This week I had the pleasure of speaking to Cornell students about the importance of free speech. Typically, when I speak at colleges, I choose the topic I want to cover. This time, my student hosts asked me specifically if I could talk about the First Amendment. It was only when I arrived on campus that they explained why.
In light of recent cases of assault and harassment that reportedly involved the slinging of racial slurs, the administration is considering enacting a “speech code” to “ban hate speech.” Despite pressure, the university president, Martha Pollack, actually isn’t enthused by the idea. In a meeting with graduate students last fall, Pollack said that she rejected “the idea that we could just have a speech code — that we can ban all the hate speech by next week.”
She’s right, of course. Not only would a ban on hate speech be nearly impossible to enforce because of its inevitably subjective standard, it also would do nothing to actually stop hate, which is the real culprit in these acts of allegedly racial assault and harassment. The only thing a speech code can accomplish is creating a culture of fear and intolerance – the very thing, I think, Cornell students say they’re fighting against.
Cornell is proof that everything you hear on the news about campus craziness is real: safe spaces, counseling and group support for students who have only heard about cases of assault or harassment, sanctuary for illegal immigrants, multifaceted gender studies majors and a reportedly deep and abiding hatred for conservatism and Trump.
One student to whom I spoke said that she wore a red hat the day after the election – not even a Trump hat – and another student told her that wearing the hat “wasn’t a good idea.” Students reported receiving an email after the election from professors saying they needn’t attend class unless they wanted to because it was a “sad day.” A student told me her RA informed her that she was not allowed to say “illegal immigrant,” but instead must use the term “undocumented migrant.” Another student complained that “every class” – even the technology course he is currently taking – seems to be about gender or racism. He said he worries for the other students who, unlike him, weren’t raised with a conservative worldview and take this indoctrination to heart without thinking for themselves. Many students expressed concern that their academic experience at Cornell – one they worked hard to have—is being diminished by administrators’ and professors’ insistence on politicizing every subject.
What was even sadder than these horror stories were the multiple students who relayed actual fear of their peers and professors if (almost every student I spoke to reported hiding their political views) they ever confessed their conservatism, or even a skepticism of far-left ideals.
One student who approached me after the speech told me that he only very recently moved right of center on the ideological spectrum after being raised in a liberal home. He said his progressivism began to die when he decided in high school to left the Muslim faith. He then took a constitutional law class at Cornell, and it was then that he truly started understanding the logic and truth behind conservatism.
We were having a great conversation, but he was distracted and clearly anxious. I really didn’t think anything of it, until he said, “Sorry. I’m really nervous that one of my friends is going to see me here. I’ve never been to a conservative event before, and I don’t know what they would think.”
Another student, who was a part of the organization that hosted me, said that most of her friends have no idea what her political beliefs are. She told me how extremely rare it is for anyone to express an opinion outside of extreme progressivism.
Like I said, everything you hear about colleges being indoctrination stations rather than centers for higher learning is, in many cases, absolutely true.
I only knew a few of these things before I spoke to the group. My speech focused on the Orwellian mind control that’s truly at play in speech censorship, not just on campus, but in and through Silicon Valley and the entertainment industry – our dominant purveyors of information, and, consequently, our main arbiters of truth. The deprioritizing, banning and silencing of conservative speech on campus, in technology, in Hollywood and in the media reflect not just an effort to hamper conservative speech, but to control people’s minds by manipulating the narrative to match the progressive agenda.
But my 1984 comparison seemed to have made much less of an impact than one, off-hand comment I made during my talk, and that was: “There’s no such thing as hate speech.” In fact, it headlined the school’s newspaper, The Cornell Sun:
Knowing what I know now about conservative students’ plight at Cornell, I see why this struck such a chord with them. The idea that perceived oppression and hurt feelings are not paramount is foreign to people who have been conditioned and manipulated by peers and higher-ups into believing the opposite.
Their testimonies prove the point of my speech: that control of words is really nothing more than a tool to control the mind. All of the frustration progressives have toward conservatives is based on an anger about what we believe and who we are, not just what we say or do. That’s why anyone who voted for Trump isn’t just wrong, they’re racist.
Our campuses – the places that should be most encouraging of productive dialogue and debate – are becoming a hotbed of censorship, bias and Thought Police, teaching kids that feeling is more important than thinking, and being progressive is more important than being right. They choose indoctrination over teaching, bullying over discussion and intolerance over objectivity. Seeing as most of these college students are millennials, and millennials are the biggest generation that America has ever seen, our country will suffer for it.