Kansas City Star: Ben Shapiro's Visit to Mizzou Poses 'Stern Test' to Free Speech

In an article published Wednesday, The Kansas City Star's Yael T. Abouhalkah warned the students at the University of Missouri that their safe space is about to be invaded by a conservative "harshly unleash[ing]" free speech that is certain to offend their politically correct sensibilities.

In a piece that repeatedly cites President Barack Obama as apparently the highest authority on just how much "free speech" should be allowed on campus, Abouhalkah prepares the students of Mizzou for the coming of Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, who was invited to speak on campus Thursday night by the Young America's Foundation. Here's how Abouhalkah opens:

Free speech on the University of Missouri campus — supported at the highest levels by President Barack Obama — is scheduled to get another stern test Thursday evening.

This time, the words will be delivered by the conservative voice of Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro, who said this a few days ago about his visit to a campus roiled by racial tension:

“I’m not much older than these kids, but we’re not preparing kids for life — we’re preparing them for a future of whining pantywaist fascism. We need to fight that trend tooth and nail. Liberty is not a safe space.”

That blast was aimed at protesters including Concerned Student 1950, which has made a number of demands and taken several actions designed to bring more needed racial diversity to the campus.

For authoritative perspective on the issue, Abouhalkah turns to President Obama's have-it-both-ways comments on universities policing free speech. The president's remarks came during a recent interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in which they touched on the racial justice protests and subsequent high-profile resignations at Mizzou and other campuses across the country.

"I care about civil rights and I care about kids not being discriminated against or having swastikas painted on their doors or nooses hung, thinking it’s a joke," Obama told Stephanopoulos. "I think it’s entirely appropriate for any institution, including universities, to say, ‘Don't walk around in black face. It offends people. Don’t wear a headdress and beat your chest if Native American students have said, you know, ‘This hurts us. This bothers us.’ There’s nothing wrong with that."

After seemingly giving universities presidential approval to restrict offensive free expression, Obama then noted that we've still got to look out for "these values of free speech."

"But we also have these values of free speech," he said. "And it’s not free speech in the abstract. The purpose of that kind of free speech is to make sure that we are forced to use argument and reason and words in making our democracy work. And you know, you don't have to be fearful of somebody spouting bad ideas. Just out-argue 'em, beat 'em."

"And I do worry if young people start getting trained to think that if somebody says something I don’t like if somebody says something that hurts my feelings that my only recourse is to shut them up, avoid them, push them away, call on a higher power to protect me from that," Obama added. "You know, and yes, does that put more of a burden on minority students or gay students or Jewish students or others in a majority that may be blind to history and blind to their hurt? It may put a slightly higher burden on them. But you’re not going to make the kinds of deep changes in society — that those students want, without taking it on, in a full and clear and courageous way."

Abouhalkah argues that that's "great advice" but it's "also tough advice to be followed by young minority college students who feel as if they have been marginalized and ignored for way too long." Throughout his piece, the author suggests that those who have been "testing" the limits of "free speech" are "harsh conservative voices":

Harsh conservative voices have been supplying that kind of “free speech” far beyond the most celebrated incident of last week, when a photographer confronted students and a few faculty members who didn’t want him getting near protesters on the campus.

Abouhalkah goes on to defend one of the leaders at the heart of the Mizzou protests that forced the president's ouster, Jonathan Butler, who, as Daily Wire and others have reported, comes from an extremely wealthy family and who's claim about being hit by the car of the president is not supported by the video evidence.

As Abouhalkah briefly mentions, public opinion has not gone the way of the Black Lives Matter activists. "This week, one poll showed a pretty deep-seated rejection among Missourians of the actions taken by the protesters, MU players and Coach Gary Pinkel." The University of Missouri poll found a three-to-one rejection of the actions of the Mizzou protestors, 62 percent disagreeing with how they handled the situation, 20 percent agreeing (with 18 percent unsure).


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