Freedom of speech or honorable hypocrisy?
No one expected Molotovs and fireworks in the middle of UC Berkeley. It was like a scene straight out of a “Call of Duty” campaign, as violence erupted. A war started then, a supplement to the current war we are waging. The liberal-conservative divide has become this generation’s civil war.
Traditionally, university has been a place of open-minded ideology and general diversity, where individuals of varying ages, appearances, beliefs and values are able to congregate. In this vast assemblage, one will no doubt encounter others who hold different opinions. But as our society today grows increasingly deaf to the cries for compromise and compassion, it is crucial for individuals to listen to these opposing beliefs, have honest criticisms and most importantly be civil.
Why this topic of conversation now? Indeed, this free flow of ideas has been incorporated into schools for ages, uncontested and unhindered. Yet, more and more, this freedom is finding itself in trouble as traditionally all encompassing places like college campuses—such as UC Berkeley—are shutting down speech dubbed as so-called “hate speech” by contentious students.
Ironically enough, when these detractors call out alternative point of views for apparently “inciting violence,” they similarly do not bat an eye tossing molotovs in their “peaceful” opposition
Take for example, a university that has already been brought up multiple times in this piece yet remains the foremost case study of hypocrisy at its finest The University of California, Berkeley, has consistently held a seminar where conservative speakers are given a platform to express their views, a great opportunity for liberal students to gain exposure to right-wing perspectives. However, in recent years especially, civility has been lost in the vast majority of left-wing students, who have notoriously gotten their hands on banned weapons as a means of protest.
To illustrate, on Sep. 14, conservative advocate Ben Shapiro spoke on UC Berkeley grounds as swarms of campus students and locals gathered to protest. The rally remained relatively stable, with the local police supervising the assemblage and safeguarding Shapiro. However, while most protesters were only labeling Shapiro derogatory terms, the police had to detain some individuals with items could be used as weapons In fact, out of the nine individuals detained, four were seen with prohibited weapons.
Similarly in another rally on February 1., which featured “right-wing jerk”, Milo Yiannopoulos, Anti Fascist (Antifa) members chanted phrases like, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” While the individuals have every right to protest, the Antifa members’ further brutalization of opponents considered too “fascist and violent” is the prime example of horrendously senseless irony, as they continue to fight the perceived fire with fire themselves and seek to create an almost free-for-all state at originally peaceful protest.
Why are college students against the idea of free speech; moreover, why are the students handling it with force? Afterall, free speech exposes apparently existing racist, sexist and homophobic ideas. Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ elaborated on this in an interview with L.A. Times reporter Teresa Watanabe when she stated why so many millennials are against free speech is because they were integrated into the anti-bullying culture as children. Consequently, these college students now will preach about inclusivity—which is not a bad thing—and will dismantle any criticisms that appear hateful.
Unfortunately, despite the anti-bullying rhetoric they were taught as kids, college students nowadays have become the bullies themselves to fight their opponents. But as everyone knows, bullying the relentless into submission does not work, if anything the relentless become more restless.
There is nothing wrong with peaceful protest. In fact, protesting is a privilege, something we as a nation are blessed to have when many others do not share the same opportunities. But when protesting turns into something akin to hate crimes — like harassing fellow students and terrorizing members of the Campus Conservatives — what exactly makes these acts of intolerance any different from the discrimination so constantly decried in this day and age?
Instead, these students should protest with peace, because ultimately, people who practice what they preach are louder than those who resort to violence.
Shutting down free speech, however repulsive or hateful, makes us no better than a totalitarian state that punishes speakers who scrutinize arguably more popular ideology. Furthermore, if our human right of free speech is being questioned with violence, what is next?