Friday, August 18, 2017
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

Standing Up Against Hate – or Against Free Speech?

March 19, 2017 --

A letter to The Boston Globe, printed March 7, began: “We are parents of a Middlebury College student and are disturbed by Charles Murray’s recent visit to Middlebury and the Globe’s coverage of the event….”

The parents were apparently annoyed that the paper made Murray seem “a victim of extremists rather that highlighting up front his assertions, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called ‘white nationalist.’” These parents wrote that they were “angry” that Murray had been invited to Middlebury and “are proud of the hundreds of students who…peacefully stood up against hate.” The parents added, “We also condemn the reported violence, which involved a small number of people.” How “small a number of people, the parents did not report in the letter.

The parents continued: “In considering freedom of speech on college campuses, it is critical to differential between conservatism and hate speech.” LPR concludes that for these Middlebury parents, free speech, at college campuses, extends only to those determined by the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, to be nicely thoughtful.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni discussed the Middlebury situation in his March 12 column, asserting that it was “commendable” that the students turned “their backs” on Murray, but the ensuring physical “confrontation” involving “only a small fraction of Middlebury students,”…. Was? Bruni seemed to have difficulty with the confrontation, but seemed to have even more difficulty finding just the appropriate word to denounce it. He did explain that he would not go as far as Yale Professor Stephen Carter who, Bruni noted, wrote, in Bloomberg View, “’that the true harbinger of an authoritarian future lives not in the White House but in the groves of academe.”

Indeed. How could Bruni go that far, being a columnist for a newspaper that apparently views hateful, and therefore worthy of repression, the speech of defenders of President Trump.

The New York Times, in a March 7 editorial, strained to criticize the silencing of Charles Murray at Middlebury. At Middlebury, the Times editorial stated: “Thought and persuasion, questions and answers, were eclipsed by intimidation.” The editorial, in the following paragraph continued, “True ideas need testing by false ones, lest they become mere prejudices and thoughtless slogans.”

But in the op-ed section of The New York Times, described at its establishment, LPR recalls, as a marketplace of ideas, there is no room for ideas not hostile to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. The editorial was titled: “Smothering Speech at Middlebury.” At The New York Times, the smothering of free speech is, of course, a daily occurrence.