Ben Shapiro delivered the remarks below during a hearing July 27 on the issue of free speech on college campuses.
Free speech is under assault because of a three-step argument made by the advocates and justifiers of violence.
The first step is they say that the validity or invalidity of an argument can be judged solely by the ethnic, sexual, racial, or cultural identity of the person making the argument.
The second step is that they claim those who say otherwise are engaging in what they call “verbal violence,” and the final step is they conclude that physical violence is sometimes justified in order to stop such verbal violence.
So let’s examine each of these three steps in turn. First, the philosophy of intersectionality. This philosophy now dominates college campuses as well as a large segment, unfortunately, of today’s Democratic Party and suggests that straight, white Americans are inherently the beneficiaries of white privilege and therefore cannot speak on certain policies, since they have not experienced what it’s like to be black or Hispanic or gay or transgender or a woman.
This philosophy ranks the value of a view, not based on the logic or merit of the view, but on the level of victimization in American society experienced by the person espousing the view. Therefore, if you’re an LGBT black woman, your view of American society is automatically more valuable than that of a straight, white male.
The next step in the logic is obvious. If a straight, white male, or anybody else who ranks lower on the victimhood scale, says something contrary to the viewpoint of the higher-ranking, intersectionality identity, that person has engaged in a microaggression.
As NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes, “Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent, but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.”
You don’t have to actively say anything insulting to microaggress. Somebody merely needs to take offense. If, for example, you say that society ought to be colorblind, you’re microaggressing certain identity groups who have been victimized by a noncolorblind society.
Note: Microaggressions, as the name suggests, are not merely insults. They are aggressions. They are the equivalent of physical violence.
Just two weeks ago, psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University published an essay in The New York Times suggesting that words should be seen as physical violence because they can cause stress and stress causes physical harm. Thus, Feldman suggested, it is reasonable, scientifically speaking, to ban or restrict speech you do not like at your school.
This is both inane and dangerous. That’s because it leads to the final logical step: Words you don’t like deserve to be fought physically.
When I spoke to California State University at LA, one professor threatened students who sponsored me by offering to fight them. He then posted a slogan on the door of his office stating, “The best response to microaggression is macroaggression.”
As Haidt writes, “This is why the idea that speech is violence is so dangerous. It tells the members of a generation already beset by anxiety and depression that the world is a far more violent and threatening place than it really is. It tells them that words, ideas, speakers can literally kill them. Even worse: At a time of rapidly rising political polarization in the United States, it helps a small subset of that generation to justify political violence.”
Indeed, protesters all too often engage in physically violent disruption when they believe their identity group is under verbal attack by someone, usually conservative, but not always.
Not only do some administrators look the other way at Middlebury College, Cal State LA, Berkeley, Evergreen,—actual crimes were committed and almost nobody has been arrested. But they actively forbid events for moving forward, creating a heckler’s veto, the notion that if you are physically violent enough, you can get administrators to kowtow to you, to bow before you, by canceling an event you disagree with altogether.
All of this destroys free speech, but just as importantly, it turns students into snowflakes, craven and pathetic, looking for an excuse to be offended so they can earn points in the intersectionality Olympics and then use those points as a club with which to beat opponents.
A healthy nation requires an emotionally and intellectually vigorous population ready to engage in open debate at all times.
Shielding college students from opposing viewpoints makes them simultaneously weaker and more dangerous. We must fight that process at every step. And that begins by acknowledging that whatever we think about America and where we stand, we must agree on this fundamental principle: All of our views should be judged on their merits, not on the color, or the sex, or the sexual orientation of the speaker, and those views should never be banned on the grounds that they offend someone.
Thanks so much.