Commentary: Many of the pro-Hamas protesters on college campuses clearly do not believe in free speech

News & Politics

I believe in free speech.

That means I believe that students (or whoever) should be allowed to peacefully gather in public spaces to hold signs, chant dumb slogans, or otherwise make their beliefs known, even if those beliefs are in support of murderous religious fundamentalist war criminals like Hamas.

I, in return, should be free to peacefully tell these people that they are useful idiots for murderers and cowards and are defending people who hate everything they stand for and who would kill them given half the chance.

One principle that’s a necessary element of free speech is that at the end of this conversation, both sides have to be allowed to walk away while still in disagreement and live their lives without impediment.

The failure to understand or accept this principle runs rampant on the modern left, and it is why many of these protesters find themselves facing arrest and/or suspension from their universities today.

These days I find myself disagreeing quite strenuously with people on both sides of the political aisle on a pretty frequent basis. Although I often experience dismay when wrong-headed beliefs take hold on one side or the other, the one thing that really frightens me these days is that many liberals seem to be incapable of handling the fact that people disagree with them. Certainly some on the right also struggle with letting political opponents live their lives in peace, but it’s a problem that’s objectively worse on the left.

For instance, I do not agree that the 2020 election was stolen. At the time the election happened and in the weeks that followed afterward, I chased down all the claims to that effect and found them all to be without merit. Many on the right strenuously disagree with me about that, which is fine. No one on the right has tried to get me fired or kicked off social media for believing the way I do, or has sat in the middle of the road to try to prevent me from catching a flight because of what I believe. In return, I don’t think that people who do believe the election was stolen should be kicked off social media, or fired, or otherwise silenced.

In contrast, when I have disagreed with liberals (about, for example, whether COVID-19 had a natural origin, or whether children should be given unproven, life-altering medical treatments in response to potentially transient gender confusion), I am immediately confronted by people who claim that my opinion is harmful, is dangerous, or somehow represents actual violence. Our recent history is replete with examples of liberals who successfully prevailed upon social media companies in particular to silence certain viewpoints they disagreed with in the name of combatting “misinformation.”

For too many liberals, it is not enough that they be allowed to speak their opinion freely. You must accept their opinion as correct, and if you do not, they will hound you and interfere with your life, often in illegal ways, until you stop expressing a contrary opinion. This mindset is not the mindset of a person who believes in free speech.

If the pro-Hamas loons who are currently occupying college campuses allowed people to continue to live their lives around their protests, no one would be objecting to their presence right now. As long as they allowed school administrators to continue to do their jobs, and students who either disagreed with their protest or were indifferent to it to peacefully attend classes, they would be on solid ground.

But it isn’t enough for them, as for many liberals, that their voices be heard. Their voices must win, and if you don’t accept that, they will make you pay by shutting down the ability of these institutions to do their jobs. They will block entrances to classrooms and monopolize public spaces. They will physically prevent students who disagree with them from participating in campus activities. They will trespass into private faculty areas in an attempt to bully administrators. And they will try to exclude all but fellow protesters from public areas that they claim. In the larger world, they will sit in traffic and falsely imprison thousands of innocent people who are just trying to get to work if they do not get their way.

People who believe in free speech believe that everyone should be allowed a reasonable opportunity to state their own viewpoint and that at the end of that process, everyone should be free to walk away, still in disagreement. Many of the protesters we have seen in the last two weeks do not. They don’t believe in free speech — just their own speech.

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