We recently covered the news that a gay rights activist wrecked a newly-installed “Free Speech Wall” at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.
James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, which he describes as “an independent think tank dedicated to equality of rights before the law, social tolerance and civil liberties.” He offers his perspective on this story in a Huffington Post piece:
At Carleton University, the local Students for Liberty chapter put up a free speech wall asking anyone to express their opinion and giving others the opportunity to respond. A self-appointed thought-cop named Arun Smith, now in his seventh year as an undergraduate (really?), vandalized the wall, destroying it.Smith vehemently opposes freedom of speech — except his own, of course. He says that, “If everyone speaks freely we end up simply reinforcing the hierarchies that are created in our society.” Apparently, we must prevent others from speaking freely and grant thugs the right to decide who may, or may not, speak.
Opinions meeting Smith’s approval may be expressed, those that don’t may not. He has carved himself a perfect niche as the littlest thought dictator, wanting to rule others by savagery of brute force, instead of persuasion — a position usually taken by individuals with no confidence in their own arguments.
From reports in both the campus paper, and national news, there were two comments that compelled Smith to emulate Carrie A. Nation, the hatchet-wielding prohibitionist. One said, “Abortion is murder.” That comment was rebutted by many other comments taking the position that women have the right to make that decision–a position I support.
The second was, “Traditional marriage is awesome.” Well, it is, and so is gay marriage, but while the writer possibly thinks same-sex couples shouldn’t have the same rights as straight ones, this hardly qualifies as hate speech. Even student affairs director, Ryan Flannagan, agreed there was no hate speech.
In fact, the board had numerous pro-gay comments. It should be noted that Students for Liberty has consistently defended rights of the LGBT community, including the right to marry. Mr. Smith was not gallantly going into battle against enemies of the gay community, but rather trashing a project of a pro-gay group. After seven years on campus, you would think he’d pick up a clue about on strategy.
The argument for marriage equality, which clearly I support, is that LGBT people have the same rights as straight people. Apparently Mr. Smith despises that argument; asserting instead a superior right over straight people. He wants the right to speak as he wishes, while censoring others — the antithesis of equal rights.
Others may only speak if they meet his moral standards. This is precisely what anti-gay groups such as NOM and the Catholic Church are saying. Gays may only marry according to the moral standards of anti-gay sects. In each case, they deny others rights they claim.
Smith says free speech is a “meaningless platitude,” a mere “buzzword,” and dismisses “inclusion and equity” as “more meaningless platitudes.” He claims that allowing free speech allows “for the expression of hate.” Perhaps, even hate for free speech? Oh, wait; Commissar Smith condones that kind of hatred.
Smith said the wall was erected during a time that students celebrate “Pride Week.” This made the wall doubly offensive, because this is a time where we are supposed to “celebrate our diversity.” Is he serious? He destroys something that expresses diversity of opinion in the name of protecting diversity. What petty dictator doesn’t act with similar hypocritical claims? Apparently he thinks 1984 is a guidebook, not a warning…
LBGT people didn’t win their rights through violence, in spite of a few prominent instances. As a tiny minority, our rights were won by open debate. In the early days, the anti-gay crowd used the same arguments as Mr. Smith. They claimed our speech was immoral and our presence offensive.
They wanted to stamp out free speech, but free speech, along with people bravely living their lives in spite of hatred, won allies for equality. Today, most people accept LGBT people having the same rights as others. It has been a long process, but a successful one — information you would think Mr. Smith would encounter in his long career as a student.
I think Mr. Smith is damaging LGBT rights by waging war on the process that helped achieve those rights — free and open debate. He is also pulling a Westboro. Bigots at Westboro Baptist Church act in a manner openly offensive to most people. Each time they hold another picket, they embarrass their side in the debate. Activists for LGBT rights know this, and publicize it, so as to humiliate anti-gay individuals. People in the middle, who still haven’t made up their mind, don’t want to be associated with such intolerance, so then, by default, find themselves drawn to accept LGBT equality.
An act of vandalism, done by a self-appointed savior of the LGBT community, does the same thing. It makes the entire community look like small-minded brutes, incapable of reasoned debate. That is precisely the stereotype extremists on the right want portrayed. Mr. Smith is doing their dirty work for them. If Mr. Smith is going to act in such a manner, couldn’t he at least pretend he’s a conservative when he does it? Associating such actions with LGBT rights does more harm than good.