Democratic Congressman Anthony Brown (D-MD) told a group of progressive college students this week that he intends to help them eliminate any disagreement on campus by offering a bill in Congress to curtail “hate speech” at America’s universities.
According to The Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, Rep. Brown is rather pleased with his brainchild bill, which he says will demand colleges and universities have programs in place to define “what is acceptable speech and what is not acceptable speech” on their campuses — and those schools who lack funding to develop one of these programs will receive a mandatory grant from the Department of Education to put one together.
The bill would also require colleges and universities to report incidents of “hate speech” to a national clearinghouse.
The University of Maryland welcomed Brown as part of a calendar of “campus-wide actions, dialogues and healing for the University of Maryland community,” following both the events of Charlottesville, Virginia — where neo-Nazis clashed with protesters, and a young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when one self-identified white supremacist purposefully drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators — and the stabbing death of Bowie State University student Richard Collins, at the hand of another student who, reportedly, belonged to an online group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
Brown claims his bill would only cover what school’s define as “hate speech,” but, of course, there’s no telling where that line may be drawn. Certainly, alt-right icons have tested the tolerance of certain colleges and universities, even going so far as to sue those campuses that cancel their events.
But in an effort to weed out the truly heinous ideas, colleges often create more problems: first, if the college is a place for intellectual discourse and the rigorous debate of even distasteful ideas, is it appropriate to label some speech as “unacceptable” and censor it from what, by all accounts, are audiences of adults? And second, what qualifies as “hate speech?” Certainly, Richard Spencer is disgusting, but what is to prevent the kind of action we’ve already seen, in the name of “tolerance and understanding,” handicapping and even outright banning groups that bring “controversial” (often conservative) speakers to campus, because the student body might have a difficult time processing ideas that aren’t knee-jerk progressive?
For Brown, it seems, the answer is to err on the side of cutting off even the mildly distasteful, because, of course, Donald Trump has made everything terrible, and no one knows what’s truly problematic.
Brown said he thinks there’s a direct link between President Trump’s election and the increase of racism and anger he said exists within some segments of the white community across the country. Brown said Trump used this hate to carry him into the Oval Office.
Fortunately, Brown recognizes that he can’t simply legislate away problematic ideas — but that’s not going to stop him from trying. This bill just won’t be the last piece of the puzzle. “But,” he added, “we think it’s part of the solution.”