On Saturday, members of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were privy to two hours of “ranting and raving” from the nation’s commander-in-chief who decidedly used the bully pulpit to deliver his stances on immigration, industry and insurance for his victimised followers. Speaking to his audience of fervent devotees, President Donald Trump vowed to sign an executive order demanding universities either “support free speech” across their campuses or forfeit their federal research dollars — using an attack on a right-wing political activist and fundamental speech rights as their new partisan rallying cry.
“We reject oppressive speech codes, censorship, political correctness and every other attempt by the hard left to stop people from challenging ridiculous and dangerous ideas. These ideas [themselves] are dangerous,” President Trump declared, framing the sins of speech suppression on his opposition. “Instead, we believe in free speech — including online and including on campus. Today I’m proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research grants.”
To the surprise of no-one, this caused an immediate uproar from the attending public, especially after a stage appearance from the president’s special guest Hayden Williams, an organiser and activist for the right-wing political think-tank Turning Point USA, who was punched in the face during his recruitment of students to join the group’s campus chapter. TPUSA staff can be seen using provocative signs such as “this is MAGA country”, a reference to the convicted hate crime hoax conducted by television actor Jussie Smollett. “If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak. Free speech. If they don’t, it will be very costly,” Trump warned, echoing an old threat from years past.
For those who pay attention to Twitter — the president’s favourite platform for public posturing — this same idea was proposed almost two years ago when the same university was caught in a free speech scandal due to their treatment of conservative troll and comedian Milo Yiannopoulos. After the campus was set ablaze by ANTIFA counter-protestors, resulting in the cancellation of Milo’s invited speaking engagement, the White House released a brief statement condemning the suppression. “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view,” the president asked, “NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
For years, the president did nothing — until it became just another PR opportunity to seize upon ahead of an election year. While the president offered no specific details regarding the policy, its targets or its exact release date — other than “it’ll be signed very soon” — this does play into the perceived concerns from voters regarding free expression within higher educational institutions. This trend can be evidenced in a 2018 Gallup poll which revealed that while 61% of college students nationwide are scared to voice unpopular opinions among peers and faculty, regardless of their political affiliation, another study found only 29% of students actually support banning speech that’s either “biased” or “offensive”, according to the non-partisan Knight Foundation advocating for ethical journalism.
These numbers, however, don’t matter when the president is hyper-focusing on an anecdotal case of systemic speech suppression — if you can even call it that. For the genuine free speech warrior or an unaware partisan, this violence against Williams could appear as an example of some liberal-socialist academia complex forcing out the voices of their conservative minority, as faculty show no care in the world for their fundamental human right to speak. Without context, the order to fix this doesn’t appear harmful. You violate public rights, you don’t get public funds. Simple. In this case, however, the president is waging a funding war based on his own fake news — to point it was even unwittingly debunked by Trump-supporter Sean Hannity. On Monday, his program on Fox News showcased a statement from UC Berkely’s highest officials which reads:
“[UC Berkeley] strongly condemn violence and harassment of any sort, for any reason, no matter who the victims are.” wrote Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton, revealing their campus police force immediately published the picture of the violent suspect and sent it to the appropriate authorities. Campus police were also the first to issue suspect Zachary Greenberg with the arrest. “That sort of behaviour is intolerable and has no place here,” they continued. “Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering. At this point, we have no information indicating that the perpetrators are affiliated with the university, and I join our police department in urging anyone with information about the incident to come forward, so we can apprehend and bring the perpetrator to justice.”
Greenberg, now facing three felony charges and one misdemeanour thanks to a campus police investigation, is not UC Berkeley. He’s no student attending classes, no faculty member with administrative significance, no affiliate of any campus organisation and no Soros-funded false flagger. He’s just some random leftist fighting a random conservative associate on their campus. What role did the university play in fostering the violence? Well, it had the misfortune of being the setting of a political punch-on between age-old factions — which could cause a complete federal funding withdrawal. If the policy is a unilateral decision from an opportunistic president, happy to play with budgets for voter sway, the university’s actual free expression could be hindered by economic coercion through hypocritical government.
This conundrum, however, won’t stop the pro-free speech framing behind his grifting partisanship. “If these socialist progressives had their way, they would put our Constitution through the paper shredder in a heartbeat,” Trump continued, rallying conservatives around their manufactured leftist monster. “Do me a favour, sue him. But he’s probably got nothing, but sue him forever. But sue the college, the university. And maybe sue the state. Ladies and gentlemen, [Williams] took a hard punch in the face for all of us. Remember that. Here is the good news: He is going to be a very wealthy young man. If you keep defending us, we’ll keep defending you.”
Should you dare attack Trump and his ilk—through unjust violence or just criticisms — and you can expect the suppressive hand of the law. In 2013, the billionaire real estate mogul famously filed a $5M defamation lawsuit against HBO comedian Bill Maher for saying he was “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan”. In the president’s mind, jokes are no exception to his legal censorship.
“This is known as parody, and it’s a form of something we in the comedy business call a joke,” Maher said, explaining why the lawsuit was an unjust authoritarian threat. “Just like we’re the gun country, we’re the joke country. We love our free speech and we love celebrities getting taken down a peg. So Don, just suck it up like everybody else.” The lawsuit was eventually withdrawn after Trump’s former lawyer and political fixer Michael Cohen announced the lawsuit would be refiled at a later date — which never happened. Instead, thin-skinned threats against the comedy world would continue several years later into his presidency.
“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!” Trump tweeted last year. “Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion! A REAL scandal is the one-sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?”
It bears pointing out that Saturday Night Live is not a news show. It’s a sketch comedy tasked with parodying an already ridiculous administration — which, to be fair, could be the cause for his confusion. A true free speech warrior, however, wouldn’t see cause for state-sanctioned pressure either way. Instead, these lawfully suppressive impulses showcase the larger, disturbing pattern of behaviour where Trump seeks to be America’s showrunner — more than happy to paper-shred the Constitutional script in favour of bureaucrats and legislators drafting their own Trump-loving culture war alternative.
You don’t have to imagine his script notes — The Atlantic has them here:
- “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should want to look into it.”
- “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”
- “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
- “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up — FAKE!”
- “Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer — it’s actually much worse than anyone ever thought, and it begins with the Fake News!”
- “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!”
- “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!”
It’s not obvious how a presidential order will persuade colleges to address their cultural divides on freedom of speech. What is clear is both the reason Trump utilises voter fears at a time most opportune for political power — the way he’s happy to be that monster when it suits his fragile image — and how this could force use down the abuses of executive overreach. Congress, after all, should remain in charge of funding their nation’s higher education to best determine whether they’re actually adhering to the constitution — not one man in the White House with no principles to his name til election time.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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