Does anyone else remember a time when liberals were the ultimate champions of free speech? That time has apparently come and gone, because today’s “social justice warriors” think that nothing – not even constitutional rights – must keep them from eliminating every example of offensive expression.
The newest round of liberal sensitivity comes from the University of Texas-Austin, where students are frothing mad over an off-campus party held by Phi Gamma Delta. The fraternity held a “border patrol” party on Feb 7th, and attendees wore various forms of dress deemed offensive by the school’s culture police. Costumes including sombreros (the horror!) have led the school’s diversity squad to call on the university to punish the fraternity for their bigotry.
The school, so far, remains immune to the criticism. While they acknowledge that the party did not exhibit the school’s “core values,” they admit that because the event was off-campus, there is little they can do. That, of course, is not good enough for the speech police.
“It is our goal,” said the school’s Latino Community Affairs student group, “that The University of Texas at Austin actually implement proper repercussions for organizations who choose to partake in such activities that promote the ridicule of different cultures. There has to be an end to these parties.”
According to a student quoted in USA Today, the decision to leave the frat unpunished led to a big question: “How can minorities hope to feel respected in an institution of higher learning when things like this go unpunished?” Well, that’s the thing about feeling respected. You either command respect or you don’t. Whining to school officials every time you’re offended makes you a victim. People may sympathize with victims, but they rarely respect them.
The Slow Death of Liberty
What these liberals never get is that there is no ultimate authority on what is offensive and what isn’t. What one person sees as hate speech, another will find harmless. And here’s what they really don’t understand: some of the things they say and do are just as offensive as the things they decry. But let someone come along and say they should be punished for expressing those views. They would suddenly remember why we have free speech protections in the first place.
You can’t mess around with the First Amendment. It is either absolute or it is meaningless. You can’t pick and choose which forms of expression will be banned because they offend one minority group or another. You can criticize others for saying, wearing, or doing things you don’t agree with. You can boycott businesses that express views contrary to your own. You can protest. But when you start calling for people to be punished or jailed for their actions – actions that don’t actually hurt anyone – then you are advocating fascism. And that’s more offensive than a sombrero any day.