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September 19, 2002
DAHLIA LITHWICK says that there has been free speech everywhere since 9/11 -- except on campuses. This conclusion is great:
Free speech does not encompass the right to fire, suspend, or riot your way into a universe in which everyone agrees with your views, even if you have legitimate grievances. The courts are well aware of this, but it seems that universities, both here and in Canada, are not. On campus, you may "speak" freely—with fists, chairs, and broken glass—so long as you are a member of an aggrieved minority with delicate sensibilities and a narrative of oppression.
This leaves the state to take on a new role in protecting free speech. The state must be responsible for busting up the monopoly that has taken over the marketplace of ideas: a monopoly of suffering, political correctness, and sympathy without limits. In the firing cases, the state will be represented by the courts, which will reinstate faculty fired for no reason other than unpopular views. And in the campus protest cases, the state must acknowledge that people who use force to suppress the opinions of others are not performing some sacred protected speech act. They are committing assault, not merely on other humans and on the basic promise of free speech, but on democracy itself.