“Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.” Even in 1722, great minds such as Benjamin Franklin defended the critical need for free speech to ensure a free society. The free and open exchange of ideas is the backbone of our democratic republic. Exposure to thoughts that run contrary to our own is a driving force for progress. When our ideas are tested in the arena of free discourse, the individual is empowered to seek the truth for himself. Unfortunately this pursuit of truth has come under fire on campuses across the nation in the name of “social justice.”
Most recently this progressive agenda has manifested itself at the University of Pittsburgh. The College Republicans contacted gay British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos to come and speak on campus. Known for his controversial views staunchly opposed to modern social justice warriors, Yiannopoulos attracted a crowd of hundreds to hear him despite speaking at 9:00 on a Monday night during the week of mid-term exams.
With a provocative reputation such as Yiannopoulos on his self-titled “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” and advertisements put forth by the College Republicans cautioning students with a “trigger warning,” every person entering the auditorium must have known the nature of content they would soon hear. During his speech, the British journalist denounced the concepts of a gender-wage-gap and campus rape culture existing, the Black Lives Matter Movement, modern feminists, and socialism.
Throughout the night protestors interrupted Yiannopoulos in an effort to shout down his “hate.” Unperturbed, Milo continued his discussion after the police escorted some of the most disruptive protestors to the exit. Yiannopoulos may have finished speaking at Pitt on Monday, but that night was only the start of the backlash against permitting a journalist with unpopular ideas to share his thoughts.
The day after the event, a Student Government Board meeting was held during which over one hundred students attended to speak against the Student Government Board for allowing such “hurtful” ideas to be spoken in a University of Pittsburgh public forum open to all students. During the meeting students sobbed as they recounted how they were marginalized, triggered, oppressed, traumatized, and in the presence of violence that produced the need for safe spaces. The disgruntled progressives demanded that the University officials no longer allow speakers to present on campus if the students are offended by the words.
Aware of the threats to free speech across campuses throughout the entire nation, Doug Steeber, an active member of College Republicans at Pittsburgh, live-tweeted some of the actions during the Student Government Board meeting, and his tweets were soon discovered by other students. Shortly after Tuesday night, imposter Facebook accounts of Steeber were created in an effort to defame him. Flyers containing pictures of Doug were then created with false and belligerent statements regarding Steeber and the names and home phone number of his parents in an effort to intimidate Doug and his family. The Pitt Diversity Council then released a statement proclaiming the need for a “safe space for all.” It continued to discuss how the “triggering environment…degraded minorities,” and that, “While everyone has a right to free speech, they don’t have a right to preach hate on our University campus.”
In light of these events, it is imperative now more than ever that we stand up for our natural rights. Real rights impose no burden upon one’s neighbor. They are endowed at birth, not created by law or social institutions. Just as man has the right move unmolested by others, so too did students have the right to enter and leave the lecture whenever they so desire. Just as man has the right to think for himself and speak his mind, so too did students have the right to either agree or disagree with the words of Yiannopoulos. Just as man cannot create a true right that infringes upon the natural rights of his neighbors, so too can students not create the right to not be offended when that constructed right inherently infringes upon the natural right of free speech. In order to be a free people we must defend and exercise our right to free speech now and forever.