Today’s Freddie award for generalizations about liberals opposing “free speech” comes from Ruth Wisse. Admittedly, it’s not pure Freddie in that she actually offers some specific examples. Let’s examine them:
Assaults on intellectual and political freedom have been making headlines. Pressure from faculty egged on by Muslim groups induced Brandeis University last month not to grant Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the proponent of women’s rights under Islam, an intended honorary degree at its convocation.
This is, for reasons already discussed, silly. She was not denied an invitation to speak, and even the most capacious definition of free speech cannot entail a right to receive ornamental degrees. (This also takes care of the Jeanne Kirkpatrick example.) Also not-so-curiously absent from Wisse’s bland description is the Hirsi Ali’s position that if state restrictions on the rights of Muslims to free assembly and speech violate the Constitution, so much worse for the Constitution. I would suggest that this is not the example you want to use for how liberals hate free speech.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly prevented from speaking at Brown University in November
I think there is a point here. If someone has the floor, they should generally be permitted to speak. So 1 minor example.
a lecture by Charles Murray canceled by Azusa Pacific University in April; Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and national-security adviser under the George W. Bush administration, harassed earlier this month into declining the invitation by Rutgers University to address this year’s convocation.
I think it’s entirely reasonable for people on a campus community to question who will take the role of commecement speaker or who gets a (generally paid) lecture slot on campus. I don’t see where the free speech violation is.
I do have a clear example, however, of someone who opposes free speech. Ruth Wisse:
Most painful to me was the Harvard scene several years ago when the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, celebrating its 50th anniversary, accepted a donation in honor of its former head tutor Martin Peretz, whose contributions to the university include the chair in Yiddish I have been privileged to hold. His enemies on campus generated a “party against Marty” that forced him to walk a gauntlet of jeering students for having allegedly offended Islam, while putting others on notice that they had best not be perceived guilty of association with him.
So Marty Peretz has a right to express his bigoted views, but people are not allowed to express disagreement with these views because it might make Peretz or his friends uncomfortable. I think the question about how seriously we should take Wisse’s arguments has been settled.