Opinion: The left’s attacks on conservative speech on campus hurts students

The Young Americans for Freedom group at UMKC came under fire after inviting conservative Michael Knowles to speak on campus. (YAF)

Angelo Pacheco

Our nation’s leftwing politics are plagued with a new trend of censorship and cancel culture against views they deem “hate speech,” leaving a stain on our country’s founding principle of free speech. Because of this shift, we’ve seen more attacks on conservatives around the country for simply expressing their beliefs. Where do these attacks on our freedom of speech end? As long as these attacks and attempts of censorship on conseravative students keep occurring, there will always be students hurt by it, physically or academically. This plague of censorship must end. 

It’s been almost a year and half since the attack on Michael J. Knowles by Alexis Dabu, a UMKC student who felt they were doing “the right thing.” As harmless as the glitter-laced lotion was, it made a statement that as long as your speech isn’t what we agree with, we’ll always shout you down and attack you for it. That night was close to me. It was my group — the Young Americans for Freedom — that hosted Knowles. We expected him to speak on issues that were surely controversial and would be met with resistance, but we didn’t expect physical assault. That night, I was in the back, behind the camera in the tech room, watching as the privileged college students shouted over Knowles, who was invited by UMKC students and wanted nothing more than to express his views. They claimed his speech was violent and decided the best course of action was to throw a tantrum to cover Knowles’ words. As they were leaving through the back door, the masked attacker came through with the squirt gun. After the matter, who was blamed? Not the attacker, but the Young Americans for Freedom, blamed for hosting such an “egregious” speaker, with students calling for our removal. We saw then that the university’s diversity commitment was only for those they felt were right. 

Just last week, a Utah high schooler was spit on and slapped by his fellow classmates for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. At another incident in Washington D.C., a college girl was beaten in the street for holding a Trump flag by people claiming they were advancing the freedoms of women. Even if we turned a blind eye to these acts of physical violence, there are still hundreds of instances of censorship and self-censorship of conservative speech in schools due to a fear of retribution. Here at UMKC, I’ve been called racist and xenophobic for supporting our president. Conservative students on college campuses now “self-censor” three times more than liberal students to shield themselves from academic retribution. On an even bigger scale, we see conservative tabling getting shouted down and speakers for organizations getting disinvited. For example, California State University disinvited Ben Shapiro, a Jewish, conservative talk show host, from speaking at an event. 

Where does it end? It ends when the left finally comes out for total free speech, not just the speech they deem fit to their narrative. 

We must end this trend of public universities, college professors and students shouting down, restricting and abridging the speech they don’t agree with. These actions of division are widely associated with authoritarians, and should not be used against our own countrymen. Our country cannot sustain this amount of division for much longer. We’re only as strong as we can be when we’re in the fight for all freedom of speech. United we stand, divided we fall.

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