Banning controversial people is banning freedoms of speech

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

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

A fan of pop culture, Preston loves everything from political think pieces to action blockbusters. He is also the Opinion Editor of the NT Daily and an Integrative Studies senior at UNT.

2 thoughts on “Banning controversial people is banning freedoms of speech

  • May 3, 2017 at 9:23 am
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    Thank you for writing this, Gabriela! I’ve known for a quite a while that those who loudly proclaim that they are tolerant are usually the ones who act the most like snowflakes – screaming and crying and protesting (sometimes violently) when a speaker who doesn’t share their political views is invited to campus. They’re also very quick to label the speaker as racist, sexist and homophobic without any evidence that the speaker acted that way, and will brand anyone who agrees with the speaker with those labels. Basically, they act like uncontrolled toddlers throwing temper tantrums. They are the most intolerant people I’ve encountered. Those who opposed Rudy Giuliani last fall acted like this, but UNT students should be more mature and better than that! Universities are supposed to teach critical thinking skills, and that means being open minded to points of view other than your own, and LISTENING before name calling. And UNT as a whole isn’t a “liberal” university. It doesn’t ascribe to ANY political view because faculty, staff members AND students hold and speak out on many different political ideologies, as the Constitution allows them to do. The university will not shut them down.

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  • May 3, 2017 at 9:36 am
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    Great column, but you’re too young to understand that peaceful protest outside an event with a speaker you don’t like doesn’t solve anything. It may make you feel better, but some will consider you a loser who had nothing better to do. The best way to “protest” is to simply stay away, and do something productive during that time. When the Women’s Marches happened in January, I didn’t participate, because I didn’t agree with anything those women were protesting. And much of what they said against the current administration wasn’t fact. What did I do that day? I helped a group of men build a wheelchair ramp for an elderly couple, through my church. That, fellow women, is how to feel empowered! Not marching around crying, yelling and holding signs because you didn’t get your way. And make no mistake – there would have been a full crowd if Ann Coulter had spoken, not a handful of people. She has supporters in California too. She would have also had supporters coming from other states, to show Berkeley that they can’t shut a “controversial” speaker – which to you seems to mean one that holds conservative views – up.

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