When I last took the temperature of free speech in America about a year ago, the nation was running a slight fever.
A year ago, there was discussion about — and some support for — the University of Chicago’s January 2015 statement on behalf of intellectual liberty on campus. The nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had noted a slight decline in the number of colleges and universities earning “red light” ratings because of speech codes or other restrictions on what students may think, say, write and do.
On the other hand, we were already well into the 2016 presidential campaign, during which partisans on all sides would plumb previously unexplored rhetorical depths. Many a hyperventilating columnist would come dangerously close to wearing out the H, I, T, L, E and R keys on their laptop.
The news reached such heights of erudition that I canceled cable.
A year later, as the nation heads for a close encounter of the Trump kind, it’s time for our annual free speech checkup. The news is not great.