Free speech– who needs it?

Conor Friedersdorf breaks down some of the more distressing findings of a recent survey:

Should there be a law making it illegal to say offensive or disrespectful things in public about the police? 51 percent of Latinos say yes. So do 40 percent of African Americans, 38 percent of Democrats, and 36 percent of both independents and Republicans.

51 percent of Democrats would favor a law “requiring people to refer to a transgender person by their preferred gender pronouns and not according to their biological sex.” Majorities of African Americans, Latinos, whites, and Republicans disagreed…

Republicans were most intolerant of speech and most likely to favor authoritarian laws to punish it on the subject of burning or desecrating the American flag: 72 percent of Republicans believe that should be illegal (along with 46 percent of Democrats). Most shocking to me, 53 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Latinos favor “stripping a person of their U.S. citizenship if they burn the American flag.” To protect the flag at the expense of the U.S. Constitution rather misses the point…

When asked, “suppose the following people were invited to speak at your college, should they be allowed to speak?” respondents who were college students or had college experience answered “no,” various viewpoints should not be allowed, as follows:

  • A speaker who advocates for violent protests (81 percent)
  • A speaker who plans to publicly reveal the names of illegal immigrants attending the college (65 percent)
  • A speaker who says the Holocaust did not occur (57 percent)
  • A speaker who says all white people are racist (51 percent)
  • A speaker who says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to come to the U.S. (50 percent)
  • A speaker who advocates conversion therapy for gays and lesbians (50 percent)
  • A speaker who says transgender people have a mental disorder (50 percent)
  • A speaker who publicly criticizes and disrespects the police (49 percent)
  • A speaker who says that all Christians are backwards and brainwashed (49 percent)
  • A speaker who says the average IQ of whites and Asians is higher than African Americans and Hispanics (48 percent)
  • A speaker who says the police are justified in stopping African Americans at higher rates than other groups (48 percent)
  • A person who says all illegal immigrants should be deported (41 percent)
  • A speaker who says men on average are better at math than women (40 percent)

Ugh!!!  Literally not allowed to speak?!  WTF?  The solution to ideas you disagree with– even odious and provably false one– is not to ban them.    I think I’m going to hit the first amendment harder than usual in my Intro class this year.  Will be interested to see what my students make of all this.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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