Poll: College Students Are Hostile Toward Free Speech

Catherine Rampell, writing for The Washington Post:

Here’s the problem with suggesting that upsetting speech warrants “safe spaces,” or otherwise conflating mere words with physical assault: If speech is violence, then violence becomes a justifiable response to speech.

Just ask college students. A fifth of undergrads now say it’s acceptable to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.”

That’s one finding from a disturbing new survey of students conducted by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and University of California at Los Angeles professor.

Even worse, a large segment of them fundamentally do not understand the First Amendment:

For example, when students were asked whether the First Amendment protects “hate speech,” 4 in 10 said no. This is, of course, incorrect. Speech promoting hatred — or at least, speech perceived as promoting hatred — may be abhorrent, but it is nonetheless constitutionally protected.

This notion equating speech with violence is more than just an irritation. It’s ammunition for the right to shut down legitimate protest. It’s self-defeating for people on the left to take this stance. Sticks and stones, folks.

Update: Polling experts are casting serious doubts on this poll’s methodology. But whether this poll is valid or not, there’s no question in my mind that today’s youth have a serious problem with free speech. There’s a reason why many comedians won’t play college campuses anymore — too many kids can’t take a joke.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017