to those confronting Target employees.)

Faculty have also justified attacks on pro-life figures. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, feminist studies associate professor Mireille Miller-Young physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display. 

She pleaded guilty to criminal assault, but the university refused to fire her. Instead, some faculty and students defended her, including claiming that pro-life displays constitute terrorism. The University of Oregon later honored Miller-Young as a model for women advocates.

Likewise, at Fresno State University, public health professor Dr. Gregory Thatcher recruited students to destroy pro-life messages.

Other faculty have called for or countenanced violence against Republicans and conservatives. Professors have shouted down speakers, destroyed propertyparticipated in riots and verbally attacked students.

University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis defended the murder of a conservative protester and said he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. He was later elevated to the position of director of graduate studies of history.

As faculty commit or support violence, students are assured that others are the violent ones. Recently, at the University of Texas at Austin, Professor Kirsten Bradbury tested her students on psychology by asking them “which sociodemographic group is most likely to repeatedly violate the rights of others in a pattern of behavior that includes violence, deceit, irresponsibility, and a lack of remorse?” Of course, the answer was wealthy white men.

The lesson took with students. A recent poll shows that 41 percent of college students now believe violence is justified to fight hate speech. At Cornell, a conservative speaker was shouted down, met with the common mantra that “your words are violence.” At Case Western, the student newspaper editorialized against university recognition of a pro-life group because its pro-life views are “inherently violent” and “a danger to the student body.” At Wellesley, student editors declared that it was time to shut down conservative speakers and that “hostility may be warranted.” They added, “The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

Those views did not spontaneously appear in the minds of these students. At one time, tolerance for free speech was the very touchstone of higher education and a common article of faith for students. These students are the product of years of being told that free speech is dangerous and harmful if left unregulated. From elementary school to college, they were taught that they did not have to be “triggered” by the speech of others.

We are still (thankfully) drawing the line at machete attacks. But it is the underlying views of Rodríguez that are the true threat, and they are being replicated throughout the country. We are raising a generation of censors and speech-phobics.

If we want to stop or reverse this trend, Congress must act. I have proposed legislation that would deny federal funding to schools that do not protect core free speech principles. We are funding schools that are taking a machete to the defining right of our democracy.

It is akin to the recent resolution of the case of an antifa member who took an axe to Sen. John Hoeven’s (R-N.D.) office in Fargo. Thomas “Tas” Alexander Starks, 31, was given probation…and his axe back.

We may not be able to deter people from speaking through machetes and axes, but we can at least stop subsidizing the hardware.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law for George Washington University.

173 thoughts on ““Your Speech is Violence”: How the Mob is Using a New Mantra to Justify Campus Violence”

  1. The kids coming out of college these days are dangerously stupid and indoctrinated. I have to work with some new grads and you have to be extremely careful what you say or they will run to the woke HR slugs and complain.

  2. Hmmm. Where have I seen the subversive taking over and control (capturing) of a people’s institutions and society before?

  3. Here is something interesting, read the two reports about the same incident,
    3 arrested outside Glendale school board in violent clashes over LGBTQ+ rights

    Massive Brawl Breaks out outside Glendale, CA School Board as Armenian Parents Take on the Alphabet Mob

    And here is something about finding common ground between two very different religions,
    Muslim, Christian Parents Unite To Protest LGBTQ Curriculum At Their Kids’ Schools

  4. Except for the STEM fields, and perhaps accounting, college is a useless feature of American life that can be easily replaced with apprenticeships and library cards.

  5. The only violence that will lead to a guaranteed prison sentence is fighting back when Antifa is wrecking your pro-life display.

  6. Now matter how much you like your Congressman or Congresswoman, or your Senators, you should probably reconsider. Odds are they are doing almost nothing to protect your Constitutional rights. And odds are they are doing almost nothing to stop the massive deficit spending that is destroying the economy. Vote their asses out and be prepared to do the same with their replacements.

  7. Thank God that Donald Trump, his three Supreme Court appointees, and his more than 230 appeals court appointees are slowing down the left’s efforts to deny governmental efforts to deny Americans freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, equal protection under the law, and the right to due process.

    Sadly, the courts cannot do much to stop the wildly out-of-control deficit spending by Congress, which will doom the United States to a decade or more of high inflation and low economic growth. Addressing that issue will require wholesale rejection by the voters of the self-serving, power-hungry politicians in Washington.

  8. Trans/homosexual males grooming boys in schools, churches, scouts, etc., trans/social males in girls’ locker rooms, Levine’s Dreams of Herr Mengele, the Progressive sects advocacy for human rites, Democrats’ legacy of wars, [ethnic] Springs, without borders, [Critical] Diversity Theory (i.e. color judgment, class-based bigotry), political congruence (“=”), Pro-Choice ethical religion, Twilight faith. All’s fair in lust and abortion.

  9. To the extreme Left promoting the speech = violence narrative (i.e., canard), anything that hurts their feelings is violence. See how that works? You hurt my feelings, and since I used the word “hurt,” the cause must have been violence. So now I can use violence to stop you, that is, to suppress your speech.

    The rest of us should never give in to these kinds of lies. They’re wrong, we’re right, it’s as simple as that. Never forget that and never give in.

  10. George Washington warned that “political parties” themselves could destroy America internally. Political parties were never designed by law into the system, it was “bicameral” system (House & Senate) not a two-party design.

    Dividing our fellow Americans against one another, seems like the greatest disloyalty for any American leader. Maybe we vote the divisive politicians out of Office?

    College campuses are simply a symptom of our divided leadership. We need real leaders that unite people.

  11. Using the wrong pronoun, like calling someone fat, bald or even ugly, is AN INSULT, NOT VIOLENCE.

    1. Why is it “wrong” to use he/him for a male and she/her for a female? That is standard English.

    2. Using pronouns that, until very recently, were considered standard, non-offensive, well-mannered English by virtually everyone living in the United States—young people, old people, gay people, straight people, preachers, and atheists—is not an insult and is nothing like calling someone fat, bald, or ugly.

    3. I have a split personality So I would like to be referred to as “They”.

      1. As long as you change your comment to ‘WE have a split personality so WE would like to be referred to as “They”.’

    1. Here in Richmond, the majority of Walmart shoppers are black, so there you have it. Goes to show the unhinged MSM live detached from the people they claim to represent. If anything black women who are breast cancer survivors like Mrs DeSantis will take umbrage to the hateful misogyny by the yellow press

      kettle. pot. black.

  12. OT but related, If You Stand In The Way Of Their Agenda, You Will Pay A Price
    “On Thursday, Kellogg High School senior Travis Lohr took part in an activity where seniors share advice for lowerclassmen. In a departure from his preapproved remarks, Lohr spoke from his heart, saying, “Guys are guys and girls are girls. There is no in-between.”

    Despite the fact that this simple statement has been a truism for all of human history, the leadership of Kellogg High School seemed to think it was unacceptable. Principal Dan Davidian informed Lohr that he would not be allowed to walk in his graduation ceremony on Saturday.”


    1. Farmer: It is’t quite universal. There are a few hermaphrodites and other so-called sports.

      1. an informed person, a scientist, knows better than to argue from the point of outliers versus normal distribution. An informed statistician knows to use a Z-score

        Z = ( X – μ) / σ

        μ = mean of the population
        σ = standard deviation of the population

        You should have pursued academic studies in the physical sciences, David, not misinformation


        1. Estovir, not all distributions are normal. For example, daily stock price changes.
          However, *all* means every instance of the population without exception.
          In the current instance, indeed not *everyone* is simply male or female. What about those with XXY genotype.

          Sorry, go back to medicine and leave discussions of genetics and statistics to those better informed than you.

          1. > 8 billion people on the planet, David

            You know nothing about numbers, data, facts never mind basic stats. This from the person who cites Wikipedia

            1. Estovir, your first approximate fact is irrelevant. You have a bad habit of changing the topic.
              As for your second paragraph, it is simply false. And I’ve never seen citations to/of Wikipedia from you.

              (You might wish to talk to your priest about your unChristian attitude, by the way.)

              1. Estovir, your first approximate fact is irrelevant.

                With over 8 billion people on the planet, the prevalence of aneuploidies is small ~ 0.3%. Aneuploidies like 45,X (Turner syndrome) and 47,XXY (Klinefelter syndrome) have high mortality rates, which makes them outliers, and outside of the normal distribution of data. The normal distribution of 8 billion data points for a normal life reflects 2 sexes, male and female. This isn’t that difficult

                Estovir, not all distributions are normal.

                8 Billion people vs 0.3%.
                You are a fool.

                Davis B. Benson, who knows vastly more about statistics than anyone else here says:June 5, 2023 at 7:22 PM

                it takes a very insecure man or a senile, old fool to create the above ID banner.

                Res ipsa loquitur

                Most Aneuploidies Are Lethal
                In humans, the most common aneuploidies are trisomies, which represent about 0.3% of all live births. Trisomies are characterized by the presence of one additional chromosome, bringing the total chromosome number to 47. With few exceptions, trisomies do not appear to be compatible with life. In fact, trisomies represent about 35% of spontaneous abortions

                Hassold, T., & Hunt, P. To err (meiotically) is human: The genesis of human aneuploidy. Nature Reviews Genetics 2, 280–291 (2001) doi:10.1038/35066065

                1. Estovir,
                  Excellent take down of Benson!
                  Bringing things like facts, logic and common sense to the table!

                  1. Babylon Bee is better. I wish I had thought of their argument.

                    It is easy to see how science isnt truly embraced by the Left, despite their grandstanding declarations and chest pounding therein. For them religious woke dogma reins supreme

                    Bigoted Gender Surgeon Still Only Offering ‘Male’ And ‘Female’

                    “This doctor is so behind the times,” said Trixie Sunbreeze, an LGBTQ+ activist who has identified as 38 different genders in the last 6 weeks. “How can you present yourself as a friend to the trans community when you hatefully only allow people to become males or females? As if those are the only two genders! BIGOT!”

                  2. Farmer, yes I am trying to bring logic and commen sense to this discussion. Estovir doesn’t know the terminology of statistics.

                2. Estovir, you still fail to understand statistics, so let us simplify to
                  with a probability of 0.1% at live birth and a good chance of a reasonably long life.

                  This has nothing to do with how many people there are; the same percentage held when there were vastly fewer people. Nor does it have to do with what statisticians call ‘normal’ distributions. Those require a scale, not a binary choice. Whether an infant has ordinary or extraordinary chromosomes is obviously a binary matter. A further binary is whether the individual has Down’s syndrome or a different defect.

                  A distribution with a scale, different than the normal distribution, is the Levy distribution. This is used for example to explain the length of a swim by a shark in a straight line while hunting for prey.

                  If you are going to use terminology from statistics, you ought to learn some.

  13. Biden’s disastrous Air Force Academy fall only makes US look weak to our global enemies

    Our leftist friends who post here would have us believe that no one cares about The Laptop From Hell, the mounting evidence of corruption of The Biden Crime Family, the lengths to which the MSM will try to cover for them, the lengths of which the FBI, the IRS, the DOJ will try to cover for them.
    But it just might be the disastrous Air Force Academy fall that loses the 2024 election for Biden.
    And Miranda Devine is absolutely correct when she says his fall makes the US look weak to our enemies.
    If it were not for the Biden admin, the new multi-polar world may have never been born.
    May you live in interesting times.

  14. It’s nice not to point out the demoncrat party and their controls on the entire government and private sector set about destroying, not free speech, BUT THE SPEECH OF THOSE NOT ALIGNED WITH THAT DEMONCRAT PARTY.
    Let’s get right to the truth. We have two major parties in the USA, and one of them has sold out to Hell, the Devil, their dark side, the communist and fascists, power mongering, control freakism over all else, and we call those vile creatures DEMON CRATS.
    What we need is the demons of the demon party reigned in.
    There’s a lot of them, everywhere, and I doubt it can be done.
    The first step is OPENLY DECLARING the real problem, THE FORSAKEN CRIMINAL DEMONCRATS. 100%, IT’S ALL THEM.

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