In the last two years of modern academia, university campuses have become ripe with the plague of political correctness.

Freedom of speech has become undermined and replaced with the notion of “no freedom for hate speech.” Many guest speakers have been threatened and shut down when planning on attending a specific campus where they were scheduled to speak.

Whether you agree with the presented ideas or not, this is stifling our values that uphold freedom of expression. It is limiting the exchange of ideas which could help formulate solutions to our ever-growing problems within our sociopolitical landscape.

Recently in Canada, at Ryerson University, a panel discussion titled The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses, involving three prominent Canadian University Professors, such as Jordan B. Peterson, Gad Saad, Oren A. Amitay and former Rebel Media reporter Faith Goldy, was shut down. The panel discussion was supposed to be on Aug. 22, but was shut down due to safety concerns.

Jordan B. Peterson, pictured speaking at a conference at the University of Toronto in 2013, has been at the centre of controversy in a debate of freedom of speech. (Photo by TEDxUofT Team)

Ryerson University prioritized security over speech. Organizers planned to rally against the event, with notable activist Christeen Elisabeth stating she believed that this was the seeds of fascism and that the panelists were spreading “hateful ideals.”

The organizers even had a Facebook page titled No Fascists in our City! in an attempt to deter Ryerson University from holding this panel discussion. This push-back against the panelists and the panel discussion has been considered reactionary to the events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, during the Unite the Right rally.

That rally resulted in the death of one person and the injury of 19 others after a vehicular attack by James Alex Fields Jr., who was linked to a white nationalist group. The pushback was also clearly directed at Peterson for his stance about the policy guidelines surrounding Bill-C16. This bill regards gender pronoun usage, which organizers of the rally deemed an assault on transgender rights.

Peterson has defended his stance numerous times, explaining that this is not a discriminatory stance against transgender rights, but a stance against stifling freedom of speech in Canada with the spectre of compelled speech that he said looms over this legislation.

Whether you agree with the presented ideas or not, this is stifling our values that uphold freedom of expression.

The panel discussion was cancelled, but was rescheduled to Nov. 11 at the Canada Christian College in Toronto, Ontario. The event occurred without any resistance from protesters, but was criticized for its exclusion of Goldy, who had been excluded for a variety of reasons, including those Saad called “pragmatic.”

The decision was based in the fear that the event may be shut down again for involving someone on the panel who had experienced recent controversy for her coverage of Charlottesville, and for speaking on a white nationalist podcast, The Daily Stormer. This resulted in her firing from Rebel Media.

Peterson had also remarked that this decision was made in part due to Goldy’s decision to not press any questions towards the members of The Daily Stormer on their beliefs. According to Peterson, the irony of excluding a panelist from a discussion involving the stifling of free speech because she exercised speech that he did not agree with was not lost on him.

The irony of Ryerson University shutting down a free speech panel discussion for speech that others did not agree with was also not lost on Peterson. However, as admirable and well-respected as Peterson is, this decision still rings with some disappointment.

If the irony of these decisions is not lost on the panelists, does that also entail that the hypocrisy of these decisions is not lost on them as well? The decision was difficult, and was discussed by the panelists. In some respect, the decision they made does make sense from a pragmatic perspective.

However, this does not negate the fact that the premise of this panel discussion was undermined by the decision to exclude Goldy from this event. The panelists should not have been biased when making this decision, or based their decision in fear. A platform held on the premise of how free speech is stifled should be upheld by allowing a variety of ideas to emerge with a diversity of thought. The exclusion of Goldy in that respect remains troublesome.

This is just a specific instance in the grand scheme of a larger issue. The panel should not have faced any resistance and should not fear for their own safety due to their differing ideas. However, in our current political climate, where political polarization has such fervor with people, this is bound to occur unfortunately.

Campus speech shutdowns are not just occurring in Canada, but they are occurring steadfastly in the United States. Ben Shapiro, editor of The Daily Wire, has faced trouble several times for attempting to speak at campuses.

Ben Shapiro, pictured speaking at Politicon, a political conference, in 2016, has faced difficulty while trying to speak at universities.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

At UC Berkeley College in Berkeley, California, the visit cost $600,000 in security fees to protect Shapiro while he spoke at the campus in September this year. Protestors with the University of Utah SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) vowed to shut down his speech and placed several posters around the campus with the tagline, “Keep Hate Speech Off Our Campus.” They even falsely placed him in the category of the alt-right.

The leader of the SDS, Sean Taylor even told ABC Nightline‘s Dan Harris that he believed the first amendment is not relevant today. Luckily for Shapiro, he was able to speak at both campuses amid protests.

However, back in February, former Brietbart news reporter Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley, but was cancelled due to violent protesters setting fires, breaking windows, throwing molotov cocktails and accumulating over $100,000 in property damage fees for the campus.

A platform held on the premise of how free speech is stifled should be upheld by allowing a variety of ideas to emerge with a diversity of thought.

This kind of agitation that has been growing on campuses was also commented on at a panel discussion, called The Triggering: Has Political Correctness gone too far?, which was hosted by Christina Hoff Summers, Steven Crowder and Milo Yiannopoulos. The event was held on April 25 last year at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Milo Yiannopoulos, pictured speaking at a 2013 conference, has also been the centre of recent freedom of speech debates. (Photo by OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS)

Its aim was to allow for a discussion regarding the effects of censoring free speech due to political correctness. Among other topics at that panel included “trigger warnings” and the effects of modern-day, third-wave feminism. The discussion occurred, but many audience members were disruptive and extremely rude to the panelists in an attempt to shut them down. This kind of behaviour from students on campuses should not be allowed as an admission for expressing their “free speech,” especially since they are given the opportunity to ask the panel questions.

Since most of these speeches allow for the audience to be given a platform in a question and answer setting, should the best response to a person with which you do not agree not exist in the form of a question? This creates dialogue and helps both parties who disagree with each other come to a mutual understanding of each other’s opinions. This idea is undervalued and in most cases dismissed, because many protesters believe these panelists should not even be given a platform to speak due to their beliefs.

“Hate speech” is a term used to shut down speech and label it, in order to make a case that certain people should not even speak because it is spreading “hate.” By labeling certain speech as hate speech, you dismiss any value that can be extracted from what is being said, simply because it does not conform to the beliefs that you hold.

There is great utility in freedom of speech. It allows for a diverse range of opinions to emerge and to be questioned by merits and validity. By shutting down speech we do not agree with, we risk avoiding learning things that we do not know and were not aware of previously. We risk allowing censorship that is almost Orwellian in nature to occur. We risk turning political discourse into a conflict of good and evil. One side emerges as a good that must rid the other side of evil by punishing those hold who differing ideals.

This is already occurring with numerous protesters on many campuses who hold a fanatical belief in their own political ideologies as arbitrators of what constitutes speech that is allowed and not allowed. If this continues to occur, we will lose our campuses to political correctness and we will lose our freedom of speech to ideological indoctrination.

By Justin Shalitis

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.