Free speech was a big topic in class this semester. It makes for an exciting discussion, one that makes me appreciate how lucky we are to be living in a free society.
This hallmark of an evolved society was challenged this week by the unexpected and deeply disturbing events at the campus. Even the most ferocious defenders of the 1st amendment may find themselves on the defensive side when considering speech that may edge closer to negating what an evolved and pluralistic society aims to achieve through free speech.
The emotional and immediate reaction to hate speech is to try and stop it. But the way to do it is not by making it illegal using censorship. Not only because shutting down someone else’s speech because we disagree with them doesn’t help change their minds. More than that: censorship can go more than one way, and be directed at other groups – every one of us could find themselves censored at that point. Is that the society we want to have?
The rationale that guided the first amendment has laid an unprecedented foundation in human history, to a society that is open and defers to discourse and conversation in order to advance. If we begin shutting down free speech because the majority might find a certain opinion offensive and distasteful, we may cross a line that cannot be crossed back.
In cases like these incidents, we may even be playing into a narrative promoted by those haters.
These are challenging times, and there are no easy answers to these issues. Hopefully, there is a positive lesson and path to an open dialog between groups to cross the line of hatred, break barriers of hate and advance us as a whole.