Poll: 10% of college students say it's sometimes acceptable to shut down a speaker with violence

Cheer up, buckaroos. Six months ago, a different poll had this number at 19 percent. The Leaders of Tomorrow are becoming less mobbish. Now only a tenth of them would consider punching you in the face if you said something they disagreed with.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re much more chill about shouting down a speaker in order to deny their audience the right to hear them. The first column here is the percentage that deems the tactic fully acceptable, the second column somewhat acceptable, and the third never acceptable:

Only one group among the eight tested has a majority that says it’s sometimes okay to shout down a speaker. Take a bow, college Democrats.

That’s from the new Knight Foundation survey of views of free speech on campuses. Democrats lead on this question too, although not as dramatically:

I don’t understand the reasoning there. It’s not okay to disinvite a speaker just because students oppose them but it’s very much okay to disinvite them if students oppose them so vehemently that they’re willing to break things because of it? Overall 72 percent oppose rescinding invites because some students oppose a speaker but 69 percent support canceling if violence is in the mix. Incentives towards bad behavior don’t come much more vivid or perverse than that. If you’re going to bar a speaker from campus because his views are disfavored, at least privilege the views of the intolerant yet peaceful majority over the violent hecklers.

Look again at that last table, though. Democrats have the biggest share in favor of booting disfavored speakers, true, but even a majority of Republicans are prepared to bow to threats from the likes of Antifa by barring people from campus in the name of averting violence. That’s not the only question to spot a surprising amount of Republican support for censorship either:

Don’t be surprised, as that result is broadly in line with polls of the general population on hate speech. Left-wingers are more strongly in favor than right-wingers but there’s a significant minority of Republicans that are open to this idea (and to other terrible ideas involving censorship), presumably on the theory that some of their own favored groups might be protected from criticism under “hate speech” laws. As older right-leaning Americans age out of the electorate and are replaced by young progressives, I hope we don’t end up learning the hard way how foolish that assumption is.

One more point: Women tend to be worse on this subject, i.e. more open to censorship, than men are. You see a gender gap in the last two results above but it’s dramatic on this question, a broad overview of where students’ priorities lie. Given a choice between a campus that protects speech rights first and diversity/inclusiveness second or the opposite, which do college kids prefer?

Women and minorities, two pillars of the Democratic coalition, are willing to shave a little off of speech rights in the name of making everyone in the community feel more comfortable. That’s the argument for hate-speech laws too. Groups that have historically had less political power are more interested in limiting rights for the sake of equality, even when those rights involve the First Amendment.