I think Jasmin Jones really kicked off her presidency well. In response to the insanity caused by SDS and Feminists United at the Tancredo event, she and David Bevevino (with much help from Justin Rosenthal) organized a rally to show the world that the UNC student body actually does care about free speech and respects other people’s right to it. Basically, “We’re not all pinheads, Mr O’Reilly!” (Just some of us, like SDS & Co.) Allison Nichols kicked it off with a history of free speech at UNC (the Speaker Ban in the ’60s) and explained why free speech should matter to us. Justin and I spoke on behalf of Young Democrats and College Republicans respectively, he condemning the excesses of Tuesday evening and detailing how one should properly respond disagreement, and I condemning accusations of hate speech that silence political opposition which was the main intellectual (however vacuous) argument presented by the radical protestors.
We were followed by CHispA who said they actually wanted to engage Tancredo rationally by challenging him but were thwarted by SDS & Co. Then Riley Matheson of YWC and a representative from Feminists United spoke, each defending their organizations. Jasmin talked about safety and how it probably wasn’t a good idea to throw a brick through a window because it could hurt people, and it destroys university property. I wish we all instinctively knew that, but perhaps that is too much to ask. Campus Y Co-Presidents Jimmy Waters and Erin Marubashi closed by saying their piece and announcing a forum next Thursday that will be a dialogue between students and representatives from the groups involved.
Jasmin and David did an excellent job. Hats off to them.
And now, bowing to public demand, (and understanding the fact that the main thrust of my argument will receive no mention in the DTH tomorow), I am reprinting the full text of the speech given at the rally:
Thank you all for being here today. It’s uplifting to see so many people in support of our First Amendment right to free speech after the antics perpetrated by those few radicals Tuesday evening. Any attempt to stifle or silence political opposition has no place in our nation, most especially on a university campus where our motto is “lux libertas”: light and liberty. UNC was founded upon the principles of a liberal arts education whose intention is to educate man to be free. We can only be free if we pursue truth, working to attain that light and liberty. Thus, at its very base, the most egregious protestors were rejecting the very reason we are here, the very foundation of our university.
The accusations thrown at Mr Tancredo were varied, but had one common theme: what he had to say was hate speech. This meant that what he had to say was not valid, and, therefore, required such a response. We may disagree, and the UNC College Republicans disagree vehemently with the aims of the Youth for Western Civilization; nonetheless, we must respect everyone who wishes to express an opinion. To continue to be a functioning republic, we must allow political discourse to exist. Making accusations of hate speech is merely a device to halt that process through silencing political opposition. The sign “Hate speech isn’t free speech” is absurd: you can either have one or the other. You can either control speech or you have a free exchange of ideas. There are some restrictions, but it is analogous to the quote, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” You can’t cry “Fire” in a movie theater because it violates others’ rights; those rights do not include a right to not be offended; that’s crazy. Everyday, we will be offended. It’s part of life. If you don’t want to be offended, the university is pretty much the wrong place to be because the intention of liberal arts is to force you to question your notions of the world and possibly re-think them.
We cannot enact prohibitions against hate speech because hate speech is completely subjective. There is no objective way to determine whether anything is hate speech. Look at some common definitions of hate speech: speech that incites violence. Okay, let’s say during John Kerry’s speech a student decided to punch his neighbor in the face. Was John Kerry engaging in hate speech? No, the decision to punch someone in the face was the student’s and the student’s alone. Or speech that is degrading to a group. What would we say to a Duke student who read the DTH’s column entitled “Why We Hate Duke” and found it degrading. Should the DTH not print that column? We at Carolina might find it humorous, but it could be taken the wrong way.
Saying Mr Tancredo was engaging in hate speech and should have been stopped sets a dangerous precedent. When will we stop being offended? Only when we cease to exist. Any word or gesture may be seen as degrading or incite violence. Accusations of hate speech are, therefore, antithetical to free speech and antithetical to the Carolina Way. Fortunately, it appears wee have little to fear. Your presence indicates that the student body really does take free speech seriously, and, in my experience working with Justin and the Young Democrats, I can attest to the fact that the political dialogue on campus is alive and well.