I am, too. Don’t get me wrong.
I, like most of you, hate the president. I subscribe to the overused, but nevertheless valid notion that “now, more than ever” we need to protect the various oppressed groups in our society.
But, come on! How can we be successful in our fight for safe spaces when we repeatedly make things so unsafe for anyone who disagrees? We’re only hurting our own agenda by making our chosen enemies victims of leftist ignorance and martyrs for free speech.
Administrators at the University of California, Berkeley cancelled a scheduled speech on April 19, 2017, that was to be delivered by controversial conservative writer Ann Coulter. They cited concern for Coulter’s safety as the reason for the cancellation. (However, they uncancelled the speech a few days later, rescheduling it for April 27. The administrators felt a large and expensive police presence would be enough to guarantee Coulter’s safety.)
Two months before, Berkeley administrators also prevented former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopolous, another conservative provocateur, from speaking after violent protests erupted in response to his scheduled appearance.
The situation at Berkeley is not unique in the slightest. Student protesters attacked conservative social scientist Charles Murray (who is mainly controversial for writing about what he sees as racial differences in intelligence) and the professor who invited him to speak at Middlebury College last month, leaving the female and left-leaning professor with whiplash and a concussion.
Such acts of hostility by self-declared progressives against their conservative counterparts aren’t always this extreme, but are all too ubiquitous at this point in time.
Stuyvesant students in particular need to realize that stomping out inflammatory opinions doesn’t make you a valiant social justice warrior. While the more radical members of our overwhelmingly liberal student body don’t set things on fire, they do arm themselves with virtual threats and insults.
These overzealous cyberbullies have proven that they can be far more hateful than the supposedly hateful opinions they crusade against.
We need to differentiate real hate speech from speech we find misguided or even offensive, but not objectively dangerous.
The most harmful part of this whole situation is that hostility toward people with opposing opinions only strengthens and confirms their feelings that they are the ones being persecuted by the majority.
If one of our goals as progressives is to fight misogyny, for example, we shouldn’t go about doing that by making misogynists hate us. Someone who gets mocked doesn’t think, “Hmm, they have a point!”
I’ve been the righteous liberal, too, and often still am. A few issues back, when I was one of editors-in-chief of this paper, I made the decision not to publish an article by senior Stiven Peter about why marriage should exist solely between a man and a woman, and why being transsexual is immoral. (This decision, thankfully, was overridden by our faculty advisor).
I told myself I didn’t want to publish the article because there were logical gaps, but it was really because I wasn’t receptive to an opinion so different from my own. From the cushiony walls of my echo chamber, anything else sounded foreign, almost alien.
I realize now that the intrinsic value of the socially conservative opinions expressed in Peter’s articles outweighs my worries about their inaccessibility. If The Spectator is truly “the pulse of the student body,” it should accurately represent the politics of the entire student body and not just the students who agree with me.
And for the majority of left-leaning students—who are often inclined to think that virtually everyone shares the same opinions as us—any article expressing a conservative viewpoint is invaluable.
If you are a true liberal or progressive, you want to make the world a better place for all the diverse people in it. The only way to change the minds of racists, homophobes, Islamophobes, xenophobes, sexists, etc., is to understand how they think, and what circumstances mold their worldviews.
It is imperative that we learn how to not ridicule other opinions, even if we think they’re ridiculous. People will only be receptive to what you have to say if you demonstrate willingness to hear what they have to say, as well. Once you have achieved this level of respect and understanding, you can express your concerns and even challenge opinions with which you disagree so you can educate others (and educate yourself along the way).
It’s a shame that Stuyvesant’s environment was not hospitable enough to allow a handful of students with unpopular opinions to organize, because exposure to different opinions and different types of people is a rarity, whether you’re in New York City, Berkeley, Middlebury, or really anywhere else in the country.