Former Vice President Mike Pence will say April 12 at the University of Virginia, by the University’s Invitation chapter American youth fight for freedom. Often, a former government official addressing interested students at a public university is an unremarkable affair.However, the editorial board This knight daily— UVA’s student newspaper — declared the Pence affair a crisis.This week, the board issued a editorial Arguing that Pence’s presence on campus would “threaten the lives of students at the University of Virginia,” claiming it amounted to “prejudice that threatens the well-being and safety of students on campus.” Not only are they calling for universities not to “platform” Pence because of his political beliefs — which is clearly illegal because UVA is a public university — they also believe those beliefs pose a physical threat to the safety of UVA students .
As a former commentary writer for the paper and a current student at the University of Virginia, I am disappointed that a group of aspiring journalists would launch such an attack on free speech.
It’s easy to dismiss editorials as mere gibberish from college students, who often write unreasonable things and have outlandish opinions. I don’t think my classmates’ current views should follow them after graduation, nor should they be piled online because of them.
However, I do want to take them seriously. It’s the latest in a troubling trend that seeps into every corner of the public sphere: labelling certain types of political speech as dangerous, even when speakers aren’t inciting violence. Not only is this a tedious tactic, it also undermines our ability to make meaningful statements about political issues.
“For us, the answer is simple. Hate speech is violent—it’s not allowed,” the editorial board wrote. They maintain that UVA has no room for “speech that directly threatens the existence and life of members of our community. The LGBTQ+ individuals Pence has attacked, the Black lives he refuses to value, and the successful immigration stories he and the former president hoped prevent…”
It is possible to criticize someone’s thoughts without claiming that their mere expression would physically endanger the person hearing them. We should reserve the “violent” label for bodily harm – anything else will deliberately obfuscate the meaning of the word and prevent us from talking clearly about actual persecution.
Emotional discomfort is one thing, a threat to human life is another.Take draconian state funding as an example persecution In 2019, same-sex sex became a crime punishable by stoning among LGBT people in Brunei.To be fair, the law “threatens LGBT Bruneian lives” because, literally, it clearly is. When we similarly describe the presence of homophobic speakers on American college campuses as life-threatening, we confuse what is really endangering LGBT Americans. This situation is clearly not the same as valid or legal thing, but the emerging new norm is supported This knight daily Treat them as indistinguishable.
Defining “violence” to include behavior that emphasizes nonviolence is not limited to college newspapers.From a New York Times list to a chief reporterThe idea that hurtful or offensive remarks amount to violence has grown in focus, making it harder to discern reality from hyperbole.
in the most recent editorial, This New York Times The editorial board believes that “freedom of speech requires greater willingness to engage in ideas we don’t like and greater self-restraint in the face of speech that challenges or even upsets us.” I expressed similar concerns in my report Opinion Article Released earlier this month.
If we want the words we use to have meaning, we must resist the urge to see nonviolent speech as violent. While relying on hyperbole to criticize someone else’s views may have noble intentions, it’s a lazy tactic that overshadows the discussion. Labeling verbal ideas and beliefs as violent does not make those ideas and beliefs easier to refute; it shows that you refuse to engage in controversial debates. This knight daily Pence can be criticized for his political beliefs without claiming he poses a threat to students at the University of Virginia. Of course, this requires more work, but if the paper is designed to influence its readers, the effort is well worth the effort.