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The Right Needs To Get Past Demanding Free Speech On Campus

‘Diversity of thought,’ ‘free speech,’ and ‘academic freedom’ are simply lack of standards by other names. Conservatives need to do better than these to re-take the college campus.

The Federalist’s Bre Peyton recently shared this video of Yale University students shrieking at a professor over an email in which his wife questioned Yale’s policy of banning “culturally insensitive” Halloween costumes. If there were any doubt over how out of control things have gotten in our major institutions of learning, this small sample of a much larger trend should end it.

While conservatives have in the past year or so found common cause with mainstream liberals such as Jonathan Haidt and Jonathan Chait in combating this new status quo, the bar of success should not be set so low as to consider not being silenced as a victory. Conservatives must move beyond seeking to coexist with this insanity to challenging the current higher education system as it currently exists if they truly want to suppress the damage these institutions are causing our society.

The Intellectual Climate of the University, Free Speech Is Trampled Upon

An average college student at most state and leading private universities will witness displays targeting Israel for war crimes, warnings of an ominous “rape culture,” and complaints of “white privilege.” Such demonstrations express an ideology that has been growing in the academy but has only recently entered the cultural mainstream.

The terms “New New Left” or “Academic Left” might be appropriate aliases for this ideology. It evolved from the New Left of the 1960s, adding third-wave feminism, the LGBT movement, the consolidation of post-colonialism, and “privilege theory,” which surfaced in the 1990s. Its greatest claims should be familiar to most of us by now: gender is socially constructed rather than based in biology; the West is uniquely despicable for its history of imperialism; racial identity rather than individual action determines guilt and responsibility; and capitalism has increased rather than decreased poverty and exploitation.

The pillars of this “New New Left” naturally merge because each divides the world into oppressors and oppressed: whites versus “persons of color,” Occident versus Orient, men versus women, “cisgender” versus queer, etc. To a large degree, it is a Marxist divide, but with race and gender in the place of class. The oppressor versus oppressed dichotomy leads social justice warriors either to believe they themselves are oppressed, and thus to assume a victim status, or to act as “allies” of their victimized comrades by checking their privilege.

Because of this sense of victimhood, students feel justified in attempting to shut down the free exchange of ideas (comment:  free speech) or retreating to safe spaces, as certain ideas could not only further harm the oppressed, but may potentially strip them of their victim status. Their unfamiliarity with operating in an environment of intellectual disagreement also makes these “social justice warriors” perceive contrary opinions as assaults on their intellectual security. The traditional rules of public discourse therefore do not apply to them. Their cause is too morally important. To allow dissenting opinion is to allow oppression itself.

The Conservative Retreat

Conservative’s gradual abandonment of the university has meant many fields of study are not merely tilted to the Left in faculty make-up but inherently leftist in their core ideas: gender studies, ethnic studies, LGBT studies, sociology, and anthropology, just to name a few.

To make the matter more difficult, leftist academics envelop these subjects in an impenetrable Newspeak that allows their disciples to dismiss any criticism as the ignorant musings of the privileged, who simply do not understand the complexities of “institutional racism,” “white cis-male hetero-patriarchy,” “the social construction of facts,” or whatever postmodern theory to which students may adhere.

Conservative critics of the present campus climate have ridiculed the protests, privilege-checking, and overall fanatical antics of the social-justice Left, but have thus far not sufficiently engaged with the intellectual foundations of this behavior. Instead, conservatives have seemed content to target the censorious antics of overzealous undergrads, mocking the useful idiots who parrot the theories of Foucault, Said, and Butler while ignoring the thinkers themselves. Conservatives have not sufficiently appreciated the link between belief and action—between an ideology of victimhood and the subsequent fanaticism that it breeds.

Why ‘Academic Freedom’ Isn’t a Real Answer, Free Speech Should Welcome Free Thought and More

Instead, conservatives have found a common rallying cry in “academic freedom” and “free speech,” the crusade of alt-right champions like Milo Yiannopoulos and Lauren Southern. The fundamental problem with “academic freedom” is that it is contentless. It is simply a means of challenging whatever the dominant discourse is in an academic institution. It’s a tool for those on the outside looking in. But as Patrick Deneen has pointed out, it was “academic freedom” that allowed for the cultural Marxists of the 1960s to demolish the traditions of the Western university and begin their institutional dominance.

The underlying argument behind academic freedom (comment:  free speech can help) is that if we let ideas compete, the best ones will win out. The “marketplace of ideas” is based on blind faith in democratic processes and in misapplying consumer choice. Latte versus Americano, Playstation versus Xbox, Apple versus Android—these are fair choices for consumers to make in a marketplace because they are mere preferences. But the university is supposed to strive toward truth, which is not determined by majority rule or individual preference. The “marketplace of ideas” provides no higher standard for judging ideas.

Equally useless is “diversity of ideas,” or “viewpoint diversity,” as a counter to the Left warping diversity into preferential race and gender policies. There is no inherent value in diversity of opinion; nor is there anything inherently wrong with intellectual homogeneity. What matters is content of the opinions in question, and how the spectrum of allowable opinion is defined.

Everyone will draw lines somewhere about what ideas are simply beyond the pale. What is crucial to understand here is that the campus Left is not wrong because it has a monopoly; it is wrong because its monopoly perpetuates falsehoods and nonsense. “Diversity of thought” and “academic freedom” are simply lack of standards by other names.  Comment:  Free Speech should not perpetuate falsehoods and nonsense.  Free speech should promote free thought, debate, open discussions, and action based on these variables.

Besides, it is doubtful if conservatives actually believe in “academic freedom.” Should the evangelical Liberty University be expected to tolerate speakers from the Church of Satan? If Mormons at Brigham Young University protested an event that sought to delegitimize their faith, would we react with the same indignation as we do towards the blue-haired Jacobins of Oberlin and Brown?

We should not expect the Church of Leftism to tolerate heretics any more than we would any other church. The Left won. They took over the academy and created departments of ethnic and gender studies while conservatives left Harvey Mansfield to his lonesome and have considered it a victory that he hasn’t been defenestrated. Conservatives are paying the price for neglecting academia for the past 50 years and now are realizing that it sucks to be powerless.

They are baffled by the sudden advance of transgender bathroom laws, the concept of “institutional racism” that Black Lives Matter rails against, and the general self-loathing of Western youth, because they fail to locate the source of these movements. Crying for “academic freedom” is like a nerd calling for the teacher as he gets his lunch stolen by a fat kid. It doesn’t mean that the bully isn’t a bully, and it doesn’t excuse his behavior. But it does mean the kid crying for his teacher is a pussy.

Towards a More Rigorous Response

Pluralism on campus is both impossible as well as undesirable. It is a tacit commitment to relativism. Even if other views are fairly represented, the ideas of the social justice Left will still hold considerable sway based solely on the victimhood and power they bestow upon students. The Right must instead aim to delegitimize the current higher education system and to seize the current means of ideological production while simultaneously constructing alternatives.

On the demand side, this means instigating a cultural shift in how we view universities as conveyors of prestige and career capital. Private-sector leaders in sought-after professions should encourage incoming students to avoid the so-called liberal arts and instead spend their undergraduate education building marketable skills, while private industry could begin to create their own educational programs that are better tailored towards the type of knowledge they require. (Yes, a liberal arts education is important, of course, but it cannot be entrusted to institutions in which English majors are required to read post-colonial theory and not Shakespeare. Philosophers and welders, and all that. I get it.)

On the supply side, this shift means cutting federal funds for institutions that entice students and parents to incur massive debt with impressive dorms and facilities while offering very little education. As part of the broader need for radical federalism, this would require state control of education policy, following the lead of former Gov. Rick Perry in Texas.

In general, conservatives ought to be as suspicious of centralized institutions that produce knowledge as they are of centralized institutions of government. Once those institutions become corrupted, they are very difficult to contain and restructure. As majors of study increasingly lose academic rigor and the market value of a mere liberal arts education continues to decrease, the stage is set for a challenge to the whole modern higher education system.

Ideas Have Consequences

Taking back higher education from the Left will require conservatives to reconsider (i.e, abandon) their commitment to classical liberal slogans like “freedom of expression” (comment:  free speech) and their misapplication of market principles, and to rediscover real conservative principles of objective aesthetic and moral truth, as well as that long-forgotten pillar of conservatism American individualism has left behind: authority.

Since the 1960s (possibly earlier; certainly since the ‘90s) the university has undermined Western civilization from within. Until conservatives understand the function of the university as a producer of ideas that matriculate into the broader culture and political realm, and are prepared to contest its influence, they will continue to lose the battle over society’s larger institutions and cede further ground both to the Left and to competitors on the Right.

Source:  The Federalist.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

The First Amendment Is A Double-Edged Sword For Kaepernick And Rapinoe

The government may not punish Colin Kaepernick or Megan Rapinoe for speaking out, and their employers have declined to do so. But what about the people? We are all free to decide.  Comment:  The First Amendment is for all.

The First Amendment Is A Double-Edged Sword For Kaepernick And Rapinoe

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched a thousand hot takes recently in refusing to stand during the national anthem at a NFL preseason game. Some players supported him, others criticized the stunt. Sports writers delved into politics while political writers talked sports. Even the president put in his two cents.

This past weekend, the protest spread to professional soccer as U.S. Women’s National Team player Megan Rapinoe inexplicably exchanged the Flag Code for the Book of Common Prayer and decided she could “stand or kneel” during the anthem at a Seattle Reign game. She knelt.

The furor over Kaepernick has gotten Americans talking about free speech and the First Amendment. In that, at least, something good has been accomplished. The discussion breaks down into several overlapping categories. First: does the First Amendment protect Kaepernick’s protest? Almost everyone agrees that it does, but that does not mean as much as you might think. The First Amendment protects people from being punished by the government for their speech. In that, Kaepernick and Rapinoe are secure.

Various Internet law “experts” have debated even this fairly obvious bit of law. Consider this tweet (since deleted) by the American Family Association:

The First Amendment Is A Double-Edged Sword For Kaepernick And Rapinoe

The AFA is right about one thing: the Flag Code exists. You may have learned about it in scouting or elementary school. It is a collection of rules about how people are supposed to treat the American flag. It is detailed and rigorous, but carries as much legal weight as Amy Vanderbilt’s etiquette books.

Even if the language of the law was not clearly a suggestion (“should,” rather than “must” or “shall”), courts have long decided that laws like the one the AFA imagines exists violate the First Amendment and are void (see, for example, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette). Just as no one will throw you in jail for using the wrong fork, no one will throw you in jail for showing disrespect to the American flag.

Clearly, Kaepernick and Rapinoe won’t be sent to Guantanamo Bay for their lack of patriotic fervor. But can their employers punish them? This is a trickier issue. The NFL, in particular, has been known to fine players for all sorts of things that government would consider protected speech.

The NFL’s statement was brief: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.” The 49ers were equally unwilling to take sides, saying they “recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.” As yet, the NWSL and Seattle Reign have not commented on Rapinoe’s protest.

Free Speech for Some, Miniature American Flags for Others

The government may not punish them for speaking out, and their employers have declined to do so. But what about the people? In this, we are all free to decide. As usual, some consider being unpatriotic the highest form of patriotism. Even among those who love the flag, the anthem, and the republic for which they stand, some have jumped to Kaepernick’s defense. You may even have seen someone drag out that old line attributed to Voltaire (actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Defending the right to unpopular speech, if not the speech itself, is the heart of free speech as a societal value. The Constitution says only the government will not punish people for their speech, but defending free expression is not required by law. When we do that, we do it because the marketplace of ideas has become a core part of the concept of democracy.

Tolerating differences of opinion has always been a part of the American character. This democratic spirit is what breathes life into the Constitution’s words. If we only had the words of the First Amendment without the societal value that goes along with them, courts would have long ago found a way to brush the words aside. Our freedoms in law are constantly reinforced by the idea, independent of the written law, that this is a free country.

A tradition of tolerance, though, does not require us to accept all behavior as equal, nor does it require us to agree with the speech we believe should be protected. Plenty of people have said they will boycott 49ers games and burn their Kaepernick jerseys. That is their free speech. Others will buy Kaepernick’s jersey in record numbers. That, too, is free speech (and a handy illustration of why, no matter which side they take, the NFL always wins).

When the Government Boycotts You

Boycotts get trickier when the people doing the boycotting are government employees. The idea has become more common lately that if government employees find some law objectionable, they may choose not to enforce it. Former Pennsylvania Attorney General (and current convicted felon) Kathleen Kane declared in 2013 that she would not defend her state’s marriage statute from constitutional challenge, despite that being the one of the main duties of her job. In 2015, Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, took the opposite side of that argument, refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the law of the land requiring that she do so.

In both instances, these state workers took their right to free speech and turned it into a new, imagined right: the right not to do your job (and still get paid). In the continuing Kaepernick drama, the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association seemingly joined the side of the government boycotters. The consequences here are even more dramatic; the police cannot choose whom to protect based on their speech. On closer inspection, though, the SCPOA’s exact position is more complicated than Kane’s or Davis’s.

As local reporter Ian Cull explained on Friday, the union issued a statement stating that its officers might stop working at 49ers home games because of their disagreement with Kaepernick. Given that the 49ers’ home stadium is in Santa Clara, it sounds like the police are threatening to withdraw their protection from the arena, leaving it a stinking den of lawlessness. This is not the case.

In reading the full letter from the SCPOA to the Niners, it becomes clear that Calvin Coolidge can rest easy: the police are not on strike. They never were deployed at the stadium to begin with. Instead, the 49ers typically employ off-duty police officers to work as security guards when the team has a home game. Many of these officers are Santa Clara police officers and members of the SCPOA.

In that case, one might say that the Santa Clara officers are doing what rule-of-law advocates demanded of Kane and Davis all along: if you disagree with the job you’re hired to do, you should quit. These police officers are working a second job for an employer with whom they suddenly have reason to disagree. As a result, they expressed their disagreement through their union, and threatened to quit if the disagreement is not resolved. This is the free market at work, isn’t it?

Does the First Amendment Have Guarantees?

It is, but it is not a simple as all that. Police unions, like all government employee unions, occupy a different place in American life than their private-sector brethren. If you disagree with something about the carpenters’ union, you can hire non-union carpenters—or, if you have a preference for union workers, you can hire only union carpenters. The market affords us that choice. No one is forced to join a union, and no one is forced to hire union (or non-union) workers. That same First Amendment guarantees the freedom to associate (or not associate) as we choose.

The same is not true with government worker unions. The nature of government is that there is only one of them at each level. Wherever you live, there is one municipal government for that place, one state government, and one federal government. You can move from place to place, but wherever you land, there is only one choice. When the government workers are unionized, they also have a monopoly, one the citizenry cannot avoid.

Looking at the SCPOA’s letter from this point of view, the closing paragraph seems more menacing: “The men and women of the Santa Clara Police Officers Association are sworn to protect the rights of ALL people in the United States, a duty we take very seriously. Our members, however, have the right to do their job in an environment free of unjustified and insulting attacks from employees of your organization.”

As far as the members’ second job at the stadium goes, this is true. But phrased as an absolute right, it makes the average citizen question the union’s commitment to non-discriminatory policing. Citizens should respect the police, who put their lives on the line to maintain order and safety in our communities. But the idea that they have a right to do their job without criticism—that anyone has such a right—is ludicrous.

Police officers have every right to disagree with Kaepernick’s statements and actions. Kaepernick, for his part, has the same right to disagree with the police. And while SCPOA members have the right to quit their second jobs as private security for the 49ers, their union should be careful about establishing a precedent that they have the right to work free of criticism. If they want to quit, they should quit, and let the 49ers hire new security guards. But they, and we, should also remember that the First Amendment runs both ways.

Source: TheFederalist.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

Freedom Isn’t What You Think It Is, Ought vs What I Want

Freedom at its core is the ability to do what I ought, not simply what I want.

The inescapable beauty of the drive through the Colorado mountains last July Fourth weekend caused my mind to wander to the famed lyric, “of purple mountains majesty,” and next, due to my roots in classic R&B, Donny Hathaway’s legendary “Someday We’ll All be Free.”

Well, I am fortunate enough to have Hathaway on my iPhone playlist and wisely let that ballad loose. It did what Hathaway perhaps desired. It moved me, and made me examine my own and our country’s relationship with freedom. In that examination it became abundantly clear that we have misunderstood and belittled the true essence of freedom.

The concept of freedom is now erroneously championed as “I can do whatever I want.” Freedom has been reduced to a completely self-serving ideal that proclaims because I am free I am guaranteed to do and have particular things in life. This concept and the actions and attitudes it produces are key components in the “me and mine” attitude our nation is struggling with. Many are even interpreting freedom to mean that no one should disagree with or fight their views.

Freedom has to be bigger, deeper and more than this. Freedom at its core is the ability to do what I ought, not simply what I want. I will demonstrate with examples.

Am I Free to Do What Is Right?

The father in North Korea should be able to tell his children the truth about their leader. He could better his children by explaining why persons who disagree with that leader are in work camps. He may desire to do so, and he ought to, but the price of being taken from his family means he is not free to do so.

Freedom is always exercised to benefit another. It’s not as simple as thinking the father speaking truth in North Korea simply has to be brave enough to face the punishment, and hopeful enough to believe he may spark bravery in others. Actions or speeches that improve or bring attention to only my desires at others’ expense are shortsighted and become efforts of entitlement, not freedom.

Declaring that I lack freedom because someone will not hire me due to my race is a misapplication of the term. A particular opportunity may have been taken away by one person, but not my freedom to do something that benefits others. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights ensure my freedom, because they set me free to speak against that employer’s action and hopefully plant seeds that stop the same action from happening to others. I have freedom because I can do “what I ought” without trepidation.

First, We Have to Agree on What’s Right

This catches those who claim there are no moral absolutes in a quandary. To exercise freedom, which inherently includes having that exercise protected, there must be some moral consensus on what is right, what is worth fighting and sacrificing for. If there is no consensus, there is no way to determine if I am fighting for freedoms or for anarchy and tyranny. Despite arguments from the misinformed that many Founding Fathers were Deists (who incidentally still believed in the Christian God, but made his active role more debatable), it is clear that our Founding Father’s consensus was based on Judeo-Christian tenets at the least and pure Christian teachings at most.

Even if we bring up examples in which they did not practice those beliefs—slavery, extramarital affairs, etc.—that does not deny what they wrote and affixed their signatures to. Therefore in this nation holds to a definition of what we consider sacred truths and principles to be protected. These are our reference for what one “ought to do.”

Another misunderstanding of freedom is evident when one’s “freedoms” interferes with rights of another. Your freedoms end where mine begin. Our government’s denial of this principle is a catalyst of many current social, financial, and attitudinal problems. Everyone is free to pursue higher education, for example; however, it is immoral for anyone to demand that I pay for another’s pursuit. Whether the pursuit is beneficial or morally right is subjective and irrelevant. Your desire for something cannot mandate my support of it.

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should, Abortion is not a Freedom

Let’s get our hands a little dirtier and apply this to deeper political issues, remembering the earlier principle that freedom allows me “to do what I ought and not simply what I want.” Consider abortion. Abortion is not a freedom. One may have a legal right to the procedure, but it only benefits one person of the many involved (and that is questionable).

In it, one person’s act infringes upon at least one other person’s right, that of the child to its life. It also abrogates the rights of fathers, grandparents, and other family members to provide for and love their child or grandchild.  Abortion is a choice to avoid the consequences of one’s previous choices, to the detriment of another human life.

Accomplishing an act does not equal having the freedom to do it. Surprisingly, a free action can subvert freedoms. For example, people clearly have the freedom to speak publicly—let’s say against Donald Trump. However, when the government supports or allows that speech to block others from supporting him, that is subverting freedom. That act then infringes on another’s freedom to exercise the same right. Conversely, if those at a Trump rally decide no one can speak against him, they too are subverting freedom, not protecting it.

Political correctness, judicial activism, attacks on religion and exercise of the Second Amendment all fall in this category of subverting freedoms. Each ultimately punishes citizens for exercising freedoms, changing how those freedoms are practiced or unconstitutionally subverting social consensus. It becomes onerous to practice these freedoms as intended, and infringes on where another’s freedoms begin. One can practice these rights or freedoms as one sees fit, but it is a misunderstanding of freedom to insist all must practice the freedom as a small contingent deems correct.

Defining Where My Rights End and Yours Begin

Freedom is a grand and broad idea. It requires accepting others’ rights to express and practice differing ideals without forcing others to comply. That is where personal and national independence are born. I am free to choose from a plethora of opinions, practices, and actions without generated consequences. A generated consequence means results produced independent of the choice. If I smoke, I’m risking my health; the generated consequence would be someone petitioning to remove my children from my home because smoking is unhealthy.

We have misunderstood freedom. People are so sure they are right that they limit the speech of those who criticize them or their lifestyle. We have misunderstood freedom when we enact a law outside of the legal process for doing so. We have misunderstood freedom when we say I lack something and it must be because another has too much, so we must take from them.

Freedom is designed for one consequence only: to promote equal opportunity but never to ensure an equal outcome. We embrace freedom to put all in the game, but effort and preparation determine if we score, not manipulating the rules. Anything else for any reason is a misunderstanding of freedom, and it is running rampant.

Comment:  I really enjoyed reading this article.

Source:  The Federalist.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.