All Americans, including Ben Shapiro, are free to speak

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Mark Schierbecker)

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Mark Schierbecker)

Fifty years ago, university students at UC Berkeley fought valiantly to uphold and defend the First Amendment; now, it seems a growing trend of college activism threatens to destroy it.

A recent case study involves Ben Shapiro, a Jewish Harvard Law School graduate, editor-at-large of Breitbart and editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire. A local chapter of the Young America’s Foundation club had scheduled Shapiro, a notable conservative journalist who spoke to USC’s College Republicans this past November, to give a talk entitled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” at California State University, Los Angeles.

Deciding that a public university receiving taxpayer dollars did not have to abide by the constitutional right to freely speak and assemble, the CSULA president William Covino emailed YAF, canceling Shapiro’s scheduled speech to “arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity,” in order to “better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.”

Not only is this attempt to expose students to “multiple” viewpoints by shutting them down fallacious, but it also insults the intelligence of the CSULA student body as a whole. Calvino’s ban insinuates that Shapiro’s words will inflict so much emotional damage to his audience, who — mind you, will attend voluntarily — that the administration must unilaterally disregard the First Amendment.

College students today have acquired quite the reputation for being emotionally weak and actively perpetuating their own infantilization. Unfortunately, recent “activism” has justly merited this criticism. While it is warranted for students to protest university policies or laws which they feel inhibit equality of opportunity, this recent trend of a paralyzing fear of words does not bode well for millennials or their futures.

For example, when Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay, conservative journalist and internet provocateur who has also previously spoken at USC, spoke at Rutgers University as a part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour earlier this month, campus “activists” devolved into small, vaguely racist children, dousing themselves in red paint, storming the speech and chanting war cries, questionably appropriating traditional war ceremonies. During another one of Yiannopoulos’ speeches at the University of Michigan, the university held a group therapy session to counter Yiannopoulos’ “incredibly harmful” rhetoric.

No longer are college activists fighting against wars or laws or any other real instrument of oppression. Instead they are waging an absurd fight against words. This opposition to diversity of thought and speech is so antithetical to the “diversity” that these activists claim to uphold, that it borders between Kafka-esque and straight-up laughable.

No single member of the CSULA community was obligated to attend the talk, nor are any of Shapiro’s followers allowed to actually “directly attack” minority communities, as Jose Castaneda, an organizer of an anti-Shapiro rally, so asserted about the intention of Shapiro’s visit. Per the beauty of free speech, Castaneda and their peers are allowed to offer logical discourse countering Shapiro’s ideas. Instead of fearing words and succumbing to the coddled college student stereotype that threatens to materialize itself in reality, college activists must embrace their own ability to exist in an educated, ideologically diverse and intellectually challenging environment granted by the American college campus. Every American has the ability to voice their opinions, exposing the real fallacies of racism and bigotry, but these societal malaises will never be logically deconstructed if every speaker suspected of touting these beliefs is simply shut down.

Proponents of diversity must protect free speech if they wish to promote a heterogeneous world. After all, free speech, as a constitutional and moral right, does not discriminate

5 replies
  1. jellybean
    jellybean says:

    I don’t know that I agree with your claim that college students have garnered a reputation for being “emotionally weak.” If anything, the escalation of inflammatory discourse over a wide range of sources – like social media in addition to on-campus events – has necessitated a greater need for sensitivity. Words may not be “wars or laws,” but I think that an emphasis on discussion – which is mentioned at the end here, but could definitely be expanded upon – is essential in making students feel safe in an academic setting, especially if the speakers are abrasive figures like Yiannopolous who seem to provoke issues rather than resolve them. That being said, I think that multiple perspectives are important to a college campus and your focus on free speech is an important one.

    • Migeulito
      Migeulito says:

      Sorry but if words make you feel “unsafe”, you need therapy. What about conservatives or white biological males who get shat on every day? Do they cry about someone else’s words hurting their feelings?? Hell no! They’re just words and someone yelling in your face telling you how bad and privileged a person you are because you may not have any Asian friends or your skin color is too light (uh…racism anyone?) is really just a loud idiot. It’s pretty damn easy to turn your back and walk away.

    • Anthony D
      Anthony D says:

      You say these students aren’t emotionally weak, then you go and claim an “abrasive speaker” doesn’t make students feel safe. Explain your logic there. Words DO NOT equal violence. You could argue that incitement to violence does. But none of the speakers mentioned evenly closely advocate for that. In every speech I’ve seen of theirs that’s published online, they ALWAYS say that you should counter people you disagree with with logical arguments, not threats and intimidation. But how do you feel about the Ferguson protests, hmm? Where Michael Brown’s stepdad said “Burn this bitch down”, inciting rioting and looting. THAT is criminal, yet you only hear Black Lives Matter protestors talk about how Milo or Ben are violent when their own cause is infinitely more violent. Explain that please.

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