NY Times: First Amendment 'Can Cause Physical Pain'

“Words can be like rape.”

In his September 22nd article, Thomas Fuller of the New York Times—a publication which is no fan of free speech outside of its own—lends credence to a peculiar position towards the First Amendment: its use can cause physical harm.

In a piece exploring the current state of conflict over speech on the campus of UC Berkeley, Fuller seems all too happy to give a voice to those who would quell the right of free expression, particularly those opposing a leftist view. Quoting Professor Katrin Wehrheim, a native of Germany, who was recently one of many teachers canceling classes in anticipation of Free Speech Week — a lecture series sponsored by an on-campus conservative group — Fuller notes:

“It’s just not safe to hold class. This is not about free speech. These people are coming here to pick a fight.”

Formerly a free speech Mecca, the University of California, Berkeley has transformed into a vacuous and oppressive place where the First Amendment is no longer an established tenet of American freedom. On campuses across the nation, freedom of expression has become, of late, a notion of debatable moral and societal merit.

In Fuller’s description of UCB’s opposing sides regarding the traditionally most-treasured of all American values, he writes, rather sympathetically:

At Berkeley, there are both unequivocal voices championing the importance of free speech, no matter how inflammatory, and professors who say lines need to be drawn on campuses. These professors argue that the First Amendment needs to be reassessed for reasons that include the rise of internet trolling and cyberbullying and that some scientific research now shows that hateful speech can cause physical pain.

Wait — WHAT?

This idea is being bolstered by anthropology professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes, who is currently teaching a class on the relationship between free speech and hate speech:

“Words can be like rape,” Scheper-Hughes says. “They can destroy you.”

Like rape. They can destroy you like rape.

Scheper-Hughes uses sexual harassment as an example of how certain speech is, and should be, illegal.

“The Supreme Court is behind the times,” she insists. “The First Amendment deserves to be re-looked at.” Re-looked at. This woman is a professor.

Fuller seems to agree. He offers one voice in opposition—University Chancellor Carol Christ—whose opinion he appears to invalidate, noting that she “has little choice. While private universities have more leeway in deciding whom to allow on campus, Berkeley as a public institution must adhere to the First Amendment’s broad acceptance of speech and accommodate speakers.”

Otherwise, Fuller’s promotion of UCB’s faculty is grim. “In Germany today," Professor Wehrheim says, “you will get jailed for certain speech — and I think that is absolutely the right thing.”

Let that sink in for a moment. These are people who want to imprison you for "certain speech." All Americans must stand strong against this assault against our most valued freedom. Even if words sometimes hurt, they can’t hurt nearly as much as the totalitarianism the Left wants to impose.

Issues

Organizations