Two years ago, Geoffrey Stone led a University of Chicago committee that released a sweeping free-speech statement defending the right of community members to speak their minds as long as they didn’t silence others to do it.
Now the law professor is sharing some advice with Evergreen State College students and faculty who are trying to make their campus an anti-white utopia: Read your civil-rights history.
In a Chronicle of Higher Education essay, Stone and Newseum President Jeffrey Herbst (a former Colgate University president) warn marginalized communities that they are sowing the seeds for their own suppression.
Attacking free speech “poses a special danger to the interests of those very same minority students because, in the long run, it is they who most need the vibrant protection of freedom of speech as an essential and powerful weapon in our continuing struggle for equality,” they write:
In April 1968 in Memphis, in the last speech he gave before he was murdered, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provided a ringing endorsement of the central importance of the First Amendment for the civil-rights movement, when he declared that the freedom of speech is a central guarantee of “the greatness of America.” …
Wanting to censor those whose views one finds odious and offensive is understandable. Actually silencing them is dangerous, though, because censorship is a two-way street. It is an illusion for minority groups to believe that they can censor the speech of others today without having their own expression muzzled tomorrow.
Here’s who you’re in historical cahoots with, Stone and Herbst tell Evergreen State censors: creationists, pro-war advocates, gender traditionalists and homophobes.
They also warn students to consider their short-term interests by avoiding the Streisand Effect:
[I]t makes those they oppose into ever-more famous martyrs, giving them larger audiences and growing book sales. Little has helped the brand of the likes of Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos more than their exclusion from speaking on college campuses.
Stone and Herbst expose these censorship attempts for what they really are, “an indication of weakness”:
Those who resort to censorship do so in no small part because they lack confidence that they can compete effectively with the ideas of their opposition.