Is Twitter Really Censoring Free Speech?

Conservative commentator Guy Benson faced backlash ahead of his speech at Brown University this week, puzzling observers who wondered how someone as reasonable as Benson could possibly be deemed a threat worthy of censorship.

The backlash ultimately fizzled, amounting to just a small walkout protest that Benson didn't even notice during his remarks.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board lauded Brown for facilitating a successful speech, crediting both the content and enforcement of the university's free speech policy. In their editorial, the Journal writers marveled at the incoherence of Benson's detractors:

Brown doesn’t lack radical students, whose statement claimed an “inextricable connection between Benson’s ideologies — fiscal conservatism and free market ideology — and real, tangible, state violence against marginalized communities.” Mr. Benson’s speech would inhibit the ability of the marginalized to “speak back against systems of oppression for their own self-preservation,” they wrote. In other words, the university should censor Mr. Benson to protect free speech. Somewhere George Orwell is smiling.

If you accept the premise that conservative speech is violence, those who exercise conservative speech are threatening the rights of its victims and impeding their ability to fight back. Figuratively, it's like a person cutting out the tongue of his enemy. But of course, that logic begins with the absurd notion that speech promoting free markets and traditional values amounts to violence, which is laughable and infantilizing of the supposed victims.

That Brown's coterie of would-be censors framed their efforts directly as a campaign to protect the free speech of minorities adds an amusing new wrinkle to the conversation.

Over at Reason, Robby Soave helpfully outlined the "two camps" academia's censors typically fall into: "an 'obfuscation' camp that claims to support free speech but treats all speech unfriendly to the activists' goals as not actually free speech but hate speech, which they consider a form of violence; and another camp that simply rejects the idea that the oppressors — defined as anyone opposed to the activists — deserve free speech rights."

The philosophy of the second camp is often an extension of that of the first, using the idea that speech is violence to justify curtailing certain people's access to it.

For a long time, universities have enabled and appeased these whiny students, not just in the classroom, but through their administrative decisions, such as canceling speakers or even canceling class when the protests get too out of hand. That's how campuses have devolved into chaos.

I get the sense the tide is turning, and to thank for that, we have the students who push through the immense pressure of their professors, peers, and administrators to exercise their rights.

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Is Twitter Really Censoring Free Speech?


Is Twitter Really Censoring Free Speech?