If you’ve watched the turmoil on today’s college campuses with dismay and confusion, a new Pew Research poll might help you make sense out of the nonsensical. No, the poll won’t make you feel any better about the direction America is heading, but it might help you to stop pulling your hair out by the roots.
See, it turns out that Millennials – kids who were born around the year 2000…kids who are in high school and college today – don’t really believe in the First Amendment. So when you see this group or that group trying to get people fired for saying things they don’t agree with, they’re actually behaving in accordance with their principles. Those principles are just as whacked out as you thought, but they are consistent. Well, if you think, “Everyone should either agree with me or keep their mouths shut” is a consistent principle, that is.
According to the poll, 40% of Millennials believe the government should be able to stop people from making statements which are offensive to minorities. Overall, 28% of Americans feel the same way.
Now, obviously there is at least one thing to be happy about: untrammeled free speech is still supported by the majority of Americans and even the majority of Millennials.
But for it to be this close – and even 28% overall is too close for comfort when you’re talking about something this fundamental to the concept of America – is dismaying and frightening.
Pew Research didn’t ask any follow-ups, which is too bad. Because it would be very interesting to see how the 40% of Millennials who oppose free speech would answer these questions:
What constitutes a minority?
Should one minority be allowed to offend another minority of the same category?
What about a different category?
When whites are no longer the American majority, will they be protected in the same way?
What constitutes “offensive” speech? Who gets to decide?
What should be the punishment for those who break these laws?
That would do for a start. And if they could come to a consensus on these answers, maybe we could start talking. But even if they can answer most of them, they will not be able to answer the one about offensive speech. Because what is offensive to one person will not necessarily be offensive to another. And guess what? That’s exactly why we have freedom of speech.
It is dangerous to allow the government or any other group to decide what can and cannot be said. That way lies tyranny, and you can read about it in any history book you choose. And if the only way you can achieve your goals is to limit what others can say, then it might be that you have the goals of a tyrant. That’s fine. There are countries that will gladly accept you.
For now, though, America isn’t one of them. Hopefully, that continues to be the case.