free speech norms can protect people on the left *and* right

I always find it a bit saddening when academics on the left criticize or reject calls for campus free speech and promote “hate speech” codes. Academics need free speech because what is true may not be popular. Furthermore, faculty protections and norms around free speech were often developed to protect folks on the left, like Civil Rights era activists and pro-labor professors.

Here we are again. Professor Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University is being investigated for “hate speech.” Apparently, Hill said that we wanted a Palestine from “river to sea.” Yes, I completely recognize that the subject of Israel and Palestine is highly contentious and that he’s been accused of inciting violence. But that is exactly why speech needs protection. Hill is hired to be a professor, which entails a responsibility to seek truth as he see fits. And that will include contentious topics. That is why free speech is needed.

Let this be a lesson to people on any side of the political spectrum. Once you make exceptions to the norms around protected speech, your enemies will one day use them against your side. Maybe the folks who wrote the “hate speech” code at Temple did not have this outcome in mind, but it happened.


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Written by fabiorojas

December 4, 2018 at 5:03 am

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  1. […] The Coddling of the American Mind is a book about two things. The first might be called the “rise of sensitive people.” That is, people now seem to be a bit on the fragile side. Say something awkward on Twitter and you might have thousands of people mocking you. Or say something about race or gender in a class, and people will get on your case. In my business, the Trustees of your university might go on a rant if you are on the wrong side of the discussion on…. […]


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