Freedom of Speech Has Limits
By Greg Foisie
Ben Shapiro is a controversial public speaker whose presentations are seen as supporting racism and fear-mongering. Among other practices, Shapiro has employed race-baiting and scare tactics to sell his message that minorities are solely responsible for their own problems. Shapiro opposes what he labels as liberal, leftist influences in US post-secondary institutions. A number of his recent talks have been met with protest, including at my school – Cal State LA.
His sponsors, the national conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom, gets money from the Koch brothers and other right-wingers. In the aftermath of the 2016 public protest here, when hundreds of students gathered to oppose Shapiro’s talk, YAF filed a lawsuit. YAF charged that CSULA’s policies and actions led to attempted restrictions on Shapiro’s presentation on campus. With CSULA now promoting free speech on campus, YAF dropped its lawsuit; Shapiro is reportedly “excited about … other potential speaking engagements on campus.”
The following are excerpts from a leaflet that was posted on the campus in March, objecting to a future Shapiro presentation.
Freedom of Speech Has Limits
No Freedom for Racist Speech That Is Harmful to Others – No Platform for Ben Shapiro’s Hateful Speech on Campus
Ben Shapiro, a self-described conservative, Harvard-trained lawyer and former editor of rightwing publications (such a Breitbart News) is a slick, suit-and-tie proponent of racism (discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race). His speech is hurtful and harmful to people disenfranchised and marginalized by racism because Shapiro denies racism is relevant or impactful to their experience!
[H]is position and pronouncement is a direct attack on their integrity and well-being as human beings. It’s similar to Jews, Armenians and American Indians being told the genocide against them never happened. For these reasons Ben Shapiro should be denied a public forum on campus.
Has our school’s administration been bullied by the threat of being charged as free speech deniers into giving a public forum to a racist? One is not allowed the freedom to yell fire in a crowded theater. To do so is an abuse of freedom of speech. Neither should one be allowed to intentionally promote belittlement, prejudice, and lies that are harmful to groups of people on a campus noted for its diversity and devoted to truth and rational discourse. To do so is an abuse of freedom of speech.
Have you listened to Ben Shapiro speak? Shapiro promotes a set of demeaning racist rationalizations and ideologies clothed in intellectualism. His articulated racism insists that sociological understandings of human behavior are simply not real. Shapiro’s perceptions are thoroughly proven false or inadequate. Yet given his demeanor, they may sound plausible, especially to those inclined to racist tendencies and worldviews.
By denying or discounting the relevance that racist oppression (that has been around for hundreds of years) has, Shapiro is blaming the victims of racism and other forms of prejudice for their mistreatment and condition. He proclaims these victims face harsh situations solely of their own making. In doing so, he’s attacking and harming those who are disenfranchised by damaging aspects of our society – aspects that require termination, not denial.
The Following Shapiro Statements Are Proven False:
Shapiro claims “driving while black” is a myth, that police don’t disproportionately target black drivers;
Shapiro accuses defenders of transgender rights of “ascientific” thinking;
Shapiro says personal decisions alone, not structural racism, are responsible for disproportionate poverty and imprisonment in the black community;
Shapiro has suggested that leftists’ solution to white privilege is to “kill yourself.”
The Following Shapiro Positions Belittle & Injure The Well-Being Of Groups Of People And Their Collective Aspirations:
For Shapiro, social justice is “garbage and crap” and “just a bunch of nonsense;”
Shapiro discounts the influence of oppression against minorities in the US;
Shapiro has stated that structural racism does not exist;
Shapiro has implied that racism may not exist, and if it did, it wouldn’t matter because we have laws against it;
Shapiro’s simplistic “history of earning” is presented in such a way that the forces resulting in exploitation, appropriation, and a host of other tactics used to disenfranchise others are denied;
Shapiro equates amelioration of oppression with ‘reverse racism’;
Shapiro belittles those who oppose him, calling them “fascists,” “snowflakes,” “spoiled children,” “crybabies,” and “numbskulls;” See most notably this video – Ben Shapiro, Otay Ranch High School -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5FeZE4O_XU
Racism and prejudice abound in our society: people are profiled, groups are targeted for sub-prime loans, unarmed minorities are murdered by law enforcement by the hundreds year after year, specific groups of voters are cross-checked and denied their vote, others are denied equity in pay, fundamental human rights are not recognized or met, and on and on and on. Shapiro denies all this.
When people are oppressed by on-going prejudice they suffer. Shapiro’s racist stance opposes the well-being of those under oppression by denying its reality, and as such pursues a course of inaction that will not improve their circumstances of impoverishment and injury.
Shapiro’s speech denigrates those who’ve been marginalized. His words disparage and intimidate groups that have been so disenfranchised. Shapiro diminishes the responsibility of those in power who have created the situation that has oppressed millions of disenfranchised citizens for hundreds of years. He places the blame for the conditions on the oppressed themselves.
Shapiro and his demeanor and approach – contrary to his false claim to a supposed moral high ground – are in reality indifference and dismissal disguised as rationality. Shapiro’s position is indicative of disdain for people and their situation. This is a form of ‘benign’ hatred and insult, couched as an intellectual argument that seeks to orchestrate acceptance of its position. However, it’s as destructive as overt hatred, and its insidiousness makes it more dangerous.
Shapiro’s rhetoric can be understood as a form of hate speech as it “attacks a person or group.” Its attack is one of discounting reality, blaming and belittling the victim, and denying meaningful wrong-doing against people defined by specific attributes (race, gender, sexual orientation). Shapiro’s hate speech is a backhanded form of attack that he accomplishes while smiling and posing as thoughtful, rational, and even well-meaning.
Racism is a form of violence – it injures others. Shapiro’s presentations appeal to those of racist persuasions as his statements serve to justify their racism. His presentations have attracted such people to campuses in the past. It’s important to note that racist speech can have the effect of inciting prejudicial action by racists and bigots who blame those different than themselves for issues and shortcomings in their lives. Violent actions have been precipitated during recent racist public speaking engagements in California.
It’s not unrealistic to compare Shapiro’s presentations to Holocaust denial, because both deny truths and in doing so hurt people. Will we allow other racists like the KKK and Nazis to speak on our campus in the name of free speech? Hitler was elected, had a captivating presence, and his hate-filled expressions were tolerated by an entire country.
Administrators, Faculty, Staff And Students – Do Not Allow The Hurtful And Harmful Racist Belittlements Of Ben Shapiro To Be Presented On Our Campus.