FIRE: Left Wing Profs Need Free Speech, Too

A fair point.
Much of the recent intolerance of campus speech has come from the left, and has been widely covered by conservative media outlets under the guise of a concern for the state of free speech on campus. Why, then, do these same outlets remain comparatively quiet when the intolerance for speech is coming from the right? Free speech is free speech, and if you believe that the right to openly express controversial political opinions is important, you should be as concerned about Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s right to free speech as you were about Charles Murray’s or Ann Coulter’s — and vice versa....

I have worked as a free speech advocate for more than 12 years now. In that time, it seems as if the extent to which we insulate ourselves from opposing viewpoints, and demonize the people who hold them, has increased dramatically. Admittedly, this is just my sense of things, but it is a sense I have heard echoed repeatedly by colleagues, friends, family, and virtually anyone with whom I discuss the work I do. It feels as though we have reached a point where many of us, from across the political spectrum, recognize that this is a problem — but it feels insurmountable, and we don’t quite know what to do about it.

If you feel this way, start being a role model now. If you disagree with professor Taylor’s remarks about President Trump but are horrified by the threats made against her, send her a note of support. Share one of the few reports about her story with friends who might not otherwise see it, and let them know what you think. Similarly, if you disagree with Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College but are appalled that police can’t ensure his safety on campus simply because he expressed his views, send him a note of support. Be a vocal supporter of the right to free speech not only when you agree with the speaker, but also — especially — when you disagree with the speaker.
Related: "A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants is Ready to Rumble," at Mother Jones. They don't seem to be taking the advice to heart.


douglas said...

Of course I agree, but it's interesting that the comparison is between speakers or their entourage physically prevented from speaking or physically attacked being contrasted with threats. Then as you point out with the 'related' article, they keep ratcheting up the violence quotient...

jaed said...

Yeah. If anyone cancels her speeches, or riots at a speech, or orders police not to protect her, or does anything explicitly intended to prevent her from speaking, it will be an equivalent.

And call me overly cynical, but there have been enough exaggerations that I have become skeptical about self-reported "threatening email" from some quarters. Particularly when the first sentence is "I have been repeatedly called [list of insults redacted] — a clear reminder that racial violence is closely aligned with gender and sexual violence." If she cannot tell the difference between insults and violence, I'm not confident that she can or will distinguish namecalling from threats. I also don't notice any mention of a police report—and the police will generally be able to tell the difference between an actual threat and an ugly insult or pseudo-threat. I worry that a FIRE official can't seem to tell the difference.

"More than fifty hate-filled emails", for this speaker, seems to be a crisis, and badly frightening for her. Someone of her stature and views is not supposed to be insulted in such terms. But an average conservative speaker calls fifty hate-filled emails "Tuesday morning". I feel sympathy for her, because no one should have to put up with that kind of namecalling, and it has clearly affected her profoundly. At the same time, namecalling isn't censorship.

That people shouldn't email crude insults over disagreements—even when the recipient has herself used ugly language—goes without saying. That "people said ugly things to me" is not a threat to free speech, and not comparable to shutdowns and actual, real-life violence, should also go without saying... but maybe it doesn't.