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Free-Speech Failure At IU


Free-Speech Failure at IU

So many people just don’t grasp the essence of free speech.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

They think it applies to them and their views.

But not necessarily to other people with other beliefs.

Certainly, they don’t think it applies to people who disagree with them.

When someone is mistaken or cruel or clueless or stupid, their speech can’t be protected, right?


See, the point of free speech isn’t that it’s always correct or kind or well-informed or inspired.

It is that it is free.

Because people deserve to be free. Their thoughts, their sentiments, and their expressions should be their own, even if they are misguided or mean-spirited.

No one ever said freedom was going to be for the faint of heart.

The tragic farce that took place at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus illustrates the danger of forgetting how important free speech is.

University officials changed the rules governing protests on campus in the wee hours before a planned demonstration.

When pro-Palestinian protesters showed up the next morning, they were greeted by university and Indiana State Police officers. Without any notice that they were breaking the newly drafted rules, the protesters were told they violated rules that weren’t even in existence 24 hours earlier.

Arrests followed.

Per the new rules, those arrested were told they were banned from campus for a year. Just as students who have final exams and professors who teach classes are supposed to work within these asinine strictures the university did not make clear.

Because IU asserted authority it does not have, lawsuits will follow.

Unless the courts ignore more than 100 years of precedents—admittedly, a possibility with this activist U.S. Supreme Court—the university will lose. Much time and money—some of it the taxpayers’—will be lost in the process.

All because insecure college administrators couldn’t stand to let people say what they think.

Before I go any further, I need to make a couple of things clear.

The first is that I don’t have tremendous sympathy for the pro-Palestinian protesters. They are reducing a complex historical problem to the equivalent of bumper slogans and sound bites. They ignore the fact that neither side in the fighting in Gaza has a monopoly on either injustice or legitimate grievance.

The only possible resolution to the warfare is to have the combatants start listening to each other. That will be impossible so long as each side thinks it and it alone is the party that has been wronged.

But here’s the other thing I need to make clear.

I don’t have the right to tell the protesters or anyone else what to believe or what they may say. Making their own decisions about the morality of the warfare in Gaza is their right and their responsibility—and no one else’s. If I think they are mistaken, my option is to try to persuade them or others who may be listening to think again or consider other possibilities.

It is not to try to shut them up.

The answer to bad speech is not no speech. It is better speech, wiser speech, more well-informed speech.

It is more speech.

But what if what is said is offensive or threatening?

Some protesters at IU and on other campuses have used antisemitic slurs. Some have threatened violence against Jews and others disagree with them.

Threats of violence are not protected by the First Amendment. That means those who resort to violence as a way of expressing their displeasure—by, say, storming the U.S. Capitol because they didn’t like the outcome of a presidential election—can’t rely on a constitutional defense.

But if they confine themselves to saying hurtful, even bigoted things, well, that is protected by our founding document’s free-speech provisions.

Nowhere in the Constitution does it guarantee that we never will hear anything that wounds or offends us.

The folly of those who would suppress free speech—such as the short-sighted idiocy of the administrators at IU—is that they always think they can eliminate thought with which they disagree by suppressing it.

They can’t.

Ideas, even bad ones, are like water, flowing always until they find or make a path forward.

Once upon a time, though, there were places where ideas, good and bad, could be debated in civilized circumstances in the hope that something resembling truth would emerge from the wrangling.

Those places were called universities.

FOOTNOTE: John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.

The City-County Observer posted this article without bias or editing,



  1. As the director of a school of pseudo-journalism, perhaps the clueless Krull should understand what “speech” is, not what the anti-Jew “protesters” attempting to take IU over want him to say it is.

  2. I find it interesting that Mr. Krull pointed to the Jan. 6th protest in Washington but pointedly ignored the 550+ riots throughout the country in the year after the death of George Floyd. While I agree that passing restrictive laws the evening before the ‘protest’ at IU was not right, he also didn’t mention that each IU student and faculty sign a contract stating what are not acceptable actions on the campus.
    As to the current conflict in Gaza, the history of Israel since 1948 has many examples of unprovoked attacks by Arab nations that were repulsed by IDF. The Arab states have stated many time their prime objective is the eradication of Israel and the complete destruction of the Jewish people. How have the ‘students’ not noticed that this affair was started by an again unprovoked attack killing 1200? Nations, like criminals cannot start something and when it goes sour, start crying ‘uncle,’ and expect it to go away.

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