Invoking Hitler usually is done by an over-the-top left-wing politician about something a Republican did which has nothing to do with the actual situation. Using the name of Hitler for a Jew in any other context than historical debates or reminiscing about Mel Brooks’ The Producers should always be done with great caution. But the stifling of free speech permeating our society warrants this deviation from my long-standing policy.
To me there remains nothing as sacrosanct as protecting rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution. As I often repeat, there is a reason it is the First Amendment. My first stand against suppression of free speech was in college in 1976. During my senior year at San Diego State University, the Student Council (of which I was a member) passed a policy put forth by left-wing Hispanic groups that funded ads which were to run next to the ads of a winery in the student newspaper. They soon had pictures of burly, white cops beating up small, female farmworkers.
I insisted this was an infringement of the first amendment, and had nothing to do with any other issue. I single-handedly (yes, it was sad I had no support) collected a petition to have the student body vote on the issue. Fortunately, the three questions on the initiative passed overwhelmingly and the First Amendment was protected. The righteousness of a cause never, ever justifies suppression of the freedom of speech.
We all know that has changed. PC (political correctness) has permeated our society. That is just a small part of the problem. Our vast society can endure the peril of PC because we have many organs from which we can fight back. The left has been minimized in some regards in their broad movement to foist PC upon the society. MSNBC and left-wing talk radio have been disasters.
There is one area where suppression of free speech has blossomed. That is at our universities and colleges. It started ages ago. In 1993, it exploded into the consciousness of America when Eden Jacobowitz, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, disturbed by noise outside his dorm room yelled out his window “Shut up, you water buffalo.” The case challenged the right of free speech against a campus harassment code.
These speech codes created by the professors and left-wing administrators (mainly former professors) were being used to control two principal groups. First and foremost, fellow scholars seeking to become colleagues that had to run the gauntlet of becoming tenured. Second, students who wished to express contrary views in a classroom or in a paper. To a point those wielding these policies succeeded on campuses, but they created their own uncontrollable monstrosity.
The students started their own efforts to suppress freedom of speech. It became overtly public whenever a speaker deemed inappropriate in their positions was invited to a college campus. People like Ann Coulter or David Horowitz were being harassed off campuses. If they were allowed to speak they would be heckled instead of respectfully listened to or ignored. An opposing opinion became repugnant. The expression of open thought that universities for which were formed had become the suppressor. The guardians of free speech had been thrashed.
It then spread to college commencement speeches. People like former Secretary of State Condi Rice were run out of addresses. The professors and their minions would not allow an unapproved thought to pierce their ears. Only properly-vetted speakers who spoke “the gospel” were allowed.
Next it spread to comedians. You know -- those people who have the job in our society to make fun of our worst tendencies. They make sure that we do not take ourselves too seriously. Not at colleges. Jerry Seinfeld, possibly the leading stand-up comedian of his generation, abandoned performing on college campuses because of the obliteration of free speech. When it went public he made clear he was not the only one when he said “I hear that all the time, ‘I don't play colleges,’ but I hear a lot of people tell me, 'Don't go near colleges. They're so PC.” Chris Rock deserted the circuit and so has Larry the Cable Guy. The students don’t want to be offended.
The students are now demanding what they call “triggers” (warnings about upcoming material) from their professors. The American Association of University Professors stated in a committee report, “A current threat to academic freedom in the classroom comes from a demand that teachers provide warnings in advance if assigned material contains anything that might trigger difficult emotional responses for students. This follows from earlier calls not to offend students’ sensibilities by introducing material that challenges their values and beliefs.” The professors are now experiencing the wrath of their creation.
The term “Microagression” was coined by Harvard Professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he said he had regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on Blacks. It has now been expanded to include any perceived insult against anyone who feels they have been insulted. As you know the largest university system in the United States (University of California) issued guidelines for professors to help them from hurting the feelings of their students. It was stated by the UC administration that they are just guidelines, but no one believes that and speech is once again suppressed as the students stomp out academic freedom in the name of protecting their little hearts from being hurt.
It used to be that the universities were the center of free thought. Scholars were the center of that going back to Socrates. Colleges were the center of the defense of free speech and resistance. If it was a revolt, it started with the students. The U.S. anti-war movement on college campuses in the 1960s was the center of the free speech movement. So were the fights against Communist regimes. The fights to overturn the dictatorships in Egypt and Iran were led by the students.
The most famous resistance within Nazi Germany was The White Rose (a film of the same name was made). White Rose were students from Munich University. The Nazis always feared the free speech of the intellectuals. Hitler would not have to do such today. In America the students are the center of the suppression of free speech.
Instead of defending the First Amendment the professors have created a monster which is halting the First Amendment and their own right of free speech. The people who are historically the highest advocates for free expression have become the shock troops of abolition of such. Never would dictators think the universities and their students would be the principal source of free speech suppression. Never would they dream that their main source of grief would self-inflict the squelching of speech.
Hitler would be proud. So would Stalin, Mao, the Ayatollah……..