Letter to the Editor: Freedom for the thought we hate? Not at UConn


Dear Editor,

Everyone except, apparently, the administration of the University of Connecticut could see coming what happened in a lecture hall there last week. The script is a cliché and UConn let itself be stereotyped by it.

First the college Republicans plotted a provocation, inviting a hyperbolic young “conservative” agitator to speak to them on campus. He obligingly selected a topic calculated to prompt indignation from the university’s Stalinist left — “It’s OK to Be White” — recognizing that the Stalinists would protest and try to obstruct his presentation, thereby giving him his 15 minutes of fame.

Having at least noticed similar confrontations and disruptions at other institutions of “higher education,” UConn stationed police officers in the lecture hall. But the university failed to caution people planning to attend that disruptions would not be permitted.

The Stalinists dutifully packed the hall and discovered that disruptions were permitted. As soon as the speaker began his remarks, the Stalinists chanted and shouted to prevent him from being heard. If he advocated any oppression, journalistic reports did not note it. For amid the disruption he could hardly get started. He had provoked the fascist reaction he was meant to provoke — and then it got better.

One of the Stalinists — not a student but a state employee from Quinebaug Valley Community College — walked up to the podium, swiped some of the speaker’s papers, and walked away, prompting the speaker to chase after her and grab her around the neck to recover his papers. 
The police who couldn’t be bothered to remove the disrupters or protect the podium broke up the tussle and arrested the speaker but not the woman who swiped his papers. Having achieved martyrdom, the speaker was thrilled.

Whereupon university President Susan Herbst, Connecticut state government’s million-dollar woman, issued a hand-wringing statement lamenting the affair without actually taking sides against the Stalinists, who, after all, seem to constitute a majority of the university’s faculty and students, as they do at most universities lately.

Maybe the incident will raise two issues in court: whether it is legal to try to prevent someone from stealing your stuff, and whether it is legal to steal someone’s stuff when he is preaching “hate” and thereby causing you “pain,” the rationale claimed by the Stalinists.

Who is to decide when speech becomes “hate” and causes impermissible pain? Of course, that is to be decided by the people who don’t like what is being said. They claim the power to trump the First Amendment, which almost a century ago Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. understood to protect “the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.”

A century ago free thought and speech were principles of the political left, especially in academia, but not anymore, now that the political left has gained control of it. 
Connecticut hardly needs its flagship university to coddle the fascism of political correctness.

If the university cannot defend free thought and speech and instead will stand by helplessly as the political extremes spoil for violence, Connecticut can save a lot of money by forgoing public “higher education” entirely and instead trying to teach manners and the First Amendment in the primary schools. 

That’s where people already are supposed to learn to ignore those who make faces at you, thus declining to give nobodies the attention they crave.

Chris Powell

Managing Editor, Journal Inquirer

Manchester, Connecticut

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