“No Safe Spaces” is a new documentary that takes, head-on, the suppression of free speech on college campuses. Wait, let me be more precise. Not all speech. Left-wing speech isn’t suppressed. On the contrary, it’s encouraged, applauded and dominant among students and faculty in higher education. What’s suppressed and punished is conservative speech and anything deemed “offensive,” “hurtful,” “insensitive,” “hateful” or “politically incorrect.” By whom? Oh, by hypersensitive, intolerant, progressive, arbiters as seen through their biased identity-politics prism.
“No Safe Spaces” is co-hosted by Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla, something of a stylistic odd couple. Prager is a soft-spoken, intellectual, conservative, nationally syndicated talk show host. Carolla is a more animated, libertarian-leaning comedian. A Denver connection is the film’s director, Justin Folk. They’re all defenders of free speech across the ideological and political spectrum. For balance, the documentary includes interviews with prominent figures on the left like Harvard professor and African-American activist Cornel West, Van Jones a former avowed communist and adviser to President Obama, and Alan Dershowitz, a law professor and defender of civil liberties. Prager also engages with African-American college students.
For those unfamiliar with the degree and intensity of one-sided free speech suppression in colleges, this film is instructive, exasperating, entertaining and well worth seeing.
Freedom of speech is a foundational American value, protected from government abridgement in the First Amendment. But how has it become so abused in public?
The roots of it are clearly in academia. Ironically, the violent, radical leftist students of the “Free Speech Movement” led by Mario Savio at Cal-Berkeley in the 1960s and its progeny that preside over campus political culture today only value their free speech.
Tied to social-justice ideology and identity-politics grievance, they’ve created a virtual factory of terminology and rules to bend others to their will: microaggressions, trigger warnings, cultural appropriation, cancel culture, white privilege, disdain for dead white European males and so on. Unfounded accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia become indelible indictments. Fueled by the liberal media and pop culture, this has invaded the society at large.
Rather than defend higher education as a forum for open expression and debate of differing viewpoints in search of learning, too many pusillanimous (that means fainthearted or cowardly) college administrators have accommodated campus tyrants of the left and delicate snowflakes, declaring that colleges should be “safe spaces.” Apparently, that means safe from reason and debate. If college is supposed to prepare students for real life, shouldn’t students learn that life isn’t a safe space?
In a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, Carla Albers of Colorado Springs hit the nail on the head with this insightful anecdote about her 6-year-old daughter who came home one day crying and crawled into her mother’s lap after two neighborhood children had said something that made her feel bad. “After drying her tears, I asked her if she wanted other children to control how she felt, and told her she could choose to not let what someone else said make her feel bad: ‘Who do you want to be the boss of how you feel? You or someone else?’ She perked up and said, ‘I want to be the boss of me!’ Out the door she ran.” Now, a successful adult, Carla’s daughter has said this was the best advice her mom gave her. Are college students really more fragile than a 6-year-old?
It’s about time college administrators and principled faculty stop this nonsense. A turning point could be a recent ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the University of Michigan’s Bias Response Team that was empowered to investigate students who offended the “feelings” of other students. The court ruled that the team improperly “acts by way of implicit threat of punishment and intimidation to quell speech.” Subsequently, the school disbanded the Bias Response Team.
An international research initiative “More in Common,” recently published “Hidden Tribes: A study of America’s Polarized Landscape.” It found that 80% of Americans agree that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” And that included 61% of traditional liberals. We’re not under the thumb of feckless college administrators or PC police.
Here’s how I’ve done it on radio:
Caller: “I was offended by something you just said.”
Me: “Did I use a profanity, a racial slur or tell a tasteless joke?
Caller: No, your opinion offends me
Me: That’s you’re prerogative. So?
Like the 6-year-old, you’re the boss of you.
Mike Rosen is an American radio personality and political commentator.