Brian Mark Weber / March 10, 2023

Even the Campus Censors Worry

There’s a conundrum on college campuses — should professors fear speaking out or punish those who do?

During Donald Trump’s presidency, some people just couldn’t take hearing the truth. Or at least they couldn’t stand the fact that folks in flyover country simply had different opinions on a range of issues.

Republicans and Democrats who ran Washington unchecked for decades felt threatened because someone was in charge who wasn’t handpicked by the DC powerbrokers. And when powerful people feel threatened, they become desperate to keep their house of cards from falling down. Hence, leftists created a Censorship Complex because they became hellbent on making sure no one would ever hear the truth again, unless it came out of their mouths.

This complex includes Big Tech censoring online comments, Twitter working hand in hand with the intelligence agencies, serving the interests of “disinformation” think tanks, responding to requests from private companies and universities making complaints, and caving to political pressure (even the Trump administration pressured Twitter to control the public’s perception of COVID).

According to veteran journalist Margot Cleveland, “Whether the censorship comes directly from Big Tech, indirectly when alternative media are starved of advertising dollars, or from one of the other six mechanisms … the results are the same: Americans will be deprived of the facts.”

Cleveland adds, “We just don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to what has been or will be censored, leaving Americans no better off than the citizens of authoritarian countries with state-controlled media.”

In the academic world, things aren’t much better. In fact, they might be worse.

There was a time when the university campus was a place where students and faculty alike could exchange ideas in a healthy debate about current events, history, and literature. Now, students are fearful about being politically correct and facing the wrath of cancel culture.

Professors themselves — even those on the Left — must walk on eggshells to keep their jobs, watering down lectures and discussions to make sure no one takes offense. Guest speakers themselves are often shouted down by protesters or simply uninvited for holding alternative viewpoints.

“Over the past decade or so, many academic departments embraced ideological views in their teaching and research, promoting social justice-laden scholarship as a way of correcting the wrongs of the past,” writes American Enterprise Institute fellow and professor of politics Samuel Abrams. “Unsurprisingly, many departments developed left-of-center academic monocultures, becoming unfriendly to differing opinions. Young faculty entering the profession are only adding to this academic echo chamber.”

In other words, they’ve created a form of totalitarianism that tightly controls what’s printed and spoken. And they’ve abused the concept of academic freedom by “reimagining” colleges and universities and shutting down any dissenters.

A survey conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression found that 39% of faculty members believe a colleague would actively discriminate against them based on their political beliefs. When asked if a Trump supporter would be comfortable sharing views in the workplace, only 22% said “Yes.” For Joe Biden, it was 83%.

According to the survey, more than half of college professors are worried about losing their job because something they said might be taken out of context. An astounding 67% of faculty were uncomfortable sharing an opinion on campus due to fear about the response they’d get from an administrator, colleague, or student. Yet some 56% believe an employee who refuses to take diversity training should be punished in varying degrees. So which is it — fear for free speech or punish it?

The websites, manuals, and video tours of America’s citadels of higher education make it seem like campuses are ideal places where students and faculty alike engage in meaningful conversation, but in reality they’ve created an oppressive culture where people live in fear and opportunities for real learning are stunted.

Whether neighbors engage in a political discussion in a small-town diner, a college student shares an unpopular opinion in class, or a professor invites a speaker who might offer a perspective that differs from the status quo, no one in the United States should ever live in fear of writing or speaking.

As our Mark Alexander wrote back in 2021, “When Americans are targeted because of our constitutionally protected political and/or religious views, leading to coordinated shadow-banning of content, de-platforming individuals or organizations and in some cases then defunding those individuals and businesses when financial institutions selectively refuse services, that constitutes a digital form of redlining in violation of the most fundamental of civil rights.”

In the end, this goes far beyond mere censorship. It’s a widespread, orchestrated effort to change our culture and prevent those in power from being challenged. And we need to take steps now to make sure they are challenged and the spirit of free speech is restored.

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