In a legal powwow with their lawyers, Hollywood Communists, forever known as “The Hollywood Ten,” who were summoned by Congress to testify about their political affiliations in 1947, were given the hypothetical question about freedom of expression for all by their attorneys. When asked if they believed in freedom of speech for Communists, the immediate answer from all was a resounding “yes.” Some of the group even supported the next hypothetical question of whether “fascists” were eligible for the same free speech protections. But John Howard Lawson, the uber-sectarian head of the Hollywood Party, advised otherwise, saying, “The answer is that you do not believe in freedom of expression for fascists,” only Communists because what we “say is true,” and what the fascists say “is a lie.”
And off Lawson went to testify before Congress in which he defended freedom of expression for all.
Today, what Lawson admitted in private, is publicly affirmed by anti-Trump college students. Rather than allow “conservative” speakers invited to the college to exercise their rights of free expression, the hard-left college students deny them that right and use violence to force the university to cancel the scheduled speech.
The latest example of this increasing trend is at Pomona College. Those who seek to champion the “fascists” rights of free expression—surprisingly coming from the same entity that has previously labored to indoctrinate students in leftism, college professors, and the administrators-—are being attacked by anti-Trump student activists.
Last week, students sent an open letter to Pomona College President David Oxtoby attacking the outgoing official’s upholding of free speech in the wake of left-wing protests that shut down a scheduled speech by Heather MacDonald, a Black Lives Matter critic.
The catalyst for these attacks was an April 7 email from Oxtoby decrying the shut-down of MacDonald by students:
“Protest has a legitimate and celebrated place on college campuses. What we cannot support is the act of preventing others from engaging with an invited speaker. Our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth, the collaborative development of knowledge and the betterment of society.”
But taking a leaf from Lawson, the students have refused to accept such libertarian views, and instead have asserted that free speech, when used by those they disagree with, enables racism:
“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry.”
Against Oxtoby’s assertion that listening to all sides fosters knowledge and the discovery of objective truth, the students assert that such concepts are fascist constructs:
“Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth–‘the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.”
Having established these concepts, the letter writers “justified” their prevention of MacDonald from speaking:
“Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live.”
The letter continues, attacking Oxtoby: “Why are you [President Oxtoby], and other persons in positions of power at these institutions, protecting a fascist and her hate speech and not students that are directly affected by her presence?”
The letter, signed by 30 students, is demanding that Oxtoby apologize for his April 7 email and issue a new message that the college “does not tolerate hate speech and speech that projects violence onto the bodies of its marginalized students and oppressed peoples.”
Shutting down speakers is not unique to the age of Trump, but the frequency with which this has happened is. And an attendant irony to these protests is that it is professors and college administration officials, some of whom once protested in the 1960s against college administrations, who are championing the Bill of Rights.
Liberals are so alarmed by these shutdowns that they have reached across the aisle to conservatives to battle the selective free speech notions of anti-Trump student activists. Princeton professor Dr. Cornell West, every bit as anti-fascist toward Trump as the protesting students, (in a Salon interview, he labeled Trump a “neo-fascist”), has linked arms with conservative law professor Robert P. George to combat the attacks on free expression by hard-left students in a petition they drafted last month and circulated:
It reads, “The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture,” they write, “cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.”
Thus far, more than 600 academics and political pundits have signed the petition.
The attacks on civil liberties in the name of anti-Fascism affirms what George Orwell wrote about the Left of his own era:
“The sin of nearly all left-wingers from 1933 onward is that they have wanted to be anti-fascist without being anti-totalitarian.”