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Students Call for 'Terrifying' Wave of Censorship


A video shows filmmaker and satirist Ami Horowitz on the campus of Yale University asking students to sign a petition calling for a repeal of the First Amendment.

Horowitz said he was able to quickly gather more than 50 signatures in less than an hour and believes most who signed were students.

The amendment to the Constitution, approved by the Founding Fathers, upholds the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully assemble, and in an ironic twist, the right to petition.

A Yale spokesman has dismissed the clip, calling it a "heavily edited prank video." But free speech advocates like Ari Cohn, a writer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, say the video is cause for concern.

"It's indicative of a broader trend that we've seen on college campuses lately, of subserviating free speech to sensibilities and feelings and I think that a worry in and of itself," he said.

Watch Ami Horowitz' video.

In the last several decades, hundreds of universities have adopted speech codes. These campus policies consistently violate the First Amendment, by prohibiting offensive or disrespectful speech.

Now, at campuses across the country, First Amendment advocates are seeking to push back on these codes.

"Censorship is like a cancer that eventually spreads out of control and eventually everyone has something to worry about," said Dr. Mike Adams, author of Letters to a Young Progressive.

But there's now a bigger concern.

"The terrifying thing to me is that the current wave of censorship is coming from students, not from the faculty," Prof. Todd Zywicki, at George Mason University, said.

Still, it's a big leap for students to want to overthrow the First Amendment, as the Yale video apparently shows.

"I think students don't understand the practical implications of arguments against free speech," Cohn said. "I think the video in some way exposes that because ironically abolishing the First Amendment would abolish Horowitz' s right to circulate such petition and the student's right to sign such a petition."

Cohn said educators need to work with students to explain free speech principles and the reasons for the First Amendment.

"I think we have to show students how free speech protected the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's suffrage movement, and any real progressive, social cause we've made in recent history has all come because of free speech," Cohn said.

Free speech advocates say this video should serve as a wake-up call. Apparently a new generation does not view the First Amendment the way so many Americans have for so long.

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