This nation's leading rescuer of the First Amendment arguing before the Supreme Court, attorney Floyd Abrams, now warns of another rising danger.
Speaking on Oct. 23 at the 15th anniversary of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), he warned the only organization as actively devoted to the First Amendment as he is about the damage to free speech caused by college campuses retracting invitations to public speakers.
"If litigation is one necessary tactic to deal with such speech-limiting policies, the other is simply exposure of the misconduct, with the attendant public shame that follows the exposure.
"What, after all, other than shame, is deserved by Brandeis University for offering and then withdrawing an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirst Ali for her criticism of Islam; by Smith College for withdrawing an invitation to Christine Lagarde, the first woman to head the IMG (International Monetary Fund); by Rutgers, for so embarrassing former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that she declined to appear.
"And just a few weeks ago, George Will's invitation to speak at Scripps College in California was effectively withdrawn after controversy over the invitation. "
Abrams continues: "It shows me how many people -- educated people, including scholars -- seem to believe the First Amendment should be interpreted as nothing but an extension and embodiment of their generally liberal political views."
Please focus on what follows and thereby spread this essence of who we are: "Every person must be his own watchman for truth, because the forefathers did not trust any government to separate the truth from the false for us," said Floyd.
Abrams adds: "That's not uniquely liberal or conservative; it is freedom-protecting, nothing more or less."
The censorship of our free speech by the Bush-Cheney administration, and the even more restrictive Obama government, demonstrates why, as Justice William Brennan once told me, the First Amendment is our quintessential weapon against such freedom-pulverizing governments:
"It is the First Amendment from which all our other liberties flow," by enabling us to protest and organize against an overwhelming government.
Floyd summed up by quoting from a book that should be available to every college student: "The Shadow University," by Harvey Silverglate and Alan Charles Kors, leading to their becoming founders of FIRE:
"In a nation whose future depends upon an education in freedom, colleges and universities are teaching the values of self-censorship and self-righteous abuse of power."
I ask parents among you readers: To which college campuses will you be sending your sons and daughters?
Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.