Emmett Tyrrell

WASHINGTON -- The present acrimonious controversy that Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard University, finds himself in reminds me of something I have suspected for years. The First Amendment's guarantee of free speech is a reactionary blight inimical to all true progressives and certain to be formally eliminated from the Constitution as soon as progressives again gain ascendancy.

 There have been times when progressives (or liberals, as they are often called) championed free speech, for instance, in the early days of the Cold War and during youthful protests in the 1960s. In the early days of the Cold War, progressives favored the right of Communists to denounce America as they often did, particularly on college campuses. In the 1960s, progressives favored the right of youthful idealists to use the F-word. At the University of California at Berkeley, something called the Free Speech Movement rose up dedicated to the freest possible use of the F-word. So successful were these idealists that I am told today on college campuses the F-word is often employed by professors in their lectures, often as a punctuation mark. I think I learned that from Tom Wolfe's new book "I Am Charlotte Simmons."

 Now times have changed and progressives are the most prominent opponents of free speech, especially on campus. This has gotten Summers in his present predicament. He is not keeping up with intellectual fashion. Some years ago, he created an enormous furor by denouncing anti-Semitism as it is practiced on campus. Then he made bold to state that a Harvard faculty member's scholarly writing was not very scholarly. Now he has said that there are "innate" differences between men and women. He said this at a scholarly meeting. There were progressives there. They were furious.


Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
 
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