“The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes on college campuses, writes David Brooks in the New York Times.
The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.
. . . The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality. The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the N.R.A. Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.
Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.
We don’t have respect vulgar, offensive speech, Brooks writes. But we have to protect it.
BTW, the magazine once ran a sodomy cover featuring God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost that . . . Talk about offensive. But nobody used it as an excuse to try to murder the cartoonists.
Voltaire said it first: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (Actually, Beatrice Evelyn Hall wrote the line to characterize Voltaire’s thinking in a 1906 biography, The Friends of Voltaire, according to a blogger.)
Everyone who wants to “be Charlie” should oppose the fad for casting annoyances as “microaggressions.” The word is a way to shut people up instead of engaging them in argument. There is no right to be free from offense — on campus or elsewhere.