The much-anticipated "Free Speech Week" set to start at the University of California, Berkeley on Sunday has collapsed. It was reported on Friday afternoon that student organizers were backing out, though Milo Yiannopoulos may mount a last-ditch effort to save the event he once predicted would be the modern free speech movement's Woodstock.
Free Speech Week had been dwindling rapidly from a grand series of panels featuring high-profile speakers to a dubious roster mostly made up of little-known alt-right and/or Trump-friendly pundits.
Two paragraphs from an Associated Press report on the event published Friday should hold a clear lesson to student activists who seek to fight for free speech on their campuses:
When computer science major Lindsay Nichols considers the possibility of a "Free Speech Week" featuring right-wing firebrands at the University of California, Berkeley, the first word that comes to her mind is "annoyance."
Biology student Kyeong Kim agrees. She's all for free speech but the prospect of more political clashes and the disruptions they bring draws a big shrug.
Another student added, "It's more of an annoyance than anything ... I'm just trying to get an education, and there's these SWAT teams everywhere."
Though it's crazy, the sad reality is that people on college campuses actually need to be persuaded into supporting free speech. And persuasion is probably not best achieved by sending Milo out onto a Berkeley plaza with a megaphone.
The cause is a serious one and it deserves capable champions. Just because you should be able to exercise certain provocative speech does not mean doing so is the most effective way to advance the cause. Fired Google engineer James Damore proved that point just this week after tweeting some bizarre thoughts on the KKK. In the demise of Free Speech Week, which once showed some potential, students should at least learn this lesson.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.