Dismisses violence, threats as ‘raucous protests’
The free speech crisis on American college campuses is merely “manufactured,” according to one college professor—and the recent violent and threatening behavior of anti-free-speech students is merely “rude” and “disruptive,” he claims.
John Patrick Leary, a professor of English at Wayne State University, writes in The Detroit News that “Conservatives have been in an uproar since a series of raucous protests against conservative speakers,” but that the students doing the protesting “[have] every right to loudly, disruptively, even rudely protest” against the speakers in question.
Conservative reaction to campus protestors, Leary argues, is rooted in insidious motives: “Conservatives, no longer content to undermine public colleges by starving them of funding, now seem to prefer that the government regulate their intellectual lives more directly — all in the name of ‘free speech,’ of course.”
Though he does not mention it, the “raucous protests against conservative speakers” that Leary writes about actually involved a good bit of either violence or the threat of violence. Both Milo Yiannopoulos and Charles Murray had their events disrupted by violence; Yiannopoulos’s planned event was cancelled, while the violent demonstrations following Murray’s talk put a Middlebury College professor in the hospital. Ann Coulter, meanwhile, cancelled her event at Berkeley in part because of the threat of violence.
Leary decries efforts by Michigan senator Patrick Colbeck and United States senator Chuck Grassley to strengthen free speech protections on campus, claiming that Colbeck’s proposed legislation is “Orwellian,” and mocking Grassley’s concern that nearly three-quarters of college students are pro-censorship when it comes to offensive speech: “The First Amendment, to Grassley, protects Americans’ God-given right to be cruel in public.”
(The First Amendment does, indeed, protect Americans’ God-given right to be cruel in public, a fact that has been upheld multiple times by the United States Supreme Court, in cases like Brandenburg v. Ohio Texas v. Johnson, and Virginia v. Black.)