Commentary: Was ‘Free Speech Absolutism’ a Mistake in Higher Education?

George Leef
National Review

Excerpt: The American Left used free speech to obtain a position of ideological domination in our colleges and universities — and now that they have that position, they’re turning against free speech in favor of controls over speech that doesn’t further their agenda. Should those of us on the other side of our great political divide learn something from that?

In a recent book, Michael Knowles argues that conservatives should have fought the Left by suppressing their speech. The Martin Center’s Sumantra Maitra reviews his book here. Maitra writes, “Knowles is a conservative, in the original sense of the term. That means he cuts through the fantasy that has permeated ‘American conservatism’ that everything can be solved by civil persuasion in the marketplace of ideas.” Instead, Knowles suggests that “we would need to restore prohibitions against obscenity, which politically correct radicals have long exploited to arouse the people’s base passions and undermine their liberty, just as the Founding Fathers feared.”