Editorial: Survey finds widespread campus intolerance for free speech

Welcome to the coming mobocracy.

It appears we are rearing a generation that already has all the answers, knows what needs to be said and done and will brook no deviation from the preordained norm. Debate is not an option.

In the face of a deluge of anti-free speech activities, including actual riots, on college campuses across the country, Brookings Institution researcher John Villasenor conducted a survey of 1,500 current undergraduate students at the nation’s colleges and universities in order to determine just how well the First Amendment is understood and embraced on campus.

One of Villasenor’s first questions was whether or not “hate speech,” whatever that is, is protected by the First Amendment. Fully 44 percent said it is not, while only 39 percent said it is. A distressingly high 16 percent of college students did not know one way or the other.

These answers came shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in June that a trademark could not be denied simply because it contained a racial slur. An Asian-American rock band had been denied a trademark for its name “Slants.”

Justice Samuel Alito stated categorically: “Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’”

Apparently not on campus.

The Brookings survey also asked about the acceptability of the so-called heckler’s veto by setting up the scenario that a controversial speaker has been invited to campus and asking: “A student group opposed to the speaker disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker. Do you agree or disagree that the student group’s actions are acceptable?”

A majority, 51 percent agreed that is acceptable, while 49 percent disagreed. Among Democrats fully 62 percent agreed to 38 percent disagreeing, while only 39 percent of Republicans agreed and 61 percent disagreed.

Perhaps even more disturbing was the next question in that scenario: “A student group opposed to the speaker uses violence to prevent the speaker from speaking. Do you agree or disagree that the student group’s actions are acceptable?”

Nineteen percent called using violence to prevent a speech acceptable, including 30 percent of males.

Villasenor observed, “These results are notable for several reasons. First, the fraction of students who view the use of violence as acceptable is extremely high. While percentages in the high teens and 20s are ‘low’ relative to what they could be, it’s important to remember that this question is asking about the acceptability of committing violence in order to silence speech. Any number significantly above zero is concerning. The gender difference in the responses is also notable.”

The survey also found an incredible ignorance of what the law requires when it comes to free speech. A strong majority of students are under the impression that the  First Amendment requires that an on-campus organization hosting an offensive speaker is “legally required” to ensure the event includes an opposing view.

Not even the FCC still insists on the Equal Time Doctrine.

But 62 percent of college students thought there is — not should be, but already is — a legal requirement to provide an opposing view.

Villasenor found, as should we all, the survey result highly disturbing, especially the fact that so large a faction found violence an acceptable deterrent to speech they find offensive.

“Given these results, what should be done?” Villasenor asks. “First, I think that college faculty and administrators have a heightened responsibility to do a better job at fostering freedom of expression on their campuses. Getting this to occur will be challenging. I expect that if college faculty and administrators were asked the questions in this survey, the results would, at least in broad terms, be similar to the student results presented above. That said, I would hope that results such as these can help spur faculty members and university administrators to think about the importance of creating a campus environment in which students are exposed to a broad range of views, including some that students may find disagreeable.”

(Prediction: In this age of identity politics, the survey will be dismissed simply because it was financed by one of the Koch brothers.)

We must champion free speech before it is lost.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Nineteen percent of college students called using violence to prevent a speech acceptable.

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Newspapers are dinosaurs … d’oh

Where do people get their news? Apparently they don’t.

Researchers at the Brookings Institution have reached these conclusions:

— 1. Print newspapers are dinosaurs

— 2. Hard news is in danger

— 3. Television is still important

— 4. And so is radio

—5. News is now digital

— 6. Social media allows news (and “news”) to go viral

— 7. For the younger generation, news is delivered through comedy

They noted that in the 1940s a third of Americans received a daily newspaper, but now readership is less than 15 percent. In 1945 there were 1,749 American newspapers. Now there are 1,331. But if you look at the number of papers per 100 million population, they have fallen from nearly 1,800 to only 400.

Perhaps that is because there is less to read. Newsroom staffing per capita has been cut in half  in 25 years. “According to the American Society for Newspaper Editors, total newsroom employment in 1978 was 43,000; by 2015, it had dropped to 32,900. These raw numbers are significant in themselves, but they are more dramatic when increases in population are taken into account,” the report says.

Of course there is a reason for that, but one can’t tell if it is the chicken or the egg. Newspaper ad revenues have been cut in half in the past decade.

profits

 

Where do people get their news now? Well, that depends upon how old you are, and what you define as news.

news source

Note the age schizm.

Here is the rather namby-pamby conclusion by the Brookings researchers:

The pessimists will focus on the decline in newspaper readership, network television, and the number of professionals collecting hard news as proof that there are serious consequences to citizen knowledge as a result of the internet revolution. The optimists will point out that news is reaching people in new and unexpected ways and that the absence of traditional “gatekeepers” with the biases that all humans have (no matter how much they try to be neutral) has broadened the landscape of knowledge and opinion to which the public is exposed — with positive effects for democracy. They will also point out that the new technology allows for a two-way engagement with the news in ways that the old never did.

Or is it possible that we just don’t know yet?

They don’t address the quality of the news, such as the Politico fabrication about Ben Carson or the slanted ledes on stories that make them editorials instead of news or editorials that ignore the facts. The lack of competion makes the news business weaker and poorer in more ways than one.

Newspaper column: Let water seek its price level in free market

The West has been parched by drought for 15 years. Lake Mead stands at 39 percent of its capacity. Thousands of acres of agricultural land lie fallow. Fruit and nut trees are dying. Cities are banning lawn watering.

The dwindling waters of the Colorado River Basin alone currently bathe and slake the thirst of more than 40 million people and irrigate 4 million acres of agriculture in an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the United States’ gross domestic product. Groundwater tables across the region are being drawn down to such a degree that it will take millennia to recover.

The powers that be are tossing out various ideas to increase supply and/or decrease demand for that increasingly scarce water, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News and the Elko Daily Free Press.

But some thinkers at the Brookings Institution think-tank have thought of something so old that it is new.

Lake Mead at 39 percent capacity.

Currently water in the West is allocated on a first-in-use, first-in-rights basis. Stop the use and the rights stop, too. A water right is not a property right that can be bought, sold or bartered.

But the authors of “Shopping for Water: How the Market Can Mitigate Water Shortages in the American West” suggest water bought and sold in an open market would find its level, so to speak, balancing the supply with demand through pricing.

It is a concept spelled out by Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776 as “an invisible hand” and advocated by free-market economists ever since, though the reasoning has largely fallen on the deaf ears of the central planners who think they know best and free markets are somehow unfair to the poor — a fallacy Smith long ago debunked.

Many wags have observed over the years that “nobody washes a rented car,” meaning that ownership of a thing results in better care being taken of it.

“As impressive as our water infrastructure may be, over the decades, water management in the West has also created perverse economic and legal incentives that have led to the overdraft of critical groundwater reserves and depleted reservoirs, and that have promoted the overallocation of Western rivers and streams,” write the Brookings authors.

Central Valley of California sign.

The communal ownership of water offers little incentive to invest in equipment or technology that might conserve water for profitable sale to another user.

“Market pricing for water can encourage conservation and wise use of water in our cities and industry,” the study suggests. “Farmers who have an opportunity to sell or lease a portion of their water have an incentive to conserve, invest in more efficient irrigation systems, and/or adjust existing cropping patterns in order to free up water for trade.”

For example, California and Nevada farmers are growing water thirsty alfalfa for export to Japan, China and the Middle East. That is tantamount to exporting water overseas during a prolonged drought that has no end in sight.

One of the study’s three authors, University of Arizona professor Robert Glennon, calculated the irrational rationing and pricing of water across three different current uses.

It takes about 135,000 gallons of water to produce a ton of alfalfa, which would sell for about $340. The same volume of water could produce approximately 11,000 pounds of lettuce in Yuma and sell for $2,000. Meanwhile, the Intel Corporation uses about 10 gallons of water to produce a microprocessor. “In other words, an acre-foot of water used to grow alfalfa generates approximately $920; if used to grow lettuce in Yuma, it would generate approximately $6,000; if used by Intel, it would generate $13 million.”

If water were traded on the open market, it could flow to the highest and best uses. It would become practical to enhance the treatment of sewage to near potable levels and to build desalinization plants along the ocean, allowing inland communities to trade for river water by paying for the power to operate downstream water purification systems.

This is nothing new. Former UNLV professor of economics Murray Rothbard wrote in 1995 in “Making Economic Sense”:

“All it (government) has to do is clear the market, and let people conserve each in his own way and at his own pace.

“In the longer run, what the government should do is privatize the water supply, and let water be supplied, like oil or Pepsi-Cola, by private firms trying to make a profit and to satisfy and court consumers, and not to gain power by making them suffer.”

When will we ever learn?