Donald J. Trump’s win upset many college students across the nation, leading to classes being called off, students walking out of their classes in protest and colleges creating more safe spaces. Fortunately, College of Charleston did not follow the trend of coddling students or intolerance towards differing views. Despite having earned FIRE‘s “red light,” which means the school has at least one policy that is not in line with the First Amendment, the College maintained itself as a place of higher learning, where students freely exchange their ideas regardless of how controversial they may be.
No incidents of suppressed speech took place on campus until November 15th, when Glenn F. McConnell, the President of the College, emailed students and faculty members reminding them that in the aftermath of the elections, “it is our duty as Americans and members of the College of Charleston to treat each other with kindness and empathy. No matter the political divide, we must always be tolerant of each other’s views.” However, he added, “Hateful speech and actions will not be tolerated at the College.” The issue here is how vague the term “hateful speech” is, since it holds a subjective meaning. Further, much of what people consider “hateful speech” is generally protected.
Continue reading at Students for Liberty.
American politics has taken a bad turn. We see this in an increase in politically motivated criminal charges. At universities, students’ due process protections are being eliminated in favor of a politically modish star chamber. One presidential candidate even promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the other.
Absent a serious reexamination of these practices, injustice will become a fixed custom. To see where we’re headed, we need only look to Europe, where prosecution for one’s politics has already become the norm.
During a 2014 election rally, Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian and head of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom (PVV), asked the crowd if they wanted fewer or more Moroccans in the country. Supporters chanted “fewer, fewer,” and Wilders replied, “We’ll take care of that.”
The Hague Public Prosecutors subsequently decided Mr. Wilders had committed a hate crime.
Wilders’ trial is not the beginning, and it won’t be the end of this type of legal miscarriage. Peering across the pond, one perceives a decaying continental rule of law, birthing its orphan child: the show trial.
Continue reading at The Federalist.
“Liberty not only means that the individual has both the opportunity and the burden of choice; it also means that he must bear the consequences of his actions and will receive praise or blame for them.” F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Responsibility and Freedom
What does it mean for speech to be free? I’m less interested in the legal specifications surrounding this question and more eager to discuss what this means for us in our daily interactions. As an anarchist, I don’t see a legitimate role for governments to play in limiting or privileging certain types of speech. However, that does not mean that individuals cannot or should not be held responsible for the things they say by others in their chosen communities. Since we’ve removed as an option the use of force to suppress speech, what avenues might remain available for praxis?
If speech is to exist in a kind of “marketplace of ideas,” then “praise” or “blame” can act as a profit and loss system for “good” and “bad” speech. It remains the domain of individuals to decide for themselves what constitutes good and bad, as well as how to react to different ideas. Some people are comfortable combating ideas with their own speech with the hope of, at least, persuading or emboldening others to do the same. For others (usually those who have experienced trauma related to particular ideas such as misogyny, rape culture, homo- and transphobia, etc.) the response is often to retreat from spaces where these ideas are shared uncritically and build alternative spaces with others who feel similarly. Some would call these “safe spaces,” but bell hooks has another idea; removed from fear of re-traumatization and retaliation, people create spaces in which they are “safe to struggle.” It is a gross mischaracterization of safe spaces to say that there aren’t any levels of disagreement among those involved. Rather, open and respectful disagreement is possible because there is a foundation of mutual trust established through the intentions set for the space.
Continue reading at the Center for a Stateless Society.