You Can’t Talk About That

Aaron Propp - 1B Electrical
Posted on: March 25, 2017

I probably, by any rules of the modern left, can’t talk about this. But I will anyways. I’m talking about free speech. As in the right to say almost anything you want, except for hate speech, regardless of any safe spaces on university campuses. This issue has risen to prominence recently with Professor Jordan Peterson speaking at McMaster University and the University of Western Ontario recently and the protests that have arisen. However, this has been a longstanding issue with the American campus tours of both Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos.

Jordan Peterson has been an outspoken critic of Bill C-16, which he claims would make it a crime for people to address anyone beyond their preferred set of pronouns, including gender-less pronouns. He argues that this is effectively one step closer to 1984, where speech is completely regulated by the government. In this case, the Canadian government is regulating what pronouns one can use or not use when addressing someone, effectively taking away someone’s freedom of speech.

Jordan Peterson’s participation in a debate about free speech and political correctness at McMaster University was met with protests ultimately shutting down what he said. What’s more important to look at is how the protest went down. Jordan Peterson was shut down as the debate was stormed by protestors with cowbells and airhorns. Eventually, Peterson went outside to speak on a bench until he was forced to leave there as well. While speaking on the bench, a protestor blew an airhorn near Peterson’s ear and another threw glitter at him.

This protest shows the current trend towards less and less academic freedom, especially with opinions that dissent from the progressive left. While the actions taken against Peterson towards the end should not happen in any peaceful protest, the actions in the debate hall more impinged on academic freedom and were effectively a heckler’s veto, where the one who makes the most noise wins.

Peterson later spoke at the University of Western Ontario where he was welcomed warmly. The only interruption to his speech was bursts of applause from the sold-out crowd, a sharp contrast to being chased out by an angry mob at McMaster just the day before.

A more extreme example of this is Milo Yiannopoulos’ talk at UC Berkeley that happened in February. Milo Yiannopoulos has fallen into disrepute recently with his comments about pedophilia contributing to the development of young gay men. His talk at UC Berkeley was violently protested by black-clad protestors, who threw fireworks and rocks at police, attacked to College Republicans in the middle of an interview. Some threw Molotov cocktails at buildings on campus and smashed windows on campus.

“While Yiannopoulos’ views, tactics, and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own, we are bound by the Constitution, the law, our values and the campus’s Principles of Community to enable free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective,” UC Berkeley said in a statement. I think that this is the sentiment that must be adopted. Regardless of whether the views of the speaker are politically correct or not, they have the right to say their piece without fear of violent protest.