For a generation that demands “safe spaces," that equates ideas they don’t like to actual physical battery and requires “trigger warnings” for class assignments that might be upsetting: there’s a name. “Snowflakes.” Easily offended, they’re turning free speech on its head in a way that’s shocking even some civil rights activists. But is Snowflake Syndrome exaggerated? We hear all sides in today’s cover story.
University of Missouri video: You need to respect their space.
November 2015, the University of Missouri.
Student Journalist: You're pushing me, you're pushing me.
There's no more infamous and flagrant example of free speech violations on campus, committed by students and faculty.
Student: Well then we will just block you.
One student was bullied and blocked from covering a race-related protest.
Woman: You need to go. Students, can you tell him?
Student: You don't have a right to take our photos.
Actually, he does.
Student Journalist: I have a job to do, I'm documenting this. The first amendment protects your right to be here and it protects mine.
Woman: You know what? Back off of my personal space. Back off. Leave these students alone.
Student Journalist: Don't push me.
Student: You lost this one bro. You gotta back up. You lost this one. You're not doing your job.
Student: It's our right to walk forward.
Reporter: I'm media can I talk to you?
Melissa Click: No you need to get out. You need to get out.
Reporter: No I don't.
That's Melissa Click, assistant professor for mass media communications, about to call for muscle to handle another reporter.
Melissa Click: Alright, hey who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.
Click was soon fired. But the event punctuated a growing trend, intolerance, and censorship in the name of tolerance and free speech.
Reporter: This is public property.
Campus protests to block speakers from even being heard. And a lack of understanding of fundamental constitutional rights.
Click: You need to go.
Lee Rowland: So I do think there's a real knowledge gap about how high of a bar the First Amendment really provides for protecting speech.
Lee Rowland is senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU.
Sharyl Attkisson: Sometimes the ACLU protects speech that is considered very offensive.
Lee Rowland: Absolutely.
Sharyl Attkisson: Have you found yourself having to explain sometimes to a younger generation why all speech is protected, not just speech that they want to be protected?
Lee Rowland: All the time. I mean I think it's actually a common belief among many younger people that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment. I have had people say that to my face completely uncritically, right? Well we all know hate speech isn't protected by the First Amendment.
For those who cannot bear to hear speech they disagree with, critics have popularized the term Snowflakes. It's an insult traced to the 1996 novel Fight Club, later a Brad Pitt film.
Fight Club film: You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.
We asked some university students what they think about the snowflake insult.
Student: I've never heard it as snowflake. I've just heard that people in my generation are just helpless. I feel like in our generation that kind of is true. I feel like a lot of us, I feel like we're just really really pampered and we're not really ready for post-graduation life.
Student: I've noticed most of the minority students that I speak to say they feel unsafe and I personally like, I'm a white cisgender woman and I don't feel the same unsafeness they would feel just because of they way I look and the way I'm perceived by others.
Last May at Evergreen State College in Washington state, students promoted a campus day without white people. Bret Weinstein, a Bernie Sanders supporter, took issue with that, stating that, on a college campus, one's right to speak, or to be, must never be based on skin color. That sparked student protests.
Students: Hey hey ho ho these racist teachers have got to go. Hey hey ho ho, these racist teachers have got to go. Black power, black power, black power.
Student: (Expletive) you George we don't want to hear a (Expletive) thing you have to say shut the (Expletive) up.
Weinstein resigned and won a half million dollar settlement from the college.
Adam Carolla: It's been going so hard for so long in a direction that's sort of insane, that we can, in some small way, start to turn it back toward sanity.
Talk show host Adam Carolla, a Democrat turned Republican, says when he tried to speak about the left's supposed stranglehold on higher education, one college blocked him from appearing. Last July, he testified to Congress about Snowflake syndrome.
Adam Carolla: You need to expose your children to germs and dirt and the environment to build up their immune system. Our plan is to put them in a bubble, keep them away from everything and somehow they will come out stronger when they emerge from the bubble? Well, that's not happening.
Carolla is now making a movie called No Safe Spaces.
No Safe Spaces: Welcome to utopia U. At Utopia University, there are no violent words to hurt me. I will punch you if you're a fascist.
Adam Carolla: And you know the notion of stifling people who disagree with you and it is as much as it all feels kind of good short-term like hey I don't like people arguing with me. Ultimately, it's going to degrade our society. See I never went to college. I was a builder. But I always thought college was this place for ideas and now it's turned into a place for some ideas but not other ideas. And that seems to fly in the face of ideas in general. So it'd be nice if college got back to this place of ideas regardless of what the ideas were.