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We All Need to Defend Speech We Hate


#1

We All Need to Defend Speech We Hate

Lee Rowland

Controversial, critical, confrontational, and challenging speech is an essential part of any successful college education. Without it, institutions of higher education cannot truly be said to be preparing students for the world outside of the ivory tower.


#2

Very important topic and article. But the roots and their rots are deeper. Along side the "freedom of speech" written in paper, we have widespread centralized systemic indoctrination and required compliance. From schools to workplaces. Children everywhere are required to daily recite the pledge of allegiance. And if not de jure required, de facto they are. University classes have a big flag hanging above the professor's podium...and on and on. These are not symbols of a free society with free exchange of ideas.


#3

What a fucking joke, I've been banned from site for over 2 years.


#4

Looks like two years wasn't enough.


#5

I very good article. A law is not needed for Free Speech that everyone agrees with. Free speech is to protect speech that you might personally find appalling. Universities are turning into little thought gulags where thoughts and speech that someone doesn't like is punished. Wait until they get into the real world.


#6

Yes. Honesty should be central to education. Let kids know they are entering a fucked-up world that they might want to rethink. Tell them it is full of liars in high places. Give them the truth. Let them think and express ideas freely. Maybe they will do something more useful with such facts than those who keep corruption, lies and deceit in place.


#7

College is not some place to go in order to escape speech you find offensive. It is also not a place to go to simply learn a vocation. Students who take courses to learn the history of civilization will find a lot of offensive stuff went on in the past and it continues today. I think it reflects our biological evolution. We should not censure it but we need to draw the line when it spills over to personal threats or violence.


#8

This article makes alot of sense, but it would have been much stronger to set it into a context of corporatization of "education" in the U.S. at all levels -- in both "public" and private schools.

Tom Johnson
Adjunct Associate Professor,
Saint Paul, MN USA


#9

Yeah. So many Americans like to tell people to "Shut Up!" if they don't like what they hear. And to "Go away!" if they don't like what they see. It doesn't occur to them that others have the same rights they do and that the choice here is to walk away or look away, granting the other the space they need to express their ideas and dress/look/behave the way they want. Boycotting works well too.


#10

Lee Rowland eloquently articulates the ACLU's principled stance about the anti-democratic nature of censorship - in the abstract. In the real world, though, the ACLU fails to account for an ugly reality that has been mooting its idealistic verbiage for decades: the fantastically stupid - but now controlling - notion that "Money Equals Speech."

Rowland was correct in saying:

But if you think that a plutocrat spending millions of dollars to drown out your message is not "censorship," then you probably also believe there's no connection between lack of progress on planetary heating and the Koch Bros.

The mess the ACLU made of this issue in the wake of Buckley v. Valeo (1976) continues to plague us, and led directly to "Citizens United." (And if you think that's a good thing, we need to talk about this bridge I'm selling...)

Of course it's a mistake to censor the speech of idiots conservative blowhards those with whom we disagree. But for those who wish to take a principled stance on an issue, being cognizant of its real-world context is important. Real important.


#11

Sorry, not a free speech issue. This is a privately run organization, thus the State has nothing to do with it.


#12

Full agreement with your comment, as far as it goes.

I think the relevant context is far from being limited to schools. The "messaging" with which we are inundated is all part of our "education," and its purveyors' behavior is not subject to the sort of scrutiny discussed in the article.

I wonder why not.

That be more "fair and balanced," wouldn't it?


#13

Listening, thinking, and debating works the best!


#14

No, this is a distortion.

I do not have a right to make my opinions heard. I have a right to express them. But I have no right to insist that anyone out there hear them. If I'm on the corner speaking I have no right to make my opinion heard by those who turn and walk away. If I publish a magazine I have no right to make my opinion heard by those who do not wish to read the magazine. If I have a blog I have no right to make it heard by those who don't want to give me the time of day.

Furthermore I do not have a responsibility as an adult to listen to everyone else. I have a right to not listen to speech that I find offensive or hurtful. I have a right to not listen to speech that I find irrelevant to my life. I get to decide what magazines I read, what newspaper articles I read, what books I read, and which speeches I listen to. To say I have a responsibility to listen to all this speech is a bit fascist. It is like something out of Orwell's 1984.

This perversion of the free speech is at the heart of the controversy about University's subsidizing hate speech. Remember, the issue isn't student groups or individuals freely speaking their minds. It's Universities paying for a speaker of hatred to come to their University, promoting their speech to their captive student audience, and then letting the speech take place in a sponsored event where the speakers is not only not paying to use the facility but is being paid a stipend.

I'm sorry. Protesting this is not trying to shut down free speech. It's the same thing as a University using it's means to print and publish a newspaper for the KKK and then having it available throughout campus. This is not at all the same thing as the KKK itself printing and publishing its newspaper and having its members offer to give it to students in the public space. That latter is free speech and I support it. But the former is not the same thing at all and I would oppose that with all my being.

Students have a right to protest subsidized hate speech and try to influence their universities to not subsidize that hate speech. Unfortunately often when students do this the supporters of the hate speech, who have a sense of entitlement that the university ought to subsidize their hate speech, get angry and attack the protesters- trying to shut down their actual free speech, speech not subsidized by the university but actually working against the subsidy. When the protesters defend themselves, they get blamed.

Something is very sick here.

Notice, we are not at all talking about what happens in a classroom where a teacher is asking students to critically read various viewpoints on the subject. These are extra curricula events of hate speech being subsidized by the university.

If these hate groups want a speaker of hate to speak on their campus, then let them rent the space from the university and promote it themselves. Then I would support them having the same rights as anyone else.


#15

A lot of colleges where these demonstrations take place are also private institutions.


#16

This is the reasoning used to support remote "free speech" zones. But talking where there is no-one to hear is not really speech. The right to make one's opinion heard does not mean there is a right to force any particular individual or everyone to hear it. It just means having the right to air it in the public sphere where anyone can hear it. This does not contravene anyone's right to insulate their own hearing or to pay no attention to anything being aired in public.

"Furthermore I do not have a responsibility as an adult to listen to everyone else."

Rowland's point appears to be that being able to listen to others speak is itself a constitutional right. (I presume that is derived by implication.)

"I have a right to not listen to speech that I find offensive or hurtful."

And by obstructing your own hearing, you also have the right not to hear speech you find offensive. But this right not to hear or not to listen does not extend to a right to interfere with or obstruct the public airing of views or opinions you find offensive--which is the sort of action Rowland is addressing here.

"To say I have a responsibility to listen to all this speech is a bit fascist. It is like something out of Orwell's 1984."

Did someone make the claim that you had such a responsibility?

"This perversion of the free speech is at the heart of the controversy about University's subsidizing hate speech. Remember, the issue isn't student groups or individuals freely speaking their minds. It's Universities paying for a speaker of hatred to come to their University, promoting their speech to their captive student audience, and then letting the speech take place in a sponsored event where the speakers is not only not paying to use the facility but is being paid a stipend."

In the high profile cases which I suspect prompted this article, the speakers were invited by student groups who paid for the use of the facilities. If there was a case where a university actually sponsored and paid a speaker to deliver a talk on campus, then that would get into the question of whether universities have the right to hold and express views and opinions.

"I'm sorry. Protesting this is not trying to shut down free speech."

Protesting is protected. Where it crosses the line is when the protesters try to use megaphones and noisemakers to drown out speakers inside auditoriums, or when they are in the audience trying to shout down the speakers to prevent others from hearing, or when they resort to criminal mischief like pulling fire alarms to disrupt talks.

"Students have a right to protest subsidized hate speech and try to influence their universities to not subsidize that hate speech."

Yes they do, provided the protests themselves operate within the reasonable constraints of free speech.

"Unfortunately often when students do this the supporters of the hate speech, who have a sense of entitlement that the university ought to subsidize their hate speech, get angry and attack the protesters"

What I've seen on videos isn't even close. It was predominantly the social justice warriors who escalated to violence.

"If these hate groups want a speaker of hate to speak on their campus, then let them rent the space from the university and promote it themselves."

That's exactly what happened in the high profile cases I know of.

"Then I would support them having the same rights as anyone else."

As would the universities, as expressed in their non-discrimination policies.


#17

I agree that they're limits to free speech. Lying in your speech is one of them. The important thing though is when people speak and people in high positions get them fired from their jobs. McCarthy era was full of people who thought they had free speech but found out differently in front of the committee. The courts and legislators did nothing to protect free speech in those cases. In fact they aided the inquisitor by being the inquisitors.


#18

True - but when all physical or electronic spaces for speech to take place are private spaces - as they largely have become in the USA - shopping malls, capitalist places of employment, Facebook... then the concept of free speech becomes meaningless.


#19

Good points!

This ACLU representative also forgot the "'fire!' in a crowded theater" caveat to the principle of free speech. There a lot of things said in the realm of free speech such as lavishly funded endlessly repeated falsehood for which scientific refutations over and over again don't make a dent, that fit this criteria. When the purpose of the speech is to harmfully deceive the masses is a democracy regarding life or death policy directions, then that is shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Examples from the past were the tobacco corporations and the Ethyl corporation to asbestos corporations whose doubt-sowing, denialist exercise of free speech has directly killed or debilitated millions. Now we have fossil fuel companies and their favorite president doing the same thing.


#20

Showing my age here, but a discussion like this makes me nostalgic for the Fairness Doctrinel