The freedom of speech also means freedom to disengage from threats of serious violence.
Last week, Contributor Mary Eberstadt had an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “You Can’t Cancel Me, I Quit.” In the article, Mary explains why she decided against giving a scheduled speech at Furman University. Students were actively protesting her appearance before the event, tearing down event posters and calling her names like “fascist” and “vicious homophobe.” Just a month earlier, another speaker (Dr. Scott Yenor of Boise State University) was met with the same angry protest and had to be protected by armed officers while on campus. Mary writes, “Bullies have a right to protest, but that right doesn’t extend to dragooning others into untruths—including the untruth that people who join a hateful mob have any intention of listening to a speaker in the first place. They don’t, and the rest of us are under no obligation to help them live that lie by playing along.”
The university president publicly responded to her, to which Mary also responded, standing by her final decision. If students don’t want her there, then she won’t pretend that they do—no person is obligated to participate in ignorant yelling matches with angry mobs thinly disguised by woke universities as the “free exchange of ideas and open dialogue.” Mary saw right through that.
Unfortunately, this attitude towards the true free exchange of ideas (i.e. ideas you might not always agree with or get offended by) has spread like wildfire over the last school year. In Virginia alone, three major universities recently saw significant protest against speakers whom certain students disagreed with. Perhaps the most disgraceful was the violence that broke out at Virginia Commonwealth University over a pro-life event (note the difference between voluntarily choosing vs. being forced to end a discussion):
This is why organizations like Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) exist. You should join and support the organization at your own university, if you find the video above outrageous. Learn more about the mission of this alumni-based organization here:
As universities strive for diversity and inclusion, the ideas and people allowed to enter the walls of their ivory towers seem to shrink. Today, Contributor Heather Mac Donald will participate in a debate at MIT sponsored by AFSA over the abolishment of these academic DEI programs, arguably driving accelerating cancel culture in education everywhere. You can participate in the event or watch the livestream by clicking here.
Clearly, what we are seeing is a clash of worldviews. Absent the use of force, we can only compete and persuade in the public square using language, narrative, definition, reason, knowledge, and personal or collective practical experience. We must label our opponent to develop a strategy against it. The opponent of our Constitution’s First Amendment, created within a Western Judeo-Christian worldview, is postmodernism in alliance with cultural Marxism—also known as ideological wokeness.
For further color on the impact woke worldview is having in the United States today, we suggest this extremely helpful article forwarded last week by a Praxis Circle member (linked here) on anarcho-tyranny, the lawless use of raw power.
Like Mary, we’re going to set our terms and stick to them. No longer will we tolerate intimidation or accept violence as the natural response to free speech. As Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” May we strive to create a learning environment of civil dialogue, open inquiry, mutual respect, and viewpoint diversity, where that can truly happen.
Have a great NCAA Final Four National Championship (Congrats to U Conn men’s and an amazing team), Masters Tournament, and Easter week!