News & Politics

Ben Shapiro Stormed Congress and Blew the Left’s Argument Against Free Speech to Smithereens

Ben Shapiro Stormed Congress and Blew the Left’s Argument Against Free Speech to Smithereens
Ben Shapiro speaking at the 2016 Politicon at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC by SA 2.0)

On Thursday, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro testified about free speech on college campuses before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In less than five minutes, he dissected and destroyed the Left’s argument against free speech.

“Free speech is under assault because of a three-step argument made by advocates and justifiers of violence,” Shapiro declared in his opening remarks. “The first step is they say that the validity or invalidity of an argument can be judged solely by the ethnic, sexual, racial, or cultural identity of the person making the argument.”

This “intersectionality” argument — that society structurally oppresses people of ethnic, sexual, racial, or cultural identities and therefore only those who have been oppressed can speak about certain issues — is the ground of the “microaggression” culture stifling speech on campuses, the Daily Wire editor argued.

“The second step is they claim that those who say otherwise are engaged in what they call verbal violence,” Sharipo added. “The final step is that they conclude that physical violence is sometimes justified in order to stop such verbal abuse.”

In order to understand how college campuses shut down speech — often but not always conservative speech — Americans must understand the philosophy of “intersectionality.” Shapiro argued that this philosophy dominates college campuses and “a large segment of today’s Democratic Party.”

Intersectionality “suggests that straight white Americans are inherently the beneficiaries of white privilege and therefore cannot speak on certain policies, since they have not experienced what it’s like to be black or hispanic or gay or transgender or a woman.”

This philosophy, Shapiro declared, “ranks the value of a view not based on the logic or merit of the view but on the level of victimization in American society experienced by the person espousing the view.” An LGBT black woman is automatically considered more correct than a straight white male, before any speech exits either of their mouths.

“The next step is obvious: If a straight white male, or anyone else who ranks lower on the victimhood scale, says something contrary to the viewpoint of the higher ranking intersectionality identity, that person has engaged in a microaggression,” the editor declared.

He quoted NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who defined microaggressions as “small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.” Here’s the key — “You don’t actually have to say anything insulting to microaggress. Somebody merely needs to take offense.”

In other words, an offended person who fits the “oppressed” identities of intersectionality has the power to dub any speech from someone “less oppressed” a “microaggression.” This word means not merely an insult. As Shapiro noted, “Microaggressions are the equivalent of physical violence.”

He cited Lisa Feldman Barrett’s recent article in The New York Times which said that “words should be seen as physical violence because they can cause stress and stress causes harm.” Shapiro attacked this idea as “both inane and dangerous,” because it leads to the third step in the argument against free speech.

“Words you don’t like deserve to be fought physically,” the Daily Wire editor explained. “When I spoke at California State University LA, one professor threatened students who sponsored me by offering to fight them. He then posted a slogan on the door of his office stating, ‘The best response to microaggression is macroaggression.'”

Along these lines, “protesters have all too often engage in physically violent disruption when they believe their identity group is under verbal attack by someone, usually conservative but not always.”

The notorious riots and violence at Middlebury College, UC Berkeley, and assaults on conservative students on campuses across America back up Shapiro’s words. Last year, UC Berkeley students physically blocked white people from using a bridge.

Shapiro himself was physically blocked from speaking at the University of Wisconsin Madison last November when protesters stood on the stage to keep him from standing on it. Last week, UC Berkeley canceled a Shapiro speech scheduled for September on the grounds that the administration could not find a venue.

“Not only do some administrators look the other way … actual crimes were committed and almost nobody has been arrested,” Shapiro lamented.

He expressly condemned the “Heckler’s veto” on free speech. This is “the notion that if you are physically violent enough, you can get administrators cow tow to you, to bow before you by canceling an event you disagree with altogether.”

The microaggression culture “turns students into snowflakes, craven and pathetic, looking for an excuse to be offended so they can earn points in the intersectionality olympics and then use those points as a club with which to beat opponents.”

Shapiro struck right at the center of the intersectionality culture, declaring that “all of our views should be judged on their merits, not on the color or sex or sexual orientation of the speaker, and those views should never be banned on the grounds that they offend someone.”

These clearly rational remarks were not hateful, bigoted, or inciting, but Shapiro remarked that most professors and students on college campuses would see them as microaggressions.

Indeed, this culture of emphasizing identity over ideas has revealed itself not just in silencing free speech. Last year, a student in South Africa actually condemned science because it discriminated against the “African perspective” of “black magic.” Yale students protested reading Shakespeare in an English class — because he was a white male. Last month, an Iowa professor denounced the “white marble” of statues as supporting white supremacy.

These ideas led to the canceling of conservative speakers like Shapiro, but also to Michigan students being jailed for passing out pocket Constitutions.

Shapiro is right, and his testimony was a powerful unmasking of the anti-intellectual racism, sexism, and LGBTism behind the “intersectionality” attack on free speech on campus. So-called liberals are bringing back the old hierarchy of status in the name of equality, and this undermines the classical liberal tradition of free speech.

Watch Shapiro’s statement below.

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