26 November 2012
- Recently, I’ve been looking at the work of liberal atheist Greg Lukianoff, author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of the American Debate, and here is a truly chilling find: Student-sponsored thefts or burnings of publications on campus have increased:
It surprises me how few people know how often newspaper theft occurs on campus. These thefts involve students, alone or in groups, stealing large numbers of student newspapers, journals, magazines, or other publications, with the goal of preventing an unwanted opinion or story from getting out, or punishing a publication for running an article. This is, sadly, a fairly regular part of the collegiate landscape. Newspaper theft is a sign of just how harmful the culture of censorship has become, revealing how the lessons of speech codes, overzealous prosecutions, and restrictions on unpopular expression have turned everyday students into active censors.
FIRE, the First Amendment Center, and, most thoroughly, the excellent Student Press Law Center have documented hundreds of cases pf newspaper theft since 2000. This is a marked increase over the number reported in the previous decade, and we are confident that only a small percentage of such incidents get reported. (pp. 220–21)
Incidentally (or otherwise), many such newspaper thefts are attempts to squelch reports of student government mismanagement, not attempts to suppress “hate speech.”
We don’t always recognize the threat an increase in this type of activity represents for two reasons: Our culture may think the student press doesn’t matter or else we associate book burnings with, say, the Nazis or the Middle Ages. Or, at any rate, with somebody or other “who died a long time ago and isn’t important any more except as a bad example.”
Not so. A decade and a half from now, the self-righteous, unreflective campus censor who congratulates himself for newspaper thefts could be across the table from you or me at a disciplinary hearing for our “incorrect thoughts,” perhaps about corrupt government.
If we could think of no better reason to commend the work of Lukianoff’s Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), this would be a good place to start.
Yes, Christian student groups are more threatened on campuses
Rise of education costs is linked to decline of rights on campus
When equality becomes an instrument of tyranny
More on campus intolerance from Greg Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty
Liberal campaigner: Campus is biggest enemy of free speech today