Grassroots Censorship at Loyola Marymount
April 4, 2005
One chilling example of how poorly free speech is understood and how little it is respected in higher education today is the phenomenon of newspaper thefts. For over a decade in at least five dozen documented instances, students have stolen and destroyed tens of thousands of copies of student-run newspapers on colleges and universities across the country in an effort to silence viewpoints with which they disagree. In some cases these newspapers were thrown out, and—in at least a half dozen cases—they were burned. I hope I do not need to remind you of the fate of societies of the previous century when they began burning books. In fact, this form of mob censorship has become so commonplace that this month the Berkeley City Council passed an ordinance making newspaper theft illegal. This was in part a response to an incident involving Berkeley’s current mayor, Tom Bates, who stole 1,000 copies of a student newspaper after it endorsed his opponent in the mayoral race. With those in power teaching the current generation these kinds of lessons about free speech, how can we expect them to defend their own basic rights when they are threatened? It would truly be a terrible thing to have a whole generation of students so unfamiliar with their basic liberties that they would not even know if they lost them.