Indeed, the outpouring of support for free speech in the aftermath of the Paris attack coincides with, and partially obscures, the degradation of speech rights in the West. Commencement last year was marked by universities’ revoking of appearances by speakers Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for no other reason than that mobs disagreed with the speakers’ points of view. I do not recall liberals rallying behind Condi and Hirsi Ali then.
OMG! Condoleeza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali were shot and killed? Then yes, we definitely should march in opposition to that criminal outrage…oh. They were just turned away from speaking engagements? Sorry, that isn’t the same thing at all.
Wingnuts really do not understand the concept of free speech at all. Revoking those appearances was not a denial of the right to free speech: free speech does not mean you are owed a high profile platform and a bullhorn to declare your position; it does not mean you are given big bucks to speak. It means the government is not allowed to use its privilege and power to silence you.
Both the Rice and Ali denials were by universities, not governments. I think they were in the right to boot them out.
In the case of Condoleeza Rice, she was a representative of the government: she not only had the power to speak, but also the power to set and enforce policy. Under no circumstances can you claim that she was an underprivileged individual denied the right to speak…she was just told she’d have to go elsewhere to lie to the public. Like the pages of the NY Times, and other such fora that are more than happy to hand a microphone to those with power.
I also think there’s virtue in balance. We should hear from conservatives, but right now, they have far too many media organs dedicated to their views — it’s not as if we can escape Fox News or anything Rupert Murdoch taints or the right-of-center slant of most news organizations, even the ones that are called “liberal”. There’s nothing Rice could say that would be any different from the usual propaganda, so I think universities have an obligation to promote a more rational, sensible, progressive vision to counterbalance the nonsense.
Rice is a war criminal. She was part of an administration that killed hundreds of thousands of people in a quixotic war, on the false pretext of “weapons of mass destruction”. She ought to be standing before an international tribunal, not gallivanting about the country preaching excuses.
And finally…money. Rice was going to be paid $150,000 for a 20 minute talk. That is simply obscene. We could hire two new biology professors for a year for that sum.
But, you know, I’m willing to compromise. If some campus group wanted to bring Rice to the university to speak, and were willing to use their standard allotment — typically a few thousand dollars — to bring Condoleeza Rice to campus to speak, I wouldn’t complain at all. Creationists routinely lease the physics lecture hall for talks, so I think it’s just fine for the College Republicans to bring in representative speakers, paying for travel and expenses and a reasonable honorarium.
As for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, similar standards apply. If it’s a campus group bringing in a speaker at reasonable expense, there should be no protest; if it’s a university-wide function, and she’s brought in by the administration, it’s a more difficult situation. She is a right-winger, working for a right-wing think tank, so she does violate the principle of balance. And this is a case where the whole of the student body is being asked to support this speaker, and they should have every right to protest. Free speech, don’t you know. Or don’t you actually know what it means?
But I would also agree 100% that neither of them should be slaughtered by anyone. Although I do think Rice deserves a prison cell.