Thursday, May 04, 2017

Free Speech Must Include Offensive Speech To Exist At All

(This image of Berkley's Free Speech Movement in mid-1960's is from YouTube.)

I am old enough to remember when students at the University of California at Berkley demonstrated to have "free speech" on their campus. At the time, the administration made the decision on what speech was allowed and what speech would not be allowed -- and liberal or left-wing speech was not allowed. Students demonstrated (1964-65) and won the right to free speech on their campus -- and that right quickly spread to campuses across the nation. It was a victory for our Constitution, and for all Americans.

Sadly, today's students don't seem to respect those hard-won rights. The U.C. Berkley Republican club invited Ann Coulter to speak at their school. But the reaction among liberal and left-wing students (who enjoy the fruits of the 60's battle for free speech) was so strong that the college administration cancelled Coulter's speech. They claimed they were afraid of violence from those who didn't want Coulter to speak on their campus.

I find myself in an uncomfortable position -- defending Ann Coulter. Personally, I think she is a vile person, and her ideas are hateful and odious. But she should not have been prevented from speaking.

It boils down to this -- we either believe in free speech or we don't. And if we do, then we must allow speech that we consider offensive or wrong. Banning offensive speech is banning free speech.

This does not mean that we can't oppose offensive speech. We can speak out ourselves and peaceably demonstrate against it. But we must always allow it to happen.

The Berkley students who would cause violence to keep Coulter from their campus need to investigate the history of their own campus -- and then live up to the free speech ideals that students fought for in the 1960's.

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