The Linfield College chapter of Young Americans for Liberty decided to hold a free speech event. Makes sense, seeing as how free speech is a bedrock of liberty, right? So far, no surprise.
What also shouldn’t come as a surprise is that, this being a thing that happened on a college campus in 2017, the group was called “white supremacist” and got a lecture from the administration.
The story begins in April, when YAL members set up a table on campus to promote both their newly formed group and a series of “speak freely” events they were sponsoring. Keifer Smith, vice president of the chapter, brought along an inflatable “free speech ball” and invited students to write whatever they wanted on it.
“The majority of the things written on there were uplifting things, not political, not inflammatory at all,” Smith reports: comments like “you’re awesome” and “have a nice day.” But one person drew Pepe — a cartoon frog that some alt-right trolls have adopted as a symbol — and so the YAL chapter quickly became the focal point of campus outrage.
“Immediately we were deemed alt-right,” says Smith. They were even called white supremacists.
The group was then invited to sit down with the Linfield Advisory Committee on Diversity for what was supposed to be an hour-long discussion on free expression, but it sounds like it was a four-hour “moment of hate” for the YAL’s alleged intolerance.
Apparently, this was said without any sense of the irony involved.
Next, the school canceled an event the group had scheduled, claiming they filed the paperwork a day late and that the speaker had promoted what was supposed to be a private event.
The attacks of being “alt-right” continued from the faculty:
“The agenda of groups like Alt-Right and campus clubs that are either supported by the Alt-right or providing a platform for the Alt-Right is clear,” wrote Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, a professor of English and the co-coordinator of the school’s gender studies program. “They want to challenge college campuses for their numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives that provide a legitimate space for ideas and knowledge base that have been historically marginalized and excluded.”
At the free speech forum, Dutt-Ballerstadt had accused Smith and his group of being funded by “alt-right dark money.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Linfield’s dean of faculty, Dawn Nowacki. Nowacki admitted that she didn’t know any times anyone in the YAL chapter had expressed anything racist or misogynist, but she insisted they still posed a threat. “These efforts are a lot more subtle,” she wrote. “Just as becoming a terrorist is a gradual, step by step process, people do not become part of the alt right overnight. These events represent a kind of soft recruitment into more extremist ideas.”
There you have it, folks. Free speech is a gateway drug to terrorism.