Who Gets to Decide When Speech Should Be Protected?

Last week I wrote about a situation at Concordia College in Moorhead which saw the student government pulling funding for a speech to be delivered by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. The funding had been approved by the student government previously but was pulled after a faction of students and faculty protested.

The VP of the student government justified the decision to pull the funding by promoting the idea that not all speech is legitimate free speech:

“SGA vice president Will Kuball said the association is working with Young Americans for Freedom to find a more suitable speaker,” the Forum reported, adding that Kuball said “free speech doesn’t mean hate speech.”

That sentiment, which has become frighteningly common on the left these days, was re-iterated in this letter to the editor by Fargo resident Bernie Erickson.

Erickson, who I assume is referring to the Concordia situation though he makes no mention of it, suggests that not all speech deserves protection. “Listening to conservative groups complain about liberals not allowing them freedom of speech clearly indicates progressives are finally making some progress,” he writes.

His letter continues:

Everyone has a right to express their point of view; but not every point of view has equal merit and deserves the same thoughtful consideration. I’m glad to see the progressives insisting we’ve moved beyond white nationalism and refusing to allocate time, money and space to listen to the same old hate based nonsense that was resolved decades ago.

In summary, Erickson believes that conservative points of view are inherently hateful and progressives should feel no duty to facilitate their expression.

This sort of nonsense is exactly why the 1st amendment doesn’t make distinctions about which types of speech are protected. Because who should get to decide?

People like Kuball and Erickson and a lot of other people on the left think conservative speech is hateful and therefore unworthy of venue or even legal protection.

This is a problem.

Hateful speech is absolutely protected speech, whether it’s hate of a Republican president or a minority group or a football team. What’s more, dealing with expression (speech, art, music, etc.) we may find distasteful or insulting or even bigoted is the price of admission for living in a free society.

We cannot have freedom if we have a group of self-appointed censors deciding for the rest of us what sort of expression will and will not be allowed.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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