November 21, 2016
Over the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed several interesting stories in the news. The underlying facts centered around Ben Shapiro, Barronelle Stutzman, the election protestors/riots and Mike Pence. While the major players seem to be unrelated, there is a common thread running throughout the events, and that is the issue of free speech.
In the case of Barronelle Stutzman, a small florist in the state of Washington has been ordered by the government to provide flowers for same sex marriage ceremonies, an activity that violates her religious beliefs. Because she declined, her very livelihood has been threatened. While her religious freedoms have been violated, it should also be remembered that her freedom of speech is squarely being threatened as well.
If the government has the ability to force a small florist to create artistic expressions in a specific way and for a specific purpose, then the government is forcing her to speak in the manner the government finds appropriate. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court has rightly stated that the Constitutional right to free speech “includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking. Here, there is no doubt that Ms. Stutzman should have the right to refrain from speaking in this way. I am hopeful that the Washington Supreme Court will agree.
Next we come to the case of Ben Shapiro:
Mr. Shapiro was invited to campus by the Young America’s Foundation student chapter at DePaul to speak on the topic of “intolerance on campus”. But instead of allowing him to speak, the university threatened to have him arrested if he stepped foot on the campus. And they had armed security personnel ready to carry out those threats!
Why did DePaul threaten to arrest Ben Shapiro? Surely they were concerned that he intended to commit terrible crimes against the students. No? Perhaps they were worried that he would destroy property. Not that?
No, the concern they had was that he might anger their liberal snowflake students who disagreed with his conservative political views. The DePaul authorities even admitted that they didn’t have proper security to keep the audience (those who disagreed with Shapiro) under control. The authorities referred to a previous event which involved a different speaker, and the audience simply could not handle his words and attacked the speakers. So instead of appropriately dealing with the violent actors (those who disagreed with the speech), they issued a ban against “controversial” speakers.
So the real concern was violence from those who might disagree with him – in other words, the liberal snowflakes. On the one hand, those students may be so frustrated as to lose all control of themselves, resulting in the commission of crimes ON THEIR PART. On the other hand, the problem might be that their psyches were so delicate that they couldn’t emotionally handle a different political viewpoint. Either way, if I’m a DePaul student, especially a liberal one, I would be infuriated with the administration having such little faith in my ability to reason and my self-control.
While DePaul is a private university and has the ability to restrict Ben Shapiro from appearing on campus, what is it saying to its own branch of Young America’s Foundation students, the ones who invited him in the first place? Basically, DePaul is telling its own students that while they have the right to speak, their speech must be pre-approved and fall in line with the views of the administration. That “freedom” seems pretty oppressive to me.
The real message this sends is that as long as liberals threaten violence in response to any potential conservative speaker invited to campus, the university is within its rights to simply cave in to the bullies instead of foster the open exchange of ideas. Perhaps the university’s overreaction was the best proof Shapiro could have found in support of his topic – intolerance on campus.
Finally, we turn to the protestors/rioters who are disappointed in the Presidential election, and the case of Mike Pence. We’ve now seen almost two weeks of protests and riots from those angry that Hillary CLinton was not elected. From the #NotMyPresident crowd which is upset that Clinton received more popular votes yet lost the electoral college, to those issuing death threats against the electors if they dare to vote Trump, the vitriol is frightening.
But neither Obama nor Clinton herself have tried to calm the protestors or rioters, or even asked them to stop committing crimes, destroying property, and blocking interstates. Instead, President Obama specifically stated that he would not tell the protesters to be silent. Obama stated that protesting against a President is a normal part of the process – i.e. free speech.
What about committing crimes against property and people, Mr. President? What about blocking interstate traffic? Are these activities protected free speech? Apparently, but only if the protestors come from the left.
Then we get to Vice President-elect Mike Pence. He had the gall to attend the Broadway show Hamilton last Friday night, where the cast delivered a “special message” to him after the show. In fact, Mr. Pence had already started leaving when the cast began delivering their statement, but reports are that he stayed in the hallway and heard the full message.
Nonetheless, many of those on the left have been excoriating Pence for not staying in the auditorium and listening. They have tweeted that Pence should have stayed in the auditorium as a public servant and listened. For his part, Pence has stated that he wasn’t offended at all by the statement, and that this is what “freedom sounds like”. Regardless, many on the left have stated that he was required to listen to the speech.
So here we have four stories that all deal with the issue of freedom of speech. From these, I can only conclude that to the liberal left, free speech is defined as follows:
Conservatives CANNOT speak (as in the case of Ben Shapiro, safe spaces on college campuses, etc.), and if they do, any violence that results from such speech is the fault of the conservative.
Conservatives MUST speak in only pre-approved ways (in the case of Barronelle Stutzman), and if they refuse, their livelihood may be taken.
Liberals MUST be allowed to speak even when such speech is accompanied by criminal activities (as in the rioters/protestors, death threats to electors, bullies on campus).
Conservatives MUST be forced to listen to liberal speech (as in Pence).
This is not “what freedom sounds like” to me at all.