Free Speech Means Tolerance

The University of California Berkeley has long been known to be a liberal hotspot along with much of the San Francisco area. Sadly, recent events reveal that liberals can be as intolerant of opposing ideas as conservatives.

First, right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was supposed to speak at the campus in an event not officially sanctioned by the university, but allowed. Unfortunately, protesters caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus and forced Milo to cancel his talk.

Now whether you agree with Milo or not, he has the right to speak his mind and others have a right to listen to him. Everybody has a right to protest but nobody has a right to cause physical damage to property or other people. Free speech is essentially about listening to others because if we refuse to listen to others, we can never talk and compromise and find ways to work together.

This same pattern of intolerance repeated itself when right-wing commentator Ann Coulter planned to speak at the University of California Berkeley, and the university canceled her appearance under the excuse of safety issues.

How sad is it when free speech can not be protected no matter whether it’s from the right or left? Free speech is not dangerous. Violence based on the ideas of the right or left is dangerous.

Everyone has the right to free speech. Even hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan can say whatever they want. The danger of blocking free speech from others is that it simply galvanizes them into hardening their stances against the opposition.

Imagine if the University of California Berkeley allowed Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter to speak while protesters peacefully demonstrated outside? Now people could hear what these people had to say and challenge them with questions.

Most likely any questions would fail to change anyone’s mind but the act of allowing a conversation to occur is the cornerstone of democracy. No matter who you are, you will never agree 100% with anyone. However, you have no right to stop someone else from expressing their views peacefully, and by allowing others to speak, you can question their ideas and engage in a civil conversation.

Communication is essential and you never want to deny anyone the right to speak, even if their ideas are totally contrary to what you believe. The first step to tolerance is accepting that others hold opinions that you may not. The second step to tolerance is being strong enough to let others speak their mind while challenging or protesting their ideas if you choose.

Hate speech is protected simply because you never want a single authority to define what type of speech should be banned. The moment you allow one authority to define what’s right and what’s wrong, you’re headed down the path to authoritarian control, and that’s never a good step for any country to take.