"Maximizing the chances that First Amendment rights can be successfully exercised?"

© 2016 Jim Spence - Forty years ago I sat in a Western Civilization history class and listened to a liberal college professor. He would eventually become my father-in-law. He emphatically asserted that though he might not agree with something someone else said in America, he would fight to the death for that person’s right to say it. These were not empty words. This man spent time in Korea fighting totalitarian communists. Though the reasons for the Korean War are blurred now, the principle was simple. South Koreans live as they do today, instead of living like the poor oppressed North Koreans do today.
I also remember Neo-Nazis registering for and receiving permits to protest in Skokie, Illinois, a predominantly Jewish community. Young then and not so sure about the depth of reasons why the 1st Amendment was crucial to freedom, the explanation for why it was necessary was again provided by my pro-free speech, liberal, soon to be father-in-law. Paraphrased, he taught me that free speech is easy to allow when you agree with it. Nobody needs 1st Amendment rights to protect the kind of speeches they agree with. It is the objectionable viewpoints that require the tolerance assured by our 1st Amendment, even the views of those who are intolerant. His logic was quite sound and I got it.
Fast forward forty years. Here is the question. Did my fellow students and the succeeding generations, particularly those who went on to become college professors and administrators get it? The evidence is dismal. These days progressive Democrats govern college campuses all over the nation. The news is flooded with incidents when they routinely squelch freedom of expression.
Just this morning the Wall Street Journal reported that Ann Coulter’s speech at U.C. California at Berkeley was cancelled with this explanation:
“University officials said the school welcomes speakers of all political viewpoints, but had been taking its cues from the police department. Nicholas Dirks, the chancellor of U.C. Berkeley cited violent protests that led to the cancellation of an appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos in February and political clashes in the city in March and April as a reason for not protecting free speech. Dirks said, “The university’s commitment to free speech and security had to be balanced. We cannot wish away or pretend that these threats do not exist.”
Oh really Mr. Dirks? So let us all get this straight. If authorities encounter violent threats directed at free speech, the collective decision is to suspend the rights guaranteed to all Americans by the United States Constitution?
Dirks added this particularly twisted logic. “We must make every effort to hold events at a time and location that maximizes the chances that First Amendment rights can be successfully exercised and that community members can be protected.”
Sorry folks, it is pretty clear that higher education has morphed and become lower education. Free speech is not something that you trot out from time to time at a “location” that maximizes the chances for it being protected. Free speech is to be protected 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.
There is deep meaning in this fundamental principle. If you are unsure, check out the graveyards at Normandy. The dead bodies buried there just happen to be in a “location” where the chances for free speech had been “minimized” via the threat of violence.
Understanding what happened at Berkeley this week is pretty simple. If a well-known big government socialist proponent like Dan Rather or Brian Williams had been invited to speak there, and there were objections and threats made by those who oppose socialism, local officials could be counted on to bring in the National Guard to protect constitutional rights. And that show of force would be completely appropriate.
Sadly there is simply no commitment in California to fight for the constitutional rights of those that the one party statists disagree with. In these instances cues are taken from police who surrender to people who call in "threats." Enforcing laws according to the U.S. Constitution now is subject to what local officials want to protect.
It should come as no surprise that Berkeley would make this choice. It is a place where military recruiters have been barred from the campuses.
Consider how current events reflect on America’s intellectual demise. Kim Jung Un threatens Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. while his people live under absolute totalitarian oppression. In America higher education institutions refuse to teach students what the Korean War was about, what WWII was about, or why freedom of speech is so important. This is an atrocity.
The idea that a column must be written to point this out tells you how far over the cliff Democrats have taken America. And make no mistake.......Democrats are behind the threats to free speech and they are behind the unwillingness to embrace fundamental truths at places like Berkeley that are essential in free societies.
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