Rouse, Director of Princeton’s Department of Anthropology, gave a lecture on Constitution Day titled, “F*ck Free Speech: An Anthropologist’s Take on Campus Speech Debates,” although is still unclear why an anthropology professor was giving a lecture on the Constitution.
Those who have even a modicum of knowledge of the U.S. Constitution won’t need this reminder, but Free Speech is actually the very first amendment to the Constitution, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Ultimately, Rouse’s lecture was about anthropology, and is wholly unrelated in any meaningful way to law or the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. She specifically mentioned the ACLU’s ardent defense of the principle, and how she felt Princeton did, and should, completely ignore it. It’s worth noting that Princeton is a private school, and is therefore well within its rights to limit permissible speech on campus. Private companies have that luxury, but public institutions (looking at you, Berkeley) do not. The Constitution only offers protection from censorship by the government, and SCOTUS has established exceptions, like speech that incites violence.
A stated goal of her lecture was to “rethink academic freedom,” though she does not seem to be aware of the fact that it is the current state of “academic freedom” that allows an anthropology professor to give a lecture on Constitutional law. Especially given how many creative liberties Rouse took with the founding documents.
Demonstrating a total lack of understanding of what the Constitution is or means, she references self-censorship as being an example of limiting free speech, despite the very, very specific wording that “Congress” may not abridge the freedom of speech. Censoring oneself is not, in fact, Congress doing anything, and as such, is irrelevant to the conversation. That said, diverting the conversation to unrelated topics is a very powerful tactic in making sure your opinions don’t get destroyed in rational debate, so it is quite relevant to her making her point.
She goes on, reportedly saying, “Free speech is also asymptotic with respect to the goal of allowing people to say whatever they want, in any context, with no social, economic, legal, or political repercussions.” In this case, there’s at least the one relevant point; “legal” repercussions. That is undeniably true, and is central to the tenet. Legislating what a person may or may not say is a violation, but every other example of non-existent repercussions is absolutely absurd. The fact of the matter is, the level of willful ignorance necessary to suggest that there are no social repercussions for exercising the right to free speech is enormous. Physical repercussions, too. Economic as well.
Liberals have gone to great lengths to ensure that people on the left are not held accountable for their own behavior, ardently defending rioters, looters, cop killers, and physical violence against political opponents. Yet, given an opportunity – an opportunity which they’re desperately trying to create for themselves – the political left would be more than happy to imprison someone for peacefully espousing a ridiculous opinion.