A bad day for free speech — but a great day for my new project, Deport The Millennials PAC. I don’t care who takes ’em: Mexico, Merkel, Syria, whoever. Just go.
You’re going to look at these numbers, and then I’m going to depress you even more by arguing that they could have easily been worse with a few simple tweaks of the question’s phrasing.
Forty percent. Still a minority, but one that’s large enough to grow into a majority in the short term with just a few more years of cultural drift. Then again, you could look at this as good-ish news compared to some other polls we’ve seen this year on free speech. Remember this one from May?
A majority of Democrats already favor criminalizing “hate speech.” In that context, the 40 percent result among millennials in the Pew poll seems not completely terrible. How do we reconcile the two?
I think it has to do with wording. YouGov asked about speech that stirs up “hatred,” a stronger term than the “offensive” speech described by Pew. We all know people who find innocuous things “offensive” — they’re responsible for 90 percent of the content on the Internet — but “hatred” is harder to mistake. The numbers in the Pew poll may be lower than they are in YouGov because people think “offensiveness” is too hazy a standard to justify criminalization. If Pew had mentioned hatred instead, they might have gotten their majority after all. More importantly, though, the Pew and YouGov polls imagine different types of legal action. YouGov sticks to after-the-fact criminal punishment for hatred; Pew, though, is asking about the government taking proactive measures to “prevent” people from saying things that are offensive to minorities, a.k.a. prior restraint. That’s a draconian approach and difficult to enforce, which might also be driving the numbers down. Re-take the poll and ask millennials if they’d support fining someone, say, after they’ve offended a minority group. Majority this time? Maybe. Maybe.
But maybe we’re due for a correction. Here’s Jonathan Haidt predicting the near future for “safe spaces” and the adult babies who cry for them on college campuses:
I think emotions are going to lead a drive back to rationality. What I mean by that is when you talk to a professor who has been brought up on charges or attacked verbally for saying something innocent—they’re angry. Like a friend of mine, who teaches at a small liberal arts college and once referred to someone “going over to the dark side.” He was called a racist, and warned that such insensitivity would not be tolerated. When those things add up, and when liberal professors are constantly reprimanded or brought up on formal charges despite their good intentions, you get very resentful. And this whole vindictive protectiveness movement is only about two years old…
It’s going to get much, much worse over the next couple years and at that point some universities may start changing policies. By that point, many or maybe most American parents won’t want to send their children to the top universities, and there will be an enormous market opportunity for second-level universities that offer a much less coddled campus culture.
If the fanatics go so far off the deep end as to inspire a pro-free-speech backlash on campus, maybe that backlash will trickle up into the wider culture among millennials. Or maybe not: One way to interpret the gap between millennials and senior citizens in the Pew data above is in terms of their respective degrees of “sensitivity” to minority groups. If support for prior restraint of offensive speech is largely just a function of how “sensitive” you are to minorities, maybe millennials will continue to treat that sensitivity as more important than speech rights no matter what’s happening at colleges. There’s only one way to guarantee a good outcome: Deport ’em en masse. Won’t you join me in making America great again?