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A Principled Stance on Free Speech in an Age of Cancel Culture

| Opinion | March 26, 2020

by Eric Goldin

Despite all the advancements modern Western society has achieved in the fields of science, medicine, mathematics and technology, we’re in many ways still very immature. We’ve never been able to rid ourselves of the medieval mentality of silencing people who disagree with us on important issues. Our tempers go ballistic, and we get very riled up when we hear something we don’t like. We forego civilized dialogue and avoid tough conversations by any means necessary. To put it simply, we sadly choose the barbarism of muzzling others.

There will always be detrimental ideas that need to be challenged, but a good society can’t function unless people are allowed to distinguish for themselves the difference between intelligence and stupidity. Bad ideas will never cease to exist, but great ideas won’t shine in a world without free speech. Awe-inspiring discoveries can never happen if people aren’t permitted to think outside the box. We shouldn’t deny people their right to say something – even if their whole worldview is complete lunacy. We should be willing to hear them out and have thoughtful discussions with them.

There was once a time when expressing a religious or societal view that went against the grain would cost a person severely and get them a violent draconian punishment. Thankfully things are not quite that bad anymore. Nobody has to worry about being sent to the guillotine or getting burned at the stake, and we’ve improved tremendously by treating people with much more humanity and dignity, but the residue of that mindset remains with us. Throughout history, many gifted individuals got destroyed because they discovered ingenious things disproving a mainstream societal view – or were simply willing to talk about taboo subjects.

In modern times there are still so many hot button political, social, religious, and even sports topics that are so heated and make people white-hot with rage that it’s dangerous to navigate through without getting scorched with pure wrath. People are walking on eggshells because they’re so petrified of stepping out of line. Numerous prominent figures have been denied a platform to express themselves just because their opinions are “controversial.” Many folks have had their careers and reputations ruined because they said something somebody else couldn’t handle without immaturely screaming and hollering like a baby.
This cancel culture phenomenon is something that is not mutually exclusive to one side of the political aisle. Many people on each end of the spectrum have accused each other of instigating these egregious acts, but the truth is both sides are guilty of participating in it. Sadly, we live in an era where the same person who has had their free speech rights violated will then mock, laugh at, or even actively participate in the shutting down of somebody else.

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One of the most profound things that any political commentator ever said was when Kyle Kulinski (host of “Secular Talk”) explained that the sign a person is principled on the issue of free speech is when they are willing to stand up for the rights of their opponents. The thing I admire the most about Kulinski is how he stays principled and will gladly rush to the defense of those who have opposite views from his own. There are always going to be many people we vehemently disagree with, but that doesn’t mean we should act like fascists and embrace the kind of behavior that limits the freedom of others simply because we have conflicting views.

Kulinski hates right-wing pundit Milo Yiannopoulos and feels his rhetoric is terrible, but in February 2017, when Milo’s event at Berkeley got called off because of a violent riot protesting his appearance, Kyle sided with Milo and spoke up for his right of free speech. Kulinski also defended Fox News host Laura Ingraham when there were cries to get her taken off the air. Kyle despises Ingraham and thinks she is a complete imbecile who gets almost everything wrong, but he didn’t believe she should be removed from her position and barred from expressing herself. He was willing to chastise the people (many of whom were fellow progressive liberals) that were trying to get her fired.

I’m not a fan of Abby Martin (host of “Empire Files”), and I believe her criticisms of Israel are invalid, but it was despicable when she was recently denied from speaking at Georgia Southern University because she supports the Boycott From, Divestment From, and Sanctions Against Israel (BDS). I completely disagree with her on this issue, and in my opinion, BDS is the wrong response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but she shouldn’t have gotten banned from speaking because of these views.
The price of giving foolish ideas a platform is well worth it for the reward of protecting free speech and building a society where the most brilliant minds don’t get stifled.

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