Free Speech is the Enemy

I just got back from my honeymoon late last night and no sooner am I home than I find yet another case of students believing that censorship is a noble, romantic pursuit. My book is filled with such examples, but they never cease to depress me. Check out today’s example from Canada:

Yesterday Carleton Students for Liberty set up a “free speech wall” – large sheets of paper on which people could write anything they’d like. The idea is to get people thinking about speech and encourage (ironically, given what’s happened) a safe space for all points of view to be expressed. Last night, a student named Arün Séamus Surinder Smith tore down the wall, a moral imperative, he claims, in order to create safe space on campus.

You can read all about it, here. And as a FIRE staffer pointed out, instead of engaging in vandalism, the student could have written his complaints on … the free speech wall. What a novel concept.

  1. Greg Lukianoff
    C
    Richard Fulmer

    Israel P.: The student was right to tear down the free speech ghetto.

    Free speech belongs most everywhere, not confined to a sanctuary.

    (And mazal tov on the marriage.)

    I agree with your sentiment, but disagree with your conclusion.  First, the student should not have destroyed other people’s property.  Second, he tore the wall down not to ensure that free speech was available everywhere on campus but to ensure that it was available nowhere on campus.  · 44 minutes ago

    Agreed. I WISH his point was to liberate speech, but it sure wasn’t. You can read what he wrote here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ar%C3%BCn-s%C3%A9amus-surinder-smith/president-runte-i-tore-down-that-wall/10151407051872437

  2. Israel P.
    Greg Lukianoff

    Richard Fulmer

    Israel P.: The student was right to tear down the free speech ghetto.

    Free speech belongs most everywhere, not confined to a sanctuary.

    (And mazal tov on the marriage.)

    I agree with your sentiment, but disagree with your conclusion.  First, the student should not have destroyed other people’s property.  Second, he tore the wall down not to ensure that free speech was available everywhere on campus but to ensure that it was available nowhere on campus.  · 44 minutes ago

    Agreed. I WISH his point was to liberate speech, but it sure wasn’t. You can read what he wrote here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ar%C3%BCn-s%C3%A9amus-surinder-smith/president-runte-i-tore-down-that-wall/10151407051872437 · 1 minute ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    Sometimes the Devil does G-d’s work.

  3. Barkha Herman

    Greg, welcome back!

    Note though that Canada unlike the US does not enjoy the same free speech laws we take for granted here.   I am sure that if someone complained, the college will be liable for the so called free speech wall.

  4. Richard Fulmer
    Goldgeller: It’s not surprising really. The important freedom is for me to do whatI want as long as I’m not criticized for it. The minute you start criticizing people that’s offensive, closed minded and wrong. There are of course well known exceptions to this rule. 

    This is the I-want-to-feel-good-about-myself-no-matter-what-I-do-and-I-will-attack-anyone-who-implies-my-actions-are-less-than-praiseworthy generation.

  5. Spin

    I noticed that on the Wall of Freed Speech someone had written “I love Queers and eating [expletive]“.  Was this at a college or a junior high-school   I couldn’t quite make that out.  

    Someone should tear down the wall just because it’s vulgar.  Which is not to say I agree with Smith, just to reiterate that most cliche of cliches:  with freedom comes responsibility.

  6. Richard Fulmer
    Ken Owsley: I noticed that on the Wall of Freed Speech someone had written “I love Queers and eating [expletive]“.  Was this at a college or a junior high-school   I couldn’t quite make that out.  

    Someone should tear down the wall just because it’s vulgar.  Which is not to say I agree with Smith, just to reiterate that most cliche of cliches:  with freedom comes responsibility.

    These days we should be grateful that college students are capable of writing even graffiti. 

  7. Sola Fide

    This business of a wall on which to scribble things reminds me of something I saw on FailBlog a while back.

    fail-owned-graffiti-wall-fail.jpg

    The full news story outlining the inanity in its full glory can be found here.

  8. Richard Fulmer
    Sola Fide: This business of a wall on which to scribble things reminds me of something I saw on FailBlog a while back.

    The full news story outlining the inanity in its full glory can be found here.

    How can someone “vandalize” a wall that was meant to be vandalized?  Could it be that the local government doesn’t like to be criticized?

  9. take_the_cannoli
    Ken Owsley: I noticed that on the Wall of Freed Speech someone had written “I love Queers and eating [expletive]“.  Was this at a college or a junior high-school   I couldn’t quite make that out.  

    Someone should tear down the wall just because it’s vulgar.  Which is not to say I agree with Smith, just to reiterate that most cliche of cliches:  with freedom comes responsibility. · 37 minutes ago

    It’s a university, and renowned for its journalism program, if you can believe it. As a Canadian who followed the Steyn and ezra levant inquisitions up here, the Steyn line that most strongly applies  is “if you don’t support free speech for what you disagree with, then you don’t believe in free speech at all.” The appropriate response is not to tear down the wall, but respond to the vulgarity, if you see it that way, on the wall yourself. But let me point out that the US college campus, with its speech codes, isn’t much different or any less tolerant of ideas than the government-backed tribunals here. The left, with its totalitarian impulses, is repulsed by a free market of ideas.

  10. Misthiocracy
    take_the_cannoli

    Ken Owsley: I noticed that on the Wall of Freed Speech someone had written “I love Queers and eating [expletive]“.  Was this at a college or a junior high-school   I couldn’t quite make that out.  

    Someone should tear down the wall just because it’s vulgar.  Which is not to say I agree with Smith, just to reiterate that most cliche of cliches:  with freedom comes responsibility. · 37 minutes ago

    It’s a university, and renowned for its journalism program, if you can believe it. 

    On the other hand, it’s unofficial nickname is “Last Chance U” because they admit students who had a C average in high school.

  11. Howellis

    And they complain that “Liberal Fascism” isn’t accurate.

  12. Indaba

    Carleton is the last university on the list of Canadian universities. It is where my friend’s son went, who had a severe druggie problem and issues with violence, never ind really poor marks.Still, i look at this fellow’s initials and wondered at the insensitivity and stupidity of his parents.

  13. Misthiocracy

    BBQgvPBCUAEwjJN.jpg“The best argument for why free speech walls are necessary is that they keep getting torn down.” ~Free Speech Wall 2.0

  14. Misthiocracy

    FYI: Mr Smith is currently engaged in a Twitter war with some of Canada’s most prestigious political journalists (such as Andrew Coyne and Kady O’Malley, for example).  If you can stomach his vitriol, it’s kinda fun to watch.

    Y’all might also enjoy the Twitter feed of Arun Sith.

  15. Greg Lukianoff
    C
    Barkha Herman: Greg, welcome back!

    Note though that Canada unlike the US does not enjoy the same free speech laws we take for granted here.   I am sure that if someone complained, the college will be liable for the so called free speech wall. · 7 hours ago

    Thanks Barkha! Oh yes, we at FIRE do not take cases in Canada. It is primarily because we want to keep our mission narrow, but it does not help that protections there are quite weak. When I used to do all of the case intake for FIRE we had to turn away some truly outrageous cases. Canada needs a FIRE.

    I pointed to the case, tho, because it shows how censors believe what they do is transcendent and noble. 

  16. Israel P.

    The student was right to tear down the free speech ghetto.

    Free speech belongs most everywhere, not confined to a sanctuary.

    (And mazal tov on the marriage.)

  17. Richard Fulmer
    Israel P.: The student was right to tear down the free speech ghetto.

    Free speech belongs most everywhere, not confined to a sanctuary.

    (And mazal tov on the marriage.)

    I agree with your sentiment, but disagree with your conclusion.  First, the student should not have destroyed other people’s property.  Second, he tore the wall down not to ensure that free speech was available everywhere on campus but to ensure that it was available nowhere on campus. 

  18. She

    First, let’s just rejoice in the name: Arun Seamus Surinder Smith.  

    Here he is:  http://www.facebook.com/notes/ar%C3%BCn-s%C3%A9amus-surinder-smith/president-runte-i-tore-down-that-wall/10151407051872437.

    Apparently he is aggrieved that the free speech wall/zone was established during his “Pride Week, during which “our communities are supposed to be able to seek liberation and celebrate our diversity.”

    I guess he means celebrate ‘his’ diversity.  Not actually ‘ours.’

    I see he’s also the coordinator of the “Challenge Homophobia and Transphobia Campaign,” and I’m thinking that perhaps “Transphobia” is a fear of margarine made with an overabundance of hydrogenated fat?

    I’m sure most of the folks commenting on his post think he’s far more clever than Reagan.  Or even Gorbachev.  Or would, if they knew who they were.

  19. Jim  Ixtian
    Richard Fulmer Second, he tore the wall down not to ensure that free speech was available everywhere on campus but to ensure that it was available nowhere on campus. 

    This is now one of the tactics of the Left-not only do they desire to confine free speech to limited areas, they want to stamp it out all together. The Muslim students shouting down the Israeli ambassador at UC Irvine is another example of that tactic. Tearing down flyers and vandalizing advertisements cf Pamela Geller’s ‘Fight Jihad’ ads, belonging to those with opposing views is another example. Calling the advertisers of talk radio programs to complain and harass them is another tactic.

    In response to his own travails Mark Steyn said something to effect of, “The Left managed to turn Canada into an American university.” It is abundantly clear they’re doing the same thing to America.

  20. C. U. Douglas

    I also read his rationale for tearing down the wall, and I’m fascinated again by the disconnect between Conservatives and Progressives on ideas of liberty.

    Conservatives believe we have Freedom to do;  Progressives believe we must have freedom from what others might do.  Conservative Freedom celebrates the individual; Progressive Freedom enshrines the collective.  Conservative Freedom takes risks;  Progressive Freedom shuns danger.

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