To avoid burying the lede, let us understand right off that this is known as “chilling free speech,” and is un-American and wrong.
Following the revelation that Emory chief James Wagner ratified the complaints of ideology-disabled students that the expression of support for a major party political candidate was an unacceptable assault on student “safety,” Reason now informs us that Wagner is reviewing security tapes so the students can be subjected to the “conduct violation process.” Although the University has not demonstrated similar verve when chalk-scrawled messages contained more popular content, it is making the disingenuous argument that the manhunt is only about policies requiring prior approval of such chalk campaigns, and that prohibit chalk graffiti that won’t be washed away by rain like the itsy-bitsy spider.
The problem with swallowing that malarkey is that mere chalking has never prompted security camera footage examinations or presidential concern before. This is about condemning and squelching mainstream political speech that the prevailing majority of the campus doesn’t like. This wasn’t swastikas or “hate speech.” “Trump 2016” at Emory is no different from “LBJ 1968” at Berkeley.
Being gentle and oh so careful to avoid sounding too much like he doesn’t sympathize with Trump-despisers, Reason reporter Robby Soave writes,
“[I]f it’s inappropriate to write “Trump 2016″ on the sidewalk of a university, surely it must be inappropriate to write the name of any candidate or major politician. And if that’s the case, the simple fact must be that political expression is discouraged at Emory. If Emory’s administration wants to run a university where political activism is prohibited, it has that right. But that seems like a difficult rule to defend. Shouldn’t college students be encouraged to engage in political advocacy? Isn’t that educational?”
Let me sharpen that a bit, since it is dangerously flabby. Prohibition of political expression at a university is also discouraging free speech, which is essential to higher education. “It has that right” makes dragnets for non-conforming student advocates sound like a legitimate and ethical ethical education approach: it can’t be. That seems like a difficult rule to defend? It is per se indefensible.
But Soave’s whole paragraph ducks the real issue. Would this be happening if the non-conforming graffiti was “Sanders 2016” or “Hope and Change” in 2008? You know the answer, so do I, and so does Soave. Why play this game? Why is a libertarian publication equivocating and being so delicate with speech censors?
The writer concludes:
“Look, there’s a good chance Donald Trump becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. There’s some chance he becomes president of the United States. That prospect horrifies me as much as the next freedom-loving person, but I can’t deny that it’s possible. Is Emory really doing an adequate job preparing its students to confront that possibility by protecting them from even the most straightforwardly non-offensive pro-Trump displays? We all wish we could live in a Trump-free world, but I don’t think it does Emory students much good to entertain such a delusion.”
Let me get this straight: the problem with threatening students who express unpopular opinions is that it is bad for the horrified weenies and student speech censors who need to get used to Trump supporters and the existence of Donald Trump? The problem with threatening students who express unpopular opinions is that this nation is founded on the principle that Free Speech Matters, and nobody, not the government, not Emory, not Reason, not anybody, should seek to muzzle a free citizen’s ability to express an unpopular opinion, because unpopular opinions not only have value, often they are better than the popular ones, as the existence of the United States vividly demonstrates.
Bias makes us stupid, and in this case, anti-Trump bias caused Reason to botch analysis that should be as easy as falling off a chair.