How much longer will free speech remain a cherished American principle? Freedom of expression has long been considered an integral part of the nation’s foundation and is the reason why the United States is the freest country in the world when it comes to protecting speech. However, this particular freedom has been increasingly threatened, to the point that one might wonder if we are headed toward a society similar to that of the United Kingdom, where one can be arrested for making offensive statements on social media.
There are several ways the hard left attempts to stifle viewpoints that do not jibe with their “theology.” Social media censorship, cancel culture, and other methods are employed to combat the spread of non-progressive ideas. But these are short-term measures. The hard left and its wokeist zealots seem to be implementing a long-term strategy to further tamp down opponents’ speech, and the nation’s institutions of higher learning are the vehicle through which they seek to gain progressive supremacy over political discourse.
Make Them Censor Themselves
The First Amendment makes it exceedingly difficult for opponents of free speech to use the state to silence speech. Even though many on the hard left have proposed imposing hate speech laws or altering the Constitution, they have not had much luck for the time being. However, by creating a repressive environment in universities, they are molding America’s youth into individuals who keep their views to themselves.
In September, RealClearEducation released its 2021 College Free Speech Rankings report, analyzing various universities to determine how well they promote free expression on campus. The report noted that “more than 80% of American college students in our latest survey say that they self-censor in the classroom, on campus, and online.”
Interestingly enough, the study, which surveyed upward of 37,000 students at more than 150 colleges and universities, found that public schools tended to be better for free speech than private institutions. The authors wrote:
“It’s worth noting that 17 of the top 25 are public colleges or universities. On the flip side, 20 of the bottom 25 are private institutions. So, if you’re looking for a better environment for free speech, your local State U might be the best place to start your search.”
The study also revealed that classes held online during the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have made the situation worse. About 42% of students said it was “more difficult to exchange ideas online than in person. Moreover, only 40% said they were comfortable disagreeing with a professor, which is five points lower than in 2020.”
The report explains that students might be more likely to self-censor when they disagree with a professor because online classes are recorded, meaning that their words would be preserved forever. It’s a valid fear, given the cancel culture the hard left is weaponizing to a disturbing degree.
Another issue is the fact that many universities have created “bias response teams,” an academic Gestapo of sorts, whose role is to encourage students to file complaints about bias they witness in professors or other students. Essentially, these people listen for supposedly offensive statements and then report them to the administration.
Who Is Self-Censoring the Most?
In 2020, three professors at the University of North Carolina conducted a survey of students to better understand the environment on campus. The study found that “many students … worry that if they express their sincere political views openly, instructors and/or peers will think less of them, or do something to embarrass them.”
Others worried their opinions could negatively affect their grades. The report found that 58.1% of conservative-leaning students “kept an opinion related to class to themselves” at least two to five times. Conversely, only 14.2% of left-leaning students did the same. Among those identifying as moderates, 28.3% had self-censored at least two to five times. The report also noted:
“Stark liberal/conservative divides emerge from the data reported in Table 8 – Table 10. For instance, 12.5% of self-identified liberal students worried that expressing sincere views would cause an instructor to have a lower opinion of them, but 49.6% of self-identified conservative students felt this way. And while 26.2% of self-identified liberals worried about losing the esteem of their peers, 75.2% of self-identified conservatives had the same concern. Most alarmingly, the proportion of self-identified conservatives who censored themselves at least once (67.9%) is almost three times as large as the proportion of self-identified liberals who did the same (24.1%).”
Part of the Plan?
For conservatives, these findings are not surprising. The hard left has a firm grip on America’s learning institutions. It appears that by cultivating an environment in which right-leaning students are afraid to express their views, they are essentially getting these individuals to refrain from exercising their First Amendment rights. By using social pressure rather than enacting laws, they hope to squash views not in alignment with their wokeist theology.
The self-censorship trends being displayed on college campuses is an alarming development for those who favor freedom of expression. If opponents of free speech succeed, it will have a chilling effect on speech in the next generation. By training these students to keep their opinions to themselves for fear of reprisal, only hard leftist ideology will be allowed to dominate in the culture, and lively debate will become a thing of the past.
~ Read more from Jeff Charles.