The sparks of controversy that ignited over the recent visit of distinguished political analyst and author David Horowitz really got me thinking. The more I thought, the more I worried. The irony of one reader’s insistence that Horowitz should not have been allowed to speak because of his attacks on freedom of speech was so blatant it bordered on comical. Unfortunately, he is not alone in his conviction that people with a point of view different than his own should not be heard. All over the country’s campuses, companies and media institutions, certain opinions are being forbidden from being expressed, sometimes through clandestine efforts and always with a blatant disregard for the value of hearing another perspective.
For better or worse, our own campus is not alone and far from the worst in harboring thought police in our student body and faculty and demonstrating such contempt for an opposing opinion. Harvard President Lawrence Summers earned his place on the academic blacklist as soon as he uttered the mere suggestion that research should be conducted on whether biological factors have anything to do with the noticeable absence of women in the fields of engineering and the hard sciences. The headmaster of a private high school in Seattle yielded to two liberal activist faculty members when they requested that conservative scholar Dinesh D’Souza be uninvited from speaking as part of a distinguished lecture series.
Even though the headmaster willingly and immediately complied, the teachers filed a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for what they claimed was an attempt to create a “culture of fear” on the campus. The enemies of free speech were at it again at a forum on immigration at Columbia University earlier this month. When a member of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, took the stage for his turn to speak, so, too, did protestors who began overturning tables and unfurling banners. Campus police were forced to shut down the program after 15 minutes, and once more a group was successful in asserting unlawful authority over determining what others should and should not be allowed to hear.
The liberal activists in academia who have allowed visiting scholars and politicians alike be so thoroughly disrespected purely because they have an opposing point of view ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is intellectually dishonest and frankly, unfair to the students and patrons of any institution to be disallowed from hearing the other side. Two amazing freedoms we hold sacred in this country are the freedom of speech and the freedom of choice.
Those academics that have been invited to speak at a university or other venue have the freedom to say what they wish, and any person, faculty or otherwise, have the freedom to choose not to attend, which, by all means, they should take advantage of if they are so afraid of subjecting their own convictions to mild scrutiny. In the actions of groups like the one that stormed the stage at Columbia recently, both of these freedoms are subsequently vanquished. When liberal activists take the stage, protest and picket for the removal of a speaker, they are inhibiting the freedoms of those who have rightfully made the other choice, to attend, to listen, and to allow for the possibility of learning. If they deem their own opinions and positions morally and intellectually superior, how could they think them so vulnerable to the logic of another? Why is it that they can’t they be satisfied with their own choice to abstain from listening and must insist on making the choice for everyone else who wishes to? Is it the same reason so many professors feel it acceptable to transform the classroom’s lectern into their political pulpit and their subject matter into the political indoctrination of their students to their own, typically far left, ideas?
Intellectual debate and the informed exchange of ideas are crucial components of democracy in the same way that the maintenance of our civil liberties are, and now more than ever before, the two appear to be mutually dependent. No matter where in the political spectrum you lie, if you value your freedom and your democracy, you cannot and should not tolerate liberal intellectuals violating both, and deciding for you what you should and should not be exposed to.
Daily Nexus columnist Courtney Stevens was served a gag order after she made an unprecedented appearance at Burning Man.