Op-Ed: Stop Misguided Campaigns Against Hate Speech

The contents of the Opinions section are unedited and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Kingsman or its staff.

The recent dynamics around the illegal postings by the David Horowitz Center highlight the dangers of the continued campaign to fight “hate” speech. Unlike last year’s poster that focused specifically on Hamas supporters, this one inappropriately made indefensible charges of supporting terrorism against two faculty members, Corey Robin and Samir Chopra.

I must say, however, that I was troubled by Professor Chopra’s action last year when he pleaded with the Administration not to punish the anti-Semitic actions of SJP when it disrupted a Faculty Council meeting and called its chair, “Zionist …” simply because he wore a yarmulke.  After disrupting another meeting, SJP members left chanting the slogan: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”  After some particularly noxious SJP behavior of at the University of Illinois, including chanting “there is no room for fascists, white supremacists, or Zionists” — the school’s chancellor Robert J. Jones denounced “anti-Semitic attacks hidden under the guise of anti-Zionist rhetoric.”

While I strongly criticize this year’s David Horowitz Center poster, it is wrong to label the organization an anti-Muslim hate group.  This designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center includes individuals or organizations simply because they  strongly criticize aspects of Muslim culture.  For example, Ayaan Hirshi Ali is on the list because of her strident condemnation of genital mutilation and honor killings.

This mislabeling is used at universities around the country to stifle discourse by characterizing opposing views as “hateful” or reflecting “white supremacist” ideas.  For too many, Black Lives Matter’s hostile rhetoric towards police is acceptable but those who defend the police engage in “hateful” speech and have been blocked from speaking at some college campuses.  In my own area of professional specialization – economic discrimination – many explanations for racial disparities other than racism are off the table.  Almost any inquiry into black behaviors is considered “white supremacist.”   In the case of Amy Wax at the University of Pennsylvania, a politically correct attack has led to widely supported demands to remove her from teaching a required first-year law school course, one for which she has won numerous teaching awards.  Last week, repeated interruptions of Betsy DeVos’ Harvard talk were justified by claims that she, too, is a “white supremacist.”   Thus, for me, however well intentioned, university campaigns against “hate speech” invariably involve mislabeling that leads to suppression of important discourses.

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