Free speech is a simple concept, or at least it should be. The idea is that no matter how disgusting your speech is, you’re free to say it. Otherwise, the government has the authority to silence “inappropriate” speech. For some, this sounds great … because they don’t realize that the government’s opinion on what’s appropriate can change.
In other words, if you want to be able to criticize the government or the party in power, you need to support the right to espouse unpopular opinions.
At Cleveland State, it seems some in the administration get that. Unfortunately, the students do not.
Officials at Cleveland State University are facing a wave of criticism for its response to a placard urging gay people to commit suicide.
“Follow your fellow fa**ots,” the sign had read, which featured various statistics related to suicide in the LGBT community.
According to Time, the university’s initial reaction was to stick up for the First Amendment, not denounce the hateful message:
“We will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard and to promote a civil discourse where educational growth is the desired result,” school president Ronald Berkman said.
— Splinter (@splinter_news) October 18, 2017
Unsurprisingly, Berkman’s comments met with some … resistance.
Make no mistake, the flyer is disgusting on every level. However, as the Ohio chapter of the ACLU notes, it’s covered by free speech because it doesn’t target an individual.
It’s not inciting violence, as one critic claims. It’s just disgusting.
I could try to figure out why someone would want to put up a flyer like that, but I’m not going to bother. I don’t really care why someone would put up something like that. I don’t want to get into the sick and twisted mind that would tell people to commit suicide.
What I will say, however, is that I’d rather such people spew their hate publicly so we know they exist — assuming this isn’t yet another hoax. Forcing them underground doesn’t do anything to end that way of thinking. Let them speak. Let them be heard. Then debate them and show the world how horrible they are. Or ignore them. But never silence them. That would be doing them a favor, and creating the much greater danger of an authoritarian government.