- - Thursday, April 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Liberals ready and willing to resort to violence in support of their views have just won a round in their war to suppress free speech in America.

After much back and forth, conservative commentator Ann Coulter has canceled a speech at University of California, Berkeley primarily because of the lack of protection from the local police and the inability to ensure the safety of Ms. Coulter and those attending her address.

Ms. Coulter called it “a sad day for free speech.” I say it’s a sad day for America.

America cannot become another Cuba or North Korea, where citizens have no right to speak freely. The right to free speech is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, and those extreme liberals who are terrorizing college campuses and targeting conservatives have the ultimate goal of silencing any opposing voices. We must all stand against this kind of intimidation on campuses. Free speech should be one of those causes on which both conservatives and liberals can find common ground.

Liberal professor Cornel West said on Fox News that he is committed to “unnerving students,” adding that college campuses should be “unsettled spaces rather than safe spaces.” College is a time for developing critical thought, facing tough questions and fostering intellectual curiosity — which means being exposed to different points of views.

None of that can happen when liberal bullies call their conservative peers insulting names and block the expression of alternative, conservative views on campus — a traditional oasis of freedom of thought and expression.

Berkeley, of course, has a history of its own on the issue. Over 1,000 students in 1964 joined the Free Speech Movement and held a protest demanding that the university lift a ban on political activities and free expression. Today, on that same campus, bandits and anarchists are effectively in charge, employing violent tactics to suppress conservative political activities and events. University administrators lack the will and the power to face down the bullies.

Conservatives speakers have become an easy target for those liberals, who are always ready to denounce anyone who challenges their beliefs as sexists and racists. Ms. Coulter, thankfully, does not shy away from the controversy but confronts it, exposing the hypocrisy of her accusers at every turn.

Last year, the provocative author and commentator participated in an interview with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, a proponent of amnesty for illegal immigrants, where she answered tough questions on immigration from an audience that included those in the U.S. illegally. These individuals did not agree with her, but it was an opportunity for real give-and-take.

Berkeley students have been deprived of the same opportunity by those liberals who use violence to enforce political correctness on our college campuses, creating fear, trampling on our constitutional rights and promoting an anti-American philosophy.

When I was a college student, my alma mater, Florida International University, hosted an event for Cuban communists. With so many students at the school coming from families who had recently fled the murderous Castro regime, it was obviously an emotional day for many of us.

I remember feeling, in Mr. West’s word, “unnerved,” but I listened to the speakers’ critical views of the United States and their doctrinal speeches on the glories of communism. We engaged in heated conversations, but the exchange was, in the end, enlightening. It helped me further understand the evils of communism and the ignorance of those individuals who live under the regime and follow the dictator’s rules.

In Cuba, of course, I would never have been allowed to participate in a similar forum at University of Havana, or to criticize Castro on Cuban soil. It simply was not allowed.

The United States literally came into being because of the Founding Fathers’ willingness to debate and disagree — often heatedly — on issues such as state rights, federalism and the rights of the governed. They understood more than two centuries ago that open forums of debate and discussion were fundamental to finding common ground and to the long-term health of the American experiment.

The growing intolerance on campus — and the willingness of university administrators to shelter their students from challenging voices and contrary opinions — will have long-term negative effects. By excluding conservatives from their debates and allowing those willing to use violence to dominate the conversation, the universities lose their own voice and are weakened as institutions.

Extreme liberal groups with a violent agenda should not win. Freedom of speech and the U.S. Constitution must prevail.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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