Another day, another potential riot at the University of California, Berkeley. In just a few short months the university has been nearly engulfed in violent riots multiple times. Not too long ago, right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was forced to cancel his planned presentation. Earlier this month, both left and right-wing demonstrators openly clashed in the streets over President Donald Trump’s policies.
More recently, conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s planned speech was canceled after the group organizing the speaking engagement didn’t follow proper procedure, according to CNN. While that very well may be, my concern here is the freedom of speech, or lack thereof.
First and foremost, there are a lot of factors to consider. UC Berkeley must ensure the safety of its students, and I feel like there isn’t much room for debate on that. CNN, Fox News, The New York Times and countless other news sources have reported cases of vandalism, violence and chaotic public demonstrations across the Berkeley campus. In that, there lies a huge risk to the well-being of the Berkeley population.
Conservative members of the community, however, feel oppressed under a seemingly dogmatic liberal community. Then, of course, there is the liberal majority who are opposed to Coulter for one reason or another. They are just as entitled to their opinion as anyone else.
Now, I’m not writing in an effort to sway somebody one way or the other on this situation — I’m writing about this because of how disappointed I am.
I am disappointed that people seem to lack even the most basic capacity to respect. I am disappointed that great tools against oppression, like protests, are being used as the typical default response to shut down any point of view that don’t serve to reinforce already firm political or moral beliefs.
I’m utterly sick of this idea that knowledge, intelligent debate and enlightenment are these scary monsters. The only way to defend against these scary monsters is to tuck-tail and hide within the confines of our own beliefs.
Blatantly refusing to hear anyone else’s point of view, or taking to the streets with a brick in hand is the social equivalent of saying “I know what I know, and what I know is the absolute truth. La la la, I can’t hear you.” To me, this is what UC Berkeley has done with the Ann Coulter event situation.
I am no supporter of Coulter, but she has the same right to speak as I do to write this very article.
There is no room for debate anymore. Substantial questions, ideals and conflicting opinions are too difficult to discuss. It’s just so much easier to tweet a clever political jab, and ignore what the opposition has to say.
Andrew Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org