by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The pro-free-speech documentary No Safe Spaces doesn’t have its nationwide debut until November 15, but it’s already breaking box-office records in Phoenix and San Diego, where it rolled out early.
That’s because many Americans realize that efforts to muzzle free speech are spreading from college campuses into the wider world. In 2017, a national poll of 2,300 U.S. adults, conducted for the Cato Institute, found that 71 percent of Americans think political correctness has silenced important discussions our country needs to have. And an astonishing 58 percent of Americans say that the political climate prevents them from sharing their own political beliefs.
“Colleges don’t protect students from 90 percent of the professors who teach them the following: Your past was terrible, and your future is terrible. You are victims,” commentator Dennis Prager, who teamed up with comedian Adam Carolla to make the film, told me. The two make a bit of an odd couple. Prager is a highly trained Jewish religious scholar, and Carolla is a college dropout and atheist who was raised by a single mom on welfare. “Where we agree is that more debate is better, more diversity of opinion is helpful, and our First Amendment is a unique gift to America,” says Carolla.
Americans aren’t blind to the hurt that genuine “hate speech” can cause. The Cato survey found that eight out of ten Americans say it’s “morally unacceptable” to say hateful things about racial or religious groups. But a greater number than before want to go further. Cato found that 40 percent of adults believe that government should prevent hate speech in public.
The problem, of course, is that what the organized Left means by “hate speech” is a constantly moving target.