In case you haven’t heard, Texas A&M put the brakes on a planned “White Lives Matter” rally organized by an A&M alum. The event had Richard Spencer on the schedule to speak, and of course, plenty of ridiculousness to follow. Can’t you picture the chaos when Antifa thugs show up to counter-protest the alt-right lunatics – think of Charlottesville 2.0.
Naturally Texas A&M was concerned about the threat to safety as well as the bad press, but they did have an easy out in that regulations prohibit events not sanctioned by an on-campus organization, which this one was not. Even if a campus group had sponsored the event, clearly the school doesn’t want racists fools messing with Texas.
As execrable as the beliefs of these racist losers is – and as horrific as the Antifa response would surely be – questions about free speech and censorship pop up in moments like this. Senator Ted Cruz weighed in, and naturally he laid out the tension between free speech and public safety like a boss:
When people do choose to use their free speech rights to advocate hatred and evil, the rest of us are obliged to counter it. Now I don’t think you counter it with censorship. I agree with John Stuart Mill, who talked about the marketplace of ideas, and the best cure for bad speech, for bad ideas, is more speech and better ideas. And so I think that’s the approach we want to have. I will say I’m glad that Spencer and the White Supremacists are not coming to A&M. … I think Texas doesn’t need to listen to their garbage.
Masterfully said. It’s easy to understand why Texas A&M wants to protect their student body, the campus, and College Station, but where do we draw the line between censorship and public safety? I’m not sure there are easy answers.
No matter how awful their ideas are, and no matter how badly we believe they don’t deserve to be heard, groups like these are protected under the First Amendment.
We need to be able to defeat terrible ideas like those of the alt-right – and Antifa, for that matter – with nonviolence. We need to be able to overcome lies like these in the arena of ideas. It’s the only real way to shut them up for good.
In the meantime, good for Texas A&M for protecting themselves and the surrounding area. But it looks like the debate over free speech will continue to rage on.