Culture, Science & Faith

A New Definition of Free Speech

The Left's intolerance of free speech is reaching new levels on college campuses.

Michael Swartz · Feb. 3, 2017

Many of you reading this may be the first college graduates in your family. Until the passage of the GI Bill in the wake of World War II, college graduates were a rarity. But those who obtained their degree received a well-rounded education in classical knowledge and were often the elite in their community. While millions in the wartime era did valuable blue-collar work, it was often those white-collar college graduates who were the upper management or the financial backers and investors. Once the campus gates were opened to returning servicemen, though, a college degree became more commonplace, and for the first couple of decades after these veterans returned they used their knowledge and experience to build the America that, among many other achievements, conquered disease and took men to the moon and back.

Alas, the generation spawned by those veterans, dubbed the Baby Boomers, embarked for their own college educations in the late 1960s while chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go.” Slowly but surely, the classical education that their forefathers had for generations received was replaced by a politically correct plethora of classes and majors that redefined liberal arts as, well, ultra-liberal. Over time, those who protested in the 1960s became the administration of the very institutions they threatened to burn down during their protests, and the entire experience has been watered down: Campuses that used to invite vigorous debate now have “free speech zones,” and co-eds that used to thirst for knowledge have become “snowflakes” who need a “safe space” when they’re confronted by opinions other than their own or an election that doesn’t go their way.

With this in mind, on Wednesday night a planned appearance by Breitbart contributor and Donald Trump backer Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled due to rioting at the University of California, Berkeley. Yiannopoulos, whose planned tour of campuses around the country was already cut short by one stop when UCLA pulled the plug on what was supposed to be his last speech, had his Berkeley event halted when a crowd of rioters estimated at 1,500 broke a barricade and entered the building where he was slated to speak. The Left, said Yiannopoulos on social media, “is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

Given Milo’s status as a foreign national (he’s Greek-born, raised in Great Britain), his career in writing on technology and his homosexuality, one would think colleges would welcome his unique perspective with open arms. But being a vocal backer of Trump and stating that “it’s time to get back in the closet” for gay men makes Milo persona non grata on campus.

But Yiannopoulos is just one example of the rapidly developing information silo on college campuses. Another conservative speaker, Ben Shapiro — who also draws controversy as an Orthodox Jew — has seen Marquette University faculty attempt to sandbag his upcoming speaking engagement by posing as students and drying up the ticket supply. (At least this would be a protest without the need for “black bloc” miscreants such as those who destroyed property in Berkeley.) Shapiro also had a run-in last year on a college speaking tour over abortion as he debated two pro-choice students at Maryland’s Salisbury University.

The situation on campus has become so extreme that even inanimate statues are now being sent packing. At California’s Pepperdine University, a statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood for nearly 25 years will be taken down and relocated to the school’s campus in Italy.

University president Andrew Benton explained in an e-mail to students, “For years the story of Columbus and the fascinating exploration that brought him to the new world was taught in schools across America … Later, as the impact of the arrival of explorers was assessed more fully, especially as those impacts related to indigenous people, a different view formed. Today, for many, including those within our campus community, stories of conquest and the art associated therewith are painful reminders of loss and human tragedy.”

Oh, dear. We wouldn’t want to offend the snowflakes with the idea that Columbus paved the way for Western civilization to come to what’s now considered the West, would we?

For the past 30 years, the concepts of inclusion and tolerance have been used to bully those who hold a Christian, pro-American or moralist worldview. And the bullies are ostensibly the inclusive and tolerant ones — those who believe all cultures are equal, promote political actions like unfettered immigration and admittance of Islamic refugees, endorse marriage that goes beyond just same-sex to include plural arrangements, and loudly demand recognition of gender flavors that put Baskin-Robbins to shame. Those who prefer secure borders, consider American exceptionalism to be a reality, believe marriage is between one man and one woman and think restrooms should be safe spaces for those of the gender to which they were born are dubbed as discriminatory and intolerant. Freedom of speech, it seems, doesn’t apply for them.

Consider where we’ve gone in 70 years. Back in the days after World War II, the government paid fighting men to educate themselves about the greatness of their Western heritage, exposing them to the entire spectrum of thought from Aristotle to Zechariah. Today, our waif-like college students demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, beggar themselves for a college degree and learn more and more about less and less, leaving them no better enlightened than they were when they arrived. The concept of higher education just isn’t what it used to be, and freedom of speech was long ago a casualty in that culture war.

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