Moving forward into the future, remember to keep an eye on both the veteran and the rising star, for both promise great things in the times to come as centers for political dialog on free speech.
Americans have always ardently defended the right to free speech, fondly citing it as one of their most fundamental human rights. Recently, however, many Americans have begun to voice concerns that this right is being repressed under the label of “hate speech.” But even if speech is legitimately hateful, should the American government defend the speaker’s right to hate?
On the night of Monday, March 28 at the Michigan League, Cathy Young, a revered libertarian journalist and contributing editor to Reason magazine, and Lauren Southern, a young Canadian libertarian who’s causing a political ruckus, discussed the issue. The discussion was structured in two parts. Both speakers (Cathy Young being the first) gave a 15 to 20 minute lecture about their perspectives on the issue. Then, they answered questions from the crowd.
Cathy began by discussing a personal anecdote where a professor from the University of Michigan expressed the feeling that their free speech was being oppressed by the University. “And,” she said, “might I add, this person is a liberal.” Cathy then continued on to discuss her time spent in the Soviet Union. “And I am not comparing the free speech repression in America to that of the Soviet Union, but [there are parallels].” She then likened the pressure to conform to the liberal ideology in America to that pressure to conform in the Soviet Union.
As evidence, Cathy cited the backlash that a Yale professor felt after refusing to push the idea that Halloween costumes using elements from different cultures were offensive. She felt so much pressure, according to Cathy, that she decided to resign. Another story about a professor at CMC forced to resign over a comment that was perceived to call a minority someone “who didn’t fit the CMC mold” was cited as another example. A college student who expressed an opinion that rape culture on his campus had gone too far was met with nothing short of outrage, ended her string of stories.
Cathy, using these examples, argued that “free speech is definitely under threat on college campuses.” In the scope of the broad world, Cathy felt that free speech is mostly safe but there are definite instances where it has fallen under siege, citing instances in Europe where “the concept of hate speech has been used to shut down popular ideas.” For instance, traditional opinions on Christianity and criticisms of Islam have been shut down under European law. In Cathy’s native country of Russia, atheist bloggers and protests against the close ties between religion and state have also been silenced under hate speech laws.
However, it is not to be said that Cathy is in favor of unrestrained free speech. “It’s fine… it’s normal really, to find certain forms of expression to be beyond the pale,” Cathy argued. “I don’t feel terrible if someone who defends genocide has a hard time getting invited to speak at college campuses.” She described these ideas as things that “have no social utility whatsoever” and would be fine if they were restrained. She stated this opinion with a caveat, and said, “when we stigmatize ideas, we need to be careful which ideas we consider to be beyond the pale so we don’t end up stigmatizing legitimate ideas.”
After speaking, Lauren took the stage. First and foremost, Lauren reminded the crowd that she is “no expert on free speech…[but rather] one on suppression tactics.” Lauren’s battle against free speech repression began when she attended an event in Vancouver called the “Slut Walk.” During the event, women spoke in front of a crowd discussing rape culture in the west. However, Lauren stood in the background and held a sign that read, “There is no rape culture in the west.”
The outrage of the crowd was unprecedented. During the event, her sign was torn to shreds, her camera crew was assaulted, and Lauren herself was screamed at. Post Slut Walk, Lauren was accused of a tremendous amount of ludacris crimes, including “telling rape victims they deserved to be raped.” Furthermore, Lauren went on to light heartedly discuss the apparent effect she had on some of the participants in the Slut Walk; one girl claimed that she was so triggered by Lauren that she vomited all night. In response to this outlandish claim, Lauren exclaimed, “This isn’t f***ing Trinoble.”
In hindsight, Lauren saw the absence of support for her actions as the beginning of her career against what she calls social justice warriors and the PC police. “I had friends and family messaging me on Facebook, accusing me of [everything on the list of her ‘crimes’],” Lauren explained. Like the claim that she taunted rape victims, everything on this crime list was entirely made up. Because of this negative exposure that was entirely falsified, she lost her position as a Libertarian party candidate and the respect of many friends and family.
Now Lauren has taken it upon herself to cause political chaos wherever she treads. Her inspiration lies in the fact that she feels that “social justice warriors are destroying actual social justice [and reason].” After listening numerous examples of the violation of free speech, Lauren blamed the education system and millennials for the creation of the politically correct culture of modern day.
In fact, Lauren was extremely critical of generation Y, sighting that it was the first generation “to produce no significant intellectuals… a generation of victims.” She expressed that this generation was destroying free speech and called for a return to the middle of the political spectrum, so that we as societies can come together and legitimately debate issues.
Despite all these issues that Lauren sees with left wing suppression of free speech, she promised, “I will always be fighting for free speech. Should the pendulum swing the other way, I will still be fighting for free speech.”
To end her speech, Lauren slammed the notion that “language is equivalent to violence.” “Words don’t have to hurt people,” Lauren explained, and she continued to argue that the idea that fact can be offensive is “crazy.” Arguing that inconvenient facts presented through research are being demonized, Lauren cited certain factual arguments, such as that there are fundamental differences between genders and that terrorism has been championed by Islam, which one could not cite on a college campus without fear of retribution.
Having given her two cents, Lauren stepped down and both guests answered questions from the crowd. Lauren’s fears for the future were brought to light during the question section. At one point, Lauren shared a story about how a fellow libertarian thinker she was excited to hear speak was actually blocked from entering Canada solely because of the content of his speech. Cathy felt that the environment of political correctness was all too familiar to that in the late 80’s early 90’s; “I could have written some of this stuff [from 1992] last week,” Cathy wrote.
Overall, the debate was well attended and energetic. Moving forward into the future, remember to keep an eye on both the veteran and the rising star, for both promise great things in the times to come as centers for political dialog on free speech.