Earlier this month, white supremacist Charles Murray took the stage at Middlebury College and was shut down by protesters. This has sparked another debate about platforming and a right to speech. While this is not a First Amendment issue, it does deserve a conversation about free speech and the left.
The Washington Post looked at this issue rather fairly. The Murray incident does not—at all—compare to that of Milo Yiannopoulos. The Post explains: “In the simplest terms: Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has ideas to debate; Yiannopoulos, who resigned from Breitbart News two weeks ago, does not.”
Now, Murray is not even a concealed racist. He is blatant about it and argues that the white race is more superior and more intellectual than people of color. He argues that IQ tests prove this. Now, it is worth debating if this is true. Many argue now that IQ tests are racially biased and do not prove someone’s intelligence. Again, the Post explains Murray’s arguments:
“It is certainly fair to argue that Murray’s interpretation of data — white people might be inherently smarter than black people — is flat-out wrong, not to mention wildly offensive. It is fair to argue that his writing is motivated by racism. But at least there is something to argue about.”
This is compared to Yiannopoulos who simply says offensive things for the sake of being offensive.
So, is Murray’s de-platforming a problem for free speech?
First, on the protest, watch the video. The majority of those protesting this white nationalist speech are those most affected by his speech. So I don’t think myself, or the white author from the Post can rightfully condemn their actions. Neither of us can understand what it feels like when your school invites a neo-Nazi to speak on your campus about how inferior you are based on your race.
Why did the protest turn violent and hurt a professor? I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to anyone there. However, I would wager when you feel threatened, you turn to self-defense, and these protesters were right to be on the defense. The speech itself, the very invitation of someone like Murray is the attack.
At the end of the day, Murray isn’t owed a platform at the school. The students who protested had every right to protest as those students who tried to organize the talk, to begin with. Was their tactic the best one? I am not sure. I hope these students weighed all available protest options and picked the one they felt would be the most effective and minimize harm.
There are plenty of people on the right you can invite to talk about conservative issues or values that are not part of the white nationalist movement in this country. By inviting someone like Murray, you’re inviting opposition. You don’t invite David Duke and expect silence from those he attacks. Don’t expect anything different from Murray.
A college should be endorsing opposing ideas and sparking debate and conversation. That conversation doesn’t mean we should platform those like Murray to have it. He’s already on the losing side, this debate has been had already. Why are we having it again?