A Tale of Two Talks: Free Speech in the U.S.

Sometimes the whole tenor of an age can be discerned by comparing two events, one commanding fury and the other, silence.

To this extent, February has already been most enlightening. On the first day of the month, the conservative activist and writer Milo Yiannopoulos was due to speak at the University of California, Berkeley. To the surprise of absolutely no one, some of the new anti-free speech brigade attempted to prevent the event from happening. But to the surprise of almost everyone, the groups who wish to prevent everyone but themselves from speaking went farther even than they have tended to of late. Before the event could even start, Yiannopoulos was evacuated by security for his own safety. A mob of 150 people proceeded to riot, smash and set fire to the campus, causing more than $100,000 of damage and otherwise asserting their revised version of Voltaire’s maxim: “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to your death my right to shut you up.”

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