Dr. Bret Weinstein hopped on his bike and rode toward Evergreen State College.
But on this day, his class was meeting in a public park because it wasn’t safe for him to be near the school. So he didn’t take his usual route.
A few months earlier, Dr. Weinstein had taken an unpopular stand when a group of students tried to prevent white people from entering campus for a day. Dr. Weinstein refused and was subsequently met by a mob of students at his office door yelling obscenities at him and calling on the university to fire him.
Now, as he was riding his bike toward campus, he thought he recognized one of those students.
Then he saw another. And then another. Each looked at him like they were expecting him along his usual route to class. Even more disturbingly, they immediately pulled out their phones and began texting upon seeing him.
Dr. Weinstein pulled into the campus security check point. Maybe he was imagining things.
“I don’t think you’re imagining that,” the head of campus security told him. She informed him that the mob of students was going car to car looking for him. What’s more, she and other campus police officers couldn’t protect him because the university president had told them to “stand down.”
The mob was successfully taking over the campus, and the administration was letting it happen.
If this sounds like something that fits right in the chaos of 2020, you might be surprised to learn that this happened in 2017.
Siding with the Mob
Dr. Weinstein and his wife, Professor Heather Heyer, were forced to resign from their posts at the university. All because a mob of students disagreed with the way both professors peacefully exercised their freedom of speech.
When the administration was forced to choose between a mob of students who harassed and intimated faculty and a respected professor, it chose the mob.
This, even after the mob of students took over a campus building with the president and board inside. Faculty and administrators raced to side with the mob out of a fear of appearing unprogressive.
The Answer Is More Speech
Dr. Weinstein had this to say in a 2018 documentary about his experience at Evergreen:
I keep being invited to talk about free speech on college campuses and every time I’m invited I make the same point: that this isn’t about free speech and this is only tangentially about college campuses. This is about a breakdown in the basic logic of civilization, and it’s spreading.
College campuses may be the first dramatic battle but of course this is going to find its way into the courts; it’s already found its way into the tech sector. It’s going to find its way into the highest level of governance if we aren’t careful, and it actually does jeopardize the ability of civilization to continue to function.
Today, Dr. Weinstein’s words hold up incredibly well.
College students have long been educated on campuses like Evergreen State College, where free speech is frequently threatened for those expressing opinions that go against a far-left worldview. Like those at Evergreen, many administrators have allowed students to shut down speakers and even faculty members who share any ideas outside of the far-left orthodoxy.
The result is a generation of college graduates who struggle to handle ideas different from their own. Instead of debate, many turn to censorship. Instead of discussion, many turn to violence.
What can we do about it?
Now, more than ever, we need to uphold every American’s First Amendment right to free speech—especially on college campuses where the next generation is learning how to live in our society.
For years many have talked about the dire consequences future generations would face due to restricted speech on college campuses. Now we are beginning to see those consequences first-hand.
We need an answer, and it’s not censorship. It’s not “cancel culture.” And it’s certainly not violence. Rather, if we want to move toward a more peaceful, tolerant, and civil society, the answer is always more speech.
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