Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Take a look at this article. Or, if you prefer, this one. Or any number of other article in recent days.
We've heard a whole lot about hate crimes and speech codes over the past ten or so years. We're heard all the arguments from conservatives (behaving, actually, like liberals, but don't tell them) about how punishing speech is a violation of the first amendment, even if the speech is horrible. We've heard the arguments from the liberals (behaving, actually, like classical conservatives, but don't tell them) about how the codes are necessary to preserving harmony and protecting the tender feelings of those who might otherwise be attacked verbally, or feel themselves so.
But isn't it clear now what the truest argument against such codes is? Their existence is evidence of intimidation and they will be used selectively to reward intimidation. If a group is considered likely to stage violently hostile demonstrations if it is offended or upset, a campus will ban speech that this group wishes banned. Why? Because the administration is intimidated and afraid. If a group is basically law-abiding, and is menaced or slandered by one of the first, angry, violent groups, the hate speech - and even acts of vandalism - will be largely ignored. Why? Because the administration is intimidated and afraid. The message and effect of speech codes is not that everyone must be respected. It is that force must be respected.
And yet, no doubt, the ADL will be out in front calling for new speech restrictions in response to these abominations. As if a more strongly-worded law could substitute for courage. As if it were better to end freedom for all than to take the risk of calling evil, slander and violence by its proper name, and facing down the thugs that have seized so much power on our campuses.