Suppression of Speech in Academia

Robert Brustein, writing in The New Republic, sees a similarity between the speech police on modern university campuses and the Islamic radicals who are killing everyone with whom they disagree.

Burning and banning newspapers is not to be equated with beheading blasphemers or blowing up dissidents. But the same temperament that issues a fatwa on Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Verses, or threatens Danish cartoonists with death for insulting Islam, animates the American passion, on behalf of political or religious pressure groups, for suppressing offensive speech. People who believe their feelings have been hurt share the same DNA as those who believe their faith has been insulted. Both groups demand or inflict punishment considerably in excess of the original offense.

Freedom of expression is a fragile right, one that is so easily lost in the zeal to defend orthodoxy.  We must work tirelessly to safeguard it — and that means tolerating some speech that we find offensive.


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