Last week on April 15 the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale inaugurated its annual Disinvitation Dinner. The Buckley Program has written a new chapter in how to take a lemon and make a lemonade. Some kind of congratulations are in order. Its online site is located here.
The Disinvitation Dinner was a black-tie affair at the Pierre Hotel in New York. Buckley Program chairman Roger Kimball introduced keynote speaker George Will, who took up the subject of the parlous state of free speech. Roger has posted the text of his introduction of Will here.
Roger’s characteristically witty and learned introduction whetted my appetite for Will’s speech itself. As of this morning the Buckley Program has posted the video of Roger’s introduction here and of Will’s speech here. I have also embedded Will’s speech below.
George Will earned the honor of giving this keynote speech through a long career advocating the principle of free speech as well as his own disinvitation from speaking at Scripps College last year. This is a timely speech on an important subject as liberal fascism continues its march through the institutions.
Free speech has never been, in the history of our republic, more comprehensively, aggressively and dangerously threatened than it is now. The Alien and Sedition Acts arose from a temporary, transitory fever and were in any case sunsetted and disappeared. The fevers after and during the First World War and in the early culture war era also were eruptions of distemper rooted in local conditions and local issues bound to disappear, which they did.
Today’s attack is different. It’s an attack on the theory of freedom of speech. It is an attack on the desirability of free speech and indeed if listened to carefully and plumbed fully, what we have today is an attack on the very possibility of free speech. The belief is that the First Amendment is a mistake. . . .
Yesterday the Democratic Party, the oldest political party in the world, the party that guided this country through two world wars and is more responsible than any other for the shape of the modern American state—the Democratic Party’s leading and prohibitively favored frontrunner candidate for the presidential nomination announced four goals for her public life going forward, one of which is to amend the Bill of Rights to make it less protective. It’s an astonishing event. She said that she wants to change the First Amendment in order to further empower the political class to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political speech about the political class—and so far as I can tell there’s not a ripple of commentary about this on the stagnant waters of the American journalistic community.