The First Amendment on College Campuses

When it comes to politics, very few issues are totally black and white. The right answer to a question can be hard to find in a world where the media caters to everyone’s biases, as people lock themselves up in the news source that confirms those biases. It is inevitable that some people will do this, but that does not mean there is no hope that the truth will come out. Through respectful debate and the free flow of opinions, people can be exposed to ideas and truths that they would have otherwise never heard before, had they continued consuming the same biased news all their lives.
Since the beginnings of the United States, there has rarely been a place where free speech was so heavily guarded like it is on college campuses. The Free Speech Movement, for example, was a protest that took place on the campus of UC Berkeley. This is especially ironic because of the events that have recently occurred on the UC Berkeley campus. In the 1960s, students at UC claimed to support free speech, but that has flipped completely in recent years.

The greatest example of this attack on free speech is the provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, and the riots that resulted from his attempt to speak at UC Berkeley. On the night of a scheduled event in February this year, masked anarchist “protestors” (rioters) started fires, destroyed property, and started fights in attempt to rid the campus of Milo. After several hours, Berkeley officials decided to cancel the event.

Similar events have been occurring all across the country. In February of last year, Ben Shapiro was banned from speaking at CSULA. Under intense pressure from free speech advocates, CSULA president William Covino was forced to acknowledge the existence of that pesky First Amendment and allow Ben to speak. During Shapiro’s event, protesters outside “assaulted, harassed, intimidated, shouted down, and berated event-goers” according to Daily Wire reporters on the scene. Students then formed a barricade using their bodies to bar anyone who was hoping to enter the event, telling them to “F*ck off.” This act was totally ignored by security and police who were present at the time. A video of the human blockade can be found here.

By the end of the event, physical altercations occurred. One attendee of the event claimed he was punched in the ear by a protester. Another man, Jefferey Minter, was pushed to the ground and kicked repeatedly by protesters. Minter is disabled due to nerve damage in his arm. After being pushed down three times, he recalls that he “didn’t want to get back up anymore because they were going to keep shoving me.” It is worth noting that Minter is an atheist and a liberal – his desire to attend the event was simply to challenge Shapiro’s views, but he was not allowed to do so by the students.

In some instances, violence or riots do not break out because the threat of such upheaval is enough to cancel the event altogether. Last month, Ann Coulter’s event was cancelled at UC Berkeley due to “specific and credible” threats of violence, according to Berkeley. Coulter stood her ground and planned to speak anyway but was forced to back down when conservative student groups withdrew their support for the event.

This was of course a victory for the rioters and insurrectionists. They have learned that making credible threats can be enough to cancel an event, and that is the strategy that they put into place when conservative speakers announce their hopes to speak at that particular university. This is nothing short of intimidation, and university presidents have, in some instances, allowed this intimidation to occur, fearing backlash from the student body.

And what motivates these rioters/protesters? Well, feelings. These individuals see a person that they do agree with, and make it their mission to suppress the right of that person to express his or her opinions. If the speaker is the hateful monster that they make him or her out to be, then what is so difficult about attending the event, hearing the opinions, and formulating an argument against them? If Milo/Ben/Ann are truly white supremacist Nazi fascist sexist xenophobic Islamophobic racist people, then it would be quite easy to attack their ideas and win.

The attack on free speech is of course an attack on conservative ideas and opinions. The presence of “free speech zones” and “safe spaces” on campuses has made this perfectly clear, and are giving us a glimpse into what the world may turn out to be like if feelings eventually overruled facts in debate.

You may be absolutely right about what you are saying, but if enough people don’t want to hear it or deem it hateful, you may not be able to say it at all.

And if you try to say it, you will be met with force.



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