Gabriela Macias | Staff Writer
On April 27, Ann Coulter was scheduled to give a speech at the University of California, Berkeley. Her appearance was canceled once university administrators detailed active security threats. In a letter to the Berkeley College Republicans, the student organization sponsoring the event, two vice chancellors said that the university was “unable to find a safe and suitable venue for [the] event.”
This comes after the events of last February when Milo Yiannopoulos was unable to appear on the campus after protests erupted and turned violent. Him and Coulter are both figures known for their inflammatory rhetoric, and the purpose of this column is not to discuss their ideologies. Similar events have happened around campuses nationally and it seems as though they are becoming more frequent. We need to address the importance of freedom of speech, but another important question to ask ourselves is: what do we really gain from these people not speaking?
This might not be a popular stance, but I think it should be. We should defend freedom of speech for all, even from those we disagree with. Most importantly, they should be met with better arguments. Discussion is an essential part of change.
Now I personally disagree with everything Coulter stands for and profusely repeats. Same with Yiannopoulos. But I also know that keeping her from speaking does nothing. Her message is still out there and plays right into the hands of her supporters, further feeding their arguments. In a way, it makes people like them a lot more relevant than they should be.
Shining a light happens to be the best antidote to ignorance. A way to combat Coulter-esque views in particular is to be prepared with challenging questions and facts to present. If you truly disagree with someone, become part of the conversation. Go to the event and participate or, better yet, protest outside peacefully. That is everyone’s right. Maybe don’t show up at all, but can you imagine if no one went to the event or only five people showed up? They would not be invited again.
It needs to be understood that listening to someone does not automatically mean agreeing with them or their views. College campuses should be the one place where opposing views can be fully discussed. A place where people with opposing ideologies can talk in a safe environment and try to address real issues. There most likely won’t be a resolution to these cancellations, but students would have at least had the opportunity to learn.
It should be fully acknowledged that outside college campuses, real people are the bearers of the consequences from hateful speech. That should never be dismissed. I understand the pain that certain speech inflicts, but I also know that shutting people out is not the solution.
To see real gain, we need to be prepared to face real challenges and have better arguments. We cannot shy away from combating hateful rhetoric face-to-face. Freedom of speech is our most coveted and protected right. We should defend it at all costs, because without it we could all be silenced.
Defending the basic right of the person you disagree with the most is a mature way of protecting your own rights. It means that all of us can voice our opinions. The fight for more than just an accepting world has never been easy, but we cannot give in now.
Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins