What’s probably most telling about an opinion piece in Tuesday’s Washington Post entitled, “When ‘free speech’ becomes a political weapon,” is that a quick Google search pulls up a few think pieces sharing that exact title or a close approximation. It’s a hot topic to be certain.

For the past few years, it seems, and ramping up since the election, liberals have had second thoughts about claiming to be “free speech absolutists.” Remember in the spring when Howard Dean doubled down on his claim that “hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment”?

It seems Dean was triggered by the idea that right-wing provocateurs like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos were getting speaking engagements at universities, “forcing” schools either to cancel or find alternative venues to prevent a repeat of the campus vandalism and rioting at Berkeley over a speech that didn’t even happen.

More and more liberals are coming out against free speech, and we’re not just talking about the antifa pepper-spraying elderly men at free speech rallies.

Wow, they’re really going to run with this, aren’t they? Skidmore College’s Jennifer Delton offered up this perspective on college speakers in 2017:

Here’s the dilemma college presidents face in the fall: Either uphold free speech on campus and risk violent counterprotests, or ban conservative provocateurs and confirm the “freedom of speech” crisis on campuses. Either way their institution’s legitimacy is undermined.

This impossible dilemma is no accident. It has been part of a strategy, deployed first by conservatives and perfected by the alt-right …

 

Or — and this is just a crazy thought — don’t stand by and allow students to burn down your campus because they don’t want anyone else to hear whoever is speaking that night.

The problem, Delton explains, is that the provocateurs of the alt-right “seek to bait liberal institutions by weaponizing the concept of free speech, which is an issue that divides the liberal left.” It certainly does; we’ve seen professors on progressive campuses seek out “muscle” to physically remove journalists from “media-free zones” in which special snowflakes can speak without fear of their stupidity being picked up by reporters. Liberals love free speech on campus, where they can exact complete control over what’s acceptable and where it can be spoken.

Fear not: National Review Online’s Charles C.W. Cooke is on it.

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