Sunday, February 5, 2017

Time to Defend Free Speech

Higher education in America was deeply embarrassed this week, and the wholly deserved subject of widespread scorn, due to the terrible riots at UC Berkeley that successfully prevented right wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking there. Even President Trump jumped into the controversy, sending an angry tweet threatening the school with fiscal punishment.

I doubt much of anything will come of that threat, although UC Berkeley released a surprisingly strong statement decrying the violence and defending the principle of free speech in much stronger terms than I've ever heard a college do after one of the these incidents. Trump may have spooked them with the one kind of threat that they could genuinely understand and fear - the loss of their precious taxpayer dollars. Trump's threat may also have caused other schools to think about free speech on campus, and if so, then all to the good.

The problem of leftist censoring on campus (it is almost never campus conservatives who engage in this type of behavior) is one I have followed locally for years. In the beginning it was only the UMass Daily Collegian and myself who would report on these incidents, as nothing would inspire the mainstream media, local or otherwise, to pay attention. For example, here is some footage I filmed over a decade ago, when the UMass Republicans had their speaker shouted right off the stage during the question and answer session following his talk. Of course the talk itself was difficult for him to give at all, with antics such as protestors in drag running up and dancing on stage when the speaker was about to be introduced.

Eventually, the event had to be cut short.

Despite all this fracas, no one reported it, and that complete news blackout was common for many years, until finally in the past five years or so other outlets besides myself and the Collegian began covering the phenomenon, such as Larry Kelly's blog and the Valley Advocate. Eventually, the Springfield Republican and Hampshire Gazette finally became interested in free speech at local schhols and have done a generally good job covering the issue since. Now the President himself has taken up the cause and has refreshingly issued a warning that such behavior will not be tolerated in the future.

Next time, Mr. President, cut them off without a dime.