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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Free Speech

Camille Paglia's in the news for speaking out against even the suggestion that the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated, though the chances of that actually happening may be pretty slim.

"I don't get it," she says in this audio clip from a radio interview on New York's "The Mark Simone Show."

"The essence of the 1960's, my generation, was about free speech," says Paglia. "That's what Lenny Bruce was about. It was about the free speech movement, for heaven's sake, at Berkeley. What are my fellow Democrats doing?"

Maybe it's an old lady thing.

I was born in the same year as Paglia, and I remember the free speech movement. What happened to it?

You can be given the cold shoulder, fired, thrown out, divorced, or excommunicated for saying the wrong thing. There was a time when you could stand on a soapbox in a public square and rant at length, but public space is diminishing and free speech rights don't apply in private space.

Campuses are considered semi-public. In the interest of safety, campus officials may restrict free speech.

Even then, expressing an unpopular opinion can get sticky. Campus safety felt they needed to protect one speaker this past January , and the student paper itself objected to the same speaker's message last year.

To better manage possible conflict, Fullerton College's free speech area has been shrunk from the entire quad to a postage-stamp sized bit of lawn, and speakers must reserve a time-slot in advance (see AP5550).

That's better than the strategy at Yuba Community College which not only required a reservation to speak in a sharply defined area, but made even that option available for only two hours a week. That landed them in court.

So is it an old lady thing, this taste for free thought and outrageous opinion? Or is there still room left in the world for a little political incorrectness in the interest of diversity?