Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from (disliked) speech. One contradicts the other.

Not that legal strictures against “offensive” speech would be consistently enforced even if the First Amendment were formally rescinded. In practice, whoever had the most political pull would be issuing the shut-up edicts. Although victims might well be offended by the uttering of those edicts, censors would be undeterred by the contradiction.

These thoughts are occasioned by Greg Lukianoff’s new book Freedom from Speech, and the review of same by Allen Mendenhall at Liberty. Lukianoff heads the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which fights the good fight for civil rights on campus. His book, says Mendenhall, is “a vigorous and cogent refutation of the increasingly popular notion that people have a right not to be offended.”

Lukianoff agrees that hypersensitivity to controversial speech in private institutions, too often punished by private sanctions that are arbitrary and unjust, does not per se violate anyone’s First Amendment rights. It nonetheless undermines the cultural tolerance needed for open discussion. “Only through the rigorous filtering mechanisms of longstanding deliberation and civil confrontation can good ideas be sorted from the bad. Only by maintaining disagreement at a rhetorical and discursive level can we facilitate tolerance and understanding and prevent the imposition of ideas by brute force.”

That is to say, cultural values and political values are not two isolated realms. One influences the other.

Who can disagree? I wouldn’t dare.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. JFB says:

    Absolutely, freedom of speech is protected from governmental control, but exoneration from the individual and private institutions reactions to that speech is impossible. That is how policy is debated, foolishness and shortsightedness are avoided and, hopefully, a reasoned and practical resolution of differences reached.
    That some private organizations limit speech, or even punish it is not constitutionally protected and must be expected. A speaker cannot insist on being welcomed and supported in a church forum to argue atheism, and indeed may be expelled from membership in the group for doing so.
    On the other hand, it is sad and discouraging to see restrictions on speech in publicly sponsored and private “educational” institutions for by doing so they reduce themselves to being indoctrination centers while claiming to be universities. This is either because they have lost sight of the fact that in debate as there is no more effective an argument than using one side or the other’s own arguments and premises to refute their point, or because the actually realize their positions taken are not defensible.
    The concept that you are free to speak but there can be no ramifications in the opinion of, or the responses from, others is missing the other necessary half of the protected (from government interference only) activity.

  2. Drik says:

    I would defend to the death your right to say things that I totally agree with.

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