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America’s 'Free Speech Crisis' Just Took a Very Dark Turn For the Worse

October 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Jim Sleeper, Salon

From the “free speech” campaign of 2015 to cry-bully Brett Kavanaugh and the bombs of October: A brief history

During the 2015-16 academic year, when explosive packages and political street violence weren't on our minds, a lavishly funded, brilliantly orchestrated “free speech” campaign drew sensation-hungry media into dramatizing the grave danger to Americans’ freedoms of expression and inquiry posed by petulant, censorious “cry-bully” college students, their coddling campus mentors and parents, and an ideology of racial and sexual “political correctness” enveloping our society.

“Free speech” crusaders roamed the campuses, taping screaming students and ballyhooing overreach by university sexual-harassment tribunals, stereotyping and smearing thousands of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter supporters and debt-staggered students of every description who were protesting responsibly against wrongs they had plenty of good reasons to be frightened and angry about.

Even overly sensitive “snowflakes” and censorious “cry-bullies” have been fairly reliable barometers of a development – the business-corporatization of American life — that’s far more dangerous to our freedoms of expression and inquiry than some students’ and professors’ overreactions to it. That’s seldom mentioned by the “free speech” crusade. Instead we’re told that the disease of political correctness has spread throughout corporate culture and the media. That’s getting it backwards, as I argue in a just-posted Los Angeles Review of Books essay on how hollow, seemingly anodyne commercial speech seeds and provokes the hostile speech that’s swirling ever more virulently all around us.

Wrong though the politically correct are to celebrate or excuse catapulting so many men into expulsion from their careers and into Orwellian silence and virtual non-personhood before accusations meet real due process, on campus or off, some corporate directors and managers have been even more wrong to do just that. #MeToo supporters shouldn’t expect much from a power shift between the sexes that at the same time tightens corporate image control and workplace control. Breaking a company’s glass ceiling while failing to reconfigure its walls and foundations can empower a Margaret Thatcher or a Carly Fiorina, but not most women or men. Maybe that’s why conservative “free speech” crusaders who’ve condemned university tribunals so loudly …read more


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