Speech Bans on Campus are Harmful
Things go too far on both sides. We’ve become a split society with two completely opposing sides that don’t appear to agree on anything. One point they can all agree on, however, is that they are fed up with anyone that disagrees with their opinions and want to silence the other side.
We’ve devolved into a society that protects feelings at the sacrifice of free speech. Our universities have transformed from spaces of open thought and discussion to spaces of coddling and catering to the sensitivities of its students. We allow law students to opt out of any study relating to criminal law that offends them.
Imagine tomorrow’s lawyers not being equipped to deal with rape law or doctors not being educated on specific areas of medicine because the subject matter was uncomfortable. That is where we as a society are heading, and that’s concerning.
We’ve reached a point where speakers that deliver remarks at an optional event at the request of students are being denied the ability to do so. Students that made an effort to invite thought leaders and influencers to campus are seeing their events cancelled because of the whims of other students and faculty that wouldn’t even attend the speech in the first place.
We are forbidding the free exchange of ideas by denying invited speakers the opportunity to deliver their perspective to students that invited them to talk in the first place.
Fascism Comes from Both Sides
In a sense, we’re telling people what they can and can’t say or hear. That’s fascism. To this point, the extreme left is borrowing one of the most negative and harmful properties of the extreme right.
Just last year, the ACLU had to sue a county’s school system after a student was reprimanded for giving a pro-LGBT speech and wearing a shirt supporting equality for lesbian and gay people.
When it comes to unpopular speech, the opposite reaction occurs from both sides. Political correctness has the right rolling its eyes and sighing because they can’t be allowed to speak their minds about society and how things operate. Speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos have been banned from speaking at several universities.
These speakers have unpopular opinions about society, politics, race, and more. These opinions are often strongly opposed by individuals that have more progressive and/or left-leaning ideals. But, at the end of the day, these people have no less right to express their opinions than anyone else.
Free Speech has to Be Equally Granted
If we defend speech that opposes the viewpoints of one side of society, we must equally and with every bit as much vigor defend the rights of the people on the other. Speech, however unpopular, is a fundamental basis for a free society.
There are plenty of students at the University of California that agree with Ann Coulter and Milo. They pay tuition and eagerly anticipate being able to attend a speaking engagement from someone who shares their world view. More importantly, there are students that disagree and look forward to the opportunity to hear and learn about the perspective of someone who has a different world view than their own.
The idea that we can’t even have people speak at University – a place that is set up for the specific purpose of encouraging the free sharing of ideas – is ridiculous. The phrase “hate speech” is thrown around so much that it has lost its true meaning. Hate speech is real, and it’s extremely unwarranted in polite society, but many of the cases where this label is applied simply doesn’t fall into that category.
Students go to college to be exposed to ideas and insight that they wouldn’t have at home. Some of these ideas are controversial. Many of them can be described as outright hurtful and bigoted. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the rights of the person sharing those ideas to share them.
The Only Way to Be Heard is to Listen
Bring on the Ann Coulters. Bring on the Milos and the Kelly Ann Conways. Hell, bring on the ISIS supporters and holocaust deniers, too. Flat Earth believers, let me hear why you came to this conclusion.
If we can’t talk to them, we can’t reach them. If we don’t listen to them, we can’t understand their point of view. The only way we, as a society, can grow is by listening to one-another and giving each other the room we need to share our perspectives.
Even if it’s poison. Even if it’s unpopular. Even if it is hateful.
The religious right and the secular left feel the same way about one-another. Each believes that their side is being oppressed by the other. Each side believes that their way of life is being trampled on in some way.
Yes, many of them are so stubborn in their ignorance you will never convince them they’re wrong no matter how much evidence you have. But, at least, you’ve allowed someone the freedom to do what you want the freedom to do… speak.