As of late, a wave of censorship has swept over this campus. Those who would silence the free speech of UCSB students are not authorities but private individuals. The College Republicans have set up signs around campus in an effort to advertise for their Ben Shapiro event on the topic of Black Lives Matter. They have followed all of the correct procedure. They have been met with vandalism. Their wood signs have been repeatedly painted over and their fliers ripped from sight.
Those who have repeatedly defaced the College Republicans signs are unwilling to reason. This would be obvious to any outsider looking in to the enclosed environment of this UC campus. In a place where one-sided classes on political issues are taught as fact, it is a wonder that there are any students at the university who would challenge the doctrines imposed on them at all.
When knowledge is transmitted in such a way as it is in the university system, there is little hope for dialogue. I hear those on the left clamoring for a “national dialogue,” yet they offer nothing but the destruction of property, both private and public. Observe the force employed by the individuals at UC Berkeley in “response” to the Milo Yiannopoulos event scheduled there. And now, in a small act of what is perhaps imitation of their more violent comrades at Berkeley, leftists of UC Santa Barbara have destroyed the signs advertising the Ben Shapiro event. Nothing else could be expected from those who consider speech violence.
To equivocate speech and violence is to obliterate the distinction between reason and force. Free speech is a principle of this liberal society for one reason: so that thinking individuals may partake in a discussion of their ideas with other individuals. It is the political prerequisite to freedom of the mind — that is, the freedom to reason. As humans are thinking, rational animals, such an ability as reasoning is essential for our existence within a society.
Reason is exactly the means that humans use to avoid predation on each other. In the personal sphere, reasoning is absolutely essential. Consider sex, the most personal and intimate of all human relations. Any good person’s intuition regarding sex would prescribe a consensual basis for it. Consent requires a state of consciousness and agency. Such a state is the state of reason. Reason demands conscious awareness and the ability to exercise one’s volitional faculties, and so it is the heart of consent. When consent is not given by all parties involved, when force is substituted for reason, the interaction becomes rape or sexual assault. Voluntary, willful consent is required in the realm of sex. It is considered most vital in this context but abandoned in others.
If the free expression of our ideas is not protected by a just government, then where is justice in our law?
The person who forces another person to be his or her friend has nothing to offer. Friends help each other. Friends do good to their friends. This is common sense. If force is used, real value and worth is absent. Just as this applies to friendship, so it applies to politics. Particularly, freedom of speech. It is a truth that no one wants something that must be forced on them. Furthermore, no one wants what is theirs to be taken away by force. Ideas are the most intimate kind of possession. They make up our minds and ourselves. If the free expression of our ideas is not protected by a just government, then where is justice in our law? Are we to apply principles of freedom to one area of our life and not the other? I would say the freedom to speak — and not necessarily to be heard — is more valuable than a friendship. What friendship could survive without being grounded on a firm slab of truth? What truth can be arrived at except by the free expression and exploration of ideas?
When we apply the principle of reason to economic and political relationships, we get a free market. When we apply it to academics, we should get a free market of ideas. If there is any place in the nation to glorify free speech, it should be the university. Knowledge is the business of the university. Knowledge requires truth. Truth is not easy to obtain. To obtain truth, there is only one principle that can be brought to bear. This is reason and its corollary, freedom of speech.
I am an individualist, so I do not believe everyone on the left condones the savage actions of those students who defaced the College Republican’s signs. I do not believe even the majority of those on the left are gripped by a fundamentally irrational Marxist ideology that denies the premises of reason and freedom. In the coming weeks, there will be events which promote unpopular ideas. If for no other reason than to affirm that it is okay to hold an unpopular idea, these events are a blessing. With regards to the administration of this university, the vandals who ruined the College Republicans’ signs should be found and punished. Their punishment should not be minimal. They should serve as an example so the university can assure its students that freedom of speech will be protected.
Connor Pardini believes in the right to hold an opinion, popular or not.