ON-Lion Letter

At college and university campuses across the country, students are objecting to invitations to visiting speakers with whom they disagree and demanding that the speakers be disinvited.  This often occurs in Spring, of course, when commencement speakers come under particularly heavy criticism.  It's something of a "disinvitation season."

In April, the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale University sponsored its First Annual Disinvitation Dinner in New York City.  Bradley Prize recipient George F. Will delivered the keynote address during the black-tie dinner.  In his remarks, Will complimented the work of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in Philadelphia.  FIRE defends free speech on campus.

"Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively, and dangerously threatened than it is now," according to Will -- a disinvitee himself, from Scripps College last year.  "The Alien and Sedition Acts arose from a temporary, transitory fever and were in any case sunsetted and disappeared.  The fevers after and during the First World War and in the early culture war era also were eruptions of distemper rooted in local conditions and local issues bound to disappear, which they did.

"Today’s attack is different," he continued.  "It's an attack on the theory of freedom of speech.  It is an attack on the desirability of free speech and indeed if listened to carefully and plumbed fully, what we have today is an attack on the very possibility of free speech.  The belief is that the First Amendment is a mistake."

Encounter Books president and publisher and The New Criterion editor and publisher Roger Kimball introduced Will, who serves on the Board of Directors of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

"I suppose I should begin with a trigger warning:  this evening may be dangerous to your complacency," Kimball joked.  "As you take a moment to check your privilege, I should also warn you that micro-aggressions are likely to be perpetrated tonight, and that Management cannot guarantee that you will find this a safe space sanitized of thoughts you find offensive.  In other words, this is not a contemporary American college campus."

The Bradley Foundation supports the Buckley Program at Yale, FIRE, Encounter Books, and The New Criterion.

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