Academic Freedom vs Hate Speech

I am done with being polite to bigots.

An example of one of these bigots, Anthony Hall

An example of one of these bigots, Anthony Hall

The new thing that bigots do is hide behind freedom, the same freedoms my family fought and died for. Freedom of speech was never meant to mean free to spout hate or bigotry. The people who fought for freedom of speech fought so that we could express our views without fear of being oppressed. They never thought people espousing conspiracy theories would use it to demonize and delegitimize minorities.

As for the notion of academic freedom, it was meant to protect ACADEMICS, not to allow anyone with a university education to spout idiocy so they could espouse theories that are counter to what’s commonly accepted by the mainstream. Yes, men like Copernicus and Galileo should have been allowed to pursue their theories, but those men were academics in the purest sense. Their pursuit was for knowledge, untainted by agendas. They used scientific method and didn’t start out with a conclusion – they worked to find one.

The thing about academic freedom is that it’s assumed to be accompanied by academic rigour. This means that anything you presume to teach must have some factual foundation, it must be something you can demonstrate and prove using scientific method. It must stand up to challenges both from peers and from outside experts. Without academic rigour, academic freedom just becomes an easily abused idea. It becomes a joke. I can argue that academia has gotten lax with rigour which has led to many universities to allow the teachings of some demonstrably false notions. We should be challenging these ideas and to the shame of academia we have not been.

This ties into tenure, the idea that teachers who have proven themselves should have job security and the ability to put academic freedom and rigour to good use and challenge orthodoxies in the academic community. But again, the key word here is rigour because as long as a teacher can show good faith and that they have done actual research in formulating such challenges, they should have the defence of tenure to bolster academic freedom. The issue comes when someone does no such thing and goes outside their sphere of expertise to spread lies and false narratives. At that point, tenure cannot be used to defend such abuse of academic freedom as the very credibility of academia would be at stake. Tenure should not be defended at all costs – academic credibility should. Too many university professors have forgotten this and seek to defend tradition rather than the credibility of the profession they’ve dedicated their lives to.

This brings us to open debate and discourse, something that sounds like a no brainer.

Some would have you believe that all things should be fair game for “open debate” and yes that sounds like a good idea, but we live in the age of bullshit, where five-minute YouTube videos hold more sway than five-month-long classes taught by professors. And to make matters worse, we now even have professors teaching subjects that have no business in a classroom. For example, conspiracy theories, things that are fine to study, as long as you meticulously cite and source every detail and you make clear that these theories are just that. You should also be certain to provide all sides of the story. That’s what open discourse actually means. Discourse should never trump actual facts either, for instance, documented events with several historical documents collated with evidence and several sources will always trump “peer-reviewed” papers, when those peers all have the same agenda.

History is a study of facts, not narratives and opinions, and actual historians read history in context and very critically. Open discourse of historical events is nothing laymen should be getting involved in unless they studied the event very carefully. There is too much room for misinformation otherwise. Far too many people obtain knowledge from sources like YouTube and Wikipedia which are rife with agendas if one understands how to look. If you are only presenting one side, how open is the debate or discourse really?

Then we have freedom of speech, the most abused freedom in the world…

Freedom of speech has turned mainly into two versions, you have the leftist version, where everyone should be free as long as they agree with ME. In that version we may all hold opinions, as long as they don’t dissent from the leftist opinions. Everyone else who doesn’t agree is a fascist. It boils down to “free speech for me but not for thee.” This is a product of the proliferation of PC culture. In this “freedom,” there is tone and verbiage that police and trigger warnings, but only for those who are not social justice warriors (SJWs). For instance, a social justice warrior can tell you that they hope you get anally raped without so much a trigger warning, as long as you have said something they can manufacture outrage over.

For example, “You voted for trump? You fascist bitch, I hope you get raped like all those women Trump grabbed by the pu$$y” is totally acceptable because the person you are hoping gets raped is not an SJW and they triggered your righteous rage by voting for a guy who is clearly a modern-day Hitler. Just ignore they used the word bitch as an insult because righteous rage is okay.

An example of unacceptable would be “Oh piss off you retard” because you are perpetuating patriarchal standards because only men can pee standing up and you used a derogatory insult referencing someone’s lack of intellect and comparing it to an outdated word once used for mentally deficient people. Never mind that very few people would actually use that word when speaking to actually mentally challenged people. By using it, you are a fascist and somewhat like Hitler. (by the way, everyone who disagree with you is Hitler even if you think Hitler was an okay guy because cognitive dissonance is just a catchphrase and not a real thing unless you accuse someone else of it).

The second version is a reaction to the first and it’s probably even worse as it’s akin to someone who has never been allowed to talk suddenly finding their voice and only ever yelling. These are the people who have never learned to moderate their language, so they go the exact opposite way, saying things to be purposefully offensive just to tweak the PC people’s noses. These people take great pride in saying things as offensively as possible, usually losing the message along the way. These are the people who say what they think, but rarely think.

There really are several different kinds of free speech, but those are the ones we mainly see on social media, and this has led to an intense dichotomy between the right-wing and left-wing. But what’s really become obvious is that the centrists have become more right or more left with the majority moving away from the centre-left which used to be the moral default. Insults such as leftard and libtard have become common vernacular even though if you asked the majority of decent human beings, they would support what are really centre left values such as socialized medicine, old age pensions, a living wage, looking after the weaker members of society etc.

Why does this all matter? Because social media.

Social media has replaced regular media as the news source most people use and its abused like you wouldn’t believe. Everyone I know is guilty of clicking LIKE on something they haven’t watched or read, or even worse, have commented on something without having read it or watched it.

It’s an old axiom that only the headlines matter and on social media this is 100 percent truth. You can literally manipulate hundreds of thousands of people with headlines. There is no governing body making certain that social media news has even a modicum of truth and there are people taking advantage of this to spread lies and hate. Freedom of speech and academic freedom indeed. In the social media world you can spout off about freedom of speech and academic freedom while advocating for cultural and academic boycotts of a persecuted minority, you can make videos blaming minorities for everything from 9-11 to Munich even when that minority were the obvious victims, you can pretend that your degree in another subject makes you an expert, because nobody ever calls you on it.

But we will and I wrote this so that you can understand these people and what they do, because we are all in this together, the people who lie about one minority won’t stop with them. It’s time to wake up and realize that the generation before ours fought and died for actual freedom, not this perversion we see on social media. Let’s take it back and cleanse it, and let academic freedom mean what it once did, and make freedom of speech mean something again.

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Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.