Author’s Note: All proceeds from the following column will be spent on me.
Some college students know nothing about the First Amendment. I mean that literally. For example, a student recently complained to me that the police had violated his First Amendment rights by pulling him over without a warrant. First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, whatever! As annoying as the complete constitutional illiterate can be, I am perhaps more annoyed by those who have some familiarity with the First Amendment and therefore conclude that they are constitutional scholars.
These semi-literate clowns email me pretty often. Just last week, one of them wrote to complain that I had blocked him on Twitter. According to this budding constitutional scholar, this was somehow inconsistent with my support for free speech in general and my opposition to safe spaces in particular. Those of you who had civics in high school are instantly able to spot the flaw in his reasoning. But since so many of my millennial readers are not likely to have benefited from a basic civics class, I’ll spend this column slowly explaining this common error. Here goes.
I regularly attack public universities for creating “safe zones” or “safe spaces” because they so often violate the First Amendment. For example, my university, UNC-Wilmington, established an LGBTQIA Office on our public university campus in 2010. As soon as it was established, the director started to host religious programing, which asserted that the Bible endorsed homosexuality. Worse, she condemned dissenters as homophobic bigots. Some local pastors were also bothered by the fact that she had characterized many of their churches as unwelcoming to gays.
Several pastors offered to come to the office to express a contrary point of view. But they were flatly prohibited from doing so. This kind of viewpoint discrimination on public university property is simply legally and morally indefensible. It is particularly problematic when mandatory student fees are used to fund the one-sided viewpoints of these hyper-politicized offices.
On the other hand, I seldom attack private universities for creating “safe zones” or “safe spaces” – simply because the First Amendment does not apply there. However, I will make an exception if the student handbook promises that the campus is dedicated to the free and open marketplace of ideas. If a private university makes that promise and breaks it then they have engaged in a contractual violation, rather than a First Amendment violation. They can still be sued – although this time in state court for fraudulent inducement, rather than in federal court for censorship. And they should certainly be criticized for tricking students into paying high private tuition rates by using false promises of intellectual diversity.
In stark contrast, Facebook blocking, Twitter blocking, and email blocking poses no legal problem whatsoever. In fact, blocking does not even pose a problem of hypocrisy – as I will explain in a moment. That is why I commonly block people (hundreds of them) for the following three reasons:
1. Profanity. You have every right to use profane language if you lack the intelligence to communicate without it. But you do not have a right to have me listen to it. For example, a homosexual atheist student recently messaged me with an invitation to perform oral sex on him. It was one of a number of profane messages he has sent to me. Rather than report him to the authorities, I simply blocked him on Twitter. And now he’s emailing me at my website claiming to be a victim of my “hypocrisy.”
This is incorrect. A hypocrite is someone who says he believes in something but really does not. I believe in free speech. I believe this lost individual has every right to say profane things. But his right to say them does not mean I have to listen. He can say profane things to someone else.
2. Ugliness. The day my father died of brain cancer, gay activists found out and swarmed by Facebook page. One told me I looked like I was thin and dying of cancer, too – adding that he hoped I would die soon and “burn in hell” with other family members. That included my dad who had just died a few hours earlier. I blocked him. And then he emailed me at work to call me a hypocrite.
This is incorrect. A hypocrite is someone who says he believes in something but really does not. I believe in free speech. I believe this lost individual has every right to attack me. But that does not mean I have to listen to his attacks on my mourning family and me. He can go attack me in front of someone else.
3. Idiocy. Some people are just idiots. Like the guy who kept emailing me saying my free speech activism on college campuses was misguided because “the First Amendment does not apply to the States.” Perhaps he has never heard of the Fourteenth Amendment. Perhaps he has never heard of Gitlow v. New York. Perhaps he just personally wishes the First Amendment didn’t apply to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment – as was made abundantly clear in Gitlow (at least as regards the free speech and free press clauses). After the fiftieth email, it was time to block him. So he found another email address and contacted me to call me a hypocrite.
This is incorrect. A hypocrite is someone who says he believes in something but really does not. I believe in free speech. I believe this idiot has every right to say idiotic things. But that does not mean I have to listen to his idiocy. He can go have a conversation with other idiots who are equally uneducated and equally unaware of their shortcomings.
Some people really are victims of censorship. Others are just so profane, ugly, and stupid that no one wants to listen to them. They will keep emailing after this column is posted.
And I will keep profiting from their consistently bad speech.