John Leo
Anyone who still believes that free speech counts for something on our campuses should take a look at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Daily Californian, the student paper, ran an ad, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea -- and Racist Too," placed by the conservative author David Horowitz. But the campus culture is committed to the notion that reparations are a good idea. Reparations Awareness Day had just been held. So Horowitz had to be wrong. And people who are wrong hurt the feelings of people who are right, so they should not be heard.

Deeply offended by the airing of a political position they did not agree with, angry leftists stormed the offices of the student paper, thrashed about for a while, screaming and weeping and trying to intimidate staff. Then they fanned out around the campus to steal the remaining copies of the offending edition from their racks.

Most of the campus uproar was conducted in the language of feelings, as if the emotional response of some students adds up to a powerful case for suppressing an argument against reparations. "It hurt so much," said one protester. "Indescribably hurtful," said another. "Disrespectful to the minority population," said a third. "It was completely opposed to what I've been taught." Many said they no longer felt welcome on campus.

The usual script in these matters calls for immediate groveling by the editor. "I think the ad is inflammatory and inappropriate and we should not have run it. This is a disaster," the Daily Cal editor said. The paper issued a formal apology for allowing itself to become "an inadvertent vehicle for bigotry." But groveling is never enough, so protesters demanded 10 editorial columns rebutting David Horowitz's 10 arguments and "a person to review the paper for offensive racial context" (i.e. a censor).

The editor said the $1,200 Horowitz paid for the ad may be turned over to black groups on campus. This would seem to establish the principle that people offended by a political ad are somehow entitled to the fee charged for publishing it.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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