The Illiberal Left Doesn’t Like Free Speech on Campuses

May 20, 2015

By George Leef at National Review

Leftists used to favor free speech, although there were always some (like Herbert Marcuse) who admitted to wanting to stifle speech and thoughts opposing the collectivist project. But for the most part, leftists liked the idea of unfettered speech because they thought they were winning the intellectual war.

That is no longer the case and many leftists have become practitioners of what Jonah Goldberg calls “liberal fascism.” Persuasion isn’t their thing; coercion is. From their professors, many students imbibe the notion that tolerance for dissenting ideas is not appropriate. That’s because, they often taught, those who dissent from leftism are bad people motivated by racism, sexism, greed, etc.

It took quite a while for the remaining leftists who are liberal (with respect to free speech anyway) to speak out about this ominous trend. One who is speaking out is columnist and TV commentator Kirsten Powers, who has written a book entitled The Silencing. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Adam Kissel discusses her book. “People who don’t follow higher education might be surprised to learn how many colleges have fundamentally restricted free inquiry,” he writes. “It’s common, and has become so pervasive that honest liberals like Powers are writing books that alert us to the danger. The Silencing provides dozens of examples of ‘illiberal’ leftists who use silencing their opponents as a preferred tactic.”

As is said about alcoholism, the first step is admitting you have a problem. I think the same applies here. Powers, Greg Lukianoff, and a few other liberals who still believe in the principles of free speech and inquiry are raising the alarm, but I have to wonder if the “shout ‘em down!” types on campus will pay any attention. Perhaps the only thing that will really put a dent in the illiberal left is for students to avoid the schools where free speech is protected for bien pensant leftists alone.