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September 28, 2007

Stupid University Tricks: How Columbia Routinely Chills Speech It Doesn't Like

John Leo counts the ways.

Several people, myself included, suggested that if Bollinger is as interested in free speech as he keeps saying he is, then he should reschedule the Minutemen and introduce them himself, with enough security around to discourage the reappearance of last year's stormtroopers in training.

A few weeks ago, it looked as though Columbia was about to make a rare lurch in the direction of free speech. Students re-invited the two Minutemen, but after these proposed speakers bought plane tickets, Columbia's pro-censorship DNA re-asserted itself and the two men were once again disinvited. Not a peep out of Bollinger.

One of Columbia's favorite tricks is to cancel a speaker, or reduce the size of the audience, on grounds that violence might break out. Last fall most of a large crowd that gathered to hear former PLO terrorist-turned-anti-Jihadist Walid Shoebat was turned away over securities worries. Only Columbia students and 20 guests got in. The same thing happened to Dinesh D'Souza, myself and several other speakers in 1999. A large crowd, including many from other New York campuses, had tickets, but the administration (this was a pre-Bollinger year) ruled that only Columbia students could attend. This was not the deal that had been agreed on, but Columbia was adamant. Rather than speak to a tiny remnant on campus, the speakers withdrew to a park nearby. As I spoke, one student shouted "Ha-ha. We're inside. You're out here," an excellent six-word explanation of how Columbia's robust free-speech tradition actually works.

Instapudit piths:

Yes, and this hypocrisy is a problem with higher education more generally, alas. It's why people don't take claims that "we're just opening up a debate" seriously -- because, you know, they're basically lies.

I've said this before, but add another trick to their arsenal: Claims of an absolutist commitment to hearing from speakers of all sorts, no matter how repulsive, in the interest of free speech for free speech's sake. Whenever these bastards are asked to defend their decisions, they claim they made no decisions at all, because their commitment to free exchange of ideas is so perfectly absolute as to admit of no decision-making, and no boundary-drawing, and no judgment calls, whatsoever.

So they avoid the question. Ask them to defend inviting a terrorist thug like Ahmadinejad on moral or national-interest grounds and they claim such grounds are wholly irrelevant.

Of course this is all a lie and a dodge. They are not free-speech absolutists; far from it. They exercise their judgment and own sense of propriety in these matters all the time; they just don't want to admit they do, because that would then invite questions about precisely what their judgment and sense of propriety, are, precisely, and they wish to lie to the public on such matters.

A commitment to free speech would begin nicely be actually speaking the truth and admitting one's true criteria for such invitations and permissions to speak at the university. Then there could actually be robust debate -- debate! what they always claim to be in favor of! -- of those criteria.

But they don't want debate over their criteria, because they don't want any chance they might have to abandon them. So they continue making their decisions and exercising their bias in the darkness of lies.

Commitment to debate and free speech? Uh-huh. Just like Joe Stalin was. Big fan of fair debate and vigorous dissent was Uncle Joe.


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posted by Ace at 03:48 PM

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