At what point, does free speech become dangerous? That’s a question we are faced with in America today.

Maureen Dowd’s column in Sunday’s New York Times takes a tough stance on the presidents of elite colleges that testified before Congress. One has already been forced to resign. Another may have to soon.

Here’s the background. Since the war between Israel and Hamas began, college campuses across America have been experiencing protests and the threat of violence against both Israeli and Palestinian students.

The presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. were asked to testify before Congress about how they are handling it. None did particularly well.

The question put to them: Does calling for genocide against Jews constitute harassment? New York Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked it.

Penn’s Elizabeth Magill answered: “It is a context-dependent decision.” Me: “Huh?”

Harvard’s Claudine Gay answered this way when asked: “depending on the context.” Me: “Explain context.”

M.I.T.’s President Sally Kornbluth answered it would have to be targeted at individuals and pervasive, as well as require an investigation. Me: “Better answer, but still lame.”

Representative Stefanik said all three should be fired.

All three have since tried to clarify their positions. It does not appear to be working.

Penn’s Magill has now resigned. Harvard’s Gay is facing pressure to quit. M.I.T.’s Kornbluth, so far, still has the support of the school’s board.

Being asked about the genocide of Jews should not be a hard question. Is it harassment? Absolutely… and then some.

But… what about the protests? What about free speech? When does it cross the line? That’s a tougher question.

I’m a journalist by profession. I stand by the First Amendment. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Freedom of assembly. I’ll die on that hill.

Calling for genocide, that’s not First Amendment stuff. Full stop.

I’m sure these university presidents knew this question was coming. They were probably advised how to answer. Vaguely. Badly. Horribly. Now, the consequences.

As Maureen Dowd writes: “We shouldn’t need to tell these smart people how ignorant they sound.”

Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League said this: “I think the inability of these individuals to articulate a simple, straightforward answer to what should have been the easiest question in the world is mind-boggling.”

That we are even having to ask this question is what gets to me. Again? The world is fighting again over religion, real estate and someone’s right to exist.

I haven’t been part of a college campus in a really long time. I don’t recall being particularly politically active when I was there.

This, though, I knew then. Genocide is wrong. No other answer. You can protest all you want about this war. You can argue over land and religion forever. You cannot argue however, that a people should not be allowed to exist. End of discussion.

These college presidents know that too. Why didn’t they just say it?

Fear of retribution back on campus probably. Political correctness. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t hurt anyone. Don’t shame anyone.

Shame? To those who can’t answer a simple question about genocide… shame on them.

5 thoughts on “Free speech? Shame on them.”
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