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By Rob Shimshock
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro bashed identity politics and campus protesters’ notion of “verbal violence” Thursday while speaking to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about free speech on college campuses.
Shapiro, comedian Adam Carolla and others testified regarding the condition of free speech on college campuses.
“It’s an absurdity to suggest that you can tell people that their viewpoints are out of line because of their identity at the same time you’re telling other people that their viewpoints are completely in line because of their identity,” Shapiro said.
The conservative commentator said that campus agitators use identity politics to grant certain opinions authority based on the race, gender, etc. of those who espouse them, and insist that those with opposing points of view are committing “verbal violence” and that physical violence can be used to combat it.
“Challenges to free speech come from the left and the right,” said Frederick Lawrence, national commissioner for the Anti-Defamation League. “Hate speech is protected; hate crimes are not.”
Lawrence argued that constitutionally-protected hate speech still impairs students but should be criticized instead of censored.
“If you’re a bad kid and we get a hold of you in college, you’re probably just going to be a bad adult,” Carolla said when discussing diversity trainings on campus. The comedian also pointed out that many people do not attend college and must learn how not to be bigots outside of academia.
Carolla, who is currently working on a film entitled “No Safe Spaces” pertaining to free speech on college campuses, compared tolerance of different points of view to immune system tolerance, equating objectionable points of view to dirt and germs, both of which strengthen the person exposed to them.
Michael Zimmerman, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at Evergreen State College, noted that the concept of post-modernism, which asserts that there is no objective truth, is prevalent on modern college campuses.
“We need not and should not sacrifice robust freedom of speech in order to counter hateful ideas and hate crimes,” said Nadine Strossen, a professor at New York Law School. “In fact, as the Supreme Court has said, the answer is more speech, counter-speech.”
“I have no problem with people protesting my speeches,” said Shapiro. “I do have a problem with people who won’t let me speak.”
The conservative author distinguished between peaceful protesters and those who are trespassing. He said that, at a recent planned speaking event, police informed him that, per university administrators, they would be forced to shut down Shapiro’s speaking event entirely if they were to remove protesters.
“Everyone pays lip service to the First Amendment, but when the pedal hits the metal, then they get a little bit more cowardly about defending it for other people,” Shapiro told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“On the part of the student activists and some faculty members, there’s not enough understanding that free speech is an ally of the social justice causes that they’re championing,” Strossen told TheDCNF. “They should be more supportive of speech and less supportive of censorship.”