On November 16, a number of University of Wisconsin students banded together in protest of a speech being given on the UW campus by conservative pundit Ben Shapiro. The speech was put on by the student group Young Americans for Freedom as part of the Wendy P. McCaw Freedom Lecture Series, which YAF’s website describes as a program that “brings prominent conservative voices to college campuses where conservative ideas are completely shut out of the debate.”
As a recent University of Wisconsin alum, I can confirm that, despite Wisconsin’s current status as a red state and UW-Madison’s very monochromatic student body, liberalism dominates campus culture. Like Austin, Texas, the city in which I currently reside, Madison, Wisconsin is an intensely liberal capital city and college town in an overall conservative state (Texas moreso than Wisconsin, obviously, but there is still a definite conservative lean in the Dairy State). I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing; just that it is a thing, and definitely makes UW a great university to have received a lecture series intended for creating a contrarian discourse on campuses dominated by liberal ideologies.
The problem is, the more liberal the school, the more students there are who aren’t just unwilling to hear things that go against their beliefs, but who are completely averse to even letting those things be said. And when the title of your liberal campus public speaking event is “Dismantling Safe Spaces: Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings” like Shapiro’s was, you already know how this story ends — both because I told you at the inception of this article, and because, at this point, you know how today’s collegiate social justice warriors respond to anything they deem harmful, triggering, not PC, offensive, etc.
And that’s how you end up with an active suppression of freedom of speech taking place on a major American college campus, executed, ironically, in the name of acceptance and tolerance. In using the term “active suppression,” I’m attempting to get the point across that this was not simply innocent-enough protesters booing Shapiro as he spoke or telling him to shut up — it was a concerted effort to completely prevent someone from speaking their beliefs based solely on the content of what they have to say. A complete slap in the face to the First Amendment.
Bask in its well-executed beauty, panache, and righteousness!
Let’s get this out of the way right now — just because your protest is non-violent doesn’t mean it’s non-stupid. What you think you’re accomplishing by standing up there and interrupting Shapiro’s speech is not what anybody not currently involved in your protest thinks you’re accomplishing. Who do you think any neutral party who is at that event for its intended purpose of providing a different viewpoint than the UW-Madison echo chamber provides is going to side with — the guy they came to see in an attempt to broaden their worldview, or the group of people interrupting him with absolutely zero substance other than “I don’t like the things this guy says, so you shouldn’t even get the chance to hear him out and decide for yourself!” Protesting has devolved from a powerful, united stand against injustice into a self-serving display of “look how righteous I am!”
The irony of creating a safe space at an event designed to provide a rational counter-argument to safe spaces shouldn’t be lost on anyone, either. If your safe space doesn’t allow for discussion of safe spaces without swift and combative retaliation, is it really that safe?
Luckily, there were some sane people in the crowd who were able to prevent the safe space from being established.
Here’s my personal favorite highlight from the protest.
From the refreshingly impartial Badger Herald, for whom I used to copy edit back in college:
He kicked off his speech by holding up a box of safety pins, a symbol used since the Nov. 8 election as a show of solidarity with vulnerable citizens.
“I also brought along something to wear them with,” Shapiro said. “This diaper.”
This and similar comments garnered laughter from the packed room.
When the first protester to speak up said he could draw a swastika for him, the crowd booed and pointed out that Shapiro is Jewish.
This is a perfect microcosm of where we’re at in the PC movement. All subversives are treated similarly, regardless of any distinguishing characteristics they may have. The Jewish guy who hates safe spaces? He’s a Nazi! Your female African-American next door neighbor who voted for Trump over Hillary? She’s a bigot and a sexist! Stop focusing on the general beliefs people have and start focusing on why they, specifically, have them — productive discourse will follow. Of course, that will require you to book a one way ticket out of your safe space. If you actually do want actual progress, however, it will be an enlightening and fruitful journey for you.
The longer you stand there with your hands on either side of your head yelling “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALALALA” at people with whom you think you disagree, the more unwilling they will be to hear your side of things. It’s the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. So if you want people to lend you their ears, take your fingers out of yours.
It really is that simple..
[via The Badger Herald]
Image via Dana Kampa