Update on the "Right Not To Be Offended"

Every decade or so, enemies of free speech adopt a new strategy for trying to curtail the First Amendment.  The current effort consists of attempting to define a "right not to be offended", and college campuses are a leading laboratory for this approach (see here and here).

Chris Robinson was recently brought up on trial at the University court for violating this right not to be offended of some of the women at Colorado College (you may notice that this "right not to be offended" seems to be enforced suspiciously asymmetrically, like all speech restrictions).  He has fired back with a marvelous editorial, of which I include one short excerpt:

Hyper-sensitivity in service to a purported greater good became the
justification for an authoritarian lock-down on speech. It's the same
logic every time: the state comes down hard on behalf of "community."
Changing the rhetorical justification only masks the tyranny. The
effect of this on citizens, in the words of John Adams, is "reducing
their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity."...

The simple fact that we were brought before a Soviet-style show
trial has already sent a message to campus, and it is a clear one,
namely that every other potential bearer of heterodox views
should think long and hard about expressing them for fear of ending up
in the same situation as us. In order to avoid even the possibility of offending one group or another, nobody outside the "approved" ideological categories will say anything.

is precisely the chilling effect that the First Amendment is
specifically designed to guard against, and to sanction it is a
fundamental violation of the mission of this college. Transparently
selective enforcement against ideologically disallowed speech is
categorically the same as those abhorrent thought-control missions
carried out by the Saudi Ministry of the Propagation of Virtue and the
Prevention of Vice, a perfect example of what John Adams called "the
most mischievous of all doctrines, that of passive obedience and
non-resistance." It's Orwell and Kafka, together at last.

Bonus judos to Mr. Robinson for recognizing that as a private institution, Colorado College can legally implement whatever speech restrictions it likes, and so frames the question as an issue of "should it" rather than "can it?"


  1. franco:

    "Colorado College can legally implement whatever speech restrictions it likes" - I am not sure this is the case. Courts have found again and again that colleges and universities that receive federal funds must follow certain government guidelines with respect to various policies. "Private" colleges cannot do absolutely what ever they please just because they are "private".

  2. la petite chou chou:

    Every time I even begin to think that someone could invent "the right to not be offended" in this manner I get chills up my spine.

    You do have the right to not be offended. Simply stop caring about what everyone thinks of you! If everyone operated under the premise that only their own opinion of themselves matter, they won't constantly be offended by what things strangers may be saying. The only person making these people feel offended is themselves---hence, they need to grant themselves the right to not be offended rather than letting a higher authority take away everyone else's explicit first amendment rights.