[Ez: excerpts] America's college campuses, once thought to be bastions of free speech, have become increasingly intolerant toward the practice. ...
While academia has its own crimes to atone for, it's the students who have become the bullies as of late. A disturbing number seem to feel that theirs is an inviolate world to which no one of differing opinion need apply. As a result, everything from pie throwing to disrupting speeches to attacks on speakers has become commonplace. ...
The fact that the rioting students could be heard yelling, "He has no right to speak!" was telling. Apparently, in their minds, neither Gilchrist nor anyone else with whom they disagree has a right to express their viewpoints. In any other setting this would be called exactly what it is -- totalitarianism. But in the untouchable Ivy League world of Columbia, it was chalked up to student activism gone awry. While condemning the incident, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has yet to apologize to Gilchrist or to conclude the supposed investigation into the affair. In other words, mob rule won the day.
One of the lines that always bothered me was, "Well, we have freedom of speech in this country, so I can say whatever the heck I want!" First of all, that's not true whatsoever. You can get jailed for yelling 'Fire' in a crowded area, saying 'Bomb' on a flight, or for certain hate statements. You can't say 'whatever you want'. Second, there's the issue of should you say whatever you want. Common sense and life experience should tell many people that the answer to this is an overwhelming NO. Third, a person has to think about whether it is fair for them to be speaking, knowing that their speaking affects the ability of everyone around them to do so - after all, while humans have progressed immensely, we still can only truly listen to one person at a time. That's where the idea of "taking turns speaking" came from.
Unfortunately, to many, this last point is completely ignored. Even if they acknowledge it to be true, they feel that because they are "right" and the other person "wrong" or "evil" or who knows what, they have 'more of a right' to say their piece as opposed to the person they are talking over. Before you shake your head and think 'Yeah, what a jerk!', realize that you've probably done the same thing at some point in your life: You were in an argument, the other person was saying their piece, and you raised your voice a drop higher and proceeded to drown them out with your point.
Of course, the difference is, you probably stopped doing this on a regular basis after high school. And on the occasion where you do it as an adult, you probably realize that it's wrong. These people have not. (And now you can shake your head in disgust.) Their hypocrisy is astounding: They often claim to be battling for the rights of one "opressed" group or another, yet practice opression to do so. It's mind-boggling. It is essentially a low-grade form of speech terrorism - designed to disrupt and disturb the lives of anyone around it, hurting the victim of their tirades more than anyone else. It keeps the victims from spreading their ideas, and keeps anyone who wants to hear them from hearing their ideas. It restricts all dialogue. It is, quite simply, wrong.
Ironically, the only way to stop 'people behaving badly' is to police their actions and take away them. I have said in the past that in the case of terrorists, they should - to some extent (much like other criminals) - lose certain rights accorded to the rest of us by virtue of their actions. We don't let criminals or terrorists walk the streets where they can commit the same crimes again. In the case of disruptive protesters, the only way to stop them may be to restrict them from coming to these events, by banning them from events, and by removing any and all violators. This now restricts their speech, and they will complain exactly that. And the answer should be simple: Learn how to act like a grown-up, and you can come back. Until you do, you can stay in time-out.