What liberals need to learn about free speech

Zach Brown,
senior peace studies and political science major

Guest column by Zach Brown, senior peace studies and political science major

I am a democrat. I love former President Barack Obama and I vigorously campaigned for Hillary Clinton to become our president. I support liberal candidates and progressive causes in our political environment.

I wanted to lead with that because, unfortunately, my opinion will be unfavorable to a sizeable percentage of the liberal community at Chapman.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression have become conservative principles. I say this with anguish and disappointment, but this has become a reality on college and university campuses.

Freedom of speech is the first protection outlined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It protects the rights of individuals to freely and openly express their opinions, viewpoints and ideas without fear of persecution. The Founding Fathers understood the importance of free speech in a functioning and thriving democracy.

While the Supreme Court has issued limits on the First Amendment (such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater), it has also extended this protection to include hate and offensive speech, as seen in Brandenburg v. Ohio with the Ku Klux Klan, National Socialist Party v. Skokie with neo-Nazis, and Synder v. Phelps with the Westboro Baptist Church.

As every American should, I denounce and condemn these evil, poisonous and objectionable organizations. Hatred, bigotry and racism are prevalent, and they need to be addressed without hesitation. However, every organization and individual who prescribes to these deplorable values has a constitutional right to express them without inciting violence. It is not our job to deny them this right. Rather, it is our job to fight against these repulsive viewpoints with our own exercise of peaceful free speech.

But on college campuses, students have become increasingly distracted and have illogically extended the definition of hate speech to include differing speech. We have witnessed this at Berkeley, the College of William of Mary, Cardiff University, UCLA, the University of Wisconsin Madison, and numerous other campuses across the country. Students eradicate differences of opinion and preserve an echo chamber of liberal principles that are regarded as unobjectionable truths. We have perpetuated a cycle of labeling conservatives as racist, xenophobic and prejudice without allowing the necessary dialogue to understand their perspective and encourage healthy debate. If we have the right answers, why are we afraid to hear the other side? Show up and tell them why they are wrong. Don’t hide behind the safe space curtain. We should not be promoting social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance. We can still advocate for minority and marginalized communities while upholding the letter and spirit of the First Amendment.

At the administrative level, it is undemocratic and antithetical to the university’s character to preserve the viewpoints of a small group of students at the expense of broader intellectual growth that would otherwise be afforded to the greater student body. It gives me optimism that the Chapman administration has not surrendered to this counterproductive impulse. A university campus is designed to inspire conversation and advocate for an exchange of ideas, which provides the necessary foundation to form a complete opinion. I hope that Chapman administrators will continue to protect and safeguard this proposition.

As college students, we should be conversing, debating and promoting more political discourse, not less. Free speech and intellectual freedom are among the founding principles that ensure the sustenance of our democracy. We need to bolster and defend those liberties. We don’t need to be tolerant of racism, anti-Semitism, or bigotry, but we must be tolerant of conservatism, and any other ideology we might disagree with. In fact, I am confident that many of you will disagree with the argument I have just outlined, but that is the beauty and uniqueness of America. Debate me. Tell me why I am wrong. This is the strategy that liberals need to employ in order to recapture a majority in American politics. If we continue down this road of misconception and delusion, the next election will look a lot like the last.

31 Comments

  • I agree that free speech is an issue on college campuses but the door swings both ways. Many conservatives on this campus aren’t interested in dialogue, only “triggering” the left. Just this past week, the Republicans on campus purged members on their Facebook page (liberals and conservatives) for not matching their ideology. The right doesn’t have a monopoly on the words “free speech”.

    That being said, the left does need to be more understanding of the those on the right and realize that they are trying to make this country a better place, even if they believe it is misguided and legitimately harmful to this country. It’s the left’s job to show them how liberal policies and ideologies can make this country greater than it currently is. If they can’t do that in a sensical and composed manner, then they should reconsider if they actually hold those values.

    • We did not “purge” members for not matching our ideology. We removed them because we need an environment that allows us to exchange ideas and promote collaboration amongst ourselves, without being targeted or insulted in the process. Those individuals can still attend our meetings if they are truly interested in the free-exchange of ideas.

        • Negatory. Unlike former members of the Democratic club awaiting welfare checks, the alumnus of the Republican club are employed and could potentially face negative repercussions from their employee should a non-club member share their post.

        • It is not a safe space. The Chapman Republicans needed an online forum where they could openly discuss plans for events and other similar things without the fear that some liberals with less than good intentions may attempt to sabotage it.

          This issue is very common at other big schools, such as UCI, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. The meetings are still open to members and non-members alike, which I would think more people would rather have than a facebook group that they never looked at to begin with.

          • After all, do you know how many Democratic socialists on Facebook were demanding that their friends unfriend them if they were voting for Trump? Again, the real definition of “bigotry” is lost on them.

            Sad.

  • I agree that dialogue is important to have, and that if we want people to change, we need to be able to have the conversation. That being said, I also find it important for people on the right (and on the left too) to be able to be called “racist” or “homophobic” or “misogynistic” or “ableist” or “classist” or “xenophobic.” It is about acknowledging when you’re hurting other people and being unaware/unaccountable for your actions. Just because you’re a “good person” does not mean that you’re impervious to bigotry, since bigotry is taught to us societally through media (and racist depictions in film and in textbooks–the way we frame the Trail of Tears and the Japanese Internment or Slavery as “inevitable” or “justified” or “consensual” and seldom looking at it from the point of the victims of these atrocities–and from politicians) and other institutions. On the left, I know that there is a conscious point about “unlearning” these biases, which is where I find “call out culture” to be very helpful in pointing out where someone has yet to improve in being inclusive and aware.

    Granted, I am not always enthusiastic when I am called out for something problematic, as no one should be. It is acknowledging that you are doing something morally wrong, and it is uncomfortable. But we should be able to sit in that discomfort and move forward with it. So, I believe that being labeled “racist” or “xenophobic” or “sexist” or “classist” should no longer be something that invokes an argument if we are to argue for “free speech” and “dialogue.” Because to leave it up to the left to “listen” is not “dialogue,” it is a demand for a lecture and for one party to be a student to learn.

    And lastly, I acknowledge how it sounds that I am demanding that the right be more attentive without much more effort on the left. And on that point, I shall point to how often we hear the right speak. I personally think that I am a good listener, and in topics of “free speech,” I feel that more “attentive listening” is necessary

    • How often we hear the right speak? I only talk peacefully and politely, and every time it is the same; the left refuses to give up its preaching pedestal.

      And given how often you hear those “-phobic” words, and your knowledge of their silly classifications, I’d guess you barely talk to anyone who has a different opinion than your own.

      I’m tired of lectures, too, and agree with you up to a point. But to sit in silence is to let the other party run all over you, as I suppose our experiences have taught us. Because you will say the right won’t shut up, and I’ll say the left won’t shut up, and I guess it’s all according to case anyway.

  • Zach​, we’re afraid to hear the other side because they incite violence and peacefully advocate for genocide. We are afraid because schools are safe spaces for ideas to flourish and us to feel safe. Not exactly the, I’m expecting accommodations for all of my wants and needs kind of safe, but the kind of safe space where you’re not subjected to violent rhetoric (often physical) and oppressive hegemonic systems.
    I wholeheartedly agree that free speech must be protected, including the hate-speech. However, it is our right to not attend such events or remove ourselves from the presence of those speakers and to call them out on that. That’s something that the fervent promoters of free speech for pro nazi and alt-right don’t get. You can say whatever you want, as long as it’s within the parameters of what’s been decided by the SCOTUS, but you are not magically immune to criticism or consequences for that. That’s what is really being fought down at the core of the free speech debate.
    They want to be able to say this hate-speech and not be judged/persecuted for it. And I will not stand for that. It is in my opinion that this opinion piece, as well-intended as it might be, misses the point of what is really being said by the other side when they say that their free speech is being hindered.

    • Carlos, are you well? I’d be curious to know the last time a group of Republicans incited violence at a Democratic speaking engagement? Are you aware that each time a conservative speaker arrives on a college campus, they are those attending are subjected to attacks by Antifa? Perhaps you should exam yourself in the mirror before calling out others:)

    • Carlos, radical movements such as communism, Nazism, and fascism have all been far-left ideologies.

      If anyone is going to commit genocide, chances are it’s going to be yet another person from the far-left.

      But then again, history never was the left’s strongest subject, was it?

    • Carlos, you imagine things. You do not know what the people who do not think in your socialistic mindset do, because they are not part of the “intellectual committee.”

      Free speech is hindered, Carlos, because of people like you.

      The POTUS is the POTUS, Carlos, because of people like you.

      Thank you for your efforts.

  • Important citation:

    Line 49: “…promoting social tolerance at the expense of political tolerance.” Should be in quotes and hyperlinked. “Senate Committee on the Judiciary,” Written Testimony, Zach Wood. 2017.

    Line 52: “…undemocratic and antithetical to the university’s character…” Should be in quotes and hyperlinked. “Senate Committee on the Judiciary,” Written Testimony, Zach Wood. 2017.

    Line 62: “…the founding principles that ensure the sustenance of our democracy…” Should be in quotes and hyperlinked. “Senate Committee on the Judiciary,” Written Testimony, Zach Wood. 2017.

  • Carlos: you said it right “school is a safe space for ideas to flourish”. Exactly.

    Now, how can ideas flourish when speakers with different viewpoints are violently protested and shut down. How can ideas flourish when certain topics can’t even be discussed or argued because they might “offend” someone and that person will who brings it up will automaticaly be labeled as racist, islamophobe, sexist etc.. How can ideas flourish when most of the student body and faculty only share liberal ideas and ostracize students who share libertarian or even conservative arguments.

    College is supposed to be a place of learning, growth, and it is supposed to train you to become a well rounded unique strong individual who could cope in the world. The world is not a safe space where you’ll be protected by words you don’t like or upsetting ideas. This constant obsession of colleges to protect you from “harmful” speech is absolutely the worst thing and only makes a person weaker. It’s cruel. Speech is supposed to be offensive, everyday. Because that requires you to think and form a critical argument or maybe even realize that you might even be wrong.

    Also love the part about Republicans committing genocide “peacefully”. You know, genocide – the systematic killing of a race, ethnic, or religious group.

    • There is such thing as a ‘peaceful’ genocide but perhaps the best word here is covert. When you systematically ignore and neglect black communities like in Flint who no longer have access to clean water, that is violence. When you strip healthcare from the disabled, making it much harder for that specific group to you know, stay alive, that’s violence. When queer people are denied hormones, housing, jobs, therapy, access to community, and other things that would save their lives and livelihood, that is violence.

      I just can’t believe we’ve reached the point where everyone would rather advocate for literal Nazis like Milo who suck up college funding for security, than their peers who have experienced genuine trauma at the hands of the state and those around them.

      • Milo the gay Jewish man who married a gay black man is a Nazi?

        See this is exactly the problem, leftists throw these terms around like nazi, racist, bigot, so often they have lost all meaning.

        What it really is, is that the left throws out these labels at anyone who opposes them, hoping one or two stick so they can shut them down. Why debate someone when you can just call them a nazi and claim victory

        • He has Nazi saluted in videos, and espouses many of their beliefs. Just because he thinks he’s being cute and trolling doesn’t make what he says (pro-pedophilia arguments, genuinely admitting he’s a racist) any less harmful. At the colleges Milo brings his circus to he outs trans students and undocumented students. Marrying a black man doesn’t magically make you not a racist, just like marrying a woman doesn’t magically make you not a sexist.

          He himself identifies as a racist. He himself attends ‘white nationalist’ conferences crawling with other self-professed nazis. There is no throwing of labels, only repeating what he himself has said and done.

          • A rapist? Interesting!! I’m curious as to whom exactly he’s raped? He acknowledged that he was raped, however, I’m glad you have since determined that he’s a rapist! Speaking of rapists, how is your beloved Bill Clinton doing today? I believe Anthony Weiner is doing great as well!

          • Milo explained what had happened, and because he has a medical condition with his eyes, he can not see further than 10 feet. In the video, you can watch his eyes. He never sees anyone in the crowd. He was enjoying singing the national anthem at karaoke, and, being a gay Jew, he certainly would have reacted even slightly to seeing Nazi salutes in the crowd.

            He didn’t make pro-pedophilia comments. He was joking about his own experience as a victim of pedophilia. Jokes are something liberals do not understand well unless if it’s coming from Jon Stewart.

            Milo has NEVER outed a trans student nor a single undocumented student. That was a blatant and deliberate lie started by a professor at Berkeley to fearmonger.

            If marrying a black man doesn’t make you not racist, then what does? Exactly. No matter what people on the right do, it will never be good enough to prove that they aren’t racist. Liberals rely on the lie that all conservatives are racist.

            He does not identify as a racist. This is a blatant lie on your part and you could never cite this source, since it’s nonexistent. He has never attended a white nationalist conference, and you will never be able to prove this lie either.

            You will not be able to find one source to support any of the lies you just posted. You should be ashamed of yourself. This is exactly why the left is dying. They have a terminal problem with honesty.

      • If a man wants to change his genetic makeup, he can purchase his own goodie-bag of hormones.

        And what about the left’s genocide of infants who have not been given a chance to live, just for the ease of “recreational” activities?

        I know you might live in a safespace paid for by somebody else, but the world has always been a place for fighters. Charity is good, compassion is good, but they are both wasted on people who collapse from “trauma” at the sight of a MAGA hat.

        Sad.

        • You’re being hyperbolic and you know it. Nobody ‘collapses’ at the sight of those basic hats like we’re Victorians in need of a fainting couch. You’re not that powerful.
          What does happen when you wear that hat is you signal to everyone around you that you support an administration working to actively dismantle their rights, headed up by a rapist. I recommend you give Ivana’s memoir a read though I have to, of course, include a trigger warning for her graphic description of the sexual assaults she received at the hands of Trump.
          That’s what a lot of people see when you wear those hats: you publicly being so bold as to support a rapist. And they’re not wrong.

          • Rapist? Do you know how many false allegations have been brought? You just keep stirring the pot, crying over the loss of the future of your progressive values. Call him rapist all you want, if hopeful lies of his depravity make you feel better.

            And I was using hyperbole because I tried matching your conversation. I didn’t realize that was supposed to be solemnity.

        • Did you say MAGA? That is so TRIGGERING!! I am en route to the cross-cultural center as I write this, hopefully, there are still juices and snacks available. I believe orange slices and a juice box will definitely help. I’ve gone ahead and alerted my teachers I won’t be in class either.

  • This entire column was very good up until the very last column where the author says that “We don’t need to be tolerant of racism, anti-Semitism, or bigotry, but we must be tolerant of conservatism, and any other ideology we might disagree with.”

    The problem with this is that liberals simply label ideologies that they don’t agree with as “racist,” thus justifying being intolerant of the ideology.

    We should be tolerant of all ideologies. Whether or not you agree with it, or whether or not you choose to disprove it, are very different things.

  • Something important not being talked about here: the people you’re talking about aren’t liberals. By speaking directly about Chapman it’s pretty transparent which organizations and people you’re talking about, and most of those people would identify as leftists. You shared that you are a democrat, but you need to consider leftists who have been failed by the democratic party and ‘liberal’ ideals. What you consider to be liberal is frankly centrist. The praxis has moved left and the democratic party needs to catch up.

    • “Recapture the majority”?

      I’m pretty sure the last election proved you are in the minority, unless you count the dead voters. It is exactly the toxic mentality on the East and West coasts that continue to get the most air time.

      You are the fringe. I say that because your intentions were good, but you might be a little too optimistic, especially with people like Miss Rost becoming the majority and changing the Democrat rules to Socialism.

    • I hope it will catch up. Then the marginal win for conservatives in the next election will be even greater.

  • It’s not about free speech.

    It’s the fact that when people start using free speech as an argument against another argument, they actually don’t care about free speech — they care about winning the argument.

    Example: let’s say a student posts an opinion that several other students find to be ‘racist’ or something (see the last edition of The Panther and you’ll know what I’m talking about). Then other students/members of the public reply saying, “This opinion is not racist. You are labeling it racist so that you don’t have to engage with him. Why don’t you liberals value free speech and let him talk? It seems like you don’t care about free speech.” And then another student, with good intentions I might add, decides to post an opinion about how they do, in fact, value free speech.

    See that? This is called controlling the conversation. This liberal student just accepted a frame (i.e. talking about free speech). But we aren’t talking about free speech. We are talking about worldviews. The subject got changed. And you know who is the best at changing the subject? Do you know who is the best at winning ‘arguments’? People you would say are on the ‘right.’ And they have already ‘won’ this argument, because now they get to trash you in the comments section (that’s one definition of ‘winning’ I suppose). This is a dead end conversation. Game over.

    • Um aren’t you the one who just changed the conversation? And last time I checked, liberals were the conversation enders with accusations of “Oh, you’re a Trump supporter, so whatever you say is immoral and racist and sexist and everything-ist.”

      Even if there is trashing going on in the comment section by the right side, you can thank the legacy of progressives and Obummer. Just like the influx of rape allegations now that no one is afraid, the right is now longer afraid and refuses to remain tolerant to what has been obnoxious, self-righteous, subjective liberal bullying.

      So thank you, Snowflake.

        • And thanks to you, for proving mine.

          Politics is a nasty thing, isn’t it?

          Best of luck with that life of yours.

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