End The Oppression Of Free Speech

In case you couldn’t tell by my unkempt hair or proclivity for drawing Jesus as a non-white dude, I’m a pretty liberal guy. So when progressive ideas like feminism and gay-rights and whatever- the-opposite-of-racism-is began to take hold among popular culture I was pretty happy because, fundamentally, I think these ideas serve as a reminder to judge each person by their character, not the genetics they were born with.

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Still want to call me racist, even after reading those funny pictures? Well, guess what, sucka? I’ve never mentioned my race or my gender on this blog. If you assume I’m a white man just because I draw myself with no skin color and a square body then YOU’RE THE HETERO-NORMATIVE RACIST BIGGOT. Mwahahaha.

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If you’re not picking up on the irony then that probably means you haven’t been spending time on big, wealthy, liberal arts colleges in America. Congratulations on graduating/not being an American.

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Listen: as of late, hordes of young, wealthy, supposedly progressive college students have been gathering together to complain that their large, prestigious, ivy-league institutes (whose admittance was definitely merit-based and had nothing to do with parental connection and wealth) are not doing enough to protect them from words and ideas they don’t like. I would find this phenomenon disconcerting if it were happening in my local middle school. The fact that it’s happening in million-dollar educational institutions is terrifying.

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If all this seems outlandish to you, here’s a couple of articles from much more credible sources than my dumb, internet thingamablog:

The Atlantic – Coddling of the American Mind

US NEWS – Megaphones to Muzzles

New York Times – Hiding from Scary Ideas

The most personally frustrating part of this phenomenon is that I actually agree with a lot of the underlying messages of these protests. There are many socially marginalized groups in America that absolutely deserve to have their voice heard. But demanding the censorship of anyone who doesn’t welcome you with open arms is the kind of crazy radical idea that can only existing in a country that DOESN’T have such censorship.

free speech

The world can be a tough place, but living in a city as diverse as Vancouver, I’ve met and worked alongside people who literally had to flee their own countries to avoid persecution or death for their religion, race, or orientation. One of my coworkers is a refugee from the Nepalese earthquake.  One is an orphaned Iranian refugee. One is a gay man from Sri Lanka, a country where homosexuality is illegal — not frowned upon by the religious right wing — an actual crime you can be sentenced to prison for. Just about everyone I work with has experienced more institutionalized tragedy and discrimination than anyone I ever met living in America, and I’m willing to bet, more than anyone engaged in these college protests.

Why am I so sure?

Because, overwhelmingly, the people I’ve met who’ve suffered horrifically don’t try to censor others. Overwhelmingly,  they’re grateful. That doesn’t mean they’re always happy, or that they never complain, or that they aren’t willing to fight for their ideas. It means they understand how much freedom they have, and that there is a sharp, cutting difference between having someone disagree with you (or, as often the case in these protests, having someone only agree with you 95 percent)  and real, legislated, institutional repression.  When college students in some of the most prestigious, powerful, advantaged establishments on earth use their privilege to censor the free-exchange of ideas, they look spoiled. Worst of all, they make legitimate ideas and ideologies appear weak to those on the other side.

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A person who promotes acceptance through unacceptance has nothing but hollow words. Hating homophobes won’t make homosexuals safer. Hating whites won’t make blacks any more accepted. Hating the rich won’t feed the poor and hating yourself doesn’t give you a right to hurt people.

Hating those who hate only increases the net amount of hate in the world.

Censorship is a temporary solution that does nothing to solve the underlying problem. Let’s improve the world through solutions, not suppression.

title47rainbow

~Fin

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12 thoughts on “End The Oppression Of Free Speech

  1. I agree fully with the idea that if you reach a point where you stop engaging with discourse on a issue, you are stifling the movement you are fighting for. I have definitely seen students dismiss other students’ opinions – misguided or not – instead of choosing to take the opportunity to inform them or introduce a new narrative. A lot of those students argue they are tired of being the educators and that it should be administration’s job to address cultural competency at the institutional level, which I agree with in some capacity, but I maintain that significant attitude changes have to be systemic, that they must start with grassroots activism, with mutually respectful conversations that build empathy.

    I will say that this phrase “Listen: as of late, hordes of young, wealthy, supposedly progressive college students have been gathering together to complain that their large, prestigious, ivy-league institutes (that were definitely earned based on merit and had nothing to do with parental connection and wealth) are not doing enough to protect them from words and ideas they don’t like.” turned me off pretty much right away from wanting to comment anything on this article.

    Why would want to alienate your readers? I am a student such a university, with friends at peer institutions, where I am constantly surrounded by other students who, like myself, deal with this stereotype on pretty much a daily basis and constantly deal with how we reconcile whatever diverse backgrounds we come from (which, by the way, overwhelmingly do not involve excess wealth or alumni connections!! but thank you for making that assumption), with the privileges we reap simply by being students at these schools. But I digress.

    It’s disappointing to me that the media has warped what were originally reasonable requests for things like trigger warnings in classrooms (which exist as a simple way of allowing students who have experienced trauma to better prepare themselves to engage in discussions in class surrounding those topics!) into a complete mockery of “space spaces” or the “coddling” of young minds. This is not reality. Reporting on these issues has created a massive disconnect here. Most students are asking to be acknowledged, not coddled. People who choose to mock these things, to me, seem just as unwilling to understand who they can do to better understand and accommodate people from different backgrounds as the radical college students censoring free speech that you’ve been talking about. Furthermore, I don’t think anyone who is genuinely informed on these kinds of college-campus-scale social issues is trying to promote them at the expense of people who have experienced objectively far worse marginalization or oppression than they have. Suggesting that this is case, and using that to invalidate what are often fair-minded concerns voiced by students in communities that are directly relevant to them, is a silencing tactic.

    As I’ve said, I agree with all the principles you and many of the articles you linked are defending; it’s just that they aren’t addressing the reality of the social climate of the campuses in question. I’ll be the first to say that the means students have used to approach these issues is far from perfect, but if you are really interested in hearing what those awful, awful ivy-league students have to say, then you can’t write an article scolding us and not acknowledge that you have a limited scope (e.g. whatever picture the media paints) on this – it’s condescending. And, of course, I don’t have the full picture either, but the good news that not *all* of your peers are as stupid as it sounds like you want to think they are. And maybe you really didn’t mean for the post to come off that way, but regardless I hope maybe this sheds a little light on where others are coming from!

    • Kelsey,

      Unfortunately, your comments do not throw much light at all. They sound like a lot of whining about being misunderstood and mostly blaming other people for whatever the problem is.

      “Don’t hurt my feeling” seems to be the main message: I don’t like what you’re saying so you’re can’t say it.

      This is from the linked NYT:

      > “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

      So she left to go back to a room with cookies and Play-doh. WTF?

      The author doesn’t provide specific examples, but there plenty in the three links that he listed that support the position he is taking. Perhaps, you will argue that the “media has warped” the facts. There are other recent instances of the same “safe spaces are better than thinking” mentality in both US and UK universities that are not cited. I find it hard to reject all this evidence.

      If you haven’t read the linked article in The Atlantic, I suggest you do. And think about it carefully.

    • Thanks for this comment. I really liked the point of the original article as well, but I think you make good points about one angle that the OP and a lot of commenters aren’t as aware of. I have noticed a genuine trend among the college-age liberals to not only want to express their opinions, but want the right to stop anyone else from saying something they disagree with, or at least the right to banish anyone who disagrees with them from their space. I’ve actually, ironically, found that to be very triggering of my past with emotional abuse that often took that same form, and it’s one reason I have had to leave some trans support groups. On the other hand, it’s completely true that the media has lumped anyone who talks about trigger warnings and microaggressions in with this loud and didactic crowd, and as with many political groups there is a moderate, reasonable majority that is struggling to be heard over the loud and extreme minority. So… I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks for speaking up.

  2. “Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think.”

    Hm. Truthfully? I think it’s more important to teach people that they can think at all, that it’s okay to. Many of us are so scared of opening our mouths that we keep our minds shut. We zero in on whatever’s hopefully acceptable and will make place for us at the table instead of pursuing (without guilt) threads of our own. It’s how we attempt to understand the world, by letting our thoughts engage with it. It’s how we work out where we might fit in this whole crazy mess.

    Everybody comes to the wrong conclusion at one point or another. It’s not wrong to be wrong. And it’s okay to admit when we’re wrong, and to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep walking. It’s not the end of days if our logic is shown to have flaws. Everyone is subjective to at least some degree. It’s born of being unique. That’s awesome. Why aren’t we throwing parties over this?

    I could go on and on and on but I think I’ll stop here. This has been by far and away my favourite strip of yours, and I’m insanely happy that you decided to write and draw it! You say that I know how to draw. I say that you know how to articulate complex and weighty themes in a way that’s accessible and engaging and highly amusing. That’s something I still very much haven’t worked out. How do you do it?

  3. I agree with you 99%. Unfortunately, I know a lot people who came to the US from one of the most oppressive countries when it came to freedom of speech, and a few of them would still support censoring opinions that are different from theirs while demanding that others respect their freedom of speech.
    However, that’s common anywhere in the US, both among immigrants and those born in the US, liberals and conservatives – people think that freedom of speech mean that they get to say whatever they want, but doesn’t necessarily apply to others.

  4. Pingback: End The Oppression Of Free Speech | Life and Times of a Confused Chicken

  5. I like the article, but disagree about you ” I’ve never mentioned my race or my gender on this blog.”
    December 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm
    Understatement and a Whole.

  6. MAKE MORE COMICS

    Sorry that sounded bossy, what I meant to say was-

    MAKE MORE FUCKING COMICS

    I will pay you one partially used Red Robin gift card if you make another comic. You couldn’t say no to that could you? What are you some kind of animal? Do you even eat?

    Okay okay a full Red Robin gift card… final offer.

  7. Hi Fin,
    It’s been awhile! Sorry about that. I’ve been thinking about you and your blog and hoping you are feeling well. Love this and I do not always agree with you! hahaha

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