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TFAS Public Policy Fellows Debate: “Will America Ban Hate Speech?”

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Milikh addresses the Fellows on free speech issues during the discussion.

University speech codes, Big Tech censoring political content, and the shouting down of speakers on college campuses have made headlines in recent years as ways modern American society is undermining freedom of speech. But, will the freest country in the world place an outright ban on speech deemed disagreeable, including ‘hate speech?

Arthur Milikh, associate director and research fellow for the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics in the Institute for Constitutional Government at The Heritage Foundation, posed this question and more at the TFAS Public Policy Fellows monthly academic dinner on March 10.

Arthur Milikh facilitated provocative discussion that left me feeling equally challenged in my approach to identity politics, resolved in my commitment to free speech, and hopeful about how this group of Fellows can use our ideas and words to be effective leaders in public policy.” – Kylee Zempel, ’17, PPF ’19

After reading Milikh’s recent article, “The Tyranny of the Marginalized” from the Winter 2020 edition of the Claremont Review of Books, the Fellows met to discuss and debate “Will America Ban Hate Speech?,” exploring the recent trajectory of curtailing political speech on American college campuses and contrasting this approach to the Founders’ understanding of freedom of speech.

During the dinner, Milikh provided examples of how free speech is being suppressed in Europe, sharing stories of politicians, priests and political commentators who have already been regularly censored for espousing political ideas that might offend protected groups. This represents a trend in Europe which is already taking hold in the U.S.

(l.r.) Fellows Paul Mullen, Trevor Carlsen and Eliora Katz listen as Milikh shares ideas.

“The demand to outlaw so-called ‘hate speech’ continues to grow in America,” Milikh said. “Yet too few policy makers, however, understand the radical theory behind it and how our nation will change should it be banned.”

He warned that if this type of censorship were to come to America, it would “spell the end of political liberty.”

TFAS Director of International and Continuing Education Programs Brenda Hafera said Milikh’s discussion articulated to the Fellows a stark reminder why freedom of speech is elevated as one of America’s first freedoms, and the wide-ranging consequences that undermining our premier rights might have on a free society.

As Arthur outlined, freedom of speech is based on freedom of the mind, protecting the thoughts of the individual and allowing him or her to give voice to those thoughts,” she said. “The protection of such a right provides the space for deliberation and inculcates the habits of character of free citizens – it fosters individuals who are capable of self-government.”

Kylee Zempel, ’17, PPF ’19, a Fellow and assistant editor at The Federalist, left the discussion with a reminder that “freedom of speech is absolutely foundational to a flourishing society.”

“There was something so powerful about exercising that freedom by openly discussing its importance amid peers with a diversity of viewpoints,” Zempel said. “Arthur Milikh facilitated provocative discussion that left me feeling equally challenged in my approach to identity politics, resolved in my commitment to free speech, and hopeful about how this group of Fellows can use our ideas and words to be effective leaders in public policy.”

This discussion was part of the TFAS Public Policy Fellows’ year-long curriculum on “The Experiment in Self Government,” designed to examine the challenges and questions a free society must address in order to flourish, as well as the unique advantages it can enjoy.

Applications for the 2020-21 Fellowship are now open. Public policy professionals living and working in the Washington, D.C. area with two to ten years’ experience are encouraged to learn more and apply at TFAS.org/PPF.

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