Suppose you’re the editorial-page editor of a college newspaper, contemplating the big news on campus: protesters have silenced an invited speaker and gone on a violent rampage. Should you, as a journalist whose profession depends on the First Amendment, write an editorial reaffirming the right to free speech?
If that seems like a no-brainer, you’re behind the times. The question stumped the staff of the Middlebury Campus after protesters silenced conservative social thinker Charles Murray and injured the professor who’d invited him. The prospect of taking a stand on the First Amendment was so daunting that the paper dispensed with its usual weekly editorial, devoting the space instead to a range of opinions from others—most of whom defended the protesters. When a larger and more violent mob at the University of California at Berkeley prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus, students at the Daily Californian did write a forceful editorial—but not in favor of his right to speak. Instead, they reviled Yiannopoulos and denounced those who “invited chaos” by offering a platform to “someone who never belonged here.”