Thursday, March 09, 2017

Everything But the Shoutdown

The West Wing discusses an attempt to thread the needle between abstinence-only sex education and, well, realism by preaching "everything but." My old blogosphere mate Jill Filopovic has a very good piece in Cosmopolitan Magazine regarding how to respond to controversial speakers that basically endorses "everything but" shouting them down, obstructing them, or otherwise actually blocking them from speaking.
Free speech doesn’t mean that everyone deserves a platform to speak — the fact that Middlebury has never invited me for a speaking gig does not violate my free speech rights. Nor does it entitle you to an audience — if no one attends a neo-Nazi’s speech, his rights have not been violated. And free speech also doesn’t mean that people have the right to speak without protest or consequence — peacefully protesting a talk by Yiannopoulos may be strategically foolish, given that his whole schtick is being seen as an embattled anti-PC voice, but people can push back against his words without threatening the concept of free speech itself. Nor do other forms of challenging hateful speech through words or expression — silently turning one’s back on a graduation speaker, writing an op-ed criticizing the College Republicans club for inviting a racist to campus, chanting and holding signs outside the event, challenging the speaker with difficult questions, or planning a competing event as a way to demonstrate where a community’s values lie are all practiced, real-life responses to bigots invited to campus.
But no matter how terrible someone is, you don’t compromise your own most deeply held values to shut them down. You ignore them, you speak out against them, you protest them, but you don’t set things on fire or threaten their safety or prevent them from speaking. You model a better way. 
I encourage you to read it. I also encourage you to read the first sentence of the excerpted portion over again, because I can't count the number of people who have responded to Jill by saying "nobody is entitled to a platform."

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