The Left vs. Free Speech
Something must have happened to the word “liberal” over the past decade or so. It seemed not that long ago that liberals would be quoting Voltaire, saying “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Of course, back then the primary topic was the Iraq War and the Left was trying to fight against the notion that they weren’t patriotic. But apparently free speech was only good for those actually advocating liberal positions.
Last year, Brendan O’Neill was going to take part in a debate on abortion at Oxford. O’Neill is a liberal and was actually going to make the pro-choice argument. One would suspect he would have been welcomed on the Left. Not so fast. See he was discussing and issue that was undiscussable. The Left had decided the issue was already settled and thereby no further debate needed to take place, especially by men. In his words, he was “attacked by a swarm of Stepford students.”
The mass of protesters successfully defeated free speech and got the debate cancelled. O’Neill wasn’t as bewildered by this affair as one might expect as he had previous experience with “The Stepford students.” In a debate he had earlier at Cambridge, he described his conversations with the today’s hypersensitive youth as follows,
“When I told them that at the fag-end of the last millennium I had spent my student days arguing against the very ideas they were now spouting — against the claim that gangsta rap turned black men into murderers or that Tarantino flicks made teens go wild and criminal — not so much as a flicker of reflection crossed their faces. ‘Back then, the people who were making those censorious, misanthropic arguments about culture determining behaviour weren’t youngsters like you,’ I said. ‘They were older, more conservative people, with blue rinses.’ A moment’s silence. Then one of the Stepfords piped up. ‘Maybe those people were right,’ he said.”
It’s very odd that the youth of today can probably best be described as conformist.
Indeed, the list of such censorship is basically endless. Many examples can be found in Kirsten Powers new book The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. Below is just a tiny sampling of the many available examples;
Of course the Right has done its fair share of censorship and there are serious issues of harassment to consider. And hate speech obviously isn’t something to celebrate. But hate speech needs to be refuted, not banned. Banning it just allows bigots to play the role of victim or martyr. In the end, one is either in favor of free speech or isn’t. And right now, unfortunately, the Left seems to prefer the latter.
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