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Princeton Course Claims the Far Right Abuses Liberty to Justify Hate Speech

Have you ever abused your freedom of speech? According to a new offering at Princeton University, the answer may well be yes.

The Ivy League school boasts a fall course called Current Issues in Anthropology: Liberalism, Racism & Free Speech.

Here’s how it’s described on the college’s site:

In the U.S. and Europe, far right activists use “free speech” to justify hate speech. But haven’t understandings of free speech changed over time as countries authorize speech differently? How have Western histories of racism and colonialism shaped what counts as acceptable speech, particularly if violence ensues?

The class promises to employ “comparative studies of racist and Islamophobic hate speech to examine different cultural approaches to managing speech and how these rules are contested/challenged by popular countermobilizations.”

Additionally, the study will “theorize intersections of racism, liberalism, speech from scholars of post-colonialism, anti-black racism, and feminist theory.”

The reading list includes the following:

  • Superior: The Return of Race Science
  • Is Free Speech Racist?
  • The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation
  • On Being Included:Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life
  • Anders Breivik and the Rise of Islamophobia

Free speech certainly isn’t what it used to be.

Cases in point:

Academics Fear the ‘Hate’ of Free Speech as a Liberated Twitter Looms

MSNBC Host Warns of ‘Real and Devastating Consequences’ of ‘Letting People Run Wild’ With Free Speech

Former Clinton Official Calls Elon’s Free-Speech Vision the ‘Dream of Every Dictator’

University Schools Students on the Importance of Free Speech — and Reporting People Who Use It

MSNBC Warns That Free Speech On Twitter Would Be a ‘Danger’ to Free Speech

Back to Princeton, “hate speech” appears to be a label given to speech that certain critics hate.

As for hate speech’s relationship to free speech, if you can only exercise speech favored by a faction, then your speech isn’t anywhere near free.

Concerning “hate” itself, hate is an emotion. And words out of step with a distinct ideology aren’t inherently emotionally-fueled.

Once upon a time, trash-TV host Jerry Springer welcomed a particularly despicable guest to his show. During his “final thought,” Jerry offered something to the effect of, “I detest everything you say, but I’d defend to the death your right to say it.”

You know we’ve come a long way when Jerry Springer seems more Founding-Fatherish than contemporary voices in the American ether.

It seems to me that speech is either free or not; it is unbound, or subject to whatever tyrant takes the wheel.

Might modern institutions be clawing at the steering column? The answer isn’t necessarily a rock-hard “no.”

A new form of free speech has emerged: the very old form that isn’t free speech.

In academia, it’s really caught on — consider a University of Michigan student’s justification for destroying a Turning Point USA booth in 2019 (at 1:18):

[Language Warning]

“You know what’s also against the law?” he says. “Hate speech.”

Of course, he’s not right. Not yet.

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