University of California, Berkeley has proposed an alternate May 2 date for conservative author Ann Coulter to speak on the liberal campus. Officials say they have a ‘grave concern’ of violence if she speaks this month. (April 20)
Ann Coulter is a publicity-seeking shill for the far right. Richard Spencer is a self-identified white nationalist. Charles Murray has written about the alleged genetic inferiority of blacks.
All three stake out various degrees of putrid points of view, and Coulter, at least, has found a way to monetize her hyperbolic hysterics.
But they also have something else in common, something that I as a liberal (I guess) saddens me.
All three have been disinvited from speaking at college campuses, disinvited because some on the left object to the three’s ideas — object to such a degree that some have rioted, trashed areas, even chased Murray from his speech. Some of that violence has been instigated by the “professional left,” agitators who aren’t students at these colleges, but the pressure to keep repulsive speakers off campus clearly comes from students and faculty, too.
But if you truly believe you’re liberal, open-minded, enthusiastic about diversity, you can’t possibly argue against people like Coulter, Spencer and Murray speaking at the one place where all ideas should be up for grabs, even — maybe especially — those ideas that disgust us.
Instead, there apparently is an informal speech police present, a group of people who think they decide what can and can’t be said on campus. It’s an illiberal idea, and colleges in part are at fault.
When did universities decide that they needed to protect their students from ideas that might offend or cause someone pain? When did universities decide that they should be some hermetically sealed box, preventing students from experiencing the Big Bad World?
Now, we have universities where professors have to warn students about content in a lecture or a chapter that they might find offensive. These “trigger warnings” are designed, I guess, to alert students who’ve experienced something that might be triggered by the lesson or reading. So how far is it from that to some saying that “you are too offensive to speak here?”
Let them speak, and argue against them. Are students and faculty so unsure of their views that they fear an extreme counter opinion? Can they not marshal arguments against those they so vehemently oppose? Are they afraid Coulter and Co. will win the day and influence students to adopt their repulsive views?
No, if a group invites one of these objectionable folks to speak on campus, open your arms and give them a listen. Chances are you’ll find them ridiculous, offensive and lacking substance as they present their distorted, often fact-free opinions.
Which is just the point. Once you hear what they have to say, you understand just how noxious their ideas are. I can hear some now saying, “We don’t have to hear them, we already know their view. Inviting them to our school gives them some kind of legitimacy.”
OK, but in keeping them from speaking, you play into their hands; they become victims of “the thought police” — they are the aggrieved party.
No, bring them into the sunshine. It is, as has been said, the “best disinfectant.”
Mike McClellan is a retired Mesa Public Schools teacher and a Gilbert resident.
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