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Students are too comfortable with violence

Too many students see it as a first resort

A recent survey of college students revealed the usual depressing trends: Professors are using class time to preach their personal political beliefs; students are reluctant to speak up with their own for fear of backlash. But most concerning, and dismaying, was the revelation that over a third of respondents claimed that “if someone is using hate speech or making racially charged comments, physical violence can be justified to prevent this person from espousing their hateful views.”

There is, of course, no meaningful definition of “hate speech;” it is a meaningless word and an empty concept, used mostly by people whose problem is not with “hate” but with “speech.” Free speech is both broad and at every instance comprehensive: You simply cannot have freedom of speech if you outlaw some of it because it hurts your feelings. It would be a contradiction in terms. Hate speech is free speech, no matter what the local chapter of the Students for Socialism club claims.

Violence against speech, which is simply censorship most actualized, is little more than the angry tantrums of people who haven’t learned to deal with the realities of a pluralistic society. Yes, there are people who believe and espouse hateful, nasty things. It happens. Most of us have learned to deal with it productively—by engaging with the ideas and combatting them, say, or else just ignoring them altogether. Throwing a punch because someone said something you don’t like is not at all a virtue. It’s not even practical. In most cases, kicking someone in the face for expressing a bigoted view tends to have the opposite effect: The bigot’s message is inadvertently amplified, and you come off, appropriately, looking like an unhinged, self-righteous idiot.

A gentle reminder for college students, and everyone: The world is a big place. Some people in it don’t agree with you; some might even believe things diametrically opposite to what you believe, and they’ll express it. Figure out how to deal with such people without assaulting them. It’s better for everyone that way.

MORE: Using offensive words an ‘act of violence,’ majority of students surveyed say

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