Alan Dershowitz On Free Speech

The Center’s Fall Briefing took place Monday evening at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, with Professor Alan Dershowitz as the featured speaker. Dershowitz is a tireless advocate for free speech, which was the subject of his speech.

Dershowitz warned that in American universities, core values of free speech and due process are under attack from the left. He faulted university administrators for caving in to pressure from leftist students, while praising conservative students who stand up for free speech.

Dershowitz expressed disappointment in a number of institutions, pointing out that we have no institutions that are neutral protectors of everyone’s civil liberties. He had especially harsh words for the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization on whose national board he long served. Since President Trump’s election, he said, the ACLU has become a partisan political organization. He was appalled by its recent statement that Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be subject to a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.

Dershowitz was also critical of the press, which he described as adversarial. Much of the media now prioritizes ideology over truth and opinion over reporting. He cited as an example the New York Times, which now prints one-sided “news analysis” on its front page.

While insisting that there are extremists on all sides, Dershowitz acknowledged that today, threats to free speech come mainly from the Left. President Eisenhower stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy, he said, but where are the Democratic politicians willing to stand up agains the intolerance of the hard Left? What we have today is left-wing McCarthyism.

Professor Dershowitz, who describes himself as a liberal Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton, received a warm reception from the mostly-conservative audience of 770. We couldn’t agree more with his call for an alliance of the center-right and center-left to defend civil liberties.