Book claims campus free speech crisis manufactured by conservatives

A recently published book reveals how, despite the scant instances of suppression of conservative speech, Fox News and other right wing media outlets have conjured up a bogus free speech crisis in the nation’s colleges. Ralph Wilson and Isaac Kamola report that the claims are well funded and organized. “This orchestration,” they write, “involves a tightly controlled network of conservative business people, philanthropists, state and federal lawmakers, and academics, whose policy decisions, speeches, and teachings favor unfettered capitalism and the undermining of multiculturalism, anti-racist activism, public education, environmental regulation, labor rights, and queer liberation.” Koch Industries leads the band. (The Progressive Magazine, November 19, 2021, by Eleanor J. Bader)

U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn, Fox News, October 20, 2021, say that college students with conservative views are subject to assaults from activists and administrators. They write, “Whereas schools once prided themselves on fostering free and open debate, today they create ‘safe spaces’ to shield students from difference, diversity of opinion, and dissent.”

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Geoffrey R. Stone, The Atlantic, June 12, 2021, argue that then President Donald Trump’s order to suspend federal funding to colleges not providing free speech protections was unnecessary. “The president’s claim that the campus free-speech order was needed to defend ‘American values that have been under siege’ ignored two essential facts,” they write. “First, universities are, today, more hospitable venues for open debate than the nation as a whole. Second, not only have fierce arguments over where to draw the line on acceptable speech been a familiar occurrence in the United States for the past century, but such dialogue has also been indispensable to building a society that embraces the First Amendment. From flag burning to Holocaust denial, Americans of all ages have been grappling with basic questions about offensive speech for decades and will continue to do so for as long as the country strives for this ideal of openness and freedom of expression. Exchanges over the boundaries of campus speech should therefore be welcomed rather than reviled when they take place.”

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