Education, Free Speech, recent, Top Stories

Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee

Many people who genuinely believe that they support freedom of speech exhibit a double standard: One person’s “hate speech” is another person’s belief, opinion or even (as they see it) fact. And opinions about whether there’s a “free speech crisis” on university campuses tend to vary according to these subjective determinations.

While I’m not a fan of such “crisis” language, there’s definitely a real decline in support for freedom of expression among young people. In a 2016 Knight Foundation survey, 91% of high school respondents said they supported the “freedom to express unpopular opinions.” But when pressed, only 45% said that people should have the right to publicly express ideas that others find “offensive.”

The Knight Foundation’s numbers on college students’ attitudes are similar. In 2016, 78% of college respondents agreed that colleges should expose students to all types of speech and viewpoints. Yet, more than two-thirds said that colleges should be able to enact policies against language that is “intentionally offensive to certain groups,” and more than a quarter said that colleges should even be able to restrict the expression of potentially offensive political views. (More than half reported that the climate on campus “prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive.” A year later, that number rose to 61%.)

This data is consistent with a 2017 survey conducted by my employer, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), whose mission is “to defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities.” In that survey, more than half (58%) of college students agreed with the statement, “it is important to be part of a campus community where I am not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas” (my emphasis). When the same question was asked a year later, the proportion rose to 64%.

Embedded in such data is evidence of the common double standard in this area: Notwithstanding the survey results cited above, 73% of college respondents in the 2016 Knight Foundation survey said they were confident that freedom of speech is secure or very secure. How can students advocate for speech codes and still believe that freedom of speech is secure? The answer, as an intern at the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) put it in 2017, is that “most college students do not feel that the anti-hate movement puts their [own] right to free speech under attack” (my emphasis). That is linked to the mistaken idea that (to quote George Lakoff), “hate speech is not free speech.” Or as that aforementioned CAP intern put it, hate speech—however that term may be defined—is “outside the bounds of free speech.”

But if we stop protecting anything that people call “hate speech,” then the location of those “bounds” becomes subjective. In 2018, when former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon was scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago, more than 100 faculty members signed a petition demanding that he be disinvited, arguing that the campus should be an environment where “hate speech…is not tolerated.” Professor Emeritus Jerry Coyne responded by calling for “a broad endorsement of free speech and condemnation of those who would ban or de-platform speakers.” After reading Coyne’s statement, a commenter proclaimed on Facebook, “this is not about free speech; it’s about fascist speech.”

A related tendency is that some de-platforming advocates now condemn those who defend the right of controversial speakers to be heard. They contend that defending freedom of speech is a cover for promoting hate speech (as they define it)—even arguing that speech is violence. After the violent riots that forced the cancelation of a 2017 talk by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, for example, some defended the physical violence as self-defense against the metaphorical violence of Yiannopoulos’ words. One student declared, “if you condemn the [violent] actions that shut down Yiannopoulos’ literal hate speech, you condone his presence, his actions and his ideas.”

A recent campus controversy provides a telling example. After the January, 2019 murder of police officer Natalie Corona, a student at the University of California, Davis browsed Twitter to investigate rumors about a UC Professor, Joshua Clover, having “advocated for violence against law enforcement.” The student published what he found in The California Aggie, including Clover’s statements that “I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore” (Twitter, Nov. 27, 2014); “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?” (Twitter, Dec. 27, 2014); and “People think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed” (interview; Jan. 31, 2016).

When the student journalist asked Prof. Clover to comment, he responded, “I think we can all agree that the most effective way to end any violence against officers is the complete and immediate abolition of the police,” and directed “any further questions to the family of Michael Brown,” the 18-year-old African American man whose 2014 death at the hands of police officers set off riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

The school’s chapter of College Republicans held a “Fire Josh Clover” rally that drew about 100 people. One student sought institutional condemnation and sanctions, claiming—much in the same spirit as the Berkeley students who protested Yiannopoulos—that the professor’s words were “violent.”

For its part, FIRE wrote to the Chancellor of UC Davis to remind him that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “limits the disciplinary consequences that a public university may impose on a professor for speech expressed in his private capacity on matters of public concern—including unpopular or widely condemned comments about law enforcement.”

But California Assemblyman James Gallagher (a Republican who got his law degree at UC Davis) asserted that the professor’s comments amounted to an incitement to violence and were therefore not protected by the First Amendment. He called for Clover to be fired, presented a petition with 10,000 signatures, and even introduced a House Resolution “to remove Professor Joshua Clover from the classroom and terminate his employment at the University.” Echoing those who protested Bannon’s appearance at the University of Chicago, he insisted, “this is not about free speech or academic freedom.”

Initially, the university responded by recognizing the professor’s First Amendment rights. But after Gallagher got involved, the university’s press team indicated that an investigation was underway and that the administration was “working very hard to address this matter.”

Gallagher’s assertion that Clover’s speech was unprotected is incorrect: The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio set an extremely strict standard for censorship in cases such as this. And so FIRE called for the university to cease its investigation. In Brandenburg, noted Sarah McLaughlin, FIRE’s Senior Program Officer, Legal and Public Advocacy, “the Court held that the state may not ‘forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.’ In other words, there is a difference between hypothetically wishing people would die, which is protected speech despite the offense it may cause, and a call to action that’s likely to result in violence, which is not protected.”

The intervening years since Clover’s tweets and interview—during which nobody acted on his views—evidence that his statements were not likely to produce the “imminent” response required to remove First Amendment protection. “Because rhetoric tinged with violent themes often overlaps with charged political expression,” explained McLaughlin, “the First Amendment requires a high standard to be met before a statement constitutes unprotected ‘incitement.’” The university responded by telling FIRE that (thankfully) there will in fact be no investigation.

* * *

In the heat of the moment, people say (or tweet) all kinds of things that others find entirely reprehensible. But abundant empirical evidence indicates that we are all prone to judge the people whose ideas we dislike more harshly than the people whose ideas we like. And so we must all remember that when we defend freedom of speech, it is not ideas or people we are defending; it is the freedom itself.

This is why real free speech advocates so often refer to Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s description of Voltaire’s perspective: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” For anyone who decries the censorious culture on campus, the treatment of Joshua Clover presents the ideal opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to freedom of speech rather than the freedom to express particular views. And for anyone who thinks that a line must be drawn at the place where speech offends or could be considered harmful, the contrast between the “harmful” speech in this case and other high-profile cases illustrates why we cannot move that line away from where the Supreme Court has already drawn it.



Pamela Paresky is Senior Scholar in Human Development and Psychology at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). She writes for Psychology Today online, and served as chief researcher and in-house editor for the New York Times bestseller, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

Featured image: Joshua Clover photographed at the 2014 Pop Conference, EMP Museum, Seattle.


  1. the gardner says

    …. “I am thankful that every living (cop) UCD Professor will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore” (Twitter, Nov. 27, 2014); “I mean, it’s easier to shoot (cops) UCD professors when their backs are turned, no?” (Twitter, Dec. 27, 2014); and “People think that (cops) UCD professors need to be reformed. They need to be killed” (interview; Jan. 31,

    OK with that Prof Clover?

    • Fred says

      Hear hear. Comparing that kind of incitement to violence (regardless of its political position) to calling feminism a cancer os the epitome of false equivalence.

    • David of Kirkland says

      While hate speech is not illegal/unconstitutional, civil discourse could be used. Reason and debate rely on thoughtful statements rather than calls to hate those who disagree, to name-call and demonize “the others.”
      In the end, a calm and pointed remark will be more believable than one directed by ranting.

      • Peter says

        Whether or not speech is wise, or good, or proper, is a different question from whether it is or should be prohibited.

  2. E. Olson says

    Here are some examples of things that professors have said that apparently aren’t hate speech…

    Killing all police.
    Assassinating Trump.
    Equating Christians with Nazis.
    Hating all men.
    Hating all white people.

    On the other hand it is easy to find examples where a professor, student, or guest speaker has been protested for “hate speech” because they dare to say…

    Black people commit a disproportionate share of crime and have lower average IQ.
    Immigration laws should be enforced.
    Most terrorists are Muslim.
    IQ is largely genetic and a important predictor of life success.
    Gender gaps in STEM and higher status positions are due to differences in interests and abilities.
    Single motherhood is bad for children.
    Wearing a sombrero for Halloween is not cultural appropriation.
    Some women lie about rape and sexual harassment.
    -Transgenders are suffering from mental illness.

    Notice how the “non-hate” speech actually advocates violence and hatred towards innocent people, while “hate” speech is based on actual empirical study and/or doesn’t advocate physical violence or hatred towards any group? Seems to me this is the perfect example of what George Orwell termed doublespeak and the modern campus are the perfect embodiment of both 1984 and Animal Farm.

    • Emerald City says

      The second part of your list, while not inciting violence, is often paired with a “so what” argument for which the things you stated are used as argument, and often that “so what” is the cause of the protest. The assertion itself is therefore tainted by association, and becomes verboten out of suspicion, but it’s disingenuous to say that students are protesting the assertions as such.

      Example: “[Transgender people] are suffering from mental illness” is a factually true statement insofar as gender dysphoria is a diagnosis, and social/medical transition is the indicated treatment. But what often follows is an assertion that society should not accommodate transgender individuals, that transgender individuals should not be able to access medical/legal transition, and, rarely, advocacy for being downright cruel to trans people.

      Scenario: Speaker Jane Smith is scheduled to speak at a college. The advert for the event states that she believes “transgenderism is a mental illness.” People google her name, where they are led to her twitter and several articles she has written for mid-sized publications. In her articles, she describes transgender individuals as “confused,” “deranged,” etc, and calls anyone who uses a transgender person’s preferred pronouns “complicit in their delusions.” On twitter, she uses similar language, intentionally uses the wrong pronouns for transgender interlocutors, and makes light of transgender people’s distress. Based on this, it would appear that Jane Smith rather dislikes trans people, and students therefore might form a group to deplatform/protest. Jane’s belief that “Transgender people suffer from a mental illness” isn’t really the primary motivating factor, it’s the subsequent “so what” of her beliefs that motivates the protest.

      I have not yet seen a speaker de-platformed who says both 1) Transgender people suffer from mental illness and 2) Transgender people should be respected and accepted into mainstream society. If the second point is not explicitly articulated by the speaker, then people on the left will assume the situation I describe in my example, and very well might call to have the speaker de-platformed based on that.

      I’m not an advocate for shutting down a speaking event, but it’s better to represent positions honestly. Similar to the above, consider the actual reasons for anger with regard to the rest of the items on that list. “Single motherhood is bad for children” therefore what? You could say “therefore, we should improve sex ed and make access to contraceptives easier so young women and young men can make better choices,” or you could say “therefore we should abolish no-fault divorce and push women back into the home where they belong.” It’s fairly obvious that only one position would draw censorious protests (from the left), though both start with the same premise.

      • Ashley says

        I think you are operating from a hopelessly naïve viewpoint that it’s the reaction to a position (not the actual position itself) that is causing the hysterical calls for de-platforming.
        Jordan Peterson had his visiting fellowship from Cambridge revoked for the crime of posing for a photo with a person who was wearing a t-shirt declaring themselves to be an “Islamophobe”. That’s the explanation that was proffered several days after the fact, after he’d found out “through the grapevine” (he found out the fellowship was cancelled via social media rather than being contacted directly).
        This is how mob justice works. Details are irrelevant. Person X is evil and must be “deplatformed”. There is nothing to be gained in trying to come up with complicated nuanced explanations when you are dealing with hysterical fanatics and ideologues.
        You either believe in free speech or you don’t.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Emerald City

        Well said. Why do we presume we know what a person’s agenda is based on what they believe to be objective facts? I believe it is an objective fact that the trannies are mentally ill. So, what’s my agenda? People presume they know, but they don’t. We should not pick our facts to support our agendas. Facts are facts, and what we do about those facts is another matter.

        For example, E might point out that the biggest health issue among the ‘poor’ is obesity, which is true, but what’s his agenda? I and others presume that it is to cut back on social supports for the poor. Or I might point out that welfare very often ends up as a ‘trap’, which is also true, and others suppose that I’m advocating for an end to welfare, but I most certainly am not.

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – what is worse is that in today’s campus environment if you as a supporter of welfare with some reservations about the ill effects it can cause were to be invited to debate me on “obesity and food stamps” you would be shouted down or beaten just for sharing a stage and giving a platform to a “hater”, which would prevent the audience from hearing an interesting discussion and two sides to a difficult to solve public policy topic.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            Yes, just so. In a sick and twisted way, I congratulate myself when I can end up being denounced by both sides in the same debate. For me the essential battle line is not between left and right, but between people who are prepared to be reasonable and people who would rather scream. I’m very proud to be a Hater and a Bigot and an Islamophobe and every other kind of phobe in the eyes of the Warriors, and part of the Red Menace in the eyes of the loonies on the other side of the gulf. Jesus, how did we let this happen?

      • E. Olson says

        EC – in other words, you believe it is perfectly ok for a professor or someone of authority to say “kill all cops”, but draw the line at another professor or person of authority who says “trannies are wacky” and “stay out of my bathroom”, and therefore it is perfectly appropriate to suggest they be fired/expelled, shouted down, and blocked from sharing the viewpoint?

      • K. Dershem says

        @EC, I think you’re exactly right. Thanks for providing a thoughtful and nuanced response to a simplistic, partisan comment.

      • Jay Salhi says

        “I have not yet seen a speaker de-platformed who says both 1) Transgender people suffer from mental illness and 2) Transgender people should be respected and accepted into mainstream society.”

        Are you sure about that? I have yet to come across anyone who disagrees with proposition 2 and most people who speak or write about trans issues make some statement similar to proposition 2 but it does not stop the backlash.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      Yes, E, but if you were a good person you’d not be succumbing to mere evidence you’d be Imagining a sweeter world where none of those things are true. And if we only Imagined it perfectly, then it would be true, so you see how you ruin everything? It’s like giggling in church, you break the spell. So stop it.

    • Lightning Rose says

      To E. Olson’s list I would add that Caucasians of European origin are apparently now the only ethnicity expressly disallowed from affirming pride in their past history, appreciation of their Eurocentric, Judeo-Christian culture, or espousing the right to exist as a cohesive group in the future.

      Apparently because slavery, pith helmets and Hitler, or something . . .

      It’s systematic Orwellian de-platforming by another name pure and simple.

      • While I agree that white European pride is ‘disallowed,’ I’m also not sure what it is that we have to be particularly proud of, and I don’t see how we’ve ever existed as a cohesive group.

        I can’t imagine anything more pointless than an innocent, non-racist white pride meeting. What on earth would we talk about? What do we have in common? Then again, I don’t get the point in cheering for ourselves because we’re fans of a certain sports team, so how could I possibly grasp pride in belonging to the same vaguely-defined ethnicity as Isaac Newton? It wouldn’t even make sense to me if I was his direct descendant. Maybe “pride” just means something different to other people than it does to me.

        I don’t get the point for non-white groups, either. It’s like forming a club for people named “Johnson” or born in April. I don’t see how an attribute someone was born with and didn’t cause is basis for pride.

        This subject came up in a focus group where I worked. The background is that there were focus groups for all sorts of minorities to discuss whether they felt integrated and accepted. Then someone pointed out that there wasn’t a group for white men, so they added one of those and I got invited.

        One individual’s understandable concern was that activities of minority groups (like the LBGTQ group or women’s group) got lots of favorable attention leading to increased corporate visibility of its members that white men didn’t get. Fair enough. My response was, since I couldn’t imagine anything more pointless than a group for white men, why not organize groups around something else we have in common, like a particular skill or interest? Don’t waste your energy disliking what someone else does. Find your own thing and do it.

        I get that white pride doesn’t equal racism. If people draw that conclusion it’s because they see a bunch of white people who, given a multitude of possible interests and activities, self-select to focus on their whiteness. (And, sorry, a lot of them are racist, separatist, both, or just really weird.) Go for it, I say, if it makes you happy. Good luck agreeing on what music to play.

      • Jay Salhi says

        “James Livingston himself happens to be White.”

        As are most of the people pushing the racist, identity politics nonsense.

  3. Nick Podmore says

    These young people will shortly be entering the workforce and many will rise to positions of influence and power. I predict that in 10/15 years we will be reliving the horrors of the past. Their is nothing more dangerous than authoritarianism cloaked in compassion. It is insidious and will creep in under the radar. Already we have daily arrests in the UK of people who simply state empirical provable facts….we are doomed TG I will be dead and have no kids!!!

  4. I admire the authors bravery in the example chosen.

    ‘“I am thankful that every living cop will one day be dead, some by their own hand, some by others, too many of old age #letsnotmakemore”; “I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?”

    I don’t think it does the authors position any good from a rhetorica perspective.

    Free speech does not mean speech without any limitations and the example comes perilously close to encouraging and inciting violence. Perhaps the best examples are the hardest ones but the professor concrned could have made a point about disliking police as an instituition without wishing violent deaths upon policemen. In this regard I don’t see why an instituition should not take action against someone who is gratuitously offensive in the way they express their ideas. The point is that it is a balance and judgments will have ot be made by someone. It is easier to maintain free speech if it is seen to be valuable and not abused.

    • David of Kirkland says

      It is odd that he despises the police officer, not the institution.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @David of Kirkland

        Not so odd. He holds an individual police officer morally accountable for having joined the institution.

        Of course, one wonders if he would ever call for police assistance if his house was burglarized or a family member was assaulted by a criminal.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Morgan Foster

          Yes, but he’d be hoping the burglar would kill the cop.

    • Andrew says

      I don’t think that Clover quote comes anywhere close to the incitement to imminent action standard cited by the author. Incitement to action must be extremely specific. And his quote is, at best, a vague general position on all police officers anywhere in the world.

      The concept of “safe” speech or banning “hate” speech just doesn’t mix with the fundamental First Amendment protections of political speech, which is how Clover’s words would likely be classified. As a class of speech, it enjoys the highest level of protection in the United States. As it should. If we start tinkering with that constitutional bulwark out of plain fear or some other emotion, there will be a major price to pay.

      FIRE does interesting work. I agree with the author that “crisis” is probably a bit much (at least here in the States), and FIRE’s donor list is going to draw the ire of the Left. But an organization like this is a good check/balance on the power of public universities (i.e. state actors).

      • K. Dershem says

        Andrew, very good points. There seems to be a great deal of hysteria about the free speech “crisis” on college campuses. Many of the concerns being raised are legitimate — there’s a lack of intellectual diversity in most academic fields, and disturbing instances in which speakers have been harassed or deplatformed — but the level of outrage seems exaggerated to me. That said, both FIRE and Heterodox Academy are doing important work and deserve our continued support.

      • Jay Salhi says


        You are correct on all counts. The Clover quote is clearly not incitement.

        It is sad that FIRE, which protects free speech the way the ACLU used to before it lost its way, gets more support from people right of center than from those to the left. And the ACLU’s demise is a tragedy.

  5. timothy says

    It’s the progressives who are driving the “safe speech” movement. Give some examples where you successfully defended freedom of unpopular speech against the dangerous progressives and not just an example that serves the angry left.

  6. Ashley says

    “Professor Emeritus Jerry Coyne responded by calling for “a broad endorsement of free speech and condemnation of those who would ban or de-platform speakers.” ”
    That’s actually kind of funny, because he encourages no such thing on his own personal blog (WhyEvolutionIsTrue). The heavy-handed scolding and ban-hammer approach is used routinely. I know because its been used on a fellow blogging friend of mine and myself. The crime I committed? Not going along with the left-leaning flow in describing Trump as an idiot, etc and for daring to suggest that whining about the Electoral College is somewhat passe.
    So you see, what people say and what people do may be entirely different things.

    • Will says

      It’s his blog, not a public forum. Your analogy is as stupid as I presume your comments on his blog were.

      • Ashley says

        Congratulations, you made the same vapid comment that he did, while defending his actions. I am perfectly aware that it’s his blog. I am in full agreement that he can treat anyone anyways he wants on his blog.
        My argument is that clearly, plainly, obviously, he is a hypocrite. He decries the censoring of speech on campuses and is only too happy to engage in the very behaviour he decries on his own blog.
        Hypocrisy at it’s finest.
        I hope you can understand my argument now.

        • Amin says

          @ Ashley

          “My argument is that clearly, plainly, obviously, he is a hypocrite. He decries the censoring of speech on campuses and is only too happy to engage in the very behaviour he decries on his own blog.
          Hypocrisy at it’s finest.”

          Nope. His personal blog is NOT a public forum. For example: he is free to enforce who gets to enter his own house but he cannot do that at the university where he works. It doesn’t make him a hypocirte.

          • Ashley says


            Before we continue, you are going to have to acknowledge that you understand what the word hypocrite means, because it appears to me that you do not. Even after I have explained it twice now. I will make a 3rd and final attempt.

            Anyone can start their own personal blog. Not a public forum but a private personal blog. Rule it as a tyrant and with an iron fist, imposing moderation and bans for transgressing whatever random and capricious speech and netiquette rules you wish to impose. Make it the best damn echo chamber you think you can make. Have at it. More power to you.


            DO NOT then get on your soap box (the very soap box which you rule with the aforementioned iron fist) and preach to Universities about imposing and enforcing speech codes. DO NOT get on your soap box and preach that everyone should be entitled to voice their opinion when you clearly do not adhere to such principles on your personal blog.

            Because it will make you a hypocrite.

            This has nothing to do with personal/public forums. I am not arguing that he isn’t entitled to do whatever he wants on his personal blog as you can clearly see above. I am trying to hammer home the concept of Hypocrisy to you.
            Do you understand now?

        • Jay Salhi says

          I read “Why Evolution is True” and have not noticed the censorship of which you speak.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Jay Salhi

            Maybe Dr. Coyne is deleting some reader comments on his blog, without leaving any metadata behind?

            That type of censorship goes on all the time at the ‘American Conservative’, for example, and one of the editors there boasts about how much time he spends each day approving and disapproving comments before they are posted.

            BTW, @Will and @Amin should note that UChicago is a private university, and as such is not subject to 1st amendment claims of freedom of speech. Their actions RE: free speech* ARE subject to review by the AAUP and the relevant accrediting agency, but NOT by the courts or the federal govt., per Trump’s recent EO.

            *Unless there is a violation of due process or of a pertinent civil rights act.

          • Ashley says


            I have the entire exchange documented on my blog. I link to the conversation on his blog and provide a screen shot of my final comment that was deleted. I would be happy to send it to you if you wish and let you decide for yourself. If you read the comments section, you will note that another blogging friend of mine experienced something very similar.
            Whether this goes on, on a wider scale, I don’t know, but I don’t know that it’s happened to at least me and one other person.
            My experience alone is enough to convict him of being a hypocrite.

    • Amin says

      @ Ashley

      “That’s actually kind of funny, because he encourages no such thing on his own personal blog (WhyEvolutionIsTrue).”

      I am no fan of Coyne for many reasons, but he is mostly fair and thoughtful. I doubt what you are saying is true. Likely he banned you for being bit of a troll.

      • Ashley says


        I am no fan of Universities for many reasons, but they are mostly fair and thoughtful. I doubt what you are saying is true. Likely they banned students for being bit of a troll.

  7. Craig Willms says

    Invoking a Jordan Peterson challenge:

    so who defines hate speech?
    what are the criteria?
    who has those job qualifications?

    Guaranteed it will be the very people you don’t want defining hate speech.

  8. Farris says

    I very much agree with this article. If offensive speech is not protected, no speech is safely guarded.
    One caveat I would point out though is when the speaker assumes a representative role or claims or appears to be speaking on behalf of an organization that speech may be qualified or curtailed. Few should doubt the the right of NFL players to protest the National Anthem. However that is not what the players wanted. The players wanted to protest the National Anthem while wearing the team uniform on an NFL field before a captive audience who paid to see a sporting contest. The players knew that private protests in street clothes would attract little attention.

    • S. Cheung says

      That’s an interesting point.
      More generally, he was “protesting” while at work, literally in his work uniform. And he could not safely assume that he could co-opt the NFL platform for his own use.
      However, do you think things would have turned out differently if he took a selfie video of himself kneeling during some other public rendition of the anthem, in his street-clothes, and posted to his verified twitter account? My guess is it would’ve gone viral, rather than attracting little attention.
      I am actually surprised the NFL didn’t exercise one of their “conduct” clauses, but instead just “hoped” (nudge nudge wink wink) that he would simply go away when his contract ran out. He’s no TB12, of course, but it was rather comical watching some of the specimens teams were trotting out there this past season.

      • Farris says

        @S. Cheung

        The NFL tried to maintain (rather comically) they were attempting to protect the player’s freedom of expression. This of course was nonsense as everyone knew that if a player had attempted a Nazi salute on the field it would have been the end of his career. This of course would have illustrated the point that the NFL was not exactly taking a Freedom of Expression stand. The NFL is free to enforce or take whatever actions or inactions they deem appropriate. However it is a bit ridiculous to allow persons to use your brand as a megaphone and then try to distance itself from those permitted comments or actions.

  9. codadmin says

    The fascist ( SJW ) left have no problems with ‘hate speech’. They spew out anti-white, anti-western stuff all the time.

    To paraphrase the blatant hate speech of the fascist left: ‘racism must be destroyed and all, and only, white people are racist’

  10. TomS says

    Ms. Paresky, FIRE does fine and commendable work. I think the more concise reply to any critics is this: if the Framers made free speech an individual, constitutional right because they knew quite well that no political party or majority could ever be trusted to protect it consistently.

  11. luysii says

    You might be amused by the recent output of the “Office of Diversity and Inclusion” of Amherst College. The College President quickly shot it down once attention was drawn to it. Here is an article from the local paper about it. I found it exceptional that the author of the output didn’t think it was exceptional.

    I don’t like it that the people objecting to it, used the whiny language of the snowflakes.

    Here is the article

    Staff Writer
    Published: 3/29/2019 12:26:25 PM
    AMHERST — In 2001, the late author and Amherst College alum David Foster Wallace wrote about the political battles that take place in an unlikely place: dictionaries.

    “Did you know that probing the seamy underbelly of U.S. lexicography reveals ideological strife and controversy and intrigue and nastiness and fervor on a nearly hanging-chad scale?” he wrote in his Harper’s Magazine essay “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage.”

    Last week, Foster Wallace’s alma mater stepped right into that controversy when the Office of Diversity and Inclusion released, and soon after retracted, a “Common Language Guide” featuring definitions of “key diversity and inclusion terms” that disturbed some on campus.

    The document, which can still be found online (a college employee confirmed that it is the same version), emerged from a need to “come to a common and shared understanding of language in order to foster opportunities for community building and effective communication within and across difference,” according to its creators. But others took issue with the glossary of terms spanning a wide range of topics, including race, gender, sexual identity, class, global power and inequality.

    Capitalism, for instance, is defined in the guide as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. This system leads to exploitative labor practices, which affect marginalized groups disproportionately.” Another term is “white savior complex,” defined as “an attitude or posture of condescending benevolence based on the idea that white people inherently should, are in a position to and are qualified to ‘save’ people of color.” And fragile masculinity is “a state of requiring affirmation of one’s masculinity and manhood in order to feel power and dominance … For example, men being hesitant to cry is an example of fragile masculinity.”

    The Office of Diversity and Inclusion characterized the guide as a living document full of language that is “always changing, evolving and expanding.” But the fact that it was sent as a PDF featuring the Amherst College logo gave many the impression that it represented the college’s official stance on the included words, many of which have definitions that are contested.

    Norm Jones, Amherst’s chief diversity officer, wrote in a note to the campus that his office created the 40-page document because some on campus had asked for definitions of words related to identity, diversity and inclusion. The goal, he said, was to foster greater awareness of the ways in which people understand their own identities.

    Immediately following its release, the guide spread across conservative news media outlets after the Amherst College Republicans delivered it to the website The Daily Wire. College leadership quickly responded, with President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin issuing a statement saying that she “was not aware that the document was being produced” and “did not approve its circulation.”

    “When the approach assumes campus-wide agreement about the meaning of terms and about social, economic, and political matters, it runs counter to the core academic values of freedom of thought and expression,” Martin wrote. “It cuts against our efforts to foster open exchange and independent thinking.”

    Jones said he believes it was a mistake to send the document from his office to the entire community “because of the implication that the guide is meant to dictate speech and expression or ideology on campus.”

    “It does not represent an official position of the College or an expectation that everyone on campus should use any particular language or share a point of view,” he wrote.

    Students and faculty react
    The controversy elicited strong reactions across campus. Some defended the Common Language Guide as a good-faith effort to spark conversation and mutual understanding about difficult topics, while many derided the effort as misguided.

    At the center of the controversy were the Amherst College Republicans, who were quoted in much of the press coverage of the episode. “It wasn’t the college’s place to tell us what these things meant,” Brantley Mayers, a member of the Amherst College Republicans, told the Boston Herald. “They were establishing the parameters of speech.”

    Plenty of faculty members took issue with the document, too.

    “I think that if the document had sort of laid out the context, so to speak, on the sides of how these terms are contested and who contests them, it would have been much more helpful,” philosophy professor Nishi Shah said. “Even if I agree with everything in the document … I would still have a problem with the document because it’s taking sides on contested issues.”

    “These guidelines pretend to freeze, in definitional ways, concepts that are so complex and so fluid and so rich that they made a mockery of such matters, and make conversations about them more difficult,” history professor Francis Couvares said. “I think what’s going to promote some useful conversation is the rejection of these guidelines and the opening up of the conversation that we should have been having.”

    Couvares added that he is aware of some faculty who have expressed support of the language guide.

    In an interview with the Gazette, Rob Barasch, the Amherst College Republicans club president, said members were “fairly hurt” and “kind of offended” by the document, which he said was not inclusive of those on the ideological right. He said Republicans on campus have felt “marginalized” for a while, adding that his members don’t have any conservative faculty or “resource center” that they can rely on.

    “With this history, it wasn’t like this was a one-time thing and my club was like, ‘What’s this?’” Barasch said.

    But some have taken issue with that stance — particularly after the college’s student newspaper, The Amherst Student, published part of a group chat between members of the Amherst College Republicans. In the messages on the app GroupMe, some mocked gender-noncomforming people, as well as a group of students who met to discuss the document in Robert Frost Library.

    When asked about the group chat, Barasch said his club did not intend to make people feel uncomfortable.

    “I’m sorry if anybody felt offended by that,” he said. “In terms of people posting that, that’s not an official stance of the Amherst College Republicans at all.”

    Huey Hewitt, a black transgender student at the college, described the College Republicans — in this case and in other previous controversies on campus — as “playing the victim” with talk of free speech.

    “It’s a weaponization of rhetoric that most people are otherwise receptive to, to make the debate seem to be about people being able to freely express themselves in good faith, rather than people wanting to be able to hold onto the power that they’ve held for hundreds of years,” Hewitt said.

    Hewitt added that conservatives are “upset” that students of color and queer students have increasing power and resource centers on campus. For that reason, he said, they are closely watching the Office of Inclusion and Diversity for anything that can be misconstrued “so as to coerce the college to decrease the power that offices like that have at the school.”

    Michaela Brangan, a visiting professor of law, said it was problematic that faculty had no part to play in the crafting of the document. She described the guide as a good-faith effort, but one that resulted in a finished product that was “Orwellian.”

    But Brangan also said that the coverage of the episode in the conservative press is part of a larger effort to wield the “ideology of free speech against unsuspecting and vulnerable people.”

    “I believe that some of these people would like to see the liberal arts model fail,” Brangan said. “We should be helping each other and protecting each other instead.”

  12. Peter from Oz says

    Let’s be honest, the threat to free speech comes from the left. When the right does engage in any attempt to stifle speech I think it is probaby done because they see the left doing it so often and they want to give the lefties some of their own medicine.
    But it is interesting that in the case forming the basis of this article the speech was far more offensive, egregious and disgusting than any speech that the left typically wants to ban. The professor in question was talking about violence, not merely questioning someone’s rights or privileges which is typically the reason for the deplatforming undertaken by the left.

    • Jay Salhi says

      I agree on all counts. But the College Republicans went too far in calling for Clover to be fired. Drawing attention to his statement and expressing outrage should have sufficed.

      • DNY says

        I think part of the College Republicans’ stance here was a deliberate parody of leftist demands that faculty be fired for transgressing some newly created bound on acceptable behavior. They may well have known they were going too far, and doing so was part of the point.

  13. Jack B. Nimble says

    @Peter from Oz

    ‘Let’s be honest, the threat to free speech comes from the left……’

    Here are examples that disprove your claim:

    Politicians blocking people on Twitter: both sides do it
    Politicians policing campus speech for signs of anti-Semitism: both sides do it
    Politicians penalizing pro-BDS speech: both sides do it
    Politicians preventing doctors from asking patients about guns in the home: the GOP did it
    Politicians de-funding college programs that are pro-labor or pro-environment: the GOP did it

    ……and so on.

  14. S. Cheung says

    You would think, or perhaps hoped, on the thread of an OP dedicated to the primacy of freedom of speech, this might be a place to discuss what, if any, appropriate limits might be; or where “hate” speech begins; or what metric could objectively determine an ‘incitement of imminent violence” as opposed to some other kind.

    Instead, it’s more “bathrooms” and look-what-the-lefties did. It is predictable, I’ll give you that.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      We’re only here for the predictability. The pleasure comes from reading the headline and guessing the content of the article. Although you’re right – It’s becoming a little too easy.
      Gillette. A platform free of thought.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Nonsense. Hate speech is not a crime. Incitement to imminent violence is the only valid limit on free speech. This is implicit in the author’s argument. Incitement is very rare if not non-existent on college campuses. The author gave one example where an allegation arose and explained why the allegation was false.

      Efforts to define hate speech are a waste of time. None of us is qualified to be Speech Czar and the speech of groups that proudly and openly practice hate like the KKK is still legally protected. As used in the college campus context today, hate speech = any speech a particular person or group doesn’t like.

      • Ashley says

        I agree entirely. I don’t know if you listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast but I’m about 2 hours into the 3 1/2 hr podcast he had with Tim Pool, Vijaya and Jack. So far, it’s been basically nothing but a circular conversation about what speech should be policed, how, when and why. Apparently everything is “context dependant” unless or until it’s not, then it’s a “mistake”. It’s absolutely hopeless and I am baffled as to how this isn’t blatantly apparent to anyone that thinks about this for more than 10 min and especially after listening to this conversation. I have no reason to suspect that any of them will come to any kind of consensus by the end of the podcast.

  15. Will says

    Rather disappointing the way some people bend over backwards to try to interpret Clover’s words as anything other than an endorsement of (actual, lethal) violence. Some real mental gymnastics, that.

    When the anecdote isn’t consistent with the narrative, you shouldn’t keep imposing the narrative.

    • Jay Salhi says

      “Rather disappointing the way some people bend over backwards to try to interpret Clover’s words as anything other than an endorsement of (actual, lethal) violence. Some real mental gymnastics, that.”

      Clover is an idiot who said something outrageous. He did not commit a crime. Prosecuting or firing him would undermine freedom of speech. The author has it 100% correct.

  16. Stephanie says

    I find it telling that the example of censorship from the left is Milo, the guy who jokes about his love of black d*ck and feminism being cancer, while the example of cencorship from the right is a professor who repeatedly calls for the murder of police officers. That the left loses its mind over harmless jokes and the right objects to calling for the murder of police seems to adequately sum up America as a nation right now.

    I don’t see how this professor’s statements don’t rise to the level of incitement. The efficacity of the incitement hardly seems to be a reasonable standard. The intention is clear and the advocacy of violence on individuals is indisputable. How would encouraging the murder of Jews or Muslims have been handled by the administration?

    We get to a dangerous place when the desperate need of centrists to impose false equivalency onto every situation means that true incitement of violence is excused.

    • Jay Salhi says

      “I don’t see how this professor’s statements don’t rise to the level of incitement.”

      Because restrictions on freedom of speech must be drawn as narrowly as possible. Just look at the various countries in Europe where people get put on trial for thought crimes or the ridiculous censorship of the “human rights” tribunals in Canada.

      If Clover had pointed to a groups of cops and told a crowd “kill those cops”, that’s incitement.

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  20. DBruce says

    The Free Speech debate is phony – we have more of it than ever – by far. The old venues of free speech are in crisis but they are just the crust atop the pie.

  21. MirrorLookSee says

    “Many people who genuinely believe that they support freedom of speech exhibit a double standard: One person’s “hate speech” is another person’s belief, opinion or even (as they see it) fact.”

    I literally cannot…even. Quillette publishes this without the slightest hint of irony, that they have never, not once, called out the vicious attacks on freedom of speech by the anti-BDS legislation, supported by at least three of the Democratic candidates for US President in 2020, not to mention rampant university censorship enacted to benefit a foreign country’s illegal land theft and war crimes.

    All I need to do when I casually glance at such venal, one-sided and hypocritical articles such as these, about university censorship, is to search for Israel and/or AIPAC and note the glaring lack of mention of this attack on freedom of thought and speech which is obviously supported wholly by the editorial policy of Quillette, and thus its editors. A quick glance at Jonathan Kay’s support of anti-BDS legislation (and conspicuous absence of articles berating it here), betrays this site’s own glaring double standard.

    This site doesn’t support Free Speech at all, in a general sense, since it supports silencing boycotting Apartheid regimes. This site is 100% guilty of overt, one-sided pro-Israel propaganda, by not naming the US’ greatest threat to free speech, supported by virtually all GOP politicians and most (lobbyist bought) Democratic ones, too. Yes, I came here just to post this, because as an actual supporter of free speech, I think one only supports free speech if one supports speech they despise. There’s plenty of closed-mindedness at western universities by the students, but far more onerous are the restrictions on free speech by the faculty, which has been bought off by foreign interests and well-heeled donors who care not one whit about freedom of speech that actually benefits the victims of decades of systematic racism and oppression. Namely, the Palestinians. For shame.

    J’accuse, Quillette! Your hypocrisy is on display here, daily. You don’t support free speech at all, since you are completely silent about anti-BDS legislation which the editors obviously support (it’s easy to verify, just check the twitter feed of IDW zionists like Jonathan Kay, Ben Shapiro, etc, it’s full of open support for suppressing the right to boycott countries practicing segregation by race and religion).

  22. Jay Salhi says

    FIRE is doing the work defending free speech the ACLU used to do before it lost its way. Thank you FIRE!

  23. skeptic says

    “countries practicing segregation by race and religion”
    @ MirrorLookSee – can you justify with evidence this allegation? I’ve seen this accusation made in other forums but I’ve seen it vociferously denied by people who have lived in Israel. How are Arabs or other Muslims forced to live in “segregation” within the State of Israel?

  24. Jett Rucker says

    The only people I hate are those who would do me harm (to hurt me). Among these, those who would do me harm for something I said receive my very special hatred.

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