Those who suppress the speech of others often see themselves not as censors but as noble individuals committing heroic acts in pursuit of justice. Last week Arün Smith, a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, destroyed a free speech wall set up by the campus’ Students For Liberty group. This might seem like nothing new to regular readers of The Torch. But this particular case of vandalism stands out in one major way: Mr. Smith decided publicly to assume the mantle of “Heroic Censor” by congratulating himself in an open letter for acting on a “moral imperative” to protect “marginalized communities,” as he put it.
In an op-ed published today on Forbes.com, Greg explains why Smith, and all those who cast themselves ian the role of Heroic Censor, are simply wrong. While censorship in the form of vandalism in pursuit of some “moral imperative” might seem rational to this crowd, as Greg relates in his op-ed, it is not:
The romanticization of the censor is, at its heart, anti-rational. To Smith, it does not matter that the group sponsoring the free speech wall supported gay rights, including gay marriage, or that universities have traditionally been at the vanguard of supporting the rights of LGBT students, or that the student government itself was sponsoring a gay pride week. Smith was taking advantage of an implicit rule of politically correct morality that has become commonplace on and, increasingly, off campus: when someone grandstands, it is considered bad form to question the content or coherence of the grandstander’s message and, instead, you are expected to applaud his or her emotional vigor.
Check out the rest of Greg’s op-ed at Forbes.com.
You can say things in Harvard Square that you can’t say in Harvard Yard. So goes the mantra with which Harvey Silverglate chose to open up his Forbes online review of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. But as the FIRE co-founder and current chairman of the board of directors points out, Greg’s book demonstrates that “we are entering an era of our own creation where the anti-liberty culture in Harvard Yard (part of the university) is dictating a similarly unfree culture in Harvard Square (part of the City of Cambridge).”
Harvey’s Forbes.com review charts the unfortunate and dangerous trend on college campuses that finds students and faculty members subject to repressive policies and programs. But Harvey goes further, pointing out that the long-term effects of campus censorship are so perverse and pervasive that no institution is safe from its consequences, not even the judicial branch of the United States government:
Students, who get accustomed to the administrative tyranny that marks the vast majority of colleges, universities and graduate schools today, don’t have much adjusting to do when they gain, and abuse, real power of their own in the nation at large, including in its legislative chambers, executive offices, and courts.
Be sure to check out Harvey’s excellent review to dig deeper into how the lessons of campus censorship meander their way off campus and into our society at large. And don’t forget to get yourself a copy of Unlearning Liberty, which is available in hardcover, e-reader, and audio formats.
In an article for Forbes online, Greg details the findings of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education‘s (FIRE’s) new report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2013: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses. Though the percentage of colleges and universities with unconstitutional speech codes continues to decline, Greg reports that a whopping 62% of them continue to maintain policies that seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of their students. Greg points to several factors for this, including the burgeoning administrative class on campus and an increasing ignorance of the legal and philosophical principles of free expression. To read more of Greg’s analysis, visit Forbes!