Free Speech Nonsense

Hey, folks

free speech wall articleMaybe this has been beaten to death already, but I’d like to say my piece. If you go to Queen’s, you’ve almost definitely heard about the free speech wall being taken down due to racial slurs, blah blah blah… There are two main arguments I’ve heard here: One is that people have a right to their opinion no matter what it is, and they should be allowed to express that opinion. I agree. The other is that people also have to right to feel like they are safe and accepted at their university and not feel at risk of becoming the victim of a hate crime. I also agree. How can I possibly agree to both? Let me tell you…

There’s a difference between having a different opinion from others and just being plain offensive. This free speech wall had derogatory slang and offensive remarks (and, lets be honest, a lot of happy-go-lucky “tell someone you love them” crap, too). If political leaders got up on stage and said “Gays shouldn’t be allowed to get married cuz fags don’t deserve that shit. Fuck ’em all”, we wouldn’t take them seriously. We would probably boo them off the stage for lack of tact. On top of that, if you sound like an idiot when you talk by using cuss words and words designed to be offensive, no one will listen to the rest of your argument unless they’re looking for a good laugh. If you have an honest opinion that gay marriage would be disruptive to society or whatever, then fine. If you believe that black people are actually dumber than white people due to genetics, then fine, I guess. It’s not my job or right to tell you what you are allowed to believe. But if you truly want people to take your opinion seriously, then express your opinion intelligently, in a open debate where your opponent can defend themselves. Don’t scribble it on a free speech wall. No one’s going to see it and go “Oh hey! That’s a good point! I’ve never thought of it like that before.”

The people who put the wall up (and who were pissed when it was taken down) argue that it’s not the university’s job to tell people what is offensive and what isn’t, and to make decisions based on personal opinions of what’s offensive. But let’s get real: words like “fag” and “nigger” are intended to be offensive. No one uses those words in an intelligent debate or rational discussion. I can’t think of a single situation in which they can be used in a way that isn’t offensive.

If you’ve read the rest of my blog, you understand that I’m obviously a fan of inclusivity and equality. But, like I said, it’s not my job or right to tell people what to believe. There was one thing that stood out to me about this wall though. The wall was titled “Queen’s Free Speech Wall”. Someone crossed out the “Free” and wrote “FACELESS“. And I think that is pretty damn brilliant. It’s an anonymous opinion. Sure, someone may get to share their opinion that they don’t think would be accepted otherwise, but a lot of people will also write stupid things they don’t really mean because they know it won’t be traced back to them. Have you seen the Internet lately? One YouTube personality once told a story about someone who wrote her a tweet saying, “You should go kill yourself”. The YouTuber retweeted her comment out of shock and confusion. And the person I assumed was a total asshole for telling a stranger to go kill themselves was shocked that she had been called out and apologized for her behaviour, saying she had had a bad day and didn’t really mean it. Have a look at the bottom of this picture below: someone wrote “Abolish Human Rights”. Somehow, I don’t think that was an actual call to action based on sincere beliefs.

So there, I’ve said my piece. Let me know if you have another opinion, or if you think I missed something important in this post. And if you’re someone who’s written something stupid and derogatory because you didn’t think it would be traced back to you, please know that even anonymous words can hurt. And that really sucks if you caused someone pain with something you actually didn’t mean.

free speech wall