Posted on November 8, 2019

No Free Speech for “Overtly Racist Old White Dudes”

Jonathan Turley,, November 6, 2019


Now, protesters have blocked students and faculty from hearing remarks (and have a dialogue with) former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The incident at Northwestern follows a growing list of such conservative speakers barred from being heard by protesters.

To the delight of protesters, Sessions was escorted off campus in a triumph of silencing the free speech of others. Sessions remarked “I’m just gonna tell you: This is stupid. This is not right.” He is right.

The event was sponsored by the College Republicans and Sessions’ speech was titled “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda.” Protesters however refused to allow others to hear such views.

Student Zachery Novicoff embodied the rising intolerance to free speech on campus. He is quoted as saying “There’s a limitation to free speech. That ends at overtly racist old white dudes.”


{snip} The movement threatens both academic freedom and free speech — a threat that is growing due to the failure of administrators and faculty to remain true to core academic principles. Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray, the author of a book entitled “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” is one of the chief enablers of these protesters. Bray speaks positively of the effort to supplant traditional views of free speech: “At the heart of the anti-fascist outlook is a rejection of the classical liberal phrase that says I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He defines anti-fascists as “illiberal” who reject the notion that far right views deserve to “coexist” with opposing views.

{snip} Censoring speech has become a badge of honor for some. It has not stopped at simply stopping speeches and classes. We have been discussing the rising intolerance and violence on college campuses, particularly against conservative speakers. (here and here and here and here). Berkeley has been the focus of much concern over mob rule on our campuses as violent protesters have succeeded in silencing speakers, even including a few speakers like an ACLU official. Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech. At another University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display. In the meantime, academics and deans have said that there is no free speech protection for offensive or “disingenuous” speech. CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek showed how far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech,” Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech.

This anti-free speech trend constitutes an existential threat to the educational mission of high education. Too many of us on faculties are silent in the face of this intolerance.