• Chengxi Gang

The Censorship of Conservative Speech: Why it Matters


Note: The following article is an opinion piece based upon the views of the author, and does not reflect the views of AYCE or other writers at AYCE.


Preface


In February of this year, Student Life, an independent newspaper at Washington University, published an article with the title: "It’s OK that conservatives don’t feel welcome". The article begins by mentioning another survey conducted at the school, which found conservative-leaning students feeling unwelcome and excluded from the discussion. The Student Life article then descends into what I would view as hilarity, with the author directly stereotyping all conservative-leaning individuals as holding morally abhorrent views, and then deems that open discussion is irrelevant as these views should never be pondered. After finishing this article, I asked myself the question: "Are we really at a time where people are perfectly ok with silencing millions of voices and opinions?" My conclusion?


Yes, yes we are.


This article will focus on 2 ideal areas for political discussion: College Campuses and Social Media Platforms. I will go over both and discuss the potential chilling of speech and censorship in each region. My overall position is this: All speech, including hate speech, is protected, and thus should be allowed on colleges and social media in so far as it does not directly incite violence (Criticizing Christians would be distinct from directly calling for physical harm against Christians). At the least, these platforms and colleges ought to directly establish clear and concise delineations between what counts as hate speech, and apply it equally to both sides of the political spectrum. Outside of what is considered hate speech, I worry that campuses and social media platforms are restricting conservative speech and opinions that are not "hateful", and that even if this is not empirically true, an alarming percentage of people believe this to be true. I contend that on certain campuses, there is definitive liberal censorship, however, as a general principle, my position is that conservatives are censored at a greater percentage. Statistically, in the status quo, a Cato study finds that over 71% of Americans, in general, feel as if political correctness has silenced overall discussion, with a heritage poll finding that restrictions on speech are popular for many left-leaning individuals.






Colleges


The first part of this article will focus on conservative censorship of speech on college campuses. For many youths, college campuses should be a place where a diverse number of opinions and beliefs interact. These campuses should be a place of conversation and discussion that fosters independent thinking, acceptance, and progress. Colleges should never only foster and allow political views on one side of the spectrum. Unfortunately, a climate of discussion and acceptance will never work, however, when only one side of the political spectrum is represented, a problem that is inherent to a majority of the colleges and universities of today. However, to be fair, the college debate is less of a real issue on conservative censorship, although that does play a significant role, but also about the chilling of non-conformist opinions in general. I'll talk first about conservative censorship, then move on to chilling of speech in general. On conservative censorship, in a 2017 Gallup/Knight Foundation Study, an overall 61% of Americans agreed that the political climate of their campus prevented some students from expressing their views, up from 54% in 2016. Furthermore, the majority of students favor policies that restrict certain speech that may be pertained as offensive. Interestingly, while the study also found that a large percentage of conservatives could speak up, 69%, it was still far lower than the similar rate for liberals, that being 92%. Another study by McLaughlin & Associates found that on college campuses, Republican students were more likely than Democratic students to be afraid to speak up, and over half of students are afraid to discuss their opinions. A study by Pew featured a significant ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats: 58% of Republicans believed that colleges and universities have a negative effect on society, while 72% of Democrats responded in support of these institutions. These studies provide a fairly consistent story: The majority of Americans on college campuses believe that the political climate restricts them from expressing their views, which coincides with similar statistics for overall lack of engagement. The various studies also found that conservatives were more likely than their liberal peers to fear speaking out.