President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he will sign an executive order to require colleges to “support free speech” to be eligible for federal research funding.
This is an odd statement from a man who has repeatedly shut down news organizations and individual reporters who have reported on Trump-related news that he finds to be unflattering.
It quickly became clear, however, that the president decided to pursue this because of an incident at the University of California-Berkeley where Hayden Williams, a conservative demonstrator, was punched in the face. The man who punched Williams was later arrested.
During his speech, Trump even went so far as to say that the demonstrator, Williams, took a “hard punch to the face for all of us,” according to CNN.
But who is “all of us”?
In the three years that Trump has been president, the question of what is free speech, and who it protects, has grown more murky.
Williams’ beliefs did not represent those of all of us; instead, the president used the incident as leverage to raise up conservative beliefs while attempting to silence liberals. Months ago, though, The New York Times reported that Democrats used online disinformation to campaign against Alabama’s Roy Moore in 2017.
Colleges do not need to be threatened to accept free speech, because they’re already doing it on their own. The real battle is discerning what is real and what is being used to manipulate what we believe.
Free speech is not a hard concept to understand. The hard part for people to understand is their own role in diminishing the thoughts of others with whom they do not agree.
In his own weird way, the president is right to raise a discussion about free speech.
But the real focus should be on encouraging credible, bipartisan news organizations to report on topics that are being misconstrued by the very people who are supposed to be transparent with us, instead of helping demonstrators to go out and spread a certain base’s agenda.