Should government forbid people from saying things viewed as hateful, or harassing? I cover that in my syndicated column today:
I once interviewed someone who said words are like bullets because words can wound; this justified some censorship in his eyes.
Ugly words in a workplace can indeed make it hard for someone to succeed at work, and racism in school can make it hard to learn. But I say words are words and bullets are bullets.
Speech is special. We should counter hateful speech with more words - not government force.
I discussed this issue with lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who has devoted his career to defending speech. These days, he sees new threats.
"The old threats we managed to beat mostly in court and also in the court of public opinion," Silverglate said. "So the censors have simply come up with new terms for speech they don't like. They call it 'harassment' or ... 'bullying.'"
On my FBN show last week, the attorney pointed out that these days, attempts to restrict speech are more likely to come from public universities.
FIRE lawyers defended students at Northern Arizona University who wanted to hand out small American flags to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. They planned to distribute the flags outdoors, but it rained. So they went inside the student union, where four different university officials told them to stop.
The students refused, and two were charged with violating the student code. FIRE helped the students get media coverage that pointed out that the First Amendment protects students at public institutions. The school dropped its case against the students.