Survey Says: Most College Students Want to Suppress Free Speech

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A new survey from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education shows that students on college campuses around the country are increasingly willing to censor themselves when talking about controversial topics. The survey also showed that they are growing more comfortable with the suppression of free speech when that speech could prove hurtful to certain minority groups. The FIRE survey asked more than 1,000 college students about their rights, claiming it to be “the most comprehensive survey on students’ attitudes about free speech to date.”

While the results are shocking from a certain perspective, they are not particularly surprising to anyone who has closely followed the decline of liberty on the American college campus. For several years now, the left has abandoned anything that could be referred to as “liberal” values in favor of a species of fascism that dismisses any controversial viewpoint as racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and the list goes on. Open rebellion against the faculty at Yale, the University of Missouri, and Los Angeles’ Claremont Colleges have provided some of the most newsworthy spectacles, but this survey proves that the anti-freedom mentality goes well beyond those isolated incidents.

According to the survey, a majority of students have censored themselves in classroom discussions. 56% believe that schools should have the right to ban controversial speakers from campus. Left-leaning students, in particular, believe that conservative speakers should be barred from campus speaking engagements. 60% of students said it was more important for the college to maintain an “inclusive” atmosphere than to keep the door open to offensive viewpoints. 48% believe that the First Amendment should not be used to protect “hate speech.” And while the number isn’t huge (yet), it’s still troubling to see that 13% of students now believe that there is no meaningful difference between hateful speech and physical violence.

The decline of free speech will be indistinguishable from the decline of the United States. The left likes to talk about how America’s strength is its diversity? Well, that’s true in a sense: It’s strength is in its diversity of ideas. At the core, that’s what the free market is all about. It’s at work in the economy and it is at work in the marketplace of ideas. That is, essentially, what democracy is. When we start picking and choosing which kinds of ideas must be suppressed from the start, we lose the very thing that has made this country exceptional.

The threat of totalitarianism has always loomed like a dark shadow over basic human principles like freedom. We just never thought we’d get to the day where we’d see young Americans willing to trade those principles – not for national security, but for the imaginary “safety” of never having to defend one’s viewpoint.