John Leo

Political correctness hovers over campuses like an established religion, so running an ad from a prominent heretic is considered a grave matter. Horowitz sent the ad to 35 college papers. At this printing, only six have run it, and two of those apologized for doing so (Berkeley and University of California, Davis). Leftist criticism of leftist censorship is rare, but a column in the liberal Sacramento News and Review regretted that "both young editors rolled over like trained dogs ... running apologies in the face of public pressure."

What is so odd about this case is that Horowitz's argument is one embraced by most Americans. His text did include one or two sour touches almost guaranteed to irritate. One is that welfare benefits and affirmative action are already a form of reparations. He should expect criticism for this, not censorship. But his ad wasn't "blatantly inflammatory." It was a responsible, well-reasoned political argument that students should have been able to read without swooning.

Horowitz argued that there is no valid reason for most Americans today, including immigrants, to pay for crimes committed by a tiny minority over a century ago. He makes the case that the reparations issue plays into the hand of those who inhibit racial progress by constantly stressing grievance and victimization. An informal reader survey by the Atlanta Constitution shows 88 percent to 90 percent opposed to reparations, 10 percent in favor. Only on the PC-ridden campus could a conventional opinion held by a majority of up to 90 percent of Americans be considered toxic.

Why do colleges behave this way? The most obvious answer is that PC culture divides the world into oppressors and oppressed, with only the oppressed having the clear right to free speech. Even before the term "political correctness" was invented, the double standard on free speech was alive and well at Berkeley. In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan's U.N. ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, was shouted down and kept from speaking at Berkeley. Many faculty members at the time doubted that she had a right to speak on campus.

Stanley Kurtz of the Hudson Institute cited this incident last week as a portent of things to come, arguably the kickoff in the culture war. "Many argued, in the Marxist fashion, that oppressors have no rights, and that classic liberal notions of fairness are themselves a cover for the despotism of the powerful," he wrote on National Review's online site.

That notion that free speech is a tool of the oppressor is now mainstream in the campus culture. This is why campus newspapers with the wrong news keep getting stolen, posters for the wrong events keep getting torn down, and speakers with the wrong views keep getting disinvited or silenced. Recent non-speakers at Berkeley, home of the free speech movement, include conservative organizer Daniel Flynn (shouted down) and former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (threats of violence, advised to withdraw by police).

Berkeley has another chance to oppose free speech this week. David Horowitz is scheduled to speak there on March 15.


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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