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The Significance of Speech
By Alison Rubin
Freedom of speech is of utmost importance to the individual and the United States
dispenses with it at its peril. Dialogue is the mechanism by which individuals challenge one
another’s ideas so that they may refine and better them—if an idea can not be criticized, it can
not be improved upon. The university should be a beacon of free speech where individuals come
to face the unknown with fortitude and bravery, to have their every belief challenged, to be torn
down and reconstructed simultaneously through discussion with those of differing opinions. The
“safe spaces” which have infested the universities are, ironically, dangerous. As administrations
establish African American-only “safe spaces” such as at UC Berkeley, they revert the nation
back to a time of intellectual and racial segregation under the guise of protecting students.
However, these “safe spaces” do not help those they purport to protect; by sheltering students
from differing opinions, they deprive them of the revivification of their convictions that form the
essence of their being. Instead, their isolated ideas rot and rust, standing idle amidst the everevolving
culture of the United States. The students remain children who have yet to learn that
the opinion of their parents is not the word of God, omnipotent, benevolent, and omnipresent, but
is instead just one voice—one valuable, yet partial, personal, and limited voice—amid a sea of
intellectual diversity. Universities should foster intellectual diversity, rather than parroting the
prejudiced notion that racial diversity is of utmost value. The rightful label for this malevolent
concept is not to be used casually as it so often is, but is here employed with the full force and
weight and historical knowledge of its significance: the belief that one group of individuals,
categorized by race alone, all abide by the same belief system or political perspective is
unequivocally racist. The pursuit of intellectual diversity itself is true virtuousness. Diversity of
thought provides the resources with which individuals can humbly question and reform their
ideas through dialogue; this interaction makes the university a place of higher education rather
than a factory of indoctrination.
A civilized society is one in which individuals use speech to resolve conflict rather than
violence. Society should not equate speech alone with violence or else individuals will—as
many already do—censor themselves for fear of violence that would be considered just
retribution to dialogue with which they disagree. Self-censorship is more perilous than
censorship imposed by the government or university administrations because it erodes the trust
that individuals have in one another that they will use dialogue rather than violence to
communicate if they have a difference of opinion. In the Soviet Union, millions of government
informants reported their family members, often of their own volition, for speech that challenged
the authority of the state. The government eliminated trust between individuals, making them
abandon their interpersonal bonds in exchange for allegiance to the state. Many individuals, not
knowing who was an informant, ceased to speak the truth. In many universities today, similar de
facto “informants” are prevalent, reporting statements to the administration that they subjectively
feel to be offensive so that the offender will be silenced, fired, or expelled. This self-imposed
infiltration of higher education echoes hauntingly of the informants of the Soviet Union as they
both resulted in the same end—the self-suppression of ideas that would, if expressed, benefit
society. Not only does the fear of betrayal prevent students and professors from speaking with
those who in fact would report them, but often they do not engage in dialogue with those who are
also yearning to speak the truth for they are silenced out of fear of the other’s potential to
ostracize them.
“Hate speech”, excluding that which incites violence, must not be banned by the
government or university administrations because the definition is arbitrary. One could propose
that “hate speech” be defined as an offensive or harmful statement directed towards an individual
or a group of individuals for a certain quality they collectively possess and that the government
should persecute those that use such language. In an ideal world, this definition could be
enforced in a purely benevolent and impartial manner. However, the human heart is not so
innocent, but partial and biased, yielding often to the temptations of power. Individuals interpret
the aforementioned definition subjectively, creating an infinite number of definitions—for, what
precisely is offensive? The definition fractionates as it is endowed with a variety of different
meanings. When an individual is eventually accused of “hate speech”, the human beings of
which the government is composed select and act upon a definition created by one group of
individuals and simultaneously deny the others; one can expect the definition that serves the
interests of those in power will be elected. The result is not justice, but tyranny. In Nazi
Germany, citizens burned books that the party declared would corrupt the German people. If
individuals object to such tyranny on the governmental level, why tolerate similar suppression of
free speech at the university? On campuses across the United States, the administration bans
speakers that hold views contrary to their own, such as Condoleezza Rice, Ben Shapiro, and Ray
Kelly from speaking, either by banning them directly or imposing exorbitant fees for the venue
and security necessary for the event. These speakers are banned not for incitement of violence,
but because the college administration accepts the one-dimensional definition of “hate speech”
given by a group of protesting and often violent students while simultaneously ignoring the
differing opinions of others on campus, validating the “heckler’s veto” and incentivizing
violence rather than speech. If the universities abide by these standards, one has to
wonder—would Martin Luther King, Jr. be permitted to speak on a campus today if violent
student protesters deemed him a perpetrator of “hate speech” simply because he held opinions
with which they disagreed?

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