A new survey on Americans’ views of free speech gives mixed results

I’ve known about this survey on free speech for a while, but was told not to divulge the details until it was published. Well, it still hasn’t come out yet, but since Conor Friedersdorf published some of its results in The Atlantic (“American’s many divides over free speech“), these are now in the public domain. There are a lot more data to come, of course, but I’ll just summarize what’s been published.

The results, which come from a Cato Institute/YouGov survey of 2300 people, are heartening but not completely so. The good news is that most Americans favor no or very limited restrictions on speech. The bad news is that a substantial fraction of Americans still want restrictions on “hate speech” (despite even more of them arguing, correctly, that defining “hate speech” is problematic), and even laws against it. Many Americans think that “hate speech” is already illegal, though it isn’t. Further, a large percentage of Americans with college experience think that some viewpoints should not be allowed to be expressed by speakers at colleges.  I’ll bulletpoint the main results reported by Friedersdorf (and will link to the survey when it appears).

While many readers have claimed that speech restrictions are largely something approved by young people rather than older ones, and that students will grow out of censoriousness as they age, there are no data on that in the article. I trust there will be data published that’s divided up by age, since there are clearly data divided up by whether students are in college or have gone to college. In the meantime, have a gander. I’ve indented and put quotation marks around Friedersdorf’s words, and placed my own comments flush left.

  • “. . . 59 percent of Americans say people should be able to express even deeply offensive views, while 40 percent said government should prevent people from engaging in hate speech, with partisan and racial divides characterizing the results.”

That’s almost 100% in total, so few people have no answer or are undecided.  But even though a majority favor the courts’ interpretation of the First Amendment, four in ten of all people surveyed still think that the government should prevent hate speech, and the only way to do that is through the law—making it illegal and punishing people. 40% is way too high. Remember, this is not just college students, but (presumably) a representative sample of all Americans.

Here’s a strange result when combined with what I’ll say shortly:

  • “An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that ‘it would be hard to ban hate speech because people can’t agree what speech is hateful,’ including 78 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Latinos, and 59 percent of African Americans. And the notion that ‘freedom of speech ensures the truth will ultimately win out’ was shared by 70 percent of Latinos, 68 percent of African Americans, and 63 percent of Democrats.

It’s surprising that minorities are more in favor of the “truth value” of  free speech than Democrats in general, since restrictions of freedom of speech are usually said to be there to protect minorities. But then get this:

  • “Yet a majority of Americans and a supermajority of African Americans believe that ‘society can prohibit hate speech and still protect free speech.’ (To complicate matters, a quarter of Americans, 38 percent of African Americans, and 45 percent of Latinos erroneously believe it is already illegal to make a racist statement in public.)”

That conflicts with the finding that a majority of Americans (including 78 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Latinos, and 59 percent of African Americans) think that it would be hard to ban hate speech because of the difficulty of defining it. Who, then, is to define it? This is a puzzling dichotomy of opinions. As for widespread ignorance of the First Amendment, well, that needs to be remedied, perhaps in school.

What kind of speech should be banned, then?

  • Forty-six percent would support a law making it illegal to say offensive things about African Americans; there is less support for banning insults against other groups (41 percent for Jews, 40 percent for immigrants and military-service members, 39 percent for Hispanics, 37 percent for Muslims, 36 percent for gays, lesbians, and transgender people, 35 percent for Christians).
    Forty-seven percent of Latinos, 41 percent of African Americans, and 26 percent of whites would favor a law making it illegal to say offensive things about white people in public.Should there be a law making it illegal to say offensive or disrespectful things in public about the police? Fifty-one percent of Latinos say yes. So do 40 percent of African Americans, 38 percent of Democrats, and 36 percent of both independents and Republicans.

Here we have nearly 4 in 10 Americans, despite their “overwhelming belief that it would be hard to ban hate speech” because it’s hard to define, clearly implying they know what hate speech is, and supporting laws against it. None of this should be illegal, for this kind of offensive speech, including anti-police speech, is protected by the First Amendment.

  • “Fifty-one 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.”

Mere civility mandates that you call someone by the pronoun they prefer, but to enforce that with a law is ludicrous! Again, Democrats in general are more authoritarian than minorities (and Republicans!)

In other results, 72% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats think people should be punished for desecrating or burning the American flag. Sorry, but that’s legal, too! And 46% of Democrats? What is it that riles people about a scrap of cloth, whose burning merely symbolizes one’s feelings about what it stands for? That is speech. Further, “53 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Latinos favor ‘stripping a person of their U.S. citizenship if they burn the American flag.’” (Data from Democrats or other groups aren’t given.) It’s really distressing that so many people feel that exercising one’s Constitutional rights should get them stripped of their citizenship!

You can read the article to see data on being fired for holding offensive beliefs (most people say no) and about punching Nazis (surprisingly, white people are more in favor of such punching than are Latinos or African Americans though only 56% of whites find Nazi-punching immoral). Further, a large majority of all groups “agreed that colleges and universities are not doing enough to teach young Americans about the value of free speech, and not doing enough to ensure students are exposed to a variety of viewpoints––though a small majority believes colleges ‘have an obligation to protect students from offensive speech and ideas that could create a difficult learning environment.’”  I would have been happier if both of those questions garnered large majorities in favor of free speech.

I’ll finish with this and throw it to the readers about what viewpoints should be demonized in colleges.

  • “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)

While all of this should be permitted if a group invites somebody to campus (the advocacy of violence is allowed so long as it doesn’t call for imminent violence on the spot), I can’t imagine that advocates of some of these views would ever be invited, even by Republicans. But even hearing odious stuff like “conversion therapy for gays and lesbians” can be instructive, if for no other reason than we need to learn the best arguments of our opponents. If you don’t want to hear that stuff, don’t go to the talk! So I would say that all of the advocates of those views, if they were invited to speak and accepted, should be allowed to speak.

“DrBrydon”, who kindly sent me this link (and the next one I’ll post on), found these results heartening, but I don’t. Clearly many Americans don’t even understand what the First Amendment says, much less why it was put into the Bill of Rights.

h/t: DrBrydon

47 Comments

  1. Historian
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    The complete survey with additional summary information can be downloaded at this site:

    https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/state-free-speech-tolerance-america

  2. DrBrydon
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I find the results heartening, if you will, because if you do tend, as I do, to look for stories about outrages against Freedom of Speech and Assembly, then your outlook can become skewed, and it it hard not to see things as worse than they are. There is still plenty of bad in these numbers, but they give some perspective. Let’s face it, we’ve always had, and always will have, fellow citizens who don’t understand Freedom of Speech, and want to limit it for their own ends. Many of the positions surveyed have bare majorities in favor of them, and further detail reveals that there appears to be no general consensus over what should be banned. This means, to me, that as a practical matter, we are not about to repeal the First Amendment. Is there a problem? Yes, but it’s not as bad as I sometimes fear.

    • rickflick
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      I always question the survey’s validity. One way to get a fix on the significance of the numbers is to imagine how each member of your extended family(or another group you know well) would vote. In this case there are a significant number in my family who would not have a very knowledgeable or trustworthy opinion. Thus, only a handful have thoughtful opinions and the rest just dilute the results toward some, probably unknowable, bias or another.

      • Historian
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        I would agree that the majority or a significant minority of people do not have thoughtful opinions on the issues of the day. One can debate why this is. But the less thoughtful’s vote carries as much weight as the one of the thoughtful. This is why we got Trump.

        • rickflick
          Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          It makes me think perhaps there should be a modification to our electoral system. Administer a short quiz on the relevant issues at the polling booth and require a passing grade to activate the vote. I know this seems anti-democratic, but…

          • tomh
            Posted October 31, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            it seems anti-democratic because it is.

            • rickflick
              Posted October 31, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

              I’m wondering if excluding people who don’t seem to care enough to know the issues is a good place to bend the dogma a little to get a more just result. Our democracy is already impure if you consider that it is a republic. Can a sense of fairness overrule the ideal, pure democracy? Just askin’.

              • BJ
                Posted October 31, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

                Like most ideas that would restrict peoples rights, it begs the question of who gets to decide what the standard is and how high the standard should be, thus making it unworkable.

  3. Sastra
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    As with all surveys, individuals are likely to confuse the issue by misinterpreting questions. Legal restrictions are confused with social disapproval; being prevented from speaking is conflated with an invitation from the university. I know I have problems answering surveys because I tend to overthink the questions. Others underthink them, going with a superficial reaction to what they think they were asked.

    I also suspect that many people consider their country an analog to their home or community. If their mother didn’t allow that kind of thing, then it’s just fine to not allow it, period.

    • Richard Bond
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      A speaker who says men on average are better at math than women (40 percent)

      This is a good example of your point. There is possible evidence that the average maths performance of men and women is the same, but the distribution of ability is wider for men. If true, then there will be more more men actually practising maths than women, and the higher proportion of men who are complete dolts is hidden. I would say that the statement ought to be acceptable, provided that the speaker is clear on this sort of subtlety.

  4. BobTerrace
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I like this guideline I found:

    As long as your words don’t directly incite violence or law-breaking, you cannot be held responsible for the way that counter demonstrators or your own supporters react.

    Your right to free speech DOES NOT extend to libel, slander, obscenity, “true threats,” or speech that incites imminent violence or law-breaking. If you grab a megaphone during a protest and yell “shoot the cop” or “loot the shop,” your speech is NOT protected.


    Obscenity is difficult to decide and libel and slander would need to go to court after the speech.

  5. Brian Salkas
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    i must admit, the first two on that list should be illegal. Publically revealing nanes illegal immigrants and explicitly promoting violence. I think John Stuart Mill would agree with me based on what he has written. All the other stuff should be fine to say. (ok, not fine, but legal)

    • Brian Salkas
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      thats “publicly revealing names of illegal imigrants…)I’ll get the hang of this English language thing sooner or later.

      • Paul S
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        We reveal the names of people who commit illegal acts all the time, why would adding the word immigrant make it a special case?

        • Brian salkas
          Posted October 31, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          That is a valid argument, not sure if I agree with it though. One counter-argument might be that if individuals release the names of criminals to the public, the individuals who do so must be held, to some degree, responsible for any violence committed against the criminals who’s names (or other info) that they made public.
          So I guess I will have to think about that some more and possibly refine my opinion.

  6. darrelle
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    “Forty-six percent would support a law making it illegal to say offensive things about African Americans; there is less support for banning insults against other groups (41 percent for Jews, 40 percent for immigrants and military-service members, 39 percent for Hispanics, 37 percent for Muslims, 36 percent for gays, lesbians, and transgender people, 35 percent for Christians).”

    What about atheists? I’m really curious to see the number on that question.

  7. Jamie
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I have occasionally in the past considered how much better life would be if lying were outlawed. (Something like a “truth in advertising” on steroids.) But whenever I thought this, I was brought up short by the obvious difficulties of implementing such a law. “Hate speech” being in it’s nature opinion, not fact, would not fall to such a scheme. It might actually be possible to limit the amount of lying in the public square, but it is not possible to limit the breadth of opinion without instituting some form of totalitarian regime.

    the notion that ‘freedom of speech ensures the truth will ultimately win out’

    This sounds like a grade-school aphorism to me. The most persuasive argument is not always the truth. Free speech increases the likelihood that the truth will be spoken, but it is no guarantee the truth will be well received (“win out”).

    • Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Isn’t there a Jim Carrey movie with a similar premise?

    • somer
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes but there’s very little chance at all in a society which aggressively stifles debate and free speech that the course with the most benefit and the most empirical evidence will be taken. Such a society will ultimately have no science and ultimately become not only authoritarian but corrupt, with poverty for the masses, and rule by violence.

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I teach in an after-school program in the Fall and I am currently doing an informal class on the First Amendment. Next Monday two students are going to defend banning racist speech and two others will defend. All four are Chinese or Japanese and are in 8th grade.

    I certainly frequently feel the impulse to assault Nazis (and enjoy the scenes in both “The Blues Brothers” and Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” where it either occurs or is talked about), but have decided to resist.

    I would also be a tad disinclined to disinvite “A speaker who plans to publicly reveal the names of illegal immigrants attending the college”. Heckling and harassing attendees of your college is low, especially if this could result in the latter’s arrest. That really IS unsafe speech!!!! I suspect colleges could make a policy on that.

    Finally, I would like to see stricter enforcement of any libel that results in harassment or hardship to the targeted speaker.
    Currently, survivors of BOTH Sandy Hook AND the Las Vegas massacre are being targeted by gun nuts who think the whole thing is a hoax, and the survivors are being forced to go off social media and in a few cases relocate their homes and move to different addresses. This riles me more than any of the material listed in the survey above.

  9. T. Martin
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I think it was Edward Abbey who said: “The idea of hate speech needs no defense, it only needs defenders.”

    Uh … actually no, he said that about ‘wilderness’ not ‘hate speech’.

    The original quote makes a lot more sense.

  10. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I have little to say on the rest. But this may merit a discussion:

    Many Americans think that “hate speech” is already illegal, though it isn’t. … four in ten of all people surveyed still think that the government should prevent hate speech, and the only way to do that is through the law—making it illegal and punishing people. 40% is way too high.

    Maybe it is a problem that US citizens do not know the law of the land, maybe it is a good think that there is an opinionated discussion about it. The confusion or the opinions may be caused by large patches of people living in nations with such laws.

    EU, with its 500+ million citizens, where I live usefully employ such laws, seemingly without harm. (As a side note, that means the courts decide how to define the crime as per usual. Why would that be a problem and not a strength in a democracy!?) I cite:

    “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

    This Framework Decision applies to all offences committed:

    within the territory of the European Union (EU), including through an information system;

    by a national of an EU country or for the benefit of a legal person established in an EU country. …

    Hate speech
    Certain forms of conduct as outlined below, are punishable as criminal offences:

    public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined on the basis of race, colour, descent, religion or belief, or national or ethnic origin;

    the above-mentioned offence when carried out by the public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;

    publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court …

    Instigating, aiding or abetting in the commission of the above offences is also punishable.

    With regard to these offences listed, EU countries must ensure that they are punishable by:

    effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties;

    a term of imprisonment of a maximum of at least one year.

    [TL: omitted a lot here.] …

    In all cases, racist or xenophobic motivation shall be considered to be an aggravating circumstance or, alternatively, the courts must be empowered to take such motivation into consideration when determining the penalties to be applied.”

    [ http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM:l33178 ]

    That is the law of the land, here. Of course, the implementation of the framework may or may not be much used.

    • Paul S
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      “… or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined on the basis of race, colour, descent, religion or belief, or national or ethnic origin”

      This I think would put every imam who espouses hatred toward Israel and their followers in jail.

      As this hasn’t happened, these laws are not only ineffectual, they’re inherently dangerous.
      Who gets to decide what constitutes hate speech and why doesn’t hatred toward Israel and Jews count?

      • nicky
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        That second paragraph: not only all Imams calling for the destruction of Israel, but all those demonstrators yielding placards “death to/kill those who criticise/mock Islam/the Prophet” etc., since directly calling for violence and murder.

  11. Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    ITSM that saying something is hard to do doesn’t entail it shouldn’t be done.

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    What is really amazing to me is – Here we are in a country that lets everyone buy guns until they can carry no more. And they can walk around with these guns and in some cases carry them into bars to drink or to schools. Yet, we have these percentages that see no problem with restricting speech. I say it is mostly ignorance and following the herd. It is also very disheartening that we have this mentality in this country.

    A large group or percentage of people will simply believe whatever they hear or are told. There is no thinking involved and no study. Ignorance of history is overwhelming in the public. Just saw an interview from General Kelly, Trumps chief of staff. When asked about the civil war he said it was just the inability to compromise. This guy is in charge of the president of the U.S. and he has no concept of history as it pertains to the civil war.

    • Historian
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately, Kelly’s views on the causes of the Civil War will be given credence by many simply because he is a general. His military rank hardly means that he knows more on this issue than the typical high school dropout. Although I must point out that Kelly’s views would have been in mainstream of historical thinking from about 1890 to 1960. Probably he is just regurgitating what he learned as a youth. The Washington Post has an article that debunks Kelly’s misguided statements.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/10/31/historians-respond-to-john-kellys-civil-war-remarks-strange-sad-wrong/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_kelly-1pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.fa30cbcd2b4a

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Unfortunately the Washington Post wants only subscribers to read their articles. However, I can guess it refers to things like the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas Nebraska Act and many others that took place right up until the war started. For ten years before the war hardly anything took place in congress that was not about slavery. I would hate to hear his answer if they had asked him who started the war.

        • nicky
          Posted October 31, 2017 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

          One may read 10 articles a month without subscribing.

    • Craw
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      “When asked about the civil war he said it was just the inability to compromise.”

      He’s right though isn’t he? What if there had been found a compromise acceptable to both the South and the North? For example, the South agrees that there will be no expansion of slavery, and no Fugitive Slave Law, and the North accepts that slavery should persist in the states that already have it. Would there have been a civil war? You must think so. Otherwise you wouldn’t fit his remark so absurd.

      Now that would have been a very bad compromise. I think it would have meant slavery persisting. I am very glad there was no such compromise. But I do believe that *if there had been* there would have been no civil war.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        The reality was this. The North agreed that slavery could exist in the current slave states. The South would not except this and insisted on expansion of slavery even in states north of the Missouri compromise. Check the Kansas Nebraska act for more on that. Douglas thought he had solved the issue with this act but it went against the compromise and opened up the idea of slavery everywhere. The North could not accept this and the south had thrown compromise out the window. In the mind of the southern, it was expand or die. While the north attitude was, you can have it where it is but that is it. Even when states began secession months before Lincoln took office there were attempts at compromise in congress but nothing acceptable. How do you compromise with states who are already in treason.

        • Craw
          Posted November 1, 2017 at 12:15 am | Permalink

          In what way does that contradict what Kelly said? When you ask, how do you compromise with states in treason? you give the game away, because you are using compromise as a value term. But Kelly never said there was a *desirable* compromise they failed to find.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        “Compromise,” really? Because the South could’ve had the deal you propose without asking. The Free States didn’t want to take away the South’s slaves. What caused the War was the slave-holding states’ demand for the unlimited expansion of slavery into the territories and new states in the West. And on this demand, the South would not compromise.

        The free states did nothing but compromise with the slave states from the nation’s inception. Ratification of the Constitution couldn’t have been had without the “three-fifths compromise” and the Great Compromise of 1787. Then there was the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Lincoln compromised the platform he ran on in 1860 in an effort to avoid war, and was willing to go much further, including making reparations to slaveholders and shipping blacks to Africa.

        Then, even after the South had been defeated in the War, the compromises kept coming. The Compromise of 1877 ended Reconstruction and let the South impose nearly a century of Jim Crow laws on its black citizens.

        So, to answer your question (and pace the good general’s assertion), no, an inability to compromise didn’t cause the Civil War.

        • Historian
          Posted October 31, 2017 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          In terms of Lincoln’s willingness to compromise during the secession winter, let us not forget the Corwin Amendment that Lincoln supported, which passed the Congress and stated that slavery was guaranteed in the states where it already existed. But the South demanded a slave code for the territories that would have legalized slavery in all the territories and, presumably, also as well when the territories would become states. Here is where Lincoln and the Republicans drew the line. The South demanded everything and was unwilling to compromise; hence, compromise was impossible despite frantic efforts to achieve it that took place right up to the firing on Fort Sumter.

          The South gambled that it could preserve slavery in perpetuity by seceding, rather than experiencing its slow motion abolition by staying in the Union, perhaps culminating 50 or 60 years in the future. Slavery, the bedrock of all aspects of Southern life, was in no imminent danger of being abolished by the election of Lincoln. Secession was a gamble that the white South lost, but it was not entirely irrational. The irony of it all is that although the South lost the fighting, a strong argument can be made that it won the peace. After the failure of Reconstruction, white supremacy reigned in the South leading to Jim Crow and segregation. The South had great influence in Congress and the “lost cause” myth was accepted nationally. People like Kelly still swallow that myth.

        • Craw
          Posted November 1, 2017 at 12:24 am | Permalink

          You are doing the same thing Schenk did. You articulate a result that could have eventuated but did not because the sides could not agree on it — a compromise. But you deny that would be a compromise because the morality would be badly askew. But compromise does not mean morally acceptable. When you say the south could have had the deal I outlined you seem to imagine you are refuting me. You are actually agreeing with me. It was the south’s refusal of even those terms that ultimately led to the war. There were demands neither side would budge on. That is what a refusal to compromise *means*.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 1, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

            By your definition of “compromise,” WW2 could have been avoided had Neville Chamberlain remained at 10 Downing Street and acceded to Germany’s invasion of Poland and to Hitler’s ever-increasing demands for sovereignty over larger and larger portions of Europe.

            Sometimes you can define a word so broadly it ceases to have effective meaning.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    … students will grow out of censoriousness as they age …

    Used to be, not so long ago, it was the young, especially those of college age, who were all-in for anything-goes free speech, and older folks who felt Some Things should be off limits. Some of us never outgrew our youthful anything-goes exuberance, even as we became old farts ourselves.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      You need to get back into these schools and educate them on the law and history of the first amendment. Oooops, I forgot. They would not let you do that, too offensive.

  14. Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I would have liked to see the results broken down by age cohorts.

    • Posted October 31, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      I think that will be in the full survey when it’s published.

    • Historian
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      The full report is now available. If you go to the site referred to in comment #1 and then download the PDF entitled “Tables,” you can get the breakdown by age of the responses to the various questions.

  15. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m about as close to a free-speech absolutist as they come. The only one of the categories listed above that gives me any pause at all is “a speaker who plans to publicly reveal the names of illegal immigrants attending the college” — in the same way I’d have a problem with a speaker who planned to reveal publicly the identity of closeted homosexuals, or of Jews who had Anglicized their names, or of students whose parents had communist or Klan ties, or the like. It’s protected speech, I suppose, and I’d abide it, but it’s too damn close to blacklisting for my taste.

    • Posted November 2, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      This is one of the topics where the matter immediately intersects with privacy. Surely I don’t have a right to say that Ken Kukec has such and such a bank account balance, if I am, say, a bank manager, or that he has been treated for whatever disease if I am his physician.

      The question then becomes what is subject to legitimate expectation of privacy. Does immigration status count? I was told (as a Canadian) that my kids, if I had any, could attend PA state schools with some restrictions or other while I was a student at CMU. This was regarded as protecting immigration status or something. (I realize the specific example may have long changed, however.)

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    This is a puzzling dichotomy of opinions.

    Inconsistency, thy name is American. When it comes to those who would outlaw “hate speech,” most are like Justice Potter Stewart and obscenity: they think they know it when they see it, but they can’t define it meaningfully in a manner that would afford non-capricious enforcement.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      I was going to make a similar comment. But I wouldn’t have limited it to USians. It’s a feature of all human groups.

  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 1, 2017 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    One case where, I think, everyone would agree that there are limits to ‘free speech’ –

    http://loweringthebar.net/2009/06/no-right-to-honk-judge-tells-chicken-lady.html

    cr

  18. Posted November 2, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.


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