Campus Free Speech

Did This 'Triggered' Student Censor a Pro-Trump Display? Nope, Not Even a Little Bit

James O'Keefe video adds nothing to the campus free speech debate


Project Veritas / Youtube

James O'Keefe has been busy since I caught him pretending to be a Hillary Clinton supporter at a rally for Bernie Sanders near the Democratic National Convention headquarters. His latest stunt involved building a fake wall at Columbia University's campus while writing pro-Trump statements in chalk. In the process, he managed to "trigger" a fragile liberal student and make a point about censorship.

Except, no. He really didn't at all.

Watch the video for yourself.

O'Keefe tells the female student that he wants to build a wall to "keep the illegals out" and "make America great again." She responds, slightly tearfully, "I'm so scared that you guys even think this."

The video tries to spin this as yet more evidence that college students are fragile snowflakes who take offense at everything. But is it evidence of that? Like the student, I am also scared of Trump's immigration policies. His policies are horrifying! Why is it objectionable to be disturbed by them?

Eventually, a younger male steps in: he describes himself as "not pro-Trump" but nevertheless thinks that O'Keefe and his crew should be allowed to express their controversial opinion. Okay. The female student agrees! She emphatically explains that she doesn't want to censor anyone—she wants to understand how any sane person could arrive at the idea that "make America great again" is a defensible public policy solution.

"I'm just trying to understand the other side," she says.

"We're just trying to spread our ideas just like you're trying to spread your ideas," O'Keefe retorts.

But that's not really true, I suspect: he's trying to goad students into attacking his free speech rights because they are offended by his (actually offensive) statements. In any case, this student didn't take the bait. I assume no student took the bait—if someone had actually called for O'Keefe to be censored then that person probably would have appeared in the video.

At the end of the video, a security guard does appear to shut O'Keefe down. He shouldn't have bothered. This was a perfect example of why the answer to bad speech is more speech: a provocateur's failure to explain why anyone should support Trump caused a student to feel perfectly reasonable despair.