Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Americans have a duty to express unpopular opinions

Americans have a duty to express unpopular opinions

Marquette University suspends a professor for arguing against classroom speech codes, a conservative writer blames liberal “hate speech” for the murder of two cops (echoing liberals who do the same again and again) and Sony shuts down a movie because of vague threats.
This all culminates months of colleges chasing away those with unpopular views, and social media mobs getting people fired for holding unfashionable opinions.
The pattern is this: The U.S., and the West more broadly, is becoming intolerant of expression that offends an angry minority or the elite sensibilities.
This intolerance shows itself in many ways, ranging from government censorship (mostly in Europe), to institutional censorship (in the American academy), to wild freakouts or blaming “hate speech” and “incitement” when a madman commits a murder.
Let’s look at two recent instances: Marquette and the New York Police Department.
“Hate speech leads to hate crimes,” Ira Straus wrote in National Review Online after a unstable man murdered two New York City cops. Straus doesn’t write about anyone who advocated cop-killing. Instead, he grouses about liberal academics and media elites who seem to blame Western civilization too much. Straus calls for prosecution of millions of Americans for the crime of “incitement.”
“It is vitally important that America find a way to stop its political and media leaders from continuing to incite hatred.”
I share Mr. Straus’s love of the West, and here’s one thing that makes the West so great: Mr. Straus is totally free to publicly share his censorious totalitarian dreams. Thankfully, almost nobody on the Right agrees with Straus. On the Left, there seems to be a little more comfort with blaming “hate speech” when someone commits a killing that smells a bit of politics.
When pro-life protestors began picketing outside an abortion clinic in Albuquerque in 2013, Salon writer Jill Filipovic warned that anti-abortion protests were a precursor to violence.
She blamed the “rhetoric” of pro-life groups for the murder of an abortionist: “They use offensive, overhyped language to impress upon their … followers the urgency of the situation….”
New York Times blogger Paul Krugman blamed the Tea Party when a psychotic young man killed six and wounded congresswoman Gabby Giffords in January 2011, saying the shooter merely took Tea Partyism “to the next level.”
Meanwhile, academia — exalted in the 1960s as havens of free speech — has become the least-free place for those who don’t walk the politically correct line.
Campus speech codes, kicked aside after a brief 1990s flare-up of political correctness, have returned with fury. Condoleezza Rice, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Christine Lagarde have been chased out of graduation-speaking gigs by delicate students who can’t bear opposing views — and enabling baby-boomer professors who have apparently lost their youthful zeal for dissent.
And this month, Marquette professor John McAdams was suspended after he publicly objected to one colleague’s in-class speech code. A teaching assistant had explained that in her class “homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.” Among the “homophobic comments” banned was anything opposing gay marriage. This would prohibit any articulation of Catholic teaching on marriage, or quoting President Obama’s views on gay marriage from before the 2012 election cycle.
The TA’s view is ignorant and intolerant — but that’s the nature of politically correct efforts to narrow the bounds of permissible dissent.
While American universities value free speech less and less, it’s mostly in Europe and Canada where government itself aims to snuff out offensive speech.
Those on the American Left and Right advocating more U.S. censorship always compare the speech they hate to the idea of “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” They may not realize what an odious precedent they are invoking.
Oliver Wendell Holmes used the “fire in a crowded theater” image to illustrate the limits of the First Amendment. Government, Holmes argued, was free to curtail speech that posed a “clear and present danger” to government interests.
The dangerous speech in question in that case? A socialist opponent of World War I was passing out leaflets encouraging young men to resist the draft. President Woodrow Wilson, of course, prosecuted such dissenters with vigor. Holmes and his court colleagues said Wilson was right to do so, and Congress right to prosecute him.
This is where we end up when free speech is eroded: the powerful use censorship to silence or imprison dissenters.
Growing intolerance of unpopular opinions ought to worry all who love freedom and debate, and all who worry about abuse of power.
It’s said that protecting one’s rights requires exercising them at times. Today, that means all who have unpopular opinions, and who have the ability to express them cogently and publicly, may in fact have the duty to do so.
Timothy P. Carney, a senior political columnist for the Washington Examiner, can be contacted at This column is reprinted with permission from

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A good start would be for education to return to actually educating instead of this garbage of politically correct/mandated for special interests never shared with the public cherry picked 'information' that too often turns out not to educate at all but to instill no barriers and no morals starting with the very young.
Education is everywhere, but as our society of 'anything goes and it is OK' is demonstrating, it doesn't benefit we the people and society at all. We turned over our definition of education, morals, integrity, service, family, community, good neighbors (that especially holds true regarding other nations), responsibility and accountability to so-called 'elected' officials, at every level of government, who have NO obligation to serve us, but instead serve hidden interests and hidden agenda.
When the people awaken to the fact that they have NO choices other than what industry/owned congress and government 'agencies' decide and make 'rules and laws' on, and those choices are directly responsible for damaging and killing us, our children, our environment and the entire planet, then we might stand up? Many are.