JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
img

Offensive Speech: Protected, Condemned, Neither, Both?

Written by Alex Koroknay-Palicz Mar 17, 2011
TAGS:

There is an interesting back and forth going on right now between two great advocates for student rights, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and StudentActivism.net. Both seem to agree that offensive speech on campus needs to be protected. At issue is whether it must also be condemned. Roger Shibley of FIRE says no, Angus Johnston of Student Activism says yes.

Both make very interesting arguments and raise interesting points. Broadly I believe, yes, offensive speech should be both protected and condemned. I am routinely shocked by how many people seek to excuse racist comments, jokes and stereotypes by saying “oh, its just a joke, I’m not racist.” Just because you’ve never lynched someone doesn’t mean you aren’t racist.

For those of us in the movement against ageism, we know how no one thinks twice about making offensive comments about age. No one, surely not NYRA, would support banning ageist comments, but undoubtedly the social acceptability of ageist thoughts and comments allows ageist laws and actions to persist. If we believe that all people should be seen as individuals not as stereotypes of their race, age, sex, sexual identity, faith and the like then we need to speak up when we see someone diminish another by talking about them as a stereotype. It is often hard to muster the courage, but through our silence we endorse the offensive speech and make it more socially acceptable.

To step back from the broad idea of condemning offensive speech, the particulars here are more nuanced, which is why this post is more of a question than a statement. I am interested to hear what others have to say. Roger Shibley contends that FIRE’s only objective is protecting free speech and to spend time also condemning speech not only pulls them away from their mission but alienates the potential victims of censorship it seeks to help. Angus Johnston believes that they weren’t neutral on the offensive speech, they were excusing or supporting it. He believes such a tone causes many to see FIRE as a conservative organization instead of non-partisan and could narrow their support. As I said, it is an interesting debate from both directions.

The debate began, as such debates often do, with someone posting something offensive on the Internet. In this case it was a white UCLA student posting an anti-Asian rant on YouTube:

In response, the student was investigated by the school, condemned by the chancellor and was threatened. FIRE then came to her defense. Angus Johnson claimed FIRE had a responsibility to denounce offensive speech even as they protect it from censorship. Roger Shibley shot back to say their job is to be neutral and not take sides beyond the side of free speech. Angus Johnson responded that they weren’t just neutrally defending her right to speak but defending what she said as well. And… unless I missed something, I believe that is where it stands now. So what do you think?

img

OUR BLOG

img

Portland Student Rights Union joins NYRA to address Student Rights

Members of Portland Student Rights Union - A NYRA Chapter We originally started the Portland Student Rights Union (SRU) in October 2017 to protest the administration...

BY Portland Student Rights Union
img

R-Rated Superhero Movies?

Bob Chipman had a very interesting take over at ScreenRant on the rumored R-rated directors cut version of Superman V Batman to be included on the...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

Internet Censorship ‘For the Children’

From the ACLU: Louisiana passed a law this year that is a foolhardy attempt by one state to regulate the Internet. By doing so, the state’s...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

Raise Voting Age to 25? How About a Maximum Voting Age of 25?

Yesterday Glenn Reynolds wrote that in light of the events happening at Yale and Mizzou that we should raise the voting age to 25. This is...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

NYRA’s Letter to Matt Smith

Matt Smith, principal at Garrett High School in Indiana, recently expelled a student for Tweeting a swear word on his own time. In response, NYRA's new...

BY Bill Bystricky
img

Youth Rights 101, Part 3: Free Speech Is For ALL Ages!

This is part of the Youth Rights 101 series. Please check out Youth Rights 101: Introduction for the rest of the series and more information. How...

BY Katrina Moncure
img

Joint Statement in Opposition to Book Censorship in Tucson

JOINT STATEMENT IN OPPOSITION TO BOOK CENSORSHIP IN THE TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT January 30, 2012 The undersigned organizations are committed to protecting free speech and...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

National Youth Rights Association Announces Winners of 2011 Annual Awards

WASHINGTON – The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) announced the recipients of its second annual awards, which were formally presented on July 30 at the 2011...

BY Hal Levy
img

My Testimony Against the Montgomery County Curfew Law

Before the Montgomery County Council Testimony of Alex Koroknay-Palicz On behalf of the National Youth Rights Association on Youth Curfew July 26, 2011 Over the last...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
View More
img

Portland Student Rights Union joins NYRA to address Student Rights

Members of Portland Student Rights Union - A NYRA Chapter We originally started the Portland Student Rights Union (SRU) in October 2017 to protest the administration...

BY Portland Student Rights Union
img

Schwarzenegger v Gamers – Help Us Fight Back

Arnold is trying to take away your games. Don't let him. California passed a law that would ban the sale of all "violent" video games to...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
View More