The would-be censors of “hate speech” are at it again. This time the target is irrepressible radio talkmeister Don Imus, who mouthed off (nothing new in that) on his nationally syndicated radio talk show, carried in Boston by WTKK 96.9 FM. Imus had the bad judgment to refer to the members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “rough girls” and “nappy-headed hos.?xml:namespace>
I seem always to be at a disadvantage in arguing for toleration of ugly speech even if it creeps right up to the edge of being a direct threat, as some of the sexist rants noted by Wendy Kaminer and in Joan Walsh’s Salon post to which Wendy linked. My disadvantage comes from the fact that I do not appear to be a member of what today has come to be called a “historically disadvantaged group.
Having spent decades fighting in the trenches on the front lines of the battle over campus censorship, and having co-founded a nonprofit that seeks to remedy these widespread violations of academic freedom, I can vouch for the fact that the spirit of censorship is more alive in higher education, among administrators and faculty members, than anywhere else in our society.
What’s perhaps most striking about some campus censors today is the boldness with which they refuse to hear opposing views, much less provide forums for them. You don’t have to be an axe murderer or current or former dictator to be blackballed by some campus "progressives." You could simply be former Harvard president Larry Summers, whose March 14th talk at Tufts University about undergraduate education was boycotted by some Tufts professors.
Harvey chides me for “glossing over” the “rights” of parents who sued the Lexington school district for exposing their elementary kids to sympathetic books about gay families. They lost their case in federal court, when Judge Wolf dismissed their federal constitutional claims and their claims under state law. As Harvey notes, the parents are free nonetheless to press their state law claims in state courts: these claims were dismissed without prejudice –- not because this is a hard case, as Harvey suggests -- but because state courts are the appropriate arbiters of novel state statutory claims.