The birth & death of free speech on the American campus

Try to imagine today’s leftist students lining up for autographs from James Woods, let alone Milo.

Nothing perhaps better illustrates the sorry decline of free speech and intellectual freedom on university campuses than the starkly different receptions given to two flamboyant superstars of conservative politics, 42 years apart.

In 1974, John Wayne accepted an invitation to speak at Harvard. Never one to do things by half, the Duke rode into town on a goddamn tank. The reaction from the students, as one participant recalls, was good-natured disagreement. “The ‘Duke’ and the students went off to a campus watering hole and drank beer and teased each other, having a great time.” Far-left activist Terry Robbins said that Wayne was “terrific and total”. “I think he’s got guts,” said “Hanoi” Jane Fonda.

Fast forward to 2016. Milo Yiannopolous visited US campuses on his “Dangerous Faggot” tour, with a political theatre of the absurd every bit as finely-tuned as Wayne’s tank. The reaction from the student left was fury and violence. What happened in those 42 years?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in an exclusive interview with Campus Reform, lambasted college administrations and faculties that have been “taken over” by far Left “radicals” and that now silence any views they disagree with.

Academics from Camille Paglia to Niall Ferguson have also criticised the near-total takeover of campus administrations by a stifling leftist orthodoxy.

Stating that it is “60s radicals who have taken over the administrations and faculty of universities,” Cruz said that the Left is in a “different place” today than it was in past decades.” Indeed, the Free Speech Movement began in the 1960s on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley, where protesters have disrupted conservative speakers in recent years and where a conservative activist was punched in the face.

“It used to be the Left defended free speech,” Cruz explained. “Now the Left, unfortunately, is afraid of debating on the merits, of a whole host of issues and so they’ve shifted instead to the view that any views they disagree with need to be silenced, that they need to be muzzled, that they label unacceptable views that are contrary to the orthodox views on the far Left.”

It is one of the great tragedies of modern American history and the Enlightenment as a whole that the Free Speech movement that was born on Berkeley is now being murdered on Berkeley.

More than 50 years after the Free Speech Movement began at Berkeley, a report found that 41 percent of college students nationwide now say that “hate speech” should not be protected under the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment makes no exception for “hate speech.” Additionally, students at a Virginia college toldCampus Reform’s Cabot Phillips back in March that speech they find “offensive” should not be considered free speech, even though the First Amendment also makes no exception for “offensive speech.”

Cruz said this type of attitude toward language with which one disagrees could be detrimental to the value of a college education.

“I think that really destroys the whole purpose of a university education, which is to learn, to learn how to think, to learn how to debate, to learn how to reason,” Cruz said.

Universities are fast becoming places where minds go to close. They’re re-education camps for the Everybody-Gets-A-Prize, I-Am-Special generation.

John Wayne pegged these intolerant snowflakes four decades ago: “[They] act like children who have to get their own way about everything […] under the guise of doing good, these kids are causing a hell of a lot of damage”.