12:58 GMT06 March 2021
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    At the end of March, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at supporting free speech on college and university campuses across the country as incidents of restricting free speech have increased. In February a student at the University of California at Berkeley was punched in the face for expressing support for Trump.

    Sputnik has discussed the issue of free speech in the US with Allen West an American political commentator, retired US Army lieutenant colonel, and former member of the House of Representatives.

    Sputnik: In your opinion why do modern universities which generally pride themselves on being places of tolerance and freedom of speech, places where people can express their ideas tend to mute and even ban people, especially conservative speakers? And how much does this contradict the provisions of the First Amendment?

    Allen West: Well, first and foremost they pretend to be tolerant and they pretend to advocate for free speech when actually all they want is accepted speech. What our colleges and universities in America have become they're no longer part of a system of education. They're not about free exchange of thoughts and ideas but instead they've become indoctrination centres; and the sad thing is they don't want any opposing thought, perspectives, viewpoints, insights. They want Ideological domination.

    Sputnik: And how exactly does all this contradict the provisions of the First Amendment?

    Allen West: It contradicts the provision of the First Amendment in each and every way. That's the most cherished freedoms that we have here in this constitutional republic that we call United States of America. And it's the type of freedom that many countries across the world they also wish that they had — the freedom of speech. Well, first of all, it's the freedom of religion. It's about religious freedom, it's the freedom of speech, it's the freedom of expression, it's about the freedom of the press; a press that has to be responsible press, but we find the press now in America in many ways being ideological press that's suppressing the truth and not looking at news or reporting in an objective manner.

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    So when you look at what is happening on our college campuses and universities, when you hear about this thing called safe spaces. When I went to the University of Tennessee back in 1979 to 1983 there was no such thing as a safe space, and we should not train our children that are going to colleges and universities to believe that if there's something that they don't want to hear they don't have to hear it because that's not how the world operates.

    Sputnik: And how could Trump's executive order really change the situation regarding free speech on university campuses?

    Allen West: Well, I don't think so much it will change the situation but it has brought it to attention. When the president of the United States of America is standing on a stage with a young man that was punched in the face at the University of California Berkeley because of his thoughts and viewpoints, and perspectives, that rises it to a national level of attention. And I think that's what that executive order does. Now there are some cases where, perhaps, federal funding can be restricted from public universities that do receive federal grants because of their restrictions on freedom of speech or not allowing conservative speakers to come in and be on their campuses. So I think what he did is he put this in the spotlight and he made more people aware of this issue.

    Sputnik: And in your opinion what are the main flaws, if there are any, in the current executive order signed by Trump?

    Allen West: Well, as with anything what's the enforcement mechanism, and then do you actually follow through and there are some punitive measures that will come against public university that do restrict freedom of speech and do restrict certain speakers to be able to go and speak. I got to tell you what we should be looking at as we come up on graduation season how many of these colleges and universities will allow conservative speakers or speakers that have a different perspective to be able to speak on their campuses and universities to their seniors as commencement speakers.

    Just recently Cornell University told a black female Christian that she was not allowed. They disinvited her from speaking on their campus because of her Christian perspectives and views on family and sexuality. She believes in the traditional two-parent household and because of that she was criticised and disinvited and that's Cornell University. So again we're seeing this more and more, and it has always been there, but now we've made it very much aware to not just the people the United States of America but even yourself. That's why you're talking to me about it.

    Sputnik: And how dominant is left-wing political ideology on student campuses?

    Allen West: It is incredibly dominant. If you look at the BDS movement, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, you see a lot of this anti-Semitism on college campuses and universities. If you want you can go and Google when I was invited to speak at Saint Louis University a couple of years ago and how the students reacted and responded there. It was absolutely appalling, and the interesting thing is when the alumni saw that video the alumni put a lot of pressure on the president and the administration there.

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    This is happening, it continues to happen, and I think that again this is something we should be asking ourselves: do we want to raise a generation of young people that cannot think, cannot properly debate? Because what I really believe is that the reason why the Democratic National Committee told Fox News that you will not host any of our debates and why you see this shutdown of free speech and opposing thought on campuses and universities because they can't defend the things they are indoctrinating or trying to teach our young people to believe in. They can't stand up to the scrutiny.

    Sputnik: Speaking about young people, how does a lack of freedom of expression affect the learning process and the development of a student as a full member of society?

    Allen West: You're not a critical thinker. You just become mindless mimic, and I hate to say it but Vladimir Lenin coined the phrase "the useful idiot", because if all you are doing and being taught is this, this and this; if there's only one message that you are being given and you don't know how to challenge, you don't know how to think, you don't learn to reason, and that's one of the most important things about college campuses and universities. It's not just about the book learning; it is about the development of your mind and understanding logic and reason.

    Sputnik: You have repeatedly spoken about the danger of radical Islam and its followers why are your speeches sometimes branded as hate speech by the left, and why are people being labelled for expressing their views in your opinion?

    Allen West: Because once again I've had people say I disagree with your facts. Well, that's pretty an insidious statement. So for whatever reason, there's an idealogical agenda out there. You can tell the truth about socialism, you can tell the truth about militant Islamism and all of these things, radical Islamic terror, but for whatever reason there are some people that don't want to hear it; and the best thing they can do is to brand you. Let's go down the list, you can be a racist, you can be a sexist, you can be a homophobe, you can be an Islamophobe, all of these things.

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    And that's how you get people to self-censor. That's how you get people to shut down. That is how you prevent people from exercising their freedom of speech by demonising, denigrating and demeaning them even though what they're speaking is truth, and in fact, and it can be verified.

    Sputnik: And as you know Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that they were way too aggressive in banning conservatives, what is your opinion about bias on social media in the US and in mass media in general?

    Allen West: Well, there's no opinion on it. It happens. As a matter of fact this past weekend there was a pro-life movie called "Uplanned", it was its opening weekend and for some odd reason all of a sudden the Twitter handle for the movie "Unplanned" was suspended by Twitter. Now when people became aware of that and they went on Twitter and other social media platforms to complain about it then that Twitter handle was restored, but the fact that you have "public social media platforms" boasting support for freedom of speech, freedom of expression and someone is making the determination that this movie should not be able to have a Twitter handle on its opening weekend that tells you something.

    And I'm pretty proliferated on Facebook and I can always tell when the manipulation of algorithms are happening because you see a drop in responses or likes, or whatever you call it, and we know about shadow banning and these things. So I think it is wrong for these platforms to masquerade as a public form and a public platform but then somewhere you have some people determining what is the acceptable speech, not free speech, but what they accept as speech that should be out there in the public.

    Sputnik: In your view what exactly should be done in order to increase the level of freedom of speech in the US?

    Allen West: People just need to be keep talking and not be censored. That's the bottom line. You know, when people call your name you should not relegate yourself into silence but you should continue to speak, as long as you are speaking from a factual basis. But the point that we have here in America, and I would have never thought that I could see it in my lifetime, I'm 58 years of age, we have a fascist movement in United States of America. George Orwell's "1984" is happening right here in the United States of America through our media, through our colleges and universities. There is a message, there's an ideology that people are trying to make dominant and everything else they're trying to squelch it.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Allen West and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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