The Massive Importance of Free Speech

I know that it’s popular nowadays to advocate against so-called ‘hate speech’. It sounds like a perfectly ethical stance to hold when one only lightly thinks on the surface level of preventing hateful and bigoted ideologies from being voiced publically.

This viewpoint has grown on the campuses of America’s universities, demonstrated by crowds of protesters demanding that public speakers whom they disagree with are prevented from voicing their beliefs at the college they’re attending.

Even here at North Dakota State, a university I’ve come to admire and enjoy since enrolling has had a recent (but incredibly small) outcry against the diversity of thought on campus.

The recent letter to the editor penned by three NDSU students contained arguments that I found not only to be factually incorrect but also somewhat worrying in terms of having a diverse field of beliefs at a place of learning.

I recently reached out to all three authors with an invitation to have a civil and calm discussion about our differing ideas, unfortunately, only one of the authors reciprocated my invitation (I won’t reveal the identities of the two who refused and the one who accepted in respect for their privacy).

I’ll extend the invitation one last time to those two: let’s have a relaxed and cordial conversation of ideas. Not a formal debate, just a laid-back discussion of our beliefs and positions. I know you don’t like my views very much, but that shouldn’t stop the exchange of ideas. This invitation is open to anyone who wishes to have a discussion about ideas, whether you agree or disagree.

Let’s stop focusing on this one specific topic and move onto the concept that I believe this letter and all the recent protests at universities such as Berkley and University of Minnesota Twin Cities are opposing.

That concept is the freedom of speech and exchange of ideas, both of which are vital to expanding one’s mind and mental fortitude. Universities are supposed to serve as places of knowledge, somewhere where one can learn new information and gain insight into foreign topics and fields.

In order for this to happen, we as a society and individuals must allow the free exchange of speech.

I’ll emphasize a point I already made in a previous article: hate speech is entirely subjective and falls under free speech. What one considers hateful depends entirely on themselves. Some people have thicker skin than most, others are very susceptible to a personal offense.

Censoring ‘hate speech’ is not only impractical, but it’s also counterintuitive to the ideals of America and her Constitution.

Each of us has inevitably heard ideas and comments throughout our lives that will sicken and even disturb us. We’ve most likely heard deplorable men and women such as Linda Sarsour or David Duke advocate for ideologies that disgust us.

Unless that person is directly inciting lawlessness or using fighting words (and even then deciding whether or not it’s unconstitutional is incredibly difficult), their speech cannot be silenced. I said this in my last article on free speech and I’ll say it again: if you hear a comment or belief that makes you sick to your stomach, don’t go and try to silence that person.

If you’re thick-skinned, you can simply put that degenerate person out of your mind and move on with your life. If you’re intelligent enough, challenge that person’s belief with a discussion or debate. If you’re passionate enough, start a group that advocates the opposite side of that person’s ideology.

What you shouldn’t do is bully that person into silence or get government officials to ban their ideology from the public forum.

NDSU should serve as a place of learning and growth, not censorship and the creation of ideological bubbles. Just because you’re paying to come here doesn’t mean you get to restrict other people from voicing their ideas.

Based on that logic, I should be able to shut down the College Democrats just because I disagree with some of their political viewpoints. Trying to impede on another’s speech because you deem it ‘hate speech’ or ‘ignorant’ is not only unconstitutional but also unethical.

Newsflash to anybody reading this: there are always going to be people who have unpopular and radical ideologies that you find repugnant. There are always going to be people like Pete Tefft and Richard Spencer.

Ideologues like Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore will continue to exist, especially when their radical ideas are restricted and go underground to fester and grow. As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant for ideas. Forcing their ideas underground not only fails to eliminate their beliefs but also makes your side look weak-minded.

If you don’t like a person’s ideology, prove how flawed and incorrect they are by exposing their falsehoods in the public sphere.

Just as the human body requires constant stress and resistance to become stronger, so also must our minds be confronted with challenging ideas in order to strengthen them and stave off ignorance. Restricting the freedom of speech will only create ideological bubbles and make us, as George Washington once said: “dumb and silent.”

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