OPINION: Are we losing our taste for free speech?

From Issue 4

Freedom of speech has always been a sacred value of both the University and society in general. Since around the middle of 2017, I have noticed an increasing amount of censorship, occurring on multiple University campuses across North America.

Many conflicts have arisen at the University of California, Berkeley, for example. In February 2017, the University cancelled a planned speech from conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos among security concerns caused by violent far-left protesters. Since then, multiple instances of violent protest and subsequent censorship of non-radical left ideas have taken place on campus. Ben Shapiro, one of the most prominent conservative political commentators, spoke on Berkeley’s campus on September 14, 2017. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the University on security to keep violent radical leftist protesters from silencing Shapiro.

We should all be extremely embarrassed that such a large sum of money must be spent to protect a value so intrinsic to our society as freedom of speech. A free society like ours can only be maintained if the ability to rigorously debate on important issues is held in the highest esteem. The University is a place where one goes to destroy all their faulty presuppositions about the world in order to put them back together into something more beautiful and coherent. Our ability to do this is beginning to be excessively curbed much faster than many people realize.

In Canada, the process of censorship has been occurring at a much more rapid rate than in the United States. The issue of Bill C-16 in the Canadian Senate is a complicated one, but I will explain the basics of the controversy. Bill C-16, passed by the Canadian Senate on October 18, 2016, prohibits discrimination based upon gender identity and gender expression. It also makes it a criminal act to discriminate based upon these factors. This means that, in Canada, if you refuse to refer to someone with the gendered pronoun of their choice, you may be charged with a crime.

While this may seem like an advancement in human rights, it is the first the Bill and its surrounding policies are the first of their kind to regulate what an individual SHOULD say, compared to something an individual CANNOT say. Those two cases lie in completely different realms of consideration. It is an outright attack on the value of free speech to suggest that there is something an individual should say when referring to other people.

With the growth of censorship and radical indoctrination occurring in Universities, these students will be released into the world on their own following their graduation. We should be be especially cautious about making sure that people being given power and social status are not ones who have become ideological mouthpieces as a result of their wasted University education.

Note: All opinion pieces represent the opinions of the author(s) and only the author(s). For more information on our editorial policy, contact us at [email protected]