The editorial board of the University of Wisconsin’s student newspaper slammed an effort by Wisconsin state legislators to protect free speech in an op-ed, claiming that the free and open exchange of ideas “attempts to prop up dangerous rhetoric in dangerous times,” and argued that minority voices who protest campus speakers should “have a greater seat at the table than the bigotry it is protesting.” That is, certain ideas should have less merit merely due to the color of one’s skin.
The Badger-Herald editorial board references a Young America’s Foundation lecture featuring Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief Ben Shapiro in 2016, who they attack throughout the piece.
They urge the stoppage of a bill working its way through Wisconsin’s state legislature that aims to protect free speech on campuses, claiming that the bill promotes the idea that “speakers like Shapiro are more valid and worthy of a platform than his protesters, who are merely there to insist on their own humanity.”
It’s clear from thin arguments that these who wrote the piece have never even heard Shapiro speak, so to make these broad assumptions about his character are wildly misguided. Fact check: Shapiro was the #1 target of attacks from the alt-right in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Suggesting that Shapiro promotes bigotry and racism is laughable, when he has vocally denounced these over the span of his career. The Editorial Board of the Badger Herald (which, ironically, was started by YAF activist Patrick Korten in 1969) should have taken the opportunity to hear a conservative perspective brought to the very liberal campus by the YAF chapter, rather than just writing off anything they potentially disagree with or feigning physical injury from a diverse viewpoint.
You can’t have it both ways. Either you support free speech 100 percent, without creating exceptions for allowing certain communities to feel “safe and welcome” when it comes to uncomfortable speech, or you believe in selective speech protection. News flash: you don’t get to deem which speech is offensive and “dangerous,”- in fact, the First Amendment prohibits such action.
UW-Madison Young Americans for Freedom Chairman Joshua Waldoch noted the hypocrisy of the Badger-Herald’s editorial board. “The Herald claims to want a marketplace of ideas, but by refusing to back measures that promise First Amendment protections to everyone, they fail to uphold the same amendment that allows the Herald to report freely and openly.”
Of course, protestors have the right to protest speech they disagree with; that is the beauty of the First Amendment. But to suggest that certain voices should have a “greater seat at the table” when it comes to free speech is exclusionary in itself. You cannot constantly attempt to adjust the playing field based on who is most oppressed in one moment in time; instead, open your minds to opposing viewpoints rather than writing them off or attempting to silence them simply because you disagree.