There is a growing sense in the United States that we’re not getting the whole story. Here, where freedom of speech was born, some voices are being muted. Just ask Dennis Prager. His 5-minute PragerU videos, which cover subjects like economics and history, have more than 1 billion views. Yet YouTube tags many as containing offensive content. Or consider Ben Shapiro, the political commentator whose college campus speaking engagements require tens of thousands of dollars in security.
White-haired scholar, classical music lover, and polarizing figure Prager partners with comedian and racecar enthusiast Adam Corolla to present No Safe Spaces, a documentary that moves fast and covers as much ground as it can in a lean 90 minutes. Opening with a discussion on the First Amendment, Corolla tells us with sly understatement what life is like in countries that don’t have similar protection, before then bringing the subject home. According to the filmmakers, nearly half of U.S. college students believe the First Amendment should not protect anything they define as hate speech. Videos of students physically assaulting those whom they believe guilty of it show how they intend to enforce their ambiguous code. They don’t want to hear anything that makes them uncomfortable or runs counter to what they believe. And as many of those interviewed point out, today’s college students are tomorrow’s voters, Facebook CEO’s, and lawmakers.
Corolla, with other comedians such as Tim Allen, talks about how difficult it is to be funny when they aren’t allowed to offend. Later he and philosopher Jordan Peterson hang out in Corolla’s garage and discuss the dangers of having convictions that run counter to the agenda du jour.
Prager interviews college students, young conservatives, along with figures such as retired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and, in a separate interview, liberal political commentator Dave Rubin. In matters of politics, these men couldn’t be further apart. Yet in the matter of the future of free speech, they share the same concerns.
Some critics have complained that No Safe Spaces is too one-sided and little more than conservatives whining about how mistreated they imagine themselves to be. A lengthy section of the movie, however, tells the story of a left-leaning professor at a left-leaning college who made the mistake of challenging a progressive exercise he found offensive. Thanks to omnipresent cellphones, the students’ retaliations are thoroughly documented. And they are chilling.
Perhaps the movie’s fatal flaw is the prominent involvement of Dennis Prager himself, who is sometimes thought to withhold information in the videos he produces. Though the intention of the film is to reach out to all political sides, placing such a polarizing figure front and center may be a bridge too far. Viewers are encouraged to do their own research. (Dangerous Documentaries)